Human Rights in Islam

Islam has laid the fundamental and universal rights for humanity.

Essential human rights have been guaranteed and conferred by God. Such rights are an important ingredient of the human creation and honor as God says,

“And indeed we have honored the children of Adam.” (17:70)

The rights guaranteed by Islam include the right to life, justice, equality, safety, well-being, and freedom; additionally, respect for womens’ honor and dignity is important.

Islam stresses that mankind originated from Adam and Eve; therefore, race, color, and ethnicity are not factors for social privileges or extended rights, and it is for this reason that Imam Ali has been reported as saying, “Know that people are of two types: they are either your brothers in religion or your equals in creation.”[1]

Every person is entitled to respect and equal opportunity, and an integral part of the Islamic faith is to recognize, accept, and practice the rights of mankind, and to do otherwise, is considered to be an injustice. The verdict in the Quran is unequivocal for those who fail to do so as it states,

“Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are the disbelievers.” (5:44)

Human life is sacred and cannot be taken without justification. Once the sanctity of the human soul is violated by a killing, then in the words of God, the sanctity of all mankind would have been violated. God states,

“Whoso slay a soul not to retaliate for soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, it would be as if he has slain all of mankind.” (5:32)

Islam, in all cases, protects and defends the life of infants, children, and elderly people.

Islam considers feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, sheltering the homeless, taking care of orphans, and reating the sick and wounded, regardless of race or color, as the essential qualities of the Islamic faith. God says,

“Do you see the one who denies the reckoning such as one who shuns the orphan and does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to the worshippers who do not pray with their hearts, but only wish to be seen, and deny aid (to others).” (107: 1-7)

The Islamic teachings are replete with examples of human rights – the below are just some of them:

The sanctity of people’s lives and property

The Prophet said, “Your lives and properties are forbidden [from violation] for one another until you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.”

Freedom of expression

Every individual is privileged with the right to freedom of thought and expression. However, freedom should not be exploited in disseminating mischief or agony within the society. Therefore, freedom of expression is not extended to those who use abusive and offensive language. Islam puts great emphasis on protecting the dignity and reputation of other people as the Quran states,

“And indeed We have honored the children of Adam.” (17:17)

Personal freedom

An individual is considered innocent until a legitimate court proves one to be guilty; and one is assumed truthful in speech and deeds until proven otherwise. No individual or group should be punished for the crime committed by another individual and in this regards, the Quran states,

“Nor can one who bears burdens bear the burden of another.” (35:18)

Political activism

The Quran instructs believers not to sit idle in face of injustice, corruption, evildoers, and oppressors. God says,

“And incline not toward those who do wrong, lest the fire should touch you.” (11:113)

Prophet Muhammad has stated, “Whoever offers help to an oppressor in his oppression will come on the Day of Reckoning with the writing on his forehead that: despaired from God’s mercy.”[2]

Islam also encourages people to defy tyranny and the Quran states,

“Allah does not love evil talk in public, unless it is by someone who has been injured thereby.” (4:148)

Religious freedom

Religion, ideology, and philosophy should not be imposed on an individual against their will as the famous verse of the Quran states,

“Let there be no coercion in faith, truly the right way has been clearly distinct from error.” (2:256)

Followers of all religions and sects have the right to worship and conduct their religious rites in an uninhibited atmosphere. Prophet Muhammad said this about the non-Muslim citizens in a Muslim state, “One who kills a man under covenant will never smell the fragrance of Paradise.”

Right to a standard means of living

All of mankind has an equal right for aid and assistance for the basic necessities in life, such as food, drink, shelter, clothing, and medication.

This is a promise God made to the first man,

“Verily you have between [a promise from Us] that you will never be hungry therein, nor naked, and you will not suffer from thirst therein, nor from the suns heat.” (20:118-119)

The poor have an inalienable right of living upon the rich. The Quran states,

“And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and destitute.” (51:19)

Equality before the law

All citizens, regardless of social class, are equal within the law. There are no dignitaries who can go unpunished for their crimes in Islam; no one is exempted from the law.

[1] Nahj al-Balagha, sermon #53.
[2] Kanz al-Ummal, saying 14,950.

Discovering Islam by Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini

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