Allah sent the religion of Islam to mankind as a complete way of life. He says in Surah al-Ma’idah that He completed the religion and his favor upon mankind. Hence, Islam is a religion that deals with all aspects of human life practically. The goal for every Muslim is to worship and obey Allah, and to follow the Prophet (PBUH)’s example. Among the things that Islam outlined in the Sharia, i.e., the Islamic constitutional law, are crimes and the punishment for committing them. The rule of law is paramount in a Muslim state, without which there would be anarchy.
Allah said in Surah an-Nahl that He orders the implementation of justice and opposes oppression. Justice is a fundamental concept in Islam. Allah based Islam upon justice. Hence, the rule of law is a way of ensuring that justice is carried out. Mankind is a blessed species on Earth. Humans are not like animals, living as they see fit. They must live according to specific rules and regulations. A proper state with clearly defined laws and punishments for those who break them ensures a healthy living atmosphere for everyone.
Unlike Western countries, where the rule of law is also paramount, but it keeps changing, the rule of law in Islam is clear and specified and for all times. Historically, there were some abrogated laws in Islam. However, Allah perfected the religion at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), and he left us with the final and precise version of Islam.
We will look at some of the acts that Allah prescribed as crimes in Islam. We will also focus on Islamic rules.
The rule of law and the sanctity of life
Laws are in focus in the Quran. Allah says in Surah al-Ma’idah that if anyone kills someone without any reason, it’s as if he has killed all of humanity. Similarly, if anyone saved a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity. Hence, life is of immense importance in Islam.
Taking someone’s life, i.e., murder or killing, is completely impermissible in Islam. It is a severe transgression and has a massive punishment. A judge may give a killer capital punishment if he so wishes.
Allah says in Surah an-Nisa that whoever deliberately kills a believer is destined for the hellfire. He says that He has cursed such a person and prepared a grievous punishment for him.
Allah outlined in Surah an-Nisa that He has forbidden suicide. Life is of immense importance, and no one has the right to take their own lives, which Allah has given them. People often commit suicide due to encountering difficult circumstances in their lives. However, Islam does not permit that. Humans need to persevere during adverse situations. Allah says the He is the All-Merciful. Thus, we should always turn to him for help if we are going through any difficulties.
Sexual relations with other than one’s spouse
Islam lays a lot of emphasis on the family system. Hence, the relationship between a man and a woman is solidified via marriage. Sexual relations outside wedlock are impermissible, as are relations with other than one’s spouse. Islam refers to both of these terms interchangeably, i.e., Zina. Allah prescribed harsh punishments for those who go against these rules. These rules are in place to ensure the sanctity of marriage and the family structure in an Islamic community.
Allah warns the believers in Surah al-Isra not to go near unlawful sexual intercourse. He refers to it as immorality and evil. Zina has many evil characteristics. If a person in an Islamic community has relations with someone other than their spouse, they will have to do it discreetly due to the stigma rightfully attached to such a relationship. Just the simple fact that this goes against Allah’s commands shows that it’s an evil act. If a believer does this while knowing Allah is ever-present and witnesses all of his deeds, then it shows his lack of piety.
The punishment for Zina is harsh. However, it has preconditions that are tough to fulfill. Hence, people often consider it as a warning since proving Zina is difficult. This is so unless the sinner or sinners own up to it. Allah said in Surah an-Nur that people who engage in Zina should be lashed in public 100 times. However, two verses later, Allah also announces the requirement for four witnesses. He also adds that anyone who accuses someone without proof is to himself receive punishment. That punishment itself amounts to 80 lashes.
Stealing and the rule of law
The Prophet (PBUH) said in a famous Hadith that he would cut the hand of his daughter Fatima (r.a.) even if she stole. He noted that the Bani Israel would forgive theft if done by a reputable person. However, they would prosecute the poor. Islam puts an end to this biased implementation of the law. According to Islamic rules, such legislation should apply to everyone.
Stealing is a crime in Islam. However, this depends upon the Islamic state and the conditions of the community. In a proper Islamic state, people will not be forced to go hungry or struggle for survival. However, that is not always the case. People often steal or rob out of desperation. This is not the much-condemned stealing, i.e., if a hungry person takes bread for his survival.
However, Islam disallows systematic stealing, involving guns, violence, etc. Burglary of homes and robbery of institutions are some of the things that Islam doesn’t allow. Unfortunately, theft is prevalent today. Most countries struggle with common thieves who steal from people at gunpoint. On a larger scale, big companies may take advantage of others. This isn’t technically stealing at times, but they can often get away with fines or settlements.
