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States who have the death penalty for murder tend to have a common way of executing the offender, such as the electric chair, lethal injection, firing squad, decapitation etc.

What are Islam's teachings on this? Is there freedom to choose the method or are there any restrictions?

2 Answers 2

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The punishment for murder comes under the category of Qisas (retaliation). There are different schools of thought on the method of taking Qisas for a life:

  • The madhab of the Hanafis and Hanbalis is that Qisas can only be taken with the sword by which the the culprit is to be swiftly killed. They base their view on the hadith:

    لا قود إلا بالسيف

    There is no retaliation except with the sword

    Ibn Majah

    And also based on the fact that some of the other methods of execution are a form of Muthla (torturous mutilation) which is forbidden. And they claim that Qisas is not an exception to this.

    عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه نهى عن النهبة والمثلة

    The Prophet ﷺ forbade mutilation.

    Bukhari

    لا يعذب بالنار إلا رب النار

    No one punishes with fire except the Lord of the fire.

    Abu Dawud

    فإذا قتلتم فأحسنوا القتلة

    So when you kill, kill in a good way

    Muslim

  • The madhab of the Malikis and Shafi'is and one alternate opinion among the Hanbalis is that the murderer is to be killed in the same way as he killed the victim. That is unless the guardian of the victim decides to be lenient and uses a sword instead. For example if the murder was committed by burning, shooting, drowning, bludgeoning or strangulation etc. then the same method will be used to execute the culprit.

    They base their view on the apparent meaning of the following verses of the Quran:

    والحرمات قصاص فمن اعتدى عليكم فاعتدوا عليه بمثل ما اعتدى عليكم

    For [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you.

    Quran 2:194

    وجزاء سيئة سيئة مثلها

    And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it

    Quran 42:40

    وإن عاقبتم فعاقبوا بمثل ما عوقبتم به

    And if you punish, punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed.

    Quran 16:126

    And the hadith, which shows that the Prophet ﷺ executed a murderer in the same way that he had committed the murder:

    أن يهوديا، رض رأس جارية بين حجرين ... فأخذ اليهودي فاعترف، فأمر به النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فرض رأسه بين حجرين‏

    A Jew crushed the head of a girl between two stones. ... The Jew was captured and when he confessed, the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered that his head be crushed between two stones.

    Bukhari

    They claim that the evidence of the other madhab is weak or is not applicable to Qisas.

    Note that this 'like for like' punishment does not apply when the method of killing involves using something haram such as wine or sodomy. In this case the retaliation is to be done by the sword.


Ref: الفقه الإسلامي وأدلته للزحيلي

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Generally it is decapitation. But the ruler or judge of the country could apply alternate methods depending on the conditions.

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