Capital punishment in Islam

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"Execution of a Moroccan Jewess (Sol Hachuel)" a painting by Alfred Dehodencq

Capital punishment in Islam was traditionally regulated by Sharia, the religious law in Islam.[1][not specific enough to verify][2][not specific enough to verify] Crimes which could result in capital punishment included murder. In the modern era most Muslim-majority countries adopted criminal legal codes based on European models. Legal forms of capital punishment vary among Islamic countries.

The concept of religious orders, or fatwas, in which the government or clergy allows an individual or a group of people to kill, is found only in Islam.[3]

Islamic governments support capital punishment.[3] Islamic nations have governments run directly by the code of Sharia law[3] and, therefore, Islam is the only known religion to have a direct impact on the governments opinion on capital punishment.[3] Islamic law is often used in the court system of many Islamic countries and does not separate church and state.[3] The Quran is viewed as the direct word of Allah and going against its teachings is seen as going against the whole basis of the law.[3] Outlawing the death penalty in Islam is simply not an option because it directly violates the teachings of Mohammad[3]. Islamic law states "Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the process of due law," meaning that the death penalty is allowed in certain cases where the law says it is necessary.[4] The Quran explicitly states that the taking of a life results in the taking of ones own. According to the Quran, the death penalty is recognized for the seven "Hudud" crimes which include adultery, defamation, drinking alcohol, theft, highway robbery, apostasy, and corruption of Islam. These are the most severe crimes in Islam because it is believed that these acts go directly against the word of God and are seen as a threat to society.[5]

Muslim-majority nations generally agree upon the retention of the death penalty but differ in how they impose it, indicating that there is still disagreement on the issue even within the religion of Islam. Iran and Iraq, for example, are very open about using the death penalty frequently, whereas the Islam nation of Tunisia only uses it in extremely rare cases. Sudan, for example, will impose the death penalty for those under the age of eighteen while Yemen has taken a stance against using the death penalty for minors.[4] The UN has voiced concern about the sudden increase in death sentences in Iran since 2014. Although Iran has been called upon multiple times to stop utilizing the death penalty so frequently, a total of 625 executions were carried out in 2013 alone. Many of these executions consisted of drug related crimes, "enmity against god", and threatening national security.[6] In a controversial case, Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged in Tehran in October of 2014 for the murder of a man she claimed attempted to rape her. Her sentence was supported by the concept of qisas found in the Quran.[7]The term qisas is translated as "equality in retaliation," meaning that any injury inflicted on another should be compensated for by punishing the perpetrator with the same injury.[8]


The Quran states,

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter, Except for those who return repenting before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

— Qur'an, Sura 5, ayat 33 & 34[9]

However, there is no Quranic verse supporting the method of stoning in Islam. The roots of this method of execution are to be explored in pre-Islamic religions, especially in Judaism and Torah, in which stoning is a frequent method of execution. <> <> That said, capital punishment by stoning for zina (extramarital sex) is prescribed in Hadiths, the books most trusted in Islam after Quran, particularly in Kitab Al-Hudud.[10][11]

'Narrated Ash Shaibani: I asked 'Abdullah bin Abi Aufa, 'Did Allah's Apostle carry out the Rajam penalty (i.e., stoning to death)?' He said, "Yes." I said, "Before the revelation of Surat-ar-Nur or after it?" He replied, "I don't Know".

'Ubada b. as-Samit reported: Allah's Messenger as saying: Receive teaching from me, receive teaching from me. Allah has ordained a way for those women. When an unmarried male commits adultery with an unmarried female, they should receive one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. And in case of married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death.

Allah's Messenger awarded the punishment of stoning to death to the married adulterer and adulteress and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people may forget it and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy, or a confession.

In the four primary schools of Sunni fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and the two primary schools of Shi'a fiqh, certain types of crimes mandate capital punishment. Certain hudud crimes, for example, are considered crimes against Allah and require capital punishment in public.[1][not specific enough to verify] These include apostasy (leaving Islam to become an atheist or convert to another religion such as Christianity),[12][13] fasad (mischief in the land, or moral corruption against Allah, social disturbance and creating disorder within the Muslim state)[14][15] and zina (consensual heterosexual or homosexual relations not allowed by Islam).[10]

The right to be convinced and to convert from Islam to another religion is held by only a minority of Muslim scholars. This view of religious freedom is, however, not shared by the vast majority of Muslim scholars both past as well as present. Most classical and modern Muslim jurists regard apostasy (riddah), defined by them as an act of rejection of faith committed by a Muslim whose Islam had been affirmed without coercion, as a crime deserving the death penalty.

