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European Justice System and the Islamic Justice System
All people want to live a happy life. Except for such needs as food and shelter, we should be protected. This is the main task of law of every society.
Since the beginning of our civilization, people tried to protect themselves from invading in their private life. The first law system was created in the Rome Empire, and it influenced greatly the process of establishing justice system in all European countries.
In the sixteenth century, England had a very developed system of punishment for criminal offenses. This was a great period for the English legal system. The amount of litigations in the court was about 1600 cases per year. Although the cases were heard in courts and the accused were punished, there were still no laws. “De Laudibus Legum Angliae”, written by Chief Justice Sir John Fortescue represented the most important ideas of the criminal law of England in the sixteenth century.
The first thesis, where we can find the grounds and rules for making the English law system more justice and equitable, is “Doctor and Student” by Christopher St. German. It helped to understand the basis the English law is made on, the relation of all kinds of law, which are presented in the English society (the God’s law, the law of nature, laws of men).
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When Elizabeth the First was reining the country, she introduced the practice of incarceration of the accused. Almost all prisons of England were full of offended waiting for the trial. But still, during the trial, the preference was given to the prosecutor. The accused had almost no chances to be saved, mostly because he or she was not allowed to have a lawyer.
The legal process of that time was hierarchical. The Royal power base was at the top. They dealt mostly with cases of the royal protection. The Assize, the Quarter Sessions, and the Manorial and Archdeaconary Courts followed it. They heard the cases of ordinary people.
In the Arabic countries, the situation was different. After Muhammad’s death in 632, A.D., his companions ruled the country and conquered the neighbor countries. With the growth of the Muslim Empire, the set of laws was made. It was called “Sharia” and had its origins in Koran, the holy Islamic book and the Sunnah, the tales of Muhammad. Together they explain the fundamentals of Islam, moral values, and duties of the citizens. Although, both Koran and Sunnah deal with ordinary life, there is such concept as “huhud”, which is the set of fixed punishments for some offences. Since “Sharia” was completed, it was used by the judges as a handbook. But still, “Sharia” is not a set of laws as we used to see it, but the set of religious rules and principles, according to which, the law should be applied. Still, it contains the list of offences that can be punished and kinds of punishments allowed.
These systems of criminal law seem to be very different and unlike. For a European, travelling in the East and committed a crime, it would be very unusual to be judged by the Islamic laws.
In the sixteenth century, Europeans, as well as Islamic, were traveling a lot. And from their stories, we may understand how the law was implemented in life.
But what if we had a time machine and could travel not only in great distances, but in time? What new could we find out during such journeys? What could we experience?
If I had a time machine, I would like to travel into the sixteenth century and see on my own how the criminal law was implemented…
Sometimes, our wishes come true, and here I am standing in the middle of a market square. I see people walking by, and I cannot understand what is going on. I do not stop asking myself “where am I? What am I doing here? What date is it? And how did I get here?” I am tired and thirsty, because it is rather hot here. My mind becomes clear, and I decide to find something to eat. Having searched the pockets of my jeans, I found no money. “What a pity”,-I thought. I wish I had some money. “OK, I will not wait for a miracle, but rather find someone who will help me and probably give some food or at least explain me what is going on”, - I said to myself.
I began to walk along the tents where different fruits and vegetables were sold. And every time I looked around, I noticed that people were looking at me and I guess they were scared. I thought there was something wrong with my clothes. I looked down and saw that I had sneakers and jeans and my favorite T-shirt on. Nothing unusual, I have such a look every day at school.
I felt very strange, like I was in another epoch. “OK, I should come up to somebody and ask for a way to the embassy. I am sure that the ambassador will help me. At least he or she knows the name of the country I am in.”
The sound from my stomach stopped my thoughts. I felt starving. I remembered I had not eaten anything since the lunch time. According to my calculations, it was 4 or 5 hours ago.
I wanted to think clearly; that is why I decided to eat something firstly and then try to find the embassy or at least somebody who speaks English. Having looked around, I noticed the tent where there were a lot of people. I thought I could find there someone who speaks English and ask for help in this unknown country. I came up to that tent and saw there a man who was selling fruits. My hunger became more intense. I wanted to eat everything I saw.
I sneaked through the crowd and took an orange. Nobody has seen me. “This man has a lot of oranges, and I am starving. Nothing happens if I take one small orange”, - I tried to calm down.
The moment I was coming through the crowd back to the open place, I felt that somebody has taken my hand. I looked up. The man was standing in front of me and holding my hand.
The man was rather tall. He had trouser on, a long shirt which looked more like a long women’s dress, because it was covering his legs. On his head, he had a strange thing, which resembled a kerchief. When I noticed a sabre on his waist, I felt that my mind is full of fear. I thought he could harm me, because I had stolen an orange. I dropped the orange on the ground.
