In Defense of 'those so called "barbaric punishments"

>> Friday, January 20, 2012

I need some help. I am a person who grew up Muslim by name, only, but alhamdullillah, lately have felt a need to know more about my religion. I have learned so much in the last few months. But still, I am uncomfortable with some things and don't know how to explain it to others or to myself. Cutting the hand and flogging as punishments really make me feel doubtful about my religion. I think that they are not ok, cause we can behave like western countries in such cases and it looks more reasonable. Please give me some advice on this.

Dearest Confused,
I’m really glad you brought up this question! These days, the media likes to throw the word Sharia around as if it’s an atomic bomb or something (lol!), when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s start off by explaining 2 very important and critical notions of Islam.

The first and very important concept of Islam is that of choice and responsibility.

Islam did not come to restrict or deny human nature. On the contrary, Islam was intended to make things easier for us.

And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak. (4:28)
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him - it is those who will be the successful. (7: 157)

The truth, as we explained in a previous post (Is Everything Haram?), is that most things have been made lawful for us. What has been made unlawful are the things that 'harm us' (and have negative effects such as diseases becoming rampant, families breaking up, etc.) It's up to the person to choose to obey Allah and stay away from what has potential harm or...follow their own desires.

And here we come to the crux of the issue: There is ALWAYS a permissible Islamic alternative to a person's desires/ needs/wants. It's the person who chooses if they will use the Islamic alternative or turn to other things.

Let's take a clearer example.

Let's say a person feels that his/her marriage life is miserable and would like to be involved with someone else. There is an Islamic alternative- the person has the RIGHT in Islam to divorce. Keep in mind that this is not a right given in all religions. Even today, people in the Philippines are fighting for the right of divorce. Yet, Islam grants it. Islam allows a person to divorce and remarry.

Also, another Islamic alternative would be polygamy.

IF a person commits an affair, then, they have willingly chosen to forgo Allah's permissible alternatives. That is something they have chosen to do- a course of action that they decided to pursue.

We'lll talk more about that in second, but first, let's continue with the second critical aspect to Islam.

The second important notion in Islam is that of justice. Justice is extremely important in Islam. Islam recognizes that a society cannot prevail without justice. Justice therefore must be protected and laws must be set to ensure that justice is served. That is why the Qur’an commands that we are just, even if we have to stand against our own families or ourselves. Not only that, but we know that one of God’s attributes is that He is the Just; He has forbidden injustice upon Himself and He has forbidden it on us.

Now, justice does not come by recognizing only a criminal’s rights. It comes when both the victim and the criminal are given their due rights and when the welfare of the entire society is taken into consideration.

Justice also cannot be carried out by any random person, but should be carried out only by the people in authority and only once sufficient evidence has been brought forth. 

Okay, okay, enough with the intro. What about cutting the hand off a thief?

Most people automatically imagine a very poor, needy, desperate person as a thief. They think "Islam is so cruel. Cutting the hands of a needy person?"

But that's not the case, at all. Islam wants to help and protect the needy people.

As Muslims, we're commanded to pay zakat, or a percentage of money to the less fortunate, right. Don't we have to pay 2.5 % of our wealth, 5% of our crops that are grown, and 20% of any minerals from the earth? This is not something extra. Instead, it’s considered an obligation that every Muslim must do. Besides that, Muslims are encouraged to give voluntary charity or sadaqah. That’s what individuals are supposed to do.

You know what else…Islamically, the government is supposed to ensure that every single person has the basic necessities, from food, clothing, housing, and medical fees. Islam is completely against the idea that someone in a society could die from starvation because they didn’t have enough money…or that someone could die because they couldn’t afford health care.

This is what is supposed to happen if Shariaa was implemented properly.

As you can see, someone who would steal in such a society really is only stealing out of greed…And that’s not fair. Islam is very big on making sure everyone understands that they have their rights. It’s not fair for someone to steal from someone else’s hard work and effort.

In fact, I want you to imagine a poor person putting away all of their life savings in a tiny little box in their cupboard and locking that cupboard with a key. And then, somebody coming in the middle of the night and stealing that poor person's life savings. Just imagine how that person would feel!

