The Right to Life in Islam
By: Dr. Abbass Khajeh Piri
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Quran, 49:13)
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The issue of human rights, for being an inherent one, has a history as old as human age on the earth. The subject was born when mankind came into existence on the Earth. The bigger the human society and the population grew, the vaster the human rights issue was expanded. It has always been the source of freedom-seeking and freedom-fighting movements and it remained the eternal and perpetual ideal of mankind.
The historians have unearthed documents in their studies and researches that are indicative of the fact that mankind stressed its natural rights and basic freedom and liberty 2000 years before BC.
The emergence of Islam in 610 A.D. not only was the milestone but was a golden and perpetual chapter in human history. Because of the contents of its teachings, particularly in human rights, it was welcomed and accepted by the oppressed people in a vast part of the globe and found many followers.
According to a well-known researcher, thinker and scholar, Abul A'la Maududi, the people in the West have the habit of attributing every good thing to themselves and try to prove that it is because of them that the world enjoys this and that blessing, while claiming that "they originated in the West". They also have a habit of pretending that all the bestowments and privileges are rooted in the West, whereas the very first historical document on the human rights, Magna Carta of Britain (The Great Charter of the Liberties of Britain) was issued by John (England's king at the time) in 1215.
Though the Magna Carta itself came into existence six hundred years after the advent of Islam, this and the subsequent documents, as valid and firm evidence, prove that the West is lagging behind Islam on the issue of the human rights. Its failure to pay attention to human dignity and its delay in its fight against oppression and tyranny which mankind has suffered during centuries is evident here.
When you study the concepts of human rights in the Islamic teachings you realize that it clearly is indicative of the fact that the human rights system in the Islamic law and the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) are much more comprehensive and more perfect than what is claimed in the West. The reason is the fundamental difference between the two legal systems of West and Islam, in viewing mankind and his material and spiritual characteristics. In Islamic law criteria of human's erudition and wisdom, humanity and spirituality has been paid specific attention to. On the contrary, West's approach to mankind is not based on spiritual and ethical factors.
On the other hand, as ethics and religion can play the role of the strongest support backing the materialization of human rights, strengthening ethical and religious values in every society will cause expansion of support for the human rights. On the contrary, ethical downfall or ignoring religious values, because of having a negative impact, leads to violation of the human rights. Thus, if laws and regulations in force are left unsupported by the great spiritual and ideological support of the individuals in a society, the ultimate attained consequences will not be favorable. In today's world, failure of the UN's human rights organizations and the international documents (declarations) to address religion and religious beliefs has caused it to fail to develop support of the human rights. The pathetic conditions stemming from violation of the Human Rights that we witness day-to-day around the globe is the result of the above fact.
In the series of essays which follow, we intend to briefly introduce some of the teachings of pure true and real Islam. We try to show the legitimacy of the Islamic laws, while comparing it with the West's flamboyant, showy and loud but empty baseless claims, so that everyone will know how much human being owes to Islamic teachings and to law of the holy prophet.
And of God to success
The Importance of Right to Life
Undoubtedly, the phenomenon of life is the most important phenomenon in the Universe. Among various kinds of lives, the human's life (as the life of the noblest of all creatures and the excellent entity of existence) is very important.
Mankind is the most talented creature and that is why his life is important. Actually what distinguishes the value of the human's life from that of other creatures, while making him outstanding among other creatures, are his astonishing and extraordinary physical and spiritual potentials and talents. Cognition of the magnitude of human who enjoys wisdom, judgment, insight, discretion, knowledge, will power, conscience, love, perfectionism and management, is not easy. And these are only a fraction of it as all these are only a part of the power and ability of man's life. Compared to other creatures, scope and span of human's life impact is so vast and astonishing that in various dimensions without any pause in history, it has always attracted the attention of scholars and philosophers.
The most important principle of inherent rights is the right to life for mankind.
This has been unanimously accepted by all schools of thought.
The right to life is one of the inherent and natural rights of mankind. It is the fundamental of other rights of mankind. There are no other rights for mankind without the right to life.
Inherent right means no legislated law is required for the existence of right, and this law is for everyone. Legislated laws in every system and every society must protect and defend the human's right to life to provide necessary safety for man.
According to Article 3 of the Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Furthermore, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life." [Article 6, Item 1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].
God's Free-hold on Living
Undoubtedly, God owns the lives of all beings and creatures: [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed - and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving. (Quran, 67:2)
So every creature and specifically his "life" belong to God. There is no creature (in the world) that has the power to create life.
Imam Ali (a.s) in one of his sermons said: "Even if all the animals of the earth, whether birds or beasts, stabled cattle or pasturing ones, of different origins and species, dull people and sagacious men -- all jointly try to create (even) a mosquito they are not able to bring it into being and do not understand what is the way to its creation. Their wits are bewildered and wandering. Their powers fall short and fail, and return disappointed and tired, knowing that they are defeated and admitting their inability to produce it, also realizing that they are too weak (even) to destroy it."1
Quran emphasizes that creation of life and death is exclusively done by God: And that it is He who causes death and gives life. (Quran, 53:44)
The evidence of God's capability in creating life is that he materialized life from nothing and from death.
And a sign for them is the dead earth. We have brought it to life and brought forth from it grain, and from it they eat. (Quran, 36:33)
The ownership of life and death, as the most complicated phenomena of life also belongs to God: And He is the one who gave you life; then He causes you to die and then will [again] give you life. Indeed, mankind is ungrateful. (Quran, 22:66)
1. Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 185.