Human Rights in Islam : Preservation of The Divine Religion

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Islam is the complete and perfect Divine Revelation from God Almighty to mankind to ensure their prosperity and salvation. All the previous prophets of God, like Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslims – those who submitted to God – sent to their respective peoples with the general precepts of Islam – worship God without partner – and the specific code of laws suitable for their peoples.

The Islamic concept of Jihad refers to governmentally sanctioned fighting that is allowed for protection against aggression.

God, the Exalted says:

(And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, “There is nothing worthy of worship except Me, so worship Me.”) [21:25]

Muhammad (pbuh) is the final Prophet and Messenger of God. He has been sent to all mankind with the Islamic code of Laws legislated by God, the most Wise and Omniscient.

God, the Exalted says:

(Muhammad is not the father of any man among you; but he is the Messenger of God and the last of the Prophets.) [33:40]

And God the Exalted says:

(This day I have perfected your religion for you, and completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.) [5:3]

And He says:

(Truly, the religion in the sight of God is Islam.) [3:19]

Jihad is legislated not to force people against their own will to join Islam, but rather as a tool and mechanism to help maintain the peace.

And He says:

(And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.) [3:85]

The Messenger of God (pbuh) explained his similitude in respect to the previous Prophets of God saying:

“My example and the example of the Prophets who preceded me, is like that of a person who built a beautiful house. The house was perfect and magnificent except for the place of a single brick in one corner. People who saw that house admired it but wondered, why did not the owner install the missing brick? I am that missing brick. I am the final Prophet (for mankind on the earth).” (Reported by Bukhari no.3341 and Muslim, no. 2287)

All humanity agrees upon the general principle that truth, justice and goodness must be upheld and defended in the face of attack by the forces of falsehood, tyranny and evil. Muslims take this obligation very seriously, and are obligated to strive to promote truth, justice and goodness by all legal means available. For secular societies, religion is considered purely a private affair. Public life legally must be guided by secular principles and institutions and never by religion or religious law. We must remember that the development of secularism itself was a reaction to the extravagances and conflicts between the Christian Churches and various Kings in Europe.

This introduces the sensitive subject of “Jihad” (struggle, exertion), which is a terribly misused and often abused word. The following verse of the Qur’an, read in its fuller context, gives a general rule about Jihad:

(Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.) [2:190]

In summary, the Islamic concept of Jihad refers to governmentally sanctioned fighting that is allowed for protection against aggression, exploitation and suppression, while at the same time prohibiting all forms of transgression. The Arabic root for Jihad means to struggle, and it includes not only fighting against oppressors and tyrants but also struggling generally to promote good and combat evil. By Jihad the religion of Islam with its ultimate truth, justice and goodness is protected, and the Muslims themselves are defended from those that wish them harm. It is an obligation on all Muslims to believe in and practice Jihad to some degree: greater obligations exist for those with greater abilities, but even the poor and disabled give their moral support and supplications for success.

Jihad was practiced in the previous faiths as well – the Catholic Just War Doctrine being just one example. Since evil appears all over the world and throughout human history, Jihad was ordained in order to stop tyranny and injustice. It is also to prohibit people from worshiping false deities and demigods, and to introduce them to the reality of the worship of God alone, who has no son, partners or associates. Jihad is legislated to remove injustices and to introduce man to the mercy, justice and peace of Islam as a way of life, for the interest of man’s benefit on earth, and not for the interest of specific groups of Arabs or other national groups of Muslims, since Islam is universal and has no geographic or limited borders. As the tradition states, the Messenger of God (pbuh) said:

“Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.” A man enquired: “O Messenger of God! I understand how to help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?’’ He (pbuh) said: “You can keep him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.” (Bukhari)

The essential purpose of Jihad is to open the way for peaceful propagation of the Message of Islam to people.

The message and invitation of Islam is international and universal for all humanity, with a comprehensive code of beliefs, morals and ethics for every walk of life. Islam laid down the principles of justice, fairness, equality, freedom, prosperity, success and truthfulness for man on earth. Jihad is legislated not to force people against their own will to join Islam, but rather as a tool and mechanism to help maintain the peace that allows for the peaceful sharing of the religion of monotheism, justice and equality to the entire world and to protect it against attack. After people receive the message, it is up to them to accept Islam or choose otherwise; and no harm is to come to them if they choose not accept it. The essential purpose of

Jihad is to open the way for peaceful sharing of the Message of Islam to people. Almighty God states in the Qur’an:

(There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in idolatry and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.) [2:256]

The principle cementing relationships between governments and people is based on justice and peace since there can be no lasting peace without justice.

