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In the Name of God بسم الله

Crime And Punishment; An Islamic Perspective

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My English class has been analysing Fyodor Dostoyevsky's translated novel Crime and Punishment. My professor has asked of me and a few fellow Muslim classmates to form an opinion of the character Sonya in the book. He was very specific, questioning the moral stance of Islam on the occupation of Sonya (a prostitute). He feels that Muslims in his experience teaching the novel have felt she is not the sympathetic character Dostoyevsky presents her as. I would like to seek the opinion of my Muslim brothers and sisters about Sonya.

For those of you who haven't read the novel, a quick summary of Sonya and events that led her to do what she did:

In Dostoevski's 1866 novel Crime and Punishment, set in St. Petersburg, Sonya is a eighteen-year-old prostitute. She is the daughter of an alcoholic civil servant named Marmeladov, who's blended family (consisting of his wife, Katherine, serveral young step children, and Sonya) suffers as a consequence of his binge drinking. Eventually, Marmeladov's addiction leads to the loss of his job. Because her family barely has enough to eat, Sonya's consumptive step-mother, Katherine, pressures Sonya (Marmeledov's daughter by his first marriage) into prostitution, which is a legal business in St. Petersburg. Sonya, a devout Christian, fiercely resists this desperate arrangement but ultimately sees no other way to relieve the family's destitution. The young woman sees herself (as does Dostoevski) as making a painful sacrifices for her siblings and step-mother, who have gone without food for as long as three days at a time. (A severe economic depression has eliminated Sonya's other options for sustainable employment.)
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The novel takes place in industrial era Russia. Toddlers used to clean chimneys and people were in desperate survival mode. So in this context it's odd that someone would not sympathize with the character.

Its a completely diffrent setting, so judging through Islamic principles seems unfair.

Are you in college or high school.

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The novel takes place in industrial era Russia. Toddlers used to clean chimneys and people were in desperate survival mode. So in this context it's odd that someone would not sympathize with the character.

Its a completely diffrent setting, so judging through Islamic principles seems unfair.

Are you in college or high school.

That's somewhat the root of the question. My professor, who has taught many Muslim students this book, has gotten the impression that Islam views the character negatively (i.e. what she did was haram).

I'm currently studying in college :)

Edited by Jay
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I've not yet read the book, can't comment much. But you are right, Islam or maybe more accurately the Muslim community does view prostitution badly.

Also, isn't there a Quranic aya that speaks something about not forcing women into lewd behavior (prostitution)? I don't know exactly the surah/verses, but I think I've read it before. If you do find this aya, then you can probably incorporate it into your discussion by acknowledging that perhaps sometimes, some people are compel to do something bad/evil against their will. And sometimes they can't resist it.

Edited by Gypsy
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At least you read a decent book.

I had to English professor who couldn't stop bashing Christianity, really young liberal hippster type. He even made us read a trash book about life at an all Christian College. I regret I didn't report him.

Edited by pakistanyar
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(bismillah)

Based on your summary of the character, it appears that she was compelled to prostitution as a result of her extreme poverty. Only Allah (swt) knows, but if someone truly commits a sin out of compulsion then they are not to be blamed or punished.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of the book, Greater Sins, by Ayatullah Dastaghaib Shirazi:

In the time of the rule of Umar a woman came to him and confessed of adultery. She also said, “Please impose the penalty of fornication upon me.”

When Umar heard this, he ordered that the penalty of fornication be executed upon this woman. ‘Ali (a.s.) happened to be there and was surprised at this.

He said, “Umar, inquire from this woman the conditions when she had committed fornication.”

The woman explained, “I was extremely thirsty in the desert. When I went far in search of water, I sighted a black tent which belonged to an Arab. I approached him and asked for water. But he refused to give me any water without my having adultery with him. I did not agree to his devilish desires and ran away into the desert. My eyes became sunken and I felt as if each of my bones were breaking. I returned to this man and in exchange of a drink of water I gave my body to him.”

‘Ali (a.s.) said, “It is this compulsion which is mentioned in the ayat, ‘...But whoever is compelled by hunger, in inclining willfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving Merciful,’ (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:3). This woman is not at all guilty of the crime.”

Then Imam (a.s.) ordered for her release and she was released.

(Burhan al-Qur’an)

Source: http://www.al-islam.org/greater_sins_complete/15.htm

(wasalam)

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I remmber reading about this guy in philosophy but our argument was if god did exist why did he let these children suffer. The stories he had were really sad.

I dont think you can have a stright answer, because her cases is different in comparicent to an adult that nows what their doing. A 8 year old doesnt have much knowledge of what their doing. God is forgiven and this girl is young and naive so I dont think she will be punished ,however the mother will be because she pushed the girl into it and understood completelly what shes getting this girl to do.

The mother should of worked to provide food. Shes probably going to be questioned about it by god.

But like the brother above stated about imam ali(as) let the woman go because she was in need, then surly the same can be said about sonya.

By the end of the day we cant not determine a person punishment because they may have done something good that removed the bad sin. But I doudt this rule will apply for hitlar,saddam,ghardiff ,mubarkka and the saudia king.....

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