Prescribed Legal Penalties in Islam


  • | Wednesday, 15 February, 2017

Islamic legal penalties have been prescribed for the sake of protecting the society and deterring potential criminals from inflicting harm on its members. In this regard, we strongly stress that these penalties are not intended to serve as means of revenge. Here arises a very good question: ‘is there any state all over the world that does not enact necessary legislations and severe penalties to protect the entire society from corruption and aggression?!’

In the same way, Islamic prescribed legal penalties are not but means of preserving man’s ultimate objectives in life including soul, progeny, property, etc. that is to say, they are primarily meant with preserving the dignity of man about which Allah, the Almighty, says: “And surely We have honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea; We have provided good sustenance for them and favoured them specially above many of those We have created.” (The Quran, 17:70)

At that point, we stress that Islam, out of the fact that it is the religion of justice and mercy, stipulates the fulfillment of a number of strict conditions before the prescribed legal penalty should be applied. One of these conditions is: in the case of the slightest doubt, the legal punishments should not be applied, as any reasonable doubt shall be interpreted in favor of the defendant. Here, we should be fully aware of that the existence of doubt and the criminal’s denial of committing the crime are means which lead to avoiding the legal penalty; a point which is crystal clear in the saying Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in which he says: ‘Avert the legal penalties from the Muslims as much as possible, if he has a way out then leave him to his way, for if the Imam makes a mistake in forgiving it would be better than making mistake in punishment.” [Reported by At-Tirmidhi]

Furthermore, Islam does not leave the matter of applying the prescribed legal punishment to the ordinary people, but rather it assigns it exclusively to those in charge of authority, i.e. the State, that is why Muslim scholars judges as defiant from the divine law whoever applies any of these prescribed legal punishments out of his/her own accord. 

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