Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, states: One of the rights Islam has made inalienable for man is the right to live. This indicates that taking someone’s life without any due cause is one of the most abhorrent crimes in Islam. The reason for this is that killing renders children orphans and wives widows. It spreads chaos and instability in the society.
Moreover, unlawful killing mars the comfort and serenity enjoyed by members of the society; it outlaws the society’s etiquette and violates people’s rights. All this may turn the whole community into a place where the law of jungle governs everything.
It is normal in all religions and among all rational people that taking others’ lives by assault without any right is unlawful and totally condemned. Allah Almighty said after Cain murdered his
brother Abel, (For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 32)
Thus, given the gravity of this crime, Islam stipulates a severe punishment for he who commits the crime: ‘qisas‘ or a monetary compensation (blood money) to be offered to the family of the murdered.
Qisas is a divine legislation revealed in the earlier Divine Books, such as the Torah (a scripture revealed to Moses). On this aspect, Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an, (And We prescribed for them therein: The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 45)
Also, qisas was the prevalent norm among the Arabs in pre-Islamic era, as they found it the only way to eliminate transgression and assault. This shows to what extent they, themselves, were strongly averse to transgression, injustice and humiliation, and how they perceived killing as the most perverted act that harms the feelings of others.
In addition, given the great pride they had in the multitude of tribe members, they used to consider any attack against a single member as an attack against the whole tribe.
through the passage of time, some Arabs went to extremes in applying the principle of qisas to the extent that they considered it the only remedy for the crime committed. They, moreover, imagined that if the murdered was not avenged, a bird called Hamah would hover over his grave shouting: “Let me drink! Let me drink!” It would never stop till the murderer was brought to justice.
also at this stage, the family of the victim used to take revenge on the murderer’s kin. To them, not only did the murderer deserve to be punished but his whole tribe as well, for they were all parties to the crime.
It was related that when someone killed a noble man, the murderer’s relatives gathered themselves and went to the father of the murdered person. They said, “What do you want?” He replied, “I offer you three choices.” They asked, “What are these choices?” He said, “Either you bring my son back to life, or you fill my house with stars, or you allow me to kill most of your noblemen. That won’t even make me satisfied.”
however, the advent of Islam put an end to such social malaise (i.e. revenge), as it prohibited the killing of anyone without legal reason. Allah Almighty says, (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-Nisaa’ 4: 93)
In addition, Islam laid down a prescribed penalty for committing murder, even if it’s done unintentionally. 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.) (An-Nisaa’ 4: 92)
In emphasizing the principle of qisas, Allah Almighty says, (In the Law of Equality (Qisas) there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 179)
In addition, Islam, the religion that calls for moderation, combines justice with mercy. It stipulates that paying the blood money should be an alternative to qisas. Allah says, (And for him who is forgiven somewhat by his (injured) brother, prosecution according to usage and payment unto him in kindness. This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 178)
this shows that Islam encourages the act of showing mercy and forgiveness, and there is a great reward for whoever tries to be pardoning and forgiving; Allah says, (The guerdon of an ill deed is an ill the like thereof. But whosoever pardoneth and amendeth, his wage is the affair of Allah.) (Ash-Shura 42: 40)
though Islam approves of and regulates the principle of qisas, it stipulates that it should not be carried out in an excessive way. Allah says, (And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! he will be helped.) (Al-Israa‘ 17: 33)
Instances of going to extremes in carrying out qisas are: killing someone other than the murderer, or going beyond the range of those to be killed for murder.
It goes without saying that these excessive acts may lead to perpetuation of enmity, renewal of fighting and extend the scope of damage.
also, part of the excessive forms of carrying out qisas is the single-handed execution of the criminal by the victim relatives without permission of the authorities. This is not permissible. In Islam, the authorities carry out the qisas.
the reason for this is that in addition to the individual’s right infringed upon through the act of murder, the community also has a right in seeing the justice done. Thereby, the ruler who represents the whole community should be the one to order for the execution of this punishment.
this is Islam’s stand, in brief, on the issue of qisas and reprisal. In the light of the above-mentioned facts, it is clear that Islam lays down clear-cut rules governing criminal acts and their punishments. It warns people against violating its teachings and reverting back to pre-Islamic practices.
Let us observe Allah’s rules in order to prevent bloodbaths, and instill peace and comfort in people’s hearts. As we know, peace and security are part of the main sources of happiness for humankind. This will enable him observe all that Allah Almighty has ordained on him and maintain good relations with all people. Allah Almighty says, (But help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 2)