The principle cementing relationships between governments and their people is based on justice and peace since there can be no lasting peace without justice. Jihad is not a “Holy War” as described in the Western media, but it is an honorable “struggle” and resistance against oppressors and those who oppose the peaceful spread of God’s word and faith in Him and His religion. “War” most often begins as a drive for personal or national interests – for land, resources, or other political or economic reasons. Islam prohibits these reasons for waging war and allows for Jihad only in the three situations, namely:

Defense of Life, Property and National Boundaries, without transgression God says in the Qur’an:

(Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.) [2:190]

Removing oppression and championing the just rights of oppressed people. The obligation of countering oppression and tyranny is mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an:

(And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, help 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]

The Prophet of God (pbuh) said:

“The best Jihad is a word of truth before a tyrannical unjust ruler.” (Reported by Ahmad no.18850, Abu Dawood no.4344, Tirmidhi no.2174 and verified as authentic)

Defense of Faith and Religion.

God, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an:

(And fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily God does see all that they do.) [8:39]

A “Mujahid” (Muslim fighter for the cause of God) must purify his intention to please God alone. He must have a clear understanding that Jihad is only for just reasons: to protect Islam and the Muslims, and to allow for the spread of the message and word of God. If the enemies of Islam who are fighting the Muslims cease their attack, and accept terms for a just peace, the Muslim fighters are commanded to cease hostilities.

God also says: (But if they incline to peace, then incline to it also, and (put your) trust in God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.) [8:61]

Islam forbids the killing of cattle or any type of animal of the enemies, the destruction of peoples’ homes and the pollution of potable water resources.

And He Most Exalted said:

(Therefore if they withdraw from you and cease fighting, and send you (guarantees of) peace, then God has left no way for you (to war against them).) [4:90]

Islam has permitted fighting only for the above specified reasons and has laid down strict rules of conduct in “warfare.” All other reasons for “war” are totally prohibited in Islam. For instance, war for land expansion, colonial interests and revenge, etc. are entirely prohibited. Islam does not allow fighters to kill haphazardly, but only permits them to kill those directly involved in the fighting. Islam does not permit, accept or condone the killing of elderly people, children, women, those under medical treatment, medical staff, and monks who have secluded themselves for the worship of God. Islam forbids mutilating the bodies of the deceased enemy fighters. Islam also forbids the killing of cattle or any type of animal of the enemies, the destruction of peoples’ homes and the pollution of potable water resources, including rivers, lakes, springs and wells of water of the fighting enemies. These concepts are based on the many verses of the Qur’an, including this verse:

(But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.) [28:77]

The prisoners of war are not to be tortured, humiliated, or mutilated.

It is also based on many sayings of Messenger of God (pbuh), for instance his statement:

“Fight for the Cause of God and in His Name, against those who reject God. Fight them, but do not breach your contracts or truces, do not mutilate, and do not kill a newly born baby…” (Reported by Muslim, no. 1731)

And he (pbuh) said:

“…do not kill a woman, or a slave.” (Reported by Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah and verified as sound)

This is also in compliance with the directions and the recommendation of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr to his military leaders upon commissioning them for Jihad. It was narrated that he said, “Listen and obey the following ten commands and instructions: Do not betray any one (if you give a pledge). Do not steal from the spoils of war. Do not breach your pledge of allegiance. Do not mutilate the body of the killed enemy fighters or the deceased. Do not kill a child or a minor. Do not kill an elderly person. Do not kill a woman. Do not uproot a date palm tree (or any other trees) and do not burn them either. Do not cut or destroy a fruit tree. Do not slaughter a female sheep, a cow or a camel except for your (required) food. You surely will pass by some people who isolate themselves and are secluded for the worship of God as monks and else, thus leave them alone and do not disturb them. You will, surely, stop at some people on the road, who will bring forth for you all types of food dishes. Whenever you eat their food, recite the name of God each time you eat….”

The prisoners of war are not to be tortured, humiliated, or mutilated. They are not to be imprisoned in tight claustrophobic prison cells without adequate food and drink thus causing them to die. The Qur’an states:

(And they feed, for the love of God, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (saying), “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah . We wish not from you reward or gratitude.”) [76:8]

The Islamic government has the right either to set free such POWs with no ransom at all, or for an agreed ransom, or exchange them for Muslim POWs. This is based on the verse of the Glorious Qur’an:

(… when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a firm bond (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either for generosity or ransom: until the war lays down its burdens. Thus are you commanded: but if it had been God’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them Himself; but He lets you fight in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of God, He will never let their deeds be lost.) [47:4]

The conquered people who comprise the non-Muslim residents of an Islamic state and their families, possessions and estates are entitled protection by Islamic law from any violation. No one has a right to seize the possession or the wealth of the non-Muslim residents, or humiliate them or encroach upon their honor. No one has the right to unjustly attack them. The belief and religious practices of the non-Muslim residents in an Islamic state are respected to the legal limit. For instance.

