Human rights in Islam
By Dr Amjad Parvez
Ghulam Rasul says in the book titled Mazahib-e-Aalam Ka Taqabali Mutalea that whereas all religions consider people of other religions below them in status, Islam gives respect to people belonging to all other religions.
In the prologue to the book titled Quran Aur Insaani Huqooq, Muhammad Akhtar Muslim says that the West considers the advent of human rights to be in the 5th century AD only then to jump to the 11th century. The intervening five centuries have probably been omitted because these belonged to Muslims era. From the historical perspective, Islam was propagator of human rights right from the beginning. This is the message given by Muhammad Akhtar Muslim in his book titled Quran Aur Insaani Huqooq. This message is especially aimed at our younger generation who are not aware that their own religion and its scripture safeguard human rights because of strong western media. Before going into details, one must first look briefly at the history of human rights in the West.
Since the beginning of civilisation, the concept of ‘self-preservation’ came into being as human beings desired to develop a system for the safety of their belongings. It is called the government nowadays. Soon people found out that the rulers enjoyed all the privileges and the rest were subjugated. This disparity between the haves and have-nots was revolted against. The rulers then looked up to aristocracy, which meant that whatever subjects possessed was in fact owned by the aristocrats. Unfortunately, the Church also took sides with the aristocracy. In the 17th century, therefore, contract theory developed the concept of human rights. It was propounded by Hobbes followed by John Locke, who superseded Hobbes in the sense that he stressed that the rights of a human other than preservation of peace must also be preserved. Thomas Paine in the US also believed in this concept. Russia developed a constitution that dictated that no human could exploit the other. The list continues.
Prior to the advent of Islam, women had a very low social status, without any human rights. Even in the Greek, Roman and Babylon civilisations, supposedly the custodians of culture, a woman did not enjoy any respect or freedom. Studying the ancient Egyptian civilisation, an Egyptian scholar Abbas Mahmud Al-Aqaad observes the same situation about women’s rights was prevalent in ancient Egypt.
That Islam enshrines human right is evident from the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), who had visible inclination towards weaker sections of society. His first wife, Syeda Khadija (RA), at the time of the first revelation, had consoled him by saying that as he had a soft corner for the poor and the needy, Allah Almighty shall let no harm come to him. It was in the pre-prophethood era that, in collaboration with the like-minded people, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had constituted an agreement namely Halful-Fazool to bring peace to Makkah, to provide safe passage to the travellers, to help the subjugated whether locals or outsiders, and to stop powerful from tyrannising the masses. In Arabic, the word ‘right’ is called fuzool.
The second milestone on human rights was Misaaq-e-Madina referred to as ‘the first written constitution of the world’ by Dr Muhammad Hamidullah in his book with the same title. In this document, the jurisdiction of courts, army and other higher authority was kept by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the rest was delegated.
This document comprised 52 two legal sentences and Westerners especially Wellhausen, Mueller, Grimne, Sprenger, Wensinck, Buhl, German historian Ranke have acknowledged this document as a novel one. Another document, Sulah Hudaibiya, has been declared as a document of peace. It emphasised on peace, freedom and equal rights for all. Khutba-e-Hajjatul Wida (the last hajj sermon) enunciated the steps taken for the preservation of human rights and comprised an essential element of Islamic constitution. It emphasised on the sanctity of human life, payment of loans, prohibition of usury, harmonious coexistence of various ethnic communities, sanctity of property, rights of women, fraternity, prohibition of slavery, etc. Muhammad Akhtar Muslim has then gone into the details of documentation of these historic agreements in the subsequent chapters. Chapter seven discusses the Quranic contract theory and chapter eight women’s rights as seen through the Quran. The former lays the foundations of respect of human beings, equality and rights of men and women, freedom, economic rights, justice, law and order, privacy, marriage, religious freedom and so on. The latter discusses the right of nikah, treatment of sons and daughter on an equal basis, the right of dower and khula, woman’s diyat, woman as a witness, woman as bread earner, etc.
Overall, this book is a document that advocates the rights of human beings as seen through Islam, the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the Holy Quran.
Source: Daily Times