By Jarga Kebba Gigo
The world of interpretation is where our true colours are revealed, where our leanings separate us. The Recitation (Qur’an) is largely clear, but it admits some verses are unclear in ch 3:7 (Imran); it largely guides, but it admits it further misleads the wrongdoers in ch.17:82 (Israel). The book repeatedly says it is a book of signs for those who use their minds, not mindless folks – ch39:18, 40:54, 6:98, 3:7, 38:29 etc are few verses. Ch.31:3 (Luqman)and other verses tell us ‘it is guidance and mercy for those who do good’; but what is it to the mindless and wrongdoers? They may misinterpret it in fear, greed, or arrogance to encourage ignorance, lies, and cruelty. So just because someone recites some verses of the Recitation does not mean they are not ignoring better verses of the same subject or misinterpreting the very verses they are reciting.
Beyond the death penalty, the Recitation often offer two roads or multiple options, especially on punishment. How do you choose one of the roads, take the best options, or create other options within the range of options? This is precisely why I advise you to read it humbly, rather than blindly depend on the interpretation of image oriented people with big gowns. Ch.91:9(Sun) is one of the most crucial verses of the recitation that can be applied beyond the death penalty, but it may require the humility of ch.103(time).
First, we must admit the death penalty far predates modern Islam of Muhammad (pbuh), or even Christianity and Judaism – the death penalty is a simplistic reactionary measure that was understandable, but is outdated and prone to abuse, especially by questionable secular governments of our age. The actual word used in the Recitation is closer to ‘retaliation’, so any reasonable retaliation to killing can be appropriate. Ch.2:178 is the verse many of your scholars ignore and one you must learn. In many ways, this is the verse that states one can forgive killing, ask compensation, or demand the death penalty…’ To me, This is like minimum to maximum levels of retaliatory options, including unmentioned ones or signs, from the countless signs of the Lord. Every choice has a purpose and the very purpose of punishment is primarily to deter repetition by the culprit and/or others.
Many pro-death penalty folks want you to believe the anti-death penalty folks underpunish killers and that is why killing exists. They want you to believe killers fear death but not prison. The reality remains killing exists in places where the death penalty exists. The pro-death penalty folks are under the illusion that killing exists only due to cruelty and that ‘equal cruelty’ is the solution; the reality remains killing exists due to ignorance and cruelty, so how can we educate the ignorant and tackle the cruel with reasonable or measurable form of ‘cruelty’? Every human killer was once a baby, free of gross ignorance and cruelty, so how did society miseducate, under-educate, mistreat a victim or culprit to act or overreact through killing? There are many types of killings and reasons or excuses of killings, so the people and Lord of mizghalazaratin must also learn to differentiate our reaction and punishment to killings. This is why we have first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, etc.
The illusions behind premeditated killings are often different from their counterparts. Beside heterosexual teachings of teenagers, modern high schools must have anger management and illusion diffusing classes, designed to prevent crime. A culture of cameras in public places will help than the death penalty. At university and in the public media, the terms can change to managing fear, greed, and arrogance. The questionable preacher who learned the Recitation through ‘hell’ must not be continuously allowed to ‘enslave’ children who wander to beg, with high probability to be a mental or physical criminal. Governments must design some forms of theology classes where religious leaders are encouraged to enroll. Online challenging of questionable preachers may actually work than closing down mosques and churches with leaders without theology diploma, as seen Rwanda.
Only an angry dummy will insist the robber who kills, the husband who beats to death, the jealous wife who kills a cheating husband, the abused or greedy child who killed parents to escape or become rich, the fighter who kills through a hard fist, the drug dealer who kills because he cannot take someone to court on drug dubbing, the driver who kills an innocent or guilty pedestrian, etc are all the same and deserves the death penalty. Besides, differentiating the types and reasons of killings, ask yourself how the death penalty can affect people and society in good and adverse ways? Under punishment is dangerous, but so is over punishment – this is very true far beyond the death penalty and marijuana.
Thieves and robbers have evil primary motives that hardly include killing, but the hard laws and possibilities of witnesses against them are sometimes contributing factors to why they kill. I am not naïve enough to give pass to robbers, but if we can educate people and stop the financial indifference of capitalism to reduce robbers and ultimately killing, I believe it is a better approach. The death penalty cannot stop a robber from assuming s/he will successfully rob or will allow others to catch him/her without a fight. No sane person will say: ‘I will only get at least 25 years in prison’, so let me rob without knife or gun…
Only the fearful ‘preacher’ is wrongly assuming the mindset of killers, dishonestly claiming we want to jail killers for one or two years, or the Lord of mizghalazaratin uses only one verse in killing… Just like you are pushing for the death penalty, you can push for mandatory minimum of 25 or 100 years for convicted murderers than manslaughter. Domestic killings also come due to many reasons… A Western person who founds a lover where polygamy or polygyny is not allowed and divorces may be too hard and too long, s/he may be under the illusion that killing the partner and selling a story will get him/her zero time – neither over 25 years in prison or the death penalty is too small or too big to scare and rectify that illusion. Education and/or more relax laws can help in such scenarios.
