The Quran advocates many values that shape one’s intellectual and spiritual journey to God; but most importantly, these values also enable adherents to be more tolerant as they consider themselves vicegerent of God.
Unfortunately, it appears that some Muslims do not give due consideration to these values. Following are some values that the Quran highlights related to the value of life, respecting differences; justice and forgiveness.
How the Qur’an values life
When your Lord said to the angels, “I am appointing someone as my deputy on earth,” they said (almost protesting), “Are you going to appoint one who will commit corruption and bloodshed therein, even though we (are the ones who) commemorate Your Name and glorify You?” The Lord said, “I know that which you do not know”. (Q. 2:30).
I find this passage from the Quran extremely important. It helps me appreciate mankind but also my journey towards understanding God and his relationship with mankind. For instance, the verse indicates that mankind enjoys the most privileged state amongst all God’s creations. Furthermore, the verse tells us that mankind is God’s viceroy on earth. God could have chosen the angels (but he seemingly rebuked them) or other beings but did not.
Humans occupy a unique position in the divine scheme of things, and safeguarding the sanctity of life is paramount. It is for this reason that the Qur’an considers murder one of the greatest sins. The Qur’an informs Muslims that murdering one person is akin to murdering all mankind; but helping to preserve individual life is the equivalent of helping to preserve the life of all humankind.
If anyone kills a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he kills all mankind, and if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saves the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidences, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits (e.g. by doing oppression unjustly and exceeding beyond the limits set by God by committing the major sins) in the land!. (Q. 5:32).
Indeed, if murder was a customary practice among humankind, it would not take long for the human race to vanish into extinction. Here the Quran informs Muslims that the survival of all humankind depends on everyone respecting and protecting others. One concludes from this noble verse that we are an interdependent species and our survival and prosperity is dependent on the value we place on the lives of others.
Respecting difference in the Quran, including difference of belief Diversity, especially in the sense of difference of belief, is part of divine will. The Quran helps me to understand and appreciate this fact quite well as it states the following verses.
And if your Lord had willed, He could have made [all] mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ. (Q.11:118)
And had your God willed, those on earth would have believed all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers? (Q. 10:99).
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you into diverse nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you (Q. 49:13).
Looking at these verses one can see that God in fact wills mankind to be diverse including differences in beliefs. I personally find this extremely important. These verses clearly stand against any Muslim who proselytizes and holds Islam as the only true faith and sees other religions as null, or sees people of non faith as irrelevant. Conversion is God’s work, and he willed that all mankind would not exist in a single community or hold one identical message. Even Mohammed did not have the power to convert people to Islam but Mohammed was rather asked to convey the message for conversion as one of the above quoted verses indicate is God’s work. God wills human difference and Muslims ought to see this difference as being part of the moral teaching of the Quran.
The value of justice in the Quran
O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God; even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, God is a better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or
refuse to give it, verily, God is ever well acquainted with what you do. (Q. 4:135).
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for God , witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God; indeed, God is acquainted with what you do. (Q. 5:8).
Arguably, it is almost impossible to enjoy or appreciate any values or even the meaning of life in the absence of justice. Hence why the concept of justice is paramount in the teaching of the Quran. As the above verses demonstrate, God commands Muslims to be just and practice justice wherever they are in spite of how difficult the situation may prove. Furthermore, the Quran makes the call for righteous behavior and the practice of justice between Muslims; but also to follow the above when dealing with non-Muslims. To not follow this path is to go against the teaching of the Quran.
Forgiveness in the Quran
The value of forgiveness, widely associated with Christianity, can play a central role in a Muslim’s spiritual journey toward God. Hence it would be just and fair to conclude this short chapter with quotes from the Quran.
Those who spend [charity] in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who forgive men; verily, God loves the good doers (Q.3:134).
And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [bad] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. (Q. 41:34)
Imam Dr Mamadou Bocoum is presently head of the Library and a lecturer at the Muslim College, London and a Chaplain at Ford Prison, Sussex. He has a BA in Arabic Language and traveled extensively throughout the Muslim world, which has expanded his understanding of traditional Islamic scholarship. In 1998, Mamadou moved to the United Kingdom to cultivate his appreciation of Islam as it is understood in the West. Having obtained his MA in Islamic Studies in 2003 he went on to pursue a certificate in Imamship in 2004 and a PhD in Islamic Studies, which he was awarded in 2009. He is committed to interfaith work and has participated in various interfaith activities, lecturing on both the development and maintenance of relations between the Abrahamic faiths.