You see, the hadd punishment for stealing has a lot of conditions. One of those conditions is that the 'sariq' took something that had been put away and properly 'hidden'...that the victim had taken precautions to protect their things, yet the 'criminal' had deliberately chosen to 'break in and steal it'. Read more about it here:

Other conditions that have to/ should be fulfilled before someone can be considered guilty of stealing include (according to Wikipedia and I did hear this on t.v.)

  1. The theft must not have been the product of hunger, necessity, or duress.
  2. There must have been criminal intent to take private (not common) property.
  3. The goods stolen must: be over a minimum value, not haraam, and not owned by the thief's family.
  4. Goods must have been taken from custody (i.e., not in a public place).
  5.  There must be reliable witnesses/evidence.

There are a few other conditions, too...But anyways, once they have all been fulfilled, then, the punishment is to take place. The purpose of this punishment is to act as a deterrent .It tells people to seriously think about what they are doing.

And one last point, I heard in a funny video was this: if someone steals a huge amount of money and then is given a prison sentence, what happens to him/ her? Don’t we steal have to feed/ house this person while they are incarcerated? You know who’s paying: all of the tax payers, including the person who was robbed. Does that make sense?

Well, what about the flogging and stoning punishments.

Okay, here's the thing:

Islam as we said, does not deny human nature. It does not condemn ‘sex’ but condemns sex only outside of marriage. (In fact, Islam has promised married couples that their intimate act yields them ‘hasnaat’ or rewards). Because Islam understands human nature, though, Sharia has commanded:

-men and women to lower their gazes (around each other),
- to cover certain parts of their bodies, 
-and not to unnecessarily be alone together (those that are non-mahrams to each other).
-Islam has encouraged that people get married young, and that marriages are made easy- that is, grooms and brides should not ask each other for unrealistic things or big dowreis, etc.
- Islam has also allowed for divorce and polygamy

What we have to remember then is that a person who has engaged in pre-marital sex or adultery has chosen to willingly ignore all of the above commandments and the permissible alternatives.

We also have to remember that there are also conditions for this punishment, too. In order for the punishment for pre-marital sex to be carried out, the Qur'an stipulates that there must have been four reliable and trustworthy witnesses. FOUR witnesses!

So what that basically means is that the person was FLAUNTING their sin....that they were very open about it. That's not acceptable. It's one thing to 'fall into a personal sin". It's another thing to 'invite' others to sin by flaunting it, yourself.

These are not just 'simple sins' either. Pre-marital sex and adultery threaten they very cornerstone of the society- they threaten the family backbone. They are major causes of illnesses spreading, of families breaking up, of children growing up without their fathers or any clue to who they are....They can also lead to such things as abortion or the killing of innocent babies.

Allah subhanoo wa' Tala sets the boundaries by putting these laws for us. They act as a deterrent and essentially protect our societies.

At the end of the day, as Muslims, we believe that God, our Creator, is the One who decided the punishments for those crimes. We believe that as our Creator, God knows what works best for us and what is better for our societies. The punishments are really meant to scare people from thinking of doing any crimes.

I hope this helps a bit, but sis, please remember that our faith is so much more than two or three punishments :) Islam is about a persons's relationship with the Most Merciful (our Lord), with others (our families, neighbors, towns, Muslims, non-Muslims, etc.), and ourselves.

(One last thing I want to point out is that even the Old Testament mentions stoning as a punishment. Just because the Western countries have "given up the punishments listed in their books, doesn't mean that we should." It says:)
22.22 “If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman and the woman; so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

Stoning to death punishment for virgin women for adultery.
22.23 If a damsel who is a virgin be betrothed unto a husband, and a man find her in the city and lie with her,
22.24 then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones, that they die — the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city, and the man,because he hath humbled his neighbor’s wife; so thou shalt put away evil from among you.)


6 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Q.S.I January 20, 2012 at 10:57 PM  

SubhanÁllah aunties. I wish other people who have as much knowledge as you or even more could explain things in such a nice and convincing way. Even such a critical issue like 'stoning' is explained here with modesty mashÁllah. May Allah reward you for your efforts.

