Appendix: A Glance at Islamic Punishment and Its Philosophy

Islamic punishments are amongst those Islamic concepts which are sometimes misunderstood by non-Muslims and considered incompatible with human values. It is asked why some human beings should be executed for their crimes or why Muslims flog some criminals or how we can consider a certain punishment forever and for all conditions.

To understand the philosophy of the Islamic system of punishment we should notice the following points:

I) According to our previous discussions, human beings are not at the same level and in spite of their common body or shape they are of different realities or natures. That is why some are worse than animals and some might be more valuable than angels.

II) According to our previous discussions, any sin or crime is really an oppression to both the agent and the victim. Sins are considered as diseases or sicknesses which are harmful to the sick and might be infectious, so others are endangered and the sick must be cured by using some medicine or operation. Who can prescribe some medicine or advise an operation? The answer is obvious. It can be decided only by One who knows the different kinds of disease and ways to cure each of them and has exact information about the sick person to diagnose his sickness. Any mistake might lead to the death of that person and the spread of the disease in society.

III) One of the most influential ways to encourage people to take care of their health is to make them aware of the difficulties and pains of the process of treatment such as injection or operation or expenditure.

IV) Allah, the Creator of the universe and of human beings, knows different types of sins and their effects upon the individual and the Society and the best way to meet any problem better than anyone else. Also, Allah is the Compassionate, the Beneficent. He loves His creatures more than anyone else. He loves each individual even more than his parents.

V) Some punishments in Islam are decided by Allah for all environments and all conditions. These fixed punishments are called 'hudud' حدود. Some Punishments are up to judges' decisions. These punishments which vary in different conditions are called discretionary punishments or 'ta 'ta’zirat' تعزيرات. For example the penalty which is to be considered for traffic crimes or some illegal actions in offices might be different. The amount and type of the punishment depend on social conditions and the range of the spread of the sin and so on.

Thus, some sins are very dangerous and social conditions have no effect on their evil or bad effects. But some sins are not at that level and their effects depend on social conditions This is just like Hunan needs which are divided into two groups: some needs are so basic that nothing can remove them such as the need for food or to worship, and some are derivative and can be denied or met in different ways. The fixed practical laws of Islam are to meet the-former and temporary practical laws which are defined by a 'mujtahid' according to general rules are to meet the latter.

VI) While a criminal is being punished, other members of the society must not allow pity for that person detain them; otherwise the crimes in the society will increase just like a disease. If a baby needs ten injections, his or her mother should not ask the doctor to prescribe only five injections, because with this foolish pity the baby will suffer the pain of the injections without any benefit and he or she might lose his or her life and other children of that family or other families might become sick. We can see some of these points in the following verse.

الزَّانِيَةُ وَالزَّانِي فَاجْلِدُوا كُلَّ وَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمَا مِائَةَ جَلْدَةٍ وَلَا تَأْخُذْكُمْ بِهِمَا رَأْفَةٌ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَلْيَشْهَدْ عَذَابَهُمَا طَائِفَةٌ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“(As for) the fornicatress and fornicator, flog each of them, (giving) a hundred stripes, and let not pity for them detain you in the matter of obedience to Allah, if you believe in Allah and the last day, and let a party of believers witness their chastisement.” (24:2).

We can see in this verse that Islamic punishment is necessary to be carried out and if we believe in Allah and the non-material universe and facts we should know that Divine solutions for social and individual problems are the best, and we should not let pity detain us and prevent us from treating social diseases. Also it is necessary for the punishment of these people to be a lesson for all. Another example about punishment decided by God is found in these verses:

وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ الَّذِينَ اعْتَدَوْا مِنْكُمْ فِي السَّبْتِ فَقُلْنَا لَهُمْ كُونُوا قِرَدَةً خَاسِئِينَ

“And certain you have known those among you who have exceeded the limits of the Saturdays, so We said to them: Be (as) apes, despised and hated.” (2:65).

فَجَعَلْنَاهَا نَكَالًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهَا وَمَا خَلْفَهَا وَمَوْعِظَةً لِلْمُتَّقِينَ

“So we made them an example to those who witnessed it and those who came after it, and an admonition to those who guard (against evil).” (2:66).

The Bani Israel were obliged to refrain from working on Saturdays. In order to test them, Allah used to send a lot of fish in the river on Saturdays as their main work was fishing. So what they did was to prevent the fishes from running away and therefore they would be able to fish on Sundays. Allah punished them and made them in shape of apes.

The above verses say that the punishment was because of their disobedience and it was also a lesson for the pious (just like the people who witness the chastisement of the fornicator and fornicatress or hear it).

So, in conclusion, we can say that Islamic punishments are to prevent further crimes and save the people and to purify the criminal.