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Are “Honor” Killings Islamic?

November 1, 2010

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) about 5,000 women and girls are murdered by members of their own families each year. Muslim majority countries are the offenders. Some of those countries (i.e. Syria) even have it in their constitutions that men who discover their female relatives in compromising situations and kill them because of those are “not guilty.” Some of the countries, such as Saudi Arabia, claim Sharia Law (islamic religious law) to be its constitution. The question then arises: is Islam to blame for “honor” murders?

Well, lets take a look at the first source of Islam—the Qur’an. According to the Qur’an, the only killing one can do is when justice calls for it (i.e. self-defense):

“…and do not kill the soul which God has forbidden, except in justice… [6:151]

“whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.” Quran 5:32

“And whoever kills a believer intentionally, then his reward shall be Hell, eternally abiding therein, and God will be angry with him, and curse him, and for him is prepared a great retribution.” [4:93]

“And those who, when gross injustice befalls them, they seek justice. The recompense for a crime shall be its equivalence, but whoever forgives and makes right, then his reward is upon God. He does not like the wrongdoers. [42:39-40]

All right, one may say, but why are women who are accused of adultery being “honorably” killed? Qur’an does speak about the punishment for adultery, but such punishment includes both sexes, and it differs whether a person (man or woman) is married or not, considered free or not (i.e. slave). Here are the specific adultery punishments detailed in the Qur’an:

“Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women – bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them [another] way”. Quran 4:15

“The woman or man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment”. Quran 24:2

So, where do those “Islamic” governments find the support for their “sharia” law about “honor” murders? Even the hadiths (traditional sayings about things attributed to Prophet’s life or things he may have said) are not specific about “honor” murders, but do however portray women at times as those who can bring shame to their families (i.e. through rape). Here are the examples from the hadith traditions:

Kanz-el-‘Ummal, Vol. 22, Hadith No. 858. See also Ihy’a : “Ali reported the Prophet saying: ‘Women have ten ‘awrah (objects of shame). When she gets married, the husband covers one, and when she dies the grave covers the ten.” [1][1]

Ihy’a ‘Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-‘Elmeyah, Beirut , Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 65. Reported by Tirmizi as a true and good Ahadith. “The woman is ‘awrah. When she goes outside (the house), the devil welcomes her.”

One can conclude that the “honor killings” are more cultural reasons of the Arab Muslims than islamic, and they are backed up by potentially fake hadiths. Remember, that the Hadith collections were not available during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, only the Qur’an. Originally, there was over 100,000 hadiths collected, out of which only a few thousands remain as “sound,” and even those are classified as: weak, good, sound, etc.

Islam itself does not teach “honor murders,” but it is some Muslims who practice it. I sometimes wonder whether Arabs took to support their “honor murder” idea from the Old Testament. Although Jews and Christians do not practice such Old Testament law anymore, it is there. And, since Islam recognizes the Bible as one of the previous Revelations, I personally wonder whether hadith collectors wanted some of the Biblical teachings included in their “Islamic” practice?


One Comment leave one →
  1. Dreamadventuerer permalink*
    December 26, 2010 3:04 am

    The “honor” murder is mentioned in the Bible in these verses:

    “And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:17)”

    “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. (Leviticus 20:9)”

    Lev 21:9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

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