This ayah also chastises and criticizes the Jews because in the Torah, they have the law of a life for a life. Yet, they defied this ruling by transgression and rebellion.
وَكَتَبْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِيهَآ أَنَّ النَّفْسَ بِالنَّفْسِ وَالْعَيْنَ بِالْعَيْنِ وَالاٌّنْفَ بِالاٌّنْفِ وَالاٍّذُنَ بِالاٍّذُنِ وَالسِّنَّ بِالسِّنِّ وَالْجُرُوحَ قِصَاصٌ
“And We ordained therein for them life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.”
There were two Jewish tribes in Madina; Banu an-Nadir and Banu Qurayzah. If a person from an-Nadir was killed by a man from Qurayzah then qisas would be taken. The murderer from Qurayzah would be killed in return. But when a person from Banu Qurayzah was killed by a person from an-Nadir then instead of qisas blood money would be taken. They considered Banu an-Nadir to be of higher prestige than Banu Qurayzah. They altered the law according to the status of the people.
They also defied the ruling in the Torah to stone the adulterer and instead came up with their own form of punishment, flogging, humiliation and parading them in public.
Similarly, if a person damaged the eye of another then that person’s eye would be damaged. If a person cut the nose of another then that person’s nose would be cut off. And so on with other body parts.
Basically, the law was whatever the perpetrator of the sin had inflicted on the victim the same would be repeated on him.
فَمَن تَصَدَّقَ بِهِ فَهُوَ كَفَّارَةٌ لَّهُ وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الظَّـلِمُونَ
“But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by that which Allah has revealed, such are the unjust.”
If, however, the victim chose to graciously forgive the criminal then this was considered as a kaffara or expiation. This can be understood in two ways. Firstly, this was the kaffara for the criminal and not he was free from any Hadd i.e. punishment. Secondly, this gesture of forgiveness would result in the expiation of the victim. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is going to forgive him his sins. The pain he suffered and the patience he expressed would be a source of reward for him on the Day of Judgment.
If the victim graciously forgives the criminal then that too was permissible. This was considered an expiation for him. Kaffara is the sha’ree removal of the sin.
Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu commented that “If one pardons by way of charity, it will result in expiation for the aggressor and reward for the victim.”
Imam Ahmad recorded that Ubadah bin As-Samit radhiAllahu anhu said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam saying,
مَا مِنْ رَجُلٍ يُجْرَحُ مِنْ جَسَدِهِ جَرَاحَةً فَيَتَصَدَّقُ بِهَا، إِلَّا كَفَّرَ اللهُ عَنْهُ مِثْلَ مَا تَصَدَّقَ بِه
“Any man who suffers a wound on his body and forfeits his right of retaliation as way of charity, then Allah will pardon him that which is similar to what he forfeited.” An-Nasa’i and Ibn Jarir recorded this hadeeth.
Whoever does not judge according to the law revealed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, such a person is zalim i.e. unjust because they are not the honoring the haq of Allah.