HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM
WAMY Series on Islam No. 10
Since God is the absolute and the sole master of men and the
universe, and since He has given each man human dignity and honor,
and breathed into him of His own spirit, it follows that men are
essentially the same. In fact, the only differences between them are
such artificial ones as nationality, color, or race. Thus, all human
beings are equal and form one universal community that is united in
its submission and obedience to God. And at the center of this
universal brotherhood is the Islamic confession of the oneness of God
that, by extension, includes the oneness and brotherhood of
An Islamic state may be established anywhere. While the state is
geographically limited, the human rights and privileges granted to
humanity by God are not. The Qur'an states that these are universal
and fundamental, and that all individuals are to enjoy and observe
them under all circumstances-including war-regardless of whether
he is living in the geographical confines of an Islamic state or not:
O believers, tee you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not
detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be
equitable-that is nearer to God-fearing. (5:8)
Human blood is sacred in any case and cannot be spilled without
justification. Violating this rule is equivalent to killing all of
Whose slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for
corruption done in the land, should be as if he had slain
It is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick
or the wounded. Women's honor and chastity are to be respected
under all circumstances. The hungry must be fed, the naked clothed,
and the wounded or diseased given medical treatment regardless of
their pro- or anti-Muslim sentiments and activities.
In Islam, human rights are granted by God, not by kings or
legislative assemblies, and therefore they can never be taken away.
or changed, even temporarily, for any reason. They are meant to be
put into practice and lived, not to stay on paper or in the realm of
unenforceable philosophical concepts or United Nation declarations.
Every Muslim is required to accept them and recognize the people's
right to have them enforced and obeyed. The Qur'an states that:
Those who do not judge by what God has sent down are the
Human Rights in an Islamic State
The Security of Life and Property:
In the Prophet's address during his final pilgrimage, he said: "Your
lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your
Lord on the Day of Resurrection." He also said: "One who kills a man
under covenant (i.e., a non Muslim citizen of a Muslim land) will not
even smell the fragrance of Paradise."
The Protection of Honor:
The Qur'an does not allow one's personal honor to be abused: O 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 spear? Ill of one another (49: 1 1-121.
Sanctity and Security of Private Life:
The Qur'an guarantees privacy Do not spy on one another and Do not
enter any houses unless you are sure of their occupant's consent.
The Security of Personal Freedom:
Islam prohibits the imprisonment of any individual before his guilt
has been proven before a public court. This means that the accused
has the right to defend himself and to expect fair and impartial
treatment from the court.
The Right to Protest against Tyranny:
This is mentioned clearly in the Qur'an: God does not love evil talk in
public unless it is by some one who has been injured thereby. In
Islam, as has been stated earlier, an individual's power and authority
is a trust from God. This is an awesome responsibility for a person,
for he must use this trust in a way that is acceptable to God or else
suffer the consequences. This was acknowledged by Abu Bakr, who
said in his very first address: "Cooperate with me when I am right,
and correct me when I commit error. Obey me so long as I follow the
Commandments of Allah and His Prophet, but turn away from me
when I deviate."
Freedom of Expression:
Islam allows complete freedom of thought and expression, provided
that it does not involve spreading that which is harmful to
individuals and the society at large. For example, the use of abusive
or offensive language in the name of criticism is not allowed. In the
days of the Prophet, the Muslims used to ask him about certain
matters. If he had received no revelation on that particular issue,
they were free to express their personal opinions.
Freedom of Association:
The formation of associations, parties, and organizations is allowed,
on the understanding that they abide by certain general rules (for example:
an organization that promote racism would not be allowed).
Freedom of Conscience and Conviction:
The Qur'an states: There should be no coercion in the matter of faith.
Totalitarian societies of all ages have tried to deprive individuals of
their freedom by subordinating them to state authority This
condition is equivalent to slavery, the only difference being that
physical slavery has been replaced by mechanisms of control that
allow the individual no freedom of choice Islam forbids such a
Protection of Religious Sentiments:
Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience,
Islam guarantees to the individual that his religious sentiments will
be given due respect and the nothing will be said or done which may
encroach upon his right.
Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment:
Islam states that each individual is responsible only for his own
actions. Therefore, he cannot be arrested and imprisoned for the
offenses of someone else. We read in the Qur'an: No bearer of
burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another.
The Right to Basic Necessities of Life:
Islam recognizes the right of the needy to demand help from those
who are more fortunate: And in their wealth there is acknowledge
right for the needy and the destitute.
Equality Before the Law:
Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in
the eyes of the law.
Rulers Are Not Above the Law:
According to the Islamic concept of justice, absolutely no one is
above the law, for all men are equal. This point was made in a very
dramatic fashion by the Prophet himself. One day, a woman
belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with
a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet with the
recommendation that she be spared the mandated punishment for
theft (amputation of the hand). The Prophet replied: "The nations
that lived before you were destroyed by God because they punished
the common man for their offenses and let their dignitaries go
unpunished for their crimes. I swear by Him Who holds my life in
His hand that even if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad, had
committed this crime, I would have amputated her hand."
The Right to Participate in the Affairs of State:
In the Qur'an, we find the statement And their business is
(conducted) through consultation among themselves (42:38). This
procedure is known as shura, which is usually translated as
"consultation." In practice, it means that the executive head of the
government and the members of the assembly should be elected by
free and independent choice of the people. However, the leader is not
bound to follow the decision that results from this deliberation.
Lastly, Islam seeks to achieve the above-mentioned human rights
and many others through the provision of certain legal safeguards,
but primarily through calling upon individuals to transcend their
lower animal-like instincts so that they can go beyond mere ties
fostered by the kinship of blood, racial superiority, linguistic
arrogance, and economic privilege Islam urges man to move on to a
plane of existence where, by reason of his inner excellence, he can
realize the ideal of the brotherhood of man.
MUSLIM POPULATION AT A GLANCE 1
Numbers in Millions
North and South America & Australia 4.00
TOTAL 823.50 2
1There are fifty-eight countries with a Muslim population of more
than 50 percent
2(1975 Estimates) In view of recent population growth and the
worldwide trend of conversion to Islam over the last nine years, the
Muslim population is believed to have exceeded one billion.