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Islam and Preservation of Human Life

Physical Security and Protection

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One’s soul or own body is a sacred entity entrusted to him by God on a temporary basis.

Human life is sacred and a gift from Allah, the Creator. For the protection of human life Islam has legislated capital and corporal punishments and retribution unto those transgressing criminals who murder and physically harm others. Killing falls into three types: intentional and/or premeditated murder,manslaughter, and total mistake.

Islam commands the execution of anyone who commits premeditated murder of an innocent person, seeking to place as strong a deterrent as possible to eradicate the temptation of intentional murder.

Unintentional manslaughter and mistaken killings are separate categories with separate lesser sentences and blood money is paid to the close relatives of the victim. The family or the heirs of the killed victim are given a diyyah (blood money) unless they choose to forgive the killer. The killer must repent to Allah and make atonement by the freeing a Muslim slave, and if this is not possible, by fasting for two consecutive months.

All such penalties are for preservation of life. No one has the right to possessions or estate without legitimate cause. All oppressive or abusive must be warned against unjust killing, victimizing or harassing other innocent members of the Islamic society, and these strict punishments should be made clear. If the retaliation is not similar to the crime itself, criminals become emboldened in their criminal activities.

All other corporal punishments have the same rationale, wherein the punishment is proportionate to the crime with specific measurements of retribution predetermined to stop all arguments and confusion.

All capital and corporal punishments are oriented for the preservation of human life and property in an Islamic society. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

And there is (a saving of) life for you in al-qisas (the law of equality in punishment), O men of understanding,that you may become pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:179)

The penalty of the Hereafter for the intentional murderer who does not repent will be the wrath of Allah. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (forever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (An-Nisaa’ 4:9)

Prescribed Duties

Islam has imposed certain specific duties on everyone in respect to protection of human life. The following are some of these duties:

1-Man does not own his soul or his own body: rather it is a sacred entity entrusted to him on a temporary basis. It is not allowed for anyone to intentionally torture or harm himself, or carry-out any type of suicidal crime or reckless act leading to his destruction.

Life is only given in sacrifice for the cause of Allah. Allah says:

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly: but let there be among you trade by mutual good-will: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful! (An-Nisaa’ 4:29)

2-Man must maintain proper nutritional care to satisfy the minimum requirements essential for decent health. He is not allowed to deprive himself of permissible food, drink, clothing, marriage and proper care under any pretexts, if that causes him harm. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah,which He has produced for His servants, and the things,clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance?
Say, they are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Requital.
Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand.
(Al-A`raf 7:32)

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Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage

Halal in Moderation

Allah, the Exalted, admonished the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he abstained from eating honey in order to please one of his wives, and this became an eternal lesson for all Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Prophet! Why do you make forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to you? You seek to please your wives but Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (At-Tahrim 66:1)

Moderation is between stinginess and extravagance. Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. (Al-A`raf 7:31)

It is forbidden to neglect the physical needs of the body and cause harm through negligence or self-torture:

On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than itcan bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

It is reported that Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said that, “Three men came to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mosque to inquire about the worship of the Prophet. When they were informed, they considered their worship insignificant and said: ”Where are we in comparison with the Prophet while Allah has forgiven his past sins and future sins“. One of them said: ”As for me, I shall offer salah all night long.” Another said:”I shall observe sawm (fasting) continuously and shall not break it”. The third one said: ”I shall abstain from women and shall never marry.”

The Prophet came to them and said,“Are you the people who said such and such things? By Allah, I fear Allah more than you do, and I am the most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I observe fasting and break it; perform salah and sleep at night and take wives. So whoever turns away from my Sunnah does not belong to me.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

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Prophet Muhammad on the Elimination of all Forms of Racism

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In the sight of Allah, all people are equal.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) upheld justice in his time and rejected the ignorant belief which considered some people superior to others because of their language, race, social status or ethnicity. That is because such discrimination is severely condemned in the Qur’an.

‘Racism,’ as defined in our day, is an idea Allah prohibits in the Qur’an, but which receives extensive support in ignorant societies. As mentioned in the Qur’an, one of the divine purposes in the creation of the different races is “that they should come to know each other”. (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

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In the sight of Allah, all people are equal, and the only superiority anyone can have over anyone else is his fear of Allah and faith in Him.

The Prophet Muhammad also declared to his people, who committed racism, that ethnic differences had no importance and that everyone was equal in the eyes of Allah.

He repeatedly underlined that all that mattered was having sincere faith. While summoning his people to have faith, the Prophet Muhammad commanded them not to discriminate in his last sermon:

“O people! Your Allah is One and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety. Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of Allah.” (Ahmad)

The Prophet Muhammad also told people that Allah created man from nothing, that everyone is created equal and that everyone will give account of his deeds all alone before Allah. For this reason, he added that it would be a great wrong to look for superiority in one’s descent.

The Prophet commanded thus:

(All of) you are children of Adam, and Adam is from dust. Let some men cease to take pride in others.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

He (peace be upon him) stated that no criteria except for heedfulness are acceptable:

“Your descent is nothing to be proud of. Nor does it bring you superiority. O people! All of you are the children of Adam. You are like equal wheat grains in a bowl … No one has any superiority over anyone else, except in religion and heedfulness. In order to consider someone a wicked person, it suffices that he humiliates other people, is mean with money, bad-tempered and exceeds the limits.” (Ahmad)

The Formula… the Qur’an

Throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammad advised his people to set aside their ignorant and perverse values and to live by the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, racist attitudes are defined as “fanatical rage,” and people’s ambitious attitudes are criticized. A related verse reads:

Those who disbelieve filled their hearts with fanatical rage- the fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance- and Allah sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and obliged them to respect the formula of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Al-Fath 48:26)

Muslims who obeyed Allah‘s call in the above verse led their lives in peace and security, both during the blessed period of the first community of Islam and in succeeding ages when just administrators reigned.

In the Period of the Prophet Muhammad, contracts signed with the People of the Book and the pagans secured justice in society.

After the migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Medina, he encountered many different communities. At that period, Jews, Christians and pagans who held power were all living together.

Under such circumstances, the Prophet Muhammad united the cosmopolitan structure to secure social unity and peace by making social agreements- either by sending letters or holding face-to-face meetings- with more than a hundred communities, and thus achieved social compromise.

Prof. Thomas Arnold stresses the importance of the social unity established by the Prophet Muhammad in these words: Arabia that had never before obeyed one prince, suddenly exhibits a political unity and swears allegiance to the will of an absolute ruler. Out of the numerous tribes, big and small, of a hundred different kinds that were incessantly at feud with one another, Muhammad’s word created a nation. (Thomas Arnold, The Spread of Islam in the World, Goodword Books)

Islam and Other Religions

As is related in many verses in the Qur’an, living in peace with people of other religions is perceived as good by Islam.

In one verse, Allah commands Muslims to believe in all the holy books revealed by Him and respect their beliefs:

So call and go straight as you have been ordered to. Do not follow their whims and desires but say, “I believe in whatever Allah has sent down (in the form) of a Book and I am ordered to be just between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. We have our actions and you have your actions.

There is no debate between us and you. Allah will gather us all together. He is our final destination. (Ash-Shura 42:15)

The above verse describes the relations a Muslim should establish with people of other religions. Muslims are also held responsible for adopting the morality of the Prophet and being compassionate and just towards other people. This person can be anyone, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian or even an atheist.

Such honest and just attitudes will make a very positive impact on their hearts, no matter what or who they believe in- or even if they have no beliefs at all- and they will become a means to make them feel closer to Islam.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”.

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