With the recent killing of an alleged smash-and-grab assailant on Jakes Gerwel Drive, members of the Muslim community have voiced their concern about the permissibility of self-defense in the shariah (Islamic law).
Islam, like all major religions in the world, is a religion that advocates justice and peace. Muslims believe that Allah, through His justice, has stipulated strict regulations pertaining to self-defense.
Islamic scholar Shaykh Zaid Fataar says these regulations are stipulated in the Al-Daruriyyaat al-Khamsa (Five Necessities) and include the protection of an individual’s; religion, soul, wealth, family, and country.
Proof in the Qur’an and Hadeeth:
Allah says in the Qur’an (which may mean): And fight those who wish harm to other people, until they are placed in the path of Allah. [Surah al-Hujjaraat: 9]
“A man came to the Prophet Muhammad, and said: Oh Prophet Muhammad, what should I do if a man should come and try to steal from me? The Prophet replied: do not give him your wealth. The man then asked the Prophet, what happens if this man fights me for my wealth? The Prophet then said: fight him! The man then asked: What happens if this man kills me? To which the Prophet then replied: Then you will be a martyr. The man then asked: What happens if I kill him? The Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon Him) replied: then the criminal is in Jahannam. [Sahih Muslim]
Imam al-Nawawi has given a fatwa that grants an individual the right to defend against a person who is approaching you with the intention of stealing your property and places you in the position where your life is threatened.
Shaykh Fataar elaborates that Imam Maalik, however, states that it is not permissible to kill a person who steals from you “something that is petty”, such as bread.
The Shaykh, therefore, notes that in the event that you are attacked, you are given the right to defend yourself against criminal activity that is directed toward injury to; yourself, your wealth, or your family.
The second opinion, the Shaykh asserts, is that when you find yourself in these situations “then be the slave of Allah” that is completely “dead”- the interpretation being “do not do anything.”
In order to reconcile between the two regulations, the ‘Ulamaa state that if it is a threat that you are unable to protect against, unless you place your life at risk, then it is permissible for you to defend yourself, even if it means that your life or that of the assailant is taken.
“A man came to the Prophet Muhammad and asked what he should do if someone approached and attempted to rob him of his wealth. The Prophet replied by stating that he should “remind the criminal of Allah.” The man then asked: Oh Prophet of Allah, and if this man does not take heed? To which the Prophet replied: then seek refuge from the people that are around you. The man then asked: What if I cannot find anyone around me? The Prophet then stated that he should approach the authorities to stop the criminal. The man then asked: What if the authorities are not around to assist? To which the Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon Him) replied: Fight to protect your wealth until either you are killed or the criminal has succumbed! [al-Nisa’í]
The Shaykh, therefore, asserts that killing is not the first resort; individuals are urged to assess the situation before reacting.
How to react:
Allah stipulates in the Qur’an (which may mean): whoever attempts harming you then do exactly the same to him. [Baqarah: 194]
The above ayah indicates that if an individual is not attempting to take a life but instead is only interested in robbing you of your wealth, then it is not a right upon that individual to take the criminals life.
It is further stated in the noble Qur’an (which may mean): And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah. Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers.[Al-Shuraa: 40-44]
It is, therefore, evident that the shariah provides clear regulations, which allows for self-defense, after due diligence has been done in assessing the situation – “And whoever is patient and forgives – indeed, that is of the matters [requiring] determination.”[Al-Shuraa: 43]
VOC (Thakira Desai)