Human Rights in Islam
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The religion of Islam has addressed the subject of human rights, and expounded on it in depth with regards to all spheres of life.
God says in the Glorious Qur’an:
……that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidences, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits (e.g. by doing oppression unjustly and exceeding beyond the limits set by God by committing the major sins) in the land!. (Alm`idah) (5:32)
1- Right To Live

The first and the foremost basic right is the right to live and the obligation to respect human life, our own and others.
We do not own our souls or bodies; rather they are entrusted to us on a temporary basis from our Lord. It is not acceptable for anyone to deliberately harm himself, or commit suicide or any careless act that will lead to his demise. We read in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly: but let there be among you trade by mutual good-will: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily God is to you Most Merciful! (An-Nisa`)(4:29)
Islam also forbids the neglect of the physical needs of the body and causing harm through negligence, God say in the Qur’an:
On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.(Al-Baqarah) (2:286)
Islam enforces quarantine in the event of plague for both incoming and outgoing travel of people to make sure that no harmful diseases are spread in the wider community. God’s Messenger (PBUH) said:
“If you hear about a plague in a country, do not enter it, and if you are in a place that has a plague, do not leave it.”
This unquestionably enforces ones right to preserve good health.
Islam strictly forbids and condemns murder. God denounces this dreadful act in many places in the Qur’an and there are countless authentic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, (PBUH) which do the same.
Islam confirms the impermissibly of murder -which is one if not the greatest thing which totally contradicts human rights-in various styles and from diverse aspects. Occasionally by frankly stating the impermissibility of this horrid act, other times by mentioning the severe threat and punishment that awaits those who commit it without offering sincere repentance before death, dispraising those who murder and sometimes by citing the prescribed punishment, capital punishment, that awaits the murderer in this life before the torment and humiliation of the Hereafter. This is the basic precept was mentioned in the earliest verses that were revealed during the Makkan period, proving the great deal of importance that Islaam has made for human rights in general and specifically the right to live.
God, the Exalted, says in His ever generous book:
Say (O Muhammad (peace be upon him)) Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to Al-Fawahish (shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse) whether committed openly or secretly; and kill not anyone whom God has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand. (Al-An`am)(6-151).
Islam has explained to us the importance and virtue of saving lives and the fact that saving one life equals saving all of mankind. God, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an in the previously mentioned verse:
and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. (Al-Mai`dah)(5-32)
2- Women Rights

Islam has as well taken particular care of the rights, respect and chastity of women like no other religion known to man. Islam has honored the woman and given her the status and role that she rightfully deserves in the society. This is clearly cited in verses mentioned in the Qur`an and explained in the beautiful narrations of the Prophet Muhammad, (PBUH). The Qur`an is full of verses which cite the woman’s right to inherit, choice to marry whom she pleases, the command for her to be treated kindly and not forced against her will in marriages, as was the practice in the pre-Islamic state of ignorance in Arabia.
The one who reads history will find that the woman was disregarded and looked at as a means of sheer enjoyment in many cultures and religions. Islam on the contrary, has ensured for the woman her rights. There is an entire chapter in the Qur`an regarding the rulings and regulations of divorce, the order to treat women kindly and to fear God regarding them. Similarly, there is an entire chapter in the Qur`an called chapter An-Nisa` [the chapter of the woman] in which, God, the Exalted reminds us of our original creation from Adam and his spouse Hawwaa [Eve], the incumbency of giving them their due share of inheritance, paying the marital dowry in a good, agreeable manner and the fundament of spending on them out of the man’s wealth. This grand chapter in the Qur`an has also researched the issue of marital discord and encouraged the taking of all steps in keeping the family together, which starts at mending any problems that may arise between the two spouses.
Similarly is the case in the second and longest chapter in the Qur`an, Surah Al-Baqarah [the chapter of the cow]. Some of its longest verses regard the obligation of good treatment of women and carefully looking after their rights concerning marriage, divorce and custody. Islam has also legislated divorce when there is no other way towards harmony between the spouses, but instead it is pure harm and animosity between them. Islam has placed the divorce in the hands of the husband, but has not neglected the woman’s rights and needs whereas Islam has legislated for the woman to seek divorce when she either dislikes her husband’s physical or spiritual make up and fears that if she remains with him she will not fulfill his rights and therefore fall into great sin and/or live in unhappiness which totally contradicts many of the objectives of marriage.
God, the Exalted, says in His Noble Book:
“And do not approach illegal sexual intercourse, indeed loathsome act and evil way.” (Al-Isra`)(17: 32)
God, the Exalted, has guarded the rights of women by making all forms and types of illegal sexual intercourse unlawful in His magnificent legislature. Prostitution is a clear act of oppression to the women and leaves her as if she is a piece of meat discarded in the street for hungry dogs.
Islam has incited upon the education and socializing of women, while in many cultures the women were not allowed to learn how to read nor attain other types of knowledge and skills.
If we wished to summarize Islam’s stance towards women’s rights then let us look at what is authentically reported from the Prophet Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him, when he said:
“The best of you are those who are best to his family [wife] and I am the best from amongst you to my family.”


