In Shariah, one of the major categories into which crimes are placed is known as hadd. Hadd offenses include some of the more serious crimes in Islam, including theft, adultery and apostasy. Punishments for each are specified within Islamic scripture. Hadd crimes are considered violations of the "claims of God," deeds that damage the Islamic community as a whole rather than solely the crime's victim. With the rise of numerous Islamic states in the modern times, the implementation of hadd punishments, often attacked as repressive and medieval (particularly regarding women) continues to pose a controversial topic for Islam.
In Arabic, the word hadd bears the meaning of limitation, delineation, restriction or prohibition. Hadd is the singular form while hudood is the plural form. Hadd may refer to the edge or a knife or the border of a country, but in religious terms it signifies the "bounds or restrictions that God has placed on man's freedom of action," according to the "Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic."
The hadd crimes include all sexual relations outside of marriage, false accusation of such, theft, highway robbery, alcohol consumption and apostasy. By design, conviction of hadd crimes is a stringent process, requiring a substantial amount of proof, including numerous eyewitnesses. Therefore, conviction for hadd crimes rarely occurs.
Punishments for hadd crimes are outlined in detail within Islamic scripture. Those found guilty of illicit sexual relations may be given lashes or stoned to death, while those found guilty of theft may have a hand severed. Those convicted of violent highway robbery (where murder is involved) may be subject to capital punishment, by stoning or the sword.
In Muslim countries today, hadd crimes are not always punished in the manner specified by the Qur'an. Due to numerous political and social factors, Western codes of law and punishment, which took hold during the 19th century, continue to hold sway in most Muslim countries. Although many Muslim countries have criminalized hadd crimes such as adultery and alcohol consumption, most do not uphold the hadd penalties, instead substituting prison terms. Exceptions to such leniency include Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, and parts of Nigeria, all of which continue to enforce hadd punishments to varying degrees.
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