Diyya (plural: Diyyat; Arabic: دية‎) is compensation paid to the heirs of a victim. In Arabic, the word means both blood money and ransom.


Islamic and Arab tradition

The Qur'an specifies the principle of Qisas (i.e. retaliation), but prescribes that one should seek compensation (Diyya) and not demand retribution.

We have prescribed for thee therein ‘a life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation;’ but whoso remits it, it is an expiation for him, but he whoso will not judge by what God has revealed, these be the unjust.[1]

The Qur’an directed to pay Diyyat just according to this law both in case of intentional as well as un-intentional murder. A variation of Diyat was present in pre-Islamic Arabia, where it was paid in terms of goods or animals rather than cash. In Sharia law, Diyat should be paid in terms of cash to avoid possible fraud on the part of the criminal.[2] In Islamic and Arab traditions, blood money is the fine paid by the killer or his family or clan to the family or the clan of the victim (comparable to the traditions of weregild and główczyzna). 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 Diyat 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 Diyat 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 Diyat according to this law both in case of intentional as well as unintentional murder.[2]

The four Sunni legal schools of thought debated what should be the Diyya for a Jew or Christian, who were considered Dhimmi. According to the Shafi school, the Diyya in such a case was a third paid for a Muslim. The Maliki prescribed half. The Hanafi school, on the other hand, does not differentiate between a Muslim and non-Muslim. In Yemen, the Diyya for a Jew was sometimes much higher than for a Muslim, since he was considered a protege of the tribe, and any injury to him was considered injury to the whole tribe.[3]

Legally prescribed rates

Countries whose law follows the Shari'a, including Saudi Arabia, Iran[4] and Pakistan[5], also enacted laws for Qisas and Diyat. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the heirs of the victim have a right to settle for Diyya instead of the execution of the murderer. [6] The customary law of the Somali people also recognizes the obligation of diyya, but define it as being between subgroups, or mag, who may be part of different clans or even the same clan.[7]

Some of these countries also define, by lawful legislation, a hierarchy of rates for the lives of people; religious affiliation and gender are usually the main modulating factors for these Blood Money rates. Some examples are presented below.

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, when a person has been killed or caused to die by another, the prescribed blood money rates are as follows[8]:

  • 100,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
  • 50,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
  • 50,000 riyals if a Christian or Jewish man
  • 25,000 riyals if a Christian or Jewish woman
  • 6,666 riyals if a man of any other religion
  • 3,333 riyals if a woman of any other religion

The amount of compensation is based on the percentage of responsibility. Blood money is to be paid not only for murder, but also in case of unnatural death, interpreted to mean death in a fire, industrial or road accident, for instance, as long as the responsibility for it falls on the causer.[8]


In Iran, a further refinement on the hierarchy of rates has been devised: variations are also based on the month of the Islamic calendar that the crime is committed in. The Iraninan Judiciary system announces a table of the prescribed amounts each year.[citation needed] During the four haram months, when wars and killings were traditionally discouraged in the Arabian peninsula and later in the larger Islamic world, the blood money rates stand doubled.[citation needed] The rates for female victims is half that for male victims in murder cases, but equal in cases of insurance and accidental death.[citation needed]

As in Saudi Arabia, the rates for bloody crimes committed against Iranian non-muslims used to be half the rate prescribed for Muslim victims, but this was changed by "equitable", progressive-minded legislation in early 2004.[citation needed] This legislation was initially rejected by the Guardian Council but was later approved by the Expediency Discernment Council.[citation needed]

Members of the Baha'i Faith are excluded from the provisions of the equalization legislation, as their blood is considered Mobah, and as such no blood money is payable to families of Baha'is who are murdered. [9]


In Iraq, the Bedouin tribes carry on the practice of demanding blood money, though this does not necessarily obviate the proceedings of the secular judicial system.[10]

See also


  1. ^ [Quran 5:45]
  2. ^ a b Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, The Penal Law of Islam, Al-Mawrid
  3. ^ Between Vision and Reality: Law in the Arab World, Guy Bechor, pp. 108-109
  4. ^ A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran, March 2006
  5. ^ WLUML: News and Views
  6. ^ AI REPORT 1998: SAUDI ARABIA, Amnesty International
  7. ^ For a more detailed explanation of its role in Somali customary law, see I.M. Lewis, "Clanship and Contract in Northern Somaliland", Africa, 29 (1959), pp. 274-293
  8. ^ a b "I. DISPOSAL OF MORTAL REMAINS (LOCAL BURIAL/DESPATCH TO INDIA)" Consulate General of India, Jeddah. Retrieved on September 3, 2010.
  9. ^ U.S. State Department (2008-10-17). "International Religious Freedom Report 2006, U.S. State Department". 
  10. ^ "Blood Money and Iraqi Tribal Justice" by Jamie Tarabay. Weekend Edition Saturday, 9 December 2006. National Public Radio

External links

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