Hifzur Rahman Qasmi
Markazul Maarif, Delhi [email@example.com]
Moved by the results and experiences of World War II, the General Assembly of the UNO passed a resolution for protection of ‘human rights’ at global level on December 10, 1948 which later got to be known as ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (UDHR). The articles assuring the birthrights of human beings at world level, contained in this declaration were based on three basic concepts:
(1) Humanity as a whole
(2) Respect for individuals
(3) A social system based on democratic values
After this declaration, the term ‘Human Rights’ received such a great popularity around the world, especially in the West, that it became a common slogan for every social and political group. In addition to that, the whole concept of ‘human rights’ began to be seen in the secular and non-religious scenario. The advocates of human rights in the west and east, including some Muslim countries, presume and say that the concept of human rights can live only in the secular and non-religious environment. It cannot survive in the religious framework. This is the reason why the secular minded advocates of human rights in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh are heard to be reviewing that there is no use talking on the topics like ‘Human Rights and Islam’, because, as a religion, Islam has promoted the concepts and values that are not compatible with the basic concepts of the UDHR. But those, who believe that the UDHR is the greatest and matchless manifesto for human rights and feel contradiction between the principles of human rights and Islamic teachings, really need to embark, once again, on an unbiased comparative study of the basic concepts of the UDHR and Islamic teachings regarding humanity.
When we talk on the topics like ‘Human Rights and Islam’ or ‘Human Rights and Qur’an’, we actually mean that these rights have been bestowed to human beings by Allah, not by any legislative house or a ruler. The rights granted by a ruler or legislative assembly might possibly be abrogated. For example, sometimes a ruler announces many rights for his people when he is in a pleasant and a happy mood. But when he gets out from the castle of pleasant emotions, he suddenly declares all the rights invalid. But the rights granted to human beings by the Qur’an are actually granted by Allah, so no government, legislative or judiciary has the right to make any amendment or abrogation. The principles of human rights put forth by the Holy Qur’an are parts and parcel of the religion of Islam. These are meant to be applied and carried out by every follower of the religion, whether rulers or the ruled ones. The Holy Qur’an has declared its decision about the Muslims denying, amending or violating these principles in the practical life:
“Those who do not judge according to what Allah has revealed are infidels.”
The Holy Qur’an ahs attached values and sanctity to human life as much as it considers the life of one individual equal to the whole society. Thus, in this short article, I do not intend at all to make a comparison between the underlying concepts of the UDHR and the Islamic injunctions about humanity. I only wish to show what the Holy Qur’an has to say about rights of human beings to which they are entitled by birth. In the following paragraphs, I am going to mention some of the rights allotted by the Qur’an under some basic heads.
Right to Protection Wealth and Life: Addressing on the occasion of farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Your lives and wealth are haram (impermissible) for each other, until you meet your Lord on the Day of Judgment.” Well to be remembered here, this command is not meant only for Muslims, but the Prophet (SAWS) is reported to have said about non-Muslims living in the Islamic territory, “The one, who kills a Dhimmi (non-Muslim given shelter in the Islamic State), will not find even the fragrance of paradise.”
Rights to Protection of Self Respect: Those who shout the slogan human rights impressed by UDHR of the UNO, focus only on human lives. They do not talk about anything beyond, whereas, apart from human lives, the importance of self respect which has been assured by the Qur’an fourteen hundred years ago can be imagined through the following verses.
Allah says: (1) “O, you who believe, no nation should poke fun at another.” (2) “Do not defame each other.” (3) Do not indult anyone by using bad names.” (4) “Do not talk ill behind anyone’s back.”
Right to Privacy: The holy Qur’an considers one’s privacy as one’s birth right and forms principles for its protection. (1) Don’t spy on each other. (2) Do not enter anyone’s house, until you get permission from owners.
Right to Protest against Cruelty: Islam gives right to human beings to protest against the cruelty and corruption of the rulers. The holy Qur’an says, “Allah does not like passing bad comments about anyone else, unless he is the oppressed.”
According to Islamic view point, all types of power and sovereignty are purely Allah’s right. Being Allah’s Deputy on earth, man is allowed to use those powers on His behalf only to maintain discipline in the society. Thus, the one who holds power is responsible before his people and the people are entitled to question him. Keeping this very point in eyes, Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq said in his first address after holding the thrown of caliphate, “Assist me, if my stand is right in any matter and reform me, if it is wrong. Continue to follow me as long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Messenger and discard me when I deviate from the path.”
