Naqeeb, Shahzaib, Intezar, Zainab, Asma… The Punishment of Murder in Islam (Rava Special Report)

Naqeeb, Shahzaib, Intezar, Zainab, Asma… The Punishment of Murder in Islam (Rava Special Report)


The fifth Greater Sin is the murder of that person whose execution has not been ordered by Allah (S.w.T.) and the Holy Prophet (S). Traditions which confirm that murder is a Greater Sin have already been mentioned. Moreover the verses of the Holy Qur’an mention clearly the Divine punishment for the murderers.

“And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is Hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:93)

Five types of punishments have been ordained for those who kill the believers. First, Hell; Second, Eternal abode in Hell; Third, involvement in the Divine wrath; Fourth, being the accursed by Allah (S.w.T.); Fifth, the Great Chastisement.

To kill a person under some unjust pretexts is such a great and terrible sin before Allah that to kill one person is like to kill the whole mankind.

The Qur’an has referred to it in Surah Ma’idah. Consequently, it is said:

مِنۡ اَجۡلِ ذٰلِکَ ۚۛؔ کَتَبۡنَا عَلٰی بَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ اَنَّہٗ مَنۡ قَتَلَ نَفۡسًۢا بِغَیۡرِ نَفۡسٍ اَوۡ فَسَادٍ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ فَکَاَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِیۡعًا .(32:5

It is this [rebelliousness of man] because of which We laid it down [in the Mosaic shari’ah] for the Israelites that he who killed a human being without the latter being guilty of killing another or because of spreading anarchy in the land should be looked upon as if he killed all mankind. (5:32)

So, our Lord does not want even one innocent person to be killed unjustly and does not regard it as a small sin or a slight incident. He tells in another verse:

“If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (for ever)” (an-Nisa/Women, 93)

So the punishment for killing a believer is presents a different situation; the punishment for it is the eternal punishment peculiar to unbelievers.

“For Allah, killing a believer is worse than destroying all the earth.” (Nasai, Tahrim 2, (7, 83))

So, for Allah, a believer is more valuable than the earth and everything in it. So how dare someone kill a beloved and great being unjustly, prevent him from observing the universe to draw lessons and with contemplation and destroy the building of Allah?

Let us explain it through a hadith. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says:

“If all the beings on the earth and in the skies come together to kill a believing person, Allah puts every one of them to Hell in order to protect that one innocent believers right” (Tirmizi, Diyat 8, (1398)

The large number of the unjust people against the only just does not change the result. So how can a person put himself into the place of an attorney general, judge and executioner at the same time and kill a believer?

If the killer is a relative or some close person to the one he killed, he loses his heritage rights because of killing him. He cannot receive the inheritance of the person he has killed. Therefore, the killer of his own mother or father he loses all of his heritage rights because of the murder he committed.

Islam sees the killer and the person encouraging murdering as a terrible and great sinner too. The warning of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) about those who pave the way for the murder and aid the murderer is as follows:

“If a man helps to kill a Muslim with only one word, this is written on his forehead in the afterlife: – This man is hopeless of Allah’s mercy”

The Qur’an states:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُتِبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡقِصَاصُ فِی الۡقَتۡلٰیؕاَلۡحُرُّ بِالۡحُرِّ وَ الۡعَبۡدُ بِالۡعَبۡدِ وَ الۡاُنۡثٰی بِالۡاُنۡثٰیؕ….وَ لَکُمۡ فِی الۡقِصَاصِ حَیٰوۃٌیّٰۤاُولِی الۡاَلۡبَابِ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ (2 :178-179)

Believers! Qisas of those [among you] who are killed has been made mandatory upon you. If such a murderer is a free-man, then this free-man should be killed in his place and if he is a slave, then this slave should be killed in his place and if the murderer is a woman, then this woman should be killed in her place … And there is life for you in qisas O men of insight that you may follow the limits set by God. (2:178-179)

