The divine revelation
Where all possible means of acquiring knowledge that fall in man’s reach come to an end, the Divine Revelation comes in. The facts and truths lying beyond the access of five senses, reason and ecstasy are learnt only through Divine Revelation. This is the special blessing of Allah Almighty that He showers on His chosen servants, the Prophets and the Messengers. A common man cannot even think of his access to this divine source. Nor can he comprehend as to what is the nature of this experience called revelation.
This Divine Revelation continued to the Final Messenger of Allah , the Prophet Mohammad . With his apostolate the chain of sending the Messengers to mankind came to an end and the door of revelation was shut forever.
It is now the life history of the Holy Prophet wherefrom all knowledge and cognition one has to acquire. All the truths veiled from human perception and which man has always pursued to learn but his senses, intellect and ecstasy failed to explore are revealed to mankind through the enlightening guidance of the Final Messenger of Allah . With the mediation of the Holy Prophet , Allah has provided to mankind that fountainhead of knowledge which is the end-all of all learning. He is the city of knowledge and all the roads of human inquiry lead to this city and end up there. The mission of acquiring knowledge cannot be accomplished without seeking guidance from the Holy Prophet may the humanity put all its energies to push the way through.
The scope of knowledge
We have learnt in the light of Surah Al-Alaq the concept of knowledge in Islam, the major objective of seeking knowledge, the syllabi prescribed for man to learn, the sources of knowledge and the outcome of knowledge. Now if one asks as to what has Allah taught man to learn or whether the Quran has fixed any limit with regard to seeking knowledge we need to turn towards fifth holy verse of Surah al-‘Alaq. Allah says:
“He Who (besides that) taught man (all that) which he did not know.”
So, the Holy Quran has not fixed any limit of knowledge. Allah Almighty has taught all what man did not know before. He has enlightened him on all the truths and the realities of the universe of which he had no knowledge. He kindled his mind with awareness enabling him to distinguish right from wrong. Allah Almighty has blessed us with knowledge of all the professions. His teachings keep pouring down. And everyone benefits from it according to one’s capacity. It all depends upon man how much he benefits from Allah’s infinite blessings. Allah has not put any limit on it. The entire universe is lying open before him like a prescribed text book. It is endless and unlimited. This vastness can be perceived from the saying of Almighty Allah
“There is always someone higher in knowledge than the other.”
This sets man free to go as far as he can in the pursuit of knowledge. There is no restriction or upper limit which one cannot transgress. There is no end to this journey. He can learn as much as he wants from the open syllabi. Allah Almighty has not set any destination to this journey. There is no end to knowledge as there is no end to Allah’s
Lordship and Godship and the Holy Prophet’s Messengership. Knowledge has enveloped the entire creation. One strives according to one’s potential and when he strikes the climax he gets amazed. The height of this unique feeling of amazement is but silence. One can say nothing, possessed by an inner feeling of appreciation that inundates all his faculties:
Islamic Penal System and Philosophy
For a very brief survey of the history of pre-Islamic penal law, Hummurabi Law, Egyptian Law, Jewish Law, Greek Law and Roman Law have been discussed. Since the Western standards of human life, moral values, governmental objects, ethical obligations, ideas of justice, sources and principles or legislations are always changing from age to age, no persistent characterization of law in Western jurisprudence is possible. The Western law is a complete failure in defining crime, specifying its nature and appreciating its permanent standard and character. But when we turn to Islamic law, it appears superior to the Western law because it contains no ambiguity in its details: law in Shariah is a legal value established from divine communication which can be proved either through the text of the Quran or Sunnah or definite consensus of the Muslim scholars. Islamic concept of crime, like the concept of law, is permanent, unchanging and unanimous among all the scholars and schools of law: “Crime is an unlawful act for which punishment has been prescribed by the Shariah by way of fixation or discretion.”
