Quran, Islam and Human Rights
By: M Ahmad
When we speak of human rights in Islam, we really mean that these rights have been granted by Almighty Allah; they have not been granted by any king or by any legislative assembly as the rights granted by the kings or the legislative assemblies, can also be withdrawn in the same manner in which they are conferred. The same is the case with the rights accepted and recognized by the dictators. They can confer them when it pleases them and withdraw them when they wish; and they can openly violate them when they like. But since in Islam human rights have been conferred by Allah, no legislative assembly in the world, or any government on earth has the right or authority to make any amendment or change in the rights conferred by Allah as in Quran & Hadiath. No one has the right to abrogate them or withdraw them. Nor are they the basic human rights which are conferred on paper for the sake of show and exhibition and denied in actual life when the show is over.
The first and the foremost basic right is the right to live and respect human life. Allah says in Holy Quran: Whosoever kills a human being without any reason, it is as though he had killed all mankind … (5:32). As far as the question of taking life in retaliation for murder or the question of punishment for spreading corruption on this earth is concerned, it can be decided only by a proper and competent court of law. If there is any war with any nation or country, it can be decided only by a properly established government. In any case, no human being has any right by himself to take human life in retaliation or for causing mischief on this earth. Therefore it is incumbent on every human being that under no circumstances should he be guilty of taking a human life. If anyone has murdered a human being, it is as if he has slain the entire human race. These instructions have been repeated in the Holy Quran in another place saying: Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law … (6:151). Immediately after the verse of the Holy Quran which has been mentioned in connection with the right to life, Allah has said: “And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32). There can be several forms of saving man from death. A man may be ill or wounded, irrespective of his religion, nationality, race or colour. If you know that he is in need of your help, then it is your duty that you should arrange for his treatment for disease or wound. If he is dying of starvation, then it is your duty to feed him so that he can ward off death. If he is drowning or his life is at stake, then it is your duty to save him.
Islam has clearly and categorically forbidden the primitive practice of capturing a free man, to make him a slave or to sell him into slavery. On this point the clear and unequivocal words of the Prophet (S) are as follows: “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money” (al-Bukhari and Ibn Majjah).
This is a very important and valuable right which Islam has given to man as a human being. The Holy Quran has laid down: “Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression” (5:2). “And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness” (5:8). Stressing this point the Quran again says: “You who believe stand steadfast before God as witness for (truth and) fairplay” (4:135). This makes the point clear that Muslims have to be just not only with ordinary human beings but even with their enemies. In other words, the justice to which Islam invites her followers is not limited only to the citizens of their own country, or the people of their own tribe, nation or race, or the Muslim community as a whole, but it is meant for all the human beings of the world. Muslims therefore, cannot be unjust to anyone. Their permanent habit and character should be such that no man should ever fear injustice at their hands, and they should treat every human being everywhere with justice and fairness.
Islam not only recognizes absolute equality between men irrespective of any distinction of colour, race or nationality, but makes it an important and significant principle, a reality. Allah has laid down in the Holy Quran: “O mankind, we have created you from a male and female.” In other words all human beings are brothers to one another. They all are the descendants from one father and one mother. “And we set you up as nations and tribes so that you may be able to recognize each other” (49:13). This means that the division of human beings into nations, races, groups and tribes is for the sake of distinction, so that people of one race or tribe may meet and be acquainted with the people belonging to another race or tribe and cooperate with one another. This division of the human race is neither meant for one nation to take pride in its superiority over others nor is it meant for one nation to treat another with contempt or disgrace, or regard them as a mean and degraded race and usurp their rights. “Indeed, the noblest among you before God are the most heedful of you” (49:13). In other words the superiority of one man over another is only on the basis of God-consciousness, purity of character and high morals, and not on the basis of colour, race, language or nationality, and even this superiority based on piety and pure conduct does not justify that such people should play lord or assume airs of superiority over other human beings.
This has been exemplified by the Prophet in one of his sayings thus: “No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Nor does a white man have any superiority over a black man, or the black man any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay” (al-Bayhaqi and al-Bazzaz). In this manner Islam established equality for the entire human race and struck at the very root of all distinctions based on colour, race, language or nationality. According to Islam,God has given man this right of equality as a birthright. Therefore no man should be discriminated against on the ground of the colour of his skin, his place of birth, the race or the nation in which he was born.
Islam has prescribed a general principle of paramount importance and universal application saying: “Co-operate with one another for virtue and heedfulness and do not co-operate with one another for the purpose of vice and aggression” (5:2). This means that the man who undertakes a noble and righteous work, irrespective of the fact whether he is living at the North Pole or the South Pole, has the right to expect support and active co-operation from the Muslims. On the contrary he who perpetrates deeds of vice and aggression, even if he is our closest relation or neighbour, does not have the right to win our support and help in the name of race, country, language or nationality, nor should he have the expectation that Muslims will co-operate with him or support him. Nor is it permissible for Muslims to co-operate with him.
“You will not enter Paradise until you believe and you will not believe until you love each other. Shall I show you something that, if you did, you would love each other? Spread peace between yourselves.” Sahih Muslim 54
The writer is Principal (I/C), Abhedananda Home-Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled Children, Solina, Rambagh, Srinagar, J&K