The following is the transcript of a circle I delivered recently. It is in bullet point form so may have grammatical errors.
وَالتِّينِ وَالزَّيْتُونِ (1) وَطُورِ سِينِينَ (2) وَهَذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ (3) لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ (4) ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ
Allah (swt) says:
“By the fig, and the olive. By Mount Sinai. By this city of security. We created man of the best stature. Then we reduced him to the lowest of the low”
These verses highlight to us how Allah (swt) has created us in the best form but has reduced us to the lowest of the low when he abandon him and his deen.
One such example of how some amongst mankind have become the lowest of the low is the example of crime such as the recent Virginia Tech massacre in America that occured Monday, April 16, 2007 on the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States.
I want to discuss the reality of what happened, whether it was an isolated incident or does it indicate a troubling trend in western society, what are the causes of such behaviour and what is the Islamic solution to crime.
A gunman killed thirty-two people and injured twenty-nine before committing suicide, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The gunman, Cho Seung-hui, was born in South Korea and grew up in Northern Virginia.
During the investigation, police found a suicide note in Cho's dorm room, including rants about "rich kids," "debauchery," and "deceitful charlatans" on campus. On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho time-stamped between the first two murders and the rest of the massacre two hours later. It contained an 1,800 word manifesto, pictures, and 23 digital videos. In the videos Cho compared himself to Jesus Christ and expressed his hatred of the wealthy.
While it is true that it seems that he was mentally unstable – we cannot simply blame these types of incidents on mental illness – we must study whether this is an isolated incident or not, if it is not - what leads to this type of behaviour?
It is not an isolated incident
There have been many such shootings in recent years – most of which have less casualties and therefore are not so well known, of the famous ones are:
United States, April 1999: Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.
Germany, April 2002: Seventeen people killed after a gunman - a former pupil - opens fire in a school in Erfurt, eastern Germany. He then turned the gun on himself.
March 21, 2005: A 16-year-old student shoots and kills five schoolmates, a teacher, and an unarmed guard at Red Lake High School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota before taking his own life.
The problem of killings and what have come to be known as gun crimes is much worse:
30,000 people die of gun wounds every year in USA (BBC)
Accurate figures on firearms are scarce, but there are an estimated 200 million guns in circulation in the US, a country with a population of about 300 million.
According to a Harris poll conducted in 2001, approximately 39% of all American households own at least one gun.
The risk of being killed by a firearm in the US is higher than in any other Western nation. Of countries outside war zones, the risk is greatest in South Africa, according to a United Nations report. (BBC)
America has one of the highest crime rates in the world
Consider these statistics compiled by Professor Morgan Reynolds (Texas A&M University) concerning burglary:
· 500,000 burglaries take place each month
· 250,000 of these are reported to the police
· 35,000 arrests are made
· 30,450 prosecutions take place
· 24,060 are convicted
· 6,010 are sent to prison; the rest paroled
· Of the 500,0000 burglaries, only 6,000 burglars went to jail! And if this 1 percent effectiveness ratio isn't disturbing enough, professor Reynolds found that the average time served was only 13 months.
In the US, a rape occurs every minute, and in the UK, one-third of women have been sexually abused by the age of 18. Also, there was a 500% increase in the reporting of rape between 1996 and 1997.
British people have the lowest level of confidence in the ability of the Government to get a grip on criminal behaviour, according to a recent poll carried out by Ipsos MORI. Of those questioned, 43% placed crime as their top concern.
Another poll revealed that one in five adults, nearly 10million people, want to move abroad citing crime as a major contributing factor.
Lethal cocktail of Freedom, individualism and self-interest is cause
· What controls peoples actions are the ideas they hold.
- The true problem and the true drug that causes this behaviour is that of the lethal cocktail of Western ideas – Freedom, individualism and self-interest.
- The West believe that Life is about seeking enjoyment/pleasures. Freedom to behave in a way that achieves your pleasure
This is what is preached and reinforced to all of us who live in the west. So people whether politicians, mothers, youth and others come to accept them as absolute beliefs about how to live.
It is this pursuit of pleasure, benefit and joy that drove the likes of Harold Shipman and Fred and Rosemary West in UK to their actions.
Harold Shipman, the Hyde general practitioner, killed at least 15 of his patients who had come to him expecting care, compassion and empathy. In pursuit of some perverse form of pleasure and joy he murdered his innocent victims.
Dennis Nilsen killed 16 young men; the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, killed 13 women; Fred West murdered 12 people including his first wife and daughter.
