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Dictionary of Islam: being a cyclopedia of the doctrines, rites, ceremonies, and

customs, together with the technical and theological terms of the


Muhammadan religion

Author: Thomas Patrick Hughes


New Delhi : Asian Educational Services,
Publisher:
1955.

Page No- (420-21)

Murder: Arabic Qatl ( ‫ ‍)‍قتتتتل‬Homicide of which Muhammad (P.B.U.H) law takes


cognizance is of five kinds: (1) Qatlu, l-Amd; (2) Qatl shibhu, l-Amd; (3) Qatlu l- khata;
(4) Qatl qaim maqama l- khata; (5) Qatl bi-sabab

(1) Qatlu, l-Amd (‫)قتل العمد‬, or “willful murder,” is where the perpetrator willfully kills a
person with a weapon, or something that serves for a weapon, such as a club, a Sharp
stone, or fire. If a person commits willful murder, two points are established: first that the
murderer is a sinner deserving of hell, for it is written in Quran (surah IV.95),”
whosoever slayeth a believer purposely, and his reward is hell”; and, secondly, that he
is liable to retaliation, because it is written in the Quran (surah ii. 173),” It is incumbent
on you to execute retaliation (Qisas) for murder.” But although retaliation is the
punishment for willful murder, still the heir or next of kin can either forgive or compound
the offence; as the verse already quoted continues – “yet he who is pardoned at all by
his brother must be prosecuted in reason, and made to pay with kindness.” In this
respect Muhammad (P.B.U.H) departed from the Old Testament law, which made the
retaliation compulsory on the next of kin.

One effect of willful murder is that the murderer is excluded from being heir to the
murdered person.

According to Abu Hanifah, there is no expiation for willful murder, but ash-Shafi,I
maintains that expiation is incumbent as an act of piety.

(2) Qatl shibhu ‘l-‘Amd (‫)قتل شتبہ العمتد‬, or “manslaughter,” or, as Hamilton more
correctly renders it, “A semblance or willful murder, is when the perpetrator strike a man
with something which is neither a weapon nor serves as such.”
The argument adduced by Abu Hanifah is a saying of the prophet: “Killing with a rod or
stick is not a murder, but only manslaughter, and the fine for it is a hundred camels,
payable within three years.”

Manslaughter is held to be sinful and to require expiation, and it excludes the man-
slayer from inheriting the property of the slain.

(3) Qatlu ‘l- khata (‫)قتل الخطا‬, or “homicide by misadventure,” is of two kinds: error in
intention, and error in the act. Error in the act is where a person intends a particular act,
and another act is thereby occasioned; as where, for instance, a person shoots an
arrow at a mark and it hits a man. Error in intention, on the other hand, is where the
mistake occurs not in the act, but with respect to the subject; as where a person shoots
an arrow at a man supposing him to be game; or at a Muslim, supposing him to be a
hostile infidel. The slayer by misadventure is required to free a Muslim slave, or fast two
months successively, and to pay a fine within three years. He is also excluded from
inheriting the property of the slain.

(4) Qatl qaim maqama ‘l- khata ( ‫)قتل قائم مقام الخطا‬, or “homicide of a similar nature to
homicide by misadventure,” is where, for example, a person walking in his sleep falls
upon another, so as to kill him by the fall. It is subject to the same rules with homicide
by misadventure.

(5) Qatl bi- Sabab (‫)قتل بسبب‬, or “homicide by intermediate cause,” is where, for
instance, a man digs a well, or sets up a stone, and another falls into the well, or over
the stone, and dies. In this case a fine must be paid, but it does not exclude from
inheritance, nor does it require expiation.

No special mention is made in either the Quran or in Muhammad (P.B.U.H) law books,
of taking the life by poison. (The same remark applies to the Mosaic Law. See Smith’s
Dictionary of the Bible, Article “Murder.”)

With regard to retaliation, a freeman is slain for a freeman, and a slave for a slave; a
freeman is also slain for the willful murder of a slave the property of another.

According to Abu Hanifah, a Muslim is put to death for killing an unbeliever, but
ashShafi’I maintains otherwise, because the prophet said ,” A Muslim shall not suffer
death for unbeliever .”
A man is slain for a woman; a father is not slain for his child, but a child is slain for the
murder of his father; a master is not slain for the murder of his own slave, or for the
slave of his child.

