Quran 5:33 Execute, Crucify or Cutting off hands and feet
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” 5:33 Quran
Peace on those who wish for Peace. Guidance to those who wish otherwise.
Few months back I received a list of verses from the Quran alleging that they propagate terrorism. I list them out here one by one in these series of articles with a hope of presenting the correct explanation and context of those verses. I openly state that my aim is to defend the Quran, truth as the truth and falsehood as falsehood.
Verse 5:33 quoted above DOES NOT incite Terrorsim or Violence of any sort for the following reasons –
- It is Quoted out of Context
- The Punishment prescribed is perfectly justified once you know the crime.
- The punishment is not linear. The nature of the scope of crime mentioned in the verse is not limited to a few specific named crimes but instead a wide range of crimes are inferred . The verse then mentions a set of punishments varying from a high to low severity proving again this point. Hence it is ignorant (or mischievous) to highlight only the severe punishments in a tone giving a false impression that “look this is the punishment for ALL crimes according to the Quran”.
- The aim of Punishment is to achieve public security and peace for the community as well as the retribution for the criminal minority.
- There is nothing barbaric about the verse once you know the kinds of punishment your own laws prescribe for similar crimes.
- The immediately following verse i,e 5:34 mentions a clear way out to the criminal to avoid the punishment which is the MOST LENIENT in comparison with the laws of any constitution of the world.
- The magnitude of “killing a life” or “saving a life” is explained in the highest standards in the verse immediately preceding this verse i.e 5:32 making it among the MOST PEACEFUL teachings for mankind.
1. Quran 5:33 is Quoted out of context
Once again this verse is quoted out of context. To understand this we should read verses before and after it. Also, it is important to realize that this verse comes in a legal context. Prophet Muhammad is laying down the law. The verse is not a parable or an illustration. It is intended to be carried out in real life, and it was then and it is today. There are severe conditions that need to be fulfilled for this verse to be implemented. One cannot simply cherry pick it and say Quran supports terrorism without comprehending the legal background. The context of this verse itself will clear any negative perceptions against Islam. One cannot quote verse 5:33 without quoting verse 5:32 (prohibition of murder) and verse 5:34 (command to forgive). Let us examine the verse in its proper context:
“Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidences, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits in the land!” –Quran 5:32
Your God shows us the highest standard of morality. He says “if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind.” and “if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” These are the teachings of peace and harmony. Then God answers the Question “who are the criminals who deserve this punishment?“. We should not simply brush aside the verse and merely concentrate on the punishment forgetting to look at why such a punishment is given.
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” -Quran 5:33
2. The Punishment prescribed in Quran 5:33 is perfectly justified once you know what the crime is.
If Quran is really the book of Your God, the God of the Universe and if Muhammad (peace on him) is really a Prophet from him, then what greater sin is there than those who wage war against God and one of his prophets! This is one of the greatest sins you can do.
But yes, if you do not believe that Quran is from God or in the Prophethood of Muhammad, peace on him, then this is an entirely different matter altogether and we are at crossroads with each other. Allah has prepared a special day called the Day of Judgment where he will raise each and every human being back to life and tell them the truth in the matters they differed. But yes, you may not believe that God would raise you up also. No matter.
God says in the Quran,
“They swear their strongest oaths by Allah, that Allah will not raise up those who die: Nay but it is a promise (binding) on Him in truth: but most among mankind realize it not. (They must be raised up), in order that He may make clear to them the Truth of that wherein they differ, and that those who disbelieved may realize that they were liars.” -Quran 16:38-39
Coming to verse 5:33, if you read the verse carefully you will notice that it puts several clauses for this punishment. It says “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land“. This is the first clause describing the gravity of the offense. This is punishment for “WAGING WAR“ against God and the Prophet of God and spreading evil and destruction. This is a crime amounting to declaration of War against the Creator which invariably also means a rebellion against all the laws which the creator has revealed for the harmony of the created. Speaking on a National context on a lesser degree this is equivalent to you waging war against your country. In modern terminology this would be considered as “high treason” or “terrorism” depending on the kind of media you have. Hence the Quranic verse prescribes punishment for such a severe offense of “terrorism” and hence the severity of the punishment. As Muhammad Asad, one of the translators of the Quran writes in his translation of the Quran on this verse:
“The present participle la-musrifun indicates their “continuously committing excesses” (i.e., crimes), and is best rendered as “they go on committing” them. In view of the preceding passages, these “excesses” obviously refer to crimes of violence and, in particular, to the ruthless killing of human beings.” – Asad, The Message of the Quran
It is quite shocking to see how many Islam-haters will place this verse under the heading of “inciting Muslims to kill and wage war”, whereas the verse commands nothing of this sort! In fact, it comes directly after a verse prohibiting murder in the highest possible way stating that anyone who takes one life is as if he has killed all mankind in the sight of Allah and if anyone saves someone’s life it is as if he has saved the life of all mankind! The Quran purposefully describes the gravity of the sin before describing the punishment. The crime of murder and committing terrorist activities is regarded as such a severe violation in Islam, that a severe retribution has been prescribed. Waging war against God’s prophet is tantamount to waging war against Our Creator Himself. It is ironic that Islam-haters will present this verse to justify their claim that Islam supports terrorism, whereas Muslim scholars have always presented this verse as proof that Islam is vehemently opposed to terrorism. For example, the Islamic Fiqh Council of Saudi Arabia writes about this verse:
“Obviously, in view of the enormity of such acts of aggression, which are viewed by the Islamic law as an act of war against the laws and the creatures of God, there is no stricter punishment anywhere in the manmade laws.” -Islamic Fiqh Council of Saudi Arabia, Terrorism – Islam’s viewpoint, Muslim World League Journal, Jumad al-Ula 1423/July 2002 CE
3. The punishment in Quran 5:33 is not linear.
The nature of the scope of crime mentioned in the verse is not limited to a few specific named crimes but instead a wide range of crimes are inferred. The verse then mentions a set of punishments varying from a high to low severity proving again this point. Hence it is ignorant (or mischievous) to highlight only the severe punishments in a tone giving a false impression that “look this is the punishment for ALL crimes according to the Quran”.
Is it logical to inform someone about a certain punishment without telling them about the crime?
Yet, this is exactly what few brethren of other faiths have done to deceive people into thinking that Islam is a violent religion. They cite only verse 5:33 without verse 5:32 or verse 5:34, which brings me to my next point. God has prescribed multiple punishments in this verse using the word “or” between them, indicating various alternatives. The punishment depends on the circumstances and severity of the offence. As Muhammad F. Malik writes in his translation of this verse:
“The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Rasool and strive to create mischief in the land is death or crucifixion or the cutting off their hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land (based on the gravity of their offence)… ” -Malik, Al-Qur’an: Guidance for Mankind
Likewise, Abdullah Yusuf Ali who is another translator of the Quran comments in his translation:
“For the double crime of treason against State, combined with treason against God, as shown by overt crimes, four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to circumstances…except that tortures such as “hanging, drawing, and quartering” in English Law, and piercing of eyes and leaving the unfortunate victim exposed to a tropical sun, which was practiced in Arabia, and all such tortures were abolished. In any case sincere repentance before it was too late was recognized as grounds for mercy.” -Yusuf Ali, The English Translation of the Holy Qur’an, emphasis added
Indeed, the verse AFTER 5:33 i.e 5:34 which was so conveniently skipped in the list of verses I received, immediately states that this punishment is not for those who repent. We will come to that.
4. The aim of Punishment in Quran 5:33 is to achieve public security and peace for the community as well as the retribution for the criminal minority
“Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra, in his previously mentioned book [Al-Jarima wal-‘Uqba, pp. 6-11], explains the aim of both Islamic law, as well as the sacred Jewish law contained in the Torah, is to achieve public security and peace for the community as well as the retribution for the criminal minority; accordingly, the necessary means for the attainment of this latter end were prescribed both in the Torah and the Qur’an. The second question concerns the law of pardon for offenders who repent and whether the punishment for Hirabah should be considered a dead letter because of this law. To answer this question, one should again bear in mind that this punishment, and indeed all the hudud punishments in the Islamic penal system, are prescribed mainly to protect society from crime. In order to achieve this purpose, Islamic law, while prescribing punishment for criminals, makes it possible for them to be pardoned when they realize the evil of their conduct and desire to mend their ways…. While punishment may be withheld, provision must be made for all the injuries and harm resulting from the criminal’s act. In this way, society does not lose anything. On the contrary, it gains a new member who, if he had not been given the chance to repent, forever would have been considered an outlaw.” -El-Awa, Punishment in Islamic Law; US American Trust Publications, 1993, p. 13, emphasis added
5. There is nothing barbaric about Quran 5:33 once you know the kinds of punishment your own laws prescribe for similar crimes.
English Criminal Code of 18th Century Prescribed MORE BARBARIC PUNISHMENT FOR LESSER CRIMES
Shaykh Abdul Majid Daryabadi writes the following on verse 5:33:
“Lest some of these penalties may appear ‘barbarous’ to some hypersensitive Western reader, let him cast a glance on ‘drawing and quartering’, a penalty of the English Criminal Code maintained as late as the 18th century, inflicted on those found guilty of high treason touching the king’s person or government. The person committed was usually drawn on a sledge to the place of execution; there he was hung by the neck from a scaffold, being cut down and disemboweled, while still alive, his head was cut from his body and his corpse divided into four quarters. With the profession of their faith declared as high treason by law many Catholics of England and Ireland suffered this death. ‘In this reign of Henry III and Edward I there is abundant evidence that death was the common punishment of felony; and this continued to be the law of the land as to treason and as to all felonies, except petty larceny, down to the year 1826’ (Stephen, History of the Criminal Law of England, I. p. 458). In contemporary English law, robbery is larceny with violence; and the guilty is liable to penal servitude for life, and in addition, if a male, to be once privately whipped. The elements of the offence are essentially the same under American law (EBr. XIX. p. 346).” -Daryabadi, The Glorious Qur’an, emphasis added
6. The immediately following verse i,e Quran 5:34 mentions a clear way out to the criminal to avoid the punishment which is the MOST LENIENT in comparison with the laws of any constitution of the world.
“Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” -Quran 5:34
“Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”. God’s infinite Mercy is truly clear when one considers that God is willing to forgive these ruthless acts of terror that deserve such harsh punishments, so long as the offender sincerely repents to Allah, seeking His Pardon and True Guidance. The repentance should be for the sake of realization of the crime and sincerity and not to escape for fear of punishment. This is the pinnacle of divine Mercy which is not present in the constitutions of any country of the world wherein once a criminal is established as guilty, the punishment is meted out and maybe slightly lessened if pleaded guilty but never a complete pardon. With this verse the Quran provides an opportunity for social reform for the criminal and a window to purify the soul and to continue seeking the good countenance of God almighty. The Muslim scholars have mentioned that whenever Allah warns us of a punishment, He always shows us a way out, a way to avoid the punishment. Many Muslim jurists also cite this verse in the case of punishment for Hirabah (armed robbery/highway robbery). In such instances, depending on the severity of the offence, the punishment is prescribed. When murder has been committed, then execution is prescribed as the punishment. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may choose a lesser punishment.
7. The magnitude of “killing a life” or “saving a life” is explained in the highest standards in the verse immediately preceding this verse i.e Quran 5:32 making it among the MOST PEACEFUL teachings for mankind.
According to the Quran, the last and the latest revelation from your Creator, The sin of KILLING ONE PERSON is equal to KILLING ALL MANKIND and the reward of SAVING ONE PERSON is equal to the reward of SAVING ALL MANKIND
“…anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind…” –Quran 5:32
Any Muslim who sincerely follows these verses would be as far away as possible from unjustly taking any life because he knows that his Lord is strict and he cannot escape his punishment. If he dies after killing someone unjustly then death is but a prelude to the beginning of his punishment which is as if he has killed all Mankind. Likewise if he will eagerly look for the opportunity to SAVE LIVES as he knows that his Lord will give him incalculable reward as much as the reward of saving ALL MANKIND for as many times as many lives he has saved. In the Quran he has been told repeatedly that his Creator is the MOST BENEFICENT and MOST MERCIFUL. In fact every chapter of the Noble Quran begins with these verses constantly reminding us of the nature of our Creator encouraging to do good and to shun evil.
O Dear reader, is there any reward for good other than good? A revelation from heaven is not necessary to answer this. Yet God in his last book clarifies this in the following verse rhetorically asking you the same question and affirming the answer thereby.
“Is the reward for good [anything] but good?
So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” – Quran 55:60-61
In light of all the above mentioned points, we can clearly reject any claims of the verse 5:33 supporting “violence and warfare or terrorism” as baseless. The textual context, historical context, legal context, and comparative analysis of this verse all demonstrate that this verse enjoins perfect justice in return for grave offences, is preluded by the most peaceful verses that explain what it means to “take a life” or “save a life” and is followed by a verse which gives a way out to the criminal to avoid the punishment by way of repentance and thus by no means can support the lies of the deviants.
These are verses of Peace, Justice and Mercy and not Terrorism.
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