Ch 3:4 The Security of Personal Freedom

Ch 3:4 The Security of

Personal Freedom  

Islam has also laid down the principle that no citizen can be imprisoned unless his guilt has been proved in an open court.

To arrest a man_

  1. only on the basis of suspicion

  2. and to throw him into a prison

  3. without proper court proceedings

  4. and without providing him a reasonable opportunity to produce his defence

is not permissible in Islam.

It is related in the hadith that once the Prophet was delivering a lecture in the mosque,

when a man rose during the lecture and said:

“O Prophet of God, for what crime have my neighbours been arrested?” The Prophet heard the question and continued his speech. When that man rose for a third time and repeated the same question,

the Prophet ordered that the man’s neighbours be released.

  1. The Prophet had kept quiet when the question was repeated twice earlier because_
  2. the police officer was present in the mosque
  3. and if there were proper reasons for the arrest of the neighbour of that man, he would have got up to explain his position.
  4. Since the police officer gave no reasons for these arrests the Prophet ordered that the arrested persons should be released.
  5. The police officer was aware of the Islamic law that if the charges against the arrested men cannot be disclosed in public,
  6. the Prophet would not accept the arrest order.
  7. The fact that the police officer did not give any reasons for the arrests in the open court was
  8. sufficient reason for the Prophet to give immediate orders for the release of the arrested men.

The injunction of the Holy Quran is very clear on this point.

“Whenever you judge between people, you should judge with (a sense of) justice” (4:58).

And the Prophet has also been asked by God:

“I have been ordered to dispense justice between you.”

This was the reason why the Caliph ‘Umar said:

“In Islam no one can be imprisoned except in pursuance of justice.”

The words used here clearly indicate that justice means due process of law.

What has been prohibited and condemned is_

  1. that a man be arrested
  2. and imprisoned without proof of his guilt
  3. in an open court
  4. and without providing him an opportunity to defend himself against those charges.

The correct method of dealing with such cases in Islam is exemplified in the famous decision of the Prophet which took place before the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet was making preparations for the attack on Makkah,

when one of his Companions, Hatib ibn Abi Balta’ah sent a letter through a woman to the authorities in Makkah informing them about the impending attack.

The Prophet came to know of this through a Divine inspiration.

To inform the enemy about a secret of an army and that too at the time of a war is a very serious offence tantamount to treachery.

The Prophet summoned Hatib

  1. to the open court of the Mosque of the Prophet
  2. and in the presence of hundreds of people
  3. asked him to explain his position with regard to his letter, which had been intercepted.

The accused said:

“O God’s Messenger (may God’s blessings be on you) I have not revolted against Islam, nor was betraying a military secret. My wife and children are living in Makkah and I could not protect them. I had written this letter so that the leaders of Quraysh may be indebted to me and may protect my wife and children out of gratitude.”

It was a clear case of treachery and betrayal of military secrets. But the Prophet acquitted Hatib on two counts. Firstly,

  • that his past records were very clean
  • and since on the occasion of the Battle of Badr, he had risked his life for Islam.


  • his family was in fact in danger at Makkah.
  • Therefore, if he had shown some human weakness for his children and written this letter, then
  • this punishment was quite sufficient for him that his secret offence was divulged in public
  • and he had been disgraced
  • and humiliated in the eyes of the believers.

The attitude and activities of the Kharijis in the days of the Caliph ‘Ali are well-known. They used to abuse the Caliph openly, and threaten him with murder. But whenever they were arrested for these offences, ‘Ali would set them free and tell his officers

As long as they do not actually perpetrate offences against the State,

  • the mere use of abusive language

  • or the threat of use of force

  • are not such offences for which they can be imprisoned.”

The imam Abu Hanifah has recorded the following saying of the Caliph ‘Ali (A):

“As long as they do not set out on armed rebellion, the Caliph of the Faithful will not interfere with them.”

On another occasion ‘Ali was delivering a lecture in the mosque when the Kharijis raised their special slogan there.

‘Ali said:

“We will not deny you_

  1. the right to come to the mosques to worship God,

  2. nor will we stop to give your share from the wealth of the State,

  3. as long as you are with us

  4. (and support us in our wars with the unbelievers)

  5. and we shall never take military action against you

  6.  as long as you do not fight with us.”