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Friday, June 21, 2024

Take not life, which God has made sacred

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With Aicha

“…Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom.”
Qur’an 6:151
Muslims accept that the death penalty is a punishment established by God in the Holy Qur’an. This verse teaches that although murder is considered a sin, it is acceptable to use capital punishment when required by law. Some Muslims may argue against capital punishment for the following reasons:
· Even if capital punishment is allowed in the Qur’an, it is not compulsory
· Sharia’h laws states that the family of the victim can accept money as a compensation instead of enforcing the death penalty
They believe that only Allah has the right to take life, and therefore carrying out the death penalty is ‘playing God’ and committing the sin of shirk.
President Adama Barrow has vowed to abolish the death penalty from the law books of The Gambia as soon as the necessary legislation reaches his signature.
(The Standard newspaper November 19, 2018)
I was very happy to read that news which can also be read in a report by Amnesty International. More countries are following this movement to abolish the death penalty but it remains on the statute books of too many countries.
You can find data online, for example, at Amnesty International’s website. Most countries are open with how many people are subjected to the death penalty but China for one refuses to say how many. China considers this as a secret of the state but from what we know by information that has come out, it is thousands each year.
President Barrow seems to be a man of modern times; a man who understands that when a life is taken, it is too late to regret the verdict. Too many times, around the world, people have been killed for various reasons. They are taken to court and given the death sentence, no matter whether they are guilty or not. If the legal system is dysfunctional it can easily get carried away by emotions based on culture and religion instead of what the law says in a humane context.
I will give you another story about the prophet, Jesus, to make the narrative a bit more clear.
One day Jesus was teaching a large group of people, at the temple in Jerusalem. Suddenly he heard a lot of commotion, a large group of upset men came and they had a young woman in a hard grip. The woman was scared and she cried because she knew what fate expected her. The men wanted to test Jesus so they came near him to see his reaction on the case. The upset men threw the young woman on the ground, they were yelling and had stones in their hands.
Jesus sat on the ground, minding his own business, and didn’t bother about the happening. Some of the men approached Jesus and said: ”Master, this woman has committed adultery, and according to the law of Moses women like her are going to be stoned to death. What do you say about that?”
Jesus didn’t say anything to the men, instead he began to write something in the sand. The men looked puzzled at each other, then their leader approached Jesus and repeated the accusations against the woman. There was no doubt about the case, she had been caught red handed, so the group of men were only following what the law said.
Jesus waited until the men had stopped with their accusations, then he stood up, looked at the pious crowd and said:
”The one of you, who is without sin, shall throw the first stone.”
He was quiet for a while, to let the words sink in, and then he sat down on the ground again and continued writing in the sand.
Several minutes later he looked up, the angry crowd had disappeared and the only one who remained was the young woman.
Jesus asked her: ”Where did they go? Didn’t anyone judge you?
“No, master,” she replied.
“Nor I will judge you”, Jesus said. “Go now, and sin no more.”
It is so easy to point at people, accuse and judge them, but then we put ourselves in the place of God. We have laws and we have a court system but we also have mercy. Following the laws is one thing, and criminal actions must of course be punished, but how often don’t we judge each other outside the court? Spreading slander, back talking, spreading rumours can make life a living hell for people. Some people choose to take their own lives because they feel so shut out by the society they live in. What right do we have to judge them to death? Are we aware that our behaviour affects them so much that they don’t want to live anymore? We can’t say that we didn’t understand, that we were only joking. We tell that to our children when they say something bad about their friends and that friend is sad. We tell our kids that they should have understood that words can hurt, that a joke is not fun if it’s not shared. We tell our kids to behave better than we do, ourselves, and still we get angry with them.
Some days ago I watched a movie together with one of my classes. It was about a teenage boy who had a hobby some of the other boys didn’t approve of. This boy loved to dance and the other boys thought that he was gay, that a ”real man” doesn’t dance. So stupid and small minded, but too common unfortunately.
