Human Rights in Islam : The Preservation of Honor, Family and Lineage

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The family unit is the basis of a healthy society and this can only be maintained by upholding the sanctity of marriage. For the preservation of moral purity among all men, women and children in the society, Islam strictly prohibits adultery, fornication and homosexuality. Islam concurs with previous divine religions in this prohibition but goes further by banning many acts that may lead to committing this sin, like immodest dress and free mixing of the sexes in public or private quarters. These manners and precautions cut the avenues towards temptations. God the Almighty says in the Glorious Qur’an:

(And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.) [17:32]

And He, the Exalted says:

(Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason.) [6:151]

The family unit is the basis of a healthy society and this can only be maintained by upholding the sanctity of marriage.

Abdullah ibn Mas’ood relates that he said: O Messenger of God, which sin is gravest to God? He said: “That you make others to be equal to God in worship even though (He alone) has created you.” I then asked: And then what? He said: “To kill your child fearing that he will share your food (meaning that you think you cannot afford the child).” I then said: And then what? He said: “To fornicate or have adultery with your neighbor’s wife.” Then the Messenger of God (pbuh) recited the following portion of the Qur’an (reaffirming what he just said):

As for the married male or female who commits adultery while being married or after divorcing one’s spouse, the penalty for such a criminal is like in the Torah scriptures: stoning to death.

(And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill  the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty. Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein humiliated. Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.) [25:68-70] (Reported by Bukhari no.4207 and Muslim no. 86)

The punishment of flogging is legislated for a previously unwed male or female who commit fornication. God, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.) [24:2]

As for the married male or female who commits adultery while being married or after divorcing one’s spouse, the penalty for such a criminal is exactly the same as in the Torah scriptures; stoning to death. To apply this punishment, the judge must either have the full confession, or the testimony of four trustworthy eyewitnesses who testify that they clearly saw sexual penetration.

Confession means that the crime is confessed openly by the adulterer before the Muslim Judge or ruler. The confession must be repeated four times to remove any doubt. In the case of testimony, four trustworthy, honest and sound people must report to the Muslim judge or ruler seeing the actual sexual penetration of the adulterers, a scenario that is very rare, some may say even impossible, under normal circumstances.

The early history of Islam recorded a few instances of confession of the crime of adultery wherein the individuals openly confessed their crime because their strong faith in God propelled them to seek sincere repentance and purification. As the traditions make clear, God will not punish someone twice for the same crime, and they wanted to be protected from having the punishment in the Hereafter. It should be noted that if sexual penetration does not take place – if a person, for instance only kisses, hugs or touches – then there is no application of the castigatory punishment.

The penalty of false accusation for those who do not produce evidence to support their claims and accusations is eighty lashes, and a further punishment is that their testimony is thereafter rejected. As God says in the Qur’an :

(And those who accuse chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses – lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from them testimony ever after. And those are the defiantly disobedient.) [24:4]

Islam safeguards the sanctity of reproduction for the maintenance of the human race on earth.

Mockery, derogatory words and deeds that violate the honor, dignity and respect of others in the community are strictly prohibited, as God says in the Qur’an:

(O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers. O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.) [49:11-12]

Another verse of the Qur’an states:

(But whoever earns an offense or a sin and then blames it on an innocent [person] has taken upon himself a slander and manifest sin.) [4:112]

Islam considers deliberate abortion of the fetus after four months a premeditated act of murder tantamount to infanticide that entitles punishment for all who participate.

Islam safeguards the sanctity of reproduction for the maintenance of the human race on earth. The human race is entrusted with the guardianship of the entire earth and the representation of divine wisdom on earth. Destroying the means of reproduction by any means or tampering with it in any way for no legitimate reason is an unlawful practice according to Islam. The Almighty God states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(When he turns away his aim is to spread mischief everywhere through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But God loves not mischief.) [2:205]

Islam considers deliberate abortion of the fetus after forty days a premeditated act of murder tantamount to infanticide that entitles punishment for all who participate. Unintentional abortion may require blood-money substitution for the aborted fetus and fasting for two consecutive months in repentance to God, if caused by accident or manslaughter.

Many hadith recommend a Muslim to get married and seek offspring. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said,

“Marry a woman who is loving and can bear many children, for verily I will display your outnumbering of the other nations on the Day of Judgment (due to the large number of my followers).” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 2050)

Islam places special value on strong family bonds and good relations among relatives. Since the family is the basis and the foundation of the society, many rules help protect this family against break up and disintegration. Relatives have obligations and rights. One must recognize the rights of kith and kin and consequently satisfy the rights of each relative in the most appropriate fashion.

Mixing between the male and female members of the family (who are permitted to marry one another lawfully) may lead to many family social problems. To avoid any unwanted situation, Islam commands segregation between the male and female members of the family who are allowed to marry each other. A woman is allowed to appear without her outer garments only before the following men: father, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, father-in-law and sons.

In the pre-Islamic days of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance), the family system was corrupted and decadent. Islam initiated decisive reformations and annihilated all existent malpractice. Some of the institutions banned by Islam will be mentioned as examples.

Islam prohibits the kind of legal adoption whereby a child takes the family name of the adopting father or parents and will be entitled to all rights and duties of a blood child. Of course taking care of orphans and neglected children is strongly encouraged, and this form of charity has special merit. The Qur’an says:

(God has not made for man two hearts in his interior. And He has not made your wives, whom you declare unlawful, your mothers. And he has not made your adopted sons your [true] sons. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the [right] way.

Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah . But if you do not know their fathers – then they are [still] your brothers in religion and those entrusted to you. And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.) [33:4-5]

Islam honors the elderly members in the Islamic society and mandates their respect and assistance.

Islam bans ascribing a child to a man as a son without the man’s admission to be the father because such a claim jeopardizes marital relationships as well as family life. A woman is to be protected from false accusations that blemish her honor and dignity of illegitimate sexual activities with a man other than her husband. Moreover, such a false claim of a man may create doubts and in turn a rift between the rest of the children of the family, not knowing legitimate from illegitimate. Any child born who is a legitimate product of a marriage contract is attributed to the father with no need of any further proof or denial. A husband of a woman needs not to announce that the child is his. This practice is based on the statement of God’s Messenger (pbuh),

“The child (born as a result of a lawful marriage) belongs to the (bed of) his father.” (Reported by Bukhari no.2105 and Muslim no.1457)

The only exception to this rule is when it is proved, beyond a doubt, that the wife has betrayed her husband and is pregnant from other than her husband. In such a case, specific rules of disowning the child will apply. After disowning, he will become as a total stranger in relation to the husband. This means that if the disowned child is female, she must not appear before such a man at her leisure, travel with him, live with him or deal freely with him.

Allah addressed the preservation of the rights of the innocent children whose parents might commit a crime against them due to poverty and total ignorance by killing them.

A Muslim woman, after marriage keeps her maiden name according to Islamic jurisprudence. According to Islamic teachings and law, it is unlawful for a woman to bear the family name of her husband after marriage. Looking at this closely one can comprehend the great honor, dignity and respect granted to the woman in Islam. This practice preserves the equality and equal right of a Muslim woman to the Muslim man of the right of carrying her own independent name, especially in the event of divorce.

Preserving and honoring the rights of the weak and the disabled: Islam honors the elderly members in the Islamic society and mandates their respect and assistance. The Messenger of God (pbuh) said:

“He is not considered among us Muslims, who does not show mercy to our young and respect to our elders.” (Reported by Abu Dawood no. 1984 and Tirmidthi no. 2091)

Islamic law obligates assistance to orphans, as God the Most Merciful says in the Glorious Qur’an:

(Therefore treat not the orphan with harshness.) [93:9]

And He, the Exalted, says:

(And do not approach the property of an orphan, except in the way that is best, until he reaches maturity. And fulfill [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.) [17:34]

And He says:

(Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze.) [4:10]

God addressed the preservation of the rights of the innocent children whose parents might commit a crime against them due to poverty and total ignorance by killing them. God states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason.”) [6:151]

In this fashion we can see the utmost respect and preservation afforded to the weak, and less affluent and ailing people in the Islamic society.

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

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