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Society and Family


How did Islam declare the human rights?
Mohamed Helal 474

How did Islam declare the human rights?

How did Islam declare the human rights?[1]

     Man was created to be honored, not to be offended; to be prostrated to by the angels, not to live with animals. Despite his suffering on earth, man and all his race members, once righteous and straight, are better in the sight of Allah than the heavenly angels. Allah, Glory be to Him, says,

“We have honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea; We have provided good sustenance for them and favored them specially above many of those We have created.” (17: 70)

     Nevertheless, whoever contemplates human history will find that the great mass of people was stricken with humiliation and deprivation. Moreover, they were weakened with hunger; they also lost their physical and moral rights and lived broken and captive, while animals found their food and birds and insects were free without constraints.

     Who has inflicted these disasters on man? It is neither an angel nor a demon. It is neither water nor air that did so.

     These disasters have been incurred by some people with authority or wealth who have abused their power and richness to harm and oppress others.

     Since a very long time, the humanity caravan has trodden the wrong way, argued against revelation, opposed justice, buried morals and imposed desires. Finally, a group of people with steadfast determination and truth-protection intentions managed to neutralize tough conditions, tame insatiable dispositions and enact just constitutions that rectify oppression, protect the weak and maintain rights through detailed institutions derived from a group of long-standing experience in fighting political despotism, social injustice and moral deviation.

     When you contemplate the articles of these constitutions, you will accurately realize the sought-after human rights whose inexistence many people have yet been complaining of.

     The first article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided that people are born free and equal in rights and duties. These are the exact words that ‛Omar Ibn Al-Khaţţāb unaffectedly declared out of his pure Islamic nature. He enunciated these words on the spur of the moment.

Nevertheless, such words have remained an imaginary theory for ages. How many people were born with rights that others did not get! Numerous are those people who were born burdened with duties that others did not endure!

     How many jobs were occupied by incompetent people due to the inequality of opportunities? Do not ask how or why. Do not raise such a question as whoever dared to ask it got lost or suffered so severely that they later lived hanging down their heads. A huge number of sins and vices have been committed because of the improper use of authority, undeservedly and unconsciously acquired by some people. Allah, the Almighty, never oppresses anyone in His dominion; He says in a divine ḥadīth[2], “O My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Myself. So, never treat one another oppressively”.

     Nevertheless, figures of authority and wealth used to practice oppression in many countries. Eventually, the masses were able to constrain them with constitutions and charters drafted according to learned experience and bitter memories.

     Human rights emerged along with the declaration of faith in Islam. When we believe in Allah, being the only One that deserves to be worshipped and the One that legislates and ordains whatever He wills, all ideological, political, or social paganisms will collapse.

     In fact, one can enjoy great freedom through one’s faith in Allah's Oneness, Providence, Dominion over His creatures, and Commandment of everything. It is also through one’s firm belief that Allah is the One, the Harm-Inflicting, the Benefit-Giver, the Demoter, the Raiser, the Conferrer, and the Preventer, that one is granted a kind of total freedom that makes her/him ignore all worldly juggernauts and tycoons. This is due to the fact that s/he then has the conviction that, whatever dominion oppressors have, they are only slaves to the One Allah that they themselves have to worship.

We noticed that Moses story with the Pharaoh was mentioned in the Qur’ān several times, since dictatorship is a psychological disease or passion common among despotic rulers. Quoting Pharaoh's speech to his people, the Qur’ān says,

“Pharaoh said, ‘I have told you what I think; I am guiding you along the right path.’” (Qur’ān, 40: 29)

     In response to his magicians who believed in Moses, having been defeated by his stick that swallowed up the magic they had produced, the Pharaoh said, “How dare you believe in him before I have given you permission? This must be your master, the man who taught you witchcraft. I shall certainly cut off your alternate hands and feet, then crucify you on the trunks of palm trees. You will then know for certain which of us has the fiercer and more lasting punishment.’” (Qur’ān, 20: 71)

     How ridiculous is this Pharaoh who thought that no opinion should be acted upon except his and that he was the only one entitled to make decisions. He also deemed that whoever adopted an opinion without his permission was mistaken and rebellious. He acted as if he were the king of consciences and secrets and that people were the slaves of his favors.

To protect humanity from this tyrannical passion, modern constitutions stressed the significance of consultation and compelled rulers to act upon it and imposed remarkable restraints to prevent disposing of or tampering with public monetary.

     They also provided for drastic laws that ensured everyone's right to an equitable trial. So, no one may be imprisoned, detained or harmed tyrannically. Instead, a human being should receive a fair treatment that makes her/him feel well-protected on condition that s/he is not guilty. Once one commits an offense, he must be brought to prosecution and the sentence passed against her/him by the judiciary must be implemented.

