Why is the protection of life so important?

Details of the Question

- What are the verses about the protection of life? Why is life (soul) important? What is the reason for the value of protecting one’s life?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Islam, which gives the right to live to all human beings without discrimination, does not only take measures to prevent the violations against this right but also renders it a duty of the community to ensure minimum life conditions and basic needs with the system of mutual assistance and solidarity.

Man –whether a believer or not- is Allah’s slave and a nice entrusted being. Therefore, he has honor and he deserves respect. It is the basic understanding of Islam not to discriminate among people in terms of being humans and to regard them as beings having equal rights, duties and values.

Value of Man

Man has a special, honorable place among created beings. What makes man honorable among other beings must be the divine spirit Allah breathed into him while creating him. The following is stated in the Quran regarding the issue:

الذي احسن كل شيئ خلقه و بدا خلق الانسنان من طين * ثم جعل نسله من سلالة من ماء مهين*

ثم سويه و نفخ فيه من روحهه

“He Who has made everything which He has created most good: He began the creation of man with (nothing more than) clay, And made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised: But He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him something of His spirit...” (as-Sajda, 32/7-9)

Thanks to this spirit man has in him, he is superior to angels and he is the vicegerent of Allah on earth. That man is the vicegerent of Allah is stated as follows in the Quran:

اذ قال ربك للملائكة اني جاعل في الارض خليفة و

“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth.’...” (al-Baqara, 2/30)

Allah granted man honor and value by making him the vicegerent on earth. With this property, man will obey the decrees of the holy books sent down through prophets and the natural laws in the universe; and he will apply them; he will benefit from the endless boons of the Creator, worship and thank Him. This is the purpose of the creation of man.To sum up, the duty of man as the vicegerent is to act in accordance with Allah’s will and to be happy. Allah Almighty wants this; He sent prophets and holy books for this purpose.

Allah Almighty, who is the creator of the realms, created everything in the best form. (see as-Sajda, 32/7) Allah, who is the best creator, (see al-Muminun, 23/14) created the first man in the best form and all human beings in the best form and perfectly. Allah states the following for man in the Quran:

لقد خلقنا الانسان في احسن تقويم

“We have indeed created man in the best of molds.” (at-Tin, 95/4).

Indeed, man is the most beautiful creature. The phrase “ahsani taqwim” (the best mold) mentioned in the verse includes all kinds of material and spiritual beauties. The straightness of his height, the uniqueness of his posture, having mind, intellect and thought, having the ability to speak and write, having the ability of art, the property of being able to discriminate between the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad, etc. are some of those beauties. (1)

According to the Islamic belief, man is equipped with perfect mental, bodily, ethical and spiritual abilities and faculties. He is born in a clean form with the ability to elevate materially and spiritually. Man, who is created with these abilities, can ascend to climaxes. He has such an honor.  Hz. Ali uttered the following nice poem for man:

"You have the cure in you but you are not aware
You have the problem in you but you cannot see
You think you are something small
But the biggest realm is wrapped in you."
(2)

Sheikh Ghalib, the great poet, expresses Islam’s understanding of man as follows:

"Look at your personality in a nice way; you are the essence of the realm,
You are man, who is the pupil of the eye of the beings." (3)

Erzurumlu İbrahim Hakkı states the following in his work called Marifetnâme:

“Human body is the small realm and human spirit is the big realm. The like of everything created in the realm exists in human body. Human body and spirit is a sample of the whole realm.” (4)

Thus, he emphasized the value of man.

Allah states the value He gave man as follows in verse 70 of the chapter of al-Isra:

و لقد كرمنا بني ادم و حملناهم في البر و البحر و رزقناهم من الطيبات و فضلناهم على كثيرممن خلقنا تفضيلا

“We have honored 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 favors, above a great part of our creation.”

Importance Given to Human Life

Great importance is given to security of life, in other words, right to live, in Islam and it is stated that human life is untouchable. 

In Islam, “protection of life” has the most important place among the basic values called “religious necessities”. Furthermore, it is possible to say that these five basic principles, which are listed as the protection of the religion, life, mind, lineage and property, are related to the protection of life directly or indirectly.  

In some cases, the protection of life comes before the protection of religion, which is in the first place, in the list of those values. As a matter of fact, the practices like the permission of committing some forbidden deeds to save human life, and the obligation of committing those forbidden deeds in some cases emphasize the importance given to human life.

Precautions in order to Protect Human life

The religion of Islam puts the right to live, which is the most natural right of man, under the guarantee of law and imposes some material and spiritual sanctions in order to ensure full respect to the right to live. We can list them as follows:

Material Sanctions

When man’s being sent to the world is narrated, the opposition of angels stating that man will cause mischief and shed blood on earth is mentioned. (see al-Baqara, 2/30)

Indeed, after a while, the first shedding of blood occurred due to the hatred and jealousy between Hz. Adam’s two sons. The incident is narrated with similar expressions in the Old Testament too. (see Genesis, 4/1-8; al-Maida, 5/27-31)

It is stated in the Quran that killing a person is a serious crime like killing all people and that to save a person’s life is a lofty and valuable act like saving all people:

انه من قتل نفسا بغير نفس او فساد في الارض فكانما قتل الناس جميعا و من احياها فكانما احيا الناس جميعا

“...If any one 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 any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people...” (al-Maida, 5/32)

In the religion of Islam, retaliation (qisas) is essential related to the crimes of killing and wounding people.

