Vendetta and whether the retaliation exacted for a crime committed against a woman is the same
A fight broke out between the families of Ghazala and Mekkawi. During the fight, a woman from the Ghazali family was shot by a man from the rival family and died a few days later in the hospital. Consequently, her children killed her murderer and the matter was thus settled in 1986. The questions are:
- Is the retaliation exacted for a crime committed against a woman the same as that for a man, taking into account that she is a human being like him?
- What is the stance of Islamic law if members of both families exchange shrouds?
Allah the Almighty prescribed retribution to deter a would-be murderer from threatening the life of others, encroaching upon their rights and security, and spreading corruption and chaos upon the earth. Without retribution, the consequence of murder would inevitably be moral collapse, a disturbance in the essence of the social structure and a distrust in Divine legislation to provide peace and security on earth which man has been commanded to administer and on which he has been enjoined to implement the prescribed legal penalties. Allah the Almighty says,In the Law of Equality there is (saving of life) to you. O ye men of understanding
that ye may restrain yourselves. [Al-Baqarah, 179]
Several means for saving lives can be deduced from the above verse, such as:
- Lives are saved by deterring the culprit from committing the crime in the first place.
Whoever knows for certain that he will pay the price of his crime with his life, will surely pause to reflect and hesitate before committing it.
- In the case of murder, if the victim's relatives choose to remit the punishment, a life will be saved by their good will and unwillingness to submit to hatred and a desire for revenge. Revenge knew no bounds among the tribes of Arabia who waged intermittent battles sometimes for as long as forty years such as the well known war of Basus. Similarly at our present times, family feuds and hostilities leading to massacres continue for generations.
- Lives are saved in a general and more inclusive sense. Taking the life of one person is tantamount to taking the life of the whole people. If the threat of retribution deters the offender from spilling the blood of a single person, then it is as if he is deterred from killing the whole people. This is therefore equivalent to saving life in its general sense and not merely that of a single person, family, or community.
Retribution is not prescribed for merely any kind of killing, but only for intentional murder and under certain conditions laid down by scholars.
1- The life of a man for a woman; this is the opinion of the majority of scholars whohave based their opinion on the words of Allah the Almighty Who says,We ordained therein for them: "Life for a life." [Al-Ma`ida: 45]
In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) life to you. O ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.[Al-Baqarah: 179]
The rulings encoded in the above verses are general unless there is textual evidence to restrict them and due to the report of Abu Bakr Ibn Mohammed Ibn Amr Ibn Hazm who narrated from his father through his grandfather who said, "The Messenger of Allah wrote a letter to the people of Yemen which included, "The life of a man for a woman" [Recorded by 'Abdul-Razzaq, al-Daraqutni and others]. Since both a man and a woman receive the same punishment for accusing another of adultery if they do not produce any witnesses (qadhf), the law of retaliation would apply to both genders without discrimination.
2- No one may exact retribution himself but must defer the matter to the concerned court to fulfill its conditions.
3- Nothing has been mentioned in either the primary texts nor indicated by the practice of our pious predecessors concerning the permissibility of exchanging shrouds between rival families. It is a novel custom indicating a truce. As such, there is no objection to it in Islamic law.
Retaliation is waived when one of the following occurs:
• The victim's family or one of them (provided he is an adult and sane) pardons the offender;
• The offender dies before retribution is exacted against him.
Waiving retribution renders the payment of blood money obligatory except if the victim's family forgo their right to it.
Allah the Almighty knows best