All the theories of criminality, propounded by the Western Criminologists, originate from the distorted vision of human nature, based on ‘Trial and Error Method’. According to Islam, it is absolutely false and baseless to say that some of the human beings were created with bad natures, or given birth with inherent criminal tendencies. Human nature, the Quran and traditions emphasise, is absolutely free of all bad potentials and wrong tendencies, and no criminal characteristic is inherent in it: “No child is born but conforms to the right nature, then his parents make him a Jew, or a Christian or a Magian, as a least is born entire in all its limbs (or without a defect). Do you see one born maimed and mutilated?” Lombrosians and Freudians throw the responsibility of crime on nature, whereas Islam declares that nature is perfectly good and the seeds of criminality are not inborn but self-sown during the life of an individual. The theory of inborn criminality advanced by the Biological school of criminologists is absolutely wrong and does not find any place in Islamic philosophy of criminality. As man is free to accept and develop the influence of right or wrong instinct, criminality cannot be accepted as an ingrained character of human nature.
In order to decide whether the idea of ‘pre-determined criminality’ either biological, psychiatric, psychological or in any other name is acceptable to Islam or not, we are positively obliged to study the concept of ‘human freedom’. As far as the concept of freedom of man in his acts is concerned, there is a delicate distinction between ‘creation of an act’ and ‘performance of an act’. The view of Muslim Jurists is that man is neither the ‘creator’ of his deeds nor are his actions divinely ‘predetermined’. The reality is that all the acts and deeds have been indiscriminately created by Allah, yet human beings have not been deprived of their free will and choice regarding commission or omission of their acts. Thus Allah is the Creator of the acts, whereas man is their performer and operator. Now if it is accepted that the sin of crime originates from some biological causes due to which the criminal is compulsorily supposed to possess some brutal characteristics, then no question of free will in adopting a particular conduct does arise. Thus man cannot be considered a moral agent, because he is a born criminal and no choice has been left for him to earn either good or bad behaviour. According to Islamic theory, human conduct is not predetermined in any sense: it is exclusively self-earned during his moral struggle since he is free in his acts of commission and omission. This is the only factor that makes man morally and legally responsible for his acts and deeds. Hence Islamic concept of human freedom completely nullifies the philosophy of pre-determined criminality.
According to Psychiatric/Pathological Theory, the cause of every criminal act and delinquency is traced in the form of mental disorder, because it supposes that all crimes originate from various kinds of psychiatric diseases. This theory leads us to the contemptuous concept of ‘determined criminality’, which is absolutely unacceptable to Islam.
Divine justice demands that every adult and sane person should be responsible for his/her own criminal behaviour. The Holy Quran says in this connection: “On me is the guilt of my crime and I am clear of that of which you are guilty.”
This verse clearly emphasises the fact that the criminal liability can neither be transferred nor explained away. The Western criminologists have indiscriminately explained the criminality in such a way that the crime, in spite of being an intentional and voluntary act, has become absolutely involuntary and unintentional. They have expressed the phenomenon of crime in terms of determinism; hence, no liability can be placed upon the individual. Therefore, there can be no justification of punishments, and the whole penal system becomes a futile and aimless exercise.
Islam has provided the balanced view because the liabilities of the individual and the society are separately determined. The cause of criminality is appreciated in such a manner that, instead of justifying the crime, effective means and devices are suggested to eliminate it from the society.
Regarding psychology of the criminal we must remember that if the external factors, such as circumstantial influences, opportunities and temptations go on affecting the internal character and psychology of the person constantly, and no measures are adopted to reform them, he becomes a habitual criminal, and if those factors influence the man incidentally, he becomes the occasional one. If proper moral and spiritual training and adequate socio-economic circumstances are provided to the individuals, their instinctive urges and mental faculties are organised to function towards the right direction. Human instincts and desires, when properly fulfilled in a balanced manner, do not create any tendency of criminality.
Therefore, lack of spiritual and moral training and unsuitability of socio-economic conditions are the basic factors which may render the psychological make-up of a person criminal.
Punishments in Islam have been classified into three kinds. Some of the punishments are fixed as per their nature and quantum while others are variable. This classification is one of the basic requirements of an ideal penal system to provide justice and make society a peaceful place. Since the gravity and heinousness of crimes vary from situation to situation, the respective punishments should also vary to tackle the crime. Legal philosophers and criminologists believe that it is an essential requirement for a viable system to be inclusive of both fixed and variable elements in its penal postulates. In the history of penology, Islam has provided a unique penal system which perfectly fulfils the stipulated requirements of law as outlined and elaborated by legal experts and theoreticians.
The author has devoted a chapter to a detailed discussion on the legal structure of punishments in Islam – Hadd (fixed punishment), Qisas (retaliation) and Ta’zeer (discretionary punishment) – and their respective constituting elements, conditions, juristic characteristics and their modes of execution.
