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There are certain rights that every human being owes to another human being, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, virtuous or sinner. Since Allah is the Absolute and the Sole Master of man and the universe, He is the Sovereign Lord, the Sustainer and Nourisher, the Merciful, Whose mercy enshrines all beings; and since He has given each man human dignity and honour, and breathed into him of His own spirit, it follows that, united in Him and through Him, and apart from their other human attributes, men are substantially the same and no tangible and actual distinction can be made among them, on account of their accidental differences such as nationality, colour and race. Every human being is, thereby, related to all others and all become one community of brotherhood in their honourable and pleasant servitude to the most compassionate Lord of the Universe. In such a heavenly atmosphere, the Islamic confession of the Oneness of Allah stands dominant and central, and necessarily entails the concept of the oneness of humanity and the brotherhood of mankind.

Although an Islamic State may be set up in any part of the earth, Islam does not seek to restrict human rights or privileges to the geographical limits of its own state. Islam has laid down some universal fundamental rights for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed and respected under all circumstances whether such a person is resident within the territory of the Islamic State or outside it, whether he is at peace with the state or at war. The Quraan very clearly states: “O Believers! Be you securers of justice, witness for Allah. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable - that is nearer to Allah-fearing.” (5:8)

Human blood is sacred in any case and cannot be spilled without justification. If anyone violates this sanctity of human blood by killing a soul without justification, the Holy Quraan equates it to the killing of entire mankind: “…Whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, should be as if he had slain mankind altogether.”

It is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded. Women’s honour and chastity are to be respected under all circumstances. The hungry person must be fed, the naked clothed and the wounded or diseased treated medically irrespective of whether they belong to the Islamic community or are from amongst the enemies.  

When we speak of human rights in Islam we really mean that these rights have been granted by Allah; they have not been granted by any King or by any legislative assembly or by an UNO sort of organization.  The rights granted by the Kings or the legislative assemblies or by a world body can also be withdrawn in the same manner in which they are conferred. The same is the case with the rights accepted and recognized by the dictators. They can confer them when they please and withdraw them when they wish; and they can openly violate them when they like. 

But since in Islam, Almighty Allah has conferred human rights, no legislative assembly in the world or any government on earth has the right or authority to make any amendment or change in the rights conferred by Almighty Allah. No one has the right to abrogate them or withdraw them, nor are they like philosophical concepts that have no sanctions behind them.

The Charter, the Proclamations and the Resolutions of the United Nations cannot be compared with the rights sanctioned by Almighty Allah, because the former is not applicable on anybody while the latter is applicable on every believer. They are a part and parcel of the Islamic Faith. Every Muslim or administrator who asserts themselves to be Muslims, will have to accept, recognize and enforce them. If they fail to enforce them, and start denying the rights that have been guaranteed by Almighty Allah or make amendments and changes in them, or practically violate them while paying lip service to them, the verdict of the Holy Quraan for such violators is clear and unequivocal: “Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are the disbelievers.” (5:44)

Human Rights in an Islamic State

1. The Security of Life and Property: In the address which the Messenger of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) delivered on the occasion of the Farewell Hajj, he said: “Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.” 

The Holy Prophet of Islam (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) has also said about the Dhimmis (the non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim State): “One who kills a man under covenant (i.e., Dhimmi) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.” 

2. The Protection of Honour: The Holy Quraan lays down: “You, who believe, do not let one (set of) people make fun of another (set). Do not defame one another. Do not insult by using nicknames. Do not backbite or speak ill of one another.” (49: 11-12) 

3. Sanctity and Security of Private Life: The Holy Quraan has laid down the injunctions: Do not spy on one another. Do not enter any house unless you are sure of their occupant’s consent. 

4. The Security of Personal Freedom: Islam has laid down the principle that no citizen can be imprisoned unless his guilt has been proved in an open Court.  To arrest a man only on the basis of suspicion and to throw him behind the bars without proper Court proceedings and without providing him a reasonable opportunity to produce his defence is not permissible in Islam.  

