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Human Rights in Islam  

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Islam is a complete and integral Divine religion and way of life. It has a complete code of ethics for a happy life, and peaceful, tranquil life after death.

Islam is pure from all imperfections, defects and blemishing effects. It is a perfect way of life.  

Any deviant or abnormal behavior observed in a Muslim should have no bearing on Islam, non what so ever. The reason for such a deviation or bad behavior is due to ill knowledge of the faith itself, or due to a weak faith that led to such deviant acts.

It is unjust and unreasonable for Islam to be assessed or evaluated based on any individuals’ behavior and attitudes, with the exception of the Prophet Muhammad who is the example and role-model.

ALL Praise is due to God and may God exalt the mention of His Prophet and render him and his household, his Companions, and those who follow their way safe from every evil, and grant them security on the Day of Resurrection.

Both the Glorious Qur’an and the Sunnah aim to produce an ideal individual in an ideal society.

Every society must ensure for its citizens the rights that guarantee for them their basic needs and security, and enable them to feel a sense of belonging and attachment to the larger social group.

Individuals need to feel secure and have a sense of belonging in order to perform their tasks and duties in a satisfactory manner.

Presently, three distinct trends are discernible in our global society. The first trend exaggerates the right of the individual over the society. This trend gives the individual full freedom to do as he pleases with minimal restrictions. Unfortunately this leads to a chaotic social situation because when unlimited freedom is granted to the individual, selfish desires predominate which bring harm to the community. The entire society suffers from this greed and selfishness. This trend is found in liberal, democratic, capitalist societies.

The second trend, contrary to the above, advocates the rights of the society over the individual. The latter is stripped of his individual rights. Only rights that serve the ruling regime are granted to the individuals, according to the dominant ideology of the ruling class or group. This trend is prevalent in communist and totalitarian societies.

The rights enumerated by modern international organizations are characterized by deficiencies in conceptualization, flaws in formulation, and injustices in application.

The third trend, ideally, neither emphasizes the right of the society over the individual, nor the right of the individual over the society. Each is given its due right in an equal balance. The rights and obligations of both the community and the individual are governed and controlled by clear rules and conditions. In this trend, the public interest is given priority over the interest of an individual only in case of a serious conflict. Sadly, this  system is rare in history, but among the societies that adopted it was the government of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate followers, called the Rightly Guided Caliphs.

In this booklet we shall address human rights in the light of the perfectly balanced system of Islamic law. These rights are based on revelations from the Divine Book of Muslims, the Qur’an and from the Sunnah, the practice of God’s Messenger (pbuh), the two main sources of Islamic life and jurisprudence.

Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah aim to produce an ideal individual in an ideal society. All elements in such a system should interact with one another to create harmony between the individual and God their Lord and Creator, themselves, others within the society at large, and other societies all over the globe.

We firmly believe that the application of the individual and social principles of the third system, when guided by the perfect revealed laws from God in the Qur’an and Sunnah, will definitely make humanity happier and more prosperous.

The application of these principles will enable the society to achieve peace and security. These social rights and principles are not a result of previous experiences, social ideologies, temporary and immediate needs and/or political drives and motives; rather they are from the All-Knowing Creator who revealed them for man’s progress to happiness in this life and salvation in the Hereafter Our firm belief in the truth and justice of Islamic rights and principles is due to the fact that God, the Most Merciful and only Creator of man, reveals them. He knows well what suits His creation at all times, what benefits or harms man, what makes him happy or sad, what makes him successful or miserable. By His knowledge and beneficence, He has legislated what suits best and fulfills the essential needs of all His creatures on earth and makes their lives successful, secure and joyful.

The Qur’an, which was revealed and sent down unto Muhammad (pbuh) in the seventh century CE, is the everlasting miracle that contains the basics of these essential rules. The Sunnah, the recorded practices of God’s Messenger (pbuh) and the second source of Islamic law, contains detailed revealed guidance. These rules and principles were set forth by God’s Messenger (pbuh) in the best form and manner and will remain relevant forever. Both the Qur’an and Sunnah honor man and his individual rights in the society. At the same time, these sources of Islamic law did not overlook the needs and rights of the society and public interest. In fact, Almighty God states in the Qur’an:

(And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created,

with [definite] preference.) [17:70]

Islam calls for the protection, defense and the support of oppressed people of the world, by the removal of the root causes of oppression and exploitation.

Man will only gain this honor and these privileges when he fulfills his obligations and gives the rights due to their owners.

In order to execute the role of this special place on earth, there is a need for specific tasks to be performed by specific individuals.