If a person immerse another into water whence it is impossible for him to escape by
swimming, according to Abu Hanifah, retaliation is not incurred, but ash-Shafi’i
maintains that the murderer should be drowned.

Al-Baizawi the commentator, in writing on surah ii. 174,” this is alleviation from your lord
and a mercy,” says that in the Jewish law retaliation for murder was compulsory, but in
the law of Christ the Christians were enjoined to forgive the murderer, whilst in the
Quran the choice is given of either retaliation or forgiveness.

Capital Punishment in Islam

By Huda, About.com

"...If anyone kills a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the
land - it would be as if he killed all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if
he saved the life of all people" (Qur'an 5:32).

Life is sacred, according to Islam and most other world faiths. But how can one hold life
sacred, yet still support capital punishment? The Qur'an answers, "...Take not life,
which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He
command you, so that you may learn wisdom" (6:151).

The key point is that one may take life only "by way of justice and law." In Islam,
therefore, the death penalty can be applied by a court as punishment for the most
serious of crimes. Ultimately, one's eternal punishment is in God's hands, but there is a
place for punishment in this life as well. The spirit of the Islamic penal code is to save
lives, promote justice, and prevent corruption and tyranny.

Islamic philosophy holds that a harsh punishment serves as a deterrent to serious


crimes that harm individual victims, or threaten to destabilize the foundation of society.
According to Islamic law (in the first verse quoted above), the following two crimes can
be punishable by death:

• Intentional murder
• Fasad fil-ardh ("spreading mischief in the land")

Intentional Murder
The Qur'an legislates the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and
compassion are strongly encouraged. The murder victim's family is given a choice to
either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary
compensation for their loss (2:178).

Fasaad fi al-ardh
The second crime for which capital punishment can be applied is a bit more open to
interpretation. "Spreading mischief in the land" can mean many different things, but is
generally interpreted to mean those crimes that affect the community as a whole, and
destabilize the society. Crimes that have fallen under this description have included:

• Treason / Apostacy (when one leaves the faith and joins the enemy in fighting
against the Muslim community)
• Terrorism
• Land, sea, or air piracy
• Rape
• Adultery
• Homosexual behavior

Actual methods of capital punishment vary from place to place. In some Muslim
countries, methods have included beheading, hanging, stoning, and firing squad.
Executions are held publicly, to serve as warnings to would-be criminals.

It is important to note that there is no place for vigilantism in Islam -- one must be
properly convicted in an Islamic court of law before the punishment can be meted out.
The severity of the punishment requires that very strict evidence standards must be met
before a conviction is found. The court also has flexibility to order less than the ultimate
punishment (for example, imposing fines or prison sentences), on a case-by-case basis.

(http://islam.about.com/cs/law/a/c_punishment.htm)
Suicide as seen in Islam
What is life?
The Islamic concept
The philosophy of joy and pain
The classical origin of suicide
The traditions of the Testaments
The Qur'anic decree
The modern implications
Why suicide?!?
The statistical domain
The deterrent factor

What is life?

Every breath of a human, every moment of his or hers life in all Religious
traditions, their teachings, their guidance, their viewpoints, their
perspectives is worth more than a priceless gem. These breaths the human
being takes in order to survive in life and the moments of life itself are like
the pearls of a necklace. Just as a pearl will embellish the appearance of that
neck that wears the necklace of pearls, in the same way the life of a
individual is enhanced by that person who looks after the moments of his
life. No Treasure trove of any Ruler, no Sultanate of any Sultan, no Kingdom
of any King, no Rulership of any Queen in tantamount is equal in value to
one moment of an individuals life. Life in-fact in numerous places of the
Quraan, either directly or indirectly, is described by Allah as a favour on
human beings.

