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Restorative justice in Islam: Should qisas be considered a form of restorative justice?

Oct 22, 2012

abstract of the article by Susan C. Hascall published in the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law:

The restorative justice movement challenges conventional approaches to sentencing and punishment by involving the victim, community, and perpetrator in sentencing. The movement is characterized by an emphasis on the restoration of relationships, healing and rehabilitation. 

Like the restorative justice movement, Islamic law embraces a conception of justice that involves healing relationships. Shari’ah, the religious law of Islam, is based on Islamic teachings on justice and divine revelation. In classical Shari’ah jurisprudence, crimes are divided into several categories, which do not easily correspond to the categories defined in modern Western law. 

One of these categories, the crimes of qisas, is distinctive in that it gives the victim and his/her family final decision making power in punishment for physical wounding and murder. Although the victim(s) may choose retaliation in kind, payment, or forgiveness, emphasis is placed on the latter. 

This paper explores whether (1) qisas is a form of restorative justice (2) whether restorative justice adherents should examine the qisas processes for inspiration or methodology.

This paper begins by discussing the ideology behind the restorative justice movement and then proceeds to describe the classical Islamic law of qisas. Subsequently, examples of modern codes incorporating the law of qisas are provided. One of these exemplars highlighted within the text, particularly demonstrative of the abovementioned amalgamation, is northern Nigeria. 

The article concludes by emphasizing that, irrespective of the option for retaliation in kind, enough similarities and goals in the approaches of classical qisas jurisprudence, as exemplified in the modern codes of northern Nigeria, restorative justice scholars should examine qisas. There is also a calling for further field research on the processes of qisas in modern Shari’ah-based criminal jurisprudence.

Read the full article. 

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