Tafseer of the verse: “..whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had killed mankind entirely…”

Aṭ-Ṭabarī’s Tafseer for the Verse:{Whoever kills a person, except in [cases of] retaliation or [as punishment for] corruption in the land, then it is as if he has killed all of mankind; and whoever saves [a person], it is as if he has saved all mankind…}​ [Al-Mā’idah: 32]​

1st Explanation: It refers to killing or supporting a Prophet or righteous Khalifah

On authority of Ibn Abbas RA- Whoever kills a Prophet or just Imam, then it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever strongly supports a Prophet or just Imam, then it is as if he has given life to all mankind.

2nd Explanation: The focus is on the severity of the punishment of killing someone sinfully and the reward of saving the life of someone

On authority of Ibn Abbas RA [with Mubham in the chain]- Whoever kills a person, except for cases of retaliation or as punishment for corruption in the land, then it is as if he has killed all of mankind upon the commission of murder in sin; and whoever saves a person from destruction, it is as if he has saved all mankind upon saving the person.

3rd Explanation: The focus is on the parity of the punishment for wrongfully killing one person or everyone and the parity of the reward for saving one person and saving everyone

On authority of Ibn Abbas RA and Mujāhid- Whoever kills a person, except for cases of retaliation or as punishment for corruption in the land, then the Fire will burn him just as if he had killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person from death, it is as if he has saved all of mankind from death.

A) Mujāhid- Someone who does not kill anyone means all mankind is safe from him.

B) Mujāhid- If someone kills all mankind, his punishment would be Hell-Fire forever, Allah’s anger and curse on him, and [Allah] would prepare a severe punishment for him.

C) Mujāhid- Whoever kills a Believing person intentionally, Allah will make Hell-Fire his punishment, etc…[same as above]. If someone kills all of mankind, there is not a greater punishment than the likes of that.

D) Mujāhid- {And whoever kills a Believer intentionally, then his recompense is the Hell-Fire}[An-Nisā’: 93]- A person enter the Hell-Fire by killing a Believer, just as if he had killed all of mankind, he would enter the Hell-Fire.

E) Ibn Abbas Ra- In saving a person, he does not kill a person that Allah has prohibited, so that is the one who saved all mankind; in other words, he declared inviolable a person’s death except by right, [thus] all mankind is safe from [him].

F) Mujāhid- {And whoever saves [a person]…} in other words, whoever declares [a person’s life] as inviolable, has not killed it.

G) Mujāhid- whoever prevents [a person’s] a death has saved it.

4th Explanation: It refers to the Hadd punishment being the same in the Dunyā’ whether a person kills one or 1,000 people

On authority of Ibn Zayd- Whoever kills a person, except for cases of retaliation or as punishment for corruption in the land, then it is as if he has killed all of mankind because [killing a person without right] obligates the law of retaliation, which is the same if a person kills all mankind.

5th Explanation: It refers to the person who obtains the right of retaliation and does not opt for it and instead forgives the offender

On authority of Ibn Zayd- {Whoever saves [a person]…} means: whoever forgives someone who the law of retaliation applies to and does not kill him in return.

A) Whoever saves a person then Allah grants him a reward as if he saved all mankind. He saved [the person] by not killing him and forgiving him. That is the guardian of the one killed and also the situation wherein the one killed forgives the person who killed him before dying.

B) Al-Ḥasan- The one killed is friendly [to his killer] and thus forgives him and forgoes the right to shed his blood in return.

C) Al-Ḥasan – It means to forgive a person after being able [to take the right of retaliation upon him].

6th Explanation: It admonishes killing a Muslim and exhorts saving a life in general

{And whoever saves [a person], then it is as if he has saved all mankind}, in other words: whoever saves a person from drowning or burning to death.

A) Mujāhid- whoever saves a person from drowning, burning to death or destruction [in general].

B) {Whoever kills a person without right…}, in other words: whether the [killer] hesitates or not.

C) Al-Ḥasan – the reward is great for saving a person and the consequence is great for killing a person. So save [a person], oh son of Adam, with your wealth and save a person through your forgiveness if you can, and there is no strength except through Allah. And we do not know of the blood of a Muslim man from this Qiblah being permissible except through three ways: 1) A man who disbelieves after becoming Muslim, so death is due upon him; 2) a person fornicates after marriage thus stoning is due upon him; 3) a person kills another intentionally, thus retaliation is upon him.

D) Al-Ḥasan was asked about the verse in question: “Is it for us as well, oh Abā Sa’īd just as it was for Banī Isrā’īl?” He said: “Yes, by He who there is no god other than Him, it is just as it was for Banī Isrā’īl. What would make the blood of Banī Isrā’īl more valuable to Allah than our blood?”

E) Al-Ḥasan recited the verse in question then said: “He made it severe, by Allah, the burden just as you heard, and He made it appealing, by Allah, the reward just as you heard. When you think, oh son of Adam, that if you were to kill all mankind, then you will have earned from your act what you have won of the Hell-Fire- by Allah, your own self will deny you and Shayṭān himself will deny you.”

Tarjīḥ [Preference] of aṭ-Ṭabarī

The statement most worthy of being correct is that of the one who said: “It [refers to] someone who kills a Believing person in other than lawful retaliation, thus he owes blood-money and is killed in retaliation [himself]; or [in the case of killing someone who] committed corruption in the land by warring against Allah, His Messenger and the Believers in it.” So it is as if he killed all mankind which obligates a severe punishment from Allah, elevated is His praise; just as His Lord warned him about doing so in His statement:

{And whoever kills a Believer intentionally then his recompense is Jahannam, to remain in it forever; and Allah is angry with, curses him and prepares for him a severe punishment}

[An-Nisā’:93].

And as for His statement:

{And whoever saves [a person], then it is as if he has saved all mankind}

[Al-Mā’idah:32],

-then the most correct explanation is the one who said: “Whoever declares prohibited to himself the killing of those who Allah has prohibited from killing, then does not take the lead in killing him, then he has saved mankind from himself through their being safe from him”; and that is his saving them.

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