Islam advocates the value of life so much as to make it sacred. So sacred that one life is equal to the whole of mankind. The Qur’an is very explicit on this matter: “If anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people.” (5: 32).Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said: “Allah is not merciful to whoever has no pity for human beings.” (Bukhari). On another occasion, the prophet Muhamamd (saw) has said: “Have pity for earthly beings, The One in Heaven will have mercy for you.” (Tirmizi). Fourteen centuries ago, the holy prophet Muhammad (saw) established the “rights of animals” and condemned any unjust action against these dumb creatures. The prophet (saw) has affirmed that we shall be rewarded for any kindness shown towards living beings, whether humans or animals.
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth
One can easily perceive that Islam condemns any crime against living beings, be they humans or animals, believers or unbelievers. Shedding blood unjustly is a very serious matter: “Take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law.” (6: 151). Divine law demands that any such act should be atoned for by capital punishment. The Qur’an is categorical on this matter: “We ordained therein for them: life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth.” (5: 45)
Concerning the application of capital punishment, the champions of human rights often call it injustice or barbarism. But any law owes its credibility to the result of its application. Order and discipline are the watchwords; it is the spirit behind the need for laws. The consequences of the application of capital punishment are in favors of the people in general. Countries where capital punishment is applied register the lowest rates of criminality. In this way, life is made more secure. The Qur’an confirms: “In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) life to you, o ye men of understanding: that ye may restrain yourselves.” (2: 179)
The Qur’an concludes the discussion about the application of capital punishment. On the one hand, those who have abolished capital punishment plead the matter of pain of the criminal and wish to give him the chance to repent. On the other hand, those who favor its application highlight the suffering of innocent victims. They condemn the audacity of the criminal and qualify him as a misfit of society. His existence can spoil or even put an end to other lives. The elimination of the criminal always gives rise to controversy but essentially deters others from committing this type of crime.
The application of death penalty acts more as a deterrent than a punishment. It is similar to the possession of nuclear weapons. Countries which possess them do not use them in their conflicts. However, they are free to exercise the option of using them, and this deters any enemy from attacking them.
Capital punishment is a means of discouraging and minimizing the audacity of would-be criminals and making them think several times before committing their crimes. How many crimes have been committed in cases of rape and simple theft recently? In the absence of capital punishment, minor offences have often led to the loss of a life.
In a modern and civilized society, the security is of paramount importance. One of the surest means of curbing the rise in criminality is the application of the death penalty as a measure of deterrence, which is what Islam advocates.