Until recently that emerging new medical technologies have obligated societies to review their traditional positions toward death and dying, death was a mysterious and challenging social concept, usually dealt with in the shade of a religious-metaphysical context. In Islam while human is highly dignified as the vicegerent of Allah, death, the separation of soul from the body, is known as an existential, inevitable, unavoidable, continuous and including a process, containing hardship and constriction, purposeful toward the creator and a transitional state from this world toward Hereafter that is created and controlled by God. Thus the religion’s approach toward “human dignity” and “the right to die” is fundamental in order to solve those ethical conflicts that mostly emerge at the end of life such as euthanasia and forgoing treatments especially withholding/withdrawing life-sustaining medical interventions.

Contrary to rights such as life, work, marriage and medical care that are recognized by the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, 1990, as fundamental rights and freedoms which are an integral part of the Islamic religion and most be safeguarded actively, the right to die is not mentioned and usually discussed cautiously. The Muslim jurists arguments are mainly rooted in their interpretation of human dignity and the religious decrees regarding suicide/homicide and the limited and conditional human ownership and stewardship toward his life and body organs, mostly in order to address questions about organ and tissue transplantation in recent years, so they usually validate the humans’ rights toward themselves if such rights would not end in serious harm or death of the person. Therefore according to the dominant Islamic interpretation, the right to die seems to be generally unaccepted and counted as contradictory to the Islamic theological underpinnings, which form the basic structure for defining human dignity. On the other hand there are satisfying evidences that help us to justify the right to die for Muslims, at least in some situations. It could be claimed that the extent/scope that Islam holds for humans’ ownership or stewardship on their body and life is enough to, at least sometimes, permit them decide about being alive or dead.

As a case, despite the general accepted view among Muslim jurists that consider suicide as a prohibited, this prohibition does not seem to be absolute. Some Muslim jurists believe that although active killing a human being (self or others) is seriously forbidden, sinful and unlawful but protecting the self from death is not absolutely incumbent in any condition and while discussing about someone’s protection of himself against death the issue could be a “right” and not an “obligation”. The implication of such approach in clinical setting is substantial; especially in those countries that health sector is influenced by a Shari’a-based legal systems. Recognizing the right to die is followed by various practical consequences in the cases such as euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and the validity of non-terminal/terminal patients’ wishes/consents for refusing beneficial, life-saving or life-sustaining treatments or their advance directives.


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  • Received: 01 March 2014
  • Accepted: 01 March 2014
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