Human rights in Islam

Q259 :Could you please explain about human rights and how they are viewed in Islam.

A259 : Whatever advancement has been made by human civilization with regard to man's role and position in this life, you will find it well established before it was even contemplated by reformers anywhere outside the Muslim world. Only a few centuries ago, Europe unquestioningly accepted the concept of the divine right of kings. It is needless to say that the so-called divine right could only produce absolute rulers who were accountable to no one. Over 1,400 years ago, Islam established that no human being is infallible and no ruler is immune to accountability. When, a few years after the Prophet had passed away, the ruler of the Muslim state, Umar ibn Al-Khattab, requested the people during a speech he was giving in Madinah to come forward and correct him, should he deviate from the right path, one of the people stood up and said: "By Allah, should we find you deviating from the right path, we will certainly straighten that deviation with our swords." Umar praised Allah that he has given him people who would not hesitate to correct him should he slip. The international declaration of human rights is a relatively recent event. Over 1,400 years ago, the Prophet declared "Human beings are equal, just like the teeth of a comb." When he traveled to do his pilgrimage, 100,000 people joined him. That was the largest gathering during his life. He gave a memorable speech in which he repeatedly requested his audience to communicate what they learned from him to other people. In that speech, he declared: "You all descend from Adam and Adam was created out of clay. No Arab is superior to a non-Arab and no white person has any privilege over a black person except through good actions based on fearing Allah. The best among you are those who are most God-fearing." The principle of equality of all human beings has always been central to the Islamic social concept. That equality is clearly reflected in the treatment of slaves as regulated in the Islamic system. Before referring to this, I wish to emphasize that Islam could not have abolished slavery at one go. That was a worldwide system operated by all countries. Therefore, Islam laid down a system which ensured the gradual and steady eradication of the system of slavery and its progressive abolition. While it continued, Islam was to ensure the rights of slaves. The Prophet says: "He who kills his slave shall be killed and he who mutilates his slave shall be mutilated." This was the extreme opposite of the prevailing law. No one could question a master about what he did with his slave. If he killed him, he was immune from punishment. Equality also was established between men and women. It was the normal practice throughout the world that women were considered far inferior to men. Islam addressed its message to both men and women and made it clear that both have the same rights and duties, with minor differences that are necessitated by their different nature and different roles in society. I have begun with the basic right to equality because it is the one which generates the longest debate whenever the subject of human rights is discussed. Other rights have also been guaranteed by Islam. The first is the right to live, which every infant is guaranteed from the moment he or she is born. Indeed, this right applies to a fetus once pregnancy is established. Anyone who causes abortion exposes himself to punishment. Other rights like education, work, ownership, freedom of belief, etc. have also been guaranteed by Islam. What is more is that Islam establishes rights to individuals who do not even know of these rights, cannot claim them and have no way to enforce them. For example, a newborn baby has the right to good care and education until he is old enough to look after himself. If a particular couple neglected a child of their own, the ruler is required to ensure that they fulfill their duty. Otherwise, he could take their son or daughter away from them and place that child with a family who is certain to look after it. Islam also establishes other rights to which all people are entitled. The most important of these is the right to receive guidance. Allah has revealed His message to mankind and conveyed it to them through Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]. Everyone is entitled to have this message conveyed to him or her in the language he or she understands. This is because Allah has revealed this message so that people can conduct their lives in accordance with divine guidance which ensures their happiness while they live on earth and guarantees happiness in the hereafter. The Muslim community is required to ensure that this message reaches all. However, Islam recognizes that faith can come only through conviction. Hence, it states clearly that no compulsion is admissible in matters of faith. Everyone has the right to choose the faith he or she wants to follow. As you see, the Islamic concept of man gives this noble creature a very high position. It provides every facility needed for man to work up to his potentials. That ensures the best results of his efforts. Indeed, it is through such willing contribution to the community effort by all individuals in the Muslim community that Islamic civilization made its mark on history and continued to lead humanity for centuries on end. Every time Islam is implemented, the same sort of marvelous results have been manifest. This assures us that the same could happen today if the Muslims were to implement their faith properly.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )