It is widely held that the corporal punishments in Islam according to the Qur’an are more in number and harsher in severity than their counterparts in Christianity according to the Bible.
However, the opposite is true. The corporal punishments in the Bible are more in number and harsher in severity than those in the Qur’an and Islam in general.
Let’s know more about corporal punishments in the light of both the Bible and the Qur’an to identify their number and the extent of their severity as well as the difference between Islam and Christianity in this regard.
Corporal Punishments in the Bible
- Ingratitude to Parents
- Human Trafficking
- Disbelief & Apostasy
- Sabbath Desecration
- Adultery & Incest
- Marriage with a Woman and her Mother
- Possession by Spirits
- Disobedience to Prophets, Priests and Judges
- Insult to Coreligionists
Corporal Punishments in the Qur’an
Corporal Punishments in Islam (incl. Qur’an & Sunnah)
- Insult (involving false accusation of a punishable sexual offence)
- Deliberate Intoxication
The prescribed punishment for murder in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Old Testament, we read: “Anyone who hits and kills someone should be put to death. If the killing wasn’t on purpose but an accident allowed by God, then I will designate a place to which the killer can run away. But if someone plots and kills another person on purpose, you should remove the killer from my altar and put him to death.” (Exodus 21:12-14)
When it comes to the above prescribed punishment, there is no difference between direct murder and indirect murder like killing by an animal even by mistake.
In the Bible, we read: “However, if the ox had gored people in the past and its owner had been warned but didn’t watch out for it, and the ox ends up killing a man or a woman, then the ox should be stoned to death, and its owner should also be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)
In the New Testament, we read: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders shall be guilty before the court.’” (Matthew 5:21)
The prescribed punishment for murder in the Qur’an is the death penalty. In the Qur’an, we read:
O ye who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty. (Al-Baqarah 2:178)
Ingratitude to Parents
The prescribed punishment for ingratitude to parents in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “Whoever attacks his father or mother must be put to death.” (Exodus 21:15)
We also read: “Whoever curses his father or mother must be put to death.” (Exodus 21:17)
There is no prescribed punishment for ingratitude to parents in the Qur’an. There are just a commandment for gratitude and prohibition of ingratitude. In the Qur’an, we read:
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “fie,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. (Al-Israa’ 17:23)
The prescribed punishment for human trafficking in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “Whoever kidnaps someone must be put to death, regardless of whether he has already sold him or the person is found still in his possession.” (Exodus 21:16)
In general, the prescribed punishment for theft in the Qur’an is hand-cutting. In the Qur’an, we read:
[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from God. And God is Exalted in Might and Wise. (Al-Ma’idah 5:38)
As for human trafficking in particular, there is no prescribed punishment. However, there is an absolute prohibition of the same in the Sunnah.
Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet said, “God said, ‘I will be an opponent to three types of people on the Day of Resurrection: 1- One who makes a covenant in My Name, but proves treacherous; 2- One who sells a free person and devours his price; and 3- One who employs a laborer and takes full work from him but does not pay him for his labor.'” )Al-Bukhari)
The prescribed punishment for bestiality in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.” (Exodus 22:19)
We also read: “If a man has intimate relations with an animal, he shall most certainly be put to death; you shall kill the animal also. If a woman approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall most certainly be put to death; their blood is on them.” (Leviticus 20:15-16)
There is no prescribed punishment for bestiality in the Qur’an. However, in the Sunnah, there are hadiths which cannot be ranked as “authentic” about a prescribed punishment for bestiality.
For example, `Ikrimah reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the Prophet said: “If anyone has sexual intercourse with an animal, kill him and kill it along with him.”
I (`Ikrimah) said: “I asked him (Ibn Abbas): ‘What offence can be attributed to the animal?’ He replied: ‘I think he (the Prophet) disapproved of its flesh being eaten when such a thing had been done to it.’” (Abu Dawud remarked: “This is not an authentic hadith.”)