John Haigh who was known as the “acid bath vampire” drunk the blood of his six victims before disposing of them in vats of acid; these people are all the products of the capitalist way of life.
Legislation cannot solve this problem
Banning guns, etc will not solve the problem – the false ideas need to be banned rather than the guns
A thing is neutral – can be used for good or bad – cannot blame objects – have to blame the actions and why they undertook them
Why are there so many guns in US? People are afraid, due to crime – no sense of security. Also the gun lobby is strong and the capitalist arms industry promotes guns
In an Islamic state there is sense of security – patrols by the police, taqwa, etc – people in Madina used to put a cloth over their stall of gold and go and pray salah.
The Islamic solution to crime
1) The Taqwa of the believer: The Muslim has conviction in the rational creed of Islam, which is built upon the study of reality and use of the mind. This gives them the definite foundation for their belief in Islam and motivates them to be subservient to the One and Only True God, Allah (swt).
Crime is a disobedience to Allah (swt). The Muslim’s longing for the Paradise and their fear of the punishment of Hellfire will prevent them from committing crime.
2) Public Opinion: It is one of the mutual rights and duties of the Muslims that they always look out for and take care the affairs of each other. Thus there will be a constant motivation and encouragement from all sides for people to observe the Islamic conduct.
Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, “A Muslim is a mirror to another Muslim, he wipes his mistakes”.
Crime will be shunned and rejected by the society at large. Criminals and cheats will not be accepted, nor will wealth or any perceived benefits gained illicitly be respected. This pressure from the dominant values in the society will prevent those who are tempted to commit crime from doing so.
3) The Punishments: The last resort is the fear of the consequences of the criminal actions in terms of the punishment.
Getting the punishment in this world is an expiation for it in the hereafter
Al-Bukhari narrated from Ubadah bin As-Samit (ra) who said: “We were with the Prophet (saw) in an assembly and he said: ‘Give me the bay’ah on condition that you do not associate anything with Allah, you do not steal and do not commit zina, and he read all of this ayah (the ayah on the bay’ah of women). So whoever fulfils among you, his reward is with Allah and whoever does anything of that and is punished for it, then it is expiation (kaffara) for him. And whoever does anything of that and Allah conceals him upon it, if He wills He will forgive him and if He wills, He will punish him.”
This hadith is explicit in the worldly punishment of the sinner, cancels for him the punishment of the Hereafter. And because of that ‘Ma’iz’ confessed to zina so he was stoned until he died, and Al-Ghamidiyyah confessed to zina so she was stoned until she died, and a woman from Juhaina confessed to zina so she was stoned until she died. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said about her: “She has repented a reptentance were it to be divided between seventy of the people of Madinah, it would accommodate them.”
Umayr bin Sa’d al-Ansari (ra) who was appointed as governor of Hims in Sham. When Umayr reached Hims he called the inhabitants to a vast congregational prayer. When the prayer was over he addressed them. He began by praising and giving thanks to God and sending peace and blessings on His Prophet Muhammad. Then he said:
"O people! Islam is a mighty fortress and a sturdy gate. The fortress of Islam is justice and its gate is truth. If you destroy the fortress and demolish the gate you would undermine the defences of this religion.
"Islam will remain strong so long as the Sultan or central authority is strong. The strength of the Sultan neither comes from flogging with the whip, nor killing with the sword but from ruling with justice and holding fast to truth”
The Punishment system of Islam
Punishments were legislated to prevent people from crimes.
Allah ta’ala said: “Verily there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding” [TMQ 2:179] i.e. in legislating retaliation for you, which is killing the killer, is great wisdom which is the survival of lives and preserving them because if the killer knows that he will be killed he will desist from his work so that will be life for the souls.
And because, for the most part, the situation of the sane person is that if he knows that if he kills he will be killed, he will not set ahead to killing, and similarly for all restraints. The meaning of its being a restraint is that it restrains people.
There are four categories of punishment that criminals may be subject to. These are:
1. Hadud : This punishment is the right of Allah (swt), and it is a retribution for seven different crimes, which no-one can forgive. These are:
a) Fornication or adultery (zina) : The punishment is 100 lashes for fornication (i.e. pre-marital sex) or stoning to death for adultery (where the fornicator/s is/are married).
b) False Accusation (qadhf) : Where a false charge of adultery is insinuated against a man or woman. The punishment is 80 lashes.
c) Theft (sariqa) : Where theft is the crime. The punishment is cutting off of the hand, provided seven conditions are fulfilled concerning the circumstances of the crime.
