Judicial Reforms

What is ‘Blood Money’ in Islamic Law?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Principle of Diyya; Reparative Justice

Why in the News?

  • The Indian Government has approved the transfer of the sum of $40,000 for preliminary discussions regarding the release of Nimisha Priya from a Yemeni prison.
    • Currently, Priya’s mother is in Yemen, trying to waive her death penalty by paying “blood money” to the murdered man’s family.

Nimisha Priya’s Case Details

  • Priya, a nurse, moved to Yemen in 2008 and married Tomy Thomas in 2011 before returning to Yemen.
  • She faced abuse and exploitation by Talal Abdo Mahdi, leading to the tragic events resulting in Mahdi’s death and Priya’s arrest.
  • The $40,000 payment aims to initiate negotiations for Priya’s release.
  • To waive the death penalty, Priya’s family may need to raise $300,000-$400,000.
  • The ‘Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council’ is fundraising to meet this requirement.

What is Blood Money?

  • According to Islamic law, victims of crimes have a say in how criminals are to be punished.
  • In the case of murder, this principle applies to the families of victims.
  • Although murder is punished via the death penalty, the victim’s family (specifically, heirs) may choose to “forgive” the murderer in exchange for monetary compensation.
  • This is the principle of Diyya, or, as it is commonly referred to “blood money”.
  • It can be traced to the Holy Quran.
  • Applicability:
    • Blood money is applicable in cases of unintentional homicide (Qatl Khata) or accidental death, as well as in cases of bodily injury or harm caused by negligence or unintentional actions.

Practical Implications of Blood Money

  • Scholars believe that the idea behind this is to encourage the virtue of forgiveness, while also providing reparative justice to the victims’ family.
  • The scriptures do not set any specific amount as compensation.
  • The sum is generally arrived at via negotiation between the murderer’s family/representatives and the victim’s family.
  • Some Islamic countries, however, have set minimum compensation amounts.

Significance of Blood Money

  • Forgiveness from the victim’s family is highly encouraged and considered virtuous in Islam.
  • Blood money aims to prevent cycles of vengeance or retaliation (Qisas) that could lead to further social harm or conflict.
  • It promotes reconciliation and mutual understanding.

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