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Islam and Punishment

By Dr. Muhammad Haroon

An Explanatory Note by Siddiq Osman Noormuhammad

Islam and Punishment by Dr. Muhammad Haroon is one of the many invaluable books that have been published by the Raza Academy in England.

Dr. Muhammad Haroon is very well qualified to write on this subject as before becoming a Muslim, he had thought about and studied the whole issue of crime and society. He had lectured on Western criminology at English universities, studied the history of crime in England, worked in England's penal institutions and had direct contact with young offenders. "Coming from this Western context greatly assisted me in seeing the beauty of Islam's solution to these same problems", he writes in his Foreword.

Dr. Muhammad Haroon's basic proposition is that the Islamic penal system works best if prerequisite for it, that is, iman (belief) and love of Allah Ta'ala and His beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), has been nurtured to begin with. "The real authority in the Islamic penal system is Allah Ta'ala, the Creator. It is His revealed book, the Qur'an, that commands the punishments. It is His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who set up the system, and acted as judge in the early cases". (p. 66)

According to Dr. Muhammad Haroon, the level of crime in a truly Islamic society is low for five main reasons.

1). Devout Muslims are policed by taqwa (fear of Allah), they have iman, they believe in the Day of Judgement and know that everything they do is seen by Allah Ta'ala. This stops them from evil.

2). Muslim society is policed by the pillars of Islam. If the Ummah does Zikr of Kalimah Shahadah, prays salah five times a day, gives Zakah, fasts in the month of Ramadan and plans to go for Hajj, then very law abiding and socially responsible citizens will be produced. Such a society will be full of faith, and full of respect for the basic values of Islam, such as chastity, sobriety, respect for life and property.

3). Islamic society is policed by the family. Marriage is a highly valued institution in Islam, it is sunnah to marry, and getting married is to preserve half of your faith. And a Muslim family is a disciplined unit, under the authority of the parents. The juvenile delinquent is unknown in Islamic society. The juvenile delinquent is the product of a society where the family has collapsed, as in modern Britain and U.S.A.

4). Islamic society needs no policing because Muslims are sober. The greatest cause of violent crime in the West is alcohol. A devout Muslim society is sober. As a result, in
a Muslim society there is not the high level of violence and murder that exists in the alcoholic West.

5). Finally, a Muslim society does not need policing because it is a just society. Islamic punishments are suspended in the case of poverty and want. Islam forbids racial discrimination which condemns masses of people to permanent injustice. Islam commands that even slaves be treated equally.

There is a lot we can learn from this small book of 101 pages. We learn for example, that in the Islamic penal system there are three different classes of offences: hudood, qisas and tazeer. Hudood is the plural of hadd. There are seven hadd offences: sedition, robbery with violence, apostasy, drunkenness, zina, falsely accusing someone of zina, and theft. There are specific punishments for each of these offences. For example, the penalty for a married person committing zina is stoning to death. The penalty for an unmarried person is a flogging of one hundred strokes. In the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), several people were stoned, on their own confession, as they preferred to be punished in this world with the hope that Allah Ta'ala would forgive them their sins, rather than suffer the punishment in the hereafter. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said of one such woman that she had enough repentance for seventy people.

Qisas mean retaliation and deals with offences like murder or bodily harm. The relatives or injured party can demand the death penalty for a murder, and the infliction of a similar injury to that suffered by the victim as punishment for bodily harm. Or the relatives of the injured party may demand material compensation in money or kind.

The following are some of the offences that are covered under tazeer: usury or lending at interest, abuse of trusts, misbehavior by witnesses, bribery, giving short measure and adulterating food, sale of haraam food such as pork, gambling, insults, abuse and contempt of court.

According to Dr. Muhammad Haroon, " Many in the West oppose the Islamic penal system, not because it differs from Western systems in the punishment it imposes, but they don't share Islamic values. They like alcohol. Many in the West love sex, smut, dirty pictures and the whole Soho atmosphere. To them a system is vile if it tries to encourage sobriety and chastity." (p. 65)

" The Western critics make their accusation simply on the basis of one or two features of the Islamic penal system taken in isolation. The whole system is judged simply on the basis of amputations. The Westerner hates Islam anyway. He hates a system that condemns racism, greed, alcoholism, capitalism, imperialism, exploitation, inequality and everything else the West stands for. So, he picks up any little thing with which to abuse Islam." (p. 85)

"But Islam is massively popular with the Muslims. The western audience should not forget that the Islamic penal system is very popular with the Muslim masses. This popularity is what really horrifies the West. A system that the West hates, and slanders, and belittles, is still loved by hundreds of millions". (p. 14)

It is clear that Dr. Muhammad Haroon writes with deep commitment, understanding and passion. He had referenced the works of Dr. Muhammad Tahir al-Qadiri of the Minhaj-ul-Qur'an, an Islamic University in Lahore and gives suggestions for further research in this field. His book is a valuable contribution to Muslim scholarship. May Allah Ta'ala reward him and give us the hidaya (guidance) to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad-ur-Rasulallah, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, Aameen Yaa Rabbal Aalameen.

(This book can be obtained from Raza Academy, 16 Carmichael Street, Edgeley, Stckport,
SK3 9JX, U.K).

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