The man was still looking angrily at me. Then he picked up the orange, I had dropped, and began to pull me to the furthest corner of the market square. I thought he wanted to kill me there. But then I saw that we were approaching the dark building.
The man knocked twice, and the door of the building opened. As soon as my eyes accommodated to the darkness, which was inside, I have seen there a table with a huge book on it, a man sitting at the table, and some cells. It was a prison.
The fear inside of me grew every second.
“I will be judged. Or this man do not want others to see him killing me?”, - I was trying to find a good explanation for the situation.
But the man did not kill me. He began to talk to the man who was sitting at the table. Then, I heard the bars of the cell opening, and, in a wink of an eye, I was lying on the cell floor.
I was still starving, but at this moment I forgot about my huger and felt desperate. I did not know where I am, who these men are, what were they talking about, and what will happen with me.
I thought about my friend and my parents and I felt like crying. The more I thought, the more I realized the situation, the closers tears came, and finally I began to cry.
Then I heard a voice calling me. The voice was speaking English.
I looked to the left and saw a man. He was in the neighbor cell. I greeted him and asked what he was doing here. He said that he was travelling around the world, because, in his home country, England, he was a criminal, and when he came to Iran, he fell in love with a woman. But he did not know that she was married. That is why he was sitting in a prison and waiting for the trial.
Then, he told me another story. While living in England, he was very poor and, sometimes, it happened that he had nothing to eat. So, one day, he decided to steal a sheep from a duke, who was living not far from his house. Early in the morning, he went out of his house and went to the meadows where the duke’s sheep were grazing. He came up to the weakest sheep and grabbed her. Then, he ran back to his house. In some time, the policemen came and found the dead sheep on his backyard. They took him and brought to the prison. They pulled him into the dark room where he saw a lot of tools for execution. He realized that he should confess, because everybody knew how brutal were policemen while interrogation. He confessed. The next day, this man was brought to the court, and the case was heard. He tried to protect himself. He said that duke had set too high taxes, and he could not pay all them. He had nothing to eat. That is why he has stolen this sheep.
He said the clergy could have saved him because it was his first theft, but he could not read. I was interested in this, and the Englishman explained me that there is a rule that if a man could read, the “benefits of the clergy” were used. The man could be saved. If it was the first theft, the left hand would be burned by hot iron. Women do not have such a right.
He went on.
The court sentenced him to death. It should have been an awful death. They would have putted a stone on his breast, and there would have been a sharp stone under his back.
Having heard the verdict, the man decided to escape. He ran out the court house and began to run as fast as possible. He was running into people, they were shouting at him and throwing apples and tomatoes. He was running for more than a day. When he stopped, he had found himself near a village. The man decided not to go there. He went on walking. Soon, he reached the sea side. He has found a ship and became a sailor. When they came to India, he thought that it was too dangerous to come back to England. He ran away from the ship and was living in India for quite some time. Then, he got bored of such a life and decided to see the world. That is how he became a traveler.
I could not decide which of two evils is lesser. I did not want to imagine how I lie on a sharp stone, and another stone is on my chest. But, on the other hand, I did not know what to wait for. I explained the situation to the Englishman, and he said that tomorrow, after the trial, my right hand would be cut off. I did not like this idea either.
We were discussing the law systems of both countries. On the one hand, Islamic law is based on religion and has strict rules of punishment. Still, there is no violence during the interrogation; no tools are used to make an accused confess.
But, on the other hand, English lawyers are trying to perfect the law, to make the criminal laws clearer. They are trying to make law not only the source of justice, but the value of society. They are trying to understand the basic principles of the world’s law.
The Englishman also told me that the most serious cases in Iran are those which involve the violation of religious duties and cases against the state.
But we both agree that punishments are very cruel for both countries.
Our talk was very interesting, but we felt sleepy, so we fall asleep. The next morning, a man woke me up by pulling me out of my cell. I felt sorry. In the cell, I felt protected; also, I have found a friend.
The man brought me to another building. As I understood it was a court.
In the court, I have seen a judge, who was sitting at the table. On the table, I saw the same book as in the prison.
The judge let me talk. I was trying to explain him that I do not know how I got here and what was going on; that I know only that I was hungry. That is why I have stolen that orange.
The judge was listening attentively to me. I felt a bit relieved. At least, somebody in this country understands me. Then, the Englishman was asked to come in – he was an interpreter during the process.
The judge said that according to their laws, which were written by Allah, I should be punished. As it was my first crime, they will cut my right hand.
I knew that he would say that, but still his words gave me shivers down my spine. I was afraid. I could not imagine my life without a hand, without my right hand.
I closed my eyes not to see this judge anymore, not to see this room, not to see my friend.
When I opened my eyes, I was in my room again, in the 21st century. I took a look at my right hand, and it was there. I felt so relieved and happy…
I still do not know what happened that time. But now, I realize that it is much better not to commit offenses, especially, when you live in the 16th century in England or Iran.