Use of the Death Penalty in Islam Essay

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Islam Religion and Death Penalty:

Islam is a term that comes from an Arabic root word that means peace and submission that have always been used as the universal Muslim greeting. Based on the origin of this word, the Islamic religion teaches that peace can only be found through submission to Allah (Almighty God) in soul, heart, and deed. As a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion, Islam is articulated by the Qur'an, which is a book regarded as the precise word of God. The religion is also articulated by various teachings and example of Muhammad who is regarded as the last prophet of God. An individual who believes in and consciously adheres to the teachings of the Islamic faith is called a Muslim (Huda par, 2).

Muslims believe that Islam is the total and universal mode of prehistoric faith, which was revealed in the ancient days across the globe. In addition, these people hold that God is one and unparalleled and the reason for an individual's existence is to worship God. While they believe that Abraham, Moses, Adam, Noah, and Jesus are prophets, Muslims maintain that earlier messages and revelations of God have been relatively misinterpreted or changed over time. As a result, they believe that the Arabic Qur'an is the unaltered and final revelation of God. The Islamic religion is also based on several religious concepts and practices including the five pillars of Islam. These pillars are the fundamental concepts and mandatory acts of worship that touches nearly every aspect of an individual's life and the society.

As a major religion in the world, Islam has more than 1 billion followers and is regarded as one of the monotheistic religions together with Judaism and Christianity. While this religion is linked with Arabs of the Middle East, less than 10% of people who profess this faith are indeed Arabs. This is primarily because Muslims are scattered throughout the world in every nation, race, and color.

Death Row in Islam:

The death penalty or capital punishment is an issue that has attracted huge attention in the recent past mainly because of ethical issues surrounding it. As a result of the huge attention and discussions about it, death penalty is not practiced by several countries across the globe. Actually, many countries have enacted anti-death penalty domestic laws that have contributed to an international law of human rights that categorically outlaws cruel and inhuman punishment. As the international concern for the removal of death penalty has increased, Islamic states that approve and practice capital punishment have been forced to respond with similar compelling concerns according to the tenets of Islamic law (Schabas, p.223).

The Islamic faith is mainly characterized with a stereotypical presentation that suggests that the religion is conservative, retributive, and misogynistic. This religion professes the basic principle that every individual has the right to life, though the Qur'an allows for an exception. As stated in the Qur'an, killing or murder is only permitted when a court of law demands it i.e. through the due process of the law (Schabas, p.230). This implies that the exception authorizes the administration of the death penalty when Islamic law dictates.

The Islamic penal law is made of four categories or systems including Houdoud or Haad, which are important offenses that are considered as threats to the very existence of the religion. These offenses are punishable based on the penalties established by the Qur'an itself or through Sunnah or Sunna. These Houdoud crimes such as defamation, rebellion, adultery, and theft are punishable through various penalties including death, particularly for adultery, and robbery.

The second category is known as Quissas and refers to international crimes against the individual based on the fundamental premise of revenge or lex talionis. According to the Qur'an the victim of such crimes are permitted to inflict the punishment though under supervision of public authorities. In cases where the victims of the offenses pardon the perpetrator, the penalty established by Quissas will not be enforced.

The other two categories are Diya, which recommends compensation or payback for the victim and Tazir, which enables public authorities to establish their own punishment and provide the judge with a broad discretion. Based on Tazir system, public authorities may enforce capital punishment or the death penalty though they are not necessarily required to do so by any religious text.

Even though the Qur'an accepts or allows the use of the death penalty, forgiveness is usually the preferred option ("Islam and Capital Punishment" par, 1). The preference of forgiveness is fueled by the fact that the predominant Qur'anic theme is peace. Muslims believe that the death penalty is the most severe punishment but an individual may be ordered by a court for crimes of proportional severity. The use of capital punishment in such cases is attributed to the belief that there is exception for earthly punishment though more profound punishment occurs at the hands of God.

Despite being outlawed in several countries and international law, the Qur'an endorses the death penalty as a legitimate means of seeking justice. While murder is considered a since in Qura'nic law, it is acceptable to use the death penalty when required by the law. Consequently, Muslims who endorse capital punishment believe that it offers an effective deterrent against crime and assists in promoting justice. Notably, the Qur'an legalizes the use of the death penalty as a punishment for Fasaad fi al-ardh i.e. spreading harm across the land and intentional murder. Fasaad fi al-ardh is interpreted in several ways including treason, sodomy, rape, homosexual behavior, apostasy, and piracy. With regards to intentional murder, the family of the victim is permitted to choose to forgive the offender, accept monetary compensation, or enforce the use of the death penalty.

According to the Islamic law, the execution of the death penalty should be carried out in public in order to improve its presumed effect of general deterrence of crime. As a general rule, the execution should be done with the sword except in cases of adultery where lapidation is used. While Muslim countries or countries where Islam is the state religion have essentially retained the death penalty in their domestic laws, the practice usually varies from one country to another. For instance, Iraq and Iran are passionate practitioners of capital punishment whereas Tunisia carries the execution in rare cases only. Moreover, the actual means of enforcing the death penalty is different from one Islamic region to another. Some of the most commonly used methods across Islamic countries include hanging, beheading, firing squad, and stoning.

While religious argument is usually invoked in discussions regarding the death penalty, the differences in execution indicate that there is minimal consensus among Muslims regarding the scope of capital punishment. Even though the death penalty is essentially part of the laws in Islamic countries or nations where Islam is the state religion, there is an increase in the number of Muslim groups that support the abolishment of this punishment ("The Role of the Death Penalty in the Quran" par, 4). These opponents of the practice disagree with the conventional interpretation of Qur'an passages about the death penalty.

Nonetheless, one of the most fundamental things to note about the death penalty in Islamic law is that there is no place for vigilantism in Islam religion. An individual must be appropriately found guilty in an Islamic court before the death penalty can be imposed upon him/her. Since the punishment is the most severe in the Islamic faith, very strict evidence standards must be proven before a conviction is found. This implies that an Islamic court of law has the discretion to impose less than the eventual punishment though on a case-by-case basis.

Lesson Learned:

The death penalty has emerged as a divisive issue in Islamic faith to an extent that there are various groups supporting and opposing its use. Despite the controversies surrounding it, capital punishment is permitted by the Qur'an as a legitimate means of promoting justice. The death penalty can be enforced in cases of intentional murder and spreading mischief throughout the land or Fasaad fi al-ardh. I have learnt that even though the Qur'an endorses the use of the death penalty in these categories of crime, the most preferable option is forgiveness. The need for forgiveness rather than the use of the death penalty is based on the fact that the Islamic law emphasizes peace and submission.

I have always felt that the death penalty is a cruel form of punishment that does not contribute to any individual or societal good. While the Qur'an allows its use, I believe that it is totally cruel to punish another human being by taking away their life regardless of the kind of crime he/she has committed. Death cannot be used as a justification for punishing an offender who has committed the same thing. Actually, killing in order to punish a killer or murderer is in itself contradictory. Moreover, there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that capital punishment does not act as a deterrent to crime.…[continue]

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