In one verse of the Quraan, Allah says," How can you disbelieve? Seeing that
you were dead and He gave you life. Then He will give you death, then again
will bring you to life (on the Day of Resurrection) and then unto Him you will
return." (Surah Al-Baqarah Verse 28)

The Islamic concept

Out of all the bounties Allah has bestowed upon human beings, the most
precious is the gift of life. Each one us should remember that this life Allah
has granted us, it is not our personal possession or our personal property. In-
fact it is a trust from Allah, making us merely trustees. Because we are
trustees we should utilise each and every moment of our lives in the paths
that please Allah.
In one verse of the Quraan Allah informs mankind,
"And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should
worship Me (Alone)". (Surah Adh-Dhariyat Verse 56)
From this verse we can learn the reason why Allah created mankind.
How precious is this gift of life, we can learn through the Holy Quraan,
Ahadeeth (Traditions and Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon
him)) and the Shariah (Islamic Law).
For instance, in one verse of the Quraan, Allah says,
"He has forbidden you only the carrion (flesh of dead animals), and blood,
and flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others
than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, on which Allah’s Name has not
been mentioned whilst slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity
without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin
on him. Truly, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."(Surah Al-Baqarah Verse
173)
In the closing stages of this verse Allah talks about one who is forced to
consume Haraam (unlawful) items due to the fear of death. Allah says, then
there is no sin in him. For example, one is in severe hunger, such hunger
that could lead to ones death, he consumes something that is Haraam
(unlawful) e.g. Carrion, on the Day of Judgement he will not be questioned
regarding these Haraam (Unlawful) items he consumed in order to save his
life. Similarly one is fasting in the Month of Ramadhaan and severe thirst
over-takes him, again it is permissible for him to break his fast in order to
saves ones life. Even if he broke the fast by consuming Haraam (Unlawful)
fluids e.g. Blood, Alcohol he will not be questioned regarding this. From this
verse we can undoubtedly acknowledge how precious and valuable life is in
the eyes of The Almighty Allah.

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Life in many people’s opinion is a journey. Some even sees it as a


pilgrimage. In the Islamic perspective it is a journey far beyond death. It is
like a trip around the world. We stop in many different Continents, Countries,
Cities, Towns and Villages. Some bring happiness and some give us grief.
The white beaches, beautiful rainforests, buildings etc would force a smile on
the face of many a person regardless of what grief he is in, but the sight of
the poor, war-stricken and weak will give one intense grief. Life is a test from
Allah, He tests people in various ways and times. He tests some by blessing
them with countless bounties to see if the servant appreciates what he has
been blessed with by Allah and he shows gratitude towards Allah for blessing
him with these bounties. At times Allah in his infinite wisdom, puts a person
in intense grief, to see if the servant turns to Allah and seeks guidance and
help.
Excellent examples of both situations are found in the life and story of the
Prophet of Allah, Ayyub (AS). Allah granted him many bounties, then he gave
him such illness that the people around him could not bear. Prophet Ayyub
(AS) turned to Allah for help and Allah in his infinite mercy returned all the
past bounties upon him. In some narrations it has been said that Allah gave
him more bounties than the amount he had before his illness.
In the Quraan Allah has mentioned the call for help of Prophet Ayyub (AS).
Allah says:
"And (Remember) Ayyub (Job), when he cried to his Lord: "Verily, distress
has seized me, and you are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy".
So We answered his call, and removed the distress that was on him, and We
restored his family to him (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with
them as a mercy from Ourselves and a reminder for all those who worship
Us. (Surah Al-Anbiya Verse 83-84)
In another Surah of the Quraan Allah says regarding Prophet Ayyub (AS):
"And remember Our slave Ayyub (Job), when he invoked his Lord
(saying):"Verily Satan has touched me with distress (by ruining my health)
and torment (by ruining my wealth)! (Allah said to him): "Strike the ground
with your foot: This is (a spring of) water to wash in, cool and a (refreshing)
drink". And We gave him back his family, and along with them the like
thereof, as a Mercy from Us, and a Reminder for those who understand."And
take in your hand a bundle of thin grass and strike therewith (your wife), and
break not your oath. Truly, We found him patient. How excellent a slave!
Verily, he was ever oft- returning in repentance (to Us).
Like Prophet Ayyub, each and every one of us is tested by Allah in someway
or another. Some turn to Allah and seek help, as in the case of Prophet
Ayyub and others turn completely to the opposite side, which leaves many in
grief. These people upon whom many grieve and mourn are the people who
have turned to suicide.

