The Ruling Concerning Killing a Believer by Mistake
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states that the believer is not allowed to kill his believing brother under any circumstances. He states,
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ أَن يَقْتُلَ مُؤْمِناً إِلاَّ خَطَئاً
“It is not for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake….”
In the two saheehs, it is recorded that ibn Masud radhiAllahu anhu said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “The blood of a Muslim who testifies that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, is sacred, except in three instances: life for life, the married adulterer, and whoever reverts from the religion and abandons the Jam’ah (community of the faithful believers).”
When one commits any of these three offenses, it is not up to ordinary citizens to kill him or her, because this is the responsibility of the Muslim leader or his deputy. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has used the term إِلاَّ خَطَئاً which means “except by mistake”.
وَمَن قَتَلَ مُؤْمِناً خَطَئاً فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ مُّؤْمِنَةٍ وَدِيَةٌ مُّسَلَّمَةٌ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ
“…And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then freeing of a believing slave and blood money be paid to his family…”
thus, ordaining two requirements for murder by mistake. The first requirement is the Kaffarah (fine) for the great sin that has been committed, even if it was a mistake. The Kaffarah is to free a Muslim slave, not a non-Muslim slave.
Allah’s statement, وَدِيَةٌ مُّسَلَّمَةٌ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ is the second obligation which involves the killer and the family of the deceased, who will receive blood money as compensation for their loss. The compensation is only obligatory for the one who possesses one of five; as Imam Ahmad, and the Sunan compilers recorded from Ibn Mas`ud. He said; “Allah’s Messenger determined that the Diyah (blood money) for unintentional murder is twenty camels which entered their fourth year, twenty camels which entered their fifth year, twenty camels which entered their second year, and twenty camels which entered their third year.” This is the wording of An-Nasa’i. This Diyah is required from the elders of the killer’s tribe, not from his own money.
إِلاَّ أَن يَصَّدَّقُواْ
“unless they remit it”,
meaning, the Diyah must be delivered to the family of the deceased, unless they forfeit their right, in which case the Diyah does not become necessary. Allah’s statement,
فَإِن كَانَ مِن قَوْمٍ عَدُوٍّ لَّكُمْ وَهُوَ مْؤْمِنٌ فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ مُّؤْمِنَةٍ
“If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (is prescribed)”
means, if the murdered person was a believer, yet his family were combatant disbelievers, then they will receive no Diyah. In this case, the murderer only has to free a believing slave. Allah’s statement,
وَإِن كَانَ مِن قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ مِّيثَاقٌ
“and if he belonged to a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance,”
meaning, if the family of the deceased were from Ahl Adh-Dhimmah or with whom there is a peace treaty, then they deserve his Diyah; full Diyah if the deceased was a believer, in which case the killer is required to free a believing slave also.
فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ
“And who so finds this beyond his means, he must fast for two consecutive months”
without breaking the fast (in the days of) the two months. If he breaks the fast without justification, i.e. illness, menstruation, post-natal bleeding, then he has to start all over again. Allah’s statement,
تَوْبَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيماً حَكِيماً
“to seek repentance from Allah. And Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
means, this is how the one who kills by mistake can repent, he fasts two consecutive months if he does not find a slave to free.