The Prophet’s Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) were unanimous that blood money is to be paid by the person who killed another by mistake. They also agreed that the woman’s blood money is half that of the man. This is not to belittle women. The blood money paid is not a price for the person killed; it is compensation for the harm caused to the family of the victim. Hence, since the financial harm caused to the family when the victim is a man is greater than when the victim is a woman, the woman’s blood money has been estimated to be half the man’s. One who kills by mistake must also expiate for this by fasting two consecutive months, whether the victim is male or female. This emphasizes that the blood money has nothing to do with the sex of the victim.
When the killing is intentional, the only thing to be done is to execute the killer, regardless of the sex and age of the victim, unless the family of the victim pardons the killer.
In this regard, we would like to cite for you the following fatwa issued by the late Syrian scholar Sheikh Mustafa Az-Zarqa (may Allah bless his soul):
The Prophet’s Companions, the righteous successors, and the religious jurisprudents are unanimous that the blood money paid when a woman is killed by mistake is to be half the sum paid when the victim is a man. They cite as evidence for this the following hadith: Mu`adh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The woman’s blood money is half the man’s.”
According to Bidayatul Mujtahid by Ibn Rushd, the scholars have agreed that the difference in compensation paid according to the sex of the victim applies only to the case when the victim is killed by mistake. Scholars have differed as to applying this in cases other than killing.
Hence, it is established as a juristic ruling that in the case of killing by mistake, the blood money paid to the victim’s family when the victim is a woman is half the sum paid when the victim is a man.
Such juristic ruling has raised controversy in our age among those who adopt modernism. They regard that as a kind of reversal after all the progress women have achieved in almost all fields of life.
Such advocates of modernism wonder: Are women half-humans in the point of view of Islam, and hence, it stipulates that their blood money be half the men’s? How can this be while we are in the twenty-first century, and at a time when some international organizations have dedicated a year especially for women to express appreciation for women’s roles and do them justice?
The people who raise such false controversy disregard the intentness of Islam on treating women fairly and guaranteeing them all the rights they were denied before its advent. They have forgotten that Islam cares about protecting women and respecting their dignity, and criticize Islam for stipulating that the woman’s blood money be half the man’s.
With regard to that subject, I remember when the former Pakistani president, Mr. Diya’ Ad-Din Al-Haq (may Allah have mercy on him) wanted to introduce a law for blood money pursuant to the Shari`ah. According to the draft law, it was mentioned that the woman’s blood money would be half the man’s. Hundreds of liberals among his ministers, lawmen, academics, and women in high positions declared their opposition to such law. The President sent for me and Dr. Mohamad Ma`ruf Ad-Dawalebi (so that we could convince those who opposed the law). We held meetings with each group of them, each on a separate day. After discussing the subject with them in light of the principles of the Islamic law, reason, and the realities of life, they all became convinced of the wisdom and justice of the Islamic law in this respect. The women who opposed that law were the fastest to respond to the points we clarified in that regard and which they did not think about before. The content of these points is as follows:
First, blood money is not to be paid in the cases of intentional murders; it is confined to the cases of killing by mistake, in which premeditation of murder has no room absolutely. Moreover, the killer by mistake may be the sorriest person for the victim’s death. For instance, a mother may kill her only baby by mistake; she may suffocate him when she falls asleep while breast-feeding him, and then leads the rest of her life sad for it.
Second, the amount of the blood money set by the Islamic law is not imposed as a kind of deterrent punishment; it is basically a compensation for the financial harm caused to the family of the victim. And since the accidental killer is the one who caused the family that harm, he or she is to pay them that compensation, even though he or she had not intended to kill the victim. Compensation is a principle applied by all civilized systems in the world with regard to casualties, injuries, damages that are caused by unintentional mistake.
According to the principle of compensating the parties harmed, it is agreed that the compensation paid is to be comparable to the amount of harm directly afflicted. With that principle in mind, during our discussions in Pakistan with the opponents of the blood money law, we posed the following question: Observing the social and economic life of people in all countries, even in America and Europe, in what case would the financial harm caused to the victim’s family be greater, when the victim is a man or when it is a woman? All the people we asked answered that the harm would be greater when the victim is a man, even in the countries where men and women are equal in all fields of life. That is because it is the men’s incomes that basically support their families rather than the women’s. Getting that answer, we told them that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) took the discrepancy between men and women in this respect into account and thus estimated the blood money paid when the victim is a woman at half the sum paid when it is a man. If so, on what basis should people criticize the law in question?
The misunderstanding of those who consider the difference between men and women with regard to blood money as belittling women lies in the fact that they think that the blood money paid is a deterrent punishment to a criminal. Such a belief is a misconception of the wisdom and purpose of imposing blood money, not only in the Islamic law, but also in all the man-made laws. The first and foremost element to constitute a crime in its social and legal sense is that the criminal has premeditated it. That element is completely lacking as to killing by mistake.
Third, the right criterion for estimating the human value of women can be seen clearly in what the Islamic law prescribes as a deterrent punishment to the criminal in cases of intentional murders; the criminal in such cases is to be sentenced to death whether the victim is a man or a woman. So, the compensation prescribed for the financial harm caused to the victims’ families in cases of accidental killing is not to be considered at all as a criterion for estimating the human value of women.
Though there is no premeditation in cases of killing by mistake, yet the deaths caused are often attributed to lack of concern and failure to take the required precautions. Islam has prescribed in addition to the blood money an exhausting expiation as a religious purification for the person who committed such fateful mistake and so that he or she pays attention and takes precautions when required. [That expiation is to fast two consecutive months.]
Once, a respectable scholar argued with me criticizing my opinion that the blood money is not a kind of punishment to the accidental killer, but rather, a mere compensation for the financial harm caused to the family of the victim. [He saw it was a punishment too and] his evidence was the imposition of the blood money on the family of the killer.
I replied that the very reason he cited as evidence for his view is strong evidence for mine, too. The imposition of blood money on the family of the killer cannot be regarded as a punishment to the killer, for punishments in Islam are based on a permanent general rule prescribed in the Qur’an; Allah Almighty says: ( no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another ) (Al-An’am 6: 164) Hence, if the blood money had been a kind of punishment, it would not have been imposed on the family of the killer. Rather, it would have been imposed on the killer only.
The blood money is intended as compensation for the unintentional damage caused to the victim’s family. At the same time, it may be unaffordable by the offender. For this reason, he or she was entitled to help from his or her clan, especially that he or she is innocent of premeditation. On the other hand, the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) made it clear that the families have nothing to do for their members who commit intentional murders. This is because Islam prescribes the death penalty for intentional murders as a deterrent punishment.
Thus, it is clear that the blood money has nothing to do with the value or humanity of the woman. All people, men and women, are equal in the sight of Allah. In fact, what makes one person better than the other is righteousness