Press Release: Abolishing corporal punishments will help defeat islamist extremism

1st May 2020


1 May 2020 

Abolishing corporal punishments will help defeat islamist extremism

Saudi reforms directly challenge ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim Brotherhood & Khomeinist ideology 

LONDON – Counter-extremism thinktank, Quilliam International, has published a powerful rebuttal of the argument that hudood punishments (severe corporal and capital punishment) are required by Islamic law.  

In April 2020, Reuters reported that the General Commission for the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had determined that flogging would be abolished, and replaced with a system of fines and imprisonment. 

Quilliam believes that this was not a mere humanitarian reform. Rather, it constitutes a direct challenge to one of the foundational arguments that all islamist groups, whether Sunni or Shia, – from ISIS and Al-Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Khomeinists – use to challenge the legitimacy of the governments of non-islamist states.

Quilliam’s report presents a detailed historical and theological-jurisprudential argument on the contemporary status of corporal punishment in Islamic law.

Sheikh Usama Hasan, a co-author of the Quilliam report said:

“Islamists seek to challenge democratic and secular states by arguing that these are not legitimate because they do not carry out floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments. 

“Violent islamist groups resort to the application of hudood precisely in order to prove the legitimacy of their rule. It is for this reason that unspeakably barbaric punishments were such a prominent feature of the rule of ISIS in Syria. 

“However, the key theological sources which underpin the Sharia make it clear that the approach favoured by islamists ignores certain of the higher objectives of Islamic law: the promotion of forgiveness and rehabilitation, including the waiving of punishments. The islamist approach to corporal punishment is a distortion of the Islamic approach to criminal justice. 

“Severe corporal punishment was a feature of all societies in the 7th century. It represented a necessity within a nomadic society, which could not imprison and rehabilitate criminals. However, by the 19th century, the Ottoman Caliphate had abolished such punishments, because they were considered to be neither necessary nor appropriate.

“An approach to Sharia, premised upon its fundamental objectives, both promotes human rights and the honouring of those international agreements which Muslim-majority states have signed. Islamic jurisprudence supports the evolution, modification and repeal of hudood laws in our age because these are outdated and contradict the essential Islamic principles of justice and mercy.

“The issue of hudood punishments has now emerged from the realm of dry jurisprudence, and is now a matter of state policy of a leading Sunni state. The issue is now both live and vital. It is a strong challenge to islamist thinking that pulls the rug out from under the feet of islamist ideologues.”

Quilliam hope that our report will provide a sound theological-jurisprudential basis not only for defeating the most horrific features of the rule of groups such as ISIS, but also for demolishing a key argument against the legitimacy of non-islamist states. In doing so, we seek to bolster the argument for democratic, humane government, which fully respects fundamental human rights.


The full report may be downloaded here.

A webinar conducted by Sheikh Usama Hasan in conversation with Maajid Nawaz will take place on Tuesday, 5 May, 6 p.m. BST. Click here to attend the webinar at that time. 


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