Crime is an unwanted feature in any society, and any system governing a society has policies to minimise crime and secure the rights of its citizens. In the modern world, criminal acts take on many appearances whether they be violence, abuse, fraud, theft and all of the above in a cyber environment. Also in the modern world, the sense of insecurity felt by many, seems to be increasing as criminal acts come in so many forms as Assistant Commissioner, Martin Hewitt said in 2017, “Along with rises in traditional crimes, we are facing new challenges across London”. As with all proposed governing models, Islam offers a comprehensive solution towards achieving a society with very little crime.
Why commit a crime?
Even criminal acts have a reasoning behind them. For theft, it is the wealth one can gain. For sexual offences, it is the desire that can be satisfied or with assault, it is the dominance one can feel. Though these desires exist in human beings, not everyone chooses to satisfy them in a criminal way or by inflicting misery on others. There is no doubt that the actions of the criminal are ultimately his or her actions. The sheer volume of crime in Western society also shows that for many, the system simply does not work for them to satisfy their needs in a law abiding way.
Islam has a very world orientated view towards individuals, Muslim and non-Muslim, and their ability to break the commandments of Allah SWT or commit crime even in a society based upon Islamic laws. It does not expect people to behave like angels and recognises human capacity to do both good and bad.
At the same time, an Islamic system takes positive steps to reducing the risk of someone committing a crime.
Crime prevention starts at an aqeeda (creedal) level. Islam teaches life is a test and that good deeds and obedience to Allah’s commands gains Allah’s pleasure whilst sinning and transgressing Allah’s prohibitions earns His wrath resulting in either Jannah or Jahannam in the hereafter.
Hence, accountability is not to a judge, or the police and authorities, but to Allah SWT, the all Knowing, the all Punishing and the Just. If an individual does believe he can break the law and evade justice, it is unlikely for him to believe he will evade the inevitable accountability of Judgement Day. Thus, deterring people from committing unlawful acts, or entering lives of crime.
Crime – a minority activity
Making obedience to the rule of law a natural state of affairs is made easier when the state and its organs are at one with the basic philosophy of the Islamic system. There will be no glorification of violence or respect given to criminals or gangs.
Nor will there be a culture glorifying crime through movies and music as these are not the values which underpins an Islamic society. Rather, the Islamic Khilafah system would do the opposite. It would promote and pursue wholesome ideals such as described in the following ahadith,
“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
“One who goes to sleep full whilst his neighbour is hungry is not one of us.” [Bayhaqi’s Sunan al-Kubra]
“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfil his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.” [Bukhari]
Therefore, selfish desires are not stoked, rather they are tamed.
The public opinion regarding criminal acts and the norms of behaviour will be synonymous with the principles of Islam. As the society is Islamic, their value judgments on actions will run parallel to the value judgments Islam provides. Thus, anyone breaking these norms would be shunned in society thereby acting as a powerful deterrent.
A person committing a crime, will therefore, not better his quality or standard of living, but be going against the grain of society, and challenging the status quo. As social beings, humans would rather seek acceptance and interaction with their neighbours, colleagues and families, rather than being excluded from them, again removing the mindset or potential for a person to be tempted to commit criminal acts.
Crime has consequences
A criminal will pursue a crime, only if he feels he will not have to face the consequences of his actions or the potential gains are greater than the punishment that would be served if he is caught. Only having accountability to fellow humans is flawed, as humans can be deceived and criminals can escape the wrath and the full extent of the law.
For those who do indulge in criminal acts or violate the law of the land, the Islamic punishments are severe. However, the severity of the punishment, is not to satisfy a bloodlust nor for lack of wisdom or desire to seek mercy. Rather, the punishment system is a preventative measure to reduce the temptation to commit crime. Knowing that the consequence of being found guilty of a crime will result in the loss of life or limb is an extremely potent idea which one cannot rid from his mind as the consequence stays with the criminal for life.
Furthermore, punishments take place with public knowledge and in a public setting. This, combined with the public opinion described before, would have a second effect. A person’s life would be ruined if he is found guilty, as not only has he paid for the crime with loss of limb, money or pain, he will also be known to have strayed from socially acceptable actions, resulting in the public having a negative view to him.
Nowadays, criminals who have committed a crime and escaped punishment, or are let off easily are incentivised to repeat offend; the price wasn’t too high to pay, so why not? An example of this is the swimmer convicted of rape in the UK who served a meagre three months for his crime which destroyed a woman’s life. This sentence is in no way fair, and is an example to other sexual offenders that the consequences of their crime is light. The reverse of this is also true.
Criminals who have committed a crime and paid a heavy price for it, would be an example to the people of what happens when the sanctity of the law is broken. A potential thief seeing a man without a hand is a fitting example of being “put off” from committing a crime.
Upholding the law and being seen to uphold the law is a key part of an Islamic judicial system. There is no one in society who is above the law. The law, procedure and punishment are applicable to everyone within the society. This is evident in the hadith,
“By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.” [Bukhari]
Justice system built on justice
The judges are not selected based on their heritage, network or status. Rather they are selected due to their ability, knowledge and piety. Since this will be evident through their conduct, confidence in the system will be strong amongst the law abiding public. This in turn will minimise any rebellious or vigilante mindset, as the due process is fair, works and ensures the protection and safety of the citizens of the state.
It is important to note that the Islamic Justice system is not to be implemented in isolation from the rest of Islam’s governance. For example, if the Islamic economic system is not being implemented, or the rules governing men and women are absent then crimes of varying natures will occur.
The track record of the Khilafah Rashidah and Islamic state is a testimony to Islam’s ability to minimise criminal activity. In fact, throughout the history of the Khilafah lasting 1300 years, there existed seldom instances of theft deemed severe enough to result in a hand being cut. Truly, the only way to satisfy the problems the world faces, is by using the system the Creator of man revealed, and only through the Khilafah system, can justice be served and harmony be established.