This part of the history of honor killings you’re unlikely to read or hear about. In 1947 in the British colony of Nigeria, English judges had to overturn what they viewed as the backwards ruling of a local Shariah court. A man had been sentenced to death for murder, but the British superior court pointed out that it had been a crime of passion. The man had killed his wife’s lover. The Shariah court had been unimpressed by this excuse, but the British court decided that the murderer did not deserve to die. Yes, you read that correctly. A Shariah court, applying Shariah law, did not buy the ‘crime of passion’ argument that has long served as a justification for honor killings. The British court did.
Honor killings are never far from the headlines. The Islamophobic Clarion Fund even released a documentary called Honor Diaries, which repeats the accusation that Islam supports honor killings and that these acts of violence are endemic to Muslim societies.
But the truth of the matter is that honor killings are not caused or encouraged by Islam. Honor killing, despite the popular rhetoric around it, is not even a problem specific to Muslims. Its most concentrated and serious occurrences don’t involve Muslims at all. This ignorance about Islam’s teachings and the realities of violence against women has serious costs. First, blaming honor crimes on Islam antagonizes Muslims unnecessarily. It feeds the narrative, prevalent in many Muslim countries, that dismisses human rights as a proxy for Westernization and cultural imperialism. Second, sensationalism over Islam deflects from a reality that many men are loath to admit: that violence against women is a global problem with roots much deeper than the doctrines of one religion or the features of one culture. It needs to be addressed as such. Finally, obsessing over Islam’s alleged acceptance of honor crimes blinds Muslims and non-Muslims to the condemnation of these crimes in Muhammad’s teachings and the Shariah.
The tragedy of violence directed at women because they are women is far too widespread and long-lived to be the product of any one religion or even one culture. Though it takes different shapes and appears with varied frequency from region to region, it afflicts all societies. Patriarchal societies (i.e., all societies to one degree or another) sometimes ‘justify’ some of this violence as the consequence of rage triggered in ‘crimes of passion.’ Other forms of violence against women, such as honor killings, can involve premeditation and even the coordination of several people, including women related to the victim. In those parts of the world plagued worst by violence against women, legal systems tend to offer official or unofficial leniency for the men who commit it.
Honor crimes are only part of the larger phenomenon of femicide, or the murder of a woman for some reason associated with her gender. The women and girls who are the victims of such violence are attacked because they are perceived to have violated some profound expectation of how women are supposed to act in their society. In the Mediterranean region, especially the Middle East and North Africa, as well as South Asia, affronts are to the ‘honor’ of the woman or her family. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has conservatively estimated that at least 5,000 women a year globally are victims of honor killings. In India and Pakistan, this often entails a daughter or sister being killed for falling in love with a man without parental approval and occurs amongst Hindu and Muslim populations alike. Femicide takes other forms elsewhere. A 2012 UN report details how in parts of southern Africa, South and Southeast Asia hundreds of women are killed each year after being accused of witchcraft. Their killers receive lighter sentences with alarming regularity.
Despite the media attention they receive, honor killings are not the most prevalent type of femicide. The number of honor killings, whether in Muslim countries or elsewhere, pales in comparison with the most serious form of violence against women, namely dowry killings among India’s Hindu population. Dowry killings, the murder of a wife by her husband or his family, often by burning, for her failure to provide a large enough dowry payment to her husband’s family, ceasing dowry gifts or merely for falling short of expectations in her wifely duties, have occurred in shocking numbers. A 2012 UN report observed that 8,383 known dowry murders occurred in India in 2009, up from 4,836 in 1990. Though the Indian government outlawed dowry giving decades ago and identified dowry murders as a criminal problem, dowry giving remains an important custom and the suspicious death of wives is rarely investigated. The police often dismiss these deaths as kitchen accidents.
Islamophobic organizations point out that Islam and the laws of Muslim countries excuse honor killings or treat them lightly. On the second point they are correct. Such laws are a problem, and one that seems to have proliferated in the Middle East. In Egyptian law, a man who kills his wife and/or her lover after catching them ‘in the act’ (in flagrante delicto) is only punished with prison as opposed to the death penalty. Morocco, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Oman, the UAE, and Jordan’s laws extend drastically reduced penalties for the murder of any female relative (and their lover) that a man finds in such a situation (though the UAE and a 2001 update to Jordan’s laws allows the same excuse for a woman who finds her husband in bed with another woman).
But none of these laws has any basis in the Shariah or Islamic teachings. In fact, they were originally imported from the West. Criminal law in the Middle East today was shaped by the Ottoman Criminal Code of 1858, which was issued as part of the failing Ottoman Empire’s efforts to imitate its European rivals. The Code was little more than a translation of the French Criminal Code of 1832, copying word for word its lax punishment for honor crimes. This is still evident today in the laws of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and to a lesser extent Morocco (never part of the Ottoman Empire), which read like literal translations from the French. The French and Ottoman law codes also served as the major inspiration for Egypt’s law as well.
There is no doubt that more Muslims are killed at the hands of Muslim extremists than non-Muslims. My question is, have Muslim extremist groups paid their penalties for killing Muslims? The Qur’an commands Muslims to pay kaffarah (expiation) for killing a Muslim by mistake even at times of war. I mean they couldn’t be killing them intentionally right because for that the Qur’an is very clear:
But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment. (Qur’an 4:93)
So I’m assuming their killing them by mistake? So what is the penalty for a Muslim for killing a fellow Muslim by mistake? Well, let’s see:
And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a believing slave and a compensation payment presented to the deceased’s family [is required] unless they give [up their right as] charity. But if the deceased was from a people at war with you and he was a believer – then [only] the freeing of a believing slave; and if he was from a people with whom you have a treaty – then a compensation payment presented to his family and the freeing of a believing slave. And whoever does not find [one or cannot afford to buy one] – then [instead], a fast for two months consecutively, [seeking] acceptance of repentance from Allah . And Allah is ever Knowing and Wise. (Qur’an 4:92)
Now, I’m sure these guys don’t have any Muslim slaves so have they been consecutively fasting for two months as an expiation for their crimes? Have they given compensation to the Muslim families of their victims?
The verse above is interesting because it’s saying that even during times of war, if a believer is killed who happens to live among enemy’s territory, there is a penalty for it. So their whole rant about if a Muslim lives among the enemy, he is an infidel garbage is completely baseless.
Now, an extremist might say that the so called “Muslims” that they kill are not really Muslims so there is no penalty. That’s interesting because the Qur’an refutes that ideology:
O you who have believed, when you go forth [to fight] in the cause of Allah , investigate; and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace “You are not a believer,” aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allah are many acquisitions. You [yourselves] were like that before; then Allah conferred His favor upon you, so investigate. Indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (Qur’an 4:94)
This is what Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, one of the classical and most popular Qur’anic exegesis among Sunnis says about the above verse:
The following (Qur’an 4:94) was revealed when a group from among the Companions passed by a man from the Banū Sulaym driving his flock of sheep, and he offered them a greeting of peace. But they said, ‘He only greeted us dissimulating, out of fear’. So they killed him and took away his flock: O you who believe, when you are going forth, travelling in order to struggle, in the way of God, be discriminating (fa-tabayyanū; a variant reading has fa-tathabbatū, ‘ascertain’, here and further below); and do not say to him who offers you peace (read al-salām or al-salam), that is, the greeting, or [offers you] submission, declaring the profession of faith (shahāda), which is an indication of being a Muslim: ‘You are not a believer: you are only saying this to dissimulate for fear of your life and property’, so that you then end up killing him, desiring, seeking by this, the transient goods of the life of this world, that is, its enjoyment, in the way of spoils. With God are plenteous spoils, rendering you free of the need to kill such a person for his property. So you were formerly, when your lives and property were protected simply upon your professing the faith; but God has been gracious to you, making you known for your faith and uprightness. So be discriminating, lest you kill a believer and treat those entering the religion as you were treated [formerly]. Surely God is ever Aware of what you do, and will requite you for it.
