Islamic Perspectives

Islam ensures human rights

By Ahmad Wahaj Al-Siddiqui

IN order to properly understand the theme of this article - how did Islam introduce peace and human rights? - we will have to have a peep in history before 7th century C.E. when the world in general and the West in particular were known for their dark ages. Then, no country had any constitution to govern; the might was always right and there were no takers for the rule of law. The executive, the law and justice were all vested in one man, the ruler. His will surpassed his own rule. To oppose him was to say goodbye to one’s life.

It is said that the Romans had justice. What justice? When the accused were devoid of any defense and just thrown before the lions or tagged behind the running horses or branded blind. Often fetters were put upon them to beg for their whole lives.

Righteousness and fair dealing were nowhere to be found. Women had no status except that of a slave. Men owned as many women as they liked and called them wives or concubines. A woman had no right whatsoever in society, no right to ownership, no right to inheritance, no right of maintenance and no right to divorce. She was used as a tool to satisfy the sexual desires of men. A newly-born child was placed before the husband, if he accepted him, he could be called a son otherwise the child was sold in the market to be a slave for life.

 The shadows of atrocities had become dreadfully long, the humanity stood oppressed by the criminals. The wolf-like men had bled humanity to despair. Mighty were free to devour the weak who lived on the mercy of the strong. The earth had straitened for the people searching for peace. Chastity of women had become a dream, trade caravans were plundered and free men were made slaves and sold in the markets.

 Idol-worship reigned supreme. Sacrificial killings made the blood of the weak was shed before the idols.

 The deterioration of the society knew no limits and it was a global carnage wrought by the mighty, arrogant terrorists.

 Who is a terrorist? He is the one who has his own laws, far beyond any religious restrictions, favours terrorizing methods to achieve his sinister motives and coerce mankind and kills innocent persons with impunity.

 Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful, intended to reform the most wretched condition of humanity and to give it a peaceful life. For this great purpose, He sent His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) stood against corruption, discord and disruption. In those days, the states had no rules, the rulers promulgated what they wished. God gave the Prophet (peace be upon him) a constitution to govern and it was the Holy Qur’an. The Qur’an directed Believers to govern through “Shoura” (mutual consultation). (42/38). The Qur’an promulgated laws that laid down that the society consisted of men and women both of whom enjoyed equal rights.

 Human rights was a term unknown in the 7th century. The Qur’an decreed human rights. The Prophet (peace be upon him) defined rights and duties of each member of the society. The right of one is the duty of the other, so to infringe on one’s right is to oppress the other, that is why the infringement of rights is made subject to reckoning and hence is punishable in the Islamic Shariah.

 The Prophet (peace be upon him) introduced a whole set of civil rights, called upon masters to pay the labour before the drying up the sweat of their brows. The Qur’an directed the rich to pay Zakat (poor-due) to eradicate poverty. Once Gabriel came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and kept exhorting upon him to be good to the neighbours so much so that the Prophet (peace be upon him) thought the neighbour may be given a portion in inheritance (Sahih Muslim).

 The Prophet (peace be upon him) made the judiciary independent of the executive. The ruler and the commoner, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, were treated at par by the judges. He defined crimes and their punishment and gave the right of defense to the accused.

 The Prophet (peace be upon him) liberated women from the bondage of men and said Islam treats men and women on an equal footing and gave women right to property and to own business. It made women to inherit as wife, mother, daughter and even in some cases as sister.

 The Qur’an enforced a very comprehensive law of property, according to which the right of the ownership is restricted to 30 percent to be given as donation or gift, while the heirs have the right to own the property as defined by the Qur’an. The Book of Allah has prescribed the shares of all the heirs, father, mother, sons and daughters etc., and how the property was to be divided between them. Islam stressed the modesty of women and declared adultery, incest and fornication as heinous crimes which pollute the society and progeny. These crimes infringe on the man’s freedom of living with honour and dignity.   

Islam is the only religion to abolish slavery and framed laws that stipulate freeing of slaves for some offenses. Islam laid down the rules of trade and business and ordered Muslims to respect the contracts between the buyer and the seller. Islam enacted rules against speculation and monopoly for charging higher prices for the goods.

 In short, Islam laid down rules for all aspects of life and ordered any violation of human rights to be dealt with severely. It gave a death-blow to the rule of anarchy and terrorism.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2011 on page no. 28

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