DĪA (pl. dīāt), the prescribed blood money or wergild paid in compensation for a wrongful death or certain other physical injuries. The system of dīa is similar to other forms of compensation prevalent in Roman, Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, and other ancient legal systems (A. Diamond, pp. 144-58). Its inception, however, is in the system of private vengeance prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia. Tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia would at times renounce their right to vengeance in return for compensation often in form of camels or young brides (Edris, p. 230). While maintaining the basic structure of pre-Islamic dīa, Islamic law modified the practice in significant respects by setting restrictions on the right to talion, and limiting dīa to specific types of goods (Anderson, pp. 811-12; ʿĀmelī, X, p. 308). There is a broad agreement on the basic theory of dīa among Islamic schools of law, which is usually discussed together with qeṣāṣ; but this field is marred with disagreements over details. The focus of this article is on the Shiʿite law.
There is broad agreement on the basic theory of dīa (often discussed together with qeṣāṣ), but disagreements are common over details. The focus here is on the Jaʿfarī school of the Shiʿite law.
All schools agree that the dīa of a free male Muslim is 100 camels but disagree over whether dīa can be paid in other types of goods or in money. The Shiʿite school maintains that the full fixed dīa is of six primary types: 100 camels (of certain ages, depending on the offense), 200 cows, 1000 sheep, 100 two-piece garments, 1000 dinars in gold coinage, or 10,000 dirhams in silver coinage. The offender or the party bearing the financial liability chooses the type of dīa, but in case of intentional crimes a settlement has to be reached by both parties. A minority opinion argues that the choice of dīa should be determined according to the trade of the offender (e.g., a goldsmith would pay in gold coinage; ʿĀmelī, pp. 176, 184-86; Moḥaqqeq Ḥellī, p. 246; Ebn al-Barrāj, p. 357).
Dīa is an option in the case of deliberate (ʿamd) and quasi-deliberate (šebh ʿamd) crimes against persons. Unlike some Sunni schools, the Shiʿite school does not place much weight on the tools used in a crime as a means of distinguishing between deliberate and quasi-deliberate offenses. Rather, the emphasis is on whether the offender had a specific or general intent. In contemporary times deliberate homicide would be murder, while quasi-deliberate homicide would be manslaughter.
The Shiʿite school (as well as the Hanafites and Malikites) holds that in case of intentional homicide or injury the remedy is qeṣāsá (punishment or talion); dīa is not a co-equal alternative. Consequently, if the heirs of a victim forgive the offender an automatic right to dīa does not arise. Nevertheless, dīa could be payable through a settlement (ṣolhá) in which the offender agrees to pay an amount that may be more or less than the specified dīa (Moṭahhar Ḥellī, p. 678). Schools that consider dīa to be a co-equal alternative to qeṣāṣ do not require that the offender consent to paying dīa; the choice is entirely that of the victim or the heirs (Zoḥaylī, pp. 286-88).
Dīa, however, might become the only legal recourse if certain legal deficiencies preclude the application of talion. For example, if talion cannot be enforced because strict equality is not achievable, the only option other than an outright pardon is the right to full or partial dīa. Accordingly, no talion is admitted in the case of fractured bones or if experts testify, in a case not involving murder, that talion is likely to endanger the life of the offender. Furthermore, a right to dīa is the only recourse if talion is not possible because of certain evidentiary deficiencies (ʿĀmelī, pp. 77-80; Moṭahhar Ḥelli, pp. 660, 678; Ebn al-Barrāj, pp. 474-75). Dīa is also the only legal remedy in the case of accidental injuries. Whether a rule of strict liability or negligence applies to tort liability is a debated issue (ʿĀmelī, pp. 150, 154-55; Goadby, pp. 62-74).
Islamic law divides injuries, whether intentional or accidental, into four groups: 1. Aṭrāf, an injury that involves the total loss of an organ (18 specified organs); 2. manāfeʿ, an injury that involves the total loss of a physiological or intellectual function (7 functions); 3. šejāj, an injury to the face (8 types); and 4. jorūhá, injuries to the body. The full amount of dīa is due for a loss of an organ or function (the first two types). Therefore, a loss of both legs, for example, would elicit one full dīa. A proportional dīa is due for a partial loss. Hence a loss of one arm or leg would elicit half a dīa. A crippling of both legs would elicit two thirds of the dīa. Whether several full dīas could be compounded for the loss of several organs or functions is a contested issue (Moḥaqqeq Ḥellī, pp. 235, 279; Ebn al-Barrāj, p. 475).
A specified partial dīa is prescribed in the case of šejāj. Most jorūhá injuries do not have a specified prescribed dīa. Rather, an assessment of the actual loss suffered (ḥokūmat ʿadl) is applied, determined by reference to the market value of a slave before and after a similar injury. In comparison to their Sunni counterparts, the province of ḥokūmat ʿadl is somewhat restricted in Shiʿite law. Shiʿite law specifies the dīas of several jorūḥ that would be covered by ḥokūmat ʿadl in Sunni law.
