Basic Human Rights


1. The Right To Life:

The first and foremost basic right is the right to life. The Holy Qur'an lays down: "Whosoever kills a human being (without any reason like) man- slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is though he had killed all mankind." (5:32) The propriety of taking life in retaliation for murder or for spreading corruption can be decided only by a competent court of law. During a war it can be decided only by a properly established government. In any event, no individual has the right to decide such questions by himself. As the Holy Qur'an makes clear:  "Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law." (6:151)

 Homicide is thus distinguished from destruction of life carried out in the pursuit of justice. The Prophet, blessings of Allah and peace be upon him, has declared homicide as the greatest sin after polytheism. A Tradition of the Prophet reads: "The greatest sins are to associate something with God and to kill human beings."

In all these verses of the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet the word 'soul' (nafs) has been used in general terms without any indication that citizens belonging to one's own nation or the people of a particular race or religion should not be killed. The injunction applies to all human beings.

The 'Right to Life' has been given to man as a whole only by Islam. You will observe that reference to human rights in constitutions or declarations in many countries clearly implies that these rights are applicable only to the citizens of that country or to a certain kind of race. Contrary to this partial concept of human rights, Islam recognizes such rights for all human beings.

2. The Right To The Safety Of Life:

Immediately after the verse in the Holy Qur'an which has been mentioned In connection with the right to life, God says: ,. And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind”(532)

There can be several forms of saving man from death. If a man is ill or wounded it is your duty to get him medical help. If he is dying of starvation, it is your duty to feed him. If he is drowning, it is your duty to rescue him. We regard it as our duty to save every human life, because it is thus that we have been enjoined in the Holy Qur'an.

3. Respect For The Chastity Of Women:

The third important element in the Charter of Human Rights granted by Islam is that a woman's chastity must be respected and protected at all times, whether she belongs to one's own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether we find her in a remote forest or in a conquered city, whether she is our co-religionist or belongs to some other religion or has no  religion at all. A Muslim may not physically abuse her under any circumstances. All promiscuous relationships are forbidden to him, irrespective of the status or position of the woman or of whether she is a willing partner to the act.

The words of the Holy Qur'an in this respect are: "Do not approach (the bounds) of adultery" (17:32). Heavy punishment has been prescribed for this crime, and no mitigating circumstances are indicated. Since the violation of the chastity of a woman is forbidden in Islam, a Muslim who perpetrates this crime cannot escape punishment -whether he receives it in this world or In the Hereafter.

This concept of the sanctity of chastity and the protection of women can be found nowhere else except in Islam. From the point of view of Islam, not only the woman but also the man possesses chastity. A man who perpetrates rape or adultery spoils not only the chastity of the woman. but his own as well.

4. The Right To A Basic Standard Of Life:

Speaking about economic rights, the Holy Qur'an enjoins its followers:

" And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and destitute." (51:12)

The wording of this injunction shows that it is categorical and unqualified. Furthermore, this injunction was given in Makkah where there was no Muslim society in existence and where the Muslims came in contact mostly with disbelievers.

The clear meaning of this verse is that anyone who asks for help and anyone who is suffering from deprivation has a right to share in the property and wealth of a Muslim; irrespective of whether he belongs to this or to that nation, to this or to that country, to this or to that race. If one is in a position to help and a needy person asks for help or if one comes to know that he is in need, then it is one's duty to help him.  

5. The Individual's Right To Freedom:

Islam has categorically forbidden the primitive practice of capturing a free man to make him a slave or to sell him into slavery. On this point the unequivocal words of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) are as follows: "There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgement. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money" (Bukhari and Ibn Maja).

The words of this Tradition of the Prophet have not been qualified or restricted to a particular nation or race, or to followers of a particular religion.

The Position Of Slavery In Islam

        Islam tried to solve the problem of the slaves that were already in Arabia by encouraging people to set them free. Muslims were told that freeing slaves would mean the expiation of some of their sins. Freeing a slave of one's own free will was declared to be an act of such great merit that the limbs of the man who manumitted a slave would be protected from hell- fire- one for each limb of the slave freed.

