Before speaking about law and punishment in Islam, some premises must be introduced regarding Islamic jurisprudence.
Islamic ideology stipulates that God is the main source of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ law. These laws were revealed to all of the Divinely sent messengers in different eras and geographical places, according to the intellectual progress of the various societies.
Thus, upon the coming of the Quran, God’s laws were culminated as the universal legislation to guide mankind. Therefore, Islamic law is not only bound by time or place, the laws are designed to cater to the different needs of humanity until the end of time.
The Islamic law of punishment is based on prevention, not retribution. Islam seeks to prevent criminal acts before they happen in order to maintain the peace of society. These laws are dynamic in that they are everlasting and are not bound by individualistic interests, and the laws of Islam take into consideration the general interest of society. God speaks about the punishment of criminals by saying,
“O you who believe, the law of equality in punishment is prescribed for you in case of murder, but if the killer is forgiven by the relatives of the killed against blood money, then adhering to it with fairness and payment of the blood money to the heir should be made in fairness. This is alleviation and a mercy from your Lord” (2:178).
Islam tries to combat crime and terror actively; however, it leaves room for mercy and forgiveness, emphasizing the human nature of people to commit unlawful acts. Islam teaches its followers to learn mercy and forgiveness from their Lord.
Islamic law is subject to the inherited rights of life. In order for the Islamic law to be judged and administered properly, all aspects (rights) of life have to be available for people as a whole in order for the judicial system to be incorporated.
Islam commands societies and individuals alike to promote social justice, equality, and to maintain distribution of wealth, and thus, Islamic rule can only be applied when a society has adequate food, shelter, clothing, and employment. Furthermore, Islamic rule is only possible if an equal opportunity for education is possible. It is also important for matrimony to be possible. The Islamic system of governance endeavors to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots and only when these orders are in place does Islam then stand firmly against any person who attempts to terrorize or jeopardize the safety and security of society.