The prescribed punishment for sorcery in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “You shall not allow a woman who practices sorcery to live.” (Exodus 22:18)
There is no prescribed punishment for sorcery in the Qur’an. However, in the Sunnah, there is a weak (unauthentic) hadith in this regard. Jundab reported that the Messenger of God said: “The punishment of a sorcerer is a stroke with the sword.” (Recorded by At-Tirmidhi in his Sunan, Al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan, and Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak)
Disbelief & Apostasy
The prescribed punishment for disbelief and apostasy in the Bible is the death penalty. Both a disbeliever and an apostate are subject to the capital punishment.
About that, in the Old Testament, we read: The Lord said to Moses, “Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel: ‘Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who giveth any of his seed unto Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.” (Leviticus 20:2)
We also read: “The people gathered at Jerusalem in late spring, during the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. On that day they sacrificed to the Lord 700 cattle and 7,000 sheep and goats from the plunder they had taken in the battle. Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman.” (2 Chronicles 15:10-13)
In the New Testament, we read: “But those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27)
In the Qur’an, there is no punishment for disbelief. Within the Muslim territories, individual disbelievers do not have a punishment. However, to be called to God, disbelieving peoples, if necessary, may be fought until they choose Islam or accept the Muslim domination, with the freedom of disbelief ensured, to pave the way for the call to God in the lands of disbelief. About that, in the Qur’an, we read:
And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful. (At-Tawbah 9:5)
We also read:
Fight those who do not believe in God or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what God and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled. (At-Tawbah 9:29)
As for apostasy, there is no explicit punishment in the Qur’an. However, about a punishment for apostasy, there are hadiths in the Sunnah. For example, Ibn `Abbas reported that the Messenger of God said: “He who changes his religion, then kill him.” (Al-Bukhari)
However, the prescribed punishment for apostasy is preceded by an attempt for argumentation, persuasion, and confutation.
It is reported that when Prophet Muhammad sent Mu`az to Yemen, he said to him: “If a man abandons Islam, call on him (to come back to Islam). If he comes back, (this will be ok). Otherwise, behead him! If a woman abandons Islam, call on her (to come back to Islam). If she comes back, (this will be ok). Otherwise, behead her!” (Recorded by At-Tabarani in his Al-Mu`jam Al-Kabir)
The prescribed punishment for Sabbath desecration in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy to you; everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does work on the Sabbath shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, sacred to the Lord; whoever does work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 31:14-15)
As for Sunday, it was not made a day of rest in the New Testament but by Emperor Constantine. That is why work on Sundays is not prohibited in the New Testament.
In the Qur’an, there is no punishment for work on Fridays. There is just prohibition of work only at the Friday prayer time. In the Qur’an, we read:
O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of God and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew. And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of God, and remember God often that you may succeed. (Al-Jumua 62:9-10)
Fornication, Adultery and Incest
The prescribed punishment for fornication, adultery and incest in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “The man who commits adultery with another’s wife, even his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man who lies carnally with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of the guilty ones shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon their own heads. And if a man lies carnally with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have wrought confusion, perversion, and defilement; their blood shall be upon their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:10-12)
We also read: “If a man is found lying with another man’s wife, they shall both die, the man who lay with the woman and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 22:22)
The prescribed punishment for (unmarried) fornicators only is found in the Qur’an, namely one hundred lashes. In the Qur’an, we read:
The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of God, if you should believe in God and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment. (An-Nur 24:2)
As for the prescribed punishment for adulterers, it is stoning to death. Jabir bin `Abdullah Al-Ansari reported that a man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to the Messenger of God and informed him that he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and bore witness four times against himself. Then, the Messenger of God ordered him to be stoned to death as he was a married person. (Al-Bukhari)
The prescribed punishment for sodomy in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “If a man has sexual intercourse with a man as he would with a woman, the two of them have done something detestable. They must be executed; their blood is on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:13)
There is no prescribed punishment for sodomy in the Qur’an. However, in the Sunnah, there are hadiths about a prescribed punishment for sodomy.
For example, Ibn `Abbas reported that the Messenger of God said: “Whoever you find doing as the people of Lot did (i.e. homosexuality), kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.” (Recorded by Abu Dawud in his Sunan and At-Tirmidhi in his Sunan)
Marriage with a Woman and her Mother
The prescribed punishment for marriage with a woman and her mother in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “If a man marries a woman and her mother as well, it is shameful. They will be burned with fire—the man and the two women—so that no such shameful thing will be found among you.” (Leviticus 20:14)
There is no prescribed punishment for marriage with a woman and her mother in the Qur’an. There is just a prohibition of marriage with a woman and her mother. In the Qur’an, we read:
Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, Mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives’ mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (An-Nisaa’ 4:23)
Possession by Spirits
The prescribed punishment for possession by spirits in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “A man also or woman who hath a familiar spirit, or who is a wizard, shall surely be put to death. They shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:27)
In the Qur’an, there is no prescribed punishment for possession by spirits. What is more, possession by spirits itself is not a punishable offence. The Qur’an just teaches us to seek refuge in God against Satan and devils. In the Qur’an, we read:
And if it happens that a prompting from Satan should stir you up, seek refuge in God. He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing (Al-A`raf 7:200)
We also read:
And say, “My Lord, I seek refuge in You from the incitements of the devils, And I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they be present with me.” (Al-Mu’minun 23:97-98)
The prescribed punishment for blasphemy in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “Further, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall most certainly be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him. The stranger as well as the native-born shall be put to death when he blasphemes the Name [of the Lord].” (Leviticus 24:16)
There is no prescribed punishment for blasphemy in the Qur’an. As for non-Muslim blasphemers, the Qur’an prohibits Muslims from insulting non-Muslims or their false gods so that they will not blaspheme against God. In the Qur’an, we read:
And do not insult those they invoke other than God, lest they insult God in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do. (Al-An`am 6:108)
As for a Muslim blasphemer, blasphemy causes him/her to apostatize even if he just jokes. In the Qur’an, we read:
And if you ask them, they will surely say, “We were only conversing and playing.” Say, “Is it God and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?” Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief. If We pardon one faction of you – We will punish another faction because they were criminals. (At-Tawbah 9:65-66)
Thus, such a blasphemer is to be asked to repent. If he/she repents, he/she will be spared the prescribed punishment. Otherwise, he/she will be subject to the prescribed punishment for apostasy according to the following hadith: “He who changes his religion, then kill him.” (Al-Bukhari)
Disobedience to Prophets, Priests and Judges
The prescribed punishment for disobedience to prophets in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey you; only may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses. Any man who rebels against your command and does not obey everything that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:16-18)
Also, the prescribed punishment for disobedience to priests and judges in the Bible is the death penalty. In the Bible, we read: “The man who acts presumptuously and insolently by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; so you shall remove the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:12)
In the Qur’an, there is no prescribed punishment for the disobedience to Prophet Muhammad or anybody else. However, there is an otherworldly awful warning against that. In the Qur’an, we read:
And whoever disobeys God and His Messenger and transgresses His limits – He will put him into the Fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment. (An-Nisaa’ 4:14)
However, if a Muslim’s obedience culminated in fighting against God and His Messenger and wreaking havoc on earth, there was a prescribed punishment for the same, unless repentance took place before the seizure of this Muslim. This punishment was not the same for all situations but rather involved three penalties for one to be chosen out of them according to the following verse:
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against God and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment (Al-Ma’idah 5:33)
There is a prescribed punishment for a rapist and his victim, namely the capital punishment, if rape takes place inside the town. In the Bible, we read: “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)
However, if rape takes place in the countryside, the prescribed punishment applies only to the rapist. In the Bible, we read: “But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.” (Deuteronomy 22:25-27)
In the Qur’an, there is no prescribed punishment for rape. However, the prescribed punishment for rape is the same as fornication and adultery, i.e. stoning for the married rapist or flogging for the unmarried rapist, in addition to an equal dowry for the female victim who will be subject to no punishment.
