The Human Cohesion Project — 4 Apr 2022
“…he who slays a soul unless it be (in punishment) for murder or for spreading mischief on earth shall be as if he had slain all mankind; and he who saves a life shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”
Surah Al-Ma’idah, where this verse comes from, is said to have been revealed in a context when Islam had become an invulnerable power in Arab region, after having faced persecution from other communities till a few years ago. Therefore, it was time to set up commandments to guide the Islamic community culturally, socially and politically, such that people were not overcome by their own growing power. Any religion, including Islam, uses literary devices to regulate human behaviour in order to avoid being led by our baser instincts. In this case, the verse cautions against indiscriminate violence that may occur when one is intoxicated by power. The Talmud has a very similar verse, too.
The current context of the world is eerily close to what this verse cautions against. Most of the violent conflicts and wars that are currently happening mainly claim the lives of innocent civilians. And the wars are rarely ever initiated for seeking justice. Instead, they are fuelled by fear, greed and lust for more power.
Religion can be powerful force to help politicians and other world leaders to make ethical decisions, if interpreted in the right spirit. Unfortunately, it is either politicised or not engaged with meaningfully, and hence loses its potency. One critical work of our time, collectively, is therefore to re-engage with religion. It does not necessarily mean subscribing to a religion. Re-engagement allows us to reframe our relationship with religion consciously instead of adopting it ritualistically or entirely rejecting it as being unscientific. This needs a critical mass. It needs you, to engage.
Ramadan Kareem. May we find our way back home, together.
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