Islamic Perspective on Human Rights

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Islamic Perspective on Human Rights
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Definition of Human Rights[edit]

Although the entire history of human rights is not available anywhere, its documentation can be traced through past documents like the Constitution of Medina (622).

Despite the fact that human liberty is essential for civilization, the term “rights” has always been surrounded by obscurity in the secular world. The exact meaning of the term right is controversial and has been a subject of continued philosophical debate. Human rights are known to encompass a wide variety of rights like a fair trial, prohibition of genocide, freedom of speech and a right to education. However, an ambiguity envelops the specific rights that should be a vital part of human rights. While some thinkers suggest that human rights should be set at a minimum requirement to avoid the worst-case abuses, others prescribe a much higher standard. Although the United Nations Charter considers some of the vital human rights, it still fails to present the details of rights Islam presented over fourteen centuries ago.

History of human rights[edit]

Although the entire history of human rights is not available anywhere, its documentation can be traced through past documents like the Constitution of Medina (622), Al-Risalah al-Huquq (late 7th to early 8th century), Magna Carta Twelve Articles (1689), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution (1791) and the Universal Declaration of Human rights (1948) by the United Nations. The notions of rights and liberty have existed in some form throughout human history. For instance, Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenes’ Persian Empire, established some principles of human rights in the 6th century BC. After his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, the king issued the Cyrus Cylinder. Discovered in 1879, the cylinder is considered by some to be the first human rights document. Apparently, ancient cultures upheld ethical ideals but they lacked a basic understanding of the concept of human rights. Human rights activist Dan McIntyre wrote that there was no word for "right" in any language before 1400. Medieval charters of liberty such as the English Magna Carta (1215) were not charters of human rights, rather they were a foundation which constituted a political and legal agreement to address specific political situations. One of the oldest records of human rights is the Statute of Kalisz (1264), which protected the Jewish minority in the Kingdom of Poland from discrimination.

The modern concept of human rights can be traced back to the Renaissance (14th to 17th centuries) of Europe and the Protestant Reformation which witnessed a decline of the feudal authoritarianism and religious conservativism that prevailed in the Middle Ages. While some theories claim that human rights evolved simultaneously with the European secularization of Judeo-Christian ethics during the early Modern period, the popular view claims that the concept of human rights developed slowly in the West.

16th–19th century[edit]

The term “Human Rights”, eventually surfaced during the seventeenth to eighteenth century. The earliest concepts of human rights have their roots in the theory of natural rights originating from the Natural Law. The doctrine of Natural Law advocated that the human affairs should be governed by ethical principles that are intrinsic in a human and can be deduced through reason. The idea of universal rights was introduced by Spanish clerics like Francisco de Vitoria and Bartolome de Las Casas. The Valladolid Debate (1550–1551) was the first known moral discourse in European history to discuss the rights and treatment of the natives by colonizers. Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda held an Aristotelian view of humanity divided into different ranks. He rejected Las Casas’ argument in favor of equal rights to freedom for all humans regardless of race or religion. 17th-century English philosopher John Locke defined natural rights as "life, liberty, and estate", and argued that such fundamental rights could not be surrendered. In Britain in 1689, the “English Bill of Rights” and the Scottish Claim of Right Act defied oppressive governmental actions. Two major revolutions of the 18th century, in the United States (1776) and in France (1789), lead to the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Both declarations reinforced a set of human rights. Likewise, the “Virginia Declaration of Rights” (1776) embraced a number of fundamental civil rights. The American Declaration of Independence stated:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The concept of human rights was further by Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and G.W.F. Hegel in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Struggle continues[edit]

A number of reformers, like a British Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, worked towards the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and abolition of slavery. This rule was implemented across the British Empire through the Slave Trade Act 1807. The law was enforced internationally by the Royal Navy under treaties that Britain negotiated with other nations and also through the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. In the United States, all the northern states abolished the institution of slavery between 1777 and 1804. A conflict over the expansion of slavery to new territories instigated the American Civil War and the secession of southern states. Soon after the war, the reconstruction period witnessed several amendments in the United States Constitution. The 13th amendment banned slavery, the 14th amendment ensured full citizenship and civil rights to all people born in the United States, and the 15th amendment granted voting rights to the African Americans.