Shiʿite sources state that the terms arš and ḥokūmat ʿadl are synonymous (Moṭahhar Ḥellī, p. 684; ʿĀmelī, p. 285). Both terms refer to injuries that do not have a specified dīa. Most Sunni sources state that arš refers to money payable for a bodily injury that has a specified partial dīa. Nevertheless, Shiʿite sources in actuality often use ḥokūmat ʿadl to refer to compensation for surplus or excess injuries. For instance, if a victim’s hand is severed above the wrist, he/she is entitled to dīa for the hand up to the wrist and to a ḥokūmat ʿadl for any loss above the wrist (ḥokūma fi’l-zāʾed; Ebn al-Barrāj, p. 373; Moṭahhar Ḥellī, p. 698).
There is much disagreement over the dīa of a Christian, Jew, or Zoroastrian (ḏemmīs). The majority opinion in the Jaʿfarī school maintains that it is 800 dirhams. The dīa of a slave is his market value, but it cannot exceed the dīa of a free person. The dīa for a partial loss is determined by referring to the proportional value if the loss had afflicted a free Muslim (Moḥaqeq Ḥellī, pp. 205, 247; Moṭahhar Ḥellī, pp. 683-84). There is some disagreement over the dīa of a woman. The majority view is that the dīa of a woman is half that of a man. The Shiʿites (as well as the Malikites and Hanbalites) maintain that a woman’s dīa is equal to that of a man until it reaches two-thirds of the value. This leads to peculiar results. For example, if a woman loses three fingers, she is entitled to thirty camels; but if she loses four fingers, she is now entitled to twenty camels (Ebn al-Barrāj, pp. 486-87; ʿĀmelī, p. 41).
A unique aspect of Shiʿite law of dīa is the radd, by which a part of the dīa is remitted if the victim or the heirs wish to exact talion from an offender with a higher dīa value. For example, if a man murders a woman her heirs are entitled to exact talion provided they remit half of the dīa to the heirs of the offender. This procedure receives wide application to permit the exaction of talion between people of unequal dīas. Other schools would permit talion without remitting the discrepancy in value.
The Jaʿfarī school adopted another unique position in prescribing several specific dīas for each stage of fetal development (called ḡora). Other schools prescribe a single dīa for an unborn child but disagree as to which stage it becomes due. The Jaʿfarī school was also the only school that set specified dīas for the mutilation of a corpse.
In deliberate and quasi-deliberate offenses a particularly heavy dīa (dīa mōḡallaẓa) is prescribed. The ages and sexes of the camels are varied so that the dīa will be of higher value. Additionally, the offender is personally liable for the dīa, which is payable in one year in the case of a deliberate offense and in two years in the case of a quasi-deliberate offense. Other schools hold that the offender is not personally liable for the dīa in a quasi-deliberate offense and prescribe different grace periods for the payment. In an accidental tort the ʿāqela of the offender is liable for the dīa, which is payable in three years unless the amount payable is one-third of the full dīa payable in one year (Moḥaqqeq Ḥellī, pp. 197, 245-46; Moṭahhar Ḥellī, pp. 679-80; ʿĀmelī, pp. 175-81).
Although existing in various forms in several ancient legal systems (Drew, p. 185; Diamond, p. 158), the ʿāqela grew out of the tribal organization of pre-Islamic Arabia, where the tribe of the offender was responsible for any blood money incurred by the offender. There is much disagreement in Islamic law on what constitutes the ʿāqela of a person and on the extent of its liability. In Shiʿite law the majority view is that the ʿāqela of a person are the male relatives from the father’s side. This includes brothers, uncles, and cousins but not sons or fathers. The ʿāqela cannot be held liable for any deliberate or quasi-deliberate offense or for any amount of money due by settlement or admission. They are only responsible for an amount that exceeds one-twentieth of the dīa. There are differences of opinion over how the money is to be apportioned among the members of the ʿāqela and as to whether the public treasury (bayt al-māl) or the offender becomes liable if the ʿāqela cannot pay. The ʿāqela of ḏemmīs is the public treasury because, according to Shiʿite sources, they pay poll tax (jezya; Ebn al-Barrāj, pp. 357, 503-05; Moṭahhar Ḥellī, pp. 732-39; ʿĀmelī, pp. 308-15; Moḥaqeq Ḥellī, pp. 289-91).
