How should we understand "tit for tat"? Where can qisas (retaliation) be applied? What are its boundaries?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Qisas is explained to be fard as follows in the Quran:

“O ye who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.

In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves." (al-Baqara, 2/178-179)

Qisas actually eliminates a life that has deserved to be punished but it is also the biggest sanction against eliminating life. A deterring decree like qisas is a guarantee of the community and life of a person. Thus, you will protect both your worldly and otherworldly life. 

According to the verses above, qisas is fard. As for its application today, Allah’s decrees are valid up to the Day of Judgment. Therefore, it is not possible to say qisas cannot be applied today.

This decree is the duty of the administrators who rule people. Ordinary people have no responsibility because of it.

The explanation of the verse:

The following is stated to explain the goodness of qisas: The law of equality is prescribed to you… In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding! Thus, do not think that qisas is something bad that does not fit Allah's justice and mercy. Accept the concise statement "there is life in qisas" as an essential law.  

It will be a great virtue if you forgive after you accept that law. Otherwise, it is oppression and murder to exceed the limits of qisas and kill, torture and resort to other inflictions like Arabs do; similarly, it is a big murder that will remove the right to live from humanity to say Allah’s decree in the face of murder is forgiving.

Qisas is a necessity of protecting the right to live and the soul. There is great life in the legitimation of qisas for the people of understanding. The value of forgiving is based on this. Qisas itself eliminates a life but the legitimation of qisas, which is the opposite of life, is also the biggest sanction of right to live against eliminating a life unjustly:

1. First of all, it causes people to protect life strongly in terms of both the one who wants to kill and the one who is aimed to be killed. For, if a person who wants to kill knows that he himself will be killed when he kills somebody, he will rationally give up killing. Thus, both he and the person he wants to kill will continue to live.    

2. There is also a guarantee for the right to life of the general public in it in addition to the two. For, preventing killing like this is a guarantee for the continuation and safety of the people who are thought to be closely related to these two people along with those two people. Killing can cause hostility and mischief between the relatives of the murderer and the person who is murdered; and this can lead to large fights (blood feuds).

For the people of understanding, the legitimacy of this justified qisas that will prevent this killing will be a guarantee for the life of the society and the right to live since it will prevent all this mischief and excitement. These benefits do not exist in the case of aggressive killings that are not justified and the obligation of forgiveness.

Thus, the legitimacy of qisas is such an important cause of life; the concise statement "there is life in qisas" is a laconic saying that is very eloquent and a concise law. Arab men of letters and scholars of rhetoric accept that this statement expresses a great reality in a few words. For, Arabs had some similar sayings before that regarding the issue. Some of them are as follows:  

a) "To kill some people means to revive the community." 

b) "Kill a lot so that killing will decrease."

The saying that they regarded the best among them was this one:

c) "Killing eliminates killing. That is, what eliminates killing the most is killing."

However, it is clear and unanimously agreed that the principle "there is life in qisas" is much more eloquent and expressive than the saying above in several aspects:

1. First of all, it is shorter and more concise than the others. 

2. It does not have repetitions.

3. The literary art called paradox (oxymoron) appears in the best and most reasonable way in it but it is in the form of unreasonable contradiction in the others.

Nonexistence of killing being shown as the reason for killing and killing a lot for scarcity of killing appears to be showing something as a reason for its nonexistence. There is no wisdom in it though there is an air of poetry according to some people.

4. Qisas is more general than killing in one aspect and more special in another aspect.  It is general because it includes injuries too; it is special because qisas is not applied in all killings; and not all killings prevent killing. On the contrary, killing in the form of attacks cause chaos by increasing mischief.  

In that case, unless the word "killing" is used for a type of killing, that is qisas, with the addition of the definite article “al” (the), the saying will not be valid. In that case, injuries are excluded from qisas. Therefore, the statement "there is life in qisas" is more eloquent in three aspects because it is sound, clear and more comprehensive in all aspects.

5. Nonexistence is a negative aim. Life is a desired, positive aim. Nonexistence of killing is desired since it includes the existence of life. Therefore, the verse is great since it indicates the positive aim, which is the essential target, and attracts attention to it.

6. Since the word "life" is used without “al” (the/definite article), it indicates great life, public life, otherworldly life and the greatness of right to live. The others are deprived of this legal and religious secret, which is quite scholarly.

The superiority of this saying of the Quran to the others in terms of several aspects and its concise expression became one of the reasons that fascinated Arab men of letters. The nice aspects of the legitimacy of qisas were expressed by Allah with this principle.   

Qisas, which is very important in terms of having such vital good aspects and aims, was rendered fard for you so that you would be able to be protected and you would keep your life and right to live without neglecting or misusing qisas and so that you would attain salvation in the hereafter by avoiding bad deeds in this world. (see Elmalılı H. YAZIR, the interpretation of the verse in question)

Questions on Islam

Author:
Questions on Islam
Subject Categories:
Read 75 times
In order to make a comment, please login or register