Towards an Islamic Critique of Capital Punishment

By Robert Postawko / Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law, on 1 January 2002

In general, Muslim nations recognize the validity of the death penalty, and many frequently impose it. According to Amnesty International, between 1985 and mid-1988, Saudi Arabia executed 140 prisoners for the crimes of murder, robbery with violence, drug smuggling or distribution, and adultery. During the same period, Pakistan executed 115, primarily for the crime of murder. Hundreds every year faced the firing squad in Iraq for murder, desertion, treason, sabotage, and economic corruption. At the same time, the Islamic Republic of Iran executed more than 743 inmates for murder, drug crimes, political offenses, prostitution, adultery and other “moral offenses,” including “being corrupt on earth” and “being at enmity with God.” In face of the widespread acceptance of the death penalty within the Muslim world, this essay explores the contours of an Islamic argument against capital punishment. The argument is not, and cannot be, an appeal for the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances. It does call into question, however, the legitimacy – indeed, the legality in accordance with the principles of classical Islamic law, or the Shari’ah – of capital punishment as it is practiced in the era of Islamization.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list Iran (Islamic Republic of)
  • Themes list Religion , Capital offences, Most Serious Crimes,