The Jail Punishment
Islamic Punishments
Question asked by .
Answered by Siddiq Bukhary

I have come to know that you people criticize jail punishment and say that in this punishment the criminal is kept isolated from others who might have a good influence upon him. His family, clan and even the society are in no way given the opportunity to reform and rehabilitate him. He is put away for years in the company of criminals in such a manner that even if he desires to reform himself, he is not given any chance to do so.

As much as I agree with you that the ‘jail term’ is absolutely a mockery of the law and does not serve the purpose, however, I would like to present before you two facts:

1. There is a vast amount of Da‘wah work going on in and across the jails in the USA, Europe and even in the Middle East. People are reverting to Islam when they come to know of this religion, which in their busy daily lives, they would never get a chance to come in an intimate contact with. This contradicts your statement, which I have quoted above.

2. The time spent in jail may be irrecoverable, but however in the present times with dishonest judgments, imagine the irreparable loss, if an innocent were to be whipped or his hands to be falsely imputed; this would be a life long humiliation. So in these circumstances, the prison term is much effective.


The points raised by you are no doubt thought provoking but I would like to draw your attention to the following facts.

We need to know, first of all, that the jail punishment is not a divinely ordained punishment. In other words, it does not fall within the ambit of punishments prescribed the Sharī‘ah. We also need to appreciate that principles are not made on exceptions. What we say is that in ‘principle’ the jail punishment is not correct. The room for exceptions is always there. In a particular state, a court may administer this punishment keeping in view specific socio-geographical or some other conditions, provided cruelties attached to it can be avoided. This however does not make it perfectly appropriate for the whole world nor can it be added to the penal code of Islam.

The situation described by you is just an exception and I am afraid we are unable to quote more examples other than the USA or some of the European countries. The partial privilege, which is being enjoyed in some parts of the Unites States, cannot provide us with sufficient justification for making the jail punishment justifiable for the whole world.

It is quite possible that some homeless person may be availing himself of more facilities in jail than a person who lives in his own home. Can we, on the basis of these facilities, say that jail is better for him? In fact, nothing can compensate for his freedom; and a jail deprives individuals of their freedom.

For us, while living in our family, the opportunities of reformation and rehabilitation are brighter than living in isolation. These opportunities should not be wasted because they are more likely to produce results than the artificial environment created in a jail, of which you are talking about.

You tell us people are reverting to Islam when they come to know of this religion which in their busy daily lives they would never get a chance to come in an intimate contact with. The people who are embracing Islam possess the spark of righteousness which can be kindled anywhere and by anyone. So it is not the jail but the people who embrace Islam and with the help of whom they embrace it. If the former had met the latter outside the jail, I believe, they must have accepted the truth even then. We cannot send the people behind the bars merely to use this opportunity; rather we should spread and organize Da‘wah activities throughout the world. If every Muslim becomes sensitive about his surroundings, then there would be no need for pursuing the people in jails.

The chances of dishonest and wrong judgment cannot be ruled out in every system. Islam is no exception either. Chances cannot make a system unviable and impracticable. Systems prevail while efforts are undertaken to minimize and curtail such chances. Similarly, we should divert strong efforts toward eradicating the possibilities of dishonesty.

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