Self-defense in Islam

The topic is addressed in two perspectives: Islamic rulings and the criminal law in Malaysia. This write-up is based from a talk given by Dr Ahmad Jailani, a syar’ie lawyer based in Penang, Malaysia. If there are any misinformation, I reserve the right to correct them due to my shortcomings. Do not put the blame on the good laywer.


Self-defense according to Islam (Difa’ Shar’ie).

  • The majority of scholars is of the view that it is obligatory to self-defense (including killing the perpetrator if must or by accident) to protect your religion, life, asset, etc ONLY IF your life is in real danger. If the danger is neutralized, it is forbidden to kill or harm the culprit. Source: Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu by Prof Dr Wahbah az-Zuhaili.
  • The ‘majority’ of scholars above referred to: Syafie School of Jurisprudence (Mughni al-Muhtaj by Khatib asSyarbini), Maliki School (Bidayatul Mujtahid by ibn Rusyd) and Hanbali School (Mughni by Ibn Qudamah).
  • A minority of scholar is of the opinion that it is not obligatory to self-defense. It is only considered permissible to kill if you must or by accident. The scholars used the proof from the story of Qabil  & Habil and the assassination of Caliph Uthman by Affan by the rebels.

Criminal Law in Malaysia.

  1. Penal code section 100. One is deemed innocent to kill in self-defense in the case of:
  • The perpetrator attempting to take your life.
  • The perpetrator attempting to inflict significant harm (broken bones included, even if it is your nose).
  • An attempt to rape (for females only).
  • An attempt to perform sexual assault such as sodomy.
  • Kidnap.
  • Being held without your own will with bad intention (for example, as to kidnap, rape, etc).

2. Penal code section 103. One is deemed innocent to kill in self-defense in the case of:

  • Robbery.
  • Break-ins (during the night)
  • Arson
  • Stealing (you caught the thief red-handed but he resisted capture and died in the fight)

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