To the sister who wrote the letter,
I used to be so much against stoning to be honest. And it took quite a lot of time for me to understand 'why' stoning is allowed in this beautiful religion. But alhamdulillah! When you start chasing knowledge, at one point it starts chasing u back! I mean, knowledge comes to u when u strive for it. I used to be pretty upset when I read articles agaisnt Islam in the internet.I obviously googled Islam! But 'Google' isn't vast enough for Islam. Islam is so much more sister! Islam QA is a really helpful site. Read Quran and the books of Hadeeths with interpretation of the meaning. And yes make friends who practice Islam will sincerity, they'll let you know a lot about Islam inshÁllah! :) Look at the mercy of Allah. Imagine the blessings that He has bestowed upon us. You know when I started realizing the blessings of Allah the other few things that disturbed me started making sense. well ofcourse you have to go to the right place and the right people to make u understand these critical things. May Allah clarify your confusions. Ameen.

fatimah January 21, 2012 at 2:41 AM  

Jazaki Allahu khair~.
I also have been thinking about this issue. I Hope many people would read this post.

PotentialHijabi January 22, 2012 at 9:46 AM  

Subhanallah! That's so beautifully explained little aunties! I had no idea about the conditions! Jazakallahu Khair :)

Aziza January 25, 2012 at 2:25 PM  

Wow I really learnt alot from this post, JazakAllah Khair dear aunties. <3 I too used to have doubts about the punishments in Sharia Law, but now I wish that it would implemented makes so much sense and would solve every problem. If only... :)

Umm Khaleel January 28, 2012 at 3:51 AM  

Assalam alaikoum wa Rahmatullaah,

I remember a non-Muslim asking the same question about stoning in Islam and how she felt uneasy at the thought of it. The sheikh gave such a wonderful explanation that everyone was lost for words afterwards.. anyway, according to what I remember:

For someone to be stoned for adultery, there is a list of things to be met before applying the law to them:

1) As the aunties have said, 4 witnesses must be present to see the actual penetration taking place. Come to think about it, what kind of person does it so openly to the extent that 4 people can see the sexual act being done?

2) The 4 witnesses must be known to have never lied. If they are known to have lied before even just once, their testimony will not be accepted.

3) If you only have one, two or three witnesses, just like the above, the testimony is not accepted and the punishment cannot be applied to them.

Just looking through these criteria (although not all the criteria are mentioned above), wouldn't you agree that Islam is strict in ensuring that an innocent person isn't convicted wrongly? I mean, how is it that 4 upright people are found to have witnessed such fahishah? And who would have sex whilst others watch? (of course, let's not mention porn..)

Looking through the ahadeeth, there is no mention of anyone being stoned as a result of the above criteria being met. Instead, those who were stoned, was because they had personally approached Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam to be stoned so that they can atone for their sins.

There is one narration whereby a person approached Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam to be stoned as he had committed adultery. Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam turned his face away when he heard that. The man approached Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam three times asking to be stoned and at the third time, Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam finally agreed to his request.

The Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam could have simply ordered for the execution of that man, but he sallallahu alayhi salam simply wanted the man's repentance to be in secret, between him and Allah thus rejecting him before.

Nowadays, we see how these laws are being applied without properly considering the criteria first. And the media tends to focus on ONLY women who are being subjected to such punishment when this applies to both sexes..

And to reiterate what is being said by aunties, Islam does not mete out these 'harsh' laws to punish but instead, it is done to deter immorality from happening in the society. Such corruption is a detriment to the social fabric and in turn affects everyone living in it.

Allahu Alam

Umm Shareef,  June 28, 2013 at 12:28 AM  

Assalam Aleykum,

JazakAllah Khayr for such a clear and convincing explanation. I used to have reservations about corporal and capital punishment, but when you explain it the way you do it makes so much sense. Ultimately, in many ways it doesn't really matter what we think because Allah subhanahu wa ta'alaa has prescribed these punishments and His wisdom is wider and greater than we can even imagine.

There will always be those that seek to modernise, but as Muslims we should be grateful for everything Allah subhanahu wa ta'alaa provides, including the prescribed punishments. They may seem severe, but they are actually a great kindness and generous gift because of the protection they bring to society. As you say, they are not meant to be used every five minutes, but are there as a deterrent to remind everyone of Allah's power and of the severity of the punishment that awaits those that disobey Him.

Post a Comment

Asalamu aialkum!
Well, what do you think? You know, you're part of the team, as well. Please help a sister out and share your own advice/experiences/etc. One for all and all for one =)
P.S. I reserve the right to remove any disrespectful comment ;)

wibiya widget

  © Blogger template Snowy Winter by 2009

Back to TOP