Shia clerics criticize Saudi Arabia’s death penalty policy – not in keeping with Islamic law

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SHAFAQNA – Recent media reports this week have confirmed that Saudi Arabia is looking to hire an additional eight new executioners to carry out death sentences. Now while the death penalty is indeed sanctioned in the Quran under extraordinary circumstances and according to a strict set of rules and requirements, the Kingdom’s loose handing over of death sentences to those it deemed committed crimes worthy of such punishment do not comply with Islamic law clerics have warned.

Under Wahhabi Islam – an ascetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which emerged at the turn of the 18th century in Najd – now known as KSA – the wide range of crimes are passable of the death sentence. This again goes again the teachings of the Quran in the strict sense of Islamic jurisprudence and tradition.

If for example adultery can indeed end in the sentencing to death of individuals, certain requirements and a strict judicial process would have to take place before a judge could even consider rendering such a final judgement. A religion based on the principles of mercy and justice, Islam simply does not take lives lightly.

Islam is not as portrayed by Wahhabi Islam a merciless  and vengeful religion; it advocates good and compassion, fairness and restraint, modesty and kindness.

With rumors that Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr stands to be executed soon, the matter of death penalty in Islam has resurfaced, raising many questions.

As far as Saudi Arabia’ search for its next executioners is concerned, Shia clerics have explained that when a man or a woman is put to death, the manner of which they are killed provisions under Islamic law that the death be as painless as possible – lethal injection of poison for example. Beheadings are in no way mandatory.

There are various methods of executing the condemned to death in the world. In some countries the executions are carried out by hanging and in some others by shooting or beheading. Other countries have used lethal injections of poison, thus allowing the condemned to quietly slip away, without gruesome display of violence.

According to Shafaqna, the Shia scholars (Maraje) not only criticising the current Saudi court system in term of issuing death sentence, but also have expressed varying views in terms of how the death penalty should be carried out:

Ayatollah Shobairi stressed, “If no special method has been mentioned in the text, if there is need then the ruler of the religion can choose the method (by injecting poison).”

Ayatollah Rouhani said, “The holy religion states absolutely that: The punishment must be carried out in a way that the pain is not more than usual…., it can be concluded that in any case, the ruler must choose a less harmful method.”

Ayatollah Mossawi Ardabili specified that “In some cases special methods have been mentioned for execution in the text but in cases where special methods have not been mentioned, if the religious ruler sees fit, execution by injecting poison can be carried out on the condition that the torment is not more than usual.”

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