The public treasury is also responsible for the dīa of a person found killed in a public place such as a public road or mosque. However, if the deceased is found with evidence of wrongdoing in a locality or on private property, resort is made to qasāma, which is similar to the ancient legal procedure of compurgation. The residents of the area are asked to take fifty oaths that they neither killed the deceased nor know who the killer is. According to Shiʿite law and the majority of Sunni schools, if there is a lawaṯ (independent evidence of wrong doing such as known hostility or any material evidence), then the locality or the ʿāqela of the owner of the property is responsible for the dīa. If there is no lawaṯ, then taking the oaths shields the suspects from liability and the public treasury pays the dīa (Ebn al-Barrāj, pp. 500, 513; Moḥaqqeq Ḥellī, pp. 222-25; ʿĀmelī, pp. 72-5).
The laws of dīa, to various degrees, are partially in force in several Middle Eastern countries such as Persia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Sudan. However, the dīa practices of these countries are intermingled with customary practices and modern criminal law concepts. Certain practices such as ʿāqela and qasāma for the most part have fallen out of use. Furthermore, the tribes of Sinai, Sudan, and Somalia apply dīa laws derived from customary practices rather than šarīʿa principles.
Šahīd Awwal Šams-al-Dīn ʿĀmelī, al-Lomʿa aI-demašqīya, ed. M. Kalāntar, Najaf, 1398/1978, X, pp. 105-329.
J. N. D. Anderson, “Homicide in Islamic Law,” BSO(A)S 13/4, 1951.
M. Cherif Bassiouni, ed., The Islamic Criminal Justice System, London, 1982.
A. S. Diamond, Primitive Law. Past and Present, London, 1971.
K. F.Drew, The Laws of Salian Franks, Philadelphia, 1991.
ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz Ebn al-Barrāj Ṭarābolsī, Mohaḏḏab, Tehran, 1406/1986, II, pp. 453-516.
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Abū Jaʿfar Moḥmmad b. Ḥasan Ṭūsī, Mabsūtá, ed. M. Behbūdī, Tehran, n.d., VII, pp. 2-243.
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W. Zoḥaylī , al-Feqh al-eslāmī wa adellatoho VI, Damascus, 1985, pp. 297-327.
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The abolishment of the secular penal code (Qānūn-e jazāʾ), which had been adopted from the French code since the 1906-11 Constitutional revolution (q.v.), and the establishment of dīāt, ḥodūd, qeṣāṣ, and taʿzīrāt, the four pillars of Islamic penal law, has constituted the main agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran for reconstruction of the Judicial system since its inception in 1357 Š./1979 (see JUDICIAL SYSTEM). Thus, on 24 Āḏar 1361 Š./15 December 1982, the Islamic penal law of blood money (Qānūn-e mojāzāt-e eslāmī-e dīāt), comprising 210 articles, was ratified by the Majles (for the text see Waṭanī, pp. 236-85). It was a codified and revised version of a chapter on dīāt in Ayatollah Khomeini’s Taḥrīr al-wasīla (3rd ed., Beirut, 1401/1981, II, pp. 553-607). The law of dīāt had been enforced until 7 Āḏar 1370 Š./28 November 1991 when the Discretionary Council (Šūrā-ye maṣlaḥat-e neẓām ) approved the new Islamic Penal Law (Qānūn-e mojāzāt-e eslāmī), comprising ḥodūd, qeṣāṣ, dīāt, and taʿzīrāt, that had been ratified in July 1991 by the Majles (for the text see Qorbānī, pp. 406-779). The fourth book of the law (arts. 294-496) is on dīāt. Article 294 defines dīa as a property to be given to a victim of crime or to his/her guardian (walī) or blood warden (walī-e dam) in compensation for his/her life or bodily injuries and defects. Article 295 defines three major subjects of dīa: non-deliberate crime (ḵaṭāʾ-e maḥzµ); quasi-deliberate crime (šebh-e ʿamd); and deliberate crime (ʿamd); which is primarily the subject of qeṣāsá. The dīa of the life of a male Muslim (art. 297) includes one of the following options: either 100 healthy camel, or 200 healthy cows, or 1,000 healthy sheep, or 200 of new Yemeni cotton garments (ḥolla), or 1,000 dinar (q.v.; gold coin), or 10,000 dirham (q.v.; silver coin). The dīa of the life of a female Muslim is one-half of that of a male Muslim. In the case of bodily injuries the dīa of Muslim male and female is equal up to the ceiling of one-third of the full amount of the dīa of a male Muslim; but when it exceeds the one-third ceiling, the dīa of female is one-half of that of the male. Articles 302-496 provide detailed rulings on personal responsibilities in various actions that are subject of dīa as well as the dīa of bodily injuries of various organs.
F. Qorbānī, Majmūʿa-ye kāmel-e qawānīn-e jazāʾī, Tehran, 5th ed. 1372 Š./1993.
F. Ṣāleḥī, Dīa yā mojāzāt-e mālī, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992.
M.-Ḥ. Waṭanī, ed. Majmūʿa-ye kāmel-e qawānīn wa moqarrarāt-e jazāʾī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.
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(Khalid Abu El Fadl)
Originally Published: December 15, 1995
Last Updated: November 22, 2011
This article is available in print.
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