Islamic criminal jurisprudence

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This is a sub-article of fiqh and criminal law.

Islamic criminal law (Arabic: فقه العقوبات‎) is criminal law in accordance with Islamic law. Strictly speaking, Islamic law does not have a distinct corpus of "criminal law," as sharia courts do not have prosecutors, and all matters, even criminal ones, are in principle handled as disputes between individuals.[1]

As opposed to other legal systems, in which crimes are generally considered violations of the rights of the state, Islamic law divides crimes into four different categories depending on the nature of the right violated:[2]

  • Hadd: violation of a boundary of God.
  • Ta'zir: violation of the right of an individual.
  • Qisas: violation of the mixed right of God and of an individual in which the right of the individual is deemed to predominate.
  • Siyasah: violation of the right of the state.


Main article: Hudud

Hudud, meaning "limits", is the most serious category and includes crimes specified in the Quran.

These are:[3]

  1. Drinking alcohol (sharb al-khamr, شرب الخمر)
  2. Theft (as-sariqah, السرقة)
  3. Highway robbery (qat`a at-tariyq, قطع الطريق)
  4. Illegal sexual intercourse (az-zinā', الزناء)
  5. False accusation of illegal sexual intercourse (qadhf, القذف) [1]
  6. Apostasy (irtidād or ridda, ارتداد) - includes blasphemy.

The Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence does not include highway robbery. The Hanafi school does not include rebellion and heresy.

Except for drinking alcohol, punishments for all other hudud crimes are specified in the Quran or Hadith: stoning-Hadith, amputation and flogging.


The punishment for stealing is the amputation of the hand (Quran 5:38). This practice is still used today in countries like Iran,[4] Saudi Arabia,[5] and Northern Nigeria.[6] In Iran, amputation as punishment has been described as "uncommon", but "not unheard of, and has already been carried out at least once" during 2010.[7]


Main article: Qisas

Qisas is the Islamic principle of an eye for an eye. This category includes the crimes of murder and battery.

Punishment is either exact retribution or compensation (Diyya).

The issue of qisas gained considerable attention in the Western media in 2009 when Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman blinded in an acid attack, demanded that her attacker be blinded as well.[8][9]


Main article: Diyya

Diyya is compensation paid to the heirs of a victim. In Arabic the word means both blood money and ransom.

The Quran specifies the principle of Qisas (i.e. retaliation), but prescribes that one should seek compensation (Diyya) and not demand retribution.

We have prescribed for thee therein (the Torah) ‘a life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation;’ but whoso remits it, it is an expiation for him, but he whoso will not judge by what God has revealed, these be the unjust.[10]


Main article: Tazir

Tazir includes any crime that does not fit into Hudud or Qisas and which therefore has no punishment specified in the Quran. These types of crimes range from homosexuality to perjury to treason.


  1. ^ Knut S Vikor. Between God and the Sultan: A History of Islamic Law." Oxford University Press: 2005. p.282
  2. ^ Tabassum, Sadia (20 April 2011). "Combatants, not bandits: the status of rebels in Islamic law". International Review of the Red Cross 93 (881): 121–139. doi:10.1017/S1816383111000117. 
  3. ^ Between Vision and Reality: Law in the Arab World, Guy Bechor, IDC Projects Publishing House, 2002. pp. 105-110
  4. ^ 16 October 2010 Last updated at 21:00 ET Share this pageFacebookTwitter ShareEmail Print Iranian chocolate thief faces hand amputation
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bello, Ademola (25 May 2011). "Who Will Save Amputees of Sharia Law in Nigeria?". Huffington Post. 
  7. ^ IRAN: Man convicted of theft loses hand, October 24, 2010
  8. ^ Visions of Sharia
  9. ^ "In Iran, a case of an eye for an eye" Phillie Metro March 29, 2009
  10. ^ [Quran 5:45]