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For certain actions, e.g. murder, Sharia may prescribe the death penalty, which is implemented in some Muslim-majority countries. This opens the possibility that an innocent person could be mistakenly executed. This situation could be regarded as murder, and hence might attract the death penalty too.

Question: What is the punishment when innocent people are incorrectly executed under Sharia, and who is punished?

It seems possible that there is no punishment, since the hypothetical incorrect execution was a mistake. However, that feels unjust.

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  • This is a great question; I'm not sure how it is handled in any legal system, but I would expect that the question of whether an appeal is possible - which may not be the case under sharia - is a determining factor of how unjust it would be not to punish someone. Matters of "humans are not infallible" and "if the burden of proof was met and the judges ruled based on that, then this is as much justice as we can expect". Similarly unsatisfying outcomes happen with crimes that cannot be proven, which is often the case e.g. in rape cases.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 21:23
  • Well in this life we cannot punish nor recover a death person so this is up to Allah. Shari'a law can only apply to the living people, that means that if later we knew this person was innocent we may punish the guilty person and anybody involved in such an injustice would be punished according their crime. And of course a financial compensation (diyya) for the innocent would have to be paid ... is this what you ask about?
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 7:58
  • Yes, that's what I'm asking about. (It seems to be complicated by it being an execution, though.) Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 8:17
  • So I guess you mean should the executor or the person whom ordered this execution pay etc. sounds challenging! in first place I think a death penalty shouldn't be spoken out that easily. As for example if you check the adultery issue it is quasi impossible to get the needed 4 witnesses for such an act, but for killing in cases you'll at least have witnesses. I'm not sure whether I'll be able to write an answer this year my to do list is getting longer :).
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 14:23
  • Excellent question! Thanks for the bounty G. Bach - looked at some of your posts and must say you are doing a terrific job.!
    – novice
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 15:47

2 Answers 2

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For certain actions, e.g. murder, Sharia may prescribe the death penalty, which is implemented in some Muslim-majority countries. This opens the possibility that an innocent person could be mistakenly executed. This situation could be regarded as murder, and hence might attract the death penalty too.


The judge who mistakenly gives the verdict to execute the innocent person won't get punished if he tried his best to judge justly. The prophet said:

'Amr b. al-'As reported that he heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: When a judge gives a decision, having tried his best to decide correctly and is right, there are two rewards for him; and if he gave a judgment after having tried his best (to arrive at a correct decision) but erred, there is one reward for him.

And if the person is executed because of false witness then those liars will have to pay him back by taking the innocents bad deeds or giving their good deeds to the innocent in the hereafter. In other words, his chances of going to paradise will hugely increase.

Umm Salama reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:

You bring to me, for (judgment) your disputes, some of you perhaps being more eloquent in their plea than others, so I give judgment on their behalf according to what I hear from them. (Bear in mind, in my judgment) if I slice off anything for him from the right of his brother, he should not accept that, for I sliced off for him a portion from the Hell.

Umm Salama, the wife of Allah's Apostle (ﷺ), reported that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) heard the clamour of contenders at the door of his apartment. He went to them, and said: I am a human being and the claimants bring to me (the dispute) and perhaps some of them are more eloquent than the others. I judge him to be on the right, and thus decide in his favcur. So he whom I, by my judgment, (give the undue share) out of the right of a Muslim,. I give him a portion of Fire; he may burden himself with it or abandon it.

https://sunnah.com/muslim/30

It is important to note that the judgement entirely depends on the judges knowledge and skills. If incompetent judges are given the power (which is happening in many Muslim majority countries) to judge, the chances of judging wrongly increases. With the use of current technology, I think it would be extremely rare for a knowledgeable judge to judge wrongly.

Currently, mistakes in judging seems to be related to lack of commitment by law enforcement forces. They can do it correctly but they don't because that takes more money. If intelligence services are utilised to solve complex cases, there wouldn't be much mistakes in judging.

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    "With the use of current technology, I think it would be extremely rare for a knowledgeable judge to judge wrongly." Would that be in accordance with sharia? I have seen fatawa that reject the use of DNA evidence in rape cases, so this seems to need some qualification/elaboration.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 19:52
  • @G.Bach " I have seen fatawa that reject the use of DNA evidence in rape cases, so this seems to need some qualification/elaboration." That's the Whahabi view. It's all over the internet. Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 20:27
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This depends on the reason why a death sentence was passed in the first place. Such verdicts are typically given based on testimony of witnesses. The following possibilities exist:

  • The witnesses lied and the judge was unaware. In this case it is a form of intentional murder through indirect means ( قتل بسبب ). According to the Shafi'is, Hanbalis and some Malikis the witnesses would be killed in Qisas. According to the Hanafis and Malikis the witnesses would rather have to pay blood money to the heirs of the victim since it is not a direct murder, further a Ta'zir might apply to them.

  • The witnesses made a mistake. In this case it is a form of unintentional murder. They will pay blood money to the heirs of the victim.

  • The witnesses lied and the judge knew that. In this case it is a form of intentional murder by the judge. The judge would be killed in Qisas.

The evidence for this is the report:

أن رجلين أتيا عليا رضي الله عنه فشهدا على رجل أنه سرق، فقطع علي رضي الله عنه يده، ثم أتياه بآخر فقالا: هذا الذي سرق، وأخطأنا على الأول فلم يجز شهادتهما على الآخر، وغرمهما دية يد الأول، وقال: لو أعلمكما تعمدتما لقطعتكما

Two men came to Ali (ibn Abi Talib) and testified that a person had stolen. So Ali had the alleged theif's hand amputated (according to the Hadd of theft). Later they came back with another man and said: We made a mistake, rather this man is the thief.

So he denied their testimony against the second person. And made them pay blood money for the hand of the first person. And he said: "If I knew that you had done this intentionally then I would have amputated the hands of both of you."

Sunan al-Kubra Bayhaqi , Sunan al-Daraqutni , Bukhari (Mu‘allaq report before hadith 6896)

Ref: https://islamqa.info/ar/answers/269852 and https://islamqa.info/ar/answers/300372/

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