What is the Islamic ruling on homicide or manslaughter?

According to the revelation, intentionally killing an innocent person is equal to killing all of humankind (Ma’idah 5:32).

Therefore, if one kills a fellow human, he/she:

  1. Killed a masterpiece of Allah and claimed divinity by taking life.
  2. Violated humankind’s rights by killing one of them.
  3. Turned into an enemy of his/her kind by killing another human and manifesting his/her potential to inflict such an irreversible damage.

Along with attributing the highest degree of value to human life, Islam also provides means to protect it against those who infringe upon it. Islam allows fighting back to preserve and save one’s life.

However, one must know his/her boundaries in self-defense. Even the âyah allowing self-defense wars warns Muslims “Do not commit aggression, for verily Allah does not love aggressors” (Baqarah 2:190).

Allah does not forbid Muslims from showing kindness and behaving well toward those who do not fight them and/or drive them out of their homes, because “verily, Allah loves those who act equitably” (Mumtahanah 60:8).

Thus, Islam prohibits homicide (manslaughter), except in self-defense wars and enforcement of death penalty for killing an innocent human.

What punishment does Islam enforce for homicide or manslaughter?

There are two types of punishment for killing innocent people willing and intentionally:

1) he/she will be punished in the hereafter for infringing upon Allah’s right (Nisa’ 4:93);

2) a punishment in this world for infringing upon a fellow human’s right for life. The punishment enforced in this world is an equivalent of said crime— death (Baqarah 2:178).

However, the victim’s next of kin have the right to forgive the killer, should they wish to do so (Baqarah 2:178).

But if they wish to enforce said punishment, they must not “exceed the bounds of equity in retributive killing” out of vengeance (‘Isra’ 17:33).

Doing so would clearly be a transgression of boundaries Allah has established for humans.

The Qur’an aims at comforting three consciences as far as criminal justice is concerned:

  1. Victim’s conscience;
  2. Society’s conscience; and
  3. Culprit’s conscience.

While other legal systems take the first two points into consideration, Islam is the only system to include the third point as well.

But, of course, before a culprit’s conscience can rest with the thought of enduring a deserved punishment, an actively good conscience is to be there in the first place.

The worst punishment Islam provides for in this world is the death penalty for those who kill innocent people without the right to do so.

But because the death penalty is an irreversible punishment, Prophet Muhammad instructed not to enforce it in not-clear-cut cases.

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