Seeing the assassin of his uncle Hamza, the Prophet did not blame him with a word after he had adopted Islam.

     Encountering the man who killed his bother during the pre-Islamic era, ‛Omar Ibn Al-Khaţţāb, the Muslim ruler, told the killer who had adopted Islam, “I do not like you”. The man, who was then Umar’s subject, said, “Does this prevent me from my rights?". Omar replied, “Of course not”. The man said, “Who cares? Only women lament the loss of love”.

     Truly, the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) and the practice of the Rightly-Guided caliphates set the noblest example for respect and promotion of human rights. The Prophet (pbuh) called upon those who thought he might have done them wrong to take their revenge on him and restore their rights. So did his caliphs. The third caliph, Othman, refused to militarily mobilize the people of Madinah, especially his tribesmen, to defend him against those who rebelled against him, thus preventing much bloodshed.

If it were for another ruler, he would destroy half his people to defend himself.

     It is in this honorable environment that the men who defeated Caesar and Khosrau, Roman and Persian kings, were brought up. History recorded that one of them said in the Persian land, “We have come here to prevent people from worshipping their fellow men in order to only worship the One Allah. We have come to get people out from the narrowness of religions to the vastness of Islam”.

     They were fully aware that worshiping One Allah means promoting human rights. All humans should worship only One Allah, so a human being cannot worship another human being.

     Accordingly, this free environment paved the way to form the Muslim nation that knows its Allah, has full sovereignty over its homeland, but cannot be oppressed and its blood cannot be shed in vain. Islam hated vulnerability and determined that a believer must be self-esteemed and unassailable.

     If a believer could not stay safe in a land, he should migrate to another one, so that he could remain invincible. The Qur’ān says,

“Say, O believing servants, be mindful of your Lord! Those who do goodness in this world will have a good reward – Allah’s earth is wide - and those who persevere patiently will be given a full and unstinting reward.” (Qur’ān, 39: 10) 137

Migration here cannot be understood to mean escaping from possible resistance. This is what Abu Bakr said in his sermon, “We heard Allah's Prophet said, ‘When people see an oppressor but do not prevent him from doing evil, it is likely that Allah will punish them all’”.

The Prophet is also reported to have said, “If acts of disobedience are done among certain people who do not strive to change them, though they are able to do so, Allah will soon punish them all”.

     In fact, oppressors are among the most coward people. If one of them knows that the same slap will return to him, he will think a thousand times before practicing oppression. They are roaring only in empty places. They bear their heads high only in vacuum space. Woe to the coward people.

Political human rights entitle one to criticize the mistakes of any high or low authority without being inflicted any harm. A human being has also the right to occupy any post that fits her/him without any obstacles. The reason for that is that no one after the Prophet (pbuh) is too infallible to be above criticism. Public positions and posts are trusts that should be given only to the competent and worthy persons.

     Humans have financial rights entitled by general brotherhood among the Muslims. Reference has been made above to the Prophet’s ḥadīth stating that “A Muslim is the brother of a fellow-Muslim. He should neither commit oppression upon him nor ruin him”. Ibn Ḥazm said, “Whoever leaves his fellow man hungry or nude while he can provide food and clothes for him actually ruins him”. Ibn Al-Jawzy mentioned in the biography of ‛Omar Ibn Al-Khaţţāb that this caliph, during the drought crisis that befell the nation, said, “If the only way to provide people with food enough to satisfy them was that I took to every household a number of people equal to them in number to share them their own food, I would definitely do that, since people will not perish if they go with their stomachs only half full.”.

     People also have cultural rights that make knowledge among them common, affordable and illuminating for a human being. The honorable Sunnah indicates that seeking for knowledge is obligatory. Human faculties, thoughts and emotions grow only through endless supplies of knowledge.

     It is strange to find a Muslim man living for centuries away from his religion, developing other environments and judging things through other legislations.

     Now, in non-Muslim societies, peoples choose their rulers and may depose them once they get bored with them. On the contrary, certain rulers take Muslim peoples by surprise in the same way as certain diseases take sick people by surprise, and there is no panacea for all of them.

When Lebanon massacres happened[3], thousands of people demonstrated in every world capital except in Muslim capitals as demonstrations are banned there. Who knows? Trouble invites trouble. These demonstrations could intentionally be staged against rulers. Therefore, it was better to prevent them. The ‘beloved’ presidents can perform their duties.

[1] Muḩammad El-Ghazāli, “A Hundred Questions on Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 133.

[2] A divine ḥadīth is a report said by the Prophet (pbuh) but its meaning is from Allah, the Almighty.

[3] They occurred in 1982. Reference was earlier made to those massacres in the footnotes to questions number 9 and 21 in the same book.



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