What does this verse from the Qur’an mean : “ He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind. ”

The Details of the Question
What does this verse from the Qur’an mean : “ He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind; and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind.” ( The Qur’an, Al-Ma’idah, 5:32)
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The interpretation of the verse above :    “It is because of this that We ordained for (all humankind, but particularly for) the Children of Israel: He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind; and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind. Assuredly, there came to them Our Messengers (one after the other) with clear proofs of the truth (so that they might be revived both individually and as a people). Then (in spite of all this), many of them go on committing excesses on the earth.(The Qur’an, Al-Ma’idah, 5:32)

According to rumors, some Jewish people from Madinah were planning to ambush and kill the Prophet Muhammad  peace be upon him) and some of the believers. For this reason, Allah, The Almighty informed them that killing a person unjustifiably is like killing all humankind and saving a person is like saving all humankind in order to show them what a serious crime it is to kill a person.

This information is not included in the Bible; however, in Mishna ( Sanhedrin, IV/5), there is a statement : “if any causes an Israelite’s life to be lost, it is on him as if he has lost a whole world, and if anyone saves an Israelite, it is on him as if he saved a whole world”.

A murderer who kills a person unjustifiably is the one who does not let a person live and who violates the prohibition of blood to be shed and attacks the innocence of souls. Besides, he encourages other people to murder. In that case, a person who has killed a person is considered as if he has killed all humankind and deserves Allah’s punishment. Thus, he loses his right to live and must be killed. Killing a person unjustifiably is a common damage as it is explained above.

Likewise, disorder in community, disruption of public peace, banditry and revolutions that lead people to commit murders and which cause all people damage are of no difference. For this reason, one who kills such a murderer or a disrupting person is not considered to have killed all the humankind but to have done what is right or to have saved.
And whoever saves a soul, in other words, forgives or saves a person from being killed or causes one to survive against any life-threatening situation, is deemed as if he had saved all the people and as if he had done a favor to all the people including himself.

It is known that a simile does not require that the resembling and the resembled must display a complete resemblance in every aspect. In this case, it should not be understood as there is no difference between killing and saving everyone and killing and saving a single person. The purpose of both anecdotes is to show the damage of killing a person obviously and to show the benefit of saving a person; and consequently to deter people from killing others by executing them as a reprisal and as a punishment of causing disorder and anarchy in the community, and to encouraging people to avoid murders and to maintain life.  

Yet, here remain two questions: Why are these commands first sent to the Israelites as incumbent “because of this reason”? How come can the incident in which Cain killed Abel be a reason and an example to make these commands be incumbent for the Israelites?

What is the reason for attributing it to the Israelites? Instead of the statement, ”Children of Israel”, would it not be more suitable stating “ it is because of this that We ordained for the all humankind” or “We ordained for the Children of Adam”?

For this reason, Hasan and Dahhak were convinced that the murder in the mentioned parable did not occur between the two sons of Adam ( peace be upon him) but between two people from the Israelites and the purpose of saying two sons was to mean two Israelites and moreover, such commitment of murder among the Israelites rendered particular reasons for these commands to be sent down to them. However, according to most of people, the parable is not like that.

So if this is the case, we should interpret it like this: The statement “Min ajli dhalik” ( it is because of this) in the original text refers not to the parable but to the effective meaning out of this parable. That is to say, killing a person is but a serious crime, indeed the result of a big cruelty, a loss and remorse. The ones who call themselves humans must definitely avoid it.

Nevertheless, this kind of cruelty is an ordinary thing among humans. Even, one of the sons of Adam did this cruelty to a good brother of his in a tragic way and this catastrophe has become widely known and notorious.

This catastrophe came into existence not as a result of self-seeking in the first place but solely of a desire to injure, of jealousy and bodily wills; and not in a mood of excitement of this powerful desire but of an envy arising out of whether the prayers performed for Allah is accepted or not and of not being consent to God’s will; an envy that good wishes with the highest sense of piety, the best goodwill, and the most reasonable advice and spiritual dissuasion that alone are enough to trigger human’s sense of peace-loving and the purest feelings. On the contrary, he regards them as motives for murder. He attacks his good brother, who never lifts his hand against him, who actually never wants to do it and who wish to be to be nothing but a good brother for him, by saying “what a nice and sweet thing it is to kill you”.

Then it slips him into harm and remorse and makes his situation become such a catastrophe that his mind, which refused to listen to his exalted brother’s understandable and clear advice and showing the right way, becomes eventually, with Allah’s command, obliged to take a lesson from the behaviors of a crow that wanders in dirt and remorse what he has done.

Because murders happen ordinarily among humans, it is a legitimate right to resist it; an d because especially the mood which leads a person to murder and makes it easier in this incident or parable, jealousy, bodily wills and the trait to encourage murder when there is no resistance are very obvious and suitable to the meaning of the parable, these people were sent especially severe commands; death penalty was ordered to be a duty as retaliation and as a punishment for disorder in the community and it was explained that a person’s right to live was considered to be equal to the community’s life and saving a person was deemed as saving the community.

