Manal was widowed at the age of 30 when her husband Faris was murdered by a group of bandits.
On October 8, 2015, Faris and his business partner Rajab travelled outside their city of Kfar Nabel on business. As they returned, robbers attacked them.
By the time police forces arrived at the scene, Faris was already dead. His partner Rajab was seriously wounded and bleeding heavily; he was rushed to hospital, but died before he could give the police his statement.
“The police found a gun in the road close to the crime scene which they bagged as evidence, along with several empty bullet casings,” Mahmud Dandush, the prosecutor of Kfar Nabel’s Ahrar al-Sham Sharia court, told Damascus Bureau.
An investigation was launched and three months later five men were arrested, some with criminal records for fraud and embezzlement.
According to statements taken from the defendants, a man named Abi Rajab had planned the attack on Faris and Rajab. All five men are now in prison awaiting the verdict of the Ahrar al-Sham court.
Dandush, 45, explained that the Ahrar al-Sham court was a coalition of three Islamist opposition groups: Ahrar al-Sham, Suqur al-Sham and Faylaq al-Sham.
The Nusra Front has a similar court in Maarat al-Numan, and both have an agreement not to intervene in cases brought before either one of them.
The courts are very similar in their practices, as they base their rulings on the Quran and the teachings of the prophet Mohammed.
The [Ahrar al-Sham] Sharia court headquarters is in the town of Binnish, and it also has branches in Idleb and its countryside, Kfar Nabel, Al-Maara, Al-Dana, Ahsam, Maarat Masrin and Atma.
The Sharia court comprises of a president, a prosecutor responsible for conducting investigations, a Sharia judge who holds a degree in Islamic law, and a civil judge who holds a degree in civil law.
Sharia court investigator Jamil the told Damascus Bureau that the court had become the most popular and powerful institution of its kind in the region.
Dealing Out Punishments
Sheikh Ibrahim is as a Sharia judge in the Ahrar al-Sham Sharia court. The 35-year-old told Damascus Bureau that Islamic law could be modified in times of conflict.
For instance, in times of peace thieves should be punished by having one of their hands cut off.
“However, when a country is ravaged by war, instability and famine as is the case in Syria, this verdict is not carried out. This is in line with what the prophet Mohammed did during one of his invasions,” he said.
Indeed Jabir, a 22-year-old from the village of Kafruma, said that he had had to serve a prison sentence for theft rather than suffer an amputation.
He came before the al-Maara Sharia court for stealing a motorcycle.
“The court ruled that I would be imprisoned and would receive lessons in Islam,” he said. “The lessons caused me to feel great remorse for what I had done, and I swore in front of the court never to reoffend. They released me on bail after two months.”
According to Sharia law, the punishment for murder is death.
“In the case of a premeditated killing, the culprit – whether man or woman – must be sentenced to death. The punishment must be of the same nature as that of the crime,” Ibrahim explained.
“Should the family of the victim forgive the murderer, they must be paid compensation known as blood money. Punishing culprits gives people stability and security, and deters others from committing the same crime.
“According to Islamic Sharia, the punishment also absolves the culprit of any further punishment in the afterlife,” he concluded.
In the case of the murders of Faris and Rajab, Ibrahim said that because the bandits who had murdered them were not poor or in need, they should be sentenced to death if the victims’ families decided not to show mercy.
However, Dandush said neither the Ahrar al-Sham Sharia or the the Nusra court have thus far sentenced a thief to lose a hand or a murderer to be executed.
The laws of war and instability were being observed by both courts to ensure that no one was treated unjustly.
Most offenders were made to attend Islamic Sharia lessons inside prison designed to address the crime they committed. Offenders were then freed after pledging they will not reoffend.
“Although criminals deserve punishment, the people of Kfar Nabel and its surrounding areas are generally forgiving in their nature,” Dandush said.
“During these hard times we are facing, this spirit of forgiveness has risen above everything.”
Dandush told Damascus Bureau there had been a delay in sentencing the killers of Faris and Rajab, as the court was still trying to recover the money they stole.
“The court is also hoping that during this period the families of the deceased will accept blood money payments,” he said.
However Kfar Nabel resident, 45-year-old Ayman, said the court would risk losing the trust of local people if it failed to exact a sentence of capital punishment in this case..
“The culprits caused four children to become orphans and two women to become widows, therefore they deserve to be sentenced to death,” he said.
Nidal al-Ahmad is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Idleb, Syria.
This feature was republished at The Syrian Observer at a special agreement with Damascus Bureau.