The Qur’an, crime and a philosophy of punishment

This is the second of four Ramadan Special essays published by Jama Masjid, San Fernando, and written by Islamic scholars Imran N. Hosein and Siddiq A. Nasir, that turn to the blessed Qur’an in an attempt to respond to rampant crime. Rallies, marches, calls to change Ministers of Government and Police Commissioners, etc., are never a substitute for knowledge. The first essay focused on ‘Crime and the Economy’, and the next two will focus on ‘Crime and the Secular Society’ and ‘Crime and the Family’.

Those who proclaim ‘God’s Supremacy’ in their Constitution (“Whereas the People of Trinidad and Tobago have affirmed that the Nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God .  .  .”), and then proceed to defy Him by rejecting His Law and by substituting in its place their own contrary law as ‘supreme law’, are a people who knowingly commit blasphemy. That is precisely what this Caribbean State has done in Art. 2 of its Constitution: “This Constitution is the supreme law of Trinidad and Tobago, and any other law (including God’s Law) that is inconsistent with this Constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistency.”

The Qur’an has declared blasphemy the only sin the Lord-God would never forgive, i.e., if one dies without prior repentance. A believer in the Lord-God who submits to the authority and law of the State as supreme over God’s law, departs from the one true religion and joins instead, the mainstream godless herd of human cattle in their heedless drift to a terrifying end. 

It is amazing, really, that western (i.e., Judeo-Christian) secular civilization that was born in Europe, and which most of the rest of the world now blindly follows, has dismantled every single divinely-ordained law of punishment and replaced it with a contrary secular substitute. Could this have occurred by accident, or is mankind being tested? Homosexuality is punishable in Allah’s Law, and so too is abortion (except where a mother’s life is in danger), adultery and fornication. The modern west is now legalizing marriages between men after having abolished all punishment for homosexuality, abortion, adultery and fornication. The wicked people who now rule the world (they were ruling the world until Russia was recently sufficiently provoked to stand up to them) not only impose their secular law to replace God’s law but, in addition, they use their power to prevent any rival law from functioning. They destroy even the village Panchayat.

Secular chickens come home to roost

There are many in the modern secular world who, thoroughly brainwashed by the modern godless west, condemn and reject as ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilized’, the divinely-ordained laws of punishment in revealed religions. Yet so many of them respond with undisguised glee to Judeo-Christian America’s state-of-the-art torture of innocent people in Guantanamo, the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq and elsewhere, and have no qualms about the use of depleted uranium bombs on innocent Iraqi and Afghan civilians in manifestly unjust warfare. Such people engage in selective morality that condones barbaric criminal conduct on the part of the state itself. It should hardly be surprising that the secular model of society around the world is now collapsing in the bloody embrace of ever-increasing crime. The ‘secular chickens’ are truly ‘coming home to roost’. ‘What is good for the goose is also good for the gander’. This constitutes an ominous vindication of ‘Truth’, of the sacred model of society, and of the divinely-ordained code of punishment that was established in the times of David, Solomon and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

God’s Laws of Punishment – Three Categories of Crime
In His wisdom the Lord-God has prescribed such punishment that result in constantly decreasing crime, whereas the modern secular society which has rejected those divine laws of punishment and replaced them with secular alternatives, is plagued with constantly increasing crime. In explaining in this essay the philosophy of punishment in the Qur’an, we seek to redirect attention to that sacred model of society and to remind readers of the relatively crime-free world they could have had if mankind had accepted divine revelation and Prophetic guidance and followed them.

We also seek through these essays to fulfill the Divine command to be shuhada ‘ala al-Naas (i.e., witnesses of the Truth to mankind) so that those who are thus made aware of the Divine Law cannot plead ignorance of that Law on Judgment Day.  The Divine Wisdom has recognized different categories of criminal conduct and has prescribed punishment appropriate for each category. Thus some crimes are punishable with ‘reformatory’ punishment, others require ‘retributive’ punishment, while yet others demand ‘deterrent’ punishment.

