Shared Prophets

Cain and Abel

Shared ProphetsOf all the stories from the Bible that have found their way into the Koran, that of Cain and Abel is probably one of the most significant for both Christians and Muslims. God, with this story about brother killing brother (the Koran does not mention Adam’s two sons by name) establishes a fundamental difference between the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and His Revelations. Where Jesus said “to turn the other cheek,” Allah countered with ‘repay a wrong done to you in kind and a wrong done to Me, or my Messenger, in spades’.

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

We take up the story of Cain and Abel after God has asked Moses to tell their cautionary tale to His unruly chosen people after helping them escape Egypt.

5:27 And recite to them in all truth the tale of Adam’s two sons, when they offered a sacrifice, which was accepted from one, but not accepted from the other. The latter said: “I will surely kill you”, the other replied: “Allah accepts only from the God-fearing.

5:28 “Should you stretch your hand out to kill me, I will not stretch my hand out to kill you; for I fear Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

5:29 “I only wish that you be charged with my sin and yours and thus be one of the companions of the Fire; and that is the reward of the evildoers.”

5:30 Then his soul prompted him to kill his brother; and so he killed him and became one of the losers.

5:31 Then Allah sent forth a raven digging the earth to show him how to bury his brother’s corpse. He said: “Woe is me, am I unable to be like this raven and bury the corpse of my brother?” Thus he became one of the remorseful.

Law of Retaliation

With the murder of Abel, Allah confirmed that the Law of Retaliation, i.e., Talion law, is the law of the land whenever murder is not in the name of retaliation or for “corruption in 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 of all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with the clear proofs; but afterwards many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

“Corruption in the land” is a catch-all accusation that renders anyone who opposes the expansion of Islam, or seeks to reform the religion—the so-called reformers[10] —candidates for death, and a gruesome one at that.

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.

Gaining satisfaction does not have to involve a life for a life. You can always demand blood money and stay well below “the limit in slaying,” whatever that limit is.

17:33 Do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause. Whoever is killed unjustly, We have given his heir the power [to demand satisfaction]; but let him not exceed the limit in slaying, for he will be the victor.


[10] 2:8 There are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they are not real believers.

2:9 They seek to deceive Allah and the believers, but deceive none other than themselves, though they are not aware of that.

2:10 In their hearts is a sickness; so Allah has increased their sickness. A painful punishment awaits them because of their lying.

2:11 And when they are told: “Do not sow mischief in the land”, they say: “We are only doing good.”

2:12 It is they who make mischief, but they are unaware of that.

A translation of Verses 2:11-12 by Sheikh Muhammad Sarwar makes God’s intent ever clearer:

2:11 When they are told not to commit corruption in the land, they reply, "We are only reformers.”

2:12 They, certainly, are corrupt but do not realize it.

Setting the Price of a Human Life

Muhammad's grandfather is credited with getting God to agree to blood money in the form of camels as payment for a human life. Abd al-Muttalib was a man without sons. In another variation of an old story, he promised Allah to sacrifice his tenth son if He gave him ten male heirs. Ask and you shall receive.

When the time came for Muttalib to keep his side of the bargain, he consulted a dervish to find out if he could fulfill his promise to God in some manner that did not involve killing his tenth son, Abdullah (the future father of Muhammad of all people). The dervish that Muttalib consulted was no ordinary soothsayer; he had jinns in his employ, jinns who specialized in eavesdropping on Allah’s conversations with His angels. They would fly as close as possible to the lowest of the seven levels of heaven—the one closest to Earth, dodging rocks, i.e., meteorites thrown by the angels to keep them away—to find out what Allah had to say about was happening down below.

In an attempt to answer his client’s question, the dervish, in a time-honoured tradition, sent his jinns to eavesdrop on God. One reported that Allah had indicated to an angel that He would be happy with a sacrifice of camels; but how many camels? The dervish then threw dice (bone fragments of some type) to find out. The answer provided was one hundred camels: this was the price of a human life.

The most important legal document in Islam, after the Koran, is Muhammad’s Last Khutba, his Farewell Sermon delivered a few months before he died. In his final instructions for the believers, delivered on Mount Arafat on the outskirts of Mecca, God's spokesman reminded the believers about Allah's declaration concerning Talion law and one hundred camels as the price of human life.

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].

The Saudis have simplified things for visitors who might, during their visit to the Kingdom, accidentally kill someone by providing them, in advance, with a "death compensation schedule" for payment. In 2002, the penalty for accidentally killing a male believer was 100,000 riyals; a male Christian or Jew cost 50,000 riyals; practitioners of other religions, a mere 6,666.66 riyals; and a non-believing woman was a real bargain at 3,333 riyals. There was no amount on the schedule for the unlikely accidental killing of a believing secluded woman. If there had been, it would probably have been half the amount demanded for the accidental killing of a believing man.