The Quran

Commentaries for 2.178

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.178 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered ones; the freeman for the freeman) a freeman who premeditatedly kills another freeman, (and the slave for the slave) a slave who premeditatedly kills another, (and the female for the female) a female who premeditatedly kills another. This verse was revealed regarding two Arab clans but is abrogated by the verse: (… a life for a life) [5:45]. (And for him who is forgiven somewhat by his brother) whoever forgives the killing and takes instead blood money, (prosecution according to usage) Allah commands the person who asks for blood money to claim this money according to practised usage: three years if it is a full blood money, two years if it is half of the blood money, or one year if it is a third (and payment unto him) the person who is required to pay blood money is commanded to give the custodians of the murdered person what is due to them (in kindness) without the need to go to court or making it difficult for them. (This) this pardon (is an alleviation) appeasement (and a mercy from your Lord) towards the killer such that he is not killed. (He who transgresseth after this) after taking the blood money and kills the murderer (will have a painful doom) he shall be killed and will not be forgiven or allowed to pay blood money.
2.178 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
O you who have faith! Written for you is retaliation in the case of the slain.
He is addressing the body, heart, and spirit and saying, “O totality of the servant! If you want to step into the street of friendship, first detach your heart from life and toss away everything you know about states and deeds, for in the shariah of friendship your life will be taken as retaliation, and everything you know will be the wergild, though more is needed. Such is the shariah of friendship. If you are the man for the work, enter! Otherwise, nothing will get done with self-love and defilement.”
In the tracks of manliness plane trees live long, in the tracks of defilement jasmine goes fast.
Throw away your life, travel the road, live upright, and be a man!
Then you will subsist-when you empty your skirt of these ruins.
Yes, it's a marvelous work, the work of friendship! It's a wonderful shariah, the shariah of friendship! Whenever someone is killed in the world, retaliation or wergild is mandatory against the killer. In the shariah of friendship, both retaliation and wergild are mandatory for the person killed.
The Pir of the Tariqah, “How should I have known that there is retaliation for those killed by friendship? But, when I looked, that was Your transaction with the elect. How should I have known that friendship is sheer resurrection and that those killed by friendship should ask for wergild? Glory be to God! What work is this, what work!? He burns some people, He kills some people, and no one burned has regrets, no one killed turns away.”
How You kill us and how we love You! O marvel! How we love the killer!
* May my eyes' light be the dust beneath Your feet!
May my heart's rest be Your curly locks!
In passion for You, may my justice be Your cruelty!
May my life be sacrificed in grief for You!
One person is burnt and left unsettled, another slain and perplexed in the field of solitariness. One is hanging on reports, another mixed with face-to-face vision. Who planted these seeds? Who stirred up this tumult? One is in a whirlpool, another wishing for water, but the drowned is not sated, the thirsty has no sleep.
2.178 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
O you who believe, prescribed, made obligatory, for you is retaliation, on equal terms, regarding the slain, both in the attributes [of the one slain] and in the action involved; a free man, is killed, for a free man, and not for a slave; and a slave for a slave, and a female for a female. The Sunna makes it clear that a male may be killed [in retaliation] for a female, and that religious affiliation should be taken into account also, so that a Muslim cannot be killed in return for an disbeliever, even if the former be a slave and the latter a free man. But if anything, of the blood, is pardoned any one, of those who have slain, in relation to his brother, the one slain, so that the retaliation is waived (the use of the indefinite shay’un, ‘anything’, here implies the waiving of retaliation through a partial pardon by the inheritors [of the slain]; the mention of akhīh [‘his brother’] is intended as a conciliatory entreaty to pardon and a declaration that killing should not sever the bonds of religious brotherhood; the particle man, ‘any one’, is the subject of a conditional or a relative clause, of which the predicate is [the following, fa’ittibā‘un]) let the pursuing, that is, the action of the one who has pardoned in pursuing the killer, be honourable, demanding the blood money without force. The fact that the ‘pursuing’ results from the ‘pardoning’ implies that one of the two [actions] is a duty, which is one of al-Shāfi‘ī’s two opinions here. The other [opinion] is that retaliation is the duty, whereas the blood money is merely compensation [for non-retaliation], so that if one were to pardon but not name his blood money, then nothing [happens]; and this [latter] is the preferred [opinion]. And let the payment, of the blood money by the slayer, to him, the pardoner, that is, the one inheriting [from the slain], be with kindliness, without procrastination or fraud; that, stipulation mentioned here about the possibility of retaliation and the forgoing of this in return for blood money, is an alleviation, a facilitation, given, to you, by your Lord, and a mercy, for you, for He has given you latitude in this matter and has not categorically demanded that one [of the said options] be followed through, in the way that He made it obligatory for Jews to retaliate and for Christians to [pardon and] accept blood money; and for him who commits aggression, by being unjust towards the killer and slaying him, after that, that is, [after] pardoning — his is a painful chastisement, of the Fire in the Hereafter, or of being killed in this world.