Reformatory punishment

An example of punishment intended to reform the criminal is that prescribed for consumption of intoxicants such as wine (see the writer’s book entitled ‘The Qur’anic Method of Curing Alcoholism and Drug Addiction’). Punishment is inflicted at the last stage of a process which requires, firstly, that the individual be so educated that he would voluntarily abstain from alcohol on the basis of rational conviction of its evil. In the second stage, which is reserved for those who remain uncured, an effort is made to penetrate the inner spiritual core of the individual wherein is located all that he holds to be sacred. The spiritual consciousness is subjected to the equivalent of an electrical shock, and that results in a significant rate of success. It is only those who could not be reformed through both the external and internal methods who would be subjected to reformatory punishment. The public beating to which they are now subjected is not meant to inflict physical pain. Rather it is meant to so shame them that fear of more such punishment usually results in a cure.

Retributive punishment

When a crime results in injury such as the loss of an ‘eye’ or a ‘life’, then the law of equity and natural justice requires the imposition of retributive punishment, i.e., an ‘eye for an eye’, or a ‘life for a life’. The victim of a violent crime would thus have the satisfaction of knowing that the same injury he suffered would be inflicted on the criminal. But the law of retributive justice is tempered with monetary compensation which an aggrieved party can agree to accept in lieu of punishment on the criminal. That compensation is usually beyond the means of the criminal and, as a consequence, it is usually the family, tribe and community to which he belongs who pay the compensation. ‘Compensation’ in lieu of punishment, thus empowers tribes and communities with capacity for curbing crime.

Deterrent punishment

When, however, a crime has the potential of destroying the collective welfare of the people, such as acts of terrorism (and kidnapping is an act of terrorism), or such as theft and embezzlement which destroy the free and fair market, then the divine wisdom has ordained the imposition of deterrent punishment. The rationale on which such punishment is founded is recognition of the supreme moral imperative of preventing anarchy and injustice while preserving the social order. The Qur’an has warned those responsible for maintaining the social order and preventing terrorism such as kidnapping: “And fear tumult (anarchy, oppression), which afflicts not just the wicked in society but also the innocent: and know that Allah is strict in punishing (those who fail to maintain such social order as protects the innocent from crimes such as kidnapping)” (Qur’an, al-Anfal, 8:25).
The Qur’an has prescribed, for example, that the hand of the thief should be cut off (Qur’an, al-Maidah, 5:38-9). I remember a Minister of Government confessing in 1986, in the wake of the resounding repudiation of the PNM at the polls, “all ah we tief”! If this law had ever been applied in this country, as soon as the first hand was cut off it would have put an end to all such corruption.

The punishment for acts of terrorism such as kidnapping is so severe in its deterrent capacity that if implemented would have an immediate positive impact in putting an end to acts of kidnapping in this country. Large numbers of our people now resident abroad and too terrified to return home would heave a sigh of relief if God’s law was given a chance to restore security and sanity to our society. The convicted terrorist is to be punished, in accordance with Allah’s decree either by “being put to death, or crucified, or by cutting off his hand and foot on opposite sides, or by banishment from his society”. (Qur’an, al-Maidah, 5:36) This is by far the most severe of all divinely ordained deterrent punishment. The gradation in severity of punishment affords the judge the flexibility of reserving the severest punishment for the worst such crime.

What should we do? How should we respond?

Those who still cling to the religious way of life despite the oppressive impact of the secular state and secular society must come together as Hindu, Christian, Muslim and others to disconnect from the dictatorship of the secular state. They can do so by establishing their own multi-faith micro-communities in the countryside. Such communities of faith would be built on moral and spiritual values. In order to survive, however, they would have to build an invisible wall around themselves to keep that godless decadent mainstream society at a distance. It is only in such a remotely-located community that the Panchayat can be restored, God’s laws can be enforced, the community can be empowered to fight crime, and the world can then witness the creation of relatively crime-free society.