The reasons for capital punishment in Islam Praise be to Allaah. Capital punishment applies in the case of a person who meets any of the following conditions: 1 – The apostate. The apostate is one who disbelieves after being a Muslim, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6524. 2 – The married adulterer. The punishment in this case is to be stoned to death. Al-muhsan or the married person here means one who got married and had intercourse with his wife in the vagina, in a legitimate marriage in which both parties are free, of sound mind and adults. If a married man or woman commits adultery, then they are to be stoned to death, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Learn from me. Allaah has given them a way out. If an unmarried person commits fornication with an unmarried person, (the punishment is) one hundred lashes and exile for one year. If a married person commits adultery with a married person, (the punishment is) one hundred lashes and stoning.” (Narrated by Muslim, 1690). And al-Bukhaari (2725) and Muslim (1698) narrated from Abu Hurayrah and Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani (may Allaah be pleased with them) that they said: “Two men from among the Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, I adjure you by Allaah to judge me according to the Book of Allaah.’ The other disputant – who was smarter – said: ‘Yes, judge between us according to the Book of Allaah and give me permission to speak first.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Speak.’ He said, ‘My son was employed by this man, and he committed adultery with his wife. I was told that the punishment for my son would be stoning, but that he could be ransomed for one hundred sheep and their offspring. I asked the people of knowledge and they told me that the punishment for my son would be one hundred lashes and exile for one year, and that this woman would be stoned.’ The Messenger of Allaah (S) said: ‘By the One in Whose hand is my soul, I will judge between you according to the Book of Allaah. The offspring and sheep will be returned (i.e., there is no ransom), and your son is to be given one hundred lashes and exiled for one year. O Unays [who was one of the Sahaabah], go tomorrow to that woman and if she admits (this crime) then stone her.’ So he went to her the next day and she admitted it, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) issued orders that she be stoned. 3 – The murderer (one who kills deliberately). He is to be killed in retaliation (qisaas) unless the victim’s next of kin let him off or agree to accept the diyah (blood money), because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “O you who believe! Al-Qisaas (the Law of Equality in punishment) is prescribed for you in case of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or the relatives) of the killed against blood money, then adhering to it with fairness and payment of the blood money to the heir should be made in fairness. This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord. So after this whoever transgresses the limits (i.e. kills the killer after taking the blood money), he shall have a painful torment” [al-Baqarah 2:178] “And there is (a saving of) life for you in Al-Qisaas (the Law of Equality in punishment), O men of understanding, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [al-Baqarah 2:179] And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible (to shed) the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god but Allaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah, except in three cases: a married adulterer, a soul for a soul, or one who leaves the religion and splits from the jamaa’ah.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6484; Muslim, 1676). 4 – Bandits, i.e., al-muhaarib, the one who wages war against Allaah and His Messenger. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “The recompense of those who wage war against Allaah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter” [al-Maa'idah 5:33] 5 – Spies. The spy is the one who spies on the Muslims and transmits information to their enemies. The evidence for that is the report narrated by al-Bukhaari (3007) and Muslim (2494) which says that Haatib ibn Abi Balta’ah wrote to some of the mushrikeen in Makkah telling them some information about the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “O Haatib, what is this?” He said, “O Messenger of Allaah, do not hasten to judge me. I was a man closely connected to Quraysh, but I did not belong to this tribe, while the other Muhaajireen with you had their relatives in Makkah who would protect their families and property. So I wanted to make up for my lack of blood ties to them by doing them a favor so that they might protect my family. I did not do this because of disbelief or apostasy nor out of preferring kufr (disbelief) to Islam.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “He has told you the truth.” ‘Umar said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Let me chop off the head of this hypocrite!” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “He was present at the battle of Badr, and you do not know, perhaps Allaah looked at the people of Badr and said, ‘Do whatever you like, for I have forgiven you.’” The point in this hadeeth is that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) agreed with ‘Umar that Haatib deserved to be executed for this action, but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told him that there was a reason why he should not be killed, which is that he was one of those who was present at the battle of Badr. Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’aad (2/115) concerning the hadeeth of Haatib ibn Abi Balta’ah: This was quoted as evidence by those who do not think that the Muslim spy should be killed, such as al-Shaafa’i, Ahmad and Abu Haneefah (may Allaah have mercy on them). And it was quoted as evidence by those who think that the spy should be killed, such as Maalik and Ibn ‘Aqeel among the companions of Ahmad, and others. They said: This is because the reason for not killing him was that he had been present at Badr. If being Muslim was the reason for not killing him, he would not have given a reason that is more specific, which is the fact that he had been present at Badr. And he said elsewhere in Zaad al-Ma’aad (3/422): The correct view is that execution of a spy depends on the opinion of the ruler; if executing him is in the Muslims’ interests, he should be executed, but if letting him live serves a greater interest, then he should be allowed to live. And Allaah knows best. The above also includes the one who does not pray, the one who practices witchcraft, and the heretic, because they come under the heading of “the one who leaves his religion and splits from the jamaa’ah.” With regard to the conditions of implementing this punishment, there are many. Each crime has its own specific conditions, details of which may be found in the books of fiqh. The wisdom behind executing the apostate and the married adulterer With regard to The wisdom behind that, “However, I find it difficult to comprehend how a man can be sentenced to death for speaking. I would have thought that we as humans do not have that right to make those decisions, only god can” – what you say is correct, because no-one has the right to condemn another person to death without evidence from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The ruling of execution because of a word that somebody utters is what the Muslim scholars call al-riddah (apostasy). What is apostasy and what constitutes apostasy? What is the ruling on the apostate (al-murtadd)? 1 – Riddah (apostasy) refers to when a Muslim becomes a disbeliever by saying a clear statement to that effect, or by uttering words which imply that (i.e., which imply kufr or disbelief), or he does something that implies that (i.e., an action which implies kufr or disbelief). 2 – What constitutes apostasy The matters which constitute apostasy are divided into four categories: (a) Apostasy in beliefs, such as associating others with Allaah, denying Him, or denying an attribute which is proven to be one of His attributes, or by affirming that Allaah has a son. Whoever believes that is an apostate and a disbeliever. (b) Apostasy in words, such as insulting Allaah or the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). (c) Apostasy in actions, such as throwing the Qur’an into a filthy place, because doing that shows disrespect towards the words of Allaah, so it is a sign that one does not believe. Other such actions include prostrating to an idol or to the sun or moon. (d) Apostasy by omission, such as not doing any of the rituals of Islam, or turning away from following it altogether. 3 – What is the ruling on the apostate? If a Muslim apostatizes and meets the conditions of apostasy – i.e., he is of sound mind, an adult and does that of his own free will – then his blood may be shed with impunity. He is to be executed by the Muslim ruler or by his deputy – such as the qaadi or judge, and he is not to not be washed (after death, in preparation for burial), the funeral prayer is not to be offered for him and he is not to be buried with the Muslims. The evidence that the apostate is to be executed is the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2794). What is meant by religion here is Islam (i.e., whoever changes from Islam to another religion). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am His Messenger, except in one of three cases: a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a married man who commits adultery; and one who leaves his religion and splits form the jamaa’ah (main group of Muslims).” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6878; Muslim, 1676) See al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 22/180. Thus it will be clear to you that execution of the apostate is something that is commanded by Allaah, when he commanded us to obey the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority” [al-Nisa’ 4:59] And the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has commanded us to execute the apostate as in the hadeeth quoted above: “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” It may need some time for you to be convinced about this matter, and for you to think about it. Perhaps you think that if a person follows the truth and enters into it and embraces the one true religion which Allaah has enjoined, then we allow him to leave it quite easily whenever he wants and to utter the words of kufr (disbelief) that put him outside of Islam, so he can reject Allaah, His Messenger, His Books and His religion, and there is no punishment as deterrent, how will that affect him and others who enter the religion? Do you not see that this would make the one true religion, that everyone should follow, like a shop or store which a person can enter when he wants and leave when he wants, and it may encourage others to forsake the truth. Moreover, this is not someone who has never known the truth and practiced it and worshipped in accordance with it; rather this is a person who has known the truth, and practiced the religion and done the rituals of worship, so the punishment is no greater than he deserves. Moreover, such strong rulings as this are only applied to such a person whose life is no longer considered to be useful, because he knew the truth and followed the religion, then he left it and forsook it. What soul can be more evil than the soul of such a person? In conclusion, the answer is that Allaah is the One Who revealed this religion and enjoined it. He is the One Who ruled that the one who enters it and then leaves it is to be executed. This ruling does not come from the Muslims’ ideas or suggestions. As this is the case, then we must follow the ruling of Allaah so long as we are content to accept Him as our Lord and God.