Suicide: Views of Christianity and Islam
On November 1 2009, I created a thread "The Muslim Faith and Ethical Issues: Questions to My Muslim Visitors" A student wrote to me the following comment about suicide, comparing Christianity and Islam. I thought the topic was worthy for a separate thread for specific discussion about suicide from the religious perspective. Can any of my visitors comment further about what the student wrote? ..Maurice.
The world religions of Christianity and Islam have many common themes. For example, both faiths believe: in a monotheistic deity, to have divinely inspired scriptures, in the sanctity or dignity of human life and that ‘gift’ of human life should be preserved, in the notion of eternal life and the ‘Day of Judgement,’ and that God is the owner of all life and has pre-determined the time of birth, life and death. These shared ideas can help to formulate Christian or Islamic perspectives for and against ‘active’ forms of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
Religious opponents may view euthanasia as a form of suicide, as a way of interfering with the divinely appointed time of death (e.g. ‘Playing God’), as a way of destroying the sanctity of human life, and as a way of possibly incurring divine punishment. For example, a Christian opponent of euthanasia may cite the Biblical commandment of ‘You shall not kill,’ the idea of respecting the dignity of human life and the pre-destined moment of death, and enduring suffering as arguments against euthanasia. Similarly, a Muslim opponent may refer to: the Quranic verse 4:29 which states, ‘Do not kill yourselves, surely God is merciful to you,’ the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) viewpoint of not desiring one’s own death, the traditional notion of caring for or respecting older persons, and submitting to the divinely appointed time of death. Since similar arguments can be developed from different faith or traditional backgrounds, it is possible that a Christian principle against euthanasia may appeal to a Muslim or vice versa.
On the other hand, some proponents of euthanasia may also formulate their arguments based on religiously based principles. For example a Christian or Muslim supporter of euthanasia may use the concepts of mercy and compassion to intentionally hasten death in a terminal disease or extreme pain to relieve pain and suffering and not be a burden on others. In addition, some proponents have cited deterioration in quality of life, the thought of God’s unwillingness to make one suffer, the notion of treating human life as one wishes since it is considered a ‘gift,’ autonomy to make one’s own decisions (e.g. ‘Right to Die’), and preserving respect for the dignity of human life as further reasons for euthanasia in terminal or extreme cases. Another religious argument for intentionally hastening death blurs the line between martyrdom and suicide and questions individual intention since some have argued that aiming at death is justified in order to reach paradise ‘faster.’
Graphic: Artistic composition by George Grie 2007 and contributed to Wikipedia and subsequently minimally modified by me using Picasa3 and displayed on this blog under Fair Use provision.