What does Islam say about revenge for someone who caused you or your family harm?
Revenge is a natural human desire. This fact can only be fully appreciated when one has truly been physically, psychology or emotionally hurt by another person. Though there may be exceptions to this generalization – and these exceptions are admirable indeed – yet, the general tendency of even a peace-loving human being is to avenge the pain that he has been made to suffer, without any reason, by another person.
In view of the fact that seeking vengeance is a natural emotion and desire, Islam has not directly commented on it. However, it should be interesting to note that the punishment proposed by Islam in the case of inflicting physical injury (i.e. “Qisaas“) takes into consideration the irrefutable fact that if the legal system of the state (whose primary purpose should be to provide possible justice to the complainant in such cases) would not satisfy the burning desire of vengeance of the hurt party, it would only reduce the respect of the system and induce people to take their revenge themselves if they have the power to do so. In such a situation, only the weak would knock at the court’s doors, if they do not find their Don Corleones in time; the strong shall get their revenge themselves. Obviously, such a situation shall only translate into social and legal anarchy. On the other hand, if the legal and penal system of a state is willing to provide justice to the hurt party, it would reduce the incidents where people try to take the law in their own hands and translate their own concepts of justice into actions.
Islam, by proposing the punishment of “Qisaas” in such cases, has actually proposed to satisfy the desire for vengeance of a hurt party under the supervision of the court. This supervision greatly reduces the incidence of injustice in the name of vengeance. Moreover, because in cases where a person is guilty of inflicting physical injury (or death) on another the crime is actually committed against an individual, therefore Islam also gives the authority of forgiveness to the individual (or the relatives of the deceased, in the case of murder). Thus, the system proposed by Islam is actually based on the principle that if a person is proved to be guilty of inflicting physical injury (or death) on another, the court should provide justice to the hurt party and punish the criminal by inflicting upon him the same kind of physical injury as he himself inflicted on the victim, in the first place. However, if the hurt party – not the court – is willing to forgive the criminal, it may do so, because forgiveness is only the right of the particular party that has been wronged in the first place. Only in such a case shall forgiveness comply with the principles of justice as well as mercy.
26th September 1999