By: Dr. Abbass Khajeh Piri
In Islam Holy War (Jihad) is another important exception for depriving oneself of life for the sake of God. The persons, who take part in Holy War in order to materialize, establish and defend divine ideals, voluntarily endanger their lives, wellbeing or physical health.
Actually, for mankind Holy War is one way to achieve perfection. It is also the loftiest and most important path toward his transcendental life.
Giving away the life and belongings for the sake of heightening the word “Islam”, maintaining the limits of the school of thought, freedom, defending life and property of the oppressed ones, has a high advantage. The Holy Quran has stressed this in many verses.
God expresses such an advantage in the following verse: Allah has preferred the mujahideen through their wealth and their lives over those who remain [behind], by degrees. And to both Allah has promised the best [reward]. But Allah has preferred the mujahideen over those who remain [behind] with a great reward.(Quran, 4:95)
The rank of a person who takes part in Holy War is so lofty in Islam that the Prophet (S) said: “Higher than any goodness is goodness where an individual is killed for the cause of God, and there is no goodness or advantage higher than that.”1
Imam Ali (a.s) refers to Jihad (Holy War) as one of the doors to heaven. This door has been opened by God to his friends, his followers and to special people.2
Not only Islam does not consider the deed of the person who takes part in Holy War as “jumping into the valley from the edge of a cliff,”3 but also considers itself the buyer of his life and property, and says: Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which the great attainment is. (Quran, 9:111)
Holy war (Jihad) against atheists and hypocrites,4 Jihad against the pagans,5 Jihad aimed at expansion of Islam and eliminating enemies intrigue,6 Jihad aimed at fighting against oppression,7 Jihad aimed at defending (the country) against the non-Muslim’s invasion8 and finally Jihad due to breach of contract signed by non- Muslims with an Islamic state.9 Not only it is every Muslim’s right but also in the eyes of Islam it is a religious duty and Muslims (except those having a justifiable excuse) cannot ignore this religious responsibility.10
Undoubtedly the warrior for Islamic purpose will enjoy eternal spiritual life, although his destiny may be termination of his worldly physical life.
1. Political Theology in Islam, p.14.
2. Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 24.
3. Quran, 2:195.
4. The Holy Quran, Chapter Al- tawbeh , verse: 73.
5. The Holy Quran, Chapter,Al- tawbeh , verse: 36.
6. The Holy Quran, Chapter,Al-Anfal, verse:39.
7. The Holy Quran, Chapter, Al- hajj , verse:39.
8. The Holy Quran, Chapter, Al- Bacharach, verse:190.
9. The Holy Quran, Chapter, Al- Tawbeh, verses:12 and 13.
10. Quran, Chapter, Al- Tawbeh, verse: 81.
The Noble and Lawful Defense
Another exception in the decree prohibiting suicide (depriving self of life) identified in Islam is defending one’s own life, belongings or family. There are numerous quotations from the Prophet (S) expressing the significance of defending life, property or one’s family. Hereunder we point to one of them: “He, who fights to defend his own life, till he is killed, is a martyr. He, who gets killed while defending his own property, is a martyr. He, who kills to defend his family and gets killed, is a martyr. He, who gets killed for the cause of God, is a martyr.”1
Considering the rank of a martyr, defending the privacy of his life, property and family, is indicative of the value and significance Islam regards for countering invasion. Intrusion and oppression, regarding individual’s security and man’s family, in such an extent that Islam allows a man to endanger his own life to defend and save his own and his family’s security, and to fight until he loses his life.
The Prophet (S) in another occasion said: “He, who opposes and resists tyranny and is seeking justice before being killed he is considered a martyr.”2
This is God’s command that emphasizes: …So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. (Quran, 2:194)
1. Kanz al- Ummal, Vol.4, P.425.
2. Foroo’e Kafi, Vol. 5, P.52.
Right of Livelihood
Livelihood is considered a part of mankind’s right to life. In addition to the fact that in the Islamic law, deprivation of a man of his life is forbidden, right of livelihood and enjoying the minimum facilities and devices to continue life is also considered important.
Islam considers enjoying the primitive but essential means to make continuation of life possible, important. It has presented comprehensive and vast programs aimed at materialization of this fundamental and vital right, especially in the form of an anti-destitution campaign, aimed at uprooting and eradicating poverty among the individuals of an Islamic society.
In Islam the anti-poverty phenomena and campaign is considered the public’s duty in the society. Monopolizing policies favored by a certain group (the rich) as the main obstacle in the way of just and fair distribution of wealth, facilities and financial resources of a society is prohibited. Quran explicitly opposes the concentration of a society’s wealth (exclusive ownership of riches) in the hands of a few.