Islamic punishments – Hadd, Qisas and Ta’zeer – and their kinds are based on the arguments of the Quran and Sunnah.
Men are instinctively inclined towards the establishment of a clean and pure socio. Therfore, these punishments are primarily focused on the achievement of this primary goal. The charge of the hostile critics of Islam that its penal system is based on vindictiveness and a deep-rooted sense of vengeance is baseless. The penal system of Islam is rooted in an objective and dispassionate assessment of criminal situations, and the severity of the punishment depends on the sanguinity of the crime. What could be a more just and natural system of punishment! Islam believes in the creation of an absolutely clean society. It believes in both physical and moral cleanliness. Therefore, its penal laws are geared to the formation of such a society. Since Islam is also fundamentally concerned with a peaceful society, its punishments are expressly oriented to achieve practical results.
Western philosophy of punishments gives us two viewpoints regarding the punishments:
Punishment as a method of protecting the society by reducing the occurrence of crimes
- Punishment as an end in itself.
The punishments in Islamic penal system are not prescribed as ends in themselves, as propagated by the ‘Western individualistic philosophy’ advanced by Kant and Hegel. The punishments are, in fact, a means of promoting moral values and general welfare of human society. The philosophy of Islamic punishments is remarkably different from and highly superior to the penal philosophy advanced by Western criminologists.
There is no doubt that Islamic punishments are the most consequential as compared to any system of punishments ever enforced in human society. If a punishment is definite in preventing the rate and frequency of crime, then even according to Salmond, a Western authority on jurisprudence, the punishment of burning alive can be awarded to all the offenders. According to Cordon Gaskell (Reader’s Digest, February, 1967): “Foreigners consider this amputation for theft a horrible punishment but even they admit that it has made Saudi Arabia the country with the lowest crime rate in the world.”
The allegation of severity and cruelty against Islamic punishments is, therefore, absolutely baseless, false and biased: it is rooted either in sheer ignorance or scholastic dishonesty.
The most serious allegation hurled against Islamic punishments by Western critics and other adversaries of Islam is that they are uncivilized, that they are designed not for ordinary creatures of flesh and blood but for extraordinary monsters, that instead of serving the interests of humanity, they promote the causes of barbarity, and to implement these punishments as effective measures to check crime is in fact to strike at the vitals of human civilization.
In present day America, the statistics relating to wife battering and husband battering are simply staggering. According to September 5, 1983 issue of ‘Time Magazine’ the figures are as follows:
“Nearly 6 million wives are abused (beaten and battered) by their husbands in any one year. Some 2000 to 4000 women are beaten to death annually. The nation’s police spend one-third of their time responding to domestic violence calls.”‘Time’ further states:
“A 1979 FBI report stated that 40% of women killed were murdered by their partner and 10% of men by theirs (many of the women acted in self-defense).”
Islamic punishments are not only civilized but also comprehensive and highly effective in checking crimes in society. Man, on account of his constitutional framework and conceptual configuration, likes neither complete freedom nor totalitarianism. If he is completely free, without any checks and restraints, he drifts away like a log of wood on a tempestuous sea and can rarely chart out a sane and sensible course for his drifting and wayward tendencies. This is the condition of the Western man who has been spoiled by extremes of freedom, and, consequently, he now depends more on tranquilizers and ‘joy pills’ than on any coherent and self-sustaining programme of life.
The philosophy behind Islamic punishments is that crime is crime and that it has to be checked. Evil should not be taken lightly, because, if unchecked and unpunished, it can wrap the entire society in its hideous blanket. This fundamental Islamic thesis is supported by many Western observers who are appalled by the gigantic proportions crime has assumed in their societies and the voicing of protest against its tentacular nature goes far back in to Western mythology and history.
1. Max Lerner
When you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember it is still an evil.
2. Charles Warner
Sin travels faster than that they ride in chariots.
A bad man can do a million times more harm than a beast. The ineffectiveness of the Western penal system is stressed by R. Joseph Novogrod, Director Criminal Justice Department, Long Island University, New York, in letters to the Editor Column, ‘Time’ April 13, 1981: “Speeding realities have left academic theories and political rhetoric thumbing rides on fantasy highways.