There are many verses and hadiths regarding the issue. As a matter of fact, The following is stated in the Quran:

يا ايها الذين امنوا كتب عليكم القصاص في القتلى الحر بالحر والعبد بالعبد والانثى بالانثى فمن عفي له من اخيه شيئ فااباع بالمعروف و اداء اليه باحسان ذالك تخفيف من ربكم  و رحمة فمن اعتدى بعد ذلك فله عذاب اليم

“O ye who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.” (al-Baqara, 2/178)

و لا تقتلوا النفس التي حرم الله الا بالحق و من قتل مظلوما فقد جعلنا لوليه سلطانا فلا يسرف في القتل انه كان منصورا

“Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law).” (al-Isra, 17/33)

Many words and practices of the Prophet (pbuh) (5) are regarded as evidence that punishment by retaliation is legitimate. The Messenger of Allah stated the following regarding the issue:

و من قتل عمدا فهو قود

“... The penalty for a person who kills deliberately is qisas (retaliation). ”(6)

The imposition of punitive sanctions against the unjust attacks at the security of the lives of people, in other words, rights of living of the people are arrangements made in accordance with the importance given to the safety of people.

In addition, the principle of punishing a murderer by the state, and after an objective and fair trial, not by the relatives of the person who was murdered is adopted.

All this is an expression of the importance given to the protection human life from a different viewpoint.

Even during the state of war, the right of killing the enemy is very limited in Islam; the killing of those who do not actually participate in the war like women, children, clerics and elderly men is forbidden; and the right of living of the prisoners of war is protected.

It is clear that the cases of actual state of war, execution of the sentence and legitimate defense are excluded from this prohibition.

Spiritual Sanctions

Along with worldly sanctions like qisas and diyah (blood money), there are also some spiritual (otherworldly) sanctions for killing a person in the religion of Islam.

It is stated in the Quran that killing people without a legal reason will bring about Allah’s wrath and curse and hence a very severe spiritual responsibility:

و من يقتل مؤمنا متعمدا فجزاؤه جهنم خالدا فيها و غضب الله عليه و لعنه و اعد له عذابا عظيما

“If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (For ever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.” (an-Nisa, 4/93)

The Prophet (pbuh) addressed all Muslims as follows in the Farewell Sermon:

فان دماءكم و اموالكم و اعراضكم عليكم حرام كحرمة يومكم هذا في بلدكم هذا في شهركم هذا...

“Just as this day, this month and this city is sacred, so too are your lives,  property and honor sacred; they are protected from all kinds of violation; that is, they are under the responsibility of the community and the guarantee of law…”(7)

Thus, he stated that man’s right to live was untouchable.

He stated the following in another hadith:

اجتنبواالسبع الموبقات  ..... و قتل النفس التي حرم الله الا بالحق....

“Avoid seven destructive things…. One of them is to kill a person that Allah renders haram except for justified cases….” (8)          

The Property of the Right to Live According to Islam

The religion of Islam regards the life of every person, no matter what his belief, color, race and social status is, as an untouchable value and tries to prevent all kinds of attacks on and dangers to human life in the most effective way.

Therefore, Islam does not give people the right to commit suicide, which means to end one’s own life, and regards it among major sins; it states that such a person will be punished severely in the hereafter just because of committing suicide no matter what his belief and deeds are.  

To sum up:

Man, who is equipped with perfect mental, bodily, ethical and spiritual faculties and abilities, is born in a clean state and suitable for all kinds of material and spiritual elevations.

In our religion, great importance is given to man’s security of life, in other words, the right to live, and it is stated that human life is untouchable. Some material and spiritual sanctions have been imposed in order to ensure full respect to the right to live.

As a result of the principle of “the protection of life”, which is one of the basic purposes of the religion of Islam, it is strictly forbidden for a person both to kill another person unjustly and to commit suicide.

for more information please click on the links given below;

What are the five sacred things Allah entrusted to man?

Will you explain the basic values that Islam orders to be protected?

Footnotes:

1) Hamdi Yazır; Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, VII,.5025. Eser Publications,  İstanbul, 1971.
2) Yazır, VIII, 5936.
3) Abdülbâki Gölpınarlı; Şeyh Galip Divanından Seçmeler, p.10. İstanbul, 1971.
4) Erzurumlu İbrahim Hakkı; Marifetnâme,  p. 97. Sadeleştiren, M. Fuad Başar, İstanbul, 1984.
5) For instance, see Bukhari, Diyat, 6, 8, VIII, 38;  Muslim, Qasama, 6, II, 1302-1303.
6) Ibn Majah, Diyat, 8, II, 880.
7) Bukhari, Ilm, 37, I, 35; Muslim, Hajj, 147, I,, 889.
8) Bukhari, Wasaya, 23, III, 195; Muslim, Iman, 144, I, 91.

(Şükrü ÖZBUĞDAY, Member of the High Board of Religious Affairs)

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