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Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Islam - Acts Of Penitence (kaffara)

breaking shari holy

Kaffara consists in the performance of certain acts of penitence to cover or expiate sinful acts. The acts of penitence are the freeing of a Muslim slave, fasting during daylight hours (while also abstaining from sexual intercourse), or, in some cases, giving alms to the poor. In rare cases, kaffara is accomplished by the sacrifice of a goat, sheep, camel, or cow.

Although the law books prescribe kaffara for certain sins, the imposition of the penance is almost always voluntary. Only in exceptional cases can a qadi require kaffara. Offenses for which kaffara is prescribed include breaking an oath, perjury, breaking fast during the holy month of Ramadan, or hunting or breaking other rules while in a consecrated state for the holy pilgrimage to Mecca.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the criminal portions of the shari'a remain an artifact. In an unhappy irony, some modern Islamists believe they are reinstituting a purer Islam when they use the formulaic notions of crime of the ancient shari'a. By an unreflective copying of that part of a legal code that was at once undeveloped and often impractical of application, they obscure the grander sweep of classical Islamic civilization, and, in some cases, erect an unnecessary barrier to the full realization of fundamental human rights.

Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Islam - Bibliography [next] [back] Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Islam - Discretionary Administrative Penalties (siyasa)

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