There is a famous verse of the Quran in Surah 5 that struck me as I was reading, verse 32 to be exact.
On that account We ordained for the Children of Isra`il that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (5:32)
I love the idea that if you save one life, you save all of humanity. It rightly places irreplaceable value on an individual human life, which I believe, is one of the greatest achievements of religion. I’ve read that this idea can be traced back to the Talmud, but according to the following article, the reach of the benevolence is even more universal.
While I don’t know too much about the author (Though he does believe that Islam is the perfection of Judaism and Christianity, the kind of thinking from any religious perspective with which I tend to disagree. He is referenced in several wikipedia articles, which makes him some what dependable.), the article raises some interesting points and highlights the high value that the Quran places on all human life, not just high value placed upon Muslim life.
This idea that one life is as important as all of humanity is radical and revolutionary. It doesn’t necessarily makes sense rationally. But if we view the world in this way, if we incorporate it into our daily lives, we can transform some one’s life/all of humanity. It’s similar to the idea that we Christians share that is expressed in the story of sheep and goats told by Jesus.
- ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’
- 37“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’
- 40“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matt 25
High value placed on human life, in the face of factors throughout the world that threaten to diminish it, is something that is shared by most religions and even many humanists, agnostics, and atheists. It is something that we can come together around. And this idea is so powerful that it can motivate us to act. And we have seen this in history from feminism movement to the civil rights movement. But there is still much more to be done. We must gather together to fight for justice. There are so many issues that devalue human life and affect the well being of our human family including poverty, immigration, LGBTQ rights, just to name a few.
The Interfaith Youth Core, ifyc.org, is an organization that is bringing together young people from all different religions and philosophies to join forces to make the world better. Their founder Eboo Patel is Muslim. In his book, Acts of Faith, he shares this quotation by Sufi mystic, Ibn Arabi. Arabi lived in present day Spain in the 12th and 13th centuries when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived peacefully together in a community of interfaith cooperation.
My heart has grown capable of taking on all forms
It is a pasture for gazelles
A table for the Torah
A convent for Christian monks
A Ka’bah for the Pilgrim and the pages of the Koran
Whichever way love’s caravan shall lead
That shall be the way of my faith