I know the Requirement of two Witnesses to Prove a Case of theft or murder in Islamic Law.
Today, nearly in every shop there is a camera for tracing possible theft events. Similarly, in big and important buildings there are a lot of cameras for security. I’m wondering, could these cameras be used in proving a theft event or any murder.
So, is it possible to punish a thief by hadd penalty detected by Video Camera or a murderer killed someone and detected by Camera?
If not, could they be punished by any taazir penalty?
Thank you very much.
Before I answer your specific question, I would like to clarify that Islam does NOT prescribe any fixed criteria for proving any allegation of theft or murder. It is a general misconception that Islam prescribes two witnesses for proving a case against a thief or a murderer. This idea is, however, not correct. The reason for this lack of prescription of Islam, in my opinion, is because of the close connection between the evidence, which can be provided for proving or disproving a case and man’s technological development. We know that today we can resort to things which were almost unimaginable just a few years ago. Finger prints, DNA matches, cameras, voice recorders and a number of other inventions have completely altered our potentials in the fields of forensics.
Islam is not against the use of any of these modern-day developments in proving or disproving an allegation. The silence of the Shari`ah with reference to the prescription of a fixed criteria for proving or disproving a case, keeps our doors open for us to accept all those new and emerging methods and technologies in our courts, which we consider to be reliable.
As far as whether or not a particular method – for instance a video movie – should be used as an admissible evidence is a decision on which opinion should be sought from legal experts and camera and movie technicians. If a video movie, in the opinion of these experts provides sound and reliable evidence, then it should be given the status of admissible evidence in the law. On the other hand, if it does not provide sound evidence, then it should not be considered as such.
Whatever is considered to be sound and reliable evidence would prove a case for, as well against, an individual. A punishment should be implemented upon an individual only after it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the he has, in fact, committed the alleged crime. In case it is not proven beyond any reasonable doubt that an individual has committed the alleged crime then no punishment should be administered at all. I, therefore, cannot understand the logic of implementing Ta`zeer1 in cases where the Shari`ah has specified a punishment. Obviously, if a person is proven guilty, he should then be subjected to the punishment prescribed by the Shari`ah, while if he is not proven guilty, no punishment should be administered upon him at all. Clearly, there is no such thing as proven ‘half-guilty’2. Why should then a person be subjected to a Ta`zeer, if the Shari`ah has expressly prescribed the punishment for the crime, which he is alleged to have committed.
I hope this helps.
September 17, 2001
- Ta`zeer, as a term of Islamic Jurisprudence, refers to punishments, which are not prescribed by the Shari`ah. Contrary to Ta`zeer, Hadd refers to those punishments, which are prescribed by the Shari`ah. [↩]
- It is held by some scholars that when a case against an individual is proven by the methods (and at the standards) prescribed by the Shari`ah (which, as I have already stated, are non-existent), then the individual should be subjected to the punishment prescribed by the Shari`ah; while if a case against an individual is not proven at the standards prescribed by the Shari`ah, then a punishment of lesser severity than the one prescribed by the Shari`ah should be administered. In my opinion, this opinion is completely baseless and against the established principles of Jurisprudence. [↩]