The result of this policy was that, by the time the period of the Rightly- Guided Caliphs was reached, all the old slaves of Arabia had been liberated. The Prophet {blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) alone liberated as many as 63 slaves. The number of slaves freed by. A'isha was 67;  Abbas liberated 70; , Abd Allah bin 'Umar liberated one thousand; and 'Abd al-Ral purchased thirty thousand and set them free. Other Companions of the Prophet liberated a large number of slaves, the details of which are given in the Traditions and books of history of that period.

The problem of the slaves of Arabia was thus solved in under 40 years. After this the only slaves left in Islamic society were prisoners of war captured on the battlefield. These were kept by the Muslim government in question until their own government agreed to receive them back in exchange for Muslim soldiers captured by them or arranged the payment of ransom on their behalf. If the soldiers they captured were not exchanged for Muslim prisoners of war, or their people did not pay their ransom money to purchase their liberty, the Muslim government distributed them among the soldiers of the army which had captured them.

This was a more humane way of disposing of them than penning them like cattle in concentration camps and taking forced labour from them and, if their womenfolk were also captured, setting them aside for prostitution. Islam preferred to spread them through the population and thus bring them in contact with individual human beings. Their guardians, in addition, were ordered to treat them well.

The result of this policy was that most of the men who were captured on foreign battlefields and brought to the Muslim countries as slaves embraced Islam and their descendants produced great scholars, imams, jurists, commentators, statesmen and generals. So much so that later they became rulers of the Muslim world.

6. The Right To Justice:

This is a very important and valuable right which Islam has given to man. The Holy Qur'an has laid down: "Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression" (5:3). " And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness" (5:8). Stressing this point the Qur'an again says: "You who believe stand steadfast before God as witness for (truth and) fair play" ( 4: 135).

The point is thus made clear that Muslims have to be just not only to their friends but also their enemies. In other words, the justice to which Islam invites her followers is not limited to the citizens of one's own country, or the people of one's own tribe, nation or race, or the Muslim community as a whole; it is meant for all human beings.

7. The Equality Of Human Beings:

Islam not only recognizes the principle of absolute equality between men irrespective of colour, race or nationality, it makes it an important reality. Almighty God has laid down in the Holy Qur'an: "O mankind, we have created you from a male and female." In other words, all human beings are brothers. They all are the descendants from one father and one mother. " And we set you up as nations and tribes so that you may be able to recognize each other" (49: 13). This means that the division of human beings into nations, races, groups and tribes is for the sake of distinction, so that people of one race or tribe may meet and be acquainted with people belonging to another race or tribe and co-operate with one another .

This division of the human race is neither meant for one nation to take pride in its superiority over others nor for one nation to treat another with contempt. "Indeed, the noblest among you before God are the most heedful of you " ( 49: 13). That is, the superiority of one man over another is

only on the basis of God-consciousness, purity of character and high morals, and not colour, race, language or nationality. People are therefore not justified in assuming airs of superiority over other human beings. Nor do the righteous have any special privileges over others.

This has been thus exemplified by the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) in one of his sayings: '.No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over a black man, or the black man any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay." (Bayhaqi and Bazzaz). In this manner Islam established the principle of equality of the entire human race and struck at the very root of all distinctions based on colour, race, language or nationality.

According to Islam, God has given man this right of equality as a birthright. No man should therefore be discriminated against on the grounds of the colour of his skin, his place of birth, the race or the nation in which he was born.

8. The Right To Co-operate And Not To Co-operate:

Islam has prescribed a general principle of paramount importance and universal application. The Holy Qur'an says: "Co-operate with one another for virtue and heedfulness and do not co-operate with one another for the purpose of vice and aggression" (5:2). This means that the man who undertakes noble and righteous work, irrespective of whether he is living at the North Pole or the South Pole, has the right to expect support and active co-operation from Muslims. But he who practises vice and aggression, even if he is our closest relation or neighbour, does not have the right to our support and help in the name of race, country, language or nationality, nor should he expect Muslims to co-operate with him. The wicked and vicious person may be our own brother, but he is not of us, and he can have no help or support from us as long as he does not repent of his ways. On the other hand, the man who is doing deeds of virtue and righteousness may have no kinship with Muslims, but Muslims will be his companions and supporters, or at least his well-wishers.

Courtesy of

Prophet Muhammad Advise

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