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Protection of Life

The importance of human life.

1. The Israelites were ordained that if they killed a single person unjustly, it would be taken as if they had destroyed the whole of mankind and if they saved a single person's life, it would be as if they had saved the whole of mankind. This verse is very important: (5:32) (The story of the two sons of Adam which was on everybody's lips among the Israelites, in fact represented their own emotional state of being _ ever-ready to kill one another). "That is why We ordained that if anyone slew a person, unless it be life for life in case of a murder, or it be as a punishment for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole of mankind; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole mankind".

The believers are ordained not to kill one another: (4:29)

2. Allah has sanctified human life, it is therefore a crime to take a life except for a just cause (Haq), i.e. for being subject to the dictates of the Divine Law. (25:68); (17:33); (6:152) (Allah has made the life of a human being sacred) _ "Nor should one take a life except for its being subject to the Divine Law".

3. It is the duty of an Islamic State to pursue the crime of murder and punish the offender: (2:178-179) "O you who believe! You are ordained to pursue the case of a murderer and punish the criminal according to law. (It means that it should not be taken as a personal case between the murderer and the relatives of the murdered; it should be considered a crime against the society or the system which should take it into its own hands. As regards its punishment, the principles of justice and equity must be kept in mind, so that there should be no difference between big or small. The real issue is that of justice, according to which every human life is equally valued (the individual human beings are equal) For example: if the murderer is a free man, the same free man shall get punishment; and if the murderer is a slave, the same slave shall be punished; if she is a woman, her being a woman cannot save her: she must get punishment.

The crime of murder can be of two kinds: (i) willful murder, or (ii) murder by mistake. The punishment for willful murder is death (not blood-money or compensation) or anything less than the maximum punishment (4:93); in any case the punishment should not exceed the extent of crime. (42:40; 17:33).

But if the murder is not by intent or premeditated, but the result of a mistake (inadvertent), the punishment shall be blood-money (compensation) according to (4:92). If the heir of the person slain willfully wants to give a remission in the amount settled, he can do so. In such a case it is necessary for the guilty to abide by what has been settled and make payment in a commendable manner. (In the fixing of the punishment for an inadvertent murder) your Sustainer has given a relief, so that your capabilities may continue to flourish. But if anybody commits excess after the settlement of the case, he shall receive grievous punishment.

Leaving aside superficial emotionalism, if one ponders deeply and dispassionately, this reality shall come to the surface that in this law of pursuing the case of a murder, the secret of your collective life is hidden. This saves you from the dangers of lawlessness."

At yet another place it is said: (17:33) "Allah has declared the life of an innocent one as sacred: (5:32). "Nor take life which Allah has made sacred except when it is required by law (2:178). And if anyone is slain wrongfully, the murderer should not assume that he cannot be taken to account because there is nobody to help or stand by the heirs of the slain person; We have made the Divine Order powerful and authoritative for the support and help of his heirs. Therefore this Order would provide them patronage (stand by them) and pursue and punish the crime but it is important for the Social Order not to exceed bounds, it shall execute the punishment within the bounds of the law. (6:152; 42:40)."

4. The Israelites were ordained 'life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, also wounds for wounds,' yet room was left for pardon: (5:45) In the case of Israelites "We ordained therein for them: life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth and for other wounds like for like. But if the plaintiff forgives, it shall become the atonement for the crime".

This was the law of retaliation (punishment) which was given in their books; they ought to have made decisions accordingly, because those who fail to judge (in the light) of what Allah has revealed, do not act justly and are the ones who transgress the Divine limits.

5. As it has been said before, premeditated murder and inadvertent or unintentional murder are two separate cases. For murder without intent it is said: (4:92) "Never should a believer kill a believer, except when by mistake: if one (so) kills a believer, it is ordained that he should free a believing slave and pay compensation to the family of the deceased (2:178), unless they forgive it as an act of grace. If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (is enough). If he belonged to a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance, compensation should be paid to his family, along with freeing a believing slave. For those who find this beyond their means, it is prescribed for them that they should fast for two months running; this shall be considered sufficient cause for forgiveness by the Divine Law, for Allah is All-knowing, All-Wise."

And for willful murder it is said: (4:93) "If one kills a believer with intent, punishment for this unjust killing is death (5:32), but after death, he shall also go to hell to abide therein (for ever) and the wrath and curse of Allah shall be upon him and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him; he shall be deprived of the rights of citizenship* and shall be given severe punishment**.

Thus it is clear that blood money is allowed only in an unintentional murder, not in willful murder, punishment for willful (premeditated) murder is death.

6. Killing the offspring is prohibited. But as has been said earlier, here murder may mean "to deprive them from education and proper nurture as well as actual killing. (6:52) see also (6:141; 17:31; 60:12).

7. The destruction of crops and cattle or human race is a sedition. For despotic rulers it is said: (2:2.5) "When these people get sovereignty and rule in the land, they aim at destruction and desolation all around, and destroy crops and human race (also cattle). Neither the system of economy, nor the political system remains intact. They only seek self-interest and do not care if the country goes to hell. Allah, Whom they invoke at every step, does not like destruction or desolation.

Note: As it has been said earlier, it is not only sufficient to punish such persons as are guilty of these crimes, it is incumbent upon the government to compensate the affected people for the loss of life and property. It is the duty of the government either to compensate the loss by itself or make the offenders pay; it is of no concern to the heirs as to who pays. For them the government becomes the respondent because it takes the responsibility for the protection of life, wealth, chastity, honour and property of the peaceful citizens. If any of these things is lost (except when it is due to the carelessness, negligence and apathy of the owner himself), it shall mean that the government has not fulfilled its responsibility. Thus the claim for loss shall be against the government and not directly against the culprits.
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* The word "Lanat" (curse) means to 'deprive somebody'. Legally it means to deprive of rights which were available to him as a citizen.

** It is apparent from the above that even in willful murder punishment less than capital is allowed. For example if one kills somebody, on being suddenly enraged by the sudden attack on his honour, one can be given some other punishment less than the capital punishment.