The Islamic punishment of hand-cutting only applies if seven conditions are fulfilled. These are :
1) Two witnesses (with no contradiction or error in their testimonies)
2) The value of the stolen goods must exceed 1/4 of a dinar in value (4.25g of gold)
3) Cannot be food (if the thief was hungry)
4) Cannot be from the thief’s family
5) Goods must be halal in nature (e.g. not alcohol)
6) Must be stolen from a secure place
7) Must be no doubt on the goods (i.e. the thief definitely has no right over it, e.g. money from the public treasury)
d) Consumption of Intoxicants (khamr) : Where the crime is for example drinking wine. The punishment is 80 lashes.
e) Rebellion against the State (al-baghi) : Where individuals or groups revolt against the authority of the State, e.g. motivation of division of the Ummah. The punishment is death.
f) Apostasy (al-irtidad) : Where a Muslim changes his or her belief, and refuses to return after advice is given. The punishment is death.
g) Highway Robbery (hiraba) : Where robbers attack passers by on the open highways. The punishment is cutting off the hand and foot on opposite sides, or death if the crime led to the death of the victim.
In these issues, if someone is proven to be guilty of the crime and all the conditions for the punishment are fulfilled, there is no leniency or pardon for the perpetrator. Muhammad (saw) said, “By Allah, if Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut her hand.”
2. Al-Jinayaat (or qisas): This concerns crimes against the rights of an individual where the victim has the option to demand punishment or forgive the criminal and demand blood money (diyyah). It concerns mainly the issues of killing and bodily harm, whether unlawful or accidental. For example, if someone deliberately committed murder, the family of the victim could demand that the perpetrator be killed, or they could forgive them and demand blood money. The value of blood money varies depending on the nature of the crime:
a) Blood money from the one who kills with intention is 100 camels, 40 of which must be pregnant, or the equivalent monetary value.
b) Blood money from the one who kills unintentionally i.e. manslaughter, is the equivalent of 100 camels.
It is narrated by al-Nissai and Darimi that Abu Bakr reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) wrote to the inhabitants of Yemen and there was in his letter : “Whosoever kills a believer unjustly will suffer retaliation for what his hand has done unless the relatives of the murdered man consent otherwise. And therein it was : A man shall be killed for the murder of a woman. And therein it was : For the murder of a life, there is bloodwit of 100 camels...”
Another hadith narrated by Imam Nissai mentions that every part of the body has blood money, for example, the blood money for the eyes is equivalent of 50 camels.
3. Al-Ta‘azir : This is considered the right of the community. It covers those issues which are not part of the qisas or hadud, but which affect the right of the community such as shouting in the streets, cheating in the market place etc. The judge presiding over the case will study the severity and nature of the crime and prescribe a punishment to match it from his own ijtihad (i.e. study of the Islamic texts).The punishments may range from anywhere between a warning to death. One famous example happened in the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra), where he punished a scholar who gave false testimony. He ordered that the scholar should have his head shaved, his face painted black, and be paraded semi-clothed in front of the people while sitting backwards on a donkey.
4. Al-Mukhalafat : This covers the areas of the rights of the State. Here the crime is committed when a person or group contravenes a law which the State has enacted, such as breaking the speed limit or parking in no-parking areas. The punishment is at the discretion of the judge, based on his own ijtihad or the adoption of the State.
Punishment is the last resort in the Islamic state
This applies because the severity of the punishment serves the primary role of a deterrent. Any shred of evidence that is doubtful or circumstantial will prevent the punishment. Indeed it is narrated in the Seerah (life) of Muhammad (saw) how he would exert himself to avert the punishment when individuals asked for the punishment to be implemented upon them. It is narrated that Muhammad (saw) said, “To free someone criminal mistakenly is better than to punish someone innocent mistakenly.” ‘A’isha (ra) narrated, “Ward off punishments as much as you can. If you find any way out for a Muslim then set him free. If the Imam makes a mistake in granting forgiveness it is better for him than that he should commit a mistake in imposing punishment.”
In this way, bearing in mind the heavy burden of proof, false conviction or unjustified punishment will be absent in the Islamic judiciary.
The Islamic Khilafah historically was a just nation in which the masses lived with dignity and honour – a fact even attested to by the famous English writer, H. G. Wells, in his book The Outline of History; “Islam has created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any other society had ever been in the world before.”