It’s in the Qur’an: “We ordained therein for them: ‘Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.’ But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.” — Qur’an 5:45
Now you will tell me, “Wait a minute, Spencer, that’s in the Hebrew Scriptures, too.” So often I hear that the Bible and the Qur’an are equivalent in their messages — something that only someone who hasn’t read either one could say. But in any case, it’s true: “an eye for an eye” appears in Exodus 21:22-25, Leviticus 24:19-21, and Deuteronomy 19:21. However, this phrase has always been understood in Judaism as limiting excessive vengeance, not encouraging it, and has never been taken in Jewish tradition as being a warrant for maiming anyone. It is likewise limited in Christianity by Jesus’ statement: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39).
But in Islam, the literal force of the Qur’anic passage is paramount.
“Saudi court mulls verdict to cut defendant’s spine,” from Emirates 24/7, August 19:
A court in Saudi Arabia is seeking medical advice on whether it is possible to cut the spinal cord of a man as a punishment after he was indicted of causing paralysis to another man during a fight, a local daily reported on Thursday.
The court in the northwestern province of Tabuk has sent letters to hospitals in the kingdom asking them whether the punishment to cripple the defendant by severing his spine is medically possible, the Arabic language daily Okaz said.
The unidentified defendant hit Abdul Aziz Al Mutairi, another Saudi, with a cleaver during a fight more than two years ago and the trial has been delayed because Mutairi is insisting that his attacker suffer the same injury.
“The General Court in Tabuk has sent several letters to hospitals in and outside the region asking doctors about the possibility of cutting the spinal cord of the defendant after he was indicted of causing paralysis to another man,” it said.
The paper quoted the 22-year-old Mutairi as saying the defendant had confessed in court to hitting him with the cleaver during their fight in Tabuk.
“King Khaled Hospital is of the opinion that it is possible to cut the spinal cord and cause paralysis medically through specialist centres,” he said.
According to the paper, the verdict is pending responses from hospitals to the court’s letters.
So there’s no discussion of whether it is cruel and unusual punishment. After all, it’s in the Qur’an.