This concept is illustrated by the Almighty God in the Qur’an:

(And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.) [6:165]

Some nations and international organizations, call loudly to principles that seek to guarantee human rights. Islam established within its enlightened Shari’ah (legal system) many of these human rights some fourteen centuries ago.

The rights enumerated by modern international organizations are characterized by deficiencies in conceptualization, flaws in formulation, and injustices in application. They are subject to political agendas, economic pressure and culturally biased viewpoints. They frequently carry the residues of colonialism and imperialism. Such rights are often enumerated and established not for the interests of all humans, rather, for the benefit of certain organizations and powerful special interest groups.

We observe that many Muslims all over the world are not true representatives of Islam because they commit grievous mistakes and have many serious deficiencies in belief and practice.

This becomes more evident when, as we see all over the world, many of our fellow humans suffering from the worst atrocities, and yet, there is no organization to truly defend the poor and the weak. Glaring inequalities and abuse between nations and within nations are growing worse and worse even before our eyes, and the prescriptions for aid and development mire them deeper into misery as if they were meant to perpetuate their misery and servitude.

It may be that some of the humanitarian organizations cannot come to the aid of some oppressed persons for political and economic reasons. Some sincere organizations have been barred from engaging in humanitarian efforts, while others have been allowed because they promote agendas and call to the sectarian ideals, or special interest groups, more acceptable to the dominant powers. Some organizations raise slogans like “Do not interfere in the internal affairs of our countries” or “We must remain confined to political realities” etc. Islam calls for the protection, defense and the support of oppressed people of the world, by removal of root causes of oppression and exploitation. Islamic law is structured to remove any oppression and exploitation according to rules of enjoining the right, forbidding the wrong, and struggling in the path of God the Exalted.

Almighty God states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of God and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?”) [4:75]

It is important to point out here that enforcement of the laws about human rights in a Muslim society is linked inextricably with the sincere commitment to the implementation of Islamic laws and principles in letter and spirit. Some people take only what serves their own interests. Others may just pretend that they are implementing some Islamic teachings and principles but, in reality, are trying to destroy or distort and manipulate Islam from within, and hamper just implementation of Islamic laws. They are not examples of the defense of the human rights in Islam. Therefore, we point out here the obligation that those who would like to study Islam objectively, should do so by studying it on its own merits, as a fully developed system, and not be affected by the malpractices of some claiming to be Muslims, or those countries calling themselves “Muslim countries”.

The deviant behavior and action of certain individuals, groups, people, or governments must not influence a person’s ultimate judgment. The implementation of Islamic principles and Islamic law vary according to the commitment to Islam and the practical ability to apply them to the local circumstances. Even though a system is good, there may be shortcomings and faults in perception and application. If we notice, for example, lying, cheating, breaching of contracts, deception and corruption in a person, we must not accuse the system for it. Since Islam categorically forbids these evils, one must rebuke the person himself for his crimes, but not the system. We should thoroughly examine the system itself and consider its merits.

A simple example may be given here: if a person needs bread, he would go to the bakery, or at least to a place where bread may be sold, such as a grocery shop or a supermarket. If a person in need of bread goes to a butcher or a fruit shop, he would not be able to find bread there. There is a general statement in the Qur’an explaining such a case. Almighty God states in the Qur’an:

(And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of God. They follow not except assumption, and they are not but falsifying.[6:116] Regretfully, we observe that many Muslims all over the world are not true representatives of Islam because they commit grievous mistakes and have many serious deficiencies in belief and practice. We mention this unfortunate situation to warn those who study Islam, about being influenced or deceived by the attitudes and vices of any Muslims that misrepresent Islam. Serious students should not despair; rather they should look to representative upright Muslims and the core teachings of Islam. We encourage Muslims to maintain the best practices and the correct application of their faith in every aspect of life. We call non-Muslims to examine Islam and understand its principles with an unbiased approached.

There is the famous story of a new Muslim convert who, upon visiting a Muslim country, was shocked to witness the horrendous situation of Muslims in that society, noting how far removed they were from the ideal teachings and principles of Islam. He said: ‘I thank God the Almighty for enabling me to accept Islam prior to coming to this country. If I had come here before I accepted Islam, I would never have thought of becoming a Muslim!’ He made this assertion because he saw firsthand the rampant malpractices of some Muslims. This is indeed a very unfortunate situation for which we strive to correct. The first steps of correction are awareness and education.

Reference : Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Sheha, Human Rights in Islam, Usool International Centre, Riyadh, ISBN: 978-603-90936-9-5

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