» Earn on-going rewards and help us do more! «

Dignity in the Islamic Tradition

share this pageShare Page
Yassir Fazaga

Channel: Yassir Fazaga

Episode Notes

Fall 2015 Bayan Symposium
Dignity and Health-Care at the End of Life: An Abrahamic Bioethics Conversation
Dignity in the Islamic Tradition – Yassir Fazaga

Imam Yassir Fazaga discusses the concept of dignity in the Islamic tradition at end-of-life care, and what are some basic guidelines and rules for “pulling the plug” in Islam.

Bayan Claremont and the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Islam and Medicine, with the sponsorship of the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID), organized a one-day symposium titled “Dignity and Health-Care at the End of Life: An Abrahamic Bioethics Conversation” on October 24, 2015 in Claremont, CA. This video represents a segment of the event.

Episode Transcript

© No part of this transcript may be copied or referenced or transmitted in any way whatsoever. Transcripts are auto-generated and thus will be be inaccurate. We are working on a system to allow volunteers to edit transcripts in a controlled system.


00:00:11--> 00:00:49

salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato. Peace and blessings be upon all of you, thank you all for being here. And thank you for holding such an important event. President torque said it earlier, he said that in his work as a Imam, that was a very common question that we receive as imams. And that is my parent or relative of mine is in the hospital, and the doctor said, There is nothing more that they can do. And they want us to decide what should be done at this point. And the family doesn't really want to take that responsibility. So what they do is that they call the Imam in the hopes that the Imam would come and make that decision.

00:00:50--> 00:00:51

For them,

00:00:52--> 00:01:36

appreciating it's not an easy decision for the for the family to make. And you would think that initially, this is something that should be left up to the doctors. But there is a lot that is going on. And mainly it comes from the idea of the person that we are about to decide their fate on is actually a dignified person. So am I actively encouraging the death of that person? Like the rabbi said, am I expediting their death, am I violating them by deciding to pull the plug in, and what have you. So just to understand that family better, and why they will be so organized and making that decision take you through the concept of dignity in the Muslim tradition, the word dignity that

00:01:36--> 00:02:24

is used in the poor and the book that the Muslims believe to be the Word of God is kurama Walcott, Corona, Vani, Adam, and we have indeed, dignified all the children of Adam. So dignity, in a sense is really not because of your beliefs or your deeds, but rather, it is very intrinsic, it is the mere fact that you are a human being, you immediately become a holder of human dignity and integrity. And that is something that is given to you. And that never departs you, it never leaves you. So the dignity in all the three definitions that the doctor gave here, was actually I was listening to which one would resonate with me as a Muslim. And it was the intrinsic definition of

00:02:25--> 00:03:12

integrity, and that is, by virtue, you are immediately dignified. And that is why when Al farabi, a Muslim philosopher, when he was talking about the concept of justice, he said that justice was the sharing was the ethics of sharing. No good is good if it's only good for you the goodness of goods, or shared goods. And then he goes on to define Well, if that is how we define ethics, then what are the goods that we ought to be sharing? And the very first comment that he made, he said that we must all share status. And by status, he meant that all human beings are holders of human dignity and integrity. So when you see this concept of karma, it also gets a little deeper because one of the

00:03:12--> 00:04:03

names of a lot in the Quran is Al Karim. And the word karma means that which is intrinsically good. So that is one of the names of God. It is also when we speak about precious stones, we refer to it as a jar Kereama. And we can see that there is the preciousness there is the intrinsic Enos and there is the goodness there. And now the question is, what is intrinsically good about now? What is it about nine that makes him intrinsically good? So in Islamic tradition, we would say that man is biologically and spiritually is intrinsically good. Where does he get that from? In the Quran, we are told that man has been actively created in a very personal way, by the immediate hands of God.

00:04:03--> 00:04:47

So unlike the previous traditions, where we've taught that man is created in the image of God, in the Quran, it says that man was actively created by the hands of God. So we would say that it gets theologically a bit problematic when you speak of us human beings being created in the image of God, because then what we should be saying is that God is not different than us in kind, he is only different than us in degree, and that would be problematic. So the idea that we've been created in the image of God is a bit problematic in Islamic theology, even though there is a reference that one time it said that the Prophet Mohammed saw a man slapping another man on the face. And the Prophet

00:04:47--> 00:04:59

was so offended by this and he said, never do this again, for he has been created in the image of God. And what they refer to at that point is that he is able to see he is seeing and he is hearing and that is

