Al-Baqarah · Juz 2 · Qur'an Tafseer

An Obligation for the People of Understanding


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 179

In the rule of Qisas, we learned that if someone kills an innocent person then he (the murderer) too should be killed unless the deceased’s heirs choose to forgive him. Someone might say that one person was killed and in order to take his revenge another life has to be lost. But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us the opposite:  


“And there is for you in legal retribution [saving of] life,” meaning legislating the law of killing the murderer, carries great benefits. 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 a 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.

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.”


Since this is a law ordained by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and not by man-made court we should have no qualms about honoring it. Many Muslims today, in the name of liberalism, denounce this law and call it injustice.

Should we support the oppressor or the oppressed? Is it not fair to support the victim and his family? If someone’s loved one has been killed, they deserve justice. It is up to them whether they take revenge, accept blood money or forgive the murderer. This also means that if a family forgives the one who caused them harm, then the people should not incite them for revenge. Many people taunt those who accept diyah and say they have sold their dead. This expiation has been given by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We should not create chaos and Fitnah. Those who forgive others will get their reward from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Forgiveness is most preferred over revenge and

Yes, capital punishments are harsh and that is why they are the best treatment. In absence of such punishments, crime spreads as we see today in Karachi, one of the world’s largest cities and the main business hub of Pakistan. Everyday countless lives are lost to target killing; the murderers are free while the weak and innocent are captured. Killing anybody is a major crime. If one does not face punishment in this world, there will be punishment in the next life. No one can escape Allah’s accountability.

Because there is no accountability today, people have lost the respect for other human beings. The way we speak with others and the day we deal is a reflection of our disrespect. So much violence is depicted in the movies, TV shows, cartoons and video games that innocent children are growing up believing that it is okay to kill another person. People are being killed as if they are apples and oranges or empty food cans to practice their targeting skills. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands us to respect all living beings from mankind to trees and animals. This is why we are not allowed to back bite and abuse others because if today we have resentment against another human being, and if that is not treated, there will come a time when we will find it okay to kill them. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us, aameen.

When the criminal knows he will be arrested and held accountable, this will automatically result in lesser crimes. The way judicial system is handled determines the crime rate. If no justice is served, then whose life and property is saved?

Before we react to whatever media shoves over our face, we should understand the wisdom behind a Divine command. Understanding the wisdom behind Allah’s laws bring about peace. We should have no objections and work together in applying them in our lives.

[Human Beings Should Respect the Sanctity of Other Human Beings]

Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “O men of understanding, that you may acquire Taqwa,” meaning the wisdom behind this command will be not be understood by anyone except those who are of sound minds, comprehension and understanding. They are those who reflect on the ayaat of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and go deep in their meanings. They use their intellect and understand what they are being told. When a person, instead of criticizing the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chooses to comprehend them he develops taqwa in his heart. He refrains from transgressing the prohibitions of Allah and what He considers sinful and is eager to perform what He commands us to do. A person who has taqwa in his heart will not commit sins especially something so terrible as killing someone.


Notice that the ayah addresses the men of understanding. The fact that no one in the Ministry or courts is standing up for this ayah reveals a sad state of our affairs. It is an indication that there no “men of understanding” in authoritative positions to establish Allah’s rules. And if a Muslim country fails to implement Shari’ah, then how can it expect the help of Allah? Note that whoever works against the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is deprived of His Rahmah [mercy]. Looking at the condition of the Muslim world today, one wonders how can anyone continue to play with the commands of the Qur’an? May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us and make us of the men of understanding, aameen.

Today, if we do not stand up with the oppressed then tomorrow when we are afflicted with harm no one will come to our help either.

Rulings for Qisas

1.The principle of even retaliation is applied exclusively in cases of culpable homicide when someone has been killed intentionally with a lethal weapon causing injury and blood-loss.

2. In a homicide of this nature, the killer is killed in even retaliation – free man for a free man, slave for a slave, and female for a female – and similarly, a man for a man. The mention of “free man for a free man” and “female for a female” in this ayah refers to a specific event in the background of which it was revealed.

On the authority of Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Katheer has reported that, just before the advent of Islam, war broke out between two tribes. Many men and women, free and slaves, belonging to both, were killed. Their case was still undecided when the Islamic period set in and the two tribes entered the fold of Islam. Now that they were Muslims, they started talking about retaliation for those killed on each side.

One of the tribes which was more powerful insisted that they would not agree to anything less than that a free man for their slave and a man for their woman be killed from the other side.

It was to refute this barbaric demand on their part that this ayah was revealed. By saying ‘free man for a free man, slave for a slave and female for a female’ it is intended to negate their absurd demand that a free man for a slave and man for a woman should be killed in retaliation, even though he may not be the killer. The just law that Islam enforced was that the killer is the one who has to be killed in qisas. If a woman is the killer why an innocent man be killed in retaliation? Similarly, if the killer is a slave, there is no sense in retaliating against an innocent free man. This is an injustice which can never be tolerated in Islam.

It is not permissible to kill an innocent man or someone free for a killer, woman or slave. Let us hasten to clarify that the ayah does not mean that Qisas will not be taken from a man who kills a woman or from a free man who kills a slave. In the very beginning of ayah 178 the words: “O you who have believed! Prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered,” are a clear proof of this universality of application. There are other ayaat where this aspect has been stated more explicitly, for instance, in the person for the person).

3. If, in a case of intentional killing the murderer is given full pardon, for instance, should both of the two surviving sons of the deceased pardon and forego their right of retaliation, the killer is free of any claim against him. In case the pardon is not that full, for instance one of the two surviving sons pardons the killer while the other does not, the result will be that the killer will stand released right there from the retaliatory punishment, but the one who has not pardoned the killer will be entitled to half of the blood-money [diyah]. In Shari’ah, this diyah amounts to one hundred camels or one thousand dinars or ten thousand dirhams or approximately nineteen pounds of silver according to current weights and measures.

4. The way an incomplete pardon makes payment of blood-money necessary, in the same manner, a mutual settlement between parties concerned on a certain amount makes retaliation inapplicable and payment of the agreed amount becomes necessary. This, however, is governed by some conditions which appear in books of fiqh [jurisprudence].

5. Under the Islamic law, the inheritors of the person killed, whatever their number be, will inherit and own the right of retaliation and blood-money in accordance with their share in the inheritance. If blood-money is taken, it will be distributed among the inheritors In accordance with their share in the inheritance. And should qisas [even retaliation] become the choice, the right of qisas will also be commonly shared by all. Since qisas is indivisible, the pardon given by any one of the inheritors will hold good and the pardon will become inclusive of the right of retaliation held by other inheritors. However, they shall receive the blood-money amount according to their share.

6. It is true that the right of even retaliation is vested in the legal heirs of the persons killed but, in accordance with the consensus of the Muslim community, they do not have the right to settle the score all by themselves, in other words, they cannot kill the killer on their own, instead, they have to seek the help of a Muslim ruler or his deputy to realize their right. The reason is that qisas is an intricate issue when it comes to details which are simply out of reach for an average person.

Therefore, the legal heirs of the person killed, not knowing the particular circumstances when retaliation does, or does not become necessary, may commit some sort of excess under the heat of their anger. So, by a unanimous agreement of the scholars of the Muslim community, it is necessary that the right of retaliation be secured and made effective through the agency of an Islamic government.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 179

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]

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