Qur’anic (Dynamic) Paradigm of Health: — 29

Life Expectancy, Islam and Muslims — Part 1

In the last chapter, I introduced a new definition of life expectancy, True Life Expectancy or TLE. TLE is the average life of human beings after conception. The new definition rejects the popular one, as the latter starts counting years after birth missing an important period of human existence altogether. I have argued that foetus is a stage of human development and disregarding it as a human is nothing but a ploy to justify killing of foetuses in the name of “women’s rights”, giving a boastful but erroneous picture of high life expectancy in the so-called developed countries and presenting a distorted concept of “development”. I have shown that if TLE is used to measure the state of health and possible survival, most of the “developed” countries slide down the table in the most unceremonious fashion. On the other hand, wherever the religious influences are strong, as in some Christian countries and most of the Muslim countries, TLE comes out to be quite high compared to the other nations. In the present chapter, I will specifically discuss the issue of life expectancy from an Islamic point of view. I will first explain the position of Qur’an vis-à-vis TLE. Then I will discuss how Islam positively affects life expectancy.

True Life Expectancy

My assertion that life expectancy should be calculated at conception and not at birth can been challenged by some Muslims who with the argument that “ruh” enters the foetus only at the time of the end of fourth month. They quote Hadiths in favour of their argument. However, they miss two important points here:

First, Qur’an describes the very beginning of the life after conception as a stage of human development. See the following verses:

· We had created (the first) human being from a component of mud; Following this (first creation) We formed him as a drop (zygote) lodged in a safe place; after that We changed the creation to a leech-like formation; then we transformed the creation into lump; then we created bones in the lump; then We clothed the bones with muscles; after this we gave it birth as a different person. (In effect), God is the Ultimate Source of Fulfilment and the Best of Creators. After that in the follow-up of your (existence), you all are surely going to die (one day). (23: 12–15) 2

· Following that He created his generation with a component of paltry fluid; subsequently He proportioned his structure and blew in Him a part of His Spirit; and formed your organs of hearing, vision and perception. You are miserly in thankfulness. (32: 7–9) 3

So, right from the fertilization up to the time of delivery, the foetus is in various stages of human development. The delivery makes it an independently recognisable creature. The development does not stop at the time of delivery and continues till the end of life, infancy, adolescence, youth, middle age and old age being the important milestones of the development. It is therefore totally baseless and senseless to say that life starts after 4 months.

Second, according to Qur’an, “nafs” (soul) and “ruh” (spirit) are two different entities. Nafs relates to the essence of life while spirit relates to higher form of consciousness. A foetus is a human being since the very beginning of its development after conception but becomes a conscious human being after God breathes spirit into him. What the Hadiths related to the permission of abortion within first four months imply is that if there are genuine reasons for abortion — threat to mother’s life or child’s life, foetus born out of rape, etc — it should be aborted as soon as possible, latest before the expiry of the four month period. Islam of course does not give an open license to abort. In the current world, especially the “developed” world, most of the abortions are aimed at making a licentious life possible or safeguarding the career. Moreover, news reports have often appeared how abortions are being performed even on more than 4 month old pregnancies and cruel methods are used (as described in the last chapter) to kill the foetuses and dump them.

Measures in Islam to improve Life Expectancy

As I have discussed in detail, health occupies central position in Islam. I have shown that Islam does not just promote health; it also establishes a health-protective family system and a health-protective social system. Islam has taken measures that have a direct bearing on life expectancy. It has banned all such practices as decrease life expectancy and has promoted measures that improve life expectancy.

Prohibition of practices that decrease life expectancy

1. Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the biggest trades of the world. There have therefore been concerted efforts by the market to promote beneficial aspects of alcohol with remarks such as “if taken in moderation alcohol can improve life expectancy in the old age”. “If” and “can” in that remark suppress the facts that are very well known to the medical community. “Old age” is an attempt to attract older people. Safe drinking and safe sex are nothing but ploys to perpetuate dangerous trades. A paper by Benjamin J. Sadock and Virginia A. Sadock claims that Alcohol abuse reduces life expectancy by about 10 years, and alcohol leads all other substances in substance-related deaths.5 Another important paper, entitled, “Alcohol-related mortality by age and sex and its impact on life expectancy” by: Pia Makela examines the effects of alcohol on age in greater details. It says:

“The Finnish death register includes information on both the underlying and contributory causes of death and it yields an individual-level estimate of the contribution of alcohol in mortality. … According to the results, 6% of all deaths were alcoholrelated. These deaths were responsible for a 2 year loss in life expectancy at age 15 years among men and 0.4 years among women, which explains at least one-fifth of the difference in life expectancies between the sexes. In the age group of 15–49 years, over 40% of all deaths among men and 15% among women were alcohol related. In this age group, over 50% of the mortality difference between the sexes results from alcohol-related deaths. The use of data on contributory causes of death, the organization of the Finnish death certification system and the relatively high proportion of alcohol-related deaths suggest that these data do not underestimate alcohol-related deaths to such an extent as has been the case in earlier studies using data from death certificates. This study shows that alcohol consumption is an important public health issue in Finland and a significant determinant of male premature mortality.”

Women are known to have higher life expectancy than men and alcohol is one of the major factors in this difference. “If one does not consider the many women who die while giving birth or in pregnancy, the female human life expectancy is considerably higher than those of men, who, on average, consume more tobacco, alcohol and drugs than females, in most countries many more men than women commit suicide, in general, men are more aggressive than women and thus are more likely to be murdered. In wars, many men die in combat as soldiers. Men tend to take more risks than females when they drive cars or motorcycles.

A Miami university researcher reports:

“On average, each alcohol-related death was associated with 14.6 YPLL before age 65 and 25.9 YPLL before life expectancy. For both YPLL measures, deaths caused by intentional and unintentional injuries were associated with the greatest number of YPLL per death.8

The conclusion of the report is an eye opener:

“Alcohol use is related to a huge health burden in the United States and most countries worldwide, even after discounting for its beneficial effects. In considering this burden, especially for chronic disease, one must keep in mind the limitations of epidemiological studies, which are mostly observational in nature (e.g., cohort studies and case control studies, as described above; also see the sidebar). However, most of the relationships between alcohol use and disease outcomes have also been corroborated by experimental physiological research……much of the alcohol–related health burden could be avoided by initiating or strengthening policy measures proven to be effective in reducing alcohol use and related problems, such as taxing consumption, restricting access to alcohol, and random breath testing (Edwards et al. 1994). Some of these measures (e.g., taxation, restricting access) have been shown to reduce the social harm caused by alcohol consumption as well. Given the size of the burden of disease related to alcohol use and the availability of effective countermeasures, there seems to be no justification for continuing the status quo.////…..The Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) concept fulfils these requirements ideally. It is a measure that combines years of life lost because of early mortality (i.e., death before the life expectancy in the country with the highest life expectancy worldwide [currently Japan]) with years of life lost to imperfect health (Murray et al. 2000). The relationship between alcohol consumption and DALYs demonstrates that a substantial burden of disease is attributable to alcohol consumption. In 1990 this was estimated as globally higher than the burden of disease attributable to tobacco, even after subtracting the beneficial effects on CHD (Murray and Lopez 1996, 1997)”

Some studies show that alcoholism actually decreases a woman’s life expectancy by 15 years.

To be continued