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Suicide, or self-killing, has been known throughout the whole of recorded


history and has been a phenomenon in every culture and social setting. It
was noted in the Biblical Times within the Jewish and Christian faiths. It is
mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita within the Hindu faith, in classical Greece
and Rome, and later throughout the Middle-Ages, when the reaction to the
heresy of suicide was severe hostility from the Universal Church, whose later
fathers railed against the canonical sin of despair.
Suicide occurs in every culture, not only in the Western developed world, but
also in India, China and, despite severe theological prohibitions, in Islam.

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Within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, there are eleven instances of suicide


described in the Bible's Old Testament and one in the New Testament.
Perhaps the most famous death in the former is the suicide of King Saul
following his defeat in the hands of the Philistines, heard in David’s lament,
and ‘how are the mighty fallen’. Saul had sought the assistance of his
bodyguard to help kill himself. The soldier was horrified at the irreligious
notion of killing his appointed King, and turned the sword upon himself. Saul,
apparently aided by such an example, then followed suit. It appears that the
avert prohibition against suicide was first formerly pronounced by Saint
Augustine, who in his City of God describes the action as a ‘moral sin’.
The Church did not always condemn suicide when, for example, following
some severe assault, such as rape, the victim took a ‘virtuous’ or honourable
way out. She could then claim sympathy and the forgiveness of her society
and family, in both Roman and Christian times.

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As shown, neither the Judaic nor Christian parts of the Bible are there direct
injunctions against suicide. However, this is not the case in the traditions of
the true religion, Islam, which continues to be a major influence upon many
Islamic people.
There are a few quite specific sanctions expressed in the Quraan against
self-killing. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also assigns suicide to the lower
levels of Hell.
Allah says explicitly in the Quraan,
"And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you". (Surah An-
Nisa Verse 29)
In another verse of the Quraan, Allah says:
"And do not throw yourselves in destruction". (Surah Al-Baqarah Verse 195)
The impact of this injunction still has considerable force in Islamic countries,
and it may be one reason why, with the exception of Jordan and Turkey,
there is no recorded suicide in national statistics of the Islamic Nations. But,
in the last decade or so there has been a substantial increase of suicide in
Muslims living in Non-Muslim countries, namely Britain and America.

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The current attitude and dilemmas, unlike in previous times, suicide can be
discussed relatively easily today, even within the mass media of the late
twentieth century. For example, in the worldwide magazine Time there have
been three major articles concerning suicide, which while acknowledging
dilemmas, were mainly concerned with where firm baselines should be
drawn, accepting without question the ‘obvious’ rationality of such actions in
many situations. Yet a little more than 100 years ago, Robert Louis
Stevenson, in what was considered to be a horrendous book, The Suicide
Club, found himself almost at the extreme end of the case of language,
because he could not describe in sufficiently villainous terms the leader of
this ‘devilish’ club. Constantly, modern poets and novelist have almost
celebrated suicide.
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The reasons that lead a person to commit suicide are as numerous and
complex as the thousands of people who do so every year. Below are a few
contributing causes of suicide:
Unipolar affective disorder (Depression)
The mental disorder usually called ‘depression’ is now described as ‘unipolar
affective disorder’. The term depression is of course problematic, in that a
low mood, or sometimes a feeling of emotional glumness, of living ‘out of
sorts’ or ‘fed up’, is a frequent experience for many people. In this sense it is
‘normal’ and many people can feel ‘depressed’ without having depression.
There is another side to this coin, where a person can feel particularly well,
‘on a high’ or with a feeling of well being. This can be the experience of a
large number of people without it being felt, thought or obseverd as a
problem or a disorder. A person simply feels in a ‘good mood’.
The causes of depression are many:
1. Mood: There is a profound disturbance of mood, which is one of the
prevailing sadness and misery.
2. Cognition (To think deeply): There is an important disturbance of
cognition, so that everything around them is interpreted dismally. Sufferers
can believe they are hateful, worthless and, at the extreme, that they are
already dead and responsible for the evils in the world.
3. Energy: There are very often tell-tale changes in mood and energy, in
which the mood is especially low in the early morning hours, with relative
lighting of misery in the afternoon.
4. Sleep: There is a disturbance of sleep, where it is quite usual for a person
to be able to sleep almost as soon as going to bed, but with early waking,
sometimes accompanied by quite enclosed changes of mood.
5. Appetite: There is a loss in appetite, and an apparently liked food turns to
such, that you cannot bear the sight of it.
6. Stress: Stress at work, home, school etc can cause severe depression
which can lead to suicide.

