Table of Contents
Divine Mercy and Punishment
Mercy (Rahmah, رَحْمَةً) is the highest and the most repeated Attribute of God in the Qur’ân. The advent of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a part of God’s plan of Mercy for His creation, as we read: وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ, “And We did not send you (O Muhammad!) but as a blessing and mercy for all beings” (21:107). Do you think that you can say these words to the dear ones of the person who is being executed for blasphemy?
The honorable ‘ulemâ’ (the learned on Islamic law and jurisprudence) must have knowledge of the Qur’ânic position on crime and punishment. Here are some verses for them to reflect on:
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
“(Prophet!) Call the people to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly and kind exhortation, and argue with them in the most pleasant and best manner. Surely, your Lord knows very well who has gone astray from His path, and He knows very well the guided ones to the right path.” (16:125)
وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا ۖ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ
“And (they keep in mind that) the recompense of an evil done is a punishment equal to it (for an evil merits an equal evil). But he who pardons (an offender) and (thereby) improves the matter (and effects thereby a reform in the offender) shall have his reward from Allâh. Behold! He does not love the wrong doers.” (42:40)
وَإِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُوا بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُم بِهِ ۖ وَلَئِن صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِّلصَّابِرِينَ
“(Believers!) If you have to punish (the oppressors) then punish them to the extent you have been persecuted. But if you endure patiently, remember it is far better for the patiently persevering.” (16:126)
A beautiful, metaphorical example is given in the narration of Adam: وَعَصَىٰ آدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوَىٰ ثُمَّ اجْتَبَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ وَهَدَىٰ, “Adam did not observe the commandments of his Lord, so he became miserable. Then (it came to pass that) his Lord chose him (for His benedictions) and turned to him with mercy and guided (him) to the right path” (20:121–122). In classical Arabic dictionaries, adam (آدَم) is translated as “a human being, a man, a person, an intelligent person, a brown man, a brave man, a civilized person, a chief, an honest person, a kind and polite person, a person who is created from different substances, a person in possession of different powers, one who enjoys the comforts of life, one who is by nature social, one who has heirs.” All these meanings can be given to the word adam (آدَم) in Qur’ȃnic texts (Tâj, Lisân, Lane, Râghib). Here Adam stands for a human being who, out of his weakness and ignorance, fails to observe a Divine Command. When Adam realizes his mistake and turns to God in repentance, God turns to him with His Mercy and guides him.
You will find that in verses related to crime and punishment the emphasis in all cases, including murder (17:33), is on forgiveness and reform. The recommendation is:
وَيَدْرَءُونَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ
“. . . meet evil by repaying it with good.” (28:54)
Do harsh penalties for blasphemy, apostasy and other nonviolent infractions even remotely reflect the letter and the spirit of the Qur’ânic position on the subject? The answer is in the negative.
قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Say, ‘Verily, My Lord has forbidden all (acts of) indecency, open and hidden, and every (kind of) sin and aggression, which is never justifiable; and (He forbids you also) to associate with Allâh that for which He has sent down no authority, and to say concerning Allâh that which you do not know (that it is in fact said by Him).’” (7:33)
Verse 5:33 is frequently cited by the opponents of Islam and by jihȃdists to show that the Qur’ân teaches brutal killing. The verse reads: “The only recompense of those who make war against Allâh and His Messenger and who strive hard to create disorder in the land, is (according to the nature of the crime) that they be executed or crucified to death, or that their hands and feet be cut off on account of their opposition, or their (free) movement in the land be banned (by exile or imprisonment). This would mean ignominy for them in this world and there awaits them in the Hereafter a severe punishment.”
Verse 5:33 refers to those who are waging war against Muslims and who “strive hard” to spread terror and chaos in the land. This situation requires the full force of society to prevent anarchy and restore peace. Any country will resort to such measures under the above circumstances. The Holy Qur’ân sets strict conditions in verses 22:39–41 to wage war (see also 2:190; 8:56–57; 8:61; 8:67). Verse 5:34 continues from 5:33: “Different, however, is the case of those (criminals) who turn with repentance before you overpower them. And know that, surely, Allâh is Great Protector, Ever Merciful.” In this verse is a clause of mercy and forgiveness for those “who turn with repentance.” Such repentance should generally occur before the perpetrators of these crimes tare overpowered, however. Verses 8:12–14 and 9:5 are also related to warfare against the Muslims. None of these verses are part of Sharia Law but are the logical reactions to the circumstances that prevail in such situations. Verse 9:29 is related to revolt against a just Muslim government. For the crimes of murder, theft, and adultery, the Qur’ȃn sets the maximally allowed limit of punishment. The conditions for their maximum implementation are very difficult to meet (cf. 24:2–5).
The so-called Sharia Laws on jihȃd, blasphemy, apostasy, theft, and adultery—as interpreted by Salafists, Saudi Arabian authorities, Wahȃbis in some countries and terror groups—are blatant transgressions against the Qur’ân. They trespass all limits of reason and mercy, the limits set by Allah, and they are contrary to the Prophet’s (pbuh) conduct. There is no excuse for killing in the name of Allah. Islam and the Holy Qur’ân cannot and must not be invoked as an excuse for these killings. Killing is a brutal violation of the most basic human right—the right to life. Even for this most extreme of transgressions, the Qur’ân leaves an option of mercy and forgiveness for the murderer in the form of blood money to be paid to the family of the victim (17:33). How can offenses so much less grave than murder, such as blasphemy or adultery, be punished mercilessly?
The object of Sharia in the language of the Holy Qur’ȃn was to make humans conscious of their innate ethical and moral values. Unfortunately, the injunctions of justice, righteousness, and mercy laid down in the Holy Qur’ȃn were replaced by forceful implementation of rigid and cruel state laws that today are falsely called “Sharia Laws.”
انظُرْ كَيْفَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ ۖ وَكَفَىٰ بِهِ إِثْمًا مُّبِينًا
“Behold! How they forge lies against Allâh, and sufficient is that [what they forge] as a very flagrant sin (to prove their sinfulness).” (4:50)
Sanctions and punishments under the false banner of Sharia Laws are now being used as a very effective tool for settling personal scores or advancing political and financial interests. The Qur’ȃnic teachings of Mercy and forgiveness and the Prophet’s (pbuh) mission are ignored by the government and religious figures and replaced by pseudo-Islamic laws in many Muslim-majority countries.
وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
“And (on that Day) the Messenger will say, ‘My Lord! My people treated even this Qur’ân (full of blessings) as (a thing) abandoned.’” (25:30)
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