Islam, as represented in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah exalt his mention), laid down human rights centuries before they were known to the modern world. The following are some of these rights:
1. The security of Life and Property:
In the address which the Prophet delivered on the occasion of the Farewell Hajj, he said: “Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.” The Prophet has also said about the Thimmis (the non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim state): “One who kills a man under covenant (i.e., Thimmi) will not even smell the fragrance of
2. The Protection of Honour:
The Holy Quran lays down this right, stating: “O you who have believed! Let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name [i.e. mention] of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the wrongdoers. O you who have believed! Avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” [Quran: 49:11-12]
3. Sanctity and Security of Private Life:
The Quran has laid down the injunction stating: “…And do not spy or backbite each other…” [Quran: 49:12] “O you who have believed! Do not enter houses other than your own houses until you ascertain welcome and greet their inhabitants…” [Quran: 24:27]
4. The Security of Personal Freedom:
Islam has laid down the principle that no citizen can be imprisoned unless his guilt has been proven in an open court. To arrest a man only on the basis of suspicion and to throw him into a prison without proper court proceedings and without providing him a reasonable opportunity to produce his defence is not permissible in Islam.
5. The Right to Protest against Tyranny:
Amongst the rights that Islam has conferred on human beings is the right to protest against a government's tyranny. Referring to it Allah, He says: “Allah does not like the public mention of evil except by one who has been wronged...” [Quran: 4:148]
In Islam, all power and authority belongs to Allah Alone; man is only delegated a part of that power which becomes a trust. Everyone who becomes the recipient of such a power has to be accountable before his people, for whose sake he will be called upon to use these powers. This was acknowledged by Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, who said in his very first address: “Cooperate with me when I am right but correct me when I commit error. Obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet but turn away from me when I deviate.”
6. 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. The Islamic concept of freedom of expression is much superior to the one prevalent in the West. Under no circumstances would Islam allow the propagation of evil and wickedness. It also does not give anybody the right to use abusive or offensive language in the name of criticism. It was the practice of the Muslims to enquire from the noble Prophet whether a certain matter or a divine injunction had been revealed to him. If he said that he had received no divine injunction, the Muslims freely expressed their opinion on the matter.
7. Freedom of Association:
Islam has also given people the right to freedom of association and formation of parties or organisations. This right is also subject to certain general rules.
8. Freedom of Conscience and Conviction:
Islam has laid down the injunction; Allah says: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion...” [Quran: 2:256] On the contrary, totalitarian societies absolutely deprive the individuals of their freedom. Indeed this undue exaltation of the State authority postulates a sort of slave-like servitude on the part of man. At one time slavery meant total control of man over man - now that type of slavery has been legally abolished, but in its place totalitarian societies impose a similar sort of control over individuals.
9. Protection of Religious Sentiments:
Along with the freedoms of conviction and 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 his right.
10. Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment:
Islam also recognises the right of the individual that he will not be arrested or imprisoned for the offences of others. The Quran has laid down this principle clearly as in the saying of Allah: “…And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another...” [Quran: 6:164]
11. The Right to Basic Necessities of Life: 12. Equality Before Law:
Islam recognised the right of the needy people, that help and assistance be provided to them. Allah says: “And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute.” [Quran: 70:24-25]
Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in the eyes of the law.
13. Rulers are not Above the Law:
A woman belonging to a noble family was arrested in connection with theft. The case was brought to the Prophet and it was recommended that she might be spared the punishment for theft. The Prophet replied: “The nations that lived before you were destroyed by Allah because they punished the common man for his offences and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes; I swear by Him Who holds my life in His hand that even if Faatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, had committed this crime, I would have amputated her hand.”
14. The Right to Participate in Affairs of the State:
Allah says: “…And their affair is [conducted] through consultation among themselves…” [Quran: 42:38] The chapter or the legislative assembly has no other meaning, except that the executive head of the government and the members of the assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the people.
Lastly, it is to be made clear that Islam tries to achieve the above-mentioned human rights and many others, not only by providing certain legal safeguards, but also by inviting humankind to transcend the lower level of animal-like existence to be able to go beyond the ties fostered by the kinship of blood, racial superiority, linguistic arrogance and economic privileges. It invites humankind to move on to a plane of existence where, because of his inner excellence, man can realise the ideal of the universal brotherhood.
12. Equality Before Law: