Human rights


The first and the foremost basic right is the right to live and respect human life. The Holy Quran lays down:

Whosoever kills a human being without (any reason like) manslaughter, or corruption on earth, 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. 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)

Here also homicide has been distinguished from destruction of life carried out in pursuit of justice. Only a proper and competent court will be able to decide whether or not an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings.

The Right to the Safety of Life

Immediately after the verse of the Holy Quran which has been mentioned in connection with the right to life, God 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 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. We regard it as our duty to save every human life, because it is thus that we have been enjoined in the Holy Quran.

The Right to a Basic Standard of Life

Speaking about the economic rights the Holy Quran enjoins upon its followers:

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

The words of this injunction show that it is a categorical and un- qualified order. Furthermore this injunction was given in Makkah where there was no Muslim society in existence and where generally the Muslims had to come in contact with the population of other faiths. Therefore the clear meaning of this verse is that anyone who asks for help and anyone who is suffering from deprivation has a right in the property and wealth of the Muslims; irrespective of the fact whether he belongs to this nation or to that nation, to this country or to that country. If you are in a position to help and a needy person asks you for help or if you come to know that he is in need, then it is your duty to help him. God has established his right over you, which you have to honour as a Muslim.

Individual's Right to Freedom

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.

The Right to Justice

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.

Equality of Human Beings

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. The Almighty God 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. Assuming airs of superiority is in itself a reprehensible vice which no God-fearing and pious man can ever dream of perpetrating. Nor does the righteous have more privileged rights over others, because this runs counter to human equality, which has been laid down in the beginning of this verse as a general principle. From the moral point of view, goodness and virtue is in all cases better than vice and evil.

The Right to Protest Against Tyranny

Amongst the rights that Islam has conferred on human beings is the right to protest against government's tyranny. Referring to it the Quran says: "God does not love evil talk in public unless it is by some- one who has been injured thereby" (4:148). This means that God strongly disapproves of abusive language or strong words of condemnation, but the person who has been the victim of injustice or tyranny, God gives him the right to openly protest against the injury that has been done to him. This right is not limited only to individuals. The words of the verse are general. Therefore if an individual or a group of people or a party usurps power, and after assuming the reins of authority begins to tyrannize individuals or groups of men or the entire population of the country, then to raise the voice of protest against it openly is the God-given right of man and no one has the authority to usurp or deny this right.

Freedom of Expression

Islam gives the right of freedom of thought and expression to all citizens of the Islamic State on the condition that it should be used for the propagation of virtue and truth and not for spreading evil and wickedness. This Islamic concept of freedom of expression is much superior to the concept prevalent in the West. Under no circumstances would Islam allow evil and wickedness to be propagated. It also does not give anybody the right to use abusive or offensive language in the name of criticism. The right to freedom of expression for the sake of propagating virtue and righteousness is not only a right in Islam but an obligation. One who tries to deny this right to his people is openly condemned in Islam.

The Holy Quran has described this quality of the Faithful in the following words: "They enjoin what is proper and forbid what is improper" (9:71)

Protection of Religious Sentiments

Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience, Islam has given the right to the individual that his religious sentiments will be given due respect and nothing will be said or done which may encroach upon this right. It has been ordained by God in the Holy Quran:

"Do not abuse those they appeal to instead of God" (6:108). These instructions are not only limited to idols and deities, but they also apply to the leaders or national heroes of the people. If a group of people holds a conviction which according to you is wrong, and holds certain persons in high esteem which according to you is not deserved by them, then it will not be justified in Islam that you use abusive language for them and thus injure their feelings. Islam does not prohibit people from holding debate and discussion on religious matters, but it wants that these discussions should be conducted in decency. "Do not argue with the people of the Book unless it is in the politest manner" (29:46)-says the Quran. This order is not merely limited to the people of the Scriptures, but applies with equal force to those following other faiths.

The Right to Basic Necessities of Life

Islam has recognized the right of the needy people that help and assistance will be provided for them. "And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute" (51:19). In this verse, the Quran has not only conferred a right on every man who asks for assistance in the wealth of the Muslims, but has also laid down that if a Muslim comes to know that a certain man is without the basic necessities of life, then irrespective of the fact whether he asks for assistance or not, it is his duty to reach him and give all the help that he can extend. For this purpose Islam has not depended only on the help and charity that is given voluntarily, but has made compulsory charity, zakat as the third pillar of Islam, next only to profession of faith and worship of God through holding regular prayers. The Prophet has clearly instructed in this respect that: "It will be taken from their rich and given to those in the community in need" (al-Bukhari and Muslim). In addition to this, it has also been declared that the Islamic State should support those who have nobody to support them. The Prophet has said: "The Head of state is the guardian of him, who has nobody to support him" (Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi). If there is an orphan or an aged man, if there is a crippled or unemployed person, if one is invalid or poor and has no one else to support him or help him, then it is the duty and the responsibility of the state to support and assist him. If a dead man has no guardian or heir, then it is the duty of the state to arrange for his proper burial. In short the state has been entrusted with the duty and responsibility of looking after all those who need help and assistance.

Top