Many groups and movements achieved commendable results during the 20th century in a struggle for human rights. In Europe and North America, labor unions initiated innovative rulings granting the workers a right to strike. Work conditions and the issue of child labor were revised. Movements for women’s rights successfully gained voting rights for women. National liberation movements in many countries succeeded in expelling colonial powers. Mahatma Gandhi's movement to free his native India from British rule was one of the many prominent developments of the era. Movements by racial and religious minorities like Civil Rights Movement succeeded in many parts of the world. The establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the 1864 Lieber Code and the first of the Geneva Conventions in 1864 laid the foundations of International humanitarian law, which was further developed after the two World Wars.

20th century onwards[edit]

The modern human rights arguments emerged over the latter half of the 20th century, possibly as a reaction to slavery, torture, genocide and war crimes. To clear ambiguities and to ensure implementation of rules, a need for explicit international laws was realized in the twentieth century. The United Nations attempted to ensure protection against discrimination by gradually expanding human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, disabled persons, minorities and other vulnerable groups. The huge loss of life and human rights violations during the World Wars prompted the development of modern human rights instruments. After World War I, in 1919, during negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations was established to ensure an international system of justice. A mandate in the League’s charter promoted many of the rights later included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ludwig Hoffman rightly states that while human rights became more pronounced in the twentieth century, the rights advocates continued debating over a precise definition of violations of human rights. At the 1945 Yalta Conference, the Allied Powers agreed to create the United Nations, a new body to resume the League's role. The United Nations has played a significant role in international human-rights law since its creation. Following the World Wars, the United Nations and its members developed the current system and the bodies of law like international humanitarian law and international human rights law. United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UDHR), has professes that “All human beings are born free and are equal in dignity and rights.” Proclaimed in December,1948 by its General Assembly, the UN considers the UDHR to be a milestone in human history. The declaration focusses on economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.

The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHR) was signed by member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 1990 at the 19th Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Cairo, Egypt. It was viewed as an answer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) issued by United Nations in 1948. The CDHR was meant to "serve as a guide for member states on human rights issues”. In an attempt to sum up the Quranic teachings, the CDHR declared: "All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations.” Besides references from the Qur'an, the CDHR also quoted hadith and Islamic legal tradition.

The current century has witnessed a surge in international non-governmental human rights organizations. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and FIDH are some of the prominent institutions. Human rights organizations often attempt to convince the United Nations and national governments to adopt their policies on human rights. Although acknowledged by the signatories to the UDHR, most do not in practice give equal weight to the different types of rights. Some Western cultures have often given priority to civil and political rights, sometimes at the expense of economic and social rights such as the right to work, education, health and housing. Similarly, the ex-Soviet bloc countries and Asian countries tend to prioritize economic, social and cultural rights. Apparently, they often failed to provide civil and political rights.

Charter of Human Rights[edit]

In the aftermath of the atrocities of World War II, an urgency prevailed for the social and legal protection of human rights. The foundation of the United Nations and the provisions of it’s Charter provided a promising system of international law for human rights. Evidently, a close study of history reinstates the fact that the evolution of the modern laws of human rights have deep roots in the Islamic ideology.

Omar Karkosh has correctly pointed out that all of the fundamental rights given in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights’’ (December 10, 1948) by United Nations had already been versed in the Quran around fourteen centuries ago. The Declaration reinstates the Islamic teaching of equality which is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The first article of UN’s Declaration states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This notion is repeatedly emphasized in the Quran: “Their Lord responded to them: "I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female - you are equal to one another.…” [3:95][1] “… GOD knows best about your belief, and you are equal to one another, as far as belief is concerned…” [4:25][1]

The Declaration echoes the Quranic teachings while suggesting elimination of all racial, sexual, lingual, religious, social and political biases. Karkosh has correctly reasoned that a number of Quranic references may be traced for each article of the Declaration. On various occasions, the Quran erases all discriminations: “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who believes in GOD, and believes in the Last Day, and leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” [2:62][1]

“Say, "We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters." [2:136][1] “O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous.” [49:13][1]

Constitution of Medina and rights[edit]

