Is brutally killing people a part o...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Is brutally killing people a part of an Islamic state?

Is brutally killing people a part of an Islamic state?

Dr Ibrahim Negm

Senior Advisor to the Grand Mufti of Egypt

God upholds the sanctity of life as universal principle. "And do not kill one another: for, behold, God is indeed a dispenser of grace unto you!" (Surah an Nissa – Women, 4:29). This can be interpreted as a prohibition on suicide, as well as murder: Do not kill your individual self, and do not kill other humans, who are like yourselves.

The parable of Cain and Abel illustrates God's negative attitude towards those who transgress this principle. Both offer a sacrifice to God, but the sacrifice of the righteous, God-fearing brother is accepted while his brother's is rejected. The rejected brother flies into a rage and threatens to kill his brother out of jealousy. "and convey unto them, setting forth the truth, the story of the two sons of Adam - how each offered a sacrifice, and it was accepted from one of them whereas it was not accepted from the other. [And Cain] said: 'I will surely slay thee!' [Abel] replied: 'Behold, God accepts only from those who are conscious of Him, Even if thou lay thy hand on me to slay me, I shall not lay my hand on thee to slay thee: behold, I fear God, the sustainer of all the worlds' (Surah al Maida – The Repast, 5:27-28).

But the rejected brother refuses to listen to him and ultimately murders his brother. "But the other's passion drove him to slaying his brother; and he slew him: and thus he become one of the lost" (Surah al Maida – The Banquet, 5:30). One who kills another ensures that he will be "lost" to God's guidance in this life. And denied entry to paradise in the Afterlife. Eventually, Cain realize the enormity of his deed, and he is stricken by remorse. "Thereupon God sent forth a raven which scratched the earth, to show him how he might conceal the nakedness of his brother's body. [And Cain] cried out: 'Oh, woe is me! Am I then too weak to do what this raven did, and to conceal then nakedness of my brother's body? – and was thereupon smitten with remorse' (Surah al Maida – The Banq, 5:31).

In sum, the Cain and Abel example underscores the sanctity and value of human life in Islam. As the moral of the story, God states, "Because of this did we ordain unto the children of Israel that if anyone slays a human being - unless it be [in punishment] for murder of for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind" (Surah al Maida – The Banquet, 5:32). The value of merely one life is such that it is worth the lives of an entire nation. To murder another person is to murder one's own brother, since all human beings are the progeny of Adam.

God views murder as a major sin, condemning the offender in the Afterlife. This theme is mentioned, for example, in the following two hadiths. "One of the evil deeds with bad consequence which there is no escape for the one who is involved in it is to kill someone unlawfully." "the Prophet said, "The first cases to be decided among the people (on the Day of Resurrection) will be those of blood-shed."

The following three verses elaborate on the value of life, but also introduce the role of law to deal with murder as a crime, and not just as a sin. Surah al Furqan equates the sanctity of life with belief in a monotheistic God, illustrating the high value that life holds in Islam. "And who never invoke any [imaginary] deity side with God, and do not take any human being's life – [the life] which God has willed to be sacred – otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice, and do not commit adultery. And [know that] he who commits aught thereof shall [not only] meet with a full requital (Surah al Furqan – the standard of True and False, 25:68). If life has to be taken, it should only be through the due process of law, or "just cause." "Be they open or secret; and do not take any human being's life – [the life] which God has declared to be scared – otherwise than in (the pursuit of) justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason " (Surah al Anam – Cattle, 6:151).

"And do not take any human being's life – [the life] which God has willed to be sacred – otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice. Hence if anyone has been slain wrongfully, We have empowers the defender of his rights [to exact a just retribution]; but even so, let him not exceed the bounds of equity in [retributive] kill. [And as for him who has been slain wrongfully -] behold, he is indeed succored [by God]! (Surah al Isra – The Night Journey, 17:33). This verses but then goes to discuss the role of law in the determining how punishment is to be regulated. Wrongful death [death due to negligence or accident] falls under the category of qisas crimes, for whish the deceased's heirs can either demand retribution, compensation of forgive the killer. All of these verses point out that the due process of law is key in regulating how to punish a killer for taking a life.

Examining the themes of these three verses, we can summarize several conclusions, one is that all life is valuable, regardless of the identity of individual. Two, the value of life is indicated by equating it with the unity of God (tawhid), which is central to the theological underpinnings of Islam . Third, in cases where taking a life is justified, the only permissible reason is by "just cause ", which refers to the rule of law. Despite the fact that murder is a sin, in this world, the punishment for it as a crime has to be determined on the basis of law. in short, preserving life and stressing the value of it are key to Islamic teachings.

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