The Importance of Human s Right to Life in Islam
By: Dr. Abbass Khajeh Piri
In the Islamic approach, life is a divine gift and bestowment to every individual. It has priority and is heading all the human rights. It would be useless and meaningless to talk about any rights before this right has been provided for a society's individuals.
The fundamental of the value of the human life, is the value of human's existence as well as malice and viciousness of killing (assault on man's life).
Therefore killing a person is not considered assault on a man's life, but a murder and assault on the reality of humanity and fading away viciousness and indecency of murder.
Because of that, we decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. (Quran, 5:33)
The sanctity for a man's blood is underlined so emphatically in Islam that the value of life and death of an individual equals to the value of life and death of all mankind. The Holy Prophet (S) in his farewell sermon in the last year of his life in Mena, before a crowd of Muslims, while emphasizing on the right of individuals and sanctity for their blood, said: "O people, you have to respect each other's life until the Resurrection Day."1
Moreover, in another occasion, talking about the significance of regarding the human life, he has said, "Before God murdering a believer is worse than destroying the whole world.”2
Again in another occasion he said: "If the residents of the Heavens and the Earth conspire (as accomplices to collaborate) to collectively shed the blood of a believer, God will throw all of them into the fire of hell.…"3
Of course it should not be misunderstood that sanctity of a man's life is exclusively for Muslims, that Islam has not drawn a line for a non-Muslim's life. A non-Muslim's life is honorable and respectable, too, as long as he refrains from involving in opposition or conspiracy against Muslims or an Islamic government.
As the Prophet (S) said, "He, who gives somebody a chance to live (in his blood) and then kills him, he will be subjected to the fire of hell.”4
1. Sireye Ibn Hesham, vol. 2, page 63.
2. Kanz al-Ummal, Vol.15.P.19.
3. Kanz al- Ummal, vol. 15, page 19.
4. Kanz al- Ummal, Vol.4, P.366.
Safeguarding the Right to Live
Safeguarding one's and others' lives is among the great divine practices and is considered a Muslim's duty.
Every Muslim must in addition to safeguarding his life, defend another man's life when subjected to assault, particularly if that man is one of the oppressed and weak ones.
It is the duty of societies and governments to ensure and guarantee the right to life for all the people. Not only must they safeguard this right but also defend their citizens before any violation upon men's lives. And it is not allowed to kill anybody without a legal permit.1
Safeguarding the continuation of mankind's life, as far as God has destined, is a legal duty.2
The reason why Islamic law holds the life of one person equal to that of entire mankind,3 is that safeguarding the life of a man and continuation of birth generations depend on safeguarding the life of each individual. Obviously each individual has the responsibility to protect his own life first, as a priority.
In addition to the sanctity of man's blood other qualities and factors which define a man's character are equally respected and considered by Islam.
The sanctity of a Muslim's property and reputation in Islam is as important as his life. Actually because human dignity is the same as the reality of humanity which distinguishes mankind from other creatures.
In the Islamic legal system right to life is not just a right for man, but since a life is a divine bestowment, it creates the right to enjoy this gift for a man. On the other hand it makes him responsible to provide necessary means to safeguard this right and also to keep under consideration (health, feeding, etc) as the essential means that makes this right last.
Thus, the right to life is a divine trusteeship entrusted into the human hands and he must shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding it. That is why it is forbidden for a man to commit suicide (deprive oneself of life) or to damage his body or spirit.
1. Declaration of Human Rights in Islamic Law, Article 2, A.
2. Declaration of Human Rights in Islamic Law, Article 2, J.
3. Quran, 5:31, 32.