God says in the Qur’an:

([And they are] those who, if  We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give charitably and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.) [22:41]

The non-Muslim residents of an Islamic state are required to pay a minimal tax called “Jizyah”

The non-Muslim residents of an Islamic state are required to pay a minimal tax called “Jizyah” which is a specific type of head-tax collected from individuals who are not Muslim and desire to keep their religion while living in an Islamic state and under Islamic rule.

The Jizyah is a very commonly misunderstood concept due primarily to the willful distortion of the term by those who seek to misrepresent Islam; calling it an oppressive “non-Muslim” tax. Though the tax is indeed levied upon those who are not Muslim, the Jizyah is collected in return for the protection of the non-Muslim residents of an Islamic State and their wealth, and not because they refused to join the faith. The Muslim leader and commander, General Khalid bin al-Waleed once made a pledge to the non-Muslim residents of the Islamic state at the time and said, ‘I offer you my pledge of allegiance to fully protect you against the headtax collected from you. If we provide the necessary protection, we are entitled for the head-tax. Otherwise, you are not required to pay it.’ Then, when the Muslims forces had to vacate the area for battle elsewhere they returned the Jizyah they had taken since they were not able to provide the security stipulated. (This is a famous incident in Islamic history: see for instance Baladthuri, Futuh al-Buldan, in the conquest of Sham (Greater Syria))

The Jizyah is not applicable to every non-Muslim resident of an Islamic state; rather, it is to be taken only from those who earn.

Another important point to keep in mind is that since Islam is a complete system, to include a governmental system, all earners – regardless of religion – have to pay some form of a tax. For instance, in the early Islamic States while Muslims were paying 2.5% of their accumulated wealth, non-Muslim residents paid Jizyah according to their social status as represented in three categories: the rich and wealthy class paid an equivalent to the sum of (48) forty-eight Dirhams (A Dirham is an Islamic coin equivalent in value to 2.28 grams of silver. The name “Dirham” is still used in some Islamic and Arab countries but shares only the name with the older currency) a year; the middle or average class, such as merchants, traders and farmers, paid an equivalent to the sum of (24) twenty-four Dirhams a year; and finally, the working class, such as bakers, carpenters, plumbers and the like, paid an equivalent to the sum of (12) twelve Dirhams a year. The reality is that, in almost all cases, the Jizyah was cheaper to pay than the zakat required of the Muslim and thus not at all oppressive to the non-Muslim citizen of the Islamic nation.

Furthermore, the Jizyah is not applicable to every non-Muslim resident of an Islamic state; rather, it is to be taken only from those who earn. Many categories of people are exempt from paying this Jizyah including the poor, minors, women, monks, blind people, and the disabled individuals. Islam made it obligatory on the Islamic government to provide the full protection to these categories of people as well as to offer them suitable living allowances and welfare provisions. In fact, the pledge given by General Khalid bin al-Waleed to the non-Muslim residents of the town called ‘Heerah’ in Iraq, under the Islamic rule, stated the following:

‘Any elderly person, disabled worker, terminally ill person or a rich person who went bankrupt, and based on that deserve charity from the fellow religious people, will not be required to pay head-tax. Furthermore, each one will become entitled for suitable allowances from the Islamic Treasury for himself and his dependents.’ (Abu Yousuf, al-Kharaj, p.144)

Another example is when the second Caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab, once passed by an elderly Jewish man who was begging. Omar asked about him and was informed that he was a non-Muslim resident of the Islamic state. Omar immediately said, ‘We have not been fair to you! We’ve collected head-tax from you while you were young and capable and neglected you in your old age!’ Omar took the old Jew to his own home and offered him whatever he found of foodstuff and clothes. Later, Omar instructed those in charge of the treasury, saying:

‘Follow up, monitor and observe the situations of similar people. Offer them assistance that suffices them and their family members from the Islamic Treasury.’

God states in the Qur’an at the beginning of the famous verse on Zakah (obligatory charity):

(Alms are for the poor and the needy…) [9:60]

In one interpretation of this verse, the poor are the Muslims and the needy are the non-Muslim residents of an Islamic state.’

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

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