Blood money for accidental killing

Q73 :I come from a Muslim country where the Islamic law is not implemented, although we have Islamic courts for personal and family matters. I had a car accident several years ago when my sister and some close friends were passengers in a car I was driving. One of my relatives was taken to hospital, but she later died due to internal bleeding resulting from the accident. Perhaps I should explain that the accident occurred because I was trying to avoid an oncoming truck overtaking another vehicle in the opposite direction. I had to swerve to the side of the road, and in doing so, my car skidded and overturned several times. Recently, I met a friend who told me that I was liable to pay money to the family of my relative who was killed in this accident. After consulting Muslim scholars, I fasted for two consecutive months. I then thought of contacting my relative's next of kin to agree on a sum of money in compensation. However, fearing an excessive demand, I consulted a scholar about the sum payable. He could not advise me because this part of Islamic law has never been in practice in our country. How should I go about this matter in order to fulfill my duty, without being made liable to meet unreasonably excessive demands?

A73 : I applaud your keenness to fulfill your Islamic obligations even when you are in a position where the law of the land does not place you under any particular obligation. You have shown an attitude which is the mark of faith. When you learned of a particular responsibility on your part, you were keen to fulfill that responsibility, and consulted scholars with regard to how you should go about it. Let me tell you at the outset that blood money, or 'diyah', as it is called in Islamic terminology, needs to be paid in accidental or semi-deliberate murder, when the circumstances of the case do not allow a death sentence to be passed on the killer. Allah states in the Qur'an: "A believer may not kill another believer except accidentally; the killer must free from bondage a slave who is a believer and pay blood money to the family of the person killed, unless they forgo it." There are further detailed rules concerning each case and the particular circumstances which may lead to accidental or semi-deliberate killing. The amount of blood money to be paid in accidental killing has been determined by the Prophet as 100 camels. Scholars say that it can alternatively be 200 cows or 2,000 sheep or 1,000 dinars (the gold currency of the Muslim state), or 12,000 dirhams (the silver currency of the Muslim state). An Islamic court decides the amount of blood money to be paid nowadays as it determines what is the equivalent to any of these guidelines in modern currency. However, it is evident that the blood money is very high and it is often the case that an individual cannot pay it. Islam makes it clear that blood money is to be paid not only by the killer himself, but also by his immediate relatives on his father's side, including his cousins, nephews, uncles and so on. If anyone wonders why Islam makes it obligatory that people who had nothing to do with the killing should pay the compensation to the family of the person who is killed, the answer is that Islam makes it the responsibility of every community to make sure that its members refrain from doing anything which may lead to accidental killing. Moreover, this is a form of social and mutual security. It is true that this particular part of Islamic law has not been practiced in many Muslim countries for long or short periods. However, it is a rule given by Allah which cannot be overlooked. Fasting for two consecutive months can be offered in compensation for one's action which results in an accidental killing, only if the killer has no means of paying blood money. Obviously, the freeing of a 'believer slave' is no longer operative since slavery has been abolished. In your particular case, I am wondering how far you can hold yourself solely responsible for the death of your relative. What about the share of responsibility to be borne by the driver of the truck overtaking another vehicle? It seems to me that the apportioning of the blame cannot be determined by you personally. It has to be determined by a competent court of law. Before I say whether you should pay any compensation, I advise you to consult a learned scholar in this country [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] who understands road safety and who, preferably, drives. You should fully explain how the accident took place and make sure that he also understands the circumstances before he gives his ruling. You should also explain to him that such blood money is not paid in your country and you have no hope of persuading your cousins and uncles to contribute. You may then follow his advice and seek Allah's forgiveness. [You could work out the amount as an equivalent of the value of 200 cows or 2,000 sheep in your country and ] You pay it to the immediate relative of your killed passenger, without involving them with its legal aspect. You just tell them that you are helping them because you feel so sorry about the accident.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )