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Forensic Science in Islam
Javed Khan, Forensic Scientist USA

Dec. 2002

One night, a police officer stops a van for making an illegal U-turn. Red-carpeted interior of the van drew the policemen's attention. Both van and the driver were brought to the police station for further investigation on a totally non-related serial murder case. Which includes killing of seventeen prostitutes in the area. These murders were committed over the period of seven-year and there was no eyewitness to any of the case. There, however, were a few things common which connected all murders to one suspect. All victims had red carpet fibers on their body, which indicated that these victims were transported in a vehicle with red carpet. Similar tire marks on two of the crime scenes pointed to a vehicle consistent with a van. Suspect also left his hair on all victims, which lead to the fact that a male suspect committed his first crime at the age of about thirty five. Suspect used brown hair dye when he victimized his first tenth victims and he switched his hair dye to black color for next four victims. He stopped dyeing his hair when he killed his last three victims. The following profile about the suspect was forwarded to all neighboring police agencies of the area by the forensic crime laboratory: They should look for a van with red carpet inside.
The van driver was retained for questioning. His van's carpet sample and suspect hair sample were collected and sent to the crime lab. The match was perfect. Further investigation lead police to convict the suspect of seventeen murders. This and many other serial and non-serial, high and low profile cases which lead many suspect to convictions could be attributed to the work of crime laboratories.
Existence of forensic laboratories goes back from prehistoric era of human beings. Stolen animals were recovered back from thieves following their footsteps and stolen goods or properties led to the thieves who were then convicted accordingly. During those days, this field was unofficial, however. Officially no later than in early nineteenth century when courts in the USA and the UK recognized the field of forensic science and permitted forensic evidence as part of official witness to convict a suspect of a crime in the absence of any eye witness. This science proved so successful, effective, and helpful in the process of convictions, that no case goes to court without involvement of any forensic work. Each and every aspect of science has some scope for forensic science in it.
Only crime of passions and crime of anger leave eyewitnesses behind. Premeditated crimes, on the other hand, are committed in such a way that it is unlikely that a suspect leaves eyewitnesses at the crime scene. However, it is not uncommon for a criminal to leave behind an object at a crime scene believing it to be of no further significant. These items are insignificant for criminals and the valuable tools for the forensic scientists. This may help prosecutors to place criminals at the crime scene. Which is a potential witness that the suspect committed the crime. 
 When an individual comes into contact with a person, or location, certain small seemingly insignificant changes occur. Small items such as fiber, hairs, and assorted microscopic debris may be left or picked up by a person from the contact with environment or contact with other individual(s). In short, it is impossible to come in contact with an environment without changing it in some minute ways- whether by adding to it, or by taking away from it. For example, when a person sits on a couch, (s)he takes away couch fabric lints and leaves his/her hair and clothing lints and other trace evidence on the couch. 

Sources of other trace evidence are clothing, buttons, footwear, scratch paper, body evidence like hair, finger prints, building material, glass lints, paints, metal rust, textile fiber, rope matches, cigarettes, cigarettes butts, tobacco, burned paper, ash, soil, pieces of wood, and plant material. 

Question may arise in many minds whether Islam permits the admittance of physical evidence in its court-of-law or not. In my opinion answer to this question is, “Yes.” Let us take a few examples from the Qur’an to clarify my point of view: 

 ”Cut off (From the wrist joint) the (right) hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise 5(38).” 

In this ayah: Allah (S) did not demand any witness, since recovery of stolen property from a thief is big evidence, which is a type of physical in forensic science. 

“O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must fear Allah, his Lord, and diminish not anything of what he owes. But if the debtor is of poor understanding, or weak, or is unable him to dictate, then let his guardian dictate in justice. And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so if one of them errs, the other can remind her. And the witness should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). You should not become weary to write it (your contract), whether it be small or big, for its fixed term, that is more justice in the Sight of Allah; more solid as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts amongst yourselves, then there is no sin on you if you do not write it own. But take witness whenever you make a commercial contract. Let neither scribe nor witness suffer any harm, but if you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything.” 2(283)

 Under line portion of the ayah above also emphasizes on the provision of evidence from either parties. Which could be in form of the Questioned Documents: Which is also a part of forensic science.  

“And if you are on a journey and cannot find scribe, then let there be a pled taken; then if one of you entrust the other, let the one who is entrusted discharge his trust and let him be afraid of Allah, his Lord. And conceal not the evidence for he, who hides it surely his heart is sinful. And Allah is All-Knower of what you do. 2(283)” 

Appropriate use of evidence is discussed here in the Ayah above. 

“O you who believe! When death approaches any of you, and you make a bequest, then take the testimony of two just men of your own folk or two just men from outside, if you are traveling through the land and the calamity of death befalls you. Detain them both after prayer, if you are in doubt, let them swear by Allah: “We wish not any worldly gain, even though he be our near relative. We shall not hide testimony of Allah, for then indeed we should be of the sinful” 5(106)”

 “If then it gets known that these two had been guilty of sin, let two other stand in their place, nearest in kin from among those who claim a lawful right. Let them swear by Allah: “We affirm that our testimony is truer than that of both of them, and that we have not trespassed, for then indeed we should be of the wrong-doers.” 5(107)

 “And those of you women who commit illegal sexual intercourse, take the evidence of four witnesses from amongst you against them; and if the testify, confine them to houses until death comes to them or Allah ordains for them some wars.” 4(15)  

 In short, in the absence of eyewitnesses of any crime, use of forensic scientists as an expert witness is permissible in the court of Islamic law. It would be even better if prosecution and defense get the opportunity to send the physical evidence for examination to separate Forensic laboratories of their interest. Crime laboratories are close to non-existence in Muslim World. In my opinion Muslim countries should establish forensic laboratories in their countries so Islamic Justice may prevail. 

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