Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Honor Killing and Islam?

Noah Ha Mim Keller (Translator)
(Image from Amazon)

One of my students in a research writing course that I'm teaching wants to write on honor killings, and in her proposal presentation, she made the assertion that such killings are justified by Islam. I cautioned her to be very careful in stating this claim and to make sure that she has evidence to back it up, for the general view is that support for honor killings in Muslim circles stems more from culture than religion.

Figuring that she might have difficulty locating relevant sources, I looked into this issue myself and found the book depicted above, from the Shafi'i school of sharia in Sunni Islam, which states a legal point that might be relevant:
o1.2 The following are not subject to retaliation:
. . .
(4) a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring (Al-Naqib, Reliance of the Traveller, Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publications, 1994, pages 583-584)
No restrictions are mentioned, so this would at least appear to allow for honor killing by parents or grandparents. Note that this text, including its English translation, has been approved by the prestigious Al-Azhar University's Islamic Research Academy, which has provided its stamp of approval (pages xx-xxi).

Honor killings, however, are not mentioned in this legal context cited above, so I don't know for certain that the legal point here is even broached in arguments based on sharia with respect to honor killings. Moreover, such killings are often carried out by other relatives -- a brother, an uncle, a cousin -- so I would expect to find the issue of honor killings dealt with elsewhere in Islamic law. I suspect that my student will have a bit of digging to undertake in excavating laws with any explicit bearing on honor killing. There's also the issue of differing schools of Islamic law, which would need to be investigated.

I wonder if a look into defenses of honor killings in Muslim countries would offer much of substance.

Assistance welcome . . .

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At 11:56 AM, Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

Check google's news aggregator frequently for honor killing stories. Most are Muslim-related, but a surprising (to me) number are committed by Hindus, for straying outside one's caste, mostly. Sometimes someone will try to write a multi-culti think piece, claiming that honor killings are equally present in all cultures, but that is of course laughably untrue.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll check. Thanks. What I'm looking for are sharia regulations pertaining to honor killings.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:07 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

honor killings are equally present in all cultures

In Christianity too, at least as it is shown in Italian Medieval and Renaissance long poems. Dante mentions the "family honor" in Inferno 29, whereas Ariosto and Tasso often deal with the "knight's honor". Anyway, it is never about killing a woman because she did something wrong according to her husband. In Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered" canto 12, however, a mother is afraid that her muslim husband will kill her if he suspects that their baby is the daughter of another man (even though it is not true).

Currently, in Italy, honor killings belong to the Mafia. The same guys who sponsor the patron saints' celebrations.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Honor killings are committed in every 'shame' culture. The Muslim world appears to suffer from an especially powerful culture of shame and honor. Expecting some connection to Islamic principles is not unreasonable, I think.

Christianity tends to encourage the development of a 'guilt' culture, in my opinion, one in which personal responsibility is encouraged, which would partly account for the decreased emphasis upon honor in Christianize regions.

But a rigorous argument would require more examples and evidence.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:34 PM, Anonymous dhr said...


Excuse me. In Jerusalem Delivered 12, the father was a Christian king. I mixed it with the fact that a muslim servant saved the baby by carrying her away. But only this servant was a muslim, not the family.


Christianity tends to encourage the development of a 'guilt' culture, in my opinion, one in which personal responsibility is encouraged

That would require a comment that's too "wide", for me at least, at 8.30 a.m. and in English... Agree with the phrase "guilt culture", anyway...

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And too much for me to deal with currently -- too much editing work at present.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:58 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

so, just...

"I'm Pope-Eye the saviour man!"


At 6:02 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Popeyes fast food joint always seemed like a Catholic plot to me:

Pope Yes!

I wondered if the bread buns were transubstantiated into meat patties . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:16 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

looks like I yam not the worst yob round here.

O soul-less Seoul.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

What's a yob?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:51 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

What's a yob?

oops, the term is probably too outdated and/or too British (a word I recall from high school). it meant "thug".

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I knew I'd heard of it, and recognized that it was British, but I couldn't recall the meaning.


Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:45 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

I naturally love that word because it is a rare case of an inside-pun ("boy" written backwards).


ahem, am afraid all this won't help much with the issue of sharia... I Britishly beg your pardon.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You are too kind . . . ish.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:52 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I am thinking _Emantions_ needs honor killing poems and stories. Indeed, perhaps we should change the name of the anthology to _Honor Killings_?

At 4:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, we've got "ecstatic" and "revelatory," so why not religion's dark side as well?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:40 PM, Anonymous sunny said...

What does it mean by honor killing ?Killing itself is a inhuman & brutal act.Religious leaders should take action against this

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sunny, why are you advertising a Sunni Matchmaker site on a post about Honor Killing?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a Muslim which follows the Syafiee School of Thought. I've seen the book reliance of the traveller

Please show page 582

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, did you mean that I should "see" page 582? Or "show" it?

The page is available at Amazon. Just follow the link. I did. What was I supposed to see . . . or show?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just asking man, No offense intended :)

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No problem. I wasn't offended. I just didn't see much on that page.

Jeffery Hodges

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