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Human rights in Islam

K M Zubair (Reflections)
Filed on July 20, 2014

Islam recognises absolute equality between men without any distinction

ISLAM LAYS down some rights for man as a human being. It means that every man whether he belongs to this country or that, whether he is a believer or unbeliever, whether he lives in some forest or is found in some desert, whatever be the case, he has some basic human rights simply because he is a human being, which should be recognised by every Muslim.

• The Right to Life: The first and the foremost basic right is the right to live and respect human life the Holy Quran lays down: Whosoever kills a human being without (any reason like ) man slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is as though he had killed all mankind ... (5:32)

As far as the question of taking life in retaliation for murder or the question of punishment for spreading corruption on this earth is concerned, it can be decided only by a proper and competent court of law.

• The Right to the Safety of Life: Immediately after the verse of the Holy Quran, which has been mentioned in connection with the right to life, God has said: “And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32). There can be several forms of saving man from death.

A man may be ill or wounded, irrespective of his nationality, race or colour. If you know that he is in need of your help, then it is your duty that you should arrange for his treatment for disease or wound. If he is dying of starvation, then it is your duty to feed him so that he can ward off death. If he is drowning or his life is at stake, then it is your duty to save him.

• Respect for the Chastity of Women: The third Human Rights granted by Islam is that a woman’s chastity has to be respected and protected under all circumstances, whether she belongs to our own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether we find her in the wild forest or in a conquered city; whether she is our co-religionist or belongs to some other religion or has no religion at all. A Muslim cannot outrage her under any circumstances.

• The Right to a Basic Standard of Life: Speaking about the economic rights the Holy Quran enjoins upon its followers: And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and destitute. (51:19)

The words of this injunction show that it is a categorical and un-qualified order. Therefore, the clear meaning of this verse is that anyone who asks for help and anyone who is suffering from deprivation has a right in the property and wealth of the Muslims.

• Individual’s Right to Freedom: Islam has clearly and categorically forbidden the primitive practice of capturing a free man, to make him a slave or to sell him into slavery. On this point the clear and unequivocal words of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are as follows: “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money” (Al Bukhari and Ibn Majjah).

• The Right to Justice: This is a very important and valuable right, which Islam has given to man as a human being. The Holy Quran has laid down: “Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression” (5:2). “And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness” (5:8). Stressing this point the Holy Quran again says: “You who believe stand steadfast before God as witness for (truth and) fairplay” (4:135). This makes the point clear that Muslims have to be just not only with ordinary human beings but even with their enemies.

• Equality of Human Beings: Islam not only recognises absolute equality between men irrespective of any distinction of colour, race or nationality, but makes it an important and significant principle, a reality. The Almighty God has laid down in the Holy Quran: “O mankind, we have created you from a male and female.” In other words all human beings are brothers to one another. They all are the descendants from one father and one mother. The superiority of one man over another is only on the basis of God-consciousness, purity of character and high morals.

• The Right to Cooperate and Not to Cooperate: Islam has prescribed a general principle of paramount importance and universal application saying: “Cooperate with one another for virtue and heedfulness and do not cooperate with one another for the purpose of vice and aggression” (5:2).

— Special to Khaleej Times


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