Aceh: Public Caning of Accused Adulterers Deplored as Un-Islamic
A human rights activist on Thursday slammed the humiliating punishment meted out to a teacher in Aceh Barat and the married woman he was suspected of having an affair with after the pair were marched through a village naked, tied to a pole and then brutally beaten. “To parade people around naked is not sanctioned in Islam,” said Zulfikar Muhammad, an activist from a coalition of human rights organizations in the staunchly Muslim province.
“The acts of the villagers who paraded the two through a village clearly violates both Islamic Shariah law and human rights. Islam upholds justice and the rights of human beings.”
Zulfikar’s statement comes after T Abdurrazak, operational commander of Aceh’s feared Shariah Police, confirmed on Thursday that the teacher, identified as Bus, 36, and was reportedly from an Islamic boarding school in Aceh Besar, had been caught in the bedroom of Yus, a 28-year-old housewife, in Seuneubok village, Meulaboh district, on Wednesday. The case is being dealt with by Aceh Barat Police.
Villagers had suspected for at least a year that the couple were having an affair, Abdurrazak said, adding that Yus’s husband was seldom at home because his job required him to travel out of town extensively.
He said villagers claimed they had often seen Bus enter through the back door of the house at night whenever the husband was out.
Abdurrazak said the villagers had decided to catch the couple in the act and at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, they broke down the door and allegedly found the pair in the bedroom. Abdurrazak, however, said he did not know whether the couple had actually been caught in in the act of committing adultery.
“Even though the Shariah Police has every right to investigate this violation, we do not have investigators as yet,” he said. “We are therefore working in collaboration with local Aceh Barat Police to process the case.”
According to a local Shariah regulation, adulterers face a maximum punishment of being publicly caned nine times.
“If the Qanun Jinayat had been signed by Aceh’s governor, the couple could have faced stoning to death,” Abdurrazak added, referring to the controversial set of local bylaws passed in September by the province’s legislative council to replace parts of the Criminal Code. Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf refused to sign off on the new code citing humanitarian grounds.
Abdurrazak said the pair were marched naked through the village and then both tied to a pole and beaten. After the police arrived to rescue the couple, they were rushed to the Cut Nyak Dhien General Hospital in the district capital of Meulaboh for emergency treatment, he added.
April 08, 2010
abridged from "Freedom of Expression in Islam" by Kamali
Avoiding harm to others and concealing the weakness of one's fellow human beings is a prominent theme of the moral teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah. The message here is conveyed in a variety of forms, context and ideas, all of which are indicative of Islam's emphasis on the honour and dignity of the individual, and of his or her right to privacy safe from the encroachment of others.
Thus according to a hadith:
"If a person conceals the weakness of another in this world, Allah will conceal their weakness in the hereafter" [Al Nawawi, Riyad al Salihin p 135, Hadith no 245; al Ghazali, Kitab Adab p 344]
A variant version of the same message is reported in another hadith, which states:
"Whoever protects the honour of his brother, will have Allah protect his countenance from the fire on the Day of Judgement" [Al Nawawi, Riyad al Salihin p 488, Hadith no 1530]
In yet another hadith we read:
"Do not harm Muslims, and do not revile them, nor pursue their imperfections. For verily, whosoever pursues the imperfections of his brother shall have his own imperfections pursued by Allah" [Sunan of al Tirmidhi, as quoted in Principles of State and Government in Islam, p 85]
Concealing the faults of, and respecting the privacy of others is again the theme of the following hadith:
"The Muslim who helps another when the latter's honour and dignity are under attack, shall be helped by Allah, Glorious and Sublime is He! - at a time when he would wish for Allah's help. But he who forsakes a Muslim whose dignity is under attack, shall have Allah forsake him at a time when he would wish for Allah's help" [Al Ghazali, Ihyaa Ulum al Din; Kitab Adab al Suhbah p 369]
It was reported that one night when Caliph Umar was patrolling Medina, he saw a man and a woman committing adultery. The following day the caliph informed other Companions and asked them whether he should enforce the prescribed penalty (hadd) for zina (fornication) on the basis of his own observations. To this Ali replied that the law of Allah stated clearly that four witnesses were required to prove zina, and that this provision was to be applied equally to the caliph. Other companions are also reported to have concurred with Ali's opinion.
While quoting this report, al Ghazali observes that this is strong evidence that the shariah demands the concealment of sins (satr al fawahish); it also discourages spying on or reporting the private affairs of others. [Kitab al Adab p 345-6]
It is noted that concealment (satr) is recommended only with regard to persons who are not generally known to engage in corrupt and harmful activities. As for those who are notorious, it is recommended that their evil is not concealed and that the matter is reported to the authorities.
Exposing the faults of others by casting aspersions, or spying on them, is particularly reprehensible. Thus according to a hadith, people are warned:
"Beware of suspicion. For suspicion is the most untrue form of speech; and do not spy upon one another and do not revile one another." [Sahih Muslim, Kitab al birr wal silah, Bab al nahy an al tajasus]
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal was once asked about the correct meaning of the following hadith:
"When you hear something form or about your brother, ascribe to it the best interpretation until you can no longer do so"
To this, he replied:
"Find an excuse for him by saying, 'Maybe he said this, or maybe he meant such and such'"
It is further reported in another hadith:
"Whoever is offered an apology from a fellow Muslim should accept it unless he knows that the person apologising is being dishonest" [Mishkat al Tabrizi, Vol III Hadith no 5052]
Commenting on these hadiths, Tuffah has rightly observed that, despite the occurrence of the word brother (akh) therein, they are of general import, and their scope is not confined to Muslims, the reason being that in Islam justice and benevolence (adl wa ihsan) are not confined to Muslims alone. The question of the way people treat fellow citizens in society, their brothers and sisters in humanity, is closely linked with the Quranic concepts of adl and ihsan, and these do not admit if any restriction that would compromise their objective application. [Tuffah, Masadir pp 89-90]
This indeed is the main point of the following Quranic text:
"And let not the hatred of a people harm you into being unjust. Be just, for it is closet to piety (taqwa)" [Surah 5: verse 8]
Furthermore, Hasan, the son of Ali is reported to have said:
"If a man abuses me in one ear and then apologises to me in the other, I shall accept his apology" [Al Maqdisi, al Adab, I p 341]
Thus it is evident that silence takes priority over speech when it comes to exposing the faults and weaknesses of others.
'One should not talk about the defects of others even if one is asked about them. One must try to avoid prying and asking personal questions about the private lives of others" [Al Ghazali, Kitab Adab pp 242-43]
For tolerance and forgiveness are necessary in order to encourage an atmosphere of fraternity in the community.