Arvind Khetia, engineer: In Hinduism, God is not seen as the one handing out reward or punishment. However, there is a recognition of the universal law of karma, also known as the doctrine of justice.
The law of karma states that every event is a result of an unending chain of cause and effect. Thus, reward or punishment is nothing more or less than a result of our good or bad actions, because the law of karma refutes any “arbitrary ruler.”
Therefore, one’s belief in the law of karma provides a moral incentive to act in a just manner.
With regard to the question of capital punishment, in Hinduism, one can find an argument in favor of as well as against capital punishment.
Although the law of karma would be operative regardless, the argument in favor of capital punishment recognizes that when one’s personal choice of action becomes harmful to society, a deterrent in terms of regulatory laws is necessary to maintain a safe social environment. In the present Indian penal code and the ancient Hindu law-books (Dharma shastra), there are provisions for capital punishment for severe crimes.
The argument against capital punishment is motivated by the consideration of compassion and non-violence (ahimsa). This is based on the recognition that a human birth is a blessing, because only in a human birth is one endowed with free will to help one evolve toward liberation by ethical and spiritual living.
Therefore, capital punishment would deprive the chance to repent and redeem oneself.
Professor Mohamed Kohia, Rockhurst University: According to Islam, life is sacred. “If anyone kills a person – unless it is 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” (5:32).
The Qur’an legislates the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and compassion are strongly encouraged. The 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).
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. Examples include treason, terrorism, piracy of any kind and rape. Each case is regarded individually and with extreme care, and the court is fully able to impose more lenient sentences as and when it sees fit.
The question is: 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).
Therefore, the death penalty can be applied by a court as punishment for the most serious of crimes. The spirit of the Islamic penal code is to save lives, promote justice, and prevent corruption and tyranny. Even though the death penalty is allowed, forgiveness is preferable.
It is very clear that compassion is the best choice (5:32). Forgiveness, together with peace, is a predominant Qu’ranic theme.
The Divine Justice and Wisdom cannot be compared to the ever-changing man-made laws.