And what Allah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns – it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and orphans and the [stranded] traveler – so that it will not be a perpetual distribution among the rich from among you. (Quran, 59:7)
Also the individuals of a society are proscribed from doing anything that contradicts the right of livelihood of mankind in a society and puts the destitute under pressure and drives them into a difficult situation. Puts the low-income class and disrupts their lives by depriving them of the minimum necessities of their lives. For instance, hoarding routine shopping list items and necessities of life of the public would be contrary to livelihood of the people and cause difficulty for them in providing their foodstuff, and to run their lives has been banned.
The Prophet (S) explicitly said: “Whoever hoards products is a sinner.”1
In another narration the Prophet (S) was quoted as saying: “Whoever hoards some food for 40 days is apart from God and God detests him.”2
1. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, Vol .2, P.425.
2. Tahdhib al-Ahkam, Vol. 6, P. 368.
Islam’s Measures for Continuation of Life
In addition to prohibiting hoarding of everyday grocery needs of the public, Islam has foreseen (executive, economical and social) tactics, strategies, arrangements and measures in its anti-poverty campaign to fight the concentration of earnings and wealth in the hands of certain numbered people. Enforcement of such tactics would lead to distribution and adjustments of wealth and would ensure and guarantee social and economic justice. It would also bridge the gap between the poor and the rich. It would actually prevent the creation of a deep gap between the two classes. In other words the class- differences which has caused the creation of the wealthy class against the destitute or the low-income class who are weak or incapable of running their lives and the primitive affairs and maintain and secure the very viable elementary needs in their lives.
Islam has taken steps to establish and found compulsory or encouraging financial duties (called entities) to remove deprivation and to provide elementary life requirements. By providing a spiritual support for such eco- social entities, is guiding the Islamic society toward improvement and promotion of living conditions and public’s livelihood. Some of such financial duties (entities) are:
1- Donation to charity (Enfagh): Although this act is optional, it has been repeatedly emphasized by Islam. It is aimed at encouraging the members of a society to provide the necessities of destitute and the deprived ones. There are countless quotations from the Prophet (S) and countless verses in The Holy Quran in this regard. The following is a sample: The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all- Encompassing and Knowing. (Quran, 2:261)
Also The Holy Quran blames those who refrain from donating to charity by helping the needy: …. and those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – give them tidings of a painful punishment. (Quran, 9:34)
The Prophet (S) said,” It is never acceptable that one of you should sleep having eaten his dinner when one’s neighbor is still hungry.”1
Donation in the eyes of Islam has been attached such a great significance that it is categorized as the top prioritized deeds among the most privileged worshiping deeds, such as prayer. The word donation comes immediately after the word “prayer or al-salaat” in several verses.2
2- Khums (a Fifth): One of the financial duties foreseen aimed at improvement of a destitute life and livelihood as well as especial urgent spending needs in an Islamic society is khums (a Fifth). Khums is an imposed donation levied on every Muslim’s one fifth of the profit, turnover, and income. The profit earned by a Muslim because of his lawful business after reduction of routine living expenses in the period of one year is subject to khums taxation. The followings are also subject to khums: treasure, diving, mining (drilling and digging mines), war booty, wealth mixed with someone else’s wealth whose owner is unknown (money laundering and any money which is not entirely yours), will be subject to khums.3
The Holy Quran says in this issue: And know that anything you obtain of war booty – then indeed, for Allah is one fifth of it and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and the orphans, the needy, and the [stranded] traveler, if you have believed in Allah. (Quran, 8:41)
3- Zakaat donation: Zakaat in the Islamic economical decrees includes a part of one’s belongings. When a wealthy Muslim’s riches reach a certain amount, he must donate a certain part of his savings.4
There are many verses in The Holy Quran about Zakaat. The requirement of Zakaat has been emphasized after prayer: And establish prayer and give zakaat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing. (Quran, 2:110)
Also, describing those who assist God, The Holy Quran, says: [And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakat and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters. (Quran 22:41)
Zakaat can be a source of money from which the followings can be helped: social security, destitute, poor people, orphans, the unemployed, passengers and anybody caught by life’s bottlenecks.5
4- Tax (Kheraj): This tax is levied on farmers. It is an amount out of the agricultural products, or its value in cash, collected. This tax is levied on peasants and their agricultural land depending on the discretion of an Islamic government and according on farmer’s or a landowner’s agreement and in favor of the public. When spending this money the priority must be given to wellbeing of (all) the farmers and flourishing of the agricultural land.6
5- Jaziyeh: this tax is levied on non-Muslims. But non-Muslims here include only those who are followers of other monotheistic religions (followers of God’s traditions and monotheist prophets). Such taxpayers have a commitment to pay this tax and to keep the limits of Islam and Muslims and to respect such boundaries and borders, as their lives and property is located in the safe and secure boundaries of Islam but they enjoy the same rights and limits as Muslims.7
6- Kaffarat: One of the financial obligations in the Islamic theology is Kaffarat. It is a property that must be given away to compensate for some sins such as monetary compensation for murder,8 or monetary recompense for failing to keep or honor a promise,9 or monetary compensation for unlawful hunting.10
In order to concentrate financial resources, the entity of Islamic Treasury (Beit al-maal) has been foreseen which is the Islamic government’s treasury. The cases of taking money out of this treasury, and how to spend it, as well as relevant priorities has clearly been mentioned in the public financial system in Islam. Any discrimination (abuse) in using the treasury is prohibited.