00:05:00--> 00:05:00

Where

00:05:01--> 00:05:52

the civil suit may be, may be put, but in short, God is very distinct than us. That does not mean that man is not dignified, but he would not be elevated to the position that we would say that my man is being created in the image of God. We are also told that he is intrinsically good physically, because the Quran makes sure to point this out la catalana in Santa Fe aqui. Indeed we have created man in the best of forms. So what are some facts on a surah come, he gave you your shape, and he gave you the best of, of shapes. In addition to that also the idea of intrinsically good is. And I say this by means of comparison just for the sake of broadening our understanding here is the

00:05:52--> 00:06:37

concept of the original sin. For example, in Islam, there is no concept of the original sin, people are born sinless. Not only that, all sins are not inherited, they can only be committed by the individual, but also since did not really taint our being. Our being is the creation of God and the creation of God is always good. So there isn't really any amount of sealing that we can do to take that being. So since do not really take our being, they take our character, our being is the making of God, our character is our own choice. So if there is anything that is being messed up or jeopardized, it would be our character, and not really what God made.

00:06:38--> 00:06:58

So we have got these things. And then we are also taught that man is being intrinsically good, because he's been endowed with the faculties of knowledge. So seeing and hearing and the ability to understand what all mean that man is intrinsically, spiritually and physically, man is, is good.

00:06:59--> 00:07:43

When it comes to the, to the notion of dying, and death, it's interesting, the rabbi was talking about the death of Jacob. Now, in the Quran, there are similar stories, I actually teach a course it's one of my favorite course it's called introducing the Quran to the Bible readers, and introducing the Bible to the poor and readers via comparing and contrasting parallel accounts, where you take a story in the Bible compared to story in the Quran and see how it goes. So the only story that we have in the Quran about death is actually the death of Jacob and the way that it is presented in the urn. And quantum Shahada is how the apple and moto is speaking about this event,

00:07:43--> 00:08:14

where Jacob is there with his children, there is really no reference to disease or anything. But it is talking about what is the concern of Jacob as he is about to depart the world. And it's a beautiful image of the Jacob is was his family. And the very first question that Jacob is asking his children as he is about to go, or he feels that he's about to go, is it metabolome embody, what shall you worship after my departure? The children assure their father and that is we will keep going on your footsteps, we shall

00:08:16--> 00:08:44

worship your Lord, the Lord of Abraham, and you know, God, who is the creator of of everything. So that is the the only time that we see that there is mentioning, of, of, of death taking place. The other place also is the pharaoh when he is drowning, and he's about to die. And at that point that Pharaoh makes a prayer or he makes a request, if he can only be given one more chance, and he will be told that there is no turning point here.

00:08:45--> 00:09:30

14. Having said this, we also have got another tradition that Muslims rely on. Or another source is that we've got the Quran, which is the word that we believe is the literal Word of God. And then there are the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. And it said that the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him one time went to visit a somebody that was dying, and the person was in so much pain that he really just did not feel like living. So he made the request that I really want to die. And the Prophet two that responded by saying, Do not do so light and then had a common mode, that one of you should not wish for death. Rather, here is what you ought to say instead of wishing for death, Allah

00:09:30--> 00:10:00

mahina Medina hire to hire Lennar Oh Lord extend in our lives so long that living is good for us. What often a mechanical warfare to hire Atlanta and take away our souls. If death is what is best for us. Now that would be the basis of the idea of you don't really wish for death, let alone actively pursue death. That would not be something

00:10:00--> 00:10:47

That is acceptable within the Islamic tradition. And then it clearly very explicitly takes a while to do and Pooja come in Allah can become Rahim. And this is directly addressing the concept of suicide here it says that, and do not kill yourself, for indeed a lot is most merciful, assuming that the person is entertaining suicide because of the troubles that they're going through, or what it is that the difficulties that they are facing and says that your problem is temporary, what you're doing is that you are employing a permanent solution for a temporary problem, the permanent solution here being the suicide and the temporary problem being what it is that you are going

00:10:47--> 00:11:30

through. So what do you do at that point, when somebody is dying? There was actually a conference that was held in Kuwait, I believe it was back in the late 1980s, mid 1990s, when the jurists got together, and they said, Well, what do we do with these cases, where there is a person who is neither dead nor alive, they really kept alive, you know, by the machines. And here's what they said, there is a point where, in Islam, there is this theological aspect, but then it also gets a bit legalistic, very similar to to Judaism here. And that is, what do you do at that point, and it was really interesting what they came up with. And here's what they said, they said that diseases

