Quran Chapter 5:32

 “Therefore we ordained for the Children of Israel that he who slays  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. And indeed again and again did Our Messengers come to them with clear directives, yet many of them continued to commit excesses on earth.”

Another translation of that verse says:

“For this reason did we prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land”.

I stumbled across the passage few months ago while watching a movie. I am not a Muslim but I was curious to find out the details of the passage. I was glad because I saw a verse which more or less talked about love and respect for the life of another individual. It buttressed a point or belief that I long had that Islam couldn’t just be about violence; that Islam could not support killing innocent men, women and children. It also showed that even the Holy Quran placed some value and importance on the life of an individual. However, it is common knowledge that things are not as simple as it should be as some individual lack the ability to respect the lives of people.

Last night, I got into a discussion with a friend. She said she was never going to go to Northern Nigeria because of the incessant killing of Christians at that part of the country to work. And then I asked her, what if the pay was good? Her response was thought-provoking. “What is the point making money that you won’t be able to spend? Such money will only be used to plan your burial ceremony”. Who could blame her? Every day, we wake up to news of how people were murdered either while sleeping or when carrying out their daily activities, either with bombs or guns, without remorse. How can one explain the fact that a little boy would become an orphan at a tender age simply because his parents chose to follow a particular line of worship? Many children have watched on as their parents and close relative were murdered. Think about the psychological trauma that little child would have to go through when the event replays in his memory. Some are not so lucky as they have also been killed alongside their parents. Victor Moses lost both parents over a decade ago during an ethno religious crisis in Kaduna. He is a star now but I am certain there are days when he would wish his mum and dad was alive to see that little boy become a star. There are many little kids like Victor Moses who have lost their parents and were not so lucky. Many of them will probably die from starvation or suffer from various forms of malnutrition. Many could also be victims of child abuse and child labour as they will have to learn to make ends meet from a very young age. Some could take to petty stealing before graduating to full-time robbery thereby increasing the level of insecurity in the country. Many will also have their dreams and aspiration cut short as they may never get a good education.

It has become a usual and normal occurrence to hear about suicide bombers blowing themselves up inside churches. Suddenly, people who go to worship in some states in Nigeria go to church with the fear that they may never return. They fear that a “lunatic” could wake up and decide he will walk or drive into a church and ensure that there are plenty of casualties. Many families have been wiped out. Parents have lost their children, children have become orphans and some families may never recover from such tragic events. This is simply because some people feel that peaceful coexistence between people with divergent views and belief is a taboo. The events of 9/11 are well documented and other stories of terrorism around the world are becoming common. Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight.

It has become very worrying that these senseless killings are not only due to our religious diversity. Few months ago, we saw how four young men were brutally murdered at Aluu in Rivers state of Nigeria after they had been beaten beyond repair. Evidence seems to suggest those boys were innocent but regardless of that, how easy was it to come to that decision to burn those students alive? Did the killers ever for a moment think what if those men were their brothers? Did they stop to consider how the parents and siblings of those men felt then and still feel now? Clearly they did not. Or maybe they did. I understand it has become a lot easier to not have a conscience. No one knows what would have been if those young undergraduates had been allowed to live their lives.

On 16th February 2013, at least 84 people were killed and 190 injured after a bomb hidden in a water tank exploded at a market in Hazara town on the outskirts of Quetta in Pakistan. Most of the victims were members of the predominantly Shia Twelver ethnic Hazara community. The bomb went off in a market area with many grocery stores, several language schools and a large computer centre. Also, the January 2013 Pakistan bombings in Quetta led to nearly 100 deaths. On that day, three bombs exploded. All perpetuated by Muslims against their fellow Muslims. A Sunni militant group has since claimed responsibility. This is the latest in a long list of atrocities committed by the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi terrorist group. This terrorist group also claimed responsibility for killing 26 Shia pilgrims in 2011 and the bombing of the International Protestant Church in Islamabad during a church service killing 5 people and leaving 40 others injured in 2002, just to mention a few.

The effect of these nefarious acts is troubling. It is high time we realized that it is important we place a great value on the lives of our neighbor. We should learn to protect rather than kill people. It is also important that we learn to tolerate others regardless of their religious belief or ethnicity. The world will be a better place if we live in peace, united regardless of our diversity. I hope that things will change. If we can’t live in peace, there will be no one to love and care for.

Have a nice day.

Uche H. Okafor