بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

The Serious Nature of Homicide and its Punishment in Islam

In the Islamic Shari’ah (Law), the crime of homicide or the murder of a human being has been condemned most forcefully but the deeper connotations of this prohibition are not taken seriously in the present times. We see that people do not desist from killing other human beings over non-issues and do not understand the gravity of the crime that they have perpetrated. In the Qur’an and Hadeeth, this crime has been condemned in the strongest possible words and is rendered as the greatest sin after polytheism. Some of the Islamic scholars are of the view that under the injunction presented in Verse 92 of Surah AnNisa’, a person who kills a Muslim unlawfully, does not remain a Muslim any more. Another and larger group of the Islamic scholars deem that the person who commits this heinousness would go to the Hell in order to receive his punishment but would retain his faith and would ultimately be forgiven. But only Allah knows the best. The verse reads: If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is the Hell, to abide therein forever: and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.

Almost all the scholars agree that even if within the life of this world, the heirs of a murdered individual accept diyyat or blood-money and forgive the murderer, the person would have to undergo the judgement of Allah and receive his recompense.

The Quranic wisdom deems the murder of one man as the annihilation of the entire humanity, Al Maeda Verse: 32 reads,if anyone slays a human being, unless it is (for punishment) a murder or for spreading corruption on the earth, it shall be as though he had slain the whole mankind.

Allah has made this crime sound so great, so as to cast a deep impression on human heart about the enormity of criminality involved in the homicide. On the other hand, Allah wants all to have the sensibility that a single unlawful killing is a crime against all of us i.e. all human beings.

In Surah Al Israa Verse 33 Allah enjoins: Do not kill any person the life of whom is sanctified by Allah, except for a just reason. And whoever is killed unjustly, We have invested his heir with authority (of equal retaliation), but he must not cross the limit in the matter of killing. Surely, he will be helped (by Allah).

Similarly, in Surah Furqan Verse 68 and 69, Allah appreciates those who do not take any human being’s life which Allah has willed to be sacred. And this injunction is reinforced by the promise of doubled suffering for the person who transgresses Allah’s commandment in this regard.

The words of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in condemnation for Homicide:

The Prophet (PBUH) is rahma, Blessing for all the worlds ‘rahmatan lil aalameen’ and therefore he has condemned killing without moral or legal right. In several traditions he has stopped the ummah, his followers to desist from this heinousness. Following are only five of these commands:

  • At the time of the last Hajj, the Prophet (PBUH) gave an important sermon in which he (PBUH) said: O’ people! verily your blood, your property and your honour are sacred andinviolable until you appear before your Lord, as the sacred inviolabilityof this day of yours, this month of yours and this very town (of yours).Verily you will soon meet your Lord and you will be held answerableforyour actions. So do not revert after me into a Kaafir and misguided and start cutting off each other’s heads (Bukhari, Muslim).
  • Anas (RA) reports that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The unyielding among the major sins are these: ascribing partners unto Allah, homicide, disobeying the parents and lying.” (Sahih Bukhari).
  • Abdullah bin Mas’ud (RA) reports that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “To abuse a Muslim is a major sin and to fight him with the intention of killing him is disbelief (in Allah) (Bukhari - Kitab al Adab).
  • Abdullah bin Umar (RA) relates that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “A Muslim has dispensation (exemption through forgiveness) in his faith as long as he refrains from prohibited bloodshed.” (Sahih Bukhari).
  • Abdullah bin Umar (RA) reports that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “In the view of Allah, the annihilation of the entire world is a lighter happening than the murder of a Muslim.” (Tirmizi: Chapter ma ja’a fi tashdeed qatlil mu’min, Nasa’i, Ibne Maaja).
  • Qatle ‘Amad
  • Qatle Shubhe ‘Amad
  • Qatle Khata’
  • Surah Al Maeda Verse 45: 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 a [similar] retribution for wounds; but if anyone remits the retaliation out of charity will atone thereby for some of his past sins. And they who do not judge in accordance with what God has revealed - they, they are the evildoers!
  • The literal meaning of Qisas is that of similarity or equality. In the Shari’ah terminology the word implies a punishment in which the principle of equity is observed.
  • The Diyyat or blood-money is equal to the price of one hundred camels or ten thousand dirhams or one thousand dinars or whatever the parties agree upon among themselves. In Saudi Arabia the amount of blood-money these days is three hundred thousand Riyals.
  • If the deceased person is a woman, then half of the conventional blood-money is payable.
  • The fasts of atonement must be observed by the criminal himself; however the blood-money is incumbent upon the family members of the murderer known as aaqilah. This responsibility has been enjoined upon the nearest relatives under the logic that the entire family should abhor the crime of homicide and try to prevent it to the last possible effort.
  • If due to disease or menses, a murderer cannot continue to fast consecutively, then he or she will have to complete the number of the fasts when they are in appropriate condition. If there is a chronic ailment and the fasts are not possible at all, then verbal atonement must be sought from Allah.
  • Any entity or amount received as blood money would be distributed among the legal heirs as the inheritance. If one heir forgoes his part, then only the remaining part of blood-money would be charged and if all of them follow suit, then the entire blood-money would be forgiven.
  • On the other hand, if any one of the legal heirs demands his part of the blood-money from the family of the murderer or forgives him altogether, then Qisas or retributive justice of capital punishment would not be exacted and the other legal heirs would only have two options;either to receive their part of the blood-money or to forgive.