As for the prescribed punishment for fornication and adultery, it is indicated above. As for the female victim’s right to an equal dowry, it is based on the following verse:
So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. (An-Nisaa’ 4:24)
Ibn Abi As-Sarri reported that Prophet Muhammad said: “She is entitled to dowry in return for your enjoyment of her private parts.” (Abu Dawud)
Jesus equated insult with killing in terms of the capital punishment. In the Bible, we read: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders shall be guilty before the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
In the Qur’an, there is no prescribed punishment for insult in general. However, such insult, involving a false accusation of a punishable sexual offence, that is fornication, adultery, incest and sodomy etc., gives rise to a prescribed punishment, which is eighty slashes. In the Qur’an, we read:
And those who accuse chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses – lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from them testimony ever after. And those are the defiantly disobedient (An-Nur 24:4)
Woman’s Grab of Man’s Genitals
The prescribed punishment for woman’s grab of man’s genitals in the Bible is hand-cutting. In the Old Testament, we read: “If [two] men, a man and his countryman, are fighting and the wife of one approaches to rescue her husband from the man who is striking him, and she reaches out with her hand and grabs the aggressor’s genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity [for her].” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
Hand-cutting is restricted to theft. There is no prescribed punishment for the stated case in Islam unless the grabbed man is done such serious harm which deserves compensation.
Aggression against People and Sacred Places
The prescribed punishment for aggression against people and sacred places in the Bible is maximum flagellation of forty lashes. In the Old Testament, we read: “If people have a dispute, seek its resolution in court, and the judges render a decision in favor of the righteous one and condemning the wicked one; then, if the wicked one deserves to be flogged, the judge is to have him lie down and be flogged in his presence. The number of strokes is to be proportionate to his offense; but the maximum number is forty. He is not to exceed this; if he goes over this limit and beats him more than this, your brother will be humiliated before your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)
The New Testament approved the usage of whips and whipping in the lifetime of Jesus and even his disciples after his ascension. For example, we read: “He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency.” (John 2:15)
We also read: “And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; for the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)
In the Qur’an, nothing deserves prescribed flagellation except for fornication and insult (involving false accusation of a punishable sexual offence).
There is no prescribed punishment for aggression against people and sacred places unless such aggression results in killing, such injury which requires (tit-for-tat) retaliation in kind or such harm which deserves compensation.
However, flagellation may be still a valid discretionary punishment for minor offences so long as it does not involve more than ten lashes.
Abu Burdah reported that the Messenger of God used to say: “No one should be given more than ten lashes, except in the case of one of the prescribed punishments of God.” (Al-Bukhari)
There is no prescribed punishment for deliberate intoxication in the Bible. There is just a prohibition of deliberate intoxication for intoxicants are unclean. In the Old Testament, we read: “So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food.” (Judges 13:4)
We also read: “But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’” (Judges 13:7)
In the New Testament, we read: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
There is no prescribed punishment for deliberate intoxication in the Qur’an. There is just a prohibition of deliberate intoxication as a satanic act. In the Old Testament, we read:
O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So will you not desist? (Al-Ma’idah 5:90-91)
However, in the Sunnah, there are hadiths about a prescribed punishment for deliberate intoxication in the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, which amounted to forty lashes.
Anas bin Malik reported that a man who had drunk wine was brought to the Prophet and he commanded that the man should have been flogged. The man was given about forty lashes with two palm branches. Anas added that Abu Bakr did the same. (Muslim)
- The Holy Qur’an
- Sahih Al-Bukhari
- Sahih Muslim
- Sunan Abi Dawud
- Sunan At-Tirmidhi
- The Holy Bible