Navigating the euthanasia debate through Islamic teachings

Luqman Ahmed, Missionary Ottawa, Canada
Marcelo Leal | Unsplash

Euthanasia refers to the deliberate act of hastening an individual’s death to relieve them of incurable pain or poor quality of life. Notably, in recent years, euthanasia has gained increasing acceptance and adoption in a number of Western countries.

The religion of Islam unequivocally conveys its stance regarding euthanasia. It prohibits the termination of any person’s life, even under the pretence of mercy or pain alleviation. This is explained in the Holy Quran, where Allah declares: “And kill not yourselves. Surely, Allah is Merciful to you.” (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.30) Additionally, the Holy Quran emphasises the sanctity of life by asserting: “And kill not the soul which Allah has forbidden save for just cause.” (Surah Bani Isra’il, Ch. 17: V.34)

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa once stated:

“Among the nations before you, there was a man who, after receiving a wound, grew impatient (with its pain). He took a knife and cut his hand with it, and the blood did not stop until he died. Allah said, ‘My Slave hastened his own death, so I have forbidden him from entering Paradise.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Ahadith al-anbiya, Hadith 3463)

In contrast, Islam imparts the virtue of patience when confronted with affliction or illness. Allah says: “And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient,” (Surah al Baqarah, Ch.2: V.156). The Holy Prophetsa further instilled the value of patience among his followers, affirming that enduring pain and hardship leads to divine rewards. He once stated: “No calamity befalls a Muslim except that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even if it is just the prick he receives from a thorn.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-marda, Hadith 5640)

Hence, we find ourselves at a crossroads. On one side, there are advocates of euthanasia who aim to alleviate an individual’s pain and suffering by facilitating a peaceful end to their life. Conversely, the teachings of Islam and other faiths underscore the sanctity of human life, asserting that no entity should possess the authority to terminate another human life, even under the guise of compassion.

This dichotomy raises an interesting question: Why is it preferable to embrace patience and withstand profound agony and hardship, as opposed to resorting to euthanasia?

Pondering over the concept of euthanasia, it becomes clear that its drawbacks outweigh the benefits. As a society, our focus should be on finding alternative ways to alleviate pain, provide comfort, and reduce suffering for patients, rather than choosing to end their lives.

As Muslims, we hold the fundamental belief that Allah Almighty is our Lord and possesses the power to heal. Therefore, one must never give up on the mercy of Allah, “‘for none despairs of Allah’s mercy save the unbelieving people.’” (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.88) Hence, we must evaluate, reflecting on societal values and human dignity, the challenges posed by euthanasia.

1. Hopelessness: A key principle of an advancing society is rooted in hope and the ability to navigate challenges. This vital attitude is ingrained even in our roles as parents, as we impart to our children the importance of perseverance and the refusal to surrender when confronted with adversity. We encourage them to persist and strive until they uncover solutions. This rigid determination to conquer any obstacle, no matter how formidable, is a pivotal driver of progress.

As I see it, the rise of euthanasia within our societal fabric promotes a sense of despondency. It conveys the message of embracing one’s circumstances instead of actively pursuing avenues for enhancement. Our society already grapples with the issue of suicide, often driven by a perceived absence of hope or avenues for betterment. Embracing such attitudes is likely to worsen these issues further.

2. Parental relationship: Secondly, the profound bond between parents and their children is a universal sentiment of human beings. As parents age, their children dedicate themselves to ensuring their parents’ well-being and comfort. This mutual care and devotion are highly esteemed values within our society. It has long been established as a societal standard that parents nurture their children with care, and children selflessly care for their ageing parents.

In my perspective, the normalisation of euthanasia erodes this cherished norm of responsibility towards elderly parents, introducing an entirely different approach to providing solace. As the acceptance of euthanasia expands, it is concerning, even unconsciously, that parents might increasingly perceive themselves as burdens on their children, thus altering the dynamics of this wonderful bond.

3. Sanctity of human life: Thirdly, euthanasia stands as a stark departure from the core principle that underscores the sacredness and sanctity of every human life. This principle, deeply rooted in ethical, religious, and societal foundations, asserts the inherent worth of each human existence. When we condone the act of one human being ending the life of another, even in the name of mercy, we risk diluting the sanctity that has long been revered. It introduces the notion that the worth of life can be conditional upon situational assessments.

Thus, the acceptance of euthanasia undermines the intrinsic belief that all lives are inherently valuable and deserving of protection. This erosion has the potential to dampen our ability to advocate for the welfare of fellow humans, to extend compassion and assistance to the ailing, and to uphold the sanctity of life in all its forms.

Hence, we should seek alternative avenues rather than intentionally terminating lives as a means to alleviate suffering. While the well-intentioned motives of proponents advocating for compassionate euthanasia can be acknowledged, this trajectory will steer our society towards a potentially harmful course in the years and decades ahead.

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa once stated, “None of you should wish for death because of a calamity that befalls them; but if one has no alternative, let them pray:

اللّٰهُمَّ أَحْيِنِي مَا كَانَتِ الْحَيَاةُ خَيْرًا لِي، وَتَوَفَّنِي إِذَا كَانَتِ الْوَفَاةُ خَيْرًا لِي

‘O Allah! Keep me alive as long as life is better for me, and let me die if death is better for me.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Mardha, Hadith 5671)

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