Isolation and detachment


One of the most common sentiments expressed by many of those who resort
to suicidal behaviour is a sense of detachment from others. This is not so
much physical isolation but refers more to a sense of moral insulation, where
the individual has come to define his, or her, situation as so hopeless that
others cannot help to put it right.

Substance misuse (Drugs and alcohol)


Addiction to drugs and alcohol, in this day and age, has become a major
factor, which leads a person to suicide. In the past few months the media
around the world have shown many cases of suicide due to drug use. Some
have also predicted if drugs like cannabis was to be made legal, the death
toll will increase due to this. The media have shown the devastating effects
suicide has on the society around the world through drug use.

Loss of family or friends


One may feel isolated after the death or separation from family members or
friends. Loss of a relative/friend causes immense grief, which may cause one
to think about suicide. Some commit suicide thinking they will join the dead
in the grave.

Relationship break-ups
This many times has the same effect as the death of a loved one. Sometimes
it may, make some feel life is not worth living.

Financial problems
One who is large debts, thinking he will never be able to pay-up and may
resort to suicide, thinking he will no more have this burdensome
responsibility on his head, leaving his next of kin this problem.

Sickness and disability


Severe sicknesses, which one cannot bear, can lead one to take his life. In
many cases taking help from others in doing this act (Euthanasia).

(Above are only a few reasons why one may resort into taking his own life.
Many others can be found through thorough research.)

Few events in life have the same impact on us as the suicide of a friend or a
loved one. The loss of a loved one, from any cause, brings out intense grief
and mourning. The response and emotions felt by the bereaved following
suicide are very different to those felt after other types of deaths. The fact
that a loved one's death appears to involve an element of choice, raise
painful questions which deaths from natural or accidental causes do not.
Bereavement by suicide is usually prolonged. The grief is characterised by
agonising, questioning and the search for some explanation as to why the
death of his loved one has happened. Bereavement in this way often
encompasses strong feelings of abandonment and rejection.
The sense of shock and disbelief following suicide is very intense. The most
common and disturbing aspect of grief after suicide is recurring images of
death, even if it was not witnessed. The finding of the body can be a
traumatic experience. Going over and over the very frightening and painful
images of the death, and the feelings these create, is a normal process of
grief.

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Newly bereaved people always ask ‘why?’ However bereavement through


suicide often involves a prolonged search for a reason or explanation to
tragedy. Most people bereaved by suicide usually come to accept that they
will never know the reason why a loved one did what they did. In the search
for answers, different members of the same family may have different ideas
as to why he/she took their life, it could strain family relationships, especially
if an element of blame is involved.
Below, I have included statistics, which I have obtained for many different
sources, including The Samaritans (www.thesamaritans.org).
· The World Health Organisation estimates that in the year 2002
approximately 1.1million people will die from suicide
· A global mortality rate of 17 per 100,000
· One death every 40 seconds from suicide
· In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 65% worldwide.
· Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death amongst those
aged 14-44(both sexes)
· Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide
· Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst the elderly,
rates among young people have been increasing to such a rate that they are
now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries
· More people die from suicide than homicide in the USA, in 1997 there were
1.5 times as many suicides as homicide
· Mental disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are
associated with more than 90% of all causes of suicide
· Males are four times more likely to die from suicide than women are.
However , females are more likely to attempt suicide than males
· 2 suicides every day by young people in the UK and Republic of Ireland
· 80% of suicides by young men
· Suicide accounts for a fifth of all deaths of young people
· An estimated 24,000 adolescents self-harmed in 1998 – 3 every hour
· Alcohol and substance misuse are significant factors in youth suicide
· Contributory factors to youth suicide include unemployment, social
isolation, recent inter personal life events and difficulties with parents, peers
and partners
· 6,216 suicides in the UK, 439 suicides in the Republic of Ireland
· One suicide every 79 minutes in the UK and the Republic of Ireland
· More than two young people commit suicide every day in the UK
· Suicide figures are double the death toll from road traffic accidents
· Suicide is now the second most common cause of death in the UK for young
people aged between 15-24
· People who make suicide attempts or threats are not just "attention
seeking", but are at the risk of harming themselves
· Most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying, and try
beforehand to let others know how they are feeling, or give clues or warnings

· Somebody tries to take his own life every three minutes


· In any given week, at least 463,000 people have serious thoughts about
suicide
· Every year around 2500 children or young people phone child-line about
feeling suicidal
· Overdosing accounts for 50% of female suicides and 25% of male suicides
· Under 25 year olds account for 9.26% of all suicides in East Lancashire. Of
which 2.3% are of Asian heritage

Statistics about suicide are difficult to collate, and many are inaccurate
because of the sensitivity of the issue. According to some research suicide
rates are 50%-60% higher than the official rate.

