Amnesty and Pardon in Islamic Law With Special Reference to Post-Conflict Justice
The subject before us has acquired renewed significance in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the tumult and violence that has been on the increase ever since, but also what followed the advent of the Arab Spring in many Muslim countries. Conflicts that engulf countries and communities rarely, if ever, end by clean endings. They leave behind a host of issues, including the urge to take revenge by the aggrieved parties - hence a vicious circle of violence follows. Post-conflict justice requires careful management, such that measure - for - measure justice may not be the right option in one’s quest to restore peace. The spirit of peace and willingness to give and take, admission of truth and forgiveness may be among the more effective means of healing and moving forward. What role, if any, is there in the midst of all this for Islam’s guidelines on repentance, amnesty and forgiveness is the main subject I address in the following pages. Amnesty, pardon and forgiveness are the means, in Islamic theology and law, as also in most other world traditions, of relieving someone from punishment, blame, civil liability or religious obligation. The same result is often achievable by recourse to certain other methods such as reconciliation, arbitration, and judicial order. This article focuses on an exposition of Islamic law provisions on amnesty (‘afwa). The fiqh positions explored here derive, for the most part, from the Qur’an (normative teaching), or Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, and general consensus (ijma’) of scholars across the generations. Yet instances are found where fiqhi interpretations of the relevant scripture are reminiscent of historical settings and conditions of their time, which may, upon reflection, warrant further scrutiny and interpretation more in tune with the contemporary conditions of Muslims.