Saudi Arabia: What Exactly is an Eye for an Eye


In Saudi Arabia, justice can be swift and harsh.  Depending on the nature of the crime, a person can be publicly beheaded.  In other cases, towards avoiding a beheading or lengthy jail term, the family of the ‘guilty party’ may pay “diyyah” or blood money to the victim or the victim’s family.  The victim or the victim’s family are the ones who set the terms and amount of the diyyah.  There are also family’s who have chosen to forgive the guilty party without receiving diyyah and who wish for the guilty party to not undergo a punishment or time in jail.

So, what exactly is an eye for an eye and where did this term come from in the Muslim world?

According to Wikipedia, “An eye for an eye is the principle that a person who has injured another person is penalized to a similar degree, or according to other interpretations the victim receives the value of the injury in compensation. According to Jewish interpretations the victim in criminal law gets financial compensation based on the law of human equality eschewing mutilation and ‘lex talionis’.[1]

The English word talion means a retaliation authorized by law, in which the punishment corresponds in kind and degree to the injury, from the Latin talio.[2] The phrase “an eye for an eye” is sometimes trivially referred to using the Latin term lex talionis, the law of talion.”

The Qur’an mentions the “eye for an eye” concept as being ordained for the Children of Israel.[18] The principle of Lex talionis in Islam is Qasas (قصاص) as mentioned in (Qur’an 2:178) “O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution (Qasas) for those murdered – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment.”. Some Muslim nations, still apply the rule, in accordance with the Mosaic Law. In some countries that use Islamic law (sharia), the “eye for an eye” rule is applied quite literally.[19][20]

A judge in Jeddah is presently faced with a dilemma on whether to literally apply the law as an eye for an eye.  A young Saudi woman was paralyzed in an auto accident shortly after her honeymoon.  The driver of the other vehicle was convicted of speeding and reckless driving and therefore found to be responsible for the accident which left the young woman paralyzed.  The driver has offered to give the young woman 6 million SAR in financial compensation. blood-money

However, the young woman has been adamant in her refusal to accept anything less than an eye for an eye.  She insists that the only fair and just punishment is for the driver to receive the same fate that she herself must now live.  She wants the court to sentence the driver to become paralyzed.

The verdict of the judge in charge of this case has yet to be handed down.  What do you think?  Is the young woman’s request fair and just?  Should she accept the money?

Do you see the woman as being too vindictive?  Is her attitude reflective of how Islam is to be practiced?


20 Responses

  1. Well, if one reads the passages in the Qur’an as well as the hadiths pertaining to the same, one would come to know that the demands made by the woman are what is prescribed in such a situation as this.

    Even though the man was speeding, it was not his intention to paralyze the woman. Therefore, it was an accident, and the man is prescribed to pay the diyya which is set by the girl, her family and the court.

    The judge who even has the smallest doubt as to what to do in this situation, has no real knowledge concerning Islamic jurisprudence and is unfit to be making judgement according to Islamic law.

  2. INteresting… I can think of a certain Islamic tv preacher who needs a lot of procedures done to him to pay for the crimes he committed on his daughter…
    So why hasn’t he been beaten, raped, tortured and killed yet?

  3. yes, why the exceptions if they are Muslims following the Quran?

  4. Aafke-Art is correct as is Kareem. This case is an accident where the Islamic preacher (I can think of worse things he should be called) deliberately beat, raped, tortured and killed his daughter. That man should have all the above handed to him as punishment while the young paralized girl should take her diyya. God or Allah is the final judge in all cases and I hope he finds a good punishment for the TV Islamic preacher as well as a few Christian ones.

  5. Well considering that God/Allah doesn’t exist the final judge is actually humanity. Accidents happen even if the individual was reckless……pay her some money and hope that science finds a way to fix the spinal cord so that she can walk again.

  6. i agree with what Kareem said and that how it is really should be applied
    the girl is just having anger and disspaointment from what had happend to her and the thing she asked for is just not in the right low to be applied

  7. Kat, I agree with you. God will be the final and most just judge!

  8. @All readers.
    If you are interested please read AL_QURAN 5:45 “says that We ordained in TAWRAT for them: “Alife for a life, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, a nose for nose, an ear foe an ear, a tooth for a tooth and for a wound an equal retaliation” But if anyone remit the retaliation by way of charity, it will be an act of atonement for him; those who do not judge by the law which Allah has revealed, are indeed the wrongdoers.

  9. sami, on February 6, 2013 at 5:22 am said: ” …. read AL_QURAN 5:45 “says that We ordained in TAWRAT for them: “A life for a life, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, a nose for nose, an ear foe an ear, a tooth for a tooth and for a wound an equal retaliation” …. ”

    AN EYE FOR AN EYE will make the world go blind — Mahatma Gandhi

  10. The fact that she lived says she has more to accomplish in the world. She should use her life for positive things and change. There is the world leader in spinal research in Miami, FL. They have helped several paraplegics to walk again. Look at all the good works Christopher Reeves did from his wheel chair.

  11. The driver should be punished for reckless driving and given a sentense as to whatever that entails, he could also probaby be required to take care of the young lady’s medical needs ..etc., but how the heck could you paralyse a human being wnatedly to the exact same degree she was????

    she can demand a punishment and compensation but beyond that not much she can expect. sad and tragic but suchis life.

  12. I remember reading about this case some time ago and the discussion about what physician would actually do the surgery on this man. Apparently they are reluctant and rightly so.
    There is no rhyme or reason for much of what happens in KSA. The country has a long, long way to go to get out of the dark ages and I think most of us can agree on that.

  13. It is a sorry situation if Saudi Arabia tries to follow 7th century ideas of ethics. In that society the kinds of accidents that are possible today were simply impossible. I doubt camels crashed into stray people.

  14. A physician cannot do this surgery, all physicians take the Hippocratic oath and such surgery would be against the Hippocratic oath.
    For a job like this you need an executioner.

  15. @Aafke, Kat,

  16. Correction to my last post. I meant to say:

    one would come to know that the demands made by the woman are ‘not’ what is prescribed in such a situation as this.

    Just in case someone misunderstood what I was saying. I need to remember to proof read before hitting submit. -_-

  17. Of course we all know that there are physicians out there who will do horrible things under pressure or because they are mentally imbalanced. Remember the Holocaust?

  18. Yes the Holocaust…

  19. […] now makes one wonder about what the future will hold for another young Saudi man.  A Saudi woman refused retribution of six million SAR when she became paralyzed in an accident which was found to be the fault of the […]

  20. […] Not only do these two incidents raise questions on the authority and boundaries of Saudi judges but the issue goes beyond what is viewed as just in the case of an “eye for an eye.” […]

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