The mandatory nature of exacting qisasis only revoked when the heirs of the murdered person do not insist on taking life for life and want to treat the criminal with lenience. After this, it is left to the discretion of the court and the government to either insist on exacting qisasand to not accept this relief given by the heirs of the murdered person or to accept this relief keeping in view the nature of the crime and the circumstances in which it was committed and direct the murder to pay diyat to these heirs according to the custom of the society.The succeeding words of the above quoted verse of Surah Baqarah (2:178) read:

فَمَنۡ عُفِیَلَہٗمِنۡ اَخِیۡہِشَیۡءٌ فَاتِّبَاعٌۢ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ وَ اَدَآءٌاِلَیۡہِبِاِحۡسَانٍؕذٰلِکَ تَخۡفِیۡفٌ مِّنۡرَّبِّکُمۡ وَ رَحۡمَۃٌ ؕ(2 :178)

Then for whom there has been some relief from his brother, then this should be followed according to the custom and diyat should be paid with kindness. This is a kind of concession and a mercy from your Lord.(2:178)

A Murderer Does Not Die a Muslim

The following tradition is indicative of the fact that murder is a Greater Sin:

Regarding the killing of a believer, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:

At the time of his death the killer is told. ‘Die as you wish, die as a Jew or a Christian or as a Magian.’2

Another tradition:

“A believer is free in the vast expanse of his belief till he colours his hands with the blood of a Mu’min.”

Imam (a.s.) further says:

“One who kills a believer intentionally is deprived of the ‘Tawfīq’ of repenting (for his sins).”3

One Who Instigates a Murder is the Actual Killer

The third tradition, also from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,

“The Holy Prophet (S) was told that a Muslim has been killed and his corpse is lying on the street. When the Holy Prophet (S) and his companions reached the site of the murder, he enquired as to who the killer was.”

The people said, “We do not know.” The Prophet was surprised,

“A person has been killed among the Muslims, and no one knows of his killer?”

“By the Almighty who appointed me with Prophethood, If all the creatures of the heavens and the earth participate in the murder of a Muslim and be pleased upon that, then Allah would surely involve them in punishment and send them all to Hell.”

The lesson derived from this hadith is that there is no difference between the killer and those who support or co-operate with him.

Accidental and Intended Murder

Even in the case of an accidental murder the heirs of the victim are to be paid the ‘diyah’. But they should forgive the killer.

Apart from this the Three penalties should be imposed, that is, freeing a slave, feeding sixty people and fasting for sixty days.

Similarly cutting off a part of someone’s body is a Greater Sin. Those who intend to study this subject in detail are requested to refer to the books of Jurisprudence.


The above discussion has shown that the Islamic punishment for intentional murder is the execution of the murderer. Pardoning is possible if the closest relative of the murdered person accepts blood-money. However, if murder is unintentional, blood-money takes the place of the death sentence. Allah, through the Holy Quran, shows us the right way that provides society with security: intentional murder is punished by killing the murderer.

Although killing is a severe punishment, it is fair because murder itself is an even more severe action and such a punishment is necessary because without it more murders are encouraged. Islam simultaneously retains the punishment of death for murder but in some cases without depriving anyone of their right an exceptional form of punishment has also been created. This exceptional form is also based on profound wisdom; it is possible that the heirs of the murdered victim may be entirely dependent upon the person murdered for their subsistence. In such a situation capital punishment cannot fulfill a practical basic need of the family’s welfare.

Thus, for making provision of claiming ransom in lieu of capital punishment, Islam offers a practical choice to the aggrieved family. Basically, Islam structures a society which is founded on the spirit of true fraternity where the blood of a Muslim is unlawful upon another Muslim. What a beautiful teaching imbued with the love of Allah and humanity condoning purity of heart and mind and emphasising the fact that in Islam punishment is a forceful positive power of rectification and reformation for the sustenance of a pure God loving society.

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