00:11:30--> 00:12:17

are not wanted. So a Muslim is to suppose to actively seek medicinal attention medical attention, in one of two cases, meaning that you are obligated, you are religiously obligated, if that is the case. The first one being if you have contracted a contagious disease, at that point, seeking medical attention is not a choice, it really is a must, you must seek medical attention simply because you are endangering, you know the lives and the well being of other people. The second position, they said that you must seek medical attention is if the disease that you have contracted is actually curable, meaning that you have had a disease, and there is actually medicine for it, and

00:12:17--> 00:12:50

you can get better than they say at that point, you must not neglect your own well being because very similar to what the rabbi said, and that is our bodies are not ours to abuse, but they are ours to maintain and to keep, when what happens if you contract a disease that is not curable, then they will say, well, we have to look into because they say that seeking medical attention is to really to restore normalcy, to the best of the person's ability and what is available to them.

00:12:51--> 00:13:09

And this is really, it gets a bit legalistic at this point when they say that it is really to restore normalcy to the best compared to the previous a station or the previous situation that the person was in. So the idea of, yes, you may lose a limb, if you're diabetic, got into a car accident,

00:13:10--> 00:13:44

the loss of a limb is really an inconvenience. But looking at the big picture, you ally with a lost limb is better than you not being alive. So they will say that when we want to look into how much inconvenience is caused to you as a result. Interestingly, though, they also said in that they said the point is not I hope I don't offend people, but but in Arabic really did sound very acceptable. They said that the point of seeking medical attention is really not to keep ghosts at home.

00:13:45--> 00:14:27

And what they were referring to is people who are really not alive, but they really there. So are they saying that you're not really leaving, you're not really keeping the person, what you have done is that you have created a ghost that is living with you at home. Now that just becomes the idea of well, if we're going to keep a person hooked onto that machine, how long are we going to keep them for? What is their prognosis like, and what can we expect? And it gets to the point where you look into that and you say that is actually and I believe it was done. That said it is said that many times insisting on keeping life at any expense may really be compromising and jeopardizing the

00:14:27--> 00:14:59

person's dignity. And at that point, the idea of just keeping a person and and in my case, I have seen so many cases I have had clients who had their parents in hospice for the past seven years, so that my father is never spoken to me is never opened, his eyes is never moved. All we do is you know, just be turning them and and what happens is they say, well, is this the kind of life that so why are you not pulling the plug say well, I want to make sure that I am not guilty of murder for example.

00:15:00--> 00:15:46

say, well, is this the kind of life that Islam would celebrate? Is this the kind of life that we want to preserve? And these jurists would say, absolutely not. The point is that we want to give enough medical attention to that person, to restore them back into the normal state or as close as possible to that normal state. If we cannot do that, then the jurists would say, at that point, continuing medical attention is not an obligation, it becomes a choice at that, at that place. And I believe that Dr. Oz has got, I think the answer is in in the title of your speech, we can, but must we, now that becomes the, you know, the the question that needs to be,

00:15:47--> 00:15:48

that needs to be answered,

00:15:50--> 00:15:58

within the Muslim tradition, you know, being in the presence of visiting a dying person is a great

00:15:59--> 00:16:37

deal. They don't have to be done just being around those who are sick. And I believe this is in the tradition, the Christian and the Jewish tradition, and that is visiting the sick is equivalent to visiting God. For it is said that in the Day of Judgment, you know, when a person is held accountable, and is being questioned by God, God would say to the person, I was naked, and you clothed me not, I was thirsty, you did not give me water, and I was I was, I was sick, and you never visited me. And the person would say, How can I do this knowing that you are the Lord of the heavens of the earth? And God will say, Did you know that somebody else was naked, and you did nothing about

00:16:37--> 00:17:20

it, and somebody else was hungry, did nothing about it. And you know, of somebody who was sick, and you did not visit them, Have you visited them, you would have indeed visited me. So now the idea of visiting the sick being around the sick, again, keeping in mind that we're not talking about somebody who's got something that is contagious, is something that is seen to be very virtuous. And at that point, you are allowed to do whatever it takes to bring comfort to that person. And that would be the touching with them, the holding of them, there are really no limits at that. At that point, the religion would not come in and put any restrictions, neither on the person who is

00:17:20--> 00:17:56

suffering or the person who's trying to bring them conflict. The only challenge becomes if you're working with somebody from the opposite sex, you know, and there is a point actually, the, the, the, the more they deteriorate, the more loose the rules become, because we have a guiding principles that they don't have to be held Mahabharat that you know, necessities they make what is unlawful, lawful, meaning that you can actually break the law at that point, in order to bring comfort to that person and in order to help them into the best of your,

00:17:57--> 00:18:02

of your ability and I will stop you. Thank you.