Sanctity Of Human Life: An Islamic Perspective

By: Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh

The Qur’an categorically states that God has honoured the children of Adam. This honouring of the children of Adam is fundamental to the Qur’anic discourses. Nobody has the right to violate this divine right that people have. In this light comes the Qur’anic injunction that he who spills one life is as if they spilled the entire humanity. Similarly saving one life is as if saving the entire humanity. Human rights in Islam are divine and scared. They are part of the Islamic theology as reflected in Islamic monotheism (Tawhid) that there is none to be worshipped except God (Allah). The human is divinely dignified and honoured. Nobody has the right it to deprive them of. Human rights primarily outline the human freedom from any form of oppression and enslavement. Freedom is fundamental to Islamic theology and its legal system. Not to be killed, maimed, or tortured is the most basic of human rights. Significantly, life precedes both liberty and the pursuit of happiness for which government is instituted to preserve and protect. The primacy of life places a responsibility on the state any state not only to ensure basic security for itself, but also to contribute to the basic security of all within or without its jurisdiction . State sovereignty has shifted from its traditional definitions to one that has the responsibility to protect its citizens against any form of human rights violations, genocide, atrocities and crime against humanity. In light of political Liberalism, states have the responsibility to espouse the fact that the individual freedom as the highest political value that has to be protected by creating and developing institutions. This means that governments that fail to abide by internationally recognized standards in dealing with their citizens may forfeit their sovereign rights. Therefore, sovereignty is transformed from an absolute claim into a conditional one.This reflects the erosion of state sovereignty due to globalization, economic interdependence and information revolution. In fact, while states have rights and privileges, those rights come with obligations domestically and internationally. Arguably, sovereignty has been challenged de jure in ways that are undermining the basic and traditional powers of sovereigns. Material power alone cannot explain why states are changing the boundaries of the core institution that provides order and protects their rights internationally. Moreover, these changes have not only domestic but international consequences for states. One area in which the boundary of state sovereignty has been most changed is human rights and the emergence of international criminal law out of the laws of war and human rights. Thus, the state sovereignty can be limited by the preponderance of human rights efforts internally and externally forcing the state not to do whatever it wants. In fact, I argue that state sovereignty is dependent upon the protection of human rights.

Thus, Muslim thinkers developed the Qur’anic concept of shura which is consultation. It is an objective expression of an independent entity of the authority of the state. It denotes the paramount importance of inclusivity and not exclusion, participation and not marginalisation. In conclusion, I repeat that the sanctity of human life is paramount. Nobody has the right to spill it. Political disagreement is inevitable, but has to be sorted out politically and peacefully.

About Dr Manta Drammeh: ‘Associate Professor of Islamic Theology and Philosophy, The Muslim College London and Head of Interfaith, London Central Mosque and London Islamic Cultural Centre.’ Email:

Dr Alhage Manta Drammeh