Home Fiqh - Laws “…And there is life for you in (the law of) reprisal”

“…And there is life for you in (the law of) reprisal”

By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Allah says in His glorious Book: “O ye who believe! The law of equality [reprisal] is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is an alleviation and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.In the Law of Equality [reprisal]there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.” (02: 178-179).

Reprisal is more or less a law that preserves man's life and salvages him from the law of the jungle that turns man's life into a state of chaos in which he is no longer safe, or through which man disengages himself from the legal restraints by resorting to take revenge. This method might drive the blood heirs to kill a number of people in return, especially if he [the deceased] was in an honorable social position and the killer was a commoner, so the blood heirs would not be satisfied by killing the murderer only. Moreover, such an unequal reality might lead to a destructive war between different tribes, which might result in the loss of many souls; thus, making the positivities of this legislation outweigh its negativities; whereas, neglecting or canceling this legislation might have many negative repercussions that any positivity might have no significance compared to them.

As for the condition of executing the reprisal, the act of killing should be premeditated; i.e. the killer would venture upon it with the intention of killing, whether he had the intention to kill or to commit an act that leads objectively to death, like one who would stab someone in his heart without intending to kill him, then the nature of the decisive cause of death represents automatically an intention for killing through the relation between the cause and the effect.

But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude,” meaning that pardon is the alternate behavior that the Quran tacitly encourages, which is that the one who enjoys the right might let off his right, if he is capable of doing so. So, if this is what the blood relatives set their minds on, then that does not undermine the objective [of reprisal] nor eliminate it, for it would be based on confirming the main principle. Meanwhile, pardon might have positive results on the social level, as well as on the moral one for it would elevate the one who enjoys the right to the level of the man who possesses the spiritual strength to overcome his personal or familial motives. Therefore, he would open up to the murderer on the basis of humanitarian love that condones the crime, by taking into consideration that man's brotherhood at the level of the faith, turning the entire issue into a pardon without any return; thus, attaining the most sublime level of giving and spiritual ascension. On another level, there is the Diyyah (blood money), where the blood heir spares the life of the killer, and is satisfied by the compensation he receives in exchange of the loss he was inflicted with, on the one hand, and finding a realistic alternative that absorbs the negative emotions, on the other hand, so as to base the reconciliation on the human subjective reality.

Allah wanted he who owes a certain right to fulfill it without any stalling or complications, so as to feel the kindness embodied in pardoning him and act accordingly by giving handsomely. On the other hand, he to whom the right belongs should not burden his fellow brother if he had agreed with him over the Diyyah. This interpretation was narrated by Al-Kafi on the authority of Al-Halabi who quoted Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) when he asked him about Allah’s saying: “.But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude,” as saying: “He who has got the right (i.e. the aggrieved party) should not put his brother (i.e. the murderer) in difficulty, when he has made settlement with him concerning the blood-money; and he who has got the duty (of paying the blood-money) should not delay in its payment when he has ability to do so; and he should pay it to him in a good manner.

This is an alleviation from your Lord…” Thus, Allah wants to spread the concept of pardon in the place of the concept of reprisal, through which He aims at relieving the burdens of people, so that they would not resort to fulfill their right by killing the murderer away from forgiveness and pardon that might open for man several doors for peaceful and serene solutions that would take away all the negative impacts during the painful psychological process of containing the situation. In this way, the social situations are handled wisely in a way that reduces man's personal pains and tendency to seek revenge; which is the Divine way to reduce the impact of the conclusive solution, “and mercy” as represented in the merciful method of forgiveness and exchanging the act of killing with financial compensation and being satisfied by the latter instead of cruel violence.

After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty…” Some of the people in the pre-Islamic era used to seek revenge and kill the killer even after pardoning him and taking the diyyah, where they sought financial compensation side by side with physical compensation as a double reprisal that emphasizes the blood heir's pride and loyalty to the deceased against the killer and his people. Actually, this is a state of a new aggression, for the pardon on the basis of which reconciliation was achieved, whether with the diyyah or not, erases the effects of the crime so that it would not extend in the future by its counter effects or reactions, rendering this act of killing an aggression preceded with nothing, and the blood heir of the new crime has the right to kill him as a kind of reprisal, or forgive him in exchange for a diyyah or nothing.

There is” o people “in the Law of Equality [reprisal]” a legislation prescribed to you for the sake of eradicating the roots of crime from the innermost tormented soul that might seek revenge and thirst for blood, limiting it to releasing one's feelings by killing the killer, no more no less, rendering this a kind of deterrence to whoever considers committing a crime against another man, when he realizes that the legislation gives the blood heir the opportunity of retaliating upon the killer, and protects him from any negative impact.

Actually, this is the best way to control any future crime embodied by the social reality in its early individual and social complications, at a time neither money nor jail are enough to accomplish that.

(saving of) Life…” As life gains more credit in the human future, individual feuds would lead to less and less murders, which paves the way for life to extend naturally. In this way, the act of killing the murderer actually produces life that had it not been executed, it would have fallen under the impact of the coming crime. It is more or less like a surgical operation, during which the organ that endangers life is exenterated in order to prolong life and protect it… “O ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves,” i.e. O you people who think with your hearts and do not react emotionally and impulsively, you are the ones who make a comparison between the negative and positive aspects and between the advantages and disadvantages.

The rule on which this legislation is based is driving life away from any possible danger, as there is no way for messing up with life, as a principle, to the extent that any offense against an individual is an offense against all people, as it represents an offense against the principle. There is no difference in terms of the value and sanctity of life between one person and other; thus, preserving the life of one individual signifies preserving the lives of all people, as it respects life as a principle that extends to include the lives of the others.

Source: An excerpt from the book "[Interpretations] inspired from the Quran."