As for killing non-combatant non-Muslims at times of war, then the Qur’an is also very explicitly clear:
Those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them. (Qur’an 4:90)
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. (Qur’an 60:8)
If you were to delve more into books of Quranic exegesis for the above verses, you would find much more information that refutes Muslim extremist claims. I haven’t even included the hadiths which also offers so much more information.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Do not be people without minds of your own saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” [Al-Tirmidhi]
Based on the above, it is not appropriate for a Muslim to cite evil done by the western governments to inhabitants of Muslim lands as justification to do evil to western inhabitants. We have our own principles and standards, mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah, with which we abide by and need not lower ourselves to their standards. We even have rules of respectful engagements with prisoners of war! During the Prophet’s (pbuh) time, when a Muslim was captured, he was tortured, beaten, murdered and even mutilated, but the Prophet (pbuh) never returned this type of behavior towards non-Muslim prisoners. And if you have trouble understanding or believing any of the above, then you have never studied his biography and you need to enroll yourself into a seerah(try this, this, this or this book) program and study his life from beginning to end.
So enough of your emotional arguments rooted in ignorance and more practicing the faith with actual knowledge and understanding. You can never truly understand your religion unless you sit at the feet of the scholars, and thus far every self proclaimed jihadist is so ignorant of his religion that he cannot even answer basic fiqh questions. Prophet (pbuh) called the scholars of Islam the inheritors of the prophets for the very reason that we should go to them and learn! And you will find this self-proclaimed jihadist take everything from a particular scholar except his fatwa on terrorism and killing innocent people. Afterwards, he has the audacity to call this scholar, whom he takes everything else from, a sell out! This goes further to show that these guys are notreally rooted in knowledge or understanding of their faith but are infected with serious emotional problems, ignorance of basic principles of their religion, and wanting to fulfill their false fantasies of adventure and danger.
It is also interesting to note that during the Prophet (pbuh) life, a man by the name of Abdullah bin Ubayy was a confirmed munafiq (someone who pretends to be Muslim but does not really believe in its doctrines) who was always causing trouble for the Muslims and plotting against them with their enemies. When Umar, one of the closest companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), advised him to have him killed, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) “turned down his proposal on the grounds that it did not become of a Prophet (Peace be upon him) to be accused of killing his people.” This goes further to show that the Prophet (pbuh) did not want people to have a bad image of Islam and Muslims including himself. This notion is even more clearly stated in the following narration from his wife Aisha:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, placed me on his shoulder so I could look at the Abyssinians [who were playing with shields and spears] until I felt tired and turned away from them.” Urwa [Aisha’s nephew] said: “Indeed, I heard Aisha say that the Messenger of Allah said on that day, ‘So the Jews will know that there is flexibility in our religion; verily, I have been sent with a lenient, upright religion.’” [Musnad Ahmad, Number 24333, Sahih]
The Jews are pointed out specifically in this version of the narration while in other versions, idol worshipers (mushrikeen) and Christians are mentioned. However, these self-proclaimed jihadists go around giving a really bad name to Islam and its followers without thinking twice. Not only that but they’re actually proud of it and falsely believe that their doing some sort of service to the religion.
If we further reflect on the case of Abdullah bin Ubayy mentioned earlier, it is astounding how far off the right path the modern jihadists really are. Here you have a prophet of Allah forbidding execution of a confirmed hypocrite in order to not give a bad name to Islam, but the modern jihadists will slaughter fellow Muslims through accusations of apostasy just because those Muslims disagree with them. There is no doubt that the greatest number of those killed by the hands of the jihadists are either fellow Muslim civilians or rival Muslim rebel groups.
For even more in depth refutation of the modern jihadists, see:
The Modern Jihadists: Khawarij or Mujahideen? – In this scintillating look at the past, Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi examines the histories of these movements, tracing their development to the turbulent times of the early 70’s in Egypt. In fact, some of the people alive now that are involved in current movements were active in these past movements of three decades ago as well.
On Jihad and Jihadist Thought – Young overzealous youth, angered by the transgressions of Western powers, are often swayed by fancy rhetoric and enticing slogans into entering a military conflict that eventually ends up harming the very people they claim to protect.
Should Muslims in the West go to Syria and join the Jihad? – It is the duty of every Muslim to help against any oppression whether it be towards Muslims or Non-Muslim, whether it be towards humans or animals it is our God-giving responsibility that we stand up against injustice & oppression wherever and whenever it may be. Does this mean that we here living in the west have a duty to go and fight in Syria and join the Jihad (struggle) against the evil forces of Bashar?
Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi – Muslims scholars refute ISIS and it’s leader on a theological level in great detail. As VICE News points out, “More than a hundred Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world released an open letter addressed to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Wednesday, telling the self-proclaimed caliph, in no uncertain terms, that the group’s use of Islamic scripture is illegitimate and perverse.”
