The ethical principles and teaching of one religion Essay
The ethical principles and teaching of one religion
Examine the ethical principles and teaching of one religion, focussing particularly on what is believed about the nature and value of human life, and the relationship between humans and the environment.
Most religions have similar ethical principles and beliefs on the value and nature of human life; however this essay will be focusing on one religion in particular, Islam.
Islam’s main principles about the human life are quite similar to the other religions, and the fact that life is sacred. This underpins all issues dealing with medical ethics such as Abortion and Euthanasia. Muslims believe that all human life is sacred because it is given by Allah, and that Allah chooses how long each person will live. Human beings should not interfere in this, which is why Islam would most definitely favour sanctity of life over quality of life, as the Islamic view is based on the very high priority the faith gives to the sanctity of life. The Qur’an states:
“Whosoever has spared the life of a soul, it is as though he has spared the life of all people. Whosoever has killed a soul, it is as though he has murdered all of mankind.” (Qur’an 5:32)
It is a manifestation of the dignity of man that Islam has placed an infinite value on human life. This is expressed in the Qur’an in the following terms:
“We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or 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 life of a whole people.” (Al-Ma’ida, 5:32)
If Euthanasia is taken as an example, Islam believes human life is a value to be respected unconditionally, irrespective of other circumstances. The concept of a life not worthy of living does not exist in Islam. Justification of taking life to escape suffering is not acceptable in Islam. Prophet Mohammad taught: “There was a man in older times that had an infliction that taxed his patience, so he took a knife, cut his wrist and bled to death.”
Upon this God said:”My subject hastened his end, I deny him paradise.”
All these teachings are derived from the Holy Book of Islam, The Qu’ran, which is said to be the word of Allah. There are many other quotes from the Qu’ran which support the argument of the sacredness of life.
“If anyone kills a person – unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land- it would be as if he killed the whole people.” (Qur’an 5.32)
“When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour.” (Qur’an 16.61)
“And no person can ever die except by Allah’s leave and at an appointed term.” (Qur’an 3.145)
“Destroy not yourselves. Surely Allah is ever merciful to you.” (Qur’an 4.29)
There is a vast amount of emphasis put on the sacredness of human life, and how it should be protected at all times, however Islam permits killing, under very strict circumstances, in a “war” called “Jihad”, and is often mistranslated to mean ‘holy war’, however its true meaning can be anything from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith to a political or military struggle to further the Islamic cause.
The Prophet Muhammad has given clear instructions about the behaviour of the Muslim army. He observed:
“Set out for Jihad in the name of Allah and for the sake of Allah. Do not lay hands on the old verging on death, on women, children and babes. Do not steal anything from the booty and collect together all that falls to your lot in the battlefield and do good, for Allah loves the virtuous and the pious.”
So great is the respect for humanly feelings in Islam that even the wanton destruction of enemy’s crops or property is strictly forbidden.
When thinking of the nature of life, it is natural to ponder upon creation. For example how would Islam manage to answer life’s unanswered questions such as, ‘When does life begin?’, ‘Where does life come from?’, and ‘What happens at death?’. As with all religions Islam tried to answer them, with help from the Holy Scriptures, such as the Qu’ran and Hadith.
The question of when a human life begins is a profoundly intricate one, with widespread implications, ranging from abortion rights to stem cell research and beyond. A key point in the debate rests on the way in which we choose to define the concepts of humanity, life and human life. Islam states that human life begins at the moment when a male sperm penetrates a female ovum and becomes united with it. The impregnated ovum constitutes the first cell that contains a full genetic record of the human kind in general and of the individual foetus itself that will distinguish it from any other being at any point of time. This first cell will then start reproducing itself throughout the various developing stages of the conception period until the moment of birth.
The moment a woman conceives and the conceptions said to be stable in the uterus, the life shining in this uterus has full respect and is protected by established Islamic law provisions.
If the foetus reaches the stage when a soul is breathed into it (some say after 120 days, others after 40 days), its sanctity becomes greater as agreed upon, and this results into certain provisions of the Islamic law.
Islam also believes that all types of life were created by Allah, from water. Let us look at what Allah has said in the Qu’ran about our creation to back up this theory:
“Now let man but think from what he is created! He is created from A drop emitted — Proceedings from between the backbone and the ribs: Surely (Allah) is able to bring him back (To life)! The Day that (All) things secret Will be tested, (Man) will have No power, and no helper. “(Quran 86:5-10)
As Allah has given life, he can also take it away, and has a plan for us all. Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence. All the Prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless.
Islam teaches that after death there will be a Day of Judgement. When people die they remain in the grave until the Day of Judgement. When the Day of Judgement comes, Allah will decide what happens to people and his decision is final:
“To Allah belongs the knowledge of the unseen of the heavens and the earth; and the coming of the Hour of Judgement is like the twinkling of an eye, or even quicker. Surely, Allah has full power over everything.” (Qu’ran 16:77)
Allah will also judge all believers, not just Muslims:
“Those who believe in the Qur’an, and the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, any who truly believe in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously, shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Qu’ran 5:69)
People who have followed the teachings of Allah will go to Paradise, which will be a perfect world of rest and pleasure. Here they stay forever. This is called akhirah or in other words life after death. People who have ignored Allah’s teachings will go to hell where they will be punished.
“Those who have believed and acted righteously will be made happy in a splendid Garden. Those who disbelieved and rejected Our Signs and the meeting of the Hereafter will be brought face to face with punishment.” (Qu’ran 30:15-16)
Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has no teaching about reincarnation. Muslims have only one chance to live their lives and they are judged on how they do this.
When researching the value of human life there are many reasons not to destroy life in Islam however Islam does not always see destroying life as wrong. For example there are many quotes in the Qu’ran, as mentioned beforehand, as to why life is so sacred, and only Allah has the right to take it away. If we look at the issue of abortion, Muslims regard abortion as wrong and haram (forbidden), but many accept that it may be permitted in certain cases. All schools of Muslim law accept that abortion is permitted if continuing the pregnancy would put the mother’s life in real danger. This is the only reason accepted for abortion after 120 days of the pregnancy.
The Islamic view is based on the very high priority the faith gives to the sanctity of life. This passage has been stressed many times by myself, for it is the main valid point for backing up the sanctity of life and in the Qu’ran it states:
“Whosoever has spared the life of a soul, it is as though he has spared the life of all people. Whosoever has killed a soul, it is as though he has murdered all of mankind.” (5: 32)
Most Muslim scholars would say that a foetus in the womb is recognised and protected by Islam as a human life although.
Islam allows abortion to save the life of the mother because it sees this as the “lesser of two evils” and this is a general principle in Sharia (Muslim law).
Abortion is regarded as a lesser evil in this case because, The mother is the ‘originator’ of the foetus, the mother’s life is well-established, the mother has with duties and responsibilities, the mother is part of a family, and allowing the mother to die would also kill the foetus in most cases.
Islam also regards the relationships between humans and the environment very highly. The world “Earth” appears no less than 485 times in the holy book of the Qur’an. Sharia, the word for Islamic Law, literally means “source of water.”
In the words of Allah, “There is not an animal in the earth, nor a creature flying on two wings, but they are nations like you.” (6:38)
The question of the creation of human beings is relevant; to understand the role of religion in the environment the Holy Qur’an states
“Blessed be He, in whose hands are all sovereignty. He has power over all things. He created death and life that He might put to test and find out, which of you acquitted himself best. He is Mighty, Forgiving One.” (67:1-2)
Life is thus, a brilliant demonstration of God’s wisdom and knowledge. He has shown the humans a right path of life. There’s complete stability and unity in the laws of the universe.
Man being a part of the whole system must also operate justly in the sphere over which he is given control and power; otherwise, he is working against the natural laws of the Universe, as well as his own nature. The result of which can be destruction in the environment.
In conclusion, as with many other religions, Islam has similar concepts and principals about human life and the environment which are clearly outlined in Holy Scriptures such as The Qu’ran and may influence our personal morals and views on ethical issues.
5) The Puzzle of Ethics – Peter Vardy & Paul Grosch
6) Understanding Islam – Duncan Baird Publishers
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