The Sanctity Of Life
IT is a manifestation of the dignity of man that Islam has placed an infinite value on human life. This is expressed in the Holy Qur’an in the following terms:
Because of that, We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person, not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. (Qur’an, 5:32)
The reference to the children of Israel, that is, the Jews, represents the continuity of the basic values that are common to all revealed religions.
Both Judaism and Islam are committed to the protection of human life. It makes no difference whether the victim is a Jew, a Muslim, or anyone else.
The value that is advocated is holistic and indivisible in that aggression against one is tantamount to aggression against all. Life is not only of infinite value, it is also sacred:
“And do not kill anyone whose killing Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause.” (Qur’an, 17:33)
Al-Ghazali has quoted these verses and drew the conclusion: “In respect of the sanctity of life and the prohibition of aggression against it, Muslims and non-Muslims are equal. Attack on the personal safety of non-Muslims invokes the same punishment in this world and the Hereafter.” (Muhammad Al-Ghazali, Huquq Al-Insan, p 54)
In times of war
In times of military engagement, the warriors are under a personal duty not to destroy civilian life.
It is consequently unlawful to attack women and children, the elderly and the insane, the ill and the invalid, and this includes the blind, the lame, the crippled, and the unconscious.
The exempted categories also include the priest and the monk and those engaged in worship as well as farmers who occupy themselves with their works in the field provided that they are not involved in the conflict.
The Hadith contains detailed instructions on all of these and the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) generally advised military commanders and soldiers on the battlefield to be fair, avoid excessive violence and incline towards peace.
– Zuhaili has quoted five Ahadith on the subject. For details, see al-Fiqh Al-Islami wa Adillatuh, volume VI, page 421.