The Role of the Death Penalty in the Quran

The death penalty has been outlawed in a majority of the world's nations, but continues to be used widely in the Middle East. o­ne of the main reasons for the use of capital punishment in this region is that it is clearly permitted by the Quran, the Islamic holy text. As such, most nations that consider Islam to be the state religion (including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, among others) and all Islamic states (including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) permit and often encourage the use of the death penalty.

Several verses in the Quran support the use of capital punishment when used as a lawful means of seeking justice. For example, a favorite quote in the Quran regarding the death penalty states,"...Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom" (6:151). Basically, this means that although murder is considered a sin, it is permissible to utilize capital punishment when required by law.

Muslims who support the death penalty believe that its use provides an effective deterrent against crime and as such, helps to promote justice. Islamic law permits the use of the death penalty as a punishment against intentional murder and Fasaad fi al-ardh, which translates to "spreading mischief throughout the land." This type of crime is interpreted in a variety of ways, but can include rape, adultery, treason, apostasy, piracy, sodomy and homosexual behavior.

Although capital punishment is still widely supported in Islamic states and nations in which Islam is the state religion, there are growing groups of Muslims that support the abolishment of the death penalty. Those who oppose capital punishment disagree with the mainstream interpretation of Quran passages regarding capital punishment.