5. The Right to Protest against Tyranny: Amongst the rights that Islam has conferred on human beings is the right to protest against government’s tyranny. Referring to it the Holy Quraan says: “Allah does not like evil talk in public unless it is by someone who has been injured thereby.” 

In Islam, as has been argued earlier, all power and authority belongs to Almighty Allah, and with man there is only delegated power, which becomes a trust. Everyone who becomes a recipient of such a power has to stand in awful reverence before his people towards whom and for whose sake he will be called upon to use these powers. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) who said acknowledged this in his very first address: “Cooperate with me when I am right but correct me when I commit error; obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam); but turn away from me when I deviate.”

6. Freedom of Expression: Islam gives the right of freedom of thought and expression to all citizens of the Islamic State on the condition that it should be used for the propagation of virtue and truth and not for spreading evil and wickedness. The Islamic concept of freedom of expression is many ways superiors to the concept prevalent in the West. Under no circumstances would Islam allow evil and wickedness to be propagated. It also does not give anybody an opportunity to use abusive and offensive language in the name of criticism. It was the practice of the Muslims to enquire from the Holy Prophet of Islam (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) whether on a certain matter a Divine injunction had been revealed to him. If he said that he had received no Divine injunction, the Muslims freely expressed their opinion on the matter.

7. Freedom of Association: Islam has also given people the right to freedom of association and formation of parties or organizations. This right is subject to certain general rules. Muslims men and women are not permitted to associate themselves with those who defy the commands of Almighty Allah and His Beloved Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).

8. Freedom of Conscience and Conviction: Islam has laid down the injunction: “There should be no coercion in the matter of faith.” On the contrary, totalitarian societies totally deprive the individuals of their freedom. Indeed, this undue exaltation of the state authority curiously enough postulates a sort of servitude on the part of man. At one time, by slavery was meant total control of man over man - now the type of slavery has been legally abolished but in its place totalitarian societies impose a similar sort of control over individuals.

9. Protection of Religious Sentiments: Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience, Islam has given the right to the individual that his religious sentiments will be given due respect and nothing will be said or done which may encroach upon his right.   

10. Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment: Islam also recognizes the right of the individual that he will not be arrested or imprisoned for the offences of others. The Holy Quraan has laid down this principle clearly: “No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another.” 

11. The Right to Basic Necessities of Life: Islam has recognized the right of the needy people that help and assistance will be provided to them: “And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute.” 

12. Equality before Law: Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in the eyes of the Law. There is no discrimination against any one on the basis of caste, race, sex, colour, wealth and social status. 

13. Rulers not above the Law: A woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with theft. The case was brought to the Beloved Habeeb (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), and it was recommended that she might be spared the punishment of theft. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) replied, “Allah destroyed nations that lived before you because they punished the common man for their offences and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes.  I swear by Him Who holds my life in His hand that even if Faatima, the daughter of Muhammad, had committed this crime, I would have amputated her hand.” 

14. Right to Participate in the Affairs of the State: “And their business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves”. (42:38) The Shura or the legislative assembly has no other meaning except that. The executive head of the government and the members of the assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the people.         

Lastly, it is to be made clear that Islam tries to achieve the above-mentioned human rights and many others not only by providing certain legal safeguards but mainly by inviting mankind to transcend the lower level of animal life to be able to go beyond the mere ties fostered by the kinship of blood, racial superiority, linguistic arrogance, and economic privileges.  It invites mankind to move on to a plane of existence where, by reason of his inner excellence, man can realize the ideal of the Brotherhood of man.

15. The Islamic Code of Conduct: Every man and woman should strive hard to refrain from sins and also prevent their offspring from taking up the evil path. We should adopt an Islamic way of living, which means strict following the code of conduct laid down by the Holy Quraan and further elaborated by the Holy Prophet of Islam (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).