2.178 Kashani - Kashani
[O you who believe, prescribed for you is retaliation, regarding the slain; a free man, for a free man, and a slave for a slave, and a female for a female. But if anything is pardoned any one in relation to his brother, let the pursuing be honourable. And let the payment to him be with kindliness; that is an alleviation given by your Lord, and a mercy; and for him who commits aggression after that - his is a painful chastisement].
Retaliation is a law based on principles of justice, prescribed to remove the aggressions of the predatorial faculty, being a shadow of His justice, exalted be He, so that if He dispenses [of this] to a servant of His by annihilating him, He compensates him the 'free man' of his spirit with a better spirit divinely-endowed and [compensates him] the slave of his heart with a heart divinely-endowed and the female of his soul with a divinely-endowed soul that is perfect.
2.178-179 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Command and the Wisdom behind the Law of Equality
Allah states: O believers! The Law of equality has been ordained on you (for cases of murder), the free for the free, the slave for the slave and the female for the female. Therefore, do not transgress the set limits, as others before you transgressed them, and thus changed what Allah has ordained for them. The reason behind this statement is that (the Jewish tribe of) Banu An-Nadir invaded Qurayzah (another Jewish tribe) during the time of Jahiliyyah (before Islam) and defeated them. Hence, (they made it a law that) when a person from Nadir kills a person from Quraizah, he is not killed in retaliation, but only pays a hundred Wasq of dates. However, when a person from Quraizah kills a Nadir man, he would be killed for him. If Nadir wanted (to forfeit the execution of the murderer and instead require him) to pay a ransom, the Quraizah man pays two hundred Wasq of dates double the amount Nadir pays in Diyah (blood money). So Allah commanded that justice be observed regarding the penal code, and that the path of the misguided and mischievous persons be avoided, who in disbelief and transgression, defy and alter what Allah has commanded them. Allah said:
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلَى الْحُرُّ بِالْحُرِّ وَالْعَبْدُ بِالْعَبْدِ وَالاٍّنثَى بِالاٍّنْثَى
(Al-Qisas (the Law of equality in punishment) is prescribed for you in case of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.)
Allah's statement:
الْحُرُّ بِالْحُرِّ وَالْعَبْدُ بِالْعَبْدِ وَالاٍّنثَى بِالاٍّنْثَى
(the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.) was abrogated by the statement life for life (5:45). However, the majority of scholars agree that the Muslim is not killed for a disbeliever whom he kills. Al- Bukhari reported that `Ali narrated that Allah's Messenger said:
«وَلَا يُقْتَلُ مُسْلِمٌ بِكَافِر»
(The Muslim is not killed for the disbeliever (whom he kills).)
No opinion that opposes this ruling could stand correct, nor is there an authentic Hadith to contradict it. However, Abu Hanifah thought that the Muslim could be killed for a disbeliever, following the general meaning of the Ayah (5:45) in Surat Al-Ma'idah (chapter 5 in the Qur'an).
