In Islam, protecting human’s life is verily the foremost aim of Sharia right after the protection of religion in the context of five basic necessities (Ad-daruriyat al-khams). Sharia is so keen on establishing this protection, and the right to life is therefore duly recognized to be inherent of every human being. In this regard, Islam has laid certain laws and punishments to serve as a deterrent to criminals whether the killing is intended or occurred due to negligence and carelessness.
In response to the point, the late Sheikh Jadul-Haq `Ali Jadul-Haq, former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, states:
“Allah Almighty says: “It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless (it be) by mistake. He who hath killed a believer by mistake must set free a believing slave, and pay the blood money to the family of the slain, unless they remit it as a charity. If he (the victim) be of a people hostile unto you, and he is a believer, then (the penance is) to set free a believing slave. And if he cometh of a folk between whom and you there is a covenant, then the blood money must be paid unto his folk and (also) a believing slave must be set free. And whoso hath not the wherewithal must fast two consecutive months. A penance from Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise. Whoso slayeth a believer of set purpose, his reward is Hell for ever. Allah is wroth against him and He hath cursed him and prepared for him an awful doom.” (An-Nisa’: 92-93)
According to the four Islamic schools of Fiqh, manslaughter is defined as an act of killing someone, directly or indirectly, without malice aforethought and as a result of negligence and carelessness.
In the above-quoted verse, Allah Almighty legislated Diyyah (blood money) for manslaughter without clarifying the amount thereof, which was later on estimated by the Sunnah of the Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him.
Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn `Umar ibn Hazm reported on the authority of his father from his grandfather that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Whosoever is proven to have killed a believer (with malice aforethought), his blood may be spilled in retaliation (for his felony) unless the blood heirs of the victim waive their right to retaliation. And the Diyyah of the person shall be one hundred camels … And a man shall be executed in retaliation for killing a woman, and the Diyyah for the People of Gold (people of Egypt and the Levant) shall be one thousand dinars (gold coin).” [Reported by An-Nasa’i, Ash-Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar vol. 7, p. 57, and As-San`ani’s Subul-us-Salam vol. 3, p. 322].
In his book Al-Jami` Li Ahkam Al-Qur’an, al-Qurtubi wrote: “Since the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, the whole Ummah has unanimously agreed on the obligation of Diyyah, and no scholar is reported to have denied it”
The rationale that lies behind legislating blood money and estimating the amount thereof:
Blood money is legislated to avoid any conflict that may result between the blood heirs and the guardians of the accused in case the estimation of the amount is mandated to the blood heirs. By estimating the amount of Diyyah, Islam highlights the fact that all people are on equal footing, regardless of their ranks or races.
Blood money, as defined by Islam, does not fall under the scope of compensation or fine provided for in man-made law. Although blood money and fine have the same characteristic of deterring the culprit by depriving him of a sum of his money, yet, blood money differs in that the culprit, in most cases, does not alone bear the brunt of paying the money. Unlike fine, blood money also does not go to the Public Treasury. The difference between blood money and compensation lies in the fact that the amount of compensation is estimated according to physical, corporeal, and moral elements, while the amount of Diyyah is estimated by the Lawgiver, not according to the loss that resulted from the crime, but it is prescribed only in return for the doomed person or the damaged organs.
As for the amount of Diyyah, the scholars of Islam agreed that the Diyyah for killing a Muslim is, as stated in the above letter of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to the people of Yemen, one hundred camels. However, they differed on whether to consider camels the only option available or not. According to Abu Hanifa, Malik, and one of the two views held by Ash-Shafi`i, Diyyah has three equal options; i.e. camels, gold or silver. Ahmad and the two disciples of Abu Hanifa added two more options; i.e. cows and sheep. Abu Hanifa’s two disciples were singled out for the view that garments can also be regarded as another option. According to Ash-Shafi`i’s new doctrine and a narration from Ahmad, cmels are the only option while other types are alternatives. The views and evidence of each scholar can be referred to in the books of jurisprudence. Thus, when deciding their ruling, the scholars of each age must take into consideration the easiest option available.
The texts of the Sunnah clarified that the amount of Diyyah is one thousand dinars (a dinar is a gold coin of a certain weight and thus the amount of the Diyyah would be accurate). This is so because the monetary criterion is more accurate and more appropriate, and gold is an asset on which Muslim scholars agreed as a criterion for estimating the Diyyah. So, if manslaughter is established according to the acknowledgement of the culprit or to other legal evidence, the amount of Diyyah would be one thousand dinars. Every dinar now weighs 4. 25 grams and thus the total calculation of the Diyyah would be 4250 grams paid in gold for the blood heirs of the victim. This amount can also be paid in cash according to the gold price at the date in which the Diyyah was established, whether at the consent of the two parties or according to a court judgement.
Who shall pay the Diyyah?
The scholars of Islam unanimously agree that, in manslaughter, the Diyyah is to be paid by the sustainers of the culprit (those who usually help and support him; i.e. the members of his family, tribe, profession, syndicate or union). According to Abu Hanifa and Malik, the culprit must join his sustainers in paying, while Ash-Shafi`i and Ahmad are of the view that it is not obligatory on him to pay anything. For me, I am inclined to follow the view of Abu Hanifa and Malik which serves as a deterrent for the culprit by cutting down his money.”