TROP Misrepresentation of Honor Killing and Reliance of the Traveller
DTT Contributor: In the following text you will see that this website, “The Religion Of Peace”, run by the Christian missionary Glen Roberts, which claims to be “a non-partisan, fact-based site” has blatantly, and perhaps purposely, misrepresented what Islam actually teaches on the matter of honor killing and is shown to have done so in the context of Pamela Geller who misrepresents the same passage in the book, Reliance of the Traveller. The person who first challenged Geller’s claim is Asadullah Ali.
Here is Asadullah Ali’s original post from Facebook.
Here is the text of Asadullah Ali’s post:
Career Islamophobes like Pamela Geller often tout the claim that Islam promotes honor killings. When challenged to provide evidence, said individuals gleefully run to copy and paste from their favorite manual of Islamic Law: The Reliance of the Traveler. Despite there being several hundreds more works in fiqh than this 14th century Shafi’I text, this one always appears to catch their eye. I think it’s perhaps due to the fact that it’s one of the more accessible translations on the market which has been endorsed by Al-Azhar University. Therein, they refer to the following passage as evidence that Islam advocates honor killings:
“The following are not subject to retaliation [qisas]…a father or mother (or their fathers or others) for killing their offspring, or offspring’s offspring…” (Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat al-Salik by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri – Commentary, and Appendices Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, p. 584)
From here, they infer that there is no punishment against someone who murders their own children, and that Al-Azhar University – which apparently represents the majority of Muslims across the world – and subsequently Islam, promote and sanction honor killings. This is an irrefutable smoking gun proof beyond any reasonable doubt, right?
Not even close.
How so? All you need is 10 minutes of reading and some basic skills in logic to realize that there is no possible way this passage endorses or justifies honor killings.
You see, the passage in question is in regards to criminal offenses that can or cannot be punished by something called “qisas”, or personal retaliation. In Islam, if someone tries to hurt another person intentionally and it leads to physical injury, the victim is allowed to legally retaliate in the same manner. In the event that the victim is killed their legal guardian or representative is allowed to retaliate on their behalf.
Why is this important to know? Because qisas is not the only form of punishment in Islam. Other forms include diyya (compensation), ta’zir (discretionary punishment), and hadd (limited/restricted punishment). As such, the passage is simply stating that in the event a father or mother kills their children intentionally, qisas cannot be the prescribed punishment, because it is legally impossible to be meted out given that the victim is dead and the legal guardians are the parents themselves! In other words, for qisas to occur, the legal guardians would have to kill themselves. But as we all know, suicide is prohibited in Islam.
This legal logic is exemplified in a later passage under the same section:
“When an injurious crime is caused by a non-family member in cooperation with the victim’s father, retaliation is only taken against the non-family member.” (Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat al-Salik by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri – Commentary, and Appendices Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, p. 587)
In other words, Islamophobes are being disingenuous by hiding the fact that the passage under examination only relates to one form of punishment and not punishment in general. Nowhere is the same exemption noted in regards to other punishments.
“But why is this not made clearer?” someone may ask. Well, because this is an abridged legal manual! The very introduction of the text, authorized by Al-Azhar University itself, states this clearly:
“The style of translating the basic text is an explanative one with interlinear commentary. The reason for commentary, briefly, is that this book, like others in Islamic law, is less the achievement of a particular author than the shared effort of a whole school of research and interpretation in explaining rules of divine origin. The cooperative nature of this effort may be seen in the multilayered character of its texts, whose primary authors often merely state the ruling of an act, lawful or unlawful, leaving matters of definition, conditions, and scriptural evidence for the commentator to supply, who in turn leaves important details for both writers of marginal notes and for living sheikhs to definitively interpret when teaching the work to their students. The sheikhs form a second key resource of textual commentary, a spoken one parallel to the written, and in previous centuries of traditional Islamic learning it was well known that no student could dispense with it. Living teachers were and are needed to explain terminological difficulties, eliminate ambiguities, and correct copyists’ mistakes….’Umar Barakat (d. after 1307/1890) wrote the text’s, commentary, Fayd alIlah ai-Malik fi hall alfaz ‘Umdat al-salik wa ‘uddat ai-nasik [The outpouring of the Sovereign Divinity: an interpretation of the words of “The reliance of the traveler and tools of the worshipper”] from which excerpts have been selected and introduced into the basic text by the translator.” (Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat al-Salik by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri – Commentary, and Appendices Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, pp. viii – ix)
In other words, the Reliance of the Traveler is only meant to serve as an outline and the legal scholars are the ones that give the conditions, reasons, evidences, etc. behind the abridged rulings. In contrast, Islamophobes assume the text is comprehensive in scope, cherry picking obscure passages from a work meant for people who teach law – not laymen looking to justify their preconceived notions.
In conclusion, all that Islamophobes have proven is that much like the criminals who perform honor killings, they will find anything they can get their hands on to justify their own stupidity.
In short, at the very least, this shows that TROP’s claim of being “a non-partisan, fact-based site” is suspect. And, to reiterate Asadullah’s point “all that Islamophobes have proven is that much like the criminals who perform honor killings, they will find anything they can get their hands on to justify their own stupidity.”
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(1) – “Islamic Scholars Issue Fatwa Against ‘Honour’ Killings In Pakistan“
(2) – “Quran 18:65-81 – Al-Khidr And Moses (Musa)“
(3) – “Are Honor Killings Islamic?“
(4) “Islam is not the Cause of Honor Killings. It’s Part of the Solution“
(5) “India’s Forbidden Love: An Honour Killing on Trial” (11th March 2018) https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2018/03/india-forbidden-love-honour-killing-trial-180306074425327.html
Thank you for continuing to post great articles.
““When an injurious crime is caused by a non-family member in cooperation with the victim’s father, retaliation is only taken against the non-family member.”
Can someone elaborate on this further? Asad did a great job of explaining that qisas (retailiation) can’t be done when the victim is killed, but why is qisas (retaliation) done on non-family murderers? I wonder if this book is too abridged. I’m just trying to think ahead. Thanks for any answers.