Islamic laws mainly aim at protecting the five important indispensables of religion, life, intellect, offspring and property. To preserve these five indispensables, Islam has adopted two courses. One is through cultivating religious consciousness and awakening human awareness through moral education. The second course is by inflicting deterrent punishment, mainly the hudud, qisas, and tazir (discretionary punishment).
Islamic laws are not like other abstract theories that are not easily put into practice. Islamic laws are simple, harmonious and consistent with the basic needs of human nature. They try to build a Muslim society characterised by amicable relations, virtue and altruism. In a Muslim society that adheres strictly to Islamic teachings, there can be no place for base sentiments such as rancour and hostility. All the Islamic laws, whether those concerned with worship, human relationships, Islamic morals, domestic relations, government, politics or administration; serve one noble goal of intensification of relationship between the Muslims themselves.
The concept of equality and togetherness is paramount when regular prayers are said with other people. One God is worshipped, one Prophet is followed, one Qibla is followed and all recite surahs/verses from one Qur’an. The same obligations are observed by the rank and file without any discrimination between the poor and the rich, young and old, male and female.
The same principle is applied to financial religious duties. Islamic laws impose the payment of Zakat to the poor and compel the Muslim to support his kith and kin. If a Muslim commits a prohibited act, he is required to pay expiation money, which is distributed among the poor.
Islam also orders Muslims to be lenient in their dealings with fellow Muslims and have regards for them when they are in financial crisis and even give them the loans when they are in need.
Likewise, Islam also urges Muslims to have good manners and polite ways, such as greeting the people, wishing well to the person who sneezes, visiting the sick and taking part in funerals praying God to have mercy on the deceased, recalling his good deeds, showing respect to his corpse by not treading on his grave or digging out his corpse. Furthermore, Muslims are ordered to offer condolences to the family of the deceased, treat others with generosity, help the poor, respect the learned, express affection to one’s relatives, support the oppressed and deter the oppressor.
Similarly, the Shariah prohibits Muslims to suspect, humiliate, degrade, envy, curse, reprimand, frighten and backbite fellow Muslims or others or do anything that might harm them.
In domestic matters, Islam stresses the importance of reaching an accord on matters like inheritance, alimony, divorce, execution of will, unalienable property, government and administration.
Thus, Islam builds an ideal society in which there can be no grounds for commission of offences or emotional disorders, as everybody enjoys security, justice, freedom, respect and love from other members of the society.
Hence, when a crime is committed in such an ideal Muslim society, it is considered deviation and causes painful reactions and punishments.
Islam has put justice above every thing, making it the foundation of the entire world. In the eyes of Islam, the infidel, the Muslim, the enemy, the associate, the ally; all are equal before justice. “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just. That is nearer to piety and fear Allah. Verily Allah is well-Acquainted with what you do. (5-8)
In fact, Islam outdistances all rules of modern justice by declaring:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor. Allah is a Better protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts) lest you avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, Verily, Allah is Ever well-acquainted with what you do.(4-135)
Justice, equality and freedom were the important parts of the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) who reminded human beings that they are of Adam and Adam is of dust. “O mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has Al-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, Well-Acquainted. (49-13)
Justice and equality were apparent during the first Muslim era. When Abu Bakr was elected first caliph following the death of the Messenger, he immediately went to market as an ordinary person seeking to earn a living for himself and his family. When this became a topic of discussion, Muslims discussed the matter and decided to consider him a hired employee of the community. They prevented him from working and arranged a salary based on his needs, which amounted to a few dirhams, for him and his household. This did not distinguish him from the rest of his people.
And it was with this great sense of justice, equality and freedom that the second caliph of Islam, Umar, who had conquered the dominions of Caesar and Khosrau, rebuked his governor Amr ibn-al-As, whose son had acted arbitrarily towards a Christian Copt, saying, “O Amr, would you enslave a human being born to be free!”
Instant and fair delivery of justice has been important feature of justice delivery system in Islam. When Othman, later the third Caliph in Islam, tried to mediate with the Messenger for the sake of a woman from Makhzum who had committed theft, the Messenger objected to it harshly and said, “How dare you mediate against God’s Hudood?” Then he instantly rushed out to make a speech saying, “O ye people! The people before you were wrong because they did not apply Hudood strictly when dealing with influential people guilty for having committed theft while they inflicted the Hudood only on the weak. By God, if my daughter Fatima were caught stealing, I would have her hands cut off.”
The Islamic judicial system gives due consideration to the circumstances in which the crime is committed before delivering justice. During the year of famine, Omar Ibn Khattab suspended the amputation of a thief’s hand because at that time some needy people were compelled to steal to satisfy the pangs of huger. A story is narrated in Al’am Al-Muakkin that some of Hatib Ibn Ali Balta’s servants stole a she-camel from a man of Muzaina. The thieves were brought into the presence of Omar and confessed the theft. When Abdul Rahman Ibn Hatib was summoned, Omar told him to take the thieves and have their hands cut off, but later he changed his mind and said: it is your ill-treatment that has driven these men to turn to thieves. I would have agreed to have their hands cut off if they were treated and fed well.” He was asked to pay a fine and the man from Muzaina suggested that the fine be four hundred Dirhams. Omar, instead, asked that the claimant be paid eight hundred Dirhams.
Although positive laws have classified crimes and prescribed punishments for each of them, these laws lack the force of restraining potential offenders from attempting to commit a crime in the absence of a watchman or judicial authorities.
On the other hand, the Islamic Shariah, through its influence on human conscience, has the power to eradicate the evil before it prompts man to commit crime. The Shariah, through its penetration in the conscience of the believer, purifies him from the roots of evil. The offender, even if not seen by any one, insists on confessing to get God’s judgement in order to be absolved from the offence of the crime he has committed. The woman, Ghamidiya, who repeatedly came to the Messenger to confess her crime, is a case in point. Her punishment was delayed until she gave birth to a child and then she went to the Messenger with her baby who had a piece of bread in his hand. The Messenger ordered Khalid Ibn Walid to carry out the Hudood on her. When her blood touched Khalid’s face, he cursed the woman. On hearing this, the Messenger said: “Hold on your tongue, O Khalid! I swear by the Lord that she has repented so truly that had the worst offender repented like her, God would have pardoned him.” Omran Ibn Husein narrates that Omar is reported to have questioned the Messenger as to why he prayed on an adulterer. The Messenger replied, “Her repentance is so true that if it were divided over seventy sinners of the town of Medina, God would forgive all of them.”
Penalties in Islam are inflicted with a view of correction and mercy rather than recrimination and hatred. Therefore, a punished offender, in accordance with the Shariah, should not harbour any hard feelings towards the society because it is in compliance with God’s legislation. This is where the Shariah and secular laws differ, for in the later case an offender who is punished harbours rancour against the society.
As mentioned above, the main goal of the Judicial System in Islam is the establishment of justice and protection of rights, of the self, the money, and the honour of the Muslims and settlement of disputes.
High esteem for the Judicial System has been reflected in the practices of all the Messengers. For instance, Allah’s Messengers Dawood (David), his son Sulaiman, Shuaib and the Last Messenger Muhammad Bin Abdullah (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) and his successors, companions and all those who followed them across all Islamic ages, were known for their integrity, fair and just judgement, prudence and wit.