We often here some non-Muslims rant on about how Muslims are not doing enough to fight against terrorism and extremism in their communities. However, this has no basis, in fact, Muslims are doing a lot of work in this area but the media refuses to cover it. Following are just a handful of examples:
- On November 30, 2007, leaders from the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities launched the United To Protect campaign at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington D.C. The partnership is grounded on an interfaith condemnation of terrorism and an affirmation of the need to protect the United States and its people.
- Al-Maghrib Institute’s theme for their annual event, called Ilmfest, last year in 2010 was ‘religious extremism’ where the speakers talked openly about jihad and how the extremists misunderstand it and Shaykh Waleed Basyouni gave a beautiful lecture on what the scholars of the past said about it. And this is something that they have done persistently, for example, they also had two talks by Shaykh Waleed in their 2009 Ilmfest event two years ago entitled, Reclaiming Islam From The Extremists and Violence In The Name of God. Both of these videos are available on youtube.
- Yasir Qadhi wrote an article for Muslimmatters.org entitled The Lure of Radicalism and Extremism Amongst Muslim Youth, which caused quite a stir among radical websites.
- The website here lists over a 100 links to Muslim scholars, activists and organizations condemning and speaking against violence in the name of Islam as a response to non-Muslim claims that Muslims are not doing enough to condemn terrorism. And according to CBS News article entitled, Muslim Scholars Condemn Terror, that the Muslims have consistently condemned terrorism and disassociated themselves with it.
- Imam Magid, current ISNA president from the ADAMS community in Sterling, VA, spoke out against religious extremism and those who call to it among Muslims in the youtube video entitled American Muslim Scholars Speak Out. Imam Magid also wrote a neat article for Huffington Post entitled Muslims Must Stand Up Against the Horrific Attacks Against Christians in Nigeria.
- On September 10, 2011, a group of Muslim scholars, intellectuals and activists did a large conference in Washington D.C. They talked on issues of extremism and what American Muslims should be striving for as citizens of the United States. The conference was entitled United For Change and you can view Yasir Qadhi’s excellent speech during it attacking extremism entitled Mobilizing the Muslim Youth: Strengthening Faith, Fostering Action.
- The ICNA organization responded to Anwar Al-Awlaki’s radical remarks in an article entitled ICNA Shariah Council Responds to Al Awlaki directing it towards the Muslim youth. And if you see the comments below it from readers, it is clear that the radicals did not appreciate the response very well.
- Dr. Essam Omeish, a surgeon and Islamic activist in Northern Virginia who also served as the President of the Muslim American Society (MAS), took part in a MAS organized press conference on July 25, 2005 on the Muslim response to terrorism.
- Shaykh Salman Al-Oadah, a prominent preacher in Saudi Arabia with a large following in the country and outside, delivered an open and blunt address to Osama bin Laden live on MBC, a widely watched Middle Eastern television network, on September 14, 2007. The whole text of the address can be read on Islamtoday’s website. In it, Salman Al-Oadah condemns Osama for his actions and his use of violence against innocent civilians. It is important to note that Shaykh Salman is also an ex-mentor to Osama bin Laden as indicated in the New York Time’s piece on his address entitled His Mentor Turns on Bin Laden.
- Shaykh Muhammad Yusuf Islahi, a chief patron of Project WhyIslam from Pakistan and a very well known writer and orator of Urdu language, strongly condemned violent actions from terrorists in this message and pointed out that Islam, “condemns this act and sees this is as a wounding scar on the face of humanity. I appeal to Muslims to strongly condemn this act, express unity with the victims’ relatives, donate blood, money and do whatever it takes to help the affected people.”
- CNN posted an article entitled Study: Threat of Muslim-American terrorism in U.S. exaggerated. The study showed that “Muslim-American organizations and the vast majority of individuals that we interviewed firmly reject the radical extremist ideology that justifies the use of violence to achieve political ends.” The article also quotes Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology at UNC, stating, “Muslim-American communities have been active in preventing radicalization.” Also “it is the Muslim-American communities themselves who play a large role in keeping the number of radicalized members low through their own practices, according to the study. Leaders and Muslim-American organizations denounce violent acts, for instance, in messages that have weight within communities.”