Islamic Criminal Law in the News Roundup

We at the Islamic Law Blog publish weekly “Islamic Law in the News Roundups,” where we curate news about Islamic criminal law, on an ongoing basis. We note increasing news of excessively harsh interpretations and applications. This resource roundup is designed to place some of the history and politics of those interpretations and applications in broad context, with the caveat that each instance requires close analysis of the politics, structures, and norms that govern individual decisions and choices in each society.

Below is a compilation of some of the news blurbs we have gathered throughout the years, and which we regularly update.

  • “A 20-year-old woman in Sudan has been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, marking the first known case in the northeast African country for a decade.”
  • “A Saudi national has been sentenced to death for smuggling banned amphetamine tablets near the country’s northern border with Jordan, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday citing the Ministry of Interior.”
  • Human rights groups have called attention to certain inmates in Iran convicted of theft, who “are at imminent risk of having their fingers amputated” according to Iran’s interpretation and application of Islamic criminal law.
  • A Nigerian woman was murdered by a mob for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet. Asked to comment on blasphemy in Islamic criminal law and its punishment, Editor-in-Chief, Professor Intisar Rabb noted that historically blasphemy was equated with treason or sedition, or a decisive departure from membership in the Muslim community, and concluded: “Therefore, it is not mere blasphemy that warrants the death penalty, but rather only when it is combined with acts of treason and sedition.”
  • While many Afghans continue to fear the harsh interpretation and application of Islamic criminal law by the Taliban, some have also commented that law enforcement under the Taliban is markedly less corrupt compared to the previous national police force “under the U.S-backed government of the past 20 years.”
  • Following the Taliban‘s rise to power, many law students and lawyers from Afghanistan have reported that “[i]t is not the application of Islamic criminal law that frightens [them], it is that it is applied without due process.”
  • Haroun Rahimi, a self-exiled Afghan who was a professor of law at Kabul University, noted that “the Taliban’s enforcement of their criminal laws and their resolution of private disputes are a mixture of the Hanafi school and also of tribal codes, or a local cultural understanding.”
  • Afghanistan’s supreme leader has ordered judges to fully enforce aspects of Islamic law that include public executions, stonings and floggings, and the amputation of limbs for thieves, the Taliban’s chief spokesman said.
  • “Nineteen people in northeastern Afghanistan were lashed for adultery, theft and running away from home, a Supreme Court official said Sunday.” “The lashings took place on 11 November in a mosque in presence of clerics, elders and other citizens.”
  • Taliban on Friday, Nov 18 publicly flogged a boy and a girl for having a pre-marital affair in Bamyan,” with one Taliban spokesperson commenting “they [i.e. judges] must not hesitate in giving Hadd and Qisas punishments.”
  • “Three women and 11 men were flogged [recently] on the orders of an Afghan court after they were found guilty of theft and ‘moral crimes,’ a provincial official said.”
  • “The Taliban’s Supreme Leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has issued a decree allowing his government’s courts and other prosecution authorities to enforce strict Islamic laws across the country. The Supreme Leader’s decree gives judges in Afghanistan the authority to impose severe sentences for specific offenses and crimes, which may include public stoning and amputation.”
  • The Taliban regime has been implementing its own interpretation of Islamic criminal law, which includes public executions and stonings, some of which take place before the public.
  • “The Taliban authorities on Wednesday executed an Afghan convicted of killing another man, the first public execution since the ultra-conservative former insurgents took over Afghanistan last year, a spokesman said.”
  • “The Afghan Taliban flogged 27 people, including women, in front of a large crowd on Thursday, a day after publicly executing a convicted murderer for the first time since they returned to power last year.”
  • “Nine men were lashed in public in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday [January 17, 2023] as punishment for different crimes under the country’s new rulers, a Taliban-appointed official said.”
  • Asked by The Washington Post to comment on the recent attack against Salman Rushdie and the fatwā issued by Khomeini against Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous statements in The Satanic Verses, Editor-in-Chief Professor Intisar Rabb commented: “There is no historical instance or basis for calling on members of the general public to exercise vigilante justice to put someone to death for statements and, for that matter, for someone to follow such directives.”
  • The government [of Malaysia,] through the Legal Affairs Division and the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC)[, announced it] is studying alternative punishments to replace caning which is seen as cruel and inhumane.
  • “A young Iranian woman has died after falling into a coma following her detention by morality police enforcing Iran’s strict hijab rules[.]”
  • “The death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iran‘s morality police in Tehran has ignited nationwide anger,” prompting renewed interest in the place and utility of the morality place in the Iranian law enforcement system.
  • In the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini while under custody of Iran‘s morality police, many Iranians have stated their belief that the morality police is a part of the state’s way of ensuring control.
  • In an interview, an Iranian government affiliate, commenting on the protests in the wake of Mahsa Amini‘s death while under the Iranian morality police’s custody, said: “In our constitution, removing the hijab is a crime, and [our] organisation will not step back from implementing the [wearing of the] hijab.”
  • Iran announced on Thursday that it had executed a man arrested during the nationwide protests that have shaken the country for several months.”
  • “The Islamic Republic [of Iran] has hanged a second protester in less than a week in public on Monday after charging him with killing two members of security forces.”
  • As Iran has been executing protesters, some Islamic law scholars in the country have voiced their opposition to the regime’s application of criminal law from an Islamic perspective.
  • One of Iran‘s top Sunnī clerics said that hanging protesters is un-Islamic.
  • Massoud Setayeshi, spokesperson of Iran‘s judiciary, told reporters that “according to Iran’s version of Islamic law, article 513, ‘Those insulting Islamic sanctities or its saints’ can be convicted and receive the death penalty. The principle cited is ‘Sab Al-Nabi’ or insulting the Prophet.”
  • Some pundits have observed that Iran‘s law enforcement is relying on Moharebeh law (the crime of enmity against God) in sentencing some protesters to death, in wake of the protests following the suspicious death of Mahsa Amini while in custody.
  • “Iranian conservative politician and former diplomat Javad Larijani has defended stoning for adultery, saying it is a good Islamic law protecting ‘family values.'”
  • “The Indonesian parliament passed a new criminal code on December 6, 2022, containing provisions that seriously violate international human rights law and standards, Human Rights Watch said[.]”
  • “A Sudanese court recently dismissed apostasy charges against four Christians who had been threatened with the death penalty unless they recanted their faith, according to sources.”
  • “Arguably one of the more religiously conservative states in Malaysia besides Kelantan, the state of Terengganu sparked debate with the new amendments to the state’s Syariah Criminal Offenses Enactment, most notably criminalizing or increasing penalties for stuff such as pregnancy out of wedlock, sorcery, and women posing as men, among other things.”
  • “The Muslim Rights Concern has said that the Supreme Court [of Nigeria] affirmed Sharia Law on blasphemy.”

Leave a Reply