Right to Justice: everyone is entitled to justice by the Qur’an. Thus it speaks very often about doing and getting justice with remarkable stress. In the context of justice, the Holy Qur’an usually uses two words: Adl and Ihsaan. Both the words give the idea of justice and indicated to the theory of balance, but there is slight difference in the meaning. The wordIhsaan is common in meaning, whereas the word adl is related to accept and encourage merits of individuals. According to the Holy Qur’an, man cannot be judged on the basis of his lineage, sex, wealth and his worldly achievements, but the only criterion to judge man’s merit is hisTaqwa (piety) which comprises both belief and good deeds.
Right to freedom of expression: the Islamic state provides its every citizen the right to the freedom of thought and expression, provided that this right is used to spread and promote the truth and righteousness, and not to propagate evil and mischief. The concept of the freedom of expression presented by Islam is far better as compared to that of West. In no case, Islam allows to use this right for the propagation of evil and mischief. Since Islam likes the policy of moderation and balance in every matter, it allows no man to use filthy and immoral language in the name of criticism. In the blessed prophetic period, the Companions used to enquire about any matter if something has been revealed from Allah. If the Prophet (SAWS) would reply negation, they would express their opinions with no delay in that particular matter.
Basically, in the Islamic perspective, the right to freedom of expression means the right to speak the truth. In the Qur’anic terminology, the truthfulness is referred to as “Haque” which is a special attribute of Allah. Thus, truthfulness is not only the right of every human, but it is a responsibility on the shoulder of the believer to speak only the truth in every case, even if it is in the presence of a cruel ruler. The Holy Qur’an commands Muslims to stand still for the cause of the truth and prohibits the society from torturing on account of speaking the truth.
Right to Belief and Religion: the Holy Qur’an gives a general principle that ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ That is because the Holy Qur’an is well acquainted with the fact that belief resides n the heart and the heart can never be commanded. In contrast to that, the Totalitarian Societies snatch all sorts of freedom from the individuals and a new kind of slavery in imposed on human beings. At a time, slavery implied full authority of an individual over another. This kind of slavery has been rejected by the law; the Totalitarian Societies have imposed a new kind of slavery instead.
Right to Protection of Religious Sentiments: Besides belief and conscience, Islam holds the religious sentiments of man in high regards as well. Thus, the Holy Qur’an prohibits Muslims to speak such words which hurt the sentiments of the followers of other religions. Numerous verses of the QUr’an clarifies that the responsibility of the Prophet (SAWS) was only to preach the Truth and not to compel anyone for acceptance. So, the Holy Qur’an also prohibited every action which compels a non-Muslim to accept Islam. It was possible that a Muslim would hurt the sentiment of a non-Muslim living in the Islamic State, so that he might accept Islam. But the Holy Qur’an completely uprooted all such kinds of possibilities by the verse: “Do not abuse those who call some other deity than Allah.”
Right to Freedom of Person: Human being is free by birth and freedom is his birthright. The greatest guarantee towards this right of human being in Islam is that no one can confine it except Allah. This idea is derived from the verse of the Holy Qur’an in which Allah says that “The right to judge the ordinances and prohibitions is with Allah alone.” This is the reason why neither the judiciary, nor the legislative in an Islamic State can compel the citizens on undue obedience. Therefore, the Prophet himself used to seek advice from his companions in public matters.
Right to Education: Education is necessary for the development of humanity. It is, therefore, counted among the basic rights of the citizens in all countries today. But the holy Qur’an has attached much stress with education since its early revelation. Thus, the very first revelation of the Qur’an encourages its addresses to acquire education. According to the Holy Qur’an education is the only weapon which can form a peaceful and a just society. Therefore, the Qur’an addresses man to ‘acquire knowledge, for those who are cognizant cannot be equal to those who are not cognizant.’
These were some points which serve as legitimate examples. In fact the Holy Qur’an gives man all rights which he should get as a human being in open terms. Even then, if man studies it with western mindset, he will surely get weakness in it. But this will not lessen the importance of the Holy Qur’an, because it is not a sin of the sun, if a bat does not behold in day light.