The Four Imams (Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi`i and Ahmad) and the majority of scholars stated that the group is killed for one person whom they murder. `Umar said, about a boy who was killed by seven men, "If all the residents of San`a' (capital of Yemen today) collaborated on killing him, I would kill them all.'' No opposing opinion was known by the Companions during that time which constitutes a near Ijma` (consensus). There is an opinion attributed to Imam Ahmad that a group of people is not killed for one person whom they kill, and that only one person is killed for one person. Ibn Al-Mundhir also attributed this opinion to Mu`adh, Ibn Az-Zubayr, `Abdul-Malik bin Marwan, Az-Zuhri, Ibn Sirin and Habib bin Abu Thabit. Allah's statement:
فَمَنْ عُفِىَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ شَىْءٌ فَاتِّبَاعٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَأَدَآءٌ إِلَيْهِ بِإِحْسَـنٍ
(But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or the relatives) of the killed (against blood money), then it should be sought in a good manner, and paid to him respectfully.) refers to accepting blood money (by the relatives of the victim in return for pardoning the killer) in cases of intentional murder. This opinion is attributed to Abu Al-`Aliyah, Abu Sha`tha', Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ata' Al-Hasan, Qatadah and Muqatil bin Hayyan. Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said:
فَمَنْ عُفِىَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ شَىْءٌ
(But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or the relatives) of the killed (against blood money)) means the killer is pardoned by his brother (i.e., the relative of the victim) and accepting the Diyah after capital punishment becomes due (against the killer), this is the `Afw (pardon mentioned in the Ayah).'' Allah's statement:
فَاتِّبَاعٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ
(...then it should be sought in a good manner,) means, when the relative agrees to take the blood money, he should collect his rightful dues with kindness:
وَأَدَآءٌ إِلَيْهِ بِإِحْسَـنٍ
( and paid to him respectfully.) means, the killer should accept the terms of settlement without causing further harm or resisting the payment.
Allah's statement:
ذَلِكَ تَخْفِيفٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ
(This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord.) means the legislation that allows you to accept the blood money for intentional murder is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord. It lightens what was required from those who were before you, either applying capital punishment or forgiving.
Sa`id bin Mansur reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "The Children of Israel were required to apply the Law of equality in murder cases and were not allowed to offer pardons (in return for blood money). Allah said to this Ummah (the Muslim nation):
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلَى الْحُرُّ بِالْحُرِّ وَالْعَبْدُ بِالْعَبْدِ وَالاٍّنثَى بِالاٍّنْثَى فَمَنْ عُفِىَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ شَىْءٌ
(The Law of equality in punishment is prescribed for you in case of murder: the free for the free, the servant for the servant, and the female for the female. But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or the relatives) of the killed (against blood money),)
Hence, `pardoning' or `forgiving' means accepting blood money in intentional murder cases.'' Ibn Hibban also recorded this in his Sahih. Qatadah said:
ذَلِكَ تَخْفِيفٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ
(This is an alleviation from your Lord)
Allah had mercy on this Ummah by giving them the Diyah which was not allowed for any nation before it. The People of the Torah (Jews) were allowed to either apply the penal code (for murder, i.e., execution) or to pardon the killer, but they were not allowed to take blood money. The People of the Injil (the Gospel - the Christians) were required to pardon (the killer, but no Diyah was legislated). This Ummah (Muslims) is allowed to apply the penal code (execution) or to pardon and accept the blood money.'' Similar was reported from Sa`id bin Jubayr, Muqatil bin Hayyan and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas.
Allah's statement:
فَمَنِ اعْتَدَى بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَلَهُ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
(So after this whoever transgresses the limits, he shall have a painful torment.) means, those who kill in retaliation after taking the Diyah or accepting it, they will suffer a painful and severe torment from Allah. The same was reported from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ata' `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, As-Suddi and Muqatil bin Hayyan.
The Benefits and Wisdom of the Law of Equality
Allah's statement:
وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقِصَاصِ حَيَوةٌ
(And there is life for you in Al-Qisas) legislating the Law of equality, i.e., killing the murderer, carries great benefits for you. This way, the sanctity of life will be preserved because the killer will refrain from killing, as he will be certain that if he kills, he would be killed. Hence life will be preserved. In previous Books, there is a statement that killing stops further killing! This meaning came in much clearer and eloquent terms in the Qur'an:
وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقِصَاصِ حَيَوةٌ
(And there is (a saving of) life for you in Al-Qisas (the Law of equality in punishment).)
Abu Al-`Aliyah said, "Allah made the Law of equality a `life'. Hence, how many a man who thought about killing, but this Law prevented him from killing for fear that he will be killed in turn.'' Similar statements were reported from Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu Malik, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and Muqatil bin Hayyan. Allah's statement:
يأُولِي الأَلْبَـبِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
(O men of understanding, that you may acquire Taqwa.) means, `O you who have sound minds, comprehension and understanding! Perhaps by this you will be compelled to refrain from transgressing the prohibitions of Allah and what He considers sinful. ' Taqwa (mentioned in the Ayah) is a word that means doing all acts of obedience and refraining from all prohibitions.
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ إِن تَرَكَ خَيْرًا الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَلِدَيْنِ وَالاٌّقْرَبِينَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ حَقًّا عَلَى الْمُتَّقِينَ
2.178-179 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The Arabic word "visas"stands for the return of life for life in cases of murder. It does not, however, mean that the murderer should be killed in the same manner in which he committed the murder. It only means that his life should be taken as he took the life of the other.