Likewise, the Constitution of Medina drafted by prophet Muhammad , shortly after his arrival at Medina in 622 CE, initiated a multi religious Islamic state in Medina that was based on justice. The document united the Muslim and non-Muslim tribes of Medina as one nation under the just guidance of the Prophet Muhammad. Besides ensuring religious freedom, the Charter aimed to eliminate violence by granting rights to different sections of the society. The rights and responsibilities of the citizens were clearly defined in the famous Constitution. One of the most striking aspects of the constitution was the inclusion of the Jewish tribes in the “ummah" without forcing them into any other religion or culture. The non- Muslims were guaranteed that Allah’s security is equal for all groups. They were granted equal political and cultural rights and had the liberty to practice their religion. Non-Muslims were not obliged to participate in the Islamic jihads. The Charter clearly proclaimed that the rights of the prisoners of war must be respected and that they must be treated with kindness.

Conquest of Mecca and rights[edit]

The rules announced at the Conquest of Mecca are also an outstanding illustration of respect for human rights. The tribal leaders of Mecca harassed and boycotted the Prophet Muhammad and his followers. Forced into exile for a number of years, the Prophet returned to Mecca with an impressive army of 10,000 soldiers in 630. The army entered the city unopposed and without any bloodshed. After the leaders of Quraysh surrendered, the Prophet Muhammad did not avenge his persecutors. Instead he generously announced: “Those who shelter in the Ka’ba are safe; those who shelter in the house of Abu Sufyan are safe, and those who remain confined to their houses are also safe.”[1]Tolerance and compassion were the guiding principles at the conquest of Mecca. Those who did not want to fight the Muslims were told: “This day no reproach shall be on you. God will forgive you; He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. You can go away”. The exemplary victory of Makkah was accompanied by declaration of peace. Not a single drop of blood was spilt nor anyone wounded in this conquest. This general declaration of peace had such a resounding effect on people that they started accepting Islam only because of the character of the Prophet of Islam. Respect for human rights displayed at the conquest of Mecca surprised the people of the city who were expecting vengeance.

Justice in Islam[edit]

The concept of justice is a theme of the Quran. In the fifteenth verse of sura e Shura[1], the Prophet is asked to proclaim that he has “been commanded to do justice.”[1] The believers are also warned against injustice in the eight verse of sura e Maidah, “O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably...”[1]

The need to honor human rights is emphasized throughout the Quran: “Indeed, Allah 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.” [Nahl:90[1]

Various rights in Islam[edit]

Islam grants each human a right to life, liberty and security. Therefore, terrorism has no place in Islam and a Muslim is reminded that he “shall not kill any person - for God has made life sacred - except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, he will be helped.” (Isra:33)[1] Force is not permitted except in self-defense. A believer is told, “You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder…’’ (Baqra:191)[1] Apparently, Islam teaches its followers to guard the rights of other humans just as eagerly as they protect their own. Hence verse 75 of Sura e Nisa[1] questions, “Why should you not fight in the cause of God” when weak men, women, and children are imploring: "Our Lord, deliver us from this community whose people are oppressive, and be You our Lord and Master."

Slavery and rights[edit]

In order to eliminate slavery Islam employed a psychological approach to convince people against it. When Quran was revealed, slavery was widely practiced in the Arab World. An immediate ban on slave trade would have been impractical. Therefore, a great deal of emphasis is laid on human dignity and equality. Imam Ali bin Hussain directs the master to recognize the rights of his slaves because “Allah charges him with them and appoints him as a protector over them…it is necessary for him to take care of their rights, and to treat them kindly. If he does this, Allah will reward him by protecting him from hell”[2]. In a clear statement, the master is warned that he must not “torment Allah’s creature.” The master is asked to feed and clothe the slave, exactly the way he eats and dresses himself and to take care of him the way he takes care of himself. In return, the slave must be supportive and gracious to his master for his favors. Believers are encouraged to struggle against all forms of discrimination. Evidently, slavery cannot be justified if all humans are equal. While granting numerous rights to the slaves, Islam eliminated slavery by asking people to set their slaves free as a compensation for various sins. Countless rewards were guaranteed for setting slaves free. “Did we not show him the two paths? He should choose the difficult path. Which one is the difficult path? The freeing of slaves. Feeding, during the time of hardship…” [90:10-14][1] “Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in God, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves …” [2:177][1] “Charities shall go to the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, the new converts, to free the slaves, to those burdened by sudden expenses, in the cause of God, and to the traveling alien. Such is God's commandment. God is Omniscient, Most Wise.”[1]

