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aaiil.org > Articles & Magazines > A Collection of Various Articles > Crime and Violence — The Remedies by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui

Crime and Violence — The Remedies:

by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui

The Light (December 1, 1976)


The increase in crime and violence is world-wide. It is now becoming almost a nightmare. Unless effective steps are taken to suppress and crush these evils, mankind will revert to the law of the jungle and no civilisation can survive. We are immediately concerned with the alarming rise in our own country. Everyday one reads of murders, dacoities, burglaries, robberies, thefts, abductions, kidnappings, molestation of women, and so on.

For prevention, we adopt two conflicting courses of action:

a. We enhance the existing punishments and existing strength of courts.

b. We are making jails and prison life more and more sophisticated and comfortable in the interest of humanitarianism.

The enhancement of punishments, which usually comes to a longer term of imprisonment, is a self-defeating method. In U.S.A., where sentences run to hundreds of years, the increase in crime and violence is so alarming that it is causing nation-wide concern. In our country, the maximum limit of life imprisonment, with remissions of various kinds, comes to five to seven years of actual imprisonment. Also, in the conditions obtaining in our country, life inside the jail is now, for the ordinary criminal, more comfortable, and full of amenities than outside. So the effectiveness of this method of punishment cannot be any better. Besides, inside the jail the criminal comes into daily contact with other more hardened and more experienced criminals. They compare notes and evolve more detection-proof methods of crime. There is no hard labour left now, the food is better and more regular than outside, the clothing is better, and the prisoners while-away their spare time in gambling, smoking (though both are officially prohibited) and listening in to radio, if not watching television. The percentage of detection, and ultimate conviction is so small that no criminal is now deterred by these considerations. Even if he is caught, which is unlikely in most cases, and eventually convicted, life in jail has no terrors for him, particularly as he can now come out even on parole and visit his family.

The more sophisticated thinkers argue that crime really has a psychological and economic origin, and should therefore be tackled on those grounds. The Western thinkers also thought so. And they had all the means to cure their criminals on those lines which they have tried now for several decades. But the situation in the West is much more alarming than in the East, in spite of the latter’s poverty and lack of psychological treatment facilities. The richest country in the history of the world so far, and the most advanced in psychological and psychiatric treatment, namely U.S.A., has the highest incidence of crime and violence. So let us not delude ourselves by that kind of thinking. The Western criminologists and authorities feel more baffled than we do, because they have tried all the remedies they could think of and failed. They do not possess the light which we have available, but do not take advantage of. It is the Divine light and guidance given to us by our Creator in the Holy Quran, which excels all other revealed books even in this respect.

According to the Holy Quran, man has been given the animal instincts, emotions, desires and passions to provide the motive power for the human body’s efforts and hard work. But like all other motive power (such as in a car engine, railway engine or aircraft engine) unless that power is effectively controlled and steered, man is bound to come to grief and even to death. The animal within man has to be tamed, reined and driven according to the will of the human spirit, which must act as an effective rider. The human spirit, drawn from the Divine Spirit, cannot remain healthy and strong enough to control the animal, unless it draws its nourishment and strength from its Source (the Almighty) through prayer five times a day, like physical food man eats to nourish his body. The moving spirit of man must also act on moral and spiritual principles that are explained by the Creator in the Holy Quran.

The above sublime truth needs no explanation. Those who "believe and do good deeds" as explained in the Holy Quran do not need a police force, a magistracy or jails to keep them on the right path. The Holy Quran teaches us how to tame and control the animal within us, so as to ride it on to great moral and spiritual heights.

But there are those who do not care for moral and spiritual values. Their spirit weakens and may even nearly die. Their animal within then becomes headstrong and masterful. And they begin to lead the life of the animal that drives them in all activities of their daily lives.

Now, the animal has no moral or spiritual values. No police force, magistracy or prisons can change its nature. Economic and psychological treatments cannot make him any better. The animal, which is not amenable to curbs and controls, has to be physically punished to make it behave. There is no other remedy.

We have reformatories and Borstal institutions. They have had no appreciable success. That is because we teach the first offenders trades and occupations, thinking that their tendency towards crime is due to economic reasons. No trade or occupation can pay as handsomely as crime. So the teaching of skills is not the final answer.

The first offenders should be reformed also morally and spiritually. That requires enlightened and modern instruction, but must include regular prayers, fasting and the teaching of the Holy Quran with translation, lectures on man’s responsibility for his actions, which make his life heaven or hell, even in this world according to what he does.

But if a first offender is not reformed and he continues to be swayed by his animal urges, then his animal has to be tamed through corporal punishment. It is no use imprisoning the millions and millions of criminals, who are a financial drain on society, and become worse criminals when they come out. In any case, chances of making easy and plenty of money through crime, with very little chance of being caught or eventually convicted, and the comfortable jail life, all come into the criminal’s calculations. He naturally decides to take the easy lucrative course.

Fine, again, has no deterrent effect. It falls usually on innocent parents or members of the family. With no terrors left in jail life, the criminal prefers to spend a little more time there than pay heavy fines. The little possibility of detection and eventual conviction again weigh against reformation. Fine can easily be paid in any case from the much bigger gains of crime.

The man who is ruled by the animal within him cannot be reformed, unless the over-powering animal in him is tamed and reformed through corporal punishment. That is the only language the animal understands when it has got the devil on top of it.

I have, during my long years of public service, had several occasions to watch the salutary effect of corporal punishment when appeals to reason and the better side of man fail. When I was serving in Bombay City long before partition, communal riots broke out. Nothing the police, the magistracy and even the army could do would stop them. The rioting (stabbing, arson, etc.) lasted for more than two months. Then the army asked for public whipping to be introduced. Then rioting stopped within two days!

