Shariah Rules Death for 'Witchcraft'

Thursday, 22 Apr 2010 12:46 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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A few weeks ago the Saudi religious authority was going to behead a Lebanese TV psychic who was convicted for practicing witchcraft.

But despite the fundamental horror of killing someone simply for engaging in such acts, does the Quran even address the topic? Does it allow for the killing of someone based on such beliefs?

Islamic law, Shariah, justifies and promotes killing those who participate in what it deems “witchcraft.” In fact, those who follow Shariah are actively exploring new and different ways to kill those who engage in witchcraft in Islam.

First of all, it is important to clarify that killing those who engage in alternative teachings is never been mentioned in the Quran itself.

The sources for the law of killing such people are in the Sunna or Hadith (sayings of the prophet) books that were collected more than 200 years after the death of the prophet.

Were the acts of this Lebanese man consistent with the type of acts that directly harm others described in the Quran as the work of “Al-Naphathati Fi Al-Uquad”?

Or instead, were the acts of this man more consistent with a variety of future telling “Istiqsam Bi-Alazlam” that are only considered haram (forbidden, yet non-punishable in Islam)?

“Istiqsam Bi-Alazlam” indicates an act of using stones to predict the future luck of a person and make decisions accordingly (Tafseer Al-Shawkani for Sura 5 Verse 3).

Acknowledging that the acts of the accused were a form of future telling, they should not be classified as black magic “Al-Naphathati Fi Al-Uquad” (the punishable form of black magic in Islam).

Since the ruling of killing a person for sorcery (black magic) or future telling has never been mentioned in the Quran it is fundamental to question the rationale for this law.

There are two main sources for the rule for killing the accused in the Sunna.
One is a statement by Prophet Muhammad: “ The Hadd [punishment] for the magician is striking with the sword” is a weak Hadith.

A statement by a disciple of Muhammad: This statement is considered according to the science of Hadith as accurate.

Assuming that this is correct,  it is important in this context to mention that some of the top Sahaba such as Umar Ibn Al-Khatab stopped the punishment (Hadd) for stealing (supposed to be amputating the hands of the thief) in “Aam Al-Ramada” (the latter represents a year of extreme poverty) due to the possibility that implementing this law could be unjust for some people (as poverty was prevalent in this year due to lack of rain so a person may steal in order to survive).

Therefore, using the same approach of Umar Ibn Al-Khatab may justify not beheading this man for the possibility of being unfair since this law is basically not in the Quran, the statement of the prophet about it is a weak Hadith.

In short, the concept of killing a person for witchcraft needs to be reviewed by the Islamic religious authority.

Of course, new laws in Islam that allow freedom for all are desperately needed.

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