In the recent past, honour killings have become a stigma on the face of Islam. In a spate of frenzy, men end up killing their near of kin like sisters, daughters and wives suspecting lewdness and indulgence in illicit relations with some other person.

In this regard, the following points must be kept in consideration:

Firstly, no person has been given the right by Islam to administer punishments stipulated by Islamic law. He cannot take the law into his own hands in this regard. If a punishment is to be administered, it has to be from state authorities. Thus we find that the Prophet (sws) in his own times, once reprimanded Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubādah (rta), one of his famous companions that a husband cannot kill a person whom he finds with his wife in a compromising position. He is reported to have told him that he has a greater sense of honour than Sa‘d and that the Almighty has even a greater sense of honour than the Prophet (sws).[1] The implication being that the law cannot be taken into one’s hands and proper procedure should be adopted.

Secondly, according to the Qur’ān, the death punishment can only be given in two situations: to a person who has killed someone or to someone who is guilty of spreading anarchy in a society. No other crime is punishable by death. The Qur’ān is very explicit in this regard:

 

مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا (32:5)

He who killed a human being without the latter being guilty of killing another or of spreading disorder in the land should be looked upon as if he killed all mankind. (5:32)

 

Thirdly, if a person of chaste character has indulged in fornication, then the Prophet (sws) has directed us to hide this crime. Islam is not interested in humiliating chaste people and punishing them if they have faltered. It is only when a person becomes a nuisance in the society that the crime should be reported. One or few random instances of such deviation should not be taken notice of.

Consequently, for similar reasons, the Prophet (sws) once told a person:

 

لَوْ سَتَرْتَهُ بِرِدَائِكَ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَكَ

If you had hidden the crime of this [person], it would have been better for you.[2]