Prosthetic limb technology used to circumvent hudud punishment meanwhile,
scholars meet to debate acceptability in accordance with sharia
A new taskforce of Fuqaha has been assembled by the Council of Islamic Scholars (CIS) to deliberate on the use of prosthetics for individuals that have had limbs removed under the Hudud. With the massive boon in biological and cybernetic prosthetic technology, the adoption of prosthetic limbs within the Ummah has grown. Unexpectedly though, individuals who have been found guilty and punished under the Hudud are also replacing their lost limbs, raising questions about the Fiqh of Hudud and post Hudud rehabilitation.
Whether justice has been done however, and whether they have served their punishment, is the central question that the new taskforce will be addressing. While the identity of the scholars on the new taskforce will remain anonymous until they release their report, we do have an idea of the questions they are discussing.
Is the punishment of removing the hand for theft based on:
- The pain and anguish
- The shame and stigmatization
- The impairment in standard of living
- The removal of something personal from the individual so that they can understand and experience loss too.
Consequently, if the individual replaces their hand with a new hand or prosthetic, will this effect whether the Hudud has been carried out?
Onur Abu Mawt is responsible for carrying out proscribed Hudud punishments in Egypt and was surprised to see a man who had recently had his hand cut off for theft visit him with a new hand:
It must have been less than 48 hours since I had removed his hand, in accordance with the Sharia and Judicial oversight of course, when I saw him again knocking on my door. I expected he would be angry. Often many people I’m tasked with punishing come to my house to express their anger and part of my job is being accountable to their emotions and helping them process, heal and seek rehabilitation. To my surprise though he wanted to give me a gift, and he extended a box of chocolates to me with two hands. I was genuinely shocked and asked him what happened and that’s when I learned about the growing adoption of prosthetic limbs. While his new hand was impossible to differentiate from his old hand, I did learn that there are a variety of different models available. Whether this is allowed or not is up to the scholars to discuss, but personally I think it’s a good idea. They’ve served their punishment and justice has been done and they should be able to move on.
The taskforce is expected to take three months to release its findings but there are already murmurs within the ranks of Fuqaha around lines of division. Some scholars are of the opinion that the Sharia only calls for the removal of the limb and what happens after isn’t important while other scholars have discussed the spirit of the Sharia and the issue of finding technicalities and loop holes.
Bahar Umm Ultaigh, a senior Faqih based in the Sri Lankan Centre for Islamic Analysis (CIA), recently gave an interview discussing the complexity of this case:
In many ways the prosthetic hand issue is a test case that will determine how the Sharia and Hudud are applied in the future. For instance, if prosthetic hands are deemed acceptable post Hudud then what about punishments based off “eye for an eye”. For instance, think of the recent case where a wealthy businessman was found guilty for deafening his elderly neighbor after doing late night construction at his mansion. If his neighbor chose to punish him instead of forgive him, and he was deafened in return, would he or should he have the right to have his hearing returned using new technology?
Alternatively, imagine how this might effect those of the Shafi madhab. If a woman gets a bionic hand and touches a man, do they still have their wudu or not? Is the hand an extension of her body? Does the hand have a gender? These are complex issues that need to be interrogated and there is no easy answer.
In the meantime, and while these complex issues are discussed, the Khalifa has issued an edict allowing the use and adoption of prosthetic limbs under all conditions under advice from his team of Fuqaha and under the fundamental principle that all things in Islam are accepted (Halal) until they are proven to be rejected (Haram).