Islam and Human rights


    In this world, where everyone claim their rights, it is necessary to express the role of Islam on Human rights. It is important to remember that when we speak of human rights in Islam, we really mean that these rights have been granted by Almighty God; they have not been granted by any king or by any legislative assembly. Idrissa Chirombo writes.

    So what is human rights?

    You may have come across different definitions of human rights from various secular sources.  The simple definition that seem to be comprehensive is the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are considered to be entitled, often held to include the rights to life, liberty, equality, and a fair trial, freedom from slavery and torture, and freedom of thought and expression.

    The definition given above is just a mirror image of what the Qur’an says “Indeed, Almighty God orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” Qur’an 16:90.

    The Islamic miniature of human rights in particular is eliminating in its rigor, its vision and its relevance to modern times. The distinguishing feature of human entitlements in Islam is that they are the natural outcome of a broader practice of faith, deeds and social behavior that Muslims believe are divinely mandated.

    Human rights in Islam stem from two foundational principles: dignity and equality. Dignity is a fundamental right of every human being merely by virtue of his or her humanity.

    Regarding equality, Almighty God plainly declares that in His sight, the only distinguishing factors between humans are righteousness and piety: “People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognize one another. In God’s sight, the most honoured of you are the ones most mindful of Him: God is all knowing, all aware” (Qur’an 49:13).

    Before going any further, verses above are enough to prove that Qur’an encourages equality. Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) established the very first Islamic society which eliminated the spiritual and social problems rampant in the Arabian Peninsula.

    As Karen Armstrong, a renowned author of books on comparative religion, has expressed, “Muhammad … was a dazzling success, politically as well as spiritually, and Islam went from strength to strength to strength.”

    However, Islamic Human rights has limits. Example is the freedom of speech, dressing etc. Islam has given everyone freedom of speech as seen in the following verses: “Have We not made for him two eyes? And a tongue and two lips?” Qur’an 90:8-9.

    Freedom of speech in Islam excludes all abusive words. This is the limit that every Muslim has to observe when practicing freedom of speech.

    “Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small” (Qur’an 17: 23-24).

    Analyzing this limit/boundary critically, we find out that it is not a limit at all but rather a preservation of a fellow human being’s right to be respected. It is really an equal system where everybody is exercising their rights without monopoly.

    Islamic teachings on dressing especially women is indispensable. The freedom of dressing does not mean removing Islamic veil or walking semi-naked in the streets as seen in many countries. Islam encourages conserving women’s dignity all the time.

    Women’s rights in Islam

    Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right.

    Fourteen centuries ago, Islam made women equally accountable to Almighty God in glorifying and worshipping Him – setting no limits on her moral progress. Islam established a woman’s equality in her humanity with men. Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal in their humanity. Neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction of equality.

    The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights 1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy today, even in the West. These are from Almighty God and are designed to keep balance in society.

    Under the laws of Islam, women have the right to own property and businesses, vote, receive inheritance, engage in financial transactions, obtain an education and participate in legal and political affairs. The fact that some Muslim societies do not always accord women all these liberties is an example of how human beings can fall short of fully implementing the Islamic teachings. Judging Islam based on such societies is void.

    The right to life

    It is clear in the Qur’an when we read the following verses: “Nor take life which Allah has made sacred except for just cause” (Qur’an 17:33). He also says, “…if anyone kills a person  unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land  it is as if he kills all mankind while if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind” (5:32). Suicide is also prohibited: “And do not kill yourselves.  Surely, God is Most Merciful to you.” (Quran 4:29) “And do not throw yourselves in destruction.” (Quran 2:195)

    Life itself is a gift from the Creator that we are obliged to care for. The Qur’an makes it clear that human life is sacred.  Life cannot be taken without justification and the right to life is inherent in the tenants of Islam.

    Is there freedom of worship in Islam?

    Islam has given man a freedom of worship.  “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.” Qur’an 2:256. Some people do misunderstand this verse.

    Forcing someone to accept Islam and telling someone the truth about Islam are two different things. Muslims are not allowed to force anyone to accept Islam but are entitled to spread the true message of Islam. Acceptance is by concert.

    Freedom of religion was initiated in Medina; women were honored and respected as equals; racial discrimination was practically eliminated; tribal warfare was replaced with united ties of brotherhood; usury and alcohol were completely forbidden.

    In history, When Muslims began ruling Palestine in 637 C.E., they invited the Jewish people to live in Jerusalem after 500 years of exile. In 1187 C.E., after retaking Palestine from the Crusaders, Muslims treated Christians with honor despite the brutality they had endured at the hands of the Crusaders. Christians were allowed to leave in peace or to stay in harmony.

    While Spain was under Muslim rule, the city of Cordova was considered the intellectual center of Europe, where students went to study philosophy, science and medicine under Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars. This rich and sophisticated society took a tolerant view towards other faiths, while peaceful coexistence was unheard of in the rest of Europe. The historian James Burke mentions in his book, The Day the Universe Changed that thousands of Jews and Christians lived in safety and harmony with their Muslim overlords in Muslim Spain.

    The hard truth is people in the West have the habit of attributing every good thing to themselves and try to prove that it is because of them that the world got this blessing, otherwise the world was steeped in ignorance and completely unaware of all these benefits. They claim to be the champions of human rights yet Muslim women are humiliated in several occasion for putting on a veil.  If women have a freedom of dressing, why then humiliating them or imposing a ban on Hijab?? Is this what you call freedom??