3- The Right of Basic Standard of Life for All

Islam has made it mandatory for the wealthy to aid and not to forget the destitute. We find countless verses in the Noble Qur`an stating the obligation of spending upon the poor and needy. God, the Sublime, says:
“And in their wealth is a known right for the beggar who asks and the destitute.” (Al-Maa`rij)70 -25
For the purpose of looking after the rights of the poor and needy and ensuring that they have a basic standard of life, that which will suffice them in their food, drink, clothing and residence and their othe eeds, Islam has legislated the obligatory tax called Az-Zakaat. The Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, says in the authentic tradition:
“Islam is built upon five”….he mentioned from them: “And paying Zakaat.”
Zakaat has been legislated for doing good in the worship of God and benevolence towards the poor and needy.
The Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, also said:
“One is not a believer who satisfies himself while his neighbor is hungry.”
This is in contrast to many other legal systems, religions and ways of life which neglect the rights of the underprivileged people, and instead look at increasing the wealth of the wealthy, quite regularly, some legal systems and ideologies use the poor and needy as stepping stones to increase the wealthy in luxury.
The rulings and regulations of Zakaat are mentioned in detail in the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). The wealth that Zakaat must be paid on, how much must be paid, when must it be paid, who is it allowed to be given to, who collects it, where is it distributed and so and so forth. This is all mentioned in the Book of God and Sunnah of His Messenger (PBUH).
All of this is in addition to the countless texts that call to the voluntary type of spending which his called sadaqah ‘charity’. Not any of this has been legislated and laid down except for establishing the worship of God with full sincerity and looking after human rights. This detailed legal system and principle of tax which does not harm the wealthy no eglect the underprivileged and needy, was established centuries before the western legal systems were even thought of. Islam has expounded on human rights from the aspect of the right to a basic standard of life centuries before the churches in Europe invented their legal systems for tax and charity. However, nothing is strange about this whereas this is divine revelation from the Creator of the universe.


4- Freedom

From those rights imperative to the sustainment of human rights is the right of freedom. Islam has made it totally forbidden to capture a free man and then sell him into slavery. Just as Islam has encouraged the people emancipate slaves and we have been informed of the great virtue of doing so in many texts.
The Islamic legislation is totally unprecedented and far above all other legal systems of slavery and bondage. Regardless, whether it be the European slave trade or other systems. Islam does not condone slavery except under limited conditions and even under those conditions there are clear rulings, guidelines and teachings that must be strictly adhered to and regarded.
If we wanted to make a brief comparison between the Islamic outlook on slavery and the other legal systems of slavery, especially that of Europe and early America, then I would say there are great differences between the two, and how can this not be when one system has been sent down from above seven heavens, from the One Who knows all that is beneficial and harmful to His slaves in this life and the Hereafter, and the other was made by ignorant, oppressive, greedy and lustful humans?
Slavery is not specific to a race, color or cultural background. A salve in Islam could be an Arab, African, European and the likes. Regardless if they are black or white a slave is not treated on a subhuman level, under any circumstances. Islam prohibits the harsh, violent treatment of slaves and orders one to feed and clothe his slave from the likes of that which he eats, drinks and wears. Likewise one is not to burden the slave with an abundant amount of work, or labor more hash that he or she can bear. The Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, says in the authentic tradition:
“The slave should be provided with his food, drink and clothing and should not be burdened with more than he can bear.”
The Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, liberated many slaves, as his companions and his family did. Some of the closest of the Prophet’s companions and from the foremost to believe in him and support him were themselves slaves that were later emancipated.
In complete contrast to the Islamic perspective on slavery, we find that all other legal systems of slavery were harsh, rigid and extremely unjust and immoral. Free people were captured made salves and sold into slavery, women and children were raped, molested and tortured and lineages were cut off. Some legal systems stated that slavery was just for a certain race or cultural background of people and that they were inferior and only created to be slaves. Violent punishments and animalistic torture of slaves were made to ‘brain wash’ the slave into believing their false, man-made ideals regarding those who were under their control. Islam has negated all of this in the most excellent manner. Thus slavery was regulated in a manner that limits it to war prisoners and as reciprocal step. Since all nations of the world abandon slavery, Islam and Muslims are among the supporters of slaves emancipation based on the principle of equality in Islam.


5- Equality

In addition to above mentioned rights, Islam has undoubtedly abolished that which many cultures profess and uphold from racism, bigotry and tribalism. All humanity, has one original source, how then can some exploit others claiming superiority? There is no virtue of an Arab over a non Arab, nor a white person over a black person with the exception of piety and fear of God. Islam does not tolerate false pride in ancestry and social status. Mankind has been created from Adam, and Adam was created from sticky clay. God, the Exalted, says in the Glorious Qur`an:
“O mankind! Surely, We have created you from a male and female and made you into nations and tribes in order that you may be acquainted with each other, truly, the most honorable from amongst you is the most God fearing, verily, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware” (Al-Hujurat)(49: 13)
Islam does not look at the color of a person’s skin, nor his cultural background, tribal descent or lineage, instead that which is important is what is in a person’s heart and his actions. The Prophet, may God extol prayers and salutations upon him, says in an authentic tradition:
“God does not look at your appearances, nor your bodies, but instead He looks at your hearts and your actions.”
Equality of human begins and abolishment of racial discrimination is from the most important components in the establishment of human rights, and Islam has taken care of this thoroughly.
Some Jews and Christians have considered themselves of a higher class of people. God the Exalted says:
The Jews and the Christians say: We are sons of God, and His beloved. Say: Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but men, of the men He has created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases: and to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the return (of all). (Al-Ma`idah)(5:18)
If we were to investigate the life story of the Prophet (PBUH), [as-seerah] we would find him very diligent upon abolishing racism and tribalism. One of his closet companions was Bilal Ibn Abee Rabaah’ who used to be an Abyssinian slave. He made him the very first caller to the prayer and put him in charge of treasury. No doubt, these were great responsibilities which required a large deal of respect and trust for the one who was entrusted with them. The Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, did not do this for any other reason except to manifest and the absence of racism in this magnificent religion and to make evident that a person only obtains virtue in Islam based upon his adherence to the religion and love for God.

From the noble companions of the Prophet (PBUH), was Salmaan, the Persian. He migrated from his homeland in search of the truth, he reached certainty when he arrived at Madinah and met with the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet did not treat him as an outsider, nor a non-clansman or tribal member. He did not scorn him because of his non Arab descent or state that he was less than human or deserved to be a slave, instead he honored him and welcomed him as his brother in faith. Similarly, there were other companions who were of non Arab descent, and others who were of Arab background but not from the Prophets’ tribe, such as ‘Abdullaah Ibn Salaam, for surely, he was from a Jewish, Arab tribe. However, when the truth became clear to him, he accepted Islam and became from the noble companions and supporters of this great Prophet who came with this great religion.

All persons are equal in the Islamic law. The consequences, rulings and legal sentences apply to all races and classes of people without any distinction. For example the Quraish, which was a highly respected tribe in Arabia, was worried when a noble woman from their tribe had stolen, and she was to receive the legislated punishment for such an act. They asked a beloved companion of the prophet Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him, Usamah ibn Zaid, to intercede on the woman’s behalf. After listening to Usamah’s plea, God’s Messenger (PBUH), said,

“O Usamah! Are you coming to intercede concerning a punishment set by God?”
Then he stood and said to the people:
“The nations before you were destroyed due to the fact that when a noble person among them would steal, they let him go unpunished, but if a poor, weak and insignificant person among them stole, they would apply the punishment on him. By God! If Faatimah; the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.”


6- Rights of Children

This exquisite religion of Islam has not left out any one person with regards to what is their due right. We find many texts in the Qur’an and the authentic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), instructing us to look after the rights of our children, treat them kindly and provide them with a proper upbringing as they deserve and to safeguard them from all that is harmful to their religion, bodies, minds and souls. God, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an:
God advices you regarding your children (An-Nisa`)(4: 11)
The rights of the children begin with the right to be given honorable names. The Prophet may prayers and peace be upon him, loved names which were good in their wording and meaning and he used to hate othe ames with negative meanings, He prohibited such names and changed them. From those names which the Messenger (PBUH), changed was: and woman named Aasiyah meaning disobedient, he changed he ame to Jameelah meaning beautiful and Good.
God, the Exalted says:
“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire whose fuel is men and stones.” (At-Tahrim)(66: 6)
This verse is interpreted to mean: to educate your children of the religion and teach them good manners. No intellectual or moral person will doubt the truth behind the fact that correct education and the teaching of proper manners to children is from the greatest of their rights. And it is from the duties of the parents to make sure the child’s rights are received. The Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him, said:
“Each one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for those under his care.”
Islam has also made clear that children are entitled to receive equal treatment without any being favored over another in terms of treatment, gifts, inheritance and so on. Unjust dealings with one’s children may cause bad behavior towards the parents and or other siblings. Islam has made it incumbent upon the parents to look after the children in the best and most excellent manner.

God the Exalted also addressed the rights of the innocent children whose parents may ignore their rights due to poverty and ignorance by killing them. God says:

Say (O Muhammad): Come, I will recite what God has prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty We provide sustenance for you and for them – come not near to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom. (Al-An`am)(6:151)

Islam honors the elderly and mandates their respect and aid. The Messenger of God (PBUH), said:
“He is not considered among us Muslims, who does not show mercy to our young and respect to our elders.”
Islamic teachings necessitates assistance to orphans, God the Most Merciful says:

Therefore treat not the orphan with harshness. (Ad-Duha)(93-9)
Come not near to the orphan’s property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength; and fulfill (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be inquired (on the Day of Reckoning). (Al-Isra`)(17:34)
It is unmistakably evident that Islam bestows the utmost importance of respect and preservation to the weak and less prosperous people.
Human rights are the rights that have been given to us by God. Every person whether he is black or white, a Muslim or a non-Muslim, whether from this country or that, young or old, man, woman or child, has some basic human rights simply because he or she is a human being.

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