Certainly, no legal system, has outlined or presented executive plans and policies for right of viability, continuation of mankind’s life as well as the deprived and needy people’s enjoying the life’s primary instruments as clear as Islam.
1. Human Rights in Islamic Law, P.4.
2. Quran, Chapter,Al- Ibrahim, verse: 31, Quran, Chapter, Al- Bagharah, verse:3, Quran, Chapter, Al- enfagh, verse:3, Quran, Chapter, Al- hajj, verse:35, etc.
3. Islam and Ownership, p. 21.
4. Analytical Project of Islamic Economy, p. 220.
5. Analytical project of Islamic economy, p. 222.
6. Islam and Ownership, p. 211.
7. Islam and Ownership, p. 211.
8. Quran, 5:45.
9. Quran, 5:89.
10. Quran, 5:95.
Given what has been explained above, regarding mankind’s right to life in the eyes of Islam, we conclude that: Islam’s mentality pays attention to right to life comprehensive aimed at achieving perfection and transcendental life materially and spiritually.
Attention to right to life in Islamic school of thought is based on realism, far from irrational excessive and under-spending behavior, seen in the Western system’s propaganda. when we try to compare the Islamic Human Rights (over 1400 years old) with the Western Human Rights (200 years old), we notice that Islam’s mentality toward the Human Rights (including mankind’s right to life) and also the compiled executive plans in the Islamic sources for its materialization has caused Islam to last for eternity during the history. On the contrary, the western the Human Rights has failed to prove beneficial in this regard.
Below we briefly point to such comparative study: Islamic Human Rights system regards the right to life a gift from God. It sees life’s value based on human’s lofty dignity and decency (degree). In the eyes of divine schools of thought, whereas the western Human Rights system depreciates the right to life from the humanistic approach, while regarding it as low as a mere natural right for mankind. Consequently, in the Western legal system right to life as an “absolute” right is unlimited, whereas in the Islamic legal system the continuity and survival of this right depends on conditions determined by Islam.
The Interpretation of right to life by the Western legal system is material, without consideration for the spiritual aspect of man’s existence, whereas the Islamic legal system is based on all the aspects of human existence (both material and spiritual). Actually the human spiritual life is attached more significance in the eyes of Islam to such an extent that (in case of a conflict) it has priority over the material one.
In the international Human Rights Documents, human’s life is defined merely as a “natural right”, whereas man’s life in Islamic legal system is identified as both a “right” and a “duty”. In the eyes of Islam not only a man has no right to terminate his life and is responsible for safeguarding it but also he must (feel responsibility to) protect other people’s lives (be it threatened by natural disasters or causes or subject to a third party’s intrusion, etc). He must rise up to resist and reject the threat and the intrusion. If he turns a blind eye to it he is a sinner.
Prohibition decree against abortion (except in urgent cases such as mother’s life being at stake or emergencies determined by the Islamic Law): One of the privileges of the Islamic laws in regard to “comprehensive identification” of right to life for humans is paying attention to human dignity even prior to his birth, whereas in the Western Human Rights Declaration and documents, disregarding the sanctity of an embryo, abortion is not forbidden. In most western nations, deprivation of humans of their lives at the stage before birth (abortion) is permitted and hence lawful. Sometimes it is even encouraged.
In the Islamic Human Rights system, because of human dignity, provision of an appropriate and favorable life for a person is part of his right to life and is respected.1
Strategies have been foreseen aimed at its materialization, such as financial sources and duties, inclusive of zakaat, khums, kaffarat and normal or general donations. But in the Western approach and its Human Rights system, only “human welfare” has been mentioned along with a very few other points. There is no mention of or consideration for human dignity.2
The Islamic school of thought takes care of special classes in the society including senior citizens (the elderly), women, children, the sick and the wounded (or disabled) in armed clashes. Also special attention is paid to prisoners of war (POW’s), banning mutilation of killed soldiers, how to treat POW’s and their families. All such things are indicative of the magnitude and magnificence of Islam, and how Islam looks at Human Rights. Whereas the Declaration of the Human Rights fails to adequately cover the above rights.
1. The Islamic Human Rights, Article 2.
2. The Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25.
By: Dr. Abbass Khajeh Piri