In September 2020 the arrest of Yaser Abdel Said, after many years on the run, was announced. He was being pursued for the murder of his teenage daughters Amina (17) and Sarah (18). The motive behind the killing seems to have been his well-documented disapproval and of their westernized lifestyles and the fact that they dated non-Muslim boys. He repeatedly declared that he did not want to be the father of ‘whores’.
This kind of killing, common in the Muslim world, is often described as an ‘honor killing’ as it is perpetrated in order to safeguard the honor of a family who are being shamed by the behavior of their children. Many commentators, while acknowledging the prevalence of the phenomenon in Muslim societies, are quick to try and absolve Islam from any blame. They argue that it is purely cultural in nature. Even though, as in this case, the deviation from Islamic norms by the victims is often a clear motivating factor.
It can, furthermore, be shown that the Qur’an provides at least one description of an event that could definitely be interpreted as providing scriptural justification for honor killings.
Chapter 18 of the Qur’an tells the story of Khidr whom Allah describes as “one of our servants on whom we had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom we had taught knowledge from Our own Presence” Khidr was such a remarkable figure that even Moses wanted to accompany him to learn from him (18:66). Khidr agrees that Moses may accompany him provided that he do not ask him questions but simply observes. He then goes on to do some strange things (scuttling a boat, killing a boy, building a wall over some treasure). Every time Moses could not help himself and asks question, prompting criticism from Khidr. In the end, however, all is revealed.
Let us look more closely at the killing of the boy. Khidr explains his act in the following way: “As for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy.” (Qur’an 18:80-81)
Here we have a clear example from the Qur’an of what can only be described as an ‘honor killing’. The boy is summarily dispatched by this great servant of Allah simply because he is rebellious and disbelieving and was bringing grief to his family. So much for the idea that ‘honor killing’ is simply a cultural practice with no scriptural basis in Islam. Yaser Abdel Said evidently believed that he had divine sanction for his deeds and could very well have drawn comfort from a passage such as this.
Equip yourself to ask the hard questions about the truth-claims of Islam that are all too often swept under the carpet in our society by reading ‘Questioning Islam – Tough Questions and Honest Answers About the Muslim Religion’