A concise and comprehensive presentation of the nature and position of Human Rights in Islam and the safeguard which it provides against their violation. The work also includes a brief account of Islamic concept of state, its political framework, its ideal model that prevailed during the days of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and pious Caliphas alongwith other related topics.
In urdu and Arabic, some people approaches have been attempted to appreciate the Islamic concept of Human rights within the contemporary perspective. In English the subject has yet to be pursued at length wherein the initial discussion could not go beyond the recitations of a few seminar-papers touching upon only some minor aspects. No attempt, however, seems to have been made yet at approaching the matter with a comparative cosmopolitan outlook, nor towards the presentations of the Islamic solutions to the obstacles which are a hurdle in the way of implementations of human Right on concept of Human Rights in a precisely comprehensible way with particular reference to hitherto neglected aspects and its practicability.
May Allah, the Almighty make this humble effort as a starting point towards understanding the problems, which shall, the writer is contented to feel, be the real reward.
Whenever European authors write the history of any human institution or concept, they invariably trace its origin to the Roman or Greek civilization. The existence and development of this concept or institution is then denied, by dint of silence, during the period which the Europeans choose to call the “Dark Ages.” Then it suddenly emerges with the resurgence of Europe in the 17th century. The concept of human rights, according to them, was propounded first of all by Zeno, a Greek philosopher. Then form stoics, this concept found its way into Roman civilization and after remaining dormant during the “Dark Ages” emerged with the European resurgence in the 17th century as a safe guard for the individual against the unlimited authority of the state. During its further progress it found its way into Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. The origins of the modern concept of human rights area also attributed to the Magna Carta, which in reality was nothing more than a contract between the king and the barons under which the former undertook to safeguard their various privileges. It was only after a long time that it was interpreted in the context of human rights as such. Originally it had nothing to do with the rights of a man as a human being.
Going by the above scenario, the concept of human rights in Islam and its practical application to human beings is totally neglected. Islam, which dominated Asia, Africa and parts of Europe for hundreds of years and was an important, if not the sole, factor behind the European resurgence, is completely ignored.
The fact is that the Islamic message right from its initiation in Mukkah included human rights among its basic tenets, along with its great emphasis on duties of man towards fellow humans. It is because of this that we find in various chapters of the Qur’an revealed in the early Makkah period, condemnation of various forms of violations of human rights which prevailed in those days. The Qur’an not only condemned the contemporary violations of human rights but also positively motivated the people to pay due regard to these rights. Some of the relevant verses of the Qur’an in this context are :< p> “And when the girl child that was buried alive is asked, for what she was slain.” “Has not thou observed him… who repels the orphan, and urges not the feeding of the needy.” “Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is? (it is) to free a slave.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), whose life was Qur’an in practice, paid great attention to these rights, since the very beginning of his prophet hood. Thus, we see that one of the reasons for the hesitation of the Quraish to embrace Islam was the equal treatment which the Prophet (PBUH) accorded to them and to the ordinary slaves like Bilal.
After his migration to Medina where the Prophet (PBUH) established a full-fledged Islamic state in accordance with the Divine suppressions of human rights was put into action. Various measures were laid down in the Qur’an which called for the enforcement of human rights. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) proclaimed the sanctity of these rights for all times to come while addressing Muslims on his last pilgrimage to Makkah, known as Farewell Hajj, in the following words:
“Your lives, your properties and your honor are as sacred as this day. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and yours committed helpers. No one is superior to another except by virtue of faith and piety. All men area descended from Adam and Adam was made of clay.
“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over an Arab; neither does a white man posses any superiority over a back man nor a black man over a white one, except by virtue of piety.”
The importance which human rights had a acquired by the timer of the death of the Prophet (PBUH) and during the era of the rightly guided Caliphs can be appreciated from the following utterance if Sayyidna Abu Bakr just strong with me till his rights have been vindicated and the strong among you shall be weak with me till, if God wills, I have taken What is due from him.”
Even after the end of the pious Caliphate, when there was a deviation from the Islamic political system and the Caliphate was replaced by monarchs, human rights continued to receive great attention in Muslim society. Several slaves rose to become kings and for some time India was ruled by what is called the ‘Slave Dynasty.” A glorious example which has no parallel in such societies that claims to be the pioneers and champions of human rights. The importance which human rights received in Islamic society was not the result of any lofty declarations, but outcome of the pattern into which Islam moulds human Life. The rights given in Islam are not of the nature of the defense of individual against the unfettered authority of the state, rather the purpose of the state itself is to restore these rights to those who have been deprived of them. Each and every basic principle of the Islamic polity operates practically as a safeguard against the violation of these rights.
In the present-day world when after 30 years of the proclamation of the universal Declaration of Human rights by the United Nations the violation of these rights continues “In majority of the countries all over the world,” and in which “all major regions, political an ideological blocks are involved,” when classical discriminations have not at all vanished, new kinds of perversions have come to characterize man’s inhumanity to man, when threats to human freedom and dignity have now emerged from the structure of modern technological society and all attempts to seek solution to the problems hindering their enforcement within a secular framework continue to fail after a certain point, there is a need to reappraise the foundations on which the whole concept of human rights is based as it was never before, Islam provides a ray of hope for the suffering humanity by granting, enforcing and ensuring respect for human rights.
In order to understand the nature and position of human rights in Islam and the safeguard which it provides against their violation in the perspective of modern international approaches and the conceptual pitfalls and practical hurdles in the was of their comprehension and implementations, it is necessary to study the Islamic concept of State, its political framework, its model obtaining during the days of the Noble Prophet (PBUH) and the righteous Caliphs together with the sources of an Islamic Constitution.
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