Reviewing by : A.J. Kassem

   The aim of crime prevention and punishment is to protect the society and individual as well as to carry out justice for the victims and their families. Social order cannot be achieved while injustice and disorder are neither limited nor controlled. Otherwise, evil will be met with evil.


If we examine the types of punishments legislated in Islam, we find that each one exists to protect one of the five necessities of social order, whereas the punishments for blasphemy and apostasy are legislated to protect religion, the punishment for adultery is legislated to protect lineage, the punishment for drinking alcohol is legislated to protect  minds, the punishment for false accusations of fornication is legislated to protect honor, and the punishment for theft is legislated to protect money and property.


Legal theory examines crime and punishment with respect to the individual and society at the same time.  When reading the Quran with comprehension in context, it should be noted that Islamic law doesn’t impose disproportionate punishments nor does it impose any punishments on actions which have not been warned against.


In several cases, crimes have been abolished gradually by revelation, by warning against and prohibiting things which lead to crime, providing logical arguments to influence reasonable people to reconsider any criminal inclinations that they may have had, and cultivating the social conditions which are known to reduce injustice, oppression, and disproportionate concentrations of wealth. Legislated physical punishments are the strongest material means for crime prevention while spiritual damage and punishments in the afterlife are a sufficient source of self-restrain for true believers. Anyone who knowingly commits a serious crime without an excuse for doing so is subjected to its prescribed punishment in order to fulfill justice and as a deterrent to others. Although some westerners claim that their judicial systems are more human and civilized, serious crimes in many western countries are so frequent that they are counted by the day, not by the month or year. One of the main reasons for this is a lack of effective deterrents.


While some may consider the prescribed punishments in Islam to be severe, they should also acknowledge that the criteria for applying those punishments are also more stringent. Consider, for example, the punishment for the crime of theft. Allah says in the Quran:


{وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أَيْدِيَهُمَا جَزَاءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَالًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ }[المائدة: 38]


‘’[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.’’(Al-Ma’ida 38)


First of all, Islamic law and ethics contain many injunctions to prevent the poor from being hungry and stealing, such as imposing alms, encouraging charity, emphasizing the rights of a relatives and neighbors, taking care of orphans, forgiving debts, and welcoming guests. Furthermore, if it is demonstrated that the thief is in poverty and does not have the basic necessities of life, he will not be given capital puinishment. The second caliph of Islam, Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, suspended the punishment for theft in the year of famine.  On the other hand, if it is proved that a thief is rich and not in need, his or her hand will be cut if there are sufficient witnesses and the stolen items were secured in a private place.


With respect to the punishments for adultery and fornication, the Quran warns against their dangers, commands men and women to avoid staring at each other, dress modestly, and not to be in seclusion with each other, if not related. Allah says:


{قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ (30) وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَى عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِنْ زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ (31) } [النور: 30، 31].


“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is acquainted with what they do( 31 ) And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, not expose their adornments except that which [normally] appears, cover their chests with their garments and not expose their adornments except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants with no physical desire, or children not yet aware of the sexual aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you believers, that you may succeed.’’


}وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا{ ]الإسراء 32[


“And don’t approach unlawful sexual relations – indeed they are an abomination and a horrible way [of life].”

Islam provides guidance for natural expressions of desire by facilitating and encouraging marriage. At the same time, it tries to cultivate young people’s potential to contribute to society by regarding them as adults in their responsibilities and duties from the age of puberty.


Allah, the Most High says:


{وَلْيَسْتَعْفِفِ الَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ نِكَاحًا حَتَّى يُغْنِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ} [النور: 33]


‘’But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty.’’(An-Nour 33)


As a last resort and deterrent, the punishment for adultery is stoning and the punishment for fornication is 100 lashes and exile for a year.  However, it should be noted that the criteria for establishing guilt in this matter is extremely stringent.  There must be four witnesses who clearly see the identities of the perpetrators and the sexual act itself.  If someone accuses another of these crimes without these witnesses, then they, themselves, are subject to a punishment of 80 lashes and their testimony will not be accepted in the future.  If a husband or a wife accuses a spouse of adultery, their testimony will not be accepted if the accused swears by Allah that they are innocent of the crime.


Any society which correctly applies Islamic law will see crime decrease considerably, and an increase in peace, stability, and blessings as stated in Allah’s promise. He said :


{وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَى آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ بَرَكَاتٍ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ..} [الأعراف: 96]


“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth’’ (Al-Aaraf 96).

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