Consuming intoxicants of all kinds
Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol and other intoxicants. Islam has a simple method behind the deduction of such laws. Permissibility or not is determined based on the good or bad result of the action. Intoxicants have more negatives than positives. Thus, Allah has forbidden their consumption in Islam.
Everyone can see the effects of intoxicants on the world. Alcohol and drug-fueled crimes are common. Even more so, alcohol and accidents. A person may not necessarily have bad intentions. But he may still do something very wrong when he is intoxicated. Intoxication means people lose their sense of right and wrong. They do not retain control over their actions. They may do things that they would not regularly engage in.
Allah says In Surah al-Ma’idah that intoxicants, among other things, are from the works of Satan. Hence, He tells us to avoid them. The Prophet (PBUH) also said in a famous Hadith that whoever deals with alcohol is cursed. This is not only reserved for the one who consumes it. Instead, the seller, the maker, the dealer, etc., are all complicit. Therefore, they all incur sins for taking part in it.
Punishments in Islam
Allah has ordained several different types of punishments and regulations relating to crime. To uphold the rule of law, the state must ensure the implementation of justice. Some punishments are specified and fixed, whereas others may be at the discretion of a Qadi, i.e., a judge.
In the first category, we have punishments that are clear and specified. They are for straightforward crimes and do not change. If a crime is committed and proven, the judge must also hand down the punishment associated with it.
Another form of punishment is that of retribution. If a person deliberately harms another person, then that person may ask for retribution. If the person kills someone, then the murdered person’s family can ask for revenge against the killer. Allah mentioned retribution as punishment in Surah al-Baqarah.
Another category of punishments are those that aren’t specified. These are not outlined directly in the Shariah. It is up to the ruler of the times to define it according to its gravity. The judges must rule as they see fit and ensure that they are just.
Islam allows the option of blood money, i.e., financial compensation. A victim or their family are also entitled to forgive the criminal according to their discretion. However, this must be done wholeheartedly and not under any form of coercion.
The rule of law is not only dependent upon legislation
Islam fights crime in a complete way. Allah is the All-Wise, and He knows the reality of His creation. Thus, He urges believers to have piety and to remember Him. A person who is always conscious of Allah will think many times before committing a crime.
Besides the specified laws in Islam, Allah has also discussed the consequences of crimes on society and people. He gives details about why they are harmful. This appeals to human reasoning. In turn, that allows us to be aware of why we should and shouldn’t do certain things.
Islam has laid great emphasis on promoting what is good and opposing what is evil. We see the effects of not doing this all over the world. The boundaries of morality, especially in the West, keep changing. People devise their own methods regarding what is and isn’t right. Due to “freedom,” people end up doing whatever they want. Islam aims to keep society acquainted with right and wrong. Hence, people in an Islamic community will think many times before doing something wrong or evil. The final barrier is the threat of punishment.
Allah has also focused on the importance of seeking forgiveness. He has stated in the Quran that He forgives everything besides Shirk. Hence, even if a person commits the most heinous of crimes, they should turn to Allah. We have the Hadith story about the man who killed 99 people as an example. Forgiveness may not be able to put a stop to punishment in this life. However, Allah may forgive a person and spare him punishment in the hereafter.
The rule of law doesn’t match with vigilante justice
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that Muslims should obey their leaders. They must listen to those in authority and obey laws. They can not carry out justice on their own. Punishments must be handed out by those in power. A person or a group of people can not take the law into their own hands. That would render the law useless and turn it into a rule of the jungle where the strong reigns supreme.
There is a due process to follow to ascertain someone’s guilt. A competent and qualified judge should make the decisions. There should be no influence from either the aggrieved party or the accused. All parties must adhere to the decision by the judge. The authorities should carry it out. Removing the concept of vigilante justice is important to make Islam safe from external influences. People should not be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Allah is the Ultimate Lawgiver. He is The Just. He is The Wise. Hence, we must rely on Him for all laws and regulations. Any man-made law can not supersede Allah’s law. Worldly laws can only add on to Islamic laws, not change or contradict them.
In summary, Islam’s commitment to the rule of law underscores its deep concern for justice, social harmony, and individual conduct. These laws are not just a set of rules; they reflect a compassionate, moral framework that guides believers. They emphasize personal responsibility, seeking forgiveness, and discourage vigilantism, reminding us of our duty to a just and merciful Allah.