Rafed English

No to prisons and detention centres

Adopted from the book: "The rights of prisoners according to Islamic teachings" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Shirazi"

Just as it is absolutely imperative upon reformists to refrain from torture, it is equally imperative to reduce prisons and prisoners numbers to the least amount possible, since not only is it suppression of freedom of the individuals, it is also illegal in the Islamic Shari'ah, for prison is a prime example of manifestation of suppression of freedom.

It is not rational that one who calls for Islam, would act in opposition to Islam on one of its important rulings. Furthermore, prison entails much damage and harm (to the society) for which nothing can compensate, and one may not resort to it except for the most urgent exceptional circumstances, and given the priority of the issue involved. In those cases, the following must be noted:

The number of days imprisoned,
The reason for imprisonment
The severity of imprisonment
The continuation of imprisonment
Who is imprisoned in Islam

We reported in some of our investigations in the Fiqh 20 that those who are imprisoned in Islam are not more than twenty cases 21, all of whom had

The rights of prisoners according to Islamic teachings committed 'real' crime, and not crime as defined by man-made laws.

Needless to say that more than ninety percent of those who are imprisoned in our world today, are sent to jail for violating laws which were laid down by a despot, or by his ministers, or by his revolutionary command council, or in the best case scenario, by freely elected parliament - the like of which does not exist in the Islamic world today. Therefore most of those imprisoned today must not be punished according to Islamic teachings, as Islam does not see their acts as crime. In other words they are criminals before the law of man and not necessarily before the law of God.

Needless to say that there have been many occasions when the law devised by freely elected parliaments were later shown to be against the general interest of future generations, and therefore revised or abandoned.

As for the nature of prisons at the time of leaders of Islam, it is reported that Imam Ali (A) used to construct the prison from the leafless branches of palm tree, were it not for the prisoners managing to escape from their cells, the prison construction would have stayed the same.


20. M. Shirazi, al-Fiqh series, volume 100, The Rights, pp 348 - 354.

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