Right to privacy and comfort[edit]

In Islam, privacy and comfort are considered to be a vital right of all humans. “O you who believe, do not enter the prophet's homes unless you are given permission to eat, nor shall you force such an invitation in any manner. If you are invited, you may enter. When you finish eating, you shall leave; do not engage him in lengthy conversations.” [33:53][1] “O you who believe, permission must be requested by your servants and the children who have not attained puberty (before entering your rooms). This is to be done in three instances - before the Dawn Prayer, at noon when you change your clothes to rest, and after the Night Prayer. These are three private times for you. At other times, it is not wrong for you or them to mingle with one another. GOD thus clarifies the revelations for you. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.” [24:58][1]

“O you who believe, do not enter homes other than yours without permission from their inhabitants, and without greeting them. This is better for you, that you may take heed. If you find no one in them, do not enter them until you obtain permission. If you are told, "Go back," you must go back. This is purer for you. God is fully aware of everything you do. You commit no error by entering uninhabited homes wherein there is something that belongs to you. God knows everything you reveal, and everything you conceal.” [24:27-29][1]

Right to be respected[edit]

The reputation of the individual must be protected from all forms of unjustified attack or slander: “Woe to every backbiter, slanderer.” [104:1][1] The need to respect the diverse cultures and religions is recognized on various occasions in the Quran: “…Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny - all of you - then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.” [5:48][1] ‘O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.” [49:13][1] A Muslim cannot insult any school of thought: “Do not insult those (other than Allah) whom they worship…” (6:108)[1] Islam does not permit its followers to violate the rights of fellow humans. Another person’s property cannot be transgressed without the owner’s permission. “O you who believe, do not consume each other’s' properties illicitly - only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted.” [4:29][1] “He said, "He is being unfair to you by asking to combine your sheep with his. Most people who combine their properties treat each other unfairly, except those who believe and work righteousness, and these are so few." Afterwards, David wondered if he made the right judgment. He thought that we were testing him. He then implored his Lord for forgiveness, bowed down, and repented.” [38:24][1] "O my people, you shall give full measure and full weight, equitably. Do not cheat the people out of their rights.” [11:85][1]

Rights of the needy[edit]

Rights of the needy cannot be overlooked in Islam. Therefore, to support the deprived members of the society, Islam introduced “Zakaat” and “Khums” which are obligatory forms of charity.

“And know that of a thing you acquire, a fifth of it is assigned to Allah and to the Messenger, to near relative and the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer…” [8:41][1]

“(You shall give) to the needy who immigrated. They were evicted from their homes and deprived of their properties…” [59:8][1] “They ask you about giving: say, "The charity you give shall go to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the traveling alien.” [2:215][1] “Part of their money is set aside. For the poor and the needy.” [70:24-25][1]

Rights of orphans[edit]

The rights of orphans have been defined clearly in a number of verses. The second ayat of sura e Nisa states: “And give to the orphans their properties and do not substitute the defective [of your own] for the good [of theirs]. And do not consume their properties into your own. Indeed, that is ever a great sin.”[1] “Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze.” [Nisa:10][1]

Freedom of thought and knowledge[edit]

The right to acquire knowledge and freedom of thought are asserted in the Quran. “Let the human reflect on his creation.” [86:5][1] “We made the Quran easy to learn. Does any of you wish to learn?” [54:17][1] “You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them.” [17:36][1]

“They are the ones who examine all words, then follow the best. These are the ones whom GOD has guided; these are the ones who possess intelligence.” [39:18][1]

A divine perspective on rights[edit]

“A Divine Perspective on Rights” (Al-Risalah al-Huquq), by Imam Ali bin Hussain , the great grandson of Prophet Mohammad , is a unique document in human history that remains unmatched to the present day. This supreme literature on human rights remains unparalleled because it addresses all the different dimensions of rights that are relevant in human life.

