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On Penalties in Islamic Law

On Penalties in Islamic Law


On Penalties in Islamic Law

Salaam alykum,

This is one of the most interesting questions I’ve received, so I figured I’d make a post about it because it’s very important to communicate this idea.

When people talk about “Sha-ree-ah” and talk about how everyone will be stoned, their hands will be cut off, and all sorts of other fantastic claims, you have to understand how penalties work, not just in Islamic Law, but in Common Law legal systems.

As some of you know, my father has one leg. No need to be sorry or anything, he’s awesomesauce. The reason I bring this up is because he has a handicap pass for parking. So I’m driving with my dad one day and after dropping my dad off, I park the car. I look at the back of the pass, and do you know what the penalty for abusing a handicap parking pass is?

$1,000 fine, and 6 months in jail.

Now, that’s pretty steep right? How many people do you think are in jail for a handicap pass? Also, if someone is in jail for that, how difficult do you think their lives must be? How do you compare your crime with other inmates?

But, I digress.

The point is, that is a ridiculous penalty for the misuse of a handicap parking pass, don’t you think?

Let me ask you another question: how many people do you think have actually went to jail for six months for this? Probably not many, right?

Therefore, when you look at penalties in Islam, you have to realize that they are not mathematical outcomes. A judge in any legal system will weigh in several factors, granted some sentences are mandatory (3 strikes rule, etc) but by-in-large, the judge has tremendous discretion as to how to sentence someone convicted of a crime.

So, just because the highest penalty is “X” does not mean that it is the mandatory punishment.

I tell you this so that when you read about a certain penalty in Islam, or if someone tells you that Islam is terrible because it has these certain penalties, you can say: “not really, broski/sisterfriend.”

I have described, in detail, what the sort of considerations come up that would dictate what penalty applies when and where. In this post I have gone over the punishments for theft, adultery, and apostasy, if you are interested.

I just hope that this helps when you understand how penalties work, not just in Shariah, but in many other legal systems as well.

If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to ask me, insha Allah.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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