The principle of the equality of the value of human life has been prescribed here in order to meet the strictest claims of justice. The value of blood and consequently retribution for it are not to be determined by the rank of the slain or that of the murderer. It has, therefore, been clearly laid down that the murderer himself shall be made to pay for the blood.
Before the advent of Islam, they put a higher value on the blood of a member of their own clan and demanded the life of a man of the same rank from the clan of the murderer or the lives of scores or even hundreds from the tribe of the murderer according to the value put on the blood of the slain. On the other hand, if the murderer happened to belong to a higher rank than that of the slain, their "judgement" was that the life of the murderer should not be taken for the life of the slain. And this inequality in the evaluation of blood was not confined only to that age of ignorance. Even today the "civilised" nations are not ashamed of declaring openly that if one person of their nation is killed, they will take the lives of fifty men from the nation of the murderer. And they put these challenges into practice. We often hear that so many people belonging to the subject nation have been put to death to avenge the murder of one person belonging to the ruling nation. But if the murderer belonged to a "civilised" ruling nation and the slain to an "uncivilised" subject nation, their judges would not pass the sentence of death on him. In order to guard against these unjust rules, Allah has ordained that the life of the murderer and the murderer alone should be taken for the life of the slain, irrespective of the rank or race of the murderer or that of the slain.
The use of the word "brother" here contains a kind of recommendation. That is, "Though the murderer has injured you very grievously, he is after all your brother by the human relation. Therefore, if you restrain your rage against your erring brother and refrain from retaliation and remit the penalty of death, you will raise your standard of humanity."
This verse also shows that, according to the lslamic Penal Code, even murder is a compoundable offence. The heirs of the murdered person have the right to pardon the murderer, if they deem it proper. In that case the court cannot insist on taking his life. Of course, the murderer will have to pay the blood money if the rightful claimants demand it.
The word "ma'ruf" has been used in many places in the Qur'an. It refers to those just and rational rules of conduct which are generally known and accepted by all fair-minded people. They are so clear and well known that everyone who is not blinded by self-interest and prejudice will acknowledge them as right and just, and the Islamic law recognizes them in all those matters for which it has not laid down any regulations. Such common laws and general usages are termed "ma ruf.
For instance, it will be transgression if the heirs of the slain try to retaliate even after accepting the ransom, or if the murderer does not mean to pay the ransom gracefully, or otherwise reacts in an ungrateful manner.
This verse refutes the opinion of those people who go to the other extreme and advocate total abolition of capital punishment. If it is inhuman to insist on retaliation, it is equally inhuman to encourage murder by totally abolishing capital punishment, as has been done in some "civilised" countries. That is why Allah declares that there is life for society in the law of retribution. If a society does not pay due regard to the sanctity of life and tries to protect a murderer, it sets a premium on crime and puts in danger the lives of many innocent people.
2.178 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
O you who believe prescribed for you is retaliation regarding the slain; a free man for a free man and a slave for a slave and a female for a female. But if anything is pardoned anyone in relation to his brother let the pursuit be honorable. And let the payment to him be with kindliness; that is an alleviation given by your Lord and a mercy; and for him who commits aggression after that-his is a painful chastisement. The right to retaliate is prescribed in the law but forgiveness is better so he who inclines to receiving his right in full is one who submits muslim while he who renounces seeking his right is one who acts in a beautiful way muḥsin. The first possesses worship and even servanthood ʿubūdiyya. The second possesses noble-heartedness futuwwa and even freedom ḥurriyya. According to the people of knowledge ahl al-ʿilm retaliation entails bloodshed. According to the allusion of the people of the story ahl al-qiṣṣa their blood goes unavenged and their lives are good for nothing. He said: The heart you caused to tremble gives praise to you and the blood you made spill is proud to have been spilled by you. The blood of the lovers shed over the carpet of nearness is the perfume of the people of communion. The Prophet ﷺ said “The color is the color of blood and the smell is the smell of musk.”
2.178 Wahidi - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi
(O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered…) [2:178]. Said al-Sha‘bi: “Fighting took place between two Arab tribes. One tribe had more power than the other and, therefore, they said: ‘For every slave of ours that you kill, we will kill a free man of yours, and for every woman of ours a man of yours’. And then this verse was revealed”.