The concept of human rights in Islam
A summary of how the Qur’an deals with the concept of human rights as covered in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) follows: Article 1, 2, UDHR: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Islam teaches the ethic of reciprocity, which entails treating others as we would wish them to treat us: As mentioned above, the following verse lays the blueprint for brotherhood between people: “O mankind, We created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another.
The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous.GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant..” (Qur’an, 49:13) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, or a non-Arab over an Arab, or a black person over a white, or a white over a black person except by being more righteous.” (Prophet’s Farewell Sermon).
The Qur’an also contains numerous verses which beautifully capture what it means to behave in a spirit of brotherhood as it encourages the uttering of kind words, honesty, restraining anger, avoiding greed, practicing forgiveness, giving due measure, condemning fraud and bribery, behaving humbly, admonishing mockery and sarcasm, honouring one’s promises and commitments, and encouraging peace, reconciliation, charity, tolerance, generosity and respect.
Article 3, UDHR: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.The ethic of reciprocity clearly covers this right too (as well as most of the articles in the UDHR).
The Qur’an also states: “Because of this did we ordain unto the children of Israel that if anyone slays a human being unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32).
From this, we not only take cognizance of the fact that every individual has the right to life, but that every life is sacred and that the killing of one life is as atrocious as the destruction of the entire human race.
In Islam, the first and foremost basic right is the right to life.Article 4, UDHR: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
All the spiritual teachings found in the Qur’an address the topic of slavery in one way or another.
For example, the Qur’an encourages the ethic of reciprocity, the spirit of brotherhood, protects the sanctity and dignity of human life, and calls for ending oppression of others.
All these dictates stand in stark contrast to the institution of slavery.
Here is one very clear passage: “… the way of blame is only against those who oppress [other] people and behave outrageously on earth, offending against all right: for them there is grievous suffering in store!” (Qur’an, 42:41).And while the reader will note that the verse stipulates the victim of the crime being “another believer”, it should be emphasized here that “believers” referred to in the Qur’an are all peoples that believe in God, including the followers of the 25 prophets mentioned in the Qur’an as well as the followers of all the thousands of Prophets not mentioned in the Qur’an.
This is evident in the following Qur’anic verse: “Say: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the other prophets: we make no distinction between any of them.And unto Him do we surrender ourselves.” (Qur’an, 3:84).— To be continued.—The writer is the Secretary General, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum.