The right to life is considered a basic Islamic principle by virtue of the fact that life is a divine gift which we are meant to preserve, enjoy and live out. For this reason, regulations have been laid down in Islam to protect this right from a man’s birth until his death, the time of which is known only by Allah.
Since God created man for the specific purpose of worshipping Him, he should not commit suicide nor expose himself to needles danger. If he does so, he becomes deserving of God’s rejection and the rejection of Islamic society. Life is not man’s personal property which he can dispose of as he wishes. The Qur’an says:
“Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves; for verily, God has been most merciful to you.” (Surah an-Nisa 4:29) “For that reason we decreed for the children of Israel that whosoever kills a human being for other than reasons of man-slaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”
(Surah Al-Maidah 5:32) The death penalty was legislated in Islam mainly to defend this sacred right. Allah says in the Qur’an concerning this point:
“And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may ward off (evil)”.
(Surah Al-Baqarah 2:179)
THE RIGHT OF FREEDOM
Freedom is the golden framework within which man soars to the noble horizon of his humanity. It is also one of the primary factors which distinguishes him from the rest of creation. The gateway of choice and differentiation has been opened for him as a result of his God given mind and will-power. As God’s vicegerent on earth man is the master of the universe and all of the creation has bee made subservient to him so that man might utilize it for his service and sustenance. This is precious gift which man should not willingly give up to any tyrant. In Islam monotheism (Tawhid) means servitude to God alone are requires that man should free himself from bondage to other than God. This is the essence of the Islamic faith. The brow that bows in adoration to God should not bow down to men. That is why ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, resented the haughtiness of the son of his governor, ‘Amr ibn al-‘As. ‘Umar reprimanded him saying, “why do you enslave people whose mothers have given birth to them as free beings?”6 For the very same reason Prophet Moses responded to Pharaoh’s oppression of the Jews, with the following statement which is quoted from Qur’an:
“And this is the past favor wherewith you reproach me! That you have enslaved the Children of Israel.” (Surah Al-Shu’ara 26:22) This notion of liberty, in fact, has always been a cause for Muslims to campaign against aggression and the subjugation of the helpless. Allah instruct us in the following manner in Qur’an:
“And why should you not fight in the cause of God and of those who being weak, are ill-treated and oppressed? Men, women and children, whose cry is, ‘Our Lord, rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and rise for us from you one who will protect and help (us)!” (Surah Al-Nisa 4:75) For this reason, Islam encourages the oppressed to migrated from their country of origin, where they may have had established homes and business, to another country where Muslims can practice their religion and live a dignified life of religious freedom and liberty. If the oppressed Muslims does not emigrate, and he is able to do so, he deserves to be punished, as is illustrated amply by the following Qur’anic verse:
“When the angels take the soul of those who died in sin against their souls, they say: ‘In what (plight) were you?’ They reply: ‘Weak and oppressed in earth’. They say, ‘Was not Allah’s earth spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (from evil)?’ Such men will find their abode in hell. What an evil refuge! Except those who are (really) weak and oppressed; men, women and children who have no mean in their power, nor a (guide-post) to direct their way”. (Surah an-Nisa 4:97-98)
The endeavor of Prophet Moses to save a destitute people from dishonor and abasement at Pharaoh’s hands further demonstrates that freedom is a sacred possession. Allah makes the following statements concerning Pharaoh’s oppression of the Israelites:
“And we desired to show favour unto those who were oppressed in the earth in order to make them leaders and heirs firmly established in the land to show Pharaoh, Haman and their host that which they feared from them”. (Surah Al-Qasas 28:5-6) Islam enjoins people to enjoy and safeguard freedom. Unfortunately, in modern times, the concept of freedom has become confused with debased and inferior notions about freedom. It has come to be associated with anarchic disorderliness and immorality in values. It has become synonymous with the pursuit of one’s passions and desire and escape from all human social restrictions. Those who advocate this kind of a chaotic thought have no reservations about violating the liberty and rights of others. Freedom, however, does not mean that a person should do whatever he or she likes, rather, it means that one has the opportunity to fulfill the divine purpose behind man’s creation. In fact, man’s realization of his responsibility to God is the first step toward his ultimate freedom, because freedom has social implications which can only be realized in a social where individuals actively work for the welfare of society. Hence, freedom must be kept within bounds wherein individual freedoms do not clash with eth freedom and rights of others. However, all restrictions to individual liberty must be justified by the universal principles of freedom, otherwise, such restrictions will become modes of oppression. Consequently, social outlaws who do not take the right of others into consideration must be restrained to defend the liberty of others. When the human soul rises above the mundane affairs of life, it develops an acute awareness of the need for individual freedom and justice. And it is this awareness which successfully prevents one from practicing injustice and oppression of others. Islam seeks to elevate the Muslim personality to this sublime state, perfectly illustrated in the Prophet’s (pbuh) saying: “If you feel no shame, you will do whatever you like” (Sahih Al Bukhari). This prophetic statement points out the fact that in the absence of restraint, human existence degenerates into the beastly brutality of the jungle.