A fight between partners that inadvertently resulted to death is much more complex – killing the other parent will leave the children as orphans, and what kind of indifference will society be guilty of to the cause of the fight and effects of the death penalty.
Where the surviving partner of a fight is found guilty, s/he can work in prison to help support the children. A drug dealer who believes s/he can hide from authorities for years will not find it difficult to believe s/he can kill a dishonest partner s/he cannot take to court. In such scenarios, we relearn laws can contribute to killing – Portugal, Canada, and Holland have lot less drug related killings than US due to laws of the country than so called criminals who may overreact. The simple point I am trying to convey is people kill due to fear, greed, and arrogance – these three however may reappear as different types of ignorance, lies, or cruelty.
Now if the pro-death penalty folks insist all killings are due to cruelty, we can charge them with one-eye or different type of ignorance. When they point to countries with death penalty and education as example, we can gauge how education may contribute than penalty, and ask them to look at the countries with death penalty with high killings and questionable government killings. Yesterday, a prominent Senegalese preacher was on 2S TV, urging for the death penalty with questionable one sided verses of the recitation. His partner failed to rectify him and how many so called Islamic Scholars heard him, but may never make efforts to rectify him or delve on ch.2:178? Will the same media house or other media houses invite me or forward my take to other Islamic scholars for a more honest conclusion? The Gambia has the death penalty and possibly lower violent crime rate, but there are many factors to why we differ. There are still killings in the Gambia and other places where the death penalty exists.
Saudi Arabia and US are good examples of where the death penalty exists. It is the other teachings of Islam that lowers the number of killings by individuals in Saudi Arabia than the death penalty. This can be substantiated by looking at many Muslim countries without the death penalty and other crimes within Saudi. Sadly, the state becomes the number one killer where ever the death penalty exists. You are somehow linked to both the good and bad choices of the state. Beside killing alleged killers, the state can kill innocent people in fear, greed, and arrogance wherever the death penalty exists. So CRC and constitutional writers of other countries have the option of narrowly interpreting a verse or considering all verses as signs to be explored by great minds; to see all killings as one and the same, or differentiate, consider reasons, and humbly judge and patiently wait for the Lord of mizghalazaratin; to focus on the worst killings by individuals or to understand the dangers of giving room to state killings, etc.
When the Saudi government kill the Jamals in Saudi, they just have to torture them to confession of wanting to kill, not killing. The angry preacher man is too focused on the rapist killer who could have been tamed with legalizing, regulating, and smartly discouraging prostitution… s/he however is giving a dangerous right to questionable religious and secular states. The Saudi Arabias can claim foiled terrorism to kill innocent people. The Gambias can claim foiled coup or treason to silence political opponents or the Sanna Saballys. The Americas obsessed with punishment can claim ‘circumstantial evidence’ where DNA cannot free the innocent . Do your research on how many people the US applies the death penalty on and the number of death row inmates freed by DNA, then use your mind. We must imprecate and sue the media houses that give space or time to questionable politicians and preachers of the death penalty without challenge or reasonable offer to counter voices.
Beside religious fanatics, politicians are sadly tapping to public anger to argue for the death penalty. President Obama while campaigning said, ‘he will support the death penalty on things like rape’, to get women’s votes? Within weeks or months, God tested him: A male child raped a female child and went to tell an adult in a bragging manner – the adult shot and killed him in overreaction. The admission or bragging aspect can hint you how immature the initial culprit was. Will you, your religion, or state kill such a child ? Is it wrong for the victim or closer victim to reflexively kill but ok for the state to premeditatedly kill? Recently, Donald Trump calls for the death penalty on drug dealers, for votes or other reasons. Will you, your religion, or state kill a marijuana or xyz dealer, ignoring the scientific and religious evidence in comparison to alcohol, cigarette, and others? When the media allows questionable religious folks to sell the death penalty idea until the gullible and fearful public buys it, then will questionable politicians make it campaign promises towards having the Dutertes and Trumps without the strong institutions to contain them. At that time, who will blame Satan, religion, one politician, a government, but ignore the fourth branch of the government (the media)?
Humankind is on a test with or without religion, culture, or state. Islam happens to be my favourite religion that is sadly misinterpreted by many. The Recitation is relatively soft on punishment, it focuses on sins between creatures on punishment to give us room to bravely legalise products and services with regulations, but hint us on personal choices and refer us to ch.103 to advise and exercise patience.
The closer we all study this great chapter, 103, from the questionable but largely great Recitation, we will likely have great life on earth and life after death. Do not just seek protection from Satan when studying the Recitation or life, but seek the highest possible help of the Lord. Never interpret the Recitation or life in fear, greed, or arrogance – nor let the cowards interpret it for you. Justice is as deserved in power and choice for reward and/or punishment; and justice is pregnant with a baby called tolerance. The ignorant, liars, and cruel folks think punishment is the most crucial aspect of justice, but the wise know empowerment beyond questionable financial empowerment to one gender; the wise and truthful know proportionate choice, tolerance, and measurable reward are crucial aspects of justice that can be under implemented, not just punishment. May the Lord bless us.
Jarga Kebba Gigo, a Gambian based in the US describes himself as an activist and a transformer. Check him out at www:jargaworld.com