Saudi Arabia: Payment of Diyyah


Saudi Arabia continues the practice of ‘diyyah’ otherwise known as blood money.  According to Wikipedia, Diyya (plural: Diyyat; Arabic: دية‎) is compensation paid to the heirs of a victim. In Arabic the word means both blood money and ransom.  Diyyah comes into effect when the death of one person has been caused by another such as committing an act of murder or a driver being held responsible for ones who died in an auto accident with him.  Under Shari’a or Islamic law which follows the “eye for an eye” precept, the surviving family members of the deceased will hold the fate of the one who is responsible for deaths on whether that individual will live or die.  If the family wishes to avenge the death of their loved one through death then the responsible individual will be put to death through public execution.  However the family of the person held responsible for a death may also try to appeal to the deceased family by offering up ‘diyyah’ in order to save the life.  Naturally Islam prefers that a family seek diyyah rather than retribution.

It is unlawful for a believer to kill a believer except if it happens by accident. And he who kills a believer accidentally must pay diyyat to the heirs of the victim except if they forgive him. The tradition finds repeated endorsement in Islamic tradition; several instances are recorded in the Hadith, which are the acts of Muhammad.

There is no specific amount for Diyyat and the fine does not differ based on the gender, victim, or state of freedom of the victim. However, the Qur’an leaves open its quantity, nature and other related affairs to the customs and traditions of a society. The Qur’an directs to pay Diyyat according to this law both in case of intentional as well as unintentional murder.

However in direct contradiction to the above paragraph citing from the Quran, in Saudi Arabia, when a person has been killed or caused to die by another, the prescribed blood money rates are as follows[7]:

  • 100,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
  • 50,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
  • 50,000 riyals if a Christian man
  • 25,000 riyals if a Christian woman
  • 6,666 riyals if a Hindu man
  • 3,333 riyals if a Hindu woman.

Although Wikipedia states that the amount of Diyyah is open, I found it interesting that according to Encyclopedia Britannica in pre-Islāmic times, the compensation or diyyah required for taking a life was 10 she-camels.

Frankly speaking, the whole issue of diyyah brings up the question, how can one put a price on a life?


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