The Value of One Life – What Is It In Western Civilization?

مِن أَجلِ ذٰلِكَ كَتَبنا عَلىٰ بَني إِسرائيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفسًا بِغَيرِ نَفسٍ أَو فَسادٍ فِي الأَرضِ فَكَأَنَّما قَتَلَ النّاسَ جَميعًا وَمَن أَحياها فَكَأَنَّما أَحيَا النّاسَ جَميعًا ۚ وَلَقَد جاءَتهُم رُسُلُنا بِالبَيِّناتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثيرًا مِنهُم بَعدَ ذٰلِكَ فِي الأَرضِ لَمُسرِفونَ

It was for the sake of that crime that We made it a principle for the Children of Israel that if anyone took a life — unless it be to punish a murder or to prevent the spread of chaos in the land — that it would be as if he had murdered the whole of humanity. Conversely, if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he had saved the life of the whole of humanity. However, even though Our messengers came to them with clear evidence of the truth — even after that — many of them continued to commit abuses in the land.Qur’an, 5: 32

I ask this question: “What does one life mean for us now?” Some may assume I ask this antagonistically as if — because I’m Muslim — I have some undying criticisms of the West, or more simply, I harbor ill will towards the West. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as I, all of my family, and my daughter, are all members of the West. I ask it because I wish for the West to be better: better tomorrow than yesterday. I say this to myself as well as to my fellow Muslims: we’re going to have to move beyond non-stop criticisms (which is not the same as being critical of) of the West and try and contribute to its much-need revival.

On April 10th, Cedric Anderson murdered Karen Smith as well as 8-year old Jonathan Martinez. Shortly thereafter, Steve Stephens murdered 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., live, on Facebook. And then today, Kori Ali Muhammad appears to have murdered three white men because he felt there was a brewing race war. Stereotypically, Muhammad’s case is still under review as to whether it’s “terrorism” or not. But seriously, who cares? There’s a five-person body count; five people who are no longer here due to no fault of their own. I find myself unable to just get back to “business as usual”. This is not usual. This level of crime, killing, and indifference to human life is no usual. Is this the fate (and unintended consequence) of Facebook and our selfie culture? We have to not go back to business as usual but stop … arrest ourselves, arrest our movement, process what life means in western civilization. Does a person’s life have value anymore? Two lives? Three lives? Five lives? If it does, then when, where, and how shall we make this manifest again? We desperately need a return to meaning, one rooted in the transcendence that there is a God, that God cares about the affairs of humans, put in them indelible value because God created them, and we will be held accountable for our actions. Taking lives and then taking our own is no escape from the heinous crimes we commit against one another. We will face the consequences we reap. May God guide us all.

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