Crime and punishment

Judgment and the treatment of criminals is based on Islamic law, shari’ah -the ‘way to water’, or the source of life.

Islam considers there to be three types of sin:

  • Shirk: associating someone or something with Allah;
  • Zalim: crimes such as murder, theft, suicide and illegal sexual relations;
  • the third type covers lying, cursing and envy.

Muslim punishment is not about the removal of sin, as only Allah can forgive. Punishment is to protect and strengthen society.

Penalties are known as hudu – ‘boundaries’ as they enforce the boundaries between right and wrong that have been crossed by the crime. Hudu applies to crimes which are dealt with in the Qur’an or Hadith.

…if anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people (Surah 5:32).

However, it is not permitted to kill anyone except through legal means.

Adultery or fornication:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication – flog each of them with a hundred stripes: let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment (Surah 24:2


And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations) – flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors (Surah 24:4).


As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime (Surah 5:38).

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