A reply to a comment left by Sarah Brown (of Hurry Up Harry fame) on a previous article. The original piece, along with her comment, is below entitled “Ramadan musings on the hadd punishments.”
Thanks for your comment, Sarah. Apologies for the delay in replying but this Ramadan is proving particularly taxing on both my physical and mental faculties.
I apologise if you find the tone of my responses below blunt or dismissive – it wasn’t my intent, I can assure you. Such are the limitations of time imposed upon us during Ramadan.
(i) The saying attributed to Jesus (as): “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” I need hardly point out that as a Muslim I don’t accept the veracity of the Gospel accounts and I also find the import of such a statement rather absurd. If a penal system depended upon it’s application for a team of sinless enforcers then quite obviously we would have no penal system at all. In such a scenario society would rapidly descend into a state of anarchy.
(ii) The dutch penal system. Maybe I didn’t make it clear but the 8-9 years referred to the time a murderer actually spends in prison. The Dutch penal system paroles offenders 2/3 of the way through their sentence which in the case of a 12 year sentence would be 8 years. This also applies to cases of murder. For a case in hand: http://amsterdamherald.com/index.php/rss/1086-20131211-judges-rule-killer-pim-fortuyn-must-be-let-out-parole-netherlands-dutch-justice
(iii) I’m not sure why you don’t see the parallel between hadd punishments and the death penalty as the supposed barbarity of the former is predicated upon it being an instance of the latter. Furthermore I gave the examples of the electric chair and lethal injection as being what most decriers of hadd punishments would agree are, barbaric methods of killing people. The point I was making which seems to have eluded you is that while such people might declaim against the electric chair and lethal injection (and often the very idea of judicial executions) as barbaric they will never label the proponents of such punishments as “extremists” or “purveyors of a barbaric ideology”. Such phraseology seems reserved solely for advocates of the hudood (pl. of hadd).
(iv) “If the punishment is essentially impossible ever to carry out except in the most strained circumstances then it seems rather pointless as a deterrent.” – as I made clear the purpose of the hadd punishment is to prevent such acts being made public and publicised. Think of it like this: if a man and woman want to quietly committ adultery and keep their misdeed(s) to themselves then it isn’t the business of the state to spy upon them or investigate whether they were (or are) up to no good. If, on the other hand, the happy couple decide they not only want to committ adultery but furthermore to publicise and commend their depravity to others then indeed the state would intervene. Even if the evidential burden could not be met for the infliction of the hadd in such a case they would nevertheless most likely find themselves on the receiving end of a lesser ta’azir punishment by the qadi (judge). So as I already made clear the purpose of these punishments is to deter the public commission, promulgation and dissemination of such behaviour not the actual act itself. Also it’s pertinent to mention that by criminalising such acts it also allows the state to sanction all actions that lead to it e.g. nightclubs, sexual imagery etc.
I could cite numerous instances from the hadith corpus where the Prophet (saw) attempted to dissuade Muslims from publically confessing their sinfulness to him thereby forcing him to inflict the hadd punishment on them but for the sake of brevity I won’t. Please accept my assurance that the “ideal islamic state” has no interest in rounding up adulterers/fornicators/active homosexuals etc.
(v) As to the issue of passing moral judgements on actions then naturally we will disagree. Our values are imparted to us via our understandings of the divine texts; yours are a product of, and subject to, the caprice of the prevailing zeitgeist. In the case of the apostate and the active homosexual again all that I mentioned above in (iv) applies. What it really boils down to is whether we would accept that people have the right to promulgate and actively disseminate their sinful behaviour and inclinations. The answer to this question is an unapologetic and emphatic no. Why not? I will let the words of our beloved nabi (prophet) [saw] answer that for me:
An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The parable of the one who observes the limits [hadd] prescribed by Allah and the one who transgresses them is the likeness of people who board a ship after casting lots. Some of them are in its lower deck and others are in its upper deck. Those in the lower deck, when they need water, go to the upper deck and say: If we make a hole in the bottom of the ship, we will not harm you. If those in the upper deck leave them to carry out their plan, they will all be drowned, but if they stop them, then all of them will be safe.”
May the peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon our master Muhammad.