The Qur’an, in a 1983 translation by M.H. Shakir and hosted online by the University of Michigan (accessed July 25, 2008), contains the following two references to a death penalty:
"[5.32]...whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for
mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever
keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly
Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but even after that
many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.
[6.151]...do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except
for the requirements of justice; this He has enjoined you with that you
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, President of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, wrote in his Nov. 6, 2001 article “Timothy McVeigh and the Death Penalty” published on www.islamonline.net, that:
views of American Muslims on the death penalty vary somewhat, but the range is
narrow compared to the enormous disagreements among Christians. All Muslims
accept the permissibility of the death penalty because it is addressed in the
Qur'an. However, our views range from those who would apply it for a moderately
short list of crimes (short compared to the enormous list of capital crimes in
the old testament) to those who would apply it to a somewhat shorter list
still, and finally, to those who would call for a moratorium on the death
penalty in America
Understanding Islam, a website dedicated to educating the public about Islam, stated the following in its article, “Regarding the Death Penalty,” published on www.understanding-islam.com (accessed July 29, 2008):
"According to the Islamic
injunctions, death penalty can be administered in two cases only. Firstly, if a
person is physically harmed or injured by another, Islam directs the state to
provide justice to the individual (or his relatives) by letting him/them harm
or injure the guilty to the same extent, as he himself was guilty of harming
his victim, in the first place. This concept of punishing the guilty is known
as 'Qisaas', which means 'to follow suit' or to deal
with the criminal in a manner similar to the act originally committed. In other
words, the criminal is to be killed or injured in the same way as he himself
killed or injured his victim...
Secondly, the death
penalty may be administered if the criminal is guilty of 'Hiraabah' or 'Fasaad fil Ardh'. 'Hiraabah' and/or 'Fasaad fil Ardh' include crimes committed against the
community, rather than an individual or crimes that are of the nature of
religious persecution or crimes committed with the objective of spreading a
wave of terror through the community or crimes committed against the state..."
Note: The above quote states that only "two cases" exist for
which the Qur'an allows the death penalty. The first case is for murder.
The second case applies to "crimes committed against the community" which,
depending on who is interpreting the Qur’an, may include: treason, apostasy
(when one leaves the faith and turns against it), terrorism, piracy, rape, adultery, and homosexual activity.]
Shahid Athar, MD, President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, wrote in his article “Capital Punishment - A Faith Issue in an Islamic Perspective,” published on www.islam-usa.com (accessed July 25, 2008):
“There are three crimes [see Editor's Note above] for which the death penalty is justified: (a) In lieu of an unjust and proven murder, life for life; (b) adultery (zina) committed by a married person, either confessed by him or her four times, or if the act is witnessed by four people; and apostasy from Islam after willingly accepting it, declaring an open revolt against Islam, threatening the solidarity of the Muslim community…
The emphasis in Islam is not on punishment itself but the reform of the criminal as well as a reminder to those who are witnesses to the punishment. We believe that after receiving the due punishment in this world, the murderer in the life hereafter will not be questioned about it, and will receive his due share of rewards for the good he might have done in this life.”
Sheikh Ahmad Ash-Sharabasi, former Professor of Islamic Creed at Al-Azhar University (Cairo, Egypt), issued a fatwa, published on www.islamonline.net (accessed July 25, 2008) that stated the following:
“Death penalty is not a recent
legislation, so it should not be subject to different views on whether to
impose, lift or cancel it. It has been ordained a long time ago...
All lawmakers legalize
self-defense, and they say it is permissible for one to kill a person who
attacks him, if there is no other way. So in resisting the attack, man is
compared to the society as it fends off aggression. That is, a murderer
deserves death penalty because he has trespassed against the whole society by
killing one of its members. So, when the society calls for death penalty for
such a criminal, it is really in a state of self-defense.”
Tariq Ramadan, PhD, Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University, wrote in his Apr. 5, 2005 article, “An International Call for Moratorium on Corporal Punishment, Stoning and the Death Penalty in the Islamic World,” that:
launch today a call for an immediate international moratorium on corporal
punishment, stoning and the death penalty in all Muslim majority countries.
Considering that the opinions of most scholars, regarding the comprehension of
the texts and the application of hudud, are neither explicit nor unanimous
(indeed there is not even a clear majority), and bearing in mind that political
systems and the state of the majority Muslim societies do not guarantee a just
and equal treatment of individuals before the law, it is our moral obligation
and religious responsibility to demand for the immediate suspension of the
application of the hudud which is inaccurately accepted as an application of 'Islamic sharia'."
Rabia Terri Harris, Coordinator of the Muslim Peace Fellowship, wrote in her article “Islam and the Death Penalty,” published on www.amnestyusa.org (accessed July 25, 2008):
“An Islamic opposition to the death penalty must begin by
acknowledging that the Qur'an may clearly be read as giving special exemption
(from the general prohibition on killing) to the taking of a murderer's life…
Those who favor the death penalty therefore cannot be
considered as beyond the pale: we must accept the faithfulness and validity of
[T]he responsibility of a Muslim is justice. Will the
killing of a murderer produce justice...
[W]e can measure whether it does or not by
examining the state of public trust. In the US, the following facts have been
established…Nearly 90% of persons executed for murder were convicted of
killing whites, although people of color make up over half of all homicide
victims nationally…[and] 90% of the people US government prosecutors currently
seek to execute are black or Latino…
There is no justice here. No needs are met, no fear is
alleviated. This idea does not work. The hallmark of truth is that it works…
It is a far more serious error of Islamic ethics to demand a human death in
circumstances when there are doubts about guilt or innocence, where the
bereaved are not consulted about their wishes, and when the penalty is
selectively applied based on the pernicious fantasy that some lives have more
value than others.
Islamic law, and Islamic taqwa, demand that we dissent from such a
travesty of justice.”
Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor of Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law, in a Jan. 25, 2002 conference hosted by the Pew Forum, titled "A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty," stated:
"In the Koranic discourse, beyond the story of Cain and Abel, we find that there are various articulations and pronouncements directed at murder and punishment, but not necessarily mandating execution or the death penalty as a recourse...
When it comes to talking about the ultimate punishment, capital punishment, it talks about intentional murder, and it says that in the case of intentional murder there are three options. One option is that the family of the victim would demand compensation... a sum of money in compensation...The second possibility is that the family of the murderer demand exaction, i.e., then the offender would be killed. And third is to forgive... And it’s quite interesting here, the Koran goes on to say, in the same verse in which it endorses the three part structure, it says, and those who forgive are higher in the sight of God.
Because God has decreed this area to be God’s own, the area of life and what happens when a life is taken away, if you, in fact, punish with the ultimate punishment, the death penalty, you must prove the case per the ways that God has decreed that you prove these cases. Otherwise, you cannot implement the death penalty. And what this amounts to was effectively saying that what is required in order to implement the death penalty is a level of certainty, of evidence, that is quite impossible to fulfill."