— Abdul Rashied Omar[12]

Qisas is another category of sentencing where sharia permits capital punishment, for intentional or unintentional murder.[16] In the case of death, sharia gives the murder victim's nearest relative or Wali (ولي) a right to, if the court approves, take the life of the killer.[17][18]

O ye who believe! the law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.

— Quran 2:178

Further, in case of Qisas-related capital punishment, sharia offers the victim's guardian the option of Diyya (monetary compensation). In several Islamic countries such as Sunni Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as Shia Iran, both hudud and qisas type capital punishment is part of the legal system and in use. In others, there is variation in the use of capital punishment.

Capital punishment for apostasy in Islam and stoning to death in Islam are controversial topics. Similarly, the discriminatory option between capital punishment and monetary compensation for crimes such as murder is controversial, where jurists have asked if poor offenders face trial and capital punishment while wealthy offenders avoid even a trial by paying off Qisas compensation.[19]

Lethal stoning and beheading in public under sharia is controversial for being a cruel form of capital punishment.[20][page needed][21] These forms of execution remain part of the law enforced in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Mauritania.[22][23][not specific enough to verify]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mohamed El-Awa (1993), Punishment in Islamic Law, American Trust Publications, ISBN 978-0892591428, pp 1-68
  2. ^ Samuel M. Zwemer, The law of Apostasy, The Muslim World. Volume 14, Issue 4, pp. 373–391
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Greenberg, David F (May 2, 2008). "Siting the Death Penalty Internationally". Journal of the American Bar Association. 33 (2): 295–343. doi:10.1111/j.1747-4469.2008.00105.x. 
  4. ^ a b Schabas, William (December 2000). "Islam and the Death Penalty". William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal. 9 (1): 223–236. Retrieved March 4, 2018. 
  5. ^ Miethe, Terance (November 1, 2005). "Cross National Variability in Capital Punishment". International Criminal Justice Review. 15 (2): 115–130. doi:10.1177/1057567705283954. Retrieved March 25, 2018. 
  6. ^ "Stop the Executions - UN rights experts alarmed at the sharp increase in hangings in Iran". United Nations Human Rights. OHCHR. Retrieved March 25, 2018. 
  7. ^ Mehrdad, Balali. "Iran Hangs Women Convicted of Killing Alleged Rapist". Huffington Post. Erggruen Institute. Retrieved March 3, 2018. 
  8. ^ Tahir, Wasti (2007). "Islamic law in practice: The Application of Qisas and Diyat Law in Pakistan". Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern law. 13: 97–106. Retrieved March 25, 2018. 
  9. ^ Quran & 34 5:33 & 34
  10. ^ a b Z. Mir-Hosseini (2011), Criminalizing sexuality: zina laws as violence against women in Muslim contexts, Int'l Journal on Human Rights, 15, 7-16
  11. ^ Ziba Mir-Hosseini (2001), Marriage on Trial: A Study of Islamic Family Law, ISBN 978-1860646089, pp. 140-223
  12. ^ a b Abdul Rashied Omar (2009), "The Right to Religious Conversion: Between Apostasy and Proselytization", in Peace-Building by, between, and beyond Muslim and Evangelical Christians, Editors: Abu-Nimer, Mohammed and David Augsburger, Lexington, pages 179-194
  13. ^ David Forte, Islam's Trajectory, Revue des Sciences Politiques, No. 29 (2011), pages 92-101
  14. ^ Oliver Leaman (2013), Controversies in Contemporary Islam, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415676137, Chapter 9
  15. ^ Marion Katz (2006), Corruption of the Times and the Mutability of the Shari'a, The. Cardozo Law Review, 28:171-188
  16. ^ Mohamed El-Awa (1993), Punishment in Islamic Law, American Trust Publications, ISBN 978-0892591428
  17. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Qisas (2012)
  18. ^ Shahid M. Shahidullah, Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: Global and Local Perspectives, ISBN 978-1449604257, pp. 370-377
  19. ^ "Qisas being used by the wealthy to avoid trial: CJ". The Express Tribune (Pakistan), 3 October 2013 (concerning the murder of Shahzeb Khan).
  20. ^ Ebbe, O. N., & Odo, I. (2013), The Islamic Criminal Justice System, in Comparative and International Criminal Justice Systems: Policing, Judiciary, and Corrections, CRC Press, ISBN 978-1466560338, Chapter 16
  21. ^ Jon Weinberg (2008), Sword of Justice? Beheadings Rise in Saudi Arabia, Harvard International Review, 29(4):15
  22. ^ R Terman (2007), The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign: A Report WLUM Laws
  23. ^ Javaid Rehman & Eleni Polymenopoulou (2013), Is Green part of the rainbow - Sharia, Homosexuality, and LGBT Rights in the Muslim World, Fordham Int'l Law Journal, 37:1-501