SHAFAQNA | by Mohammad Saeid Taheri Moosavi*: In Islam, the most basic and fundamental human civil right is the Right to Life, because only in the presence of such a right can a person know and exercise his other rights. In Islam, the value of human life is so great that in verse 32 of Surah Al-Ma’idah says:
“… That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity. (Although) Our messengers already came to them with clear proofs, many of them still transgressed afterwards through the land…”
In this verse, it is only if the Shari’a and the law prescribe that the right to human life will be taken away in the form of the rule of “Qisas (Retribution)” and “punishment”, otherwise any violation of human physical and spiritual integrity will be rejected and will be punished. From verse 24 of Surah Al-Anfal, the revival of the spiritual dimension of man has been intended by the prophetic message:
“Believers! Respond to Allah (SWT), and respond to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. Know well that Allah (SWT) stands between a man and his heart, and it is to God that all of you shall be mustered.”
According to the opposite meaning of this verse, the rule is that anyone who seeks to encroach on the spiritual life of human beings in the form of corruption, is considered as he has targeted humanity, and this is far more dangerous than material life. Therefore, Islam considers two dimensions of human life; material life and spiritual life. And although it attaches special value to material life and forbids its violation except in religious and legal cases, and responds to it with worldly and otherworldly punishments, it considers the originality of real life to be the spiritual life of man, which oversees the “humanity” dimension, that is, all the attributes that distinguish human from other beings and make him superior to them.
Understanding the right to life in Islam is related to the relationship between man and God; Respect for human blood (life) is like respect and sanctity for God, because according to verses 29 of Surah Al-Hijr and 72 of Surah Al-Sad (two verses are repeated exactly in two Surahs), the presence of the divine spirit in the human body makes it inherently necessary to respect this spirit:
“So when I have fashioned him and had a spirit of My Own (creation) breathed into him, fall down in prostration to him.”
So, in fact, it is the divine spirit blown in man that has elevated him from an ordinary being to his position of caliphate of earth and has made him worthy and sacred. indeed, observing the Right to Life of such a creature is considered respecting the sanctity of God. Islam, of course, grants the right to life to all living creatures and forbids the violation of the rights of other living beings, including animals and trees and other living beings and nature in general.
Other examples of the right to life are: the right to mental and physical health, the right to hygiene, the right to vitality and well-being in society for all age groups, especially the elderly people, the right to well-being and comfort for those with physical and mental disabilities and observance of moderation in matters related to physical and mental health, etc.
There is a lot of emphasis on observing these examples in the sources of Islamic law, especially the Hadiths of the Infallibles (A.S). For example, Imam Ali (A.S) in his letter 53 of Nahjul-Balaghah to Malik Ashtar An-Nakha’i says:
“Beware! Abstain from shedding blood without a valid reason. There is nothing more harmful than this which brings about one’s ruin. The blood that is wilfully shed shortens the life of a state. On the Day of Judgement it is this crime for which one will have to answer first. So, beware! Do not wish to build the strength of your state on blood for, it is this blood which ultimately weakens the state and passes it into other hands. Before me and my God no excuse for wilful killing can be entertained.”
Imam Sajjad (A.S) has also emphasized on the rights of organs of the human body in order to preserve human dignity and the right to life. Naturally, for those whose body organs are so important, the right to life is of the highest value.
*Dr. Mohammad Saeid Taheri Moosavi is a specialist in Public Law and Political Sciences. This article is written for Shafaqna French and translated by Fatemeh Aghaei for Shafaqna English.