Several criminals I dealt with begged me to send them to jail, but not to whip them. But I found that even six stripes cured budding criminals who had previously learnt no lesson from reformatories or jails.

Let us take the much-maligned punishment of the cutting off of a hand of the thief. Let me make it quite clear that the Holy Quran dose not require the hand to be cut off on the very first occasion. The verse in question reads:

"And (as for) the man and the woman addicted to theft, cut off their hands as a punishment for what they have earned an exemplary punishment from Allah. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.

"But whoever repents after his wrongdoing, and reforms, Allah will turn to him (mercifully). Surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (Surah Al-Maidah (5) verses 38 and 39).

It is thus quite clear that the criminal first has to be given an opportunity to repent and reform which can be by binding him over, sending him to a reformatory or by flogging him.

If he persists in crime, then his left hand has to be cut off in the first instance. No case is known where the second hand had to be cut off too. In fact, it does not even come to the first hand being cut, once the criminal world knows the exemplary punishment that may be imposed on them. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Saudi Arabia has provided for this penalty. Millions of our people have by now been to Saudi Arabia for Hajj [pilgrimage], Umra or business. Have they seen a single man with a hand cut off? I have stayed there for nearly two months and travelled all over. I did not see a single man with his hand cut off. And what does one see instead? Shops glittering with silver and golden clothes, ornaments, etc., left with doors open, and electric lights blazing on these glittering goods, and no security-guard or even a closed door throughout the night or where the shop-keeper goes out for prayers five times a day. I only found occasionally that a band of black cloth (not more than a foot or two high) was tied across the door when the shop was left unattended. I asked the Arabs why this was done. It could not stop a thief. "No," they said, "it is meant for stray dogs or cats." I know of a Haji [one who has performed the Hajj] who lost an attaché case while travelling from Jeddah to Mecca. It fell off the bus top. When he went to the police in Mecca, they advised him to be at the bus stop when later buses arrive. Sure enough, the next morning he found a Bedouin with his attaché case enquiring aloud whose it was. When the Haji claimed it, the Bedouin insisted that they go to the police first. At the police station the Haji found that in falling off the roof to the ground, the attaché case had broken open. But not a single pie was missing! What could have stopped a Bedouin in the desert from appropriating the money? The effectiveness of the punishment provided by Islam.

Theft, with its more complicated forms of burglary, robbery, dacoity, etc., constitutes nearly eighty per cent of the crime in the world. In spite of security personnel, dogs, burglar alarms, police patrols, and other measures, nobody can go to sleep with the assurance that he will not be robbed during the night and, what is worse, stabbed or killed in the bargain. Considering this, is it fair to call the punishment provided by Islam "barbaric"? Such a contemptuous epithet has been used by the Western nations who, in the name of their civilised culture and good sense, do not hesitate to bomb millions and millions of innocent men, women and children, killing and maiming them, and burning them with their incendiaries and napalm bombs. Our westernised people, hypnotised by whatever comes from the West, also repeat that remark. They have not been robbed, stabbed, or killed yet. That is why they utter this calumny so lightly. The Western nations justify their wholesale slaughter, maiming and burning of innocent people on the plea of self-defence and the need to defend society against communists or aggressors. Why can’t the same plea be available to a Government which is conscientious enough to realise that it has a responsibility before man and God to save the peaceful innocent citizens under its care from a thief or a burglar who gets away with their life’s savings in almost no time, and who stabs or kills them in the process?

The plea is raised that a man may have been falsely implicated in a charge of theft. In that case is it fair to send him to jail even? In any case, in the beginning nobody’s hand is to be cut off. So how can a false implication lead to any irrevocable miscarriage of justice? A decent man cannot easily be implicated falsely and convicted. However, let us provide that only a thief who is caught red-handed and who is a habitual thief should have his hand cut off. That is safe enough. In any case, a hand can get cut off even as a result of a disease or in an accident in a factory, car, train, or aeroplane. Besides, a surgeon can cut off the hand of the habitual thief after giving the thief an anaesthetic. As experience has shown in Saudi Arabia, the occasion never arises, because the Islamic punishment is totally effective.

If we are afraid that this is too harsh, then remember that we will never be able to tackle the serious menace of rising crime and violence by the other methods, all tried by the Western countries and alike. Why should we be soft to the criminal and ignore that he robs and stabs his innocent victims without any compunction?

Apart from the vital importance of enforcing the Quran and Sunnah, which our new Constitution obliges us to do, we may also take the following steps:

a. Films showing crime and violence should be totally banned from cinemas and television. Our censor code already provides for it. But in actual enforcement we are lax. Not only do such films incite the young to be violent, but they teach those already thinking of, or addicted to crime, ingenious methods of crime and violence. Let us be firm totally in banning these films.

b. Police patrols at night are effective. But the old method of patrolling on foot is out of date and too expensive. A policeman cannot cover a sufficient distance on foot. And it is too expensive to engage a police force large enough to cover the whole area of towns and cities on foot. On the other hand, motorised patrols are also too expensive. Besides, they forewarn the thief slinking in the dark. And they cannot go everywhere.

So the answer is police patrols on bicycles. I had experimented with it as a district officer and found it most effective. A small police force equipped with bicycles can cover large areas. They approach even more silently than a policeman does on foot. And the element of surprise is there. Lastly, it is easier to chase a thief on cycle than on foot, as the thieves are usually fleet-footed. The expense of this scheme is nominal, but the benefit is enormous.

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