Rights of the Creator[edit]

“Risalatul Huqooq” discusses all physical and spiritual rights of human life that direct man towards success in this world and the hereafter. Consequently, while highlighting the right of the Creator, Imam points out that God’s greatest right “against His servants is that they should worship Him sincerely and should not associate anyone in worshipping Him, for this will purify their hearts from deviation and free their intellects from enslavement and dependence on other than Him”. The right of self is that “you employ it in obeying Allah.” This obedience would “rescue his soul from dangers”. Various acts performed by man have a right to be performed with a justification. Therefore, charity must not be displayed and should be regarded as an investment with the Lord and should not be displayed before others.

Rights of the body[edit]

[2] Imam Ali bin Hussain defines the rights of different body parts over self. Man must consider "his tongue too noble for obscenity”. To prevent himself from being insulted, the tongue must be forced to speak politely. It must be accustomed to “good words and what profits people”. The right of the ears and eyes is to refrain from employing them to all that is “unlawful”. The eyes should be used in beneficial activities like acquisition of knowledge, which may educate him and the society. While legs have a right to be used for good deeds, the “right of your hand is that you stretch it not toward that which is unlawful”. The stomach does not deserve unlawful food and the lawful food must be consumed in moderation. Besides indigestion, overeating causes laziness, obesity and diseases like diabetes and blood pressure.

Rights of rulers and subjects[edit]

With a detailed account of rights, “Al-Risalah al-Huquq” proves the fact that Islam is not just a code of conduct, it is a life style. Deception and injustice are vices that annihilate individuals and societies. Therefore, the rights of each individual must be respected. The leaders must receive “sincere counsel” and respect from their subjects. Teachers must be honored and the students must be absolutely attentive. Subordinates have a right to be treated with kindness, mercy, and affection. However, the “right of him who trains you through property is that you should obey him and not disobey him…” [2]

Advising the rulers, against oppression and injustice, Imam proclaims, “The right of your subjects through authority is that you should know that they have been made subjects through their weakness and your strength. Hence it is incumbent on you to act with justice toward them and to be like a compassionate father toward them. You should forgive them their ignorance and not hurry them to punishment and you should thank Allah for the power over them which He has given to you.” The subjects have a right to knowledge and the rulers are asked to “do well in teaching the people, not treating them roughly or offending them…”

Women’s rights[edit]

Women’s rights have been discussed in considerable depth in Islam. Joanna Francis, an American writer and journalist, has summed up women’s rights in Islam very precisely. She acknowledges the fact that “1400 years back, Islam gave women the right to own and dispose property and earning without any guardianship over her, to be educated and to go out for work, to choose their husbands and to keep their own family names, to inherit …when in the rest of the world including Europe women had no such rights.” She admits honestly that “We Western women have been brainwashed into thinking that you Muslim women are oppressed. But truly we are the ones who are oppressed, slaves to fashions that degrade us, obsessed with our weight, begging love from men who do not want to grow up. Deep down inside, we know that we have been cheated. We secretly admire and envy you, although some of us will not admit it… We Christian women need to see what life is really supposed to be like poor women. We need you to set the example for us, because we are lost.”[2]

The Quran addressed women’s rights at a time when their subordination was a traditional norm: “You can never be equitable in dealing with more than one wife, no matter how hard you try. Therefore, do not be so biased as to leave one of them hanging (neither enjoying marriage, nor left to marry someone else). If you correct this situation and maintain righteousness, God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” [4:129][1] “The divorcees also shall be provided for, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous.” [2:241][1] “If a couple fears separation, you shall appoint an arbitrator from his family and an arbitrator from her family; if they decide to reconcile, GOD will help them get together. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.”’ [4:35][1]

