By Adnan Adil
July 14, 2017
The Quran, which is the core of Islam, tells us that human life is sacred and cannot be taken in a manner that is unjust and unlawful. The Islamic faith holds the life of one person to be equal to that of the entire humankind.
The sanctity of human life is an essential corollary of the dignity that God has bestowed upon humankind. God has created humans with a definite preference over His other creations.
The sayings and practice of the Prophet (PBUH) reinforce the sanctity of life.
In Surah Al Isra’s verse 70, the Quran states: “We have honoured the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of Our creation.”
Islam accords a very high status to humankind as God has created human beings as His successive authority or vicegerent on earth. Verse 30 of Al Baqarah says: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth....” In this concept is embedded the sanctity of human life. Human life is precious as in each human soul are hidden the signs of God.
Verse 53 of Surah Fussilat says: “Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth….”
According to the teachings of the holy book, a person’s life can be taken only as a death sentence for murder after the completion of due process of law or in a just, defensive war called jihad. For no other reason does the Islamic faith allow a Muslim to kill any person — be it a believer or a non-believer, a ‘good’ Muslim or a ‘bad’ Muslim.
In the Quran, verse 68 of Surah Al Furqan enunciates the qualities of the believers as “Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor lay such life as Allah has made sacred except for just cause....” Here the prohibition against the taking of life is qualified: “except for just cause”.
Surah Al Anam’s verse 151 also spells out the same theme. Verses 92 and 93 of Surah Al Nisa deal with the sanctity of the life of a believer.
The strongest condemnation of killing a man comes in Surah Al Maida’s verse 32, where after telling the story of Cain and Abel, the Quran says: “On that account, We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.…”
In the words of scholar Muhammad Asad, the expression “We decreed to the Children of Israel” does not detract from the universal validity of this moral: it refers merely to its earliest enunciation.
However, in certain verses of the Holy Quran, God asks the Prophet (PBUH) to kill infidels such as in Surah Al-Tawbah (Repentance). This action can be taken under certain circumstances and strict conditions of jihad as described in other verses. These verses do not mean that any Muslim can declare any person an infidel and take his or her life. Different verses on the same subject found in different chapters of the Quran are put together to infer correct meanings from them in a coherent manner.
The sayings and practice of the Prophet reinforce the sanctity of human life. In his sermon at Haj, the Prophet announced that the lives, property and honour of all people are sacred in the same way as Makkah and Islam’s religious symbols are sacrosanct.
In Madina, there was a group that was declared hypocrites or Munafiqun by the Quran. This group opposed and criticised the Holy Prophet in the wars of Uhad and Tabuk and were disobedient to him on several occasions. Although the Quran strongly condemned their activities, they were allowed to live in peace as part of the Muslim community.
Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy was the leader of the hypocrites. On his death, the Prophet led his funeral prayer at the request of his son.
This was the level of tolerance and respect that was accorded to human life. It is clear from this practice of the Holy Prophet that no one has the right to harm another person on the pretext that he or she is not a good Muslim.
In the light of the teachings of the Quran and the practice of the Prophet, we can see how erroneous are certain self-appointed soldiers of faith who take the lives of innocent people. In the language of the Quran, they are guilty of spreading Fasaad (discord, mischief and corruption) on the earth.
Adnan Adil is a freelance contributor.