The boy tried to ignore the bullying but it was hard not to read the comments online. Young people share their lives with others online, for good or for bad – that is hard to say. Harsh words, silly comments, so-called jokes are draining the energy and creativity out of the strongest person.
Adults have been crushed by online bullying and we might think that they should be strong enough to resist it. If it’s hard for adults to deal with this it is even harder for young people. They keep the bullying inside like a dark secret, many times filled with shame, believing that they are as bad as people say. The boy in the movie was doing a video diary where he showed his dances and spoke about his thoughts. In his last video he said that if he can’t control his life at least he can control his death. Not only his enemies followed his video diary, which was filmed in real time so the comments made by people was direct comments to his actions and words. The friends of the boy began to get worried as they slowly could understand that something was wrong.
The friends could also read the comments, both good and bad, and got the feeling that something serious might happen. They managed to get to the place where their friend was filming, got inside the building and began to search for him there. They found him, lifeless, as the boy had committed suicide. Words can hurt! This boy had been bullied for such a long time he didn’t want to live anymore. The bullies gave him a death sentence without knowing.
How much is a life worth? Does it depend on who we are speaking about or are some lives worth more and others less?
As Muslims, we believe that life is sacred, it is forbidden to have an abortion unless there are very serious reasons for it and even then it can be hard to get that permitted. A decision like that is hard to make, and it must be hard. We are ending a life, playing God in a way, and that has to be taken under deep consideration before anyone goes through with it. There are several reasons why someone wants or needs an abortion, and I will not go through all of them right now. I don’t want to judge anyone who has felt forced to make that hard decision, instead I want to go further in my thoughts.
In the US, there is a large anti-abortion movement among conservative Christians. They stand outside abortion clinics, holding large posters in their hands with slogans against abortion. These people shout out their messages, stop people from entering the clinic and even threaten the staff of the clinic.
Life is sacred, that is their message, and I don’t object to that, but what I do object against is that these are the same people who also shout about the gun laws in America. That message is the opposite from ”every life is sacred” because they are fighting for the right to carry weapons. The gun laws are from the days when the Europeans came and colonised America. (We are guilty of a lot!)
The guns were not meant as protection against wild animals, they were meant to protect the colonisers against wild people, against savages. At first it was the native Americans, which we used to call Indians, and later on it was against Africans, Mexicans and other nationalities. All that didn’t look white were considered as prey.
This instinct seems to remain today even if we expect people to understand better. When the colonisers went to America the country looked very different. There were wild animals people needed to protect themselves against, but that has changed radically. Those who are wild nowadays are the people with guns. Yesterday I heard such a sad story about a 13-year-old African-American girl who had accidentally been shot and killed. Two years ago she had written a prize-winning essay about violence and guns. She lived in an area with a lot of shootings going on and she wrote about her fear and how important it is to have gun control. Two days ago this girl was sitting on her bed, watching TV. Suddenly some people passed her house in a car, shooting from the car window. One of the bullets went through the window of the girl’s bedroom and hit her in the chest. She managed to get out from her room and as she met her mum in the hallway her last words were: ”Mum, I’ve been shot!”
Imagine seeing your dear child fall down in front of you, shot by a stray bullet and dead. The girl’s largest fear was now reality, but that was only an African-American girl so the politicians had nothing to say about that. They do not win any votes by comforting this poor family. They do not win any votes by promising to ”clear up the swamp” as Donald Trump loved to say when he got elected.
This was just another African-American kid who got shot and killed, so why bother? Everyone knows how they are, they are still savages, right?
If you would confront these conservative people, shouting outside the abortion clinic, they wouldn’t care about your arguments and your fear. They want to decide who’s life is worth sparing and who’s not.
Every life matters, every life is sacred and it is up to God to decide who shall live or who shall not. Every life is sacred so we must treat each other as we wish to be treated ourselves. Every life is sacred so we have an obligation to each other to make others feel that life is worth living. Every life is sacred so remember that even words can hurt, they are bullets shooting our souls in pieces.

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