While the secular world raised a voice for inheritance laws for women as late as 1791. Islam honored the women with a right to inherit, to trade and to participate in almost all areas of human life fourteen centuries ago. Both men and women are asked to gain knowledge. The Prophet said “education is compulsory for every Muslim). Islam did not burden women with the responsibility of earning livelihood or fighting wars. However, the Quran emphasizes gender equality by proclaiming: “And for women are rights over men, similar to those of men over women.” [2:228][1] Islam honors all different aspects of a woman’s life. In “Al-Risalah al-Huquq” Imam Ali bin Hussain explains that a wife has a right to be respected because she “is Allah’s favor toward you, so you should honor her and treat her gently.” As a mother, a woman has tremendous rights over her child because “you know she carried you where no one carries anyone, she gave to you of the fruit of her heart that which no one gives to anyone, and she protected your organs with her organs. She did not care if she went hungry as long as you ate, if she was thirsty as long as you drank, if she was naked as long as you were clothed, if she was in the sun as long as were in the shade. She gave you sleep for your sake, she protected you from heat and cold… Had it not been for her pity and affection, you would not have lived. She took care of you with her own soul when you were formed, bore the burdens of pregnancy, and the dangers of giving birth. After giving birth to him, she melted herself for you, spared no effort to safeguard you, passed the night awake for you, continued serving you sincerely, and looked after you with love and affection until you grew up and made your way in life.’’[2]

Rights of family[edit]

Rights of different family members are specified in “A Divine Perspective on Rights”. Evidently, a father’s rights cannot be neglected in Islam. As Imam says, the “right of your father is that you know that he is your root. Without him, you would not be. Whenever you see anything in yourself which pleases you, know that your father is the root of its blessing upon you…Were it not for the father, the child would not have come to the world, hence the child should take care of his father’s rights and undertake his affairs, especially during his old age.’’ According to Islam, a child has a right to knowledge and good upbringing. Parents are reminded that whether good or bad, they must not forget that the child is from them. Hence, the “right of your child is that you should know that he is from you and will be ascribed to you, through both good and evil, in all affairs of this world.” In his will, Imam Ali96a tells his eldest son, Imam Hassan[2] , “your affairs concern me just as my affairs concern me.” Islam holds a father responsible for educating, feeding and clothing the child. Siblings also have significant rights over each other. The primary right of a sibling is “that you know that he is your hand, your might, and your strength.” A person must not fail to “assist his sibling against his enemy (Satan) or to give him good advice”. During “afflictions and hardships” a sibling must not be deserted or overlooked.[2]

Social rights[edit]

Neighbors, friends, partners and compassionate people have also been assigned many rights in Islam. Imam Ali bin Hussain declares, “The right of your neighbor is that you guard him when he is absent, honor him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged.” Clearly, a friend deserves “sincere advice and he must be honored as he honors you…” In financial matters a Muslim is asked not to take any decision without consulting his partner. A partner’s interests must be protected at all times. A considerate person who does you a favor has a right over you. Gratitude must be expressed and the generosity should be repaid with a better or equal favor.[2]

Rights of the poor and rich[edit]

The poor have a right over the wealth of a rich person. In “Al-Risalah al-Huquq” Imam Ali bin Hussain, directs the Muslims to spend their wealth on constructive projects that may assist the less privileged people. Likewise, the creditor has a right over the beneficiary. The debt must be repaid at the earliest opportunity to do so. Deliberate delay is a kind of injustice and is forbidden in Islam.[2]

Rights regarding counselling[edit]

The person seeking counsel and the counsellor both have rights over each other. Advice must be offered with absolute politeness and sincerity. If the advisor is unable to offer worthwhile assistance, he must direct the person to someone more capable of offering assistance. The person asking for advice has no right to be impolite if the advisor’s opinion conflicts with his own.[2]

Rights concerning relationships[edit]

Imam Ali bin Hussain relates rights of people under various relationships. The elder and younger persons have rights over each other. While an elder person has a right to be honored because of his seniority in age, a younger one deserves respect and compassion. A Muslim must not refuse if he is asked to help and is capable of extending the assistance. However, in case of a refusal, the needy does not have the right to hold a grudge. He must realize that each individual has the right to withhold his property.[2]

Thus, an elaborate account of human rights can be found in Quran and the teachings of the Prophet and his progeny. Without a doubt, the emphasis on rights was intended to ensure a stable and prosperous society. The Quran explains discreetly: “…GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.” [2:185][1]

See also[edit]

  • Human rights in Muslim-majority countries


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