Punishing suspects
Fatwa No: 33698

Question

Is it permissible to punish suspects?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Allaah The Almighty has forbidden transgressing the soul of a Muslim, or indeed any part of his body. Allaah The Almighty has prescribed certain penalties for such transgressions. He The Almighty Says (what means):

  • {And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allaah has revealed - then it is those who are the wrongdoers.} [Quran 5:45]
  • {And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly borne upon themselves a slander and manifest sin.} [Quran 33:58]

It is narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that Allaah The Almighty torments those who torment people in this worldly life. [Muslim]

It is also narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that it is unlawful for a Muslim to trespass on another Muslim person's life, property or integrity. [Muslim]

It is also narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that there would be people from his nation who would whip other people. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, added that they would be among the dwellers of Hell. [Muslim]

Therefore, ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him warned those whom he commissioned as governors for the Islamic state that he would beat them if they beat a subject unjustifiably. In so doing, he was emulating the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who would give any wronged person access to retaliation, even against himself. [Abu Daawood: As-Sunan. Al-Bayhaqi: As-Sunan Al-Kubraa. Al-Haakim: Al-Mustadrak]

Thereby, it is understood that it is prohibited to torment a Muslim without justification. Tormenting prisoners and suspects is basically prohibited. However, some scholars consider it permissible to punish a suspect who is known for wickedness, if this is the only way to make him confess to his crime. Scholars have unanimously agreed on the permissibility of punishing the person who denies having committed a crime when it is certain that he has committed it, until he confesses to it.

Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said that it is permissible to confine a person who is accused of murder or theft until his case has been investigated. Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him added that if the suspect is known for his wickedness, he should be confined until it is established whether he has committed a given crime or not, and that it is permissible to beat this suspect, emulating what the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ordered to be done with the man who had hidden his property until he confessed to the truth. This was mentioned in the story of Ibn Abi Al-Huqayq.

All scholars agree on the permissibility of hitting a suspect who refuses to pay his debts or dues despite his ability to pay. This is according to jurists of the four schools of Fiqh (Islamic Law). It was narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, expressed the permissibility of beating or confining a rich person who procrastinates in paying off the debts. [Abu Daawood, An-Nasaa'i and Ibn Maajah]

Allaah Knows best.

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