In that case, as long as there are such people on the earth, it is always a right law to  apply these severe commands if oral proofs and proofs about the hereafter are insufficient in order to preserve the right to live of all humanity and to stand against people who cause disorder on the earth. ( see Hamdi Yazir, Hak Dini : Divine Religion, the interpretation of the relevant verse)

Allah, The Almighty, informed people either via Islam or via other divine religions that human life is sacred and for this reason He deems saving a life a virtue as supreme as saving all humanity and considers ending a life a crime as serious as killing all humans because a single human represents their species and humans are equal to each other. An unjustifiable murder of a person causes such actions to spread in the community, leads people and the community into disorder and chaos.

A person who ends another person’s life without a legal justification not only violates this person’s right but also displays his disbelief in sacredness of human life and his lack of mercy for anybody. ( see Al-Baqarah 2:178; Al-Ma’idah 5:33). However, people must respect each other in order to protect and maintain human life, must believe in the sacredness of human life and help it to be preserved and must not defend the murderers.

All religions, law and morality systems are in an agreement that an unjustifiable murder, ending a life is a serious crime. Yet the dissuasive precautions taken to prevent this crime to happen are different. Islam prescribes a reprisal punishment against the ones who commit this crime in order to prevent unjustifiable murders, provide the community with life security and to let them live in comfort and peace, and reports that the murderers are to be punished in the hereafter with Allah’s rage and curse and with the fire of Hell. (see An-Nisa 4:93).  

People continue to cause disorder in the community and to shed blood although Allah sent His commands on the importance of human life and the punishment to be given to those who are to end a life by means of His prophets and had them preach these commands.

Since there are always such kind of murderers and disruptors in the world, Islam does not only suggest punishments of conscience and of spiritually but also deterrent worldly sanctions in order to preserve humans’ right to live and provide them with peace and comfort. (Kur’an Yolu : The Qur’an’s Path, Committee, the interpretation of the relevant verse).

Furthermore, in the related verse from the Qur’an, the outlines of human character are defined with the examples of behaviors and thoughts of the first humans. In order to discipline a human that, because of their creation, has been equipped both with the sense of God and religion and with traits like selfishness, jealousy and excessive desire for material things, there are two different ways in accordance with these two different features of a human : ideas on “Allah” in education and tendency to religion and good morals is achieved with a serious education and sanctions of severe penalty. With the help of sanctions of severe penalty, other bad attributions are prevented to trespass the limits of the dangerous zone.     

If in a social structure of a nation, materialism and personal benefits stand forth and the lights of virtue which enlightens spirits remain turned off, the value of human decreases in that community; love, respect, working together and mutual support become a fairy tale with the narrow meanings of the words. In a community that has come down to this level, murders, violation of rights, profiteering, desire for abrupt richness and highest rates of interest, and  exploitation gets out of control.

For this reason, in every period of time and in every community national education which supports the sense of religion and sense of virtue and laws preserving rights has been required.

All the divine religions, especially Islam, advise people to appreciate and take supreme care for the concept of human and they also gather people’s attention to the point that saving a person is as much meaningful as saving all humans’ lives. (see Celal Yildirim, İlmin Işığında Asrın Kur’an Tefsiri : The Interpretation of The Qur’an in the Light of Knowledge, interpretation of the related verse)

In conclusion:

1. Killing a person, in fact, is nothing but a serious crime, which originates from great injustice, disappointment and remorse. People who call themselves humans must completely avoid it.

2. Whoever ends a life unjustifiably or for any reason except punishment for causing disorder and anarchy on the earth is regarded as if he had killed all humanity. That is, ending a life unjustifiably is as serious as killing all the people and causes a serious crime like that to be committed. This explanation which deems a life as equal to all humanity makes a person as valuable as all humanity and sees all humanity through this person.

3. Whoever saves a life is considered as if he had saved all the people. For example, a doctor who tries to bring a person that is about to die to life with medical treatment and divine approval or a person who tries to stop a war that continues at its all speed and severity and ends it, or another person who tries to supply food for the people who are about to die of  starvation  or tries to help people survive a natural disaster; those people are regarded to do the same good task. 

4. In the surah Al-Ma’idah, there is another definition of going to extremes in community : “do not help one another in sinful, iniquitous acts and hostility” ( The Qur’an, Al- Ma’idah, 5:2) Those who  help each other and become organized aiming to spread the sense of enmity to community which Allah forbids destroy the peace, the order and the unity of the community.

5. Injustice and destruction happen on the earth. The rights of the innocent and the oppressed are lost and vanish. Supposedly, many people are sacrificed for the sake of the community and personal rights are lost for the safety of the nation. In the verse from The Qur’an, it is stated that a person’s right cannot be sacrificed even if it is for the sake of the community, that every right is sacred in the eye of Allah and that all the rights must be preserved without regarding them as more or less important.

Questions on Islam

Was this answer helpful?
Questions on Islam
Subject Categories:
Read 56.259 times
In order to make a comment, please login or register