The Islamic penal code cannot be viewed from a secular perspective, for two main reasons:
Firstly, both Islamic and secular societies are built upon ways of life based upon different values . Hence, their view towards crime and punishment will be very different.
For example in secular British law there is no legal sanction for a citizen if they neglected a stranger who was drowning. However in the Islamic law the bystander could be prosecuted for not attempting to rescue the victim. The effect of values and culture can also be seen in the differences between varying secular states. In short, different values and cultures give rise to different perspectives.
Secondly, Islam’s various laws are interconnected. Islam is a holistic and comprehensive system for life. They create an environment less likely to produce crime due to its values , a stable family structure underpinning the society, economic support for the weakest, but also harsh punishments likely to deter all but the most ruthless criminals.
Take the punishment for theft in Islam as an example. The punishment for theft (cutting the thief’s hand) is dependent upon the proper application of just Islamic economic laws where food, shelter and clothing are guaranteed by the State. No hand gets cut if the theft was committed out of need. It is also built upon the existence of God-consciousness in society and upon the State not promoting excessive materialism. secular capitalist States, such as Britain, allow marketing campaigns which promote and encourage debt, which is considered unjust and illegal under Islamic law. A thief's hand should not be cut in such an environment. However, if he was in an Islamic environment, motivated by greed, stealing from a secure place, then Islamic law states that it should. This follows a process where people are truly innocent until proven guilty, as much higher levels of proof are needed than in any Western court.
Islamic punishments are harsh, but Muslims completely reject the accusation that these rules are barbaric. The burden of proof required to prove a crime with certainty are much higher than in the west – small amounts of doubt would mean punishments could not be implemented. These punishments serve as effective deterrents to ward off the occurrence of crime in society. Allah views oppressive trials and hardship as worse than killing, hence for some crimes, death is a suitable punishment.
"Fitnah is more grave than killing." (Quran chapter 2, verses 217)
Islamic law actually gives the defendant greater basic rights, but also recognises that the community has rights too. The law exists to protect both, defining when one outweighs the other. This point seems to have been lost in Britain today where, sadly, anti-social behaviour, violent crime, robbery and burglary are common place, leaving ordinary citizens, particularly the elderly , feeling increasingly unsafe.