In the light of all of these we can see that homicide or killing of a human being and over and above that, killing of a true Muslim is an unpardonable major sin and for this a man would remain exposed to eternal punishment in the Hereafter. Even within this worldly life, such a sin brings absolute disgrace, loss of family and worrisome loneliness. Therefore, every care should be observed to avoid circumstances that lead to this heartless brutality.

The Types of Homicide:There are three types:

The Ruling of Qatle ‘Amad:

This is the greatest sin after polytheism or ascribing partners unto Allah.

“Whoever kills a believer deliberately, his reward is Jahannam (Hell) where he shall remain forever, and Allah shall beangry with him and shall cast curse upon him, and He has prepared for him a mighty punishment. (Surah An-Nisa’: 93).

“Whoever kills a person not in retaliation for a person killed, nor (as a punishment) for spreading disorder on the earth, is as if he has killed the whole of humankind”, (Surah Al Maeda: 32).

Qisaas (Retribution) or Diyyat (Blood Money) or Forgiveness:

If homicide is established, the heirs and relatives of the murdered individual have the right to take retributive action under the laws of the land which means that the person charged with the crime should undergo capital punishment.

The other option is to receive blood-money amounting to the price of one hundred camels from the killer through his relatives. This money can be even more or less according to the deal between the two parties.

The third option is complete forgiveness.

The Qur’anic injunction in this regard lies in (Surah Al Baqara: 178-179)“O you who believe, Qisas has been prescribed for you in the case of murdered people: The freeman (will be killed) for the freeman, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. However, if one is somewhat forgiven by his brother, the recourse (of the latter) is to pursue the former (for blood money) with fairness, and the obligation (of the former) is to pay (it) to the latter in a nice way. That is a relief from your Lord, and a mercy. So, whoever transgresses after all that will have a painful punishment. There is life for you in Qisas, O people of wisdom, so that you may refrain (from killing) and might remain conscious of Allah.”

The objective of this detailed delineation is to establish the law that the person who has committed the murder of another, whether he is a free man or a subordinate or a female, he or she alone would be held responsible for the retributive capital punishment and in exchange for him or her, another person would not be sacrificed to save the original murderer. According to Ibne Katheer, two Arab tribes who were at the brink of undergoing unjust settlement of retribution were thus pacified when these verses were revealed and the law was thus established forever.

According to the Prophet (PBUH), if a person causes the death of a near relative, there would be no share for him in the property of the deceased. There is a tradition in which Umar (RA) gave the blood-money of Ibne Qatadah Almudlaji to his brother instead of his murderer’s father.

There is no prescribed expiation or atonement for Qatle ‘Amad except that some scholars have deduced its importance from the injunctions related with Qatle Khata’ under the logic that through the payment of blood-money or forgiveness of Qisas or retribution, the murderer would remain alive to the worldly comforts, but he would have to face his ultimate judgement and therefore he should observe all the means of expiation including freeing a slave or fasting consecutively for sixty days.

Ruling of Qatle Shubhe ‘Amad:

If a person attacks the other with an unconventional instrument or mere bodily hurt or another rash or careless action that usually does not cause death but in that particular case it does, then although it would be considered a murder or homicide but the Qisaas or just retribution would not be applied. However, the heirs of the deceased would have the right to take Diyyat or blood-money. The two parties can mutually agree on some value of money or so more or less than the fixed rate of Diyyat.

In Qatle Shubhe ‘Amad, there is no prescribed atonement apart from the Diyyat but the scholars agree that since a human life has gone wasted, the Kaffara or atonement should be observed in order to win Allah’s pardon.

Ruling of Qatle Khata’:

This is a kind of homicide in which the death of an individual is caused wholly without mens rea or bad intention. It is caused by a mistake and without any preplanning by the accused. For example a person went on game hunting and his bullet hit an innocent person who happened to cross the line of the fire. The Islamic law permits the legal heirs of the deceased to negotiate the amount of Diyyat or blood money from the slayer or forgive the person. The law also demands from that person for the atonement by observing sixty consecutive fasts. Allah has enjoined thus in Sura An Nisa Verse 92-93: It is not for a believer (Muslim) to kill any believer, except by mistake. Whoever kills a believer by mistake, then, a believing slave has to be freed, and the blood money must be paid to his family, unless they forgo it. If he (the victim) belongs to a people hostile to you and is a believer, then, a believing slave has to be freed. If he (the victim) belongs to a people between whom and you there is treaty, then, blood money is to be paid to his family, and a believing slave to be freed. Whoever does not find one has to fast for two consecutive months. This is repentance prescribed from Allah‘s side. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. Whoever kills a believer deliberately, his reward is Jahannam (Hell) where he shall remain forever, and Allah shall be angry with him and shall cast curse upon him, and He has prepared for him a mighty punishment.

Note:In the case of Qatle Khata’, it needs to be established if the person killed met that fate due to the mistake of another person or due to his own error of judgement or will. For example, a moderately speeding car hitting a person who suddenly rushes over the road would not constitute a case of Qatle Khata’ as it is the mistake of the deceased himself.

Some miscellaneous issues regarding Qatl, homicide:

To conclude, we must develop an acute sensibility towards the crime of homicide and make every possible effort to minimize its ratio in our society by discouraging it at the personal as well as the social level. If someone happens to commit this brutality, then we should remember that only the government of that state has the right to exact the Qisas and discharge its duty of capital punishment. May Allah protect us from all actions that displease him and may we be granted true success both in this world and in the hereafter.

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (www.najeebqasmi.com)