Question: Does Islam Approve Of Honour Killings Of Women?
Islam strongly prohibits the killing of any person without lawful reasons. Islamic teachings do not allow any person to take the law into their own hands and to commit murder, no matter what justification is used. Although Islam does impose the capital punishment for certain crimes, no one person can act as the accuer, judge and executioner. This would lead to a complete breakdown of society, as any person would be able to commit murder and then claim that they had valid reasons for doing so. Therefore, Islam has instituted a very specific system of implementing the law. Islam requires that a judge hear the case of both the accuser and the accused, and to listen to witnesses before making any judgement. This ensures that society operates based on the rule of law such that justice is established.
The following statements from the holy Quran demonstrate how strongly Islam prohibits murder:
"Whoever kills a believer intentionally, their reward will be Hell, to abide therein forever, and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon them, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for them." (Holy Quran, Chapter 4, Verse 93)
"On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone kills a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if they killed all people. And if any one saved a life, it would be as if they saved the life of all people." (Holy Quran, Chapter 5, Verse 32)
The practice of so-called "honour killing" is in reality an act of murder. It is usually carried out against a female family member who is seen by relatives as dishonoring their family through real or perceived acts of indiscretion, such as premarital sexual relations or unapproved dating. In many cases of "honour killing", the accused woman is innocent, and is killed purely based on suspicion. In other cases, the issue of "honour" is used as a cover to justify a murder that was really committed for other purposes. No matter what the reason is, "honour killing" is a despicable crime.
There is absolutely no justification in Islam for "honour killing" of women or men. Those who commit these crimes can expect hellfire as their punishment, in addition to the wrath and anger of God, as the previous verse from the holy Quran describes. These types of killings are quite simply murder crimes, and should be prosecuted as such. No society, Muslim or otherwise, should tolerate such extrajudicial murder. This is especially true if these murders are carried out in the name of Islam or any other religion. There is no justification or leniency in Islamic teachings for such murder crimes. Those who commit these crimes are either ignorant of Islamic teachings, or they try to invoke religion to get lenient treatment. In both cases, they must be punished as murderers in order to establish justice and in order to act as a deterrent to those who would consider committing such crimes.
There is no historical background in Islam for "honour killing". No verse in the holy Quran and no saying of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) sanctions such crimes. There were no cases of "honour killing" during the early period of Islam. This is a concept that seems to have appeared only recently, and is based only upon ignorance of the true teachings of Islam, and perhaps some ancient customs that pre-date Islam.
Islam does prescribe strict and sometimes even severe punishments for certain crimes (Please review the question: Why Does Islam Impose Strict Punishments On Crimes Such As Adultry And Robbery?). However, Islam places a great burder of proof on the accuser to prove their accusations. Otherwise, no conviction and no punishment can occur. Proving a case of fornication or adultery in court under Islam is extremely difficult. Islamic law requires either a confession by those who committed the crime, or the testimony of four witnesses. These four witnesses must have seen the act of fornication by their own eyes. This makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for a court of law under Islam to find people guilty of fornication or adultery.
Islam has prescribed these punishments as a deterrent, and as a way to demonstrate to people how ugly these crimes are and how hated they are in the sight of God. Islam intended to prevent crime from happening in the first place, as much as possible, rather than punish people after it is too late and the crime has already occured.
Therefore, although Islam does prescribe 100 lashes for fornication (sexual relations between unmarried people), and death by stoning for adultery (married people who have sexual relations outside of marriage), these punishments are not really meant to be performed as much as they are meant to make these crimes hated in the eyes of the society in order to minimize their occurance. The only practical way for these punishments to be performed in Islam is by confession of the guilty person. In these cases, Islam teaches that those who receive these punishments during their life will have their sins wiped away and will not have to face punishment for these crimes in the afterlife. However, Islam strongly recommends that Muslims who commit crimes repent, regret their mistakes and not to tell others about what they have done. Those who truly and sincerely repent to God, regret their sins and commit themselves to never repeating them again, God will forgive their sins and wipe them away. This is demonstrated by the following verses:
"Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor kill lives which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause, nor commit fornication, and any person that does this meets punishment, and their penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled, and they will dwell therein in ignominy, unless they repent, believe and perform righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Holy Quran, Chapter 25, Verse 68)
Of course, the question arises that if Islam does not sanction or justify "honour killing", then why does it occur? There are many reasons. As stated earlier, in religious societies, religion is invoked by people in order to gain sympathy from others in their society. Therefore, murderers may try to invoke religion to justify their actions. However, this does not mean that their religion approves of their action. It is just a desperate attempt by them to justify their horrible action and to get lenient treatment.
Another reason may be ignorance. Many cases of "honour killing" are carried out by people who are ignorant of Islam. They are not aware of the teachings of Islam, and they confuse local customs and traditions with Islam. It is likely that these people commit their crimes due to anger, outrage, and a perceived loss of honour, and then try to justify their barbarity to themselves and to others using religion.
Perhaps the most common reason for "honour killings" is jealousy, by men who discover that their wife has committed adultery or is having a relationship with another man. In these instances, rage, jealousy and revenge are the real motives for the crime.
These "crimes of passion" are not limited to Muslims only. As an example, in the United States there are approximately 1,200 women killed every year by their husbands or intimate partners. This demonstrates that these crimes occur in every nation and in every society, regardless of religion, race or language. These crimes must be condemned and punished by every society, and especially by Muslim societies, as one of the main aims of Islamic law is the protection of the sanctity of life.