On the Execution of Shahla Jahed

On December 1, 2010, at dawn, 40-year-old Shahla Jahed was hanged, with the son of the woman she is alleged to have killed doing the honours on behalf of the family, by pulling out the chair on which the woman was standing with a hangman’s rope around her neck pleading for her life.

I asked Sohrab the next day what he thought of her execution.

He said, shaking his head from side to side: “It was not right, it was too bad the Jews told Muhammad about their stupid eye-for-an-eye law.”

I responded with: “With the Old Testament and the Koran in agreement on so many things it is surprising that Arabs and Jews hate each other so much."

“It is because they have so much in common that they hate each other so much,” he replied

“Just like the Sunnis’ hatred for the Shi’ites,” I said.

“What about you,” I asked “if you had the chance to do to the people what they did to you [at Adelabad] wouldn’t you do it?”

“No,” was all he said, as his composure started to change, as it usually did when the subject of his time at Adelabad came up.

I did not ask the next obvious question: “Did you forgive them?”

Retaliation is a central theme of the Koran, proportionate retaliation for wrongs done to the believers; brutal retaliation if the alleged crime is deemed to be a crime against Allah or His Messenger, the most prevalent crime being not believing in them, which makes every unbeliever a criminal deserving of the most brutal punishment.

2:179 In retaliation there is life for you, O people of understanding, that you may be God-fearing.

5:33 Indeed, the punishment of those who fight Allah and His Messenger and go around corrupting the land is to be killed, crucified, have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or to be banished from the land. That is a disgrace for them in this life, and in the life to come theirs will be a terrible punishment.

After the attacks of 9/11, Muslim community leaders said that those who caused the deaths of thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were not true Muslims because in verse 5:32 Allah said that “whoever kills a soul is like killing all of mankind”, therefore no Muslim could have done this.

They conveniently left out the part about a person who kills another is not “like one who has killed all of mankind” if the murder is in retaliation for a previous murder or a real or perceived wrong done to Allah or His Messenger i.e. corruption of the land.

5:32 For that reason, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives all of mankind. Our Messengers came to them with the clear proofs; but afterwards many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

Retaliation-in-kind being a central concepts in Islam, it is therefore only reasonable that Muhammad would remind the faithful of this edict in his farewell sermon, his last sermon, during which he summarized all the basic beliefs of Islam and all the duties of a Muslim.

In his Farewell Khutba i.e. sermon, which he delivered on mount Arafat outside Mecca a few months before he died, God's spokesman makes an exception for accidental murder, i.e., manslaughter. In the case of accidental murder the next-of-kin can demand a payment of a hundred camel (or the equivalent in a modern currency under Sharia law) instead of insisting the perpetrator be put to death.

And intentional murder shall be punished according to talion law; where the murderess intention is not clear and the victim is killed using a club or a stone it will cost the perpetrator one hundred camels* as blood money. Whoever demands more is a man from the time of ignorance.

From a translation by Islamic scholar and author Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah [1908-2002]

Forgiving, without expectation of getting anything in return, is very much alien to the teachings of Islam, but not in the teachings of Christianity.

I asked Sohrab if his exposure to Christian values had anything to do with his rejection of an eye-for-eye justice.

“No," he said, "it was the barbarity!”

Bernard P. December 7, 2010