Is it not meaningless to justify a ruling like 'murder for murder', which modern-day criminologists have termed barbaric, merely because it is stated in the Qur'an ?

MM AKBAR
      

It is only natural for those who device their theories on the foundations of the mythical idea that the murderer can be civilized by way of showering mercy upon him, without even considering the plight of the one killed without reason and of the problems of the family that becomes orphaned thereof and even the fissures that develop in society, to feel that the laws in the Qur'an are impractical and barbaric. However, we must realize that experience has shown the facts to lie contrary to the results of their investigations.


The maximum sentence that may be inflicted for homicide in a modern day court of law is life imprisonment. Moreover, terms of life imprisonment usually end up being a prison sentence of a few years.This again is applicable only for those who have actually been sentenced. As for those with wealth and influence, how many, indeed, are the cases which we hear of every day wherein such people are allowed to safely escape the law or evade punishment.

What is the end result of the situation wherein nothing would transpire even if anyone commits a murder? The incredible rise in crimes of homicide! A situation in which the youth are prompted increasingly towards the commission of murder! Statistics reveal that in the past one year (1998), 93 percent of the most gruesome cases of murder were carried out by youngsters who were new to the field. (Courtesy : India Today, 20.01.1999) An entire generation that would unhesitatingly kill for money and comfort is continuing to emerge onto the scene. Look at the case of the twenty four years olds, Shyam and Ravi: Ravi and Sham, both aged 24, go around the city (Bangalore) on a motorbike. Their target is the women on two wheeler who have to go through the darkened streets alone. Some times it would be just 50 rupees which these two, who, in a period of just six months, killed 23 people, would obtain. (Ibid). Youngsters who would not feel the least regret in taking a life for a paltry sum of Fifty rupees!

The story of Sanjeev Nandi who bathed in money is, however, a different one: His parents had him educated in one of the best business schools in America. When he came home to India for his vacations, they presented him with a seventh generation BMW car worth 69 lakhs of rupees. Then, in spite of all this wealth and luxury, why did Sanjeev Nandi seek to destroy that life? Why, indeed, did he drive his BMW onto five people, thereby killing them, in a state of drunkenness and then made off with the car? He reached, with his car, a friend's residence, not having stopped even to tend to the people who had been injured gravely. Why then did he wash off all the evidences from his car? (India Today, 27.01.1999). A generation that shows not the least hesitation in making off with the car after having  killed five innocent people!

Youngsters who would not even care to look with pity at those caught between the crushing impact of the car wheels even as they were driving towards the mad enjoyment of life!

These are the living proofs against the arguments of the criminologists that the criminals can be civilized by putting them in prison! An altitude of sympathy towards the criminals can serve only to make criminals out of more people. Indeed, the Qur'an has prescribed death in retaliation for murder on the realization that a peaceful social life can become possible only if the circumstances that may lead to crime are first removed and then by punishing severely those that still harbour within themselves the perverted tendency for crime.

'O ye who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: The free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman ...' (Qur'an 2:178)

This verse was revealed in such fashion that it struck at the very heart of the most cruel norms of retributory justice which prevailed in Arabian society wherein blood was constantly spilt over petty inter-tribal conflicts. The tradition that prevailed there was not one in which the murderer was killed. Rather, it was their tradition to kill, in retaliation, as many people from the tribe of the murderer as would be the equivalent of the price of the murdered individual. They had the least hesitation in killing ten or even a hundred people in retaliation for the loss of one person. The reverse of the situation could also be the same. If a person of high rank in a tribe were to kill a lowly placed individual from another tribe they had great misgivings about killing the murderer in retaliation. The question on their lips would then be : 'A wealthy one for a lowly?' The Qur'an which put these customs to an end, had clearly indicated in the above verse that retaliation was to be carried out on the person of the murderer alone.

Islam places a high price for human life. Indeed, one's life was not meant to be destroyed in the name of tribal conflicts, anger or revenge. The Qur'an makes it very clear that: '... if any slew a person - unless if be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.' (Qur'an 5:35)

The statement that the death penalty is not right is, indeed, baseless. In a society which restrains from retaliations, there will occur a series of murders. A state of affairs wherein none will be enabled in living a life free of fear will then manifest itself. Thus it was that the Qur'an said: 'In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) life to you, O ye men of understanding.' (Qur'an 2:179)

The incidents that were related earlier have only attested to the truth of this Qur'anic proclamation.