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There are three areas where the law is relevant to suicide. First, while
attempting to commit suicide has not been illegal in Britain since 1961, it is
still a criminal offence under the ‘Suicide Act 1961’ to help someone commit
suicide. Second, health professionals who do not take reasonable
precautions to safeguard a suicidal patient who then goes on to commit
suicide may be sued for negligence in the civil courts. Third, in some cases,
people felt to be at grave risk of harming themselves can be detained for
their own safety under the ‘Mental Health Act 1983’ (England and Wales),
1984 (Scotland), or ‘Mental Health Order 1986’ (Northern Ireland).

Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) mentioned suicide many times, a


few of these incidents are recorded in Muhammad Ibn Ismael's, 'Sahih Al-
Bukhari'. In one incident narrated by Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak (RA): the Prophet
(SAW) said, "Whoever intentionally swears falsely by a religion other than
Islam, then he is what he has said, (e.g. if he says, 'If such thing is not true
then I am a Jew,' he is really a Jew if he is a liar). And whoever commits
suicide with a piece of iron, he will be punished with the same piece of iron in
the Hell-fire."
Narrated by Jundub: The Prophet (SAW) said, "A man was inflicted with
wounds and he commited suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused
death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him."
Narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA): The Prophet (SAW) said, "He who commits
suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell-fire (forever),
and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself, he shall keep stabbing
himself in the Hell-fire (forever)."
From the sayings of Allah and his Prophet (SAW), we can see suicide is not
accepted in Islam and we can also see through other sources, it is also
prohibited in other religions.

If one is thinking of committing suicide he should think about his friends and
family, then he should turn to Allah and ask for his help. Talking to the
Scholars and others would also help. Confidential information is also
available through your GP. Many centres also offer help for people in these
troubled times.

May Allah save us from this sin and give us all guidance to the straight path.
May Allah save us from all types of grief and give us all entrance into
Paradise.

(http://www.inter-islam.org/Prohibitions/suicide.html#There%20are%20three%20areas
%20where%20the%20law%20is%20relevant%20to)

Death and Violence on the Reservation: Homicide, Family Violence, and


Suicide in American Indian Populations
Contributors:
Ronet Bachman

Publisher:
Auburn House

Place of Publication:
New York

Publication Year:
1992

Chapter 2
Trends in
American Indian Homicide

How common is homicide in the American Indian population? How does


the American Indian homicide rate differ from homicide rates for Whites
and Blacks? This chapter will answer these questions by investigating
national incidence rates and trends of homicide for American Indians,
Blacks and Whites. This chapter gives the reader a general overview of
what relationships and precipitating circumstances characterize Ameri
can Indian homicide at the national level. Before examining national
incidence rates, however, it is first important to define exactly what
homicide means for the purposes of this chapter.

Homicide is the killing of one human being by another without legal


justification or excuse. As a legal category, homicide can be criminal or
noncriminal. Criminal homicide is generally referred to as first-degree
murder when one person causes the death of another with premeditation
and intent. It is usually considered second-degree murder when death is
caused with malice and intent, but without premeditation. Voluntary
manslaughter involves intent to inflict bodily injury, but without
deliberate intent to kill, whereas involuntary manslaughter is reckless or
negligent killing without intent to harm. Noncriminal homicide includes
excusable homicide, which occurs primarily in cases of self-defense, and
justifiable homicide (e.g., the killing of an individual by a police officer
in the line of duty) ( Uniform Crime Reports, 1990).

Anyone who attempts an empirical analysis of homicide faces opera


tional difficulty simply because there is a great variety of situations and
motives behind aggregate homicide rates. The situations range from
brutal killings that occur in the course of a trivial quarrel and crimes of
passion to premeditated and skillfully planned murders. Further, what

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