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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES

Human rights in Islam and our country

By Saleemuddin 

The history of our radiant and thriving civilisation is very old. Many caravans of different peoples came to this country, settled here, developed and made it prosperous and treated it as their motherland. The India of today is a product of the combined efforts of all its sons. 

Islam has emphasised the greatness of man. According to Qur’an man first of all came into this world in light and Allah taught Adam the names of all things (Sura Baqrah: 31).

Islam is a complete way of life and it has recongnised human rights from man’s birth till death as right to security of life, protection of honour and chastity, protection of property, justice and equality, freedom of speech and expression and faith, and upbringing a newly-born child to woman’s dower. Islam has provided all human rights laid down by God and His Prophet (pbuh). 

Europe too has been advocating for human rights for the past three-and-a-half hundred years but in a limited way.

During the life-time of Prophet (pbuh), a woman felt guilty of committing adultery. She revealed her guilt to Prophet (pbuh) and asked for punishment. She was pregnant. Prophet (pbuh) did not pronounce any punishment till she delivered her child, and during the child’s breast-feeding. When the child started eating bread, Prophet entrusted the child to another man for his upbringing and pronounced the punishment of stoning to death. 

This incident showed three things. Prophet (pbuh) did not pronounce punishment for the safety of a foetus. He delayed the punishment till the infant was weaned away. And when the punishment was given to the woman her child was sent to be brought up by the Islamic state and he was to be given all the rights and privileges like any other child. Islam enjoins upon parents to make all arrangements for the education, training, food and health of their children and also calls upon them not to scold them or treat them harshly but to be kind to them and take care of all their needs. If Islam prescribes the rights of masters, it has also laid down the rights of the workers. Islam asks the masters to pay the the wages before the sweat dries up.

Man had adopted the path of cruelty, and perpetrated cruelty on women by burying them alive and curbing their activities. They had to bear crimes like dowry, rape and female foeticide. Man is also responsible for prostitution. Islam gave such a position of honour and dignity to woman of which there is no parallel in any other religion. Islam gave women the right to freedom of speech and expression, conducting business and commerce, inherit property, alimony, choosing a life partner and right to provide shelter. After the conquest of Makkah, Umm Haani provided shelter to a polytheist and gave him honour and respect. Similarly, according to Islam, a woman should not be treated as a commodity to be given in charity. Women have been given the right to Khula (seeking divorce). Her relationship with her parents is not discouraged. If she is a widow or a divorcee, her rights in her parents property remain the same as before her marriage.

Islam allows even its enemies to lead a peaceful and secure life and gives them equal rights in matters related to human rights. Muslims preferred to remain hungry and fed their enemies who were taken prisoners by them during the battle of Badar. The Prophet of Islam (pbuh) could not sleep for the whole night one day because he heard the sighs of a prisoner. Islam prohibits ill treatment to woman, children, aged, sick and animals during war. 

During the reign of Caliph Umar Muslims captured a city ruled by Christians. After a few days Muslim armies vacated the city under certain compulsions. The jizya collected from them were also returned. Seeing such examplary behaviour of Muslim armies, the Christians insisted that they should not vacate the city because they had not seen such true and sincere protectors of their women, lives and properties. They said that their own Christian army used to outrage the modesty and chastity of women. Many such incidents have been recorded in history books. Islam is the protector of the rights of all human beings. But today Islamic countries violate human rights so much that it is better not to mention.

It deserves consideration as to how far we protect and grant human rights to women, children, Dalits and the people of our country. The biggest right of the people is to be familiarise with the teachings of Islam. We should devote ourselves in the propagation of Islam among the countrymen. If we sincerely do it, Islam will become more popular and widespread. (Translated from Urdu) 

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