The Secret Beyond Matter

Capital punishment is a violation of human rights and must be eliminated

Abdul Kader Mullah, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party recently sentenced to life imprisonment in Bangladesh, applied to the court of appeal and was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court while waiting for the ruling to be overturned. This sentence of death, due to be carried out quietly, has been exposed to the eyes of the world, particularly as a result of our reactions in  social media. The Bangladeshi government therefore postponed the sentence for one day and sought to gain time by saying it would be reconsidered by the court. At the court hearing one day later, the defense was heard solely as a formality, and the sentence of death was again imposed without any additional counsel being sought. Head of state Sheikh Hasina announced via Twitter that all the members of the Jamaat-e-Islami, denounced as  war criminals on the grounds of having collaborated with Pakistan during the war of independence in 1971, would suffer the same fate and stated that Bangladesh is a secular country. However, capital punishment is a terrible practice diametrically opposed to secularism; it survives only in states that operate as empires of fear.

It is not a punishment that allows the culprit to repent, to amend his ways or to learn from the past; once a person is dead, there is no way he can learn from the past, repent or amend his ways. If the aim is the security of society, the same or better outcomes can be achieved with life imprisonment or through rehabilitation.

Capital punishment is an outmoded form of punishment that savage societies, devoid of any religious or moral values, used to regard as the only solution and that brings no happiness to the societies that enforce it. On the contrary, it turns those communities into brutal ones that seek to resolve all problems by killing, and it is always those states themselves that suffer the penalty. Sheikh Hasina may imagine that capital punishment can enforce discipline in her country. However, executions will always worsen the anger in a community, government supporters will always seek to achieve their ends through state-sanctioned homicide, and that scourge  will inevitably rebound against the government itself. This can be better understood from a brief look at the countries in which capital punishment is still official policy.

Capital punishment is an outrage that cannot be softened by any calming words such as “sentencing law” or “social order”. Muslim countries in particular should avoid this. Islam regards killing as a sin and teaches that killing one person is the same as killing all mankind. Some people may object to these words by citing verses about restitution from the Qur’an. However, what Allah truly desires and finds pleasing is forgiveness:

You who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the case of people killed: free man for free man, slave for slave, female for female. But if someone is absolved by his brother, blood-money should be claimed with correctness and paid with good will. That is an easement and a mercy from your Lord. Anyone who goes beyond the limits after this will receive a painful punishment. (Surat al-Baqara, 178)

The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. But if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah. Certainly He does not love wrongdoers. (Surat al-Shu’ra, 199)

As these verses from the Qur’an clearly show, the important thing is to forgive and reform. The death penalty does away with the religious duty of forgiveness. It eliminates any possibility  of reformation and  reintegration in society. The education that should be given in respect  to the   criminal in Muslim societies should be as described in this verse:

Make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant.  (Surat al-Ar’af, 199)

Therefore, what needs to be done in the view of Islam is first to forgive the guilty party and then teach him the fine moral virtues of Islam. To construct and enforce such a savage system as capital punishment, which is more a matter of  revenge than justice, in order to gain votes or to avoid having to look after people sentenced to life imprisonment is a grave sin in the eyes of Islam.

For that reason, all countries, including Bangladesh, must speedily abolish the death penalty. All death sentences must be commuted to life imprisonment as a matter of urgency; that is what is compatible with Islam and social order. The death sentence handed down to Abdul Kader Mullah in Bangladesh, which may be enforced at any moment today, must be lifted at once. Otherwise, such death sentences will continue to be silently handed down and silently enforced. Such savagery must not be allowed to continue, particularly in a country such as Bangladesh, which has serious flaws in its legal system. It needs to be known that if Mullah is put to death, the turmoil in Bangladeshi society will increase and that this will be followed in turn by new death sentences. That is why a loud campaign needs to be started so that all institutions can make their voices heard and so that death sentences can be halted not only in Bangladesh, but throughout  the world. We urgently await your support. 

2013-12-12 15:59:11

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