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Islamic Law is a complete and comprehensive code of life, fully adaptable and suitable in its principles and laws for every age, location and people.
The following are some of the noteworthy misconceptions about the religion of Islam and it’s principles of human rights. One should note that most of the accusations against Islam could equally be directed to Judaism, Christianity and other religions as well, since they have religious codes that are deemed unacceptable by modern secular systems of life. Our clarification here is only of Islamic principles, since Islam is free from the falsehoods and injustices perpetrated in the name of other religions that have played a major role in the backlash leading to modern secularism. There has never been, for example, any conflict in Islam between religion and rational science.
Some claim that the Islamic Law is restrictive of essential liberties and incompatible with the advanced civilizations of the world and modern concepts of human rights.
Islamic Shari’ah are laws, especially those that regulate the relationship of man with his fellow man and other people and nations.
Part of this widely propagated misconception has been addressed in the foreword. We note here that Muslims believe that the Islamic Law is a complete and comprehensive code of life, fully adaptable and suitable in its principles and laws for every age, location and people. True liberty is liberty from subservience to oppression whether it comes from one’s own selfish desires or of a ruling oligarchy. The worst subservience is to worship others besides the One Lord, Creator and Sustainer of man. Islam does not accept the liberty of the libertine who thinks he may do whatever he desires no matter what. Islam is not only a religion of the spiritual bond between a person and his Lord and Creator, but includes temporal and worldly commandments from God, the Wise, for all aspects of life. Islam organizes the relationship between man and His Creator as well as the relationships between man and his society and other nations. Unlike Judaism, Islam is universal and is not limited for a specific nation of people. Although Christians claim universality, they apparently have digressed from the path which was revealed unto Jesus who said, as recorded in the Bible:
“I am sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [Matthew 15:24]
Jesus also is reported to have said to his twelve disciples, who were selected to match the twelve Jewish tribes,
“To these twelve, Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [Matthew 10:5-6]
The Prophet of Islam (pbuh) has been sent as a mercy for all mankind. God, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:
(We have sent you as a mercy for all the worlds.) [21:107]
The Islamic Shari’ah has two aspects. One aspect includes faith, belief, various acts of worship and the laws that are constant, never subject to any change, regardless of differences of time or place. For instance, prayer in Islam is a ritual that has standard specifications, whether in Nigeria or Arabia or Indonesia.
Similarly, Zakah (obligatory charity) has standardized and unalterable rates and amounts for various categories of wealth. Laws of inheritance are set and no one in the society has the right to modify them for any reason. These permanent laws reinforce the underlying equality between all men since they are basically the same wherever they live.
The second aspect of the Islamic Shari’ah are laws, especially those that regulate the relationship of man with his fellow man and other nations, which are in a general form wherein the details are left to be adapted according to the needs that arise in the constantly changing conditions of the society. Such rules and regulations may be amended, altered and adapted within a general framework. These changes or modifications, however, are to be supervised by specialists and jurists who understand well the principles of Islamic law and all developments in the current society. The principle of consultation (Shura), is one example. This principle is mentioned in the Qur’an in a general form without giving detail to the mechanics. No binding information was given in the Qur’an that explains exactly how to apply, execute and implement Shura in the Islamic society, although the Sunnah (Way) of the Prophet (pbuh) does give some guidance. This trait of adaptability allows the Islamic scholars to interpret the details of Shura to serve the requirements of every age and place. What is applicable for one generation or society can be made applicable for another with minor alterations according to the needs of the time. This flexibility illustrates the validity, comprehensiveness, and universal scope of Islam.
Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah, (prophetic traditions of the Prophet) illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari’ah.
Some who do not know basic truths about Islam; whether, pseudo-scholars, Orientalists or enemies of Islam, claim that Islam does not respect the legal rights of non-Muslims in the Islamic State.
The Islamic Shari’ah provides a different set of obligations and rights for non-Muslim residents in the Islamic society. It may be sufficient in rebuttal of this misconception to quote the general ruling mentioned in the books of Islamic jurisprudence: “The non-Muslims are entitled to that which Muslims are entitled. They are also obligated to do that which Muslims are obligated.”
This is the general rule and from it emanates the just and equitable laws giving non-Muslim residents in an Islamic State their rights to security, private property, religious observance, etc.
Muslims must deal justly with all other humans who have not begun any hostilities with the Muslims.
Islam permits religious discussions and dialogues with non-Muslims, commanding Muslims to adhere to the best methodology in any discussions with the non-Muslims. God, the Exalted and Majestic, states in the Qur’an:
(And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.”) [29:46]
God addresses those of other faiths and religions, saying in the Qur’an:
(Say: [O Muhammad], “Have you considered that which you invoke besides Allah? Show me what they have created of the earth; or did they have partnership in the [creation of] the heavens? Bring me a scripture [revealed] before this or a [remaining] trace of knowledge, if you should be truthful.”) [46:4]
Islam forbids forceful measures to convert people from other faiths, as stated in the verse of the Qur’an:
(If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe?) [10:99]
Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah [traditions of the Prophet pbuh] illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari’ah.
Muslim history has numerous examples of the tolerance shown to non-Muslim subjects, while many other societies were intolerant towards Muslims and even their own people.
Muslims must deal justly with all other humans who have not begun any hostilities with the Muslims. God states in the Qur’an:
(God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just.) [60:8]
Those who wage war against Islam, show enmity and force the Muslims into exile, have a different treatment according to Islam. God the Exalted states in the Glorious Qur’an:
(It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that God forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the wrongdoers.) [60:9]
Interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims are based on cordial and just manners. Commercial transactions are permitted with resident and nonresident non-Muslims of the Islamic society. A Muslim may eat the food of Jews and Christians. A male Muslim may marry a Jewish or a Christian woman as will be explained below. We must remember that Islam gives special attention and importance on raising a family. God, the Sublime, states in the Qur’an:
(This day are all things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. Lawful unto you in marriage are not only chaste women who are Believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when you give them their due dowry, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues.
If anyone rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.) [5:5]
The rules in application of the Hudood, (capital and corporal punishments) of the Islamic Shari’ah are to ensure justice.
Some claim that the Islamic punishments (Hudood) are cruel and barbaric, and transgress human rights.
All societies have a system of punishment for serious criminal offenses. The modern system uses prolonged prison terms, but many criminal and social science experts have observed that jail time is not a successful deterrent, and that it most often leaves a sense of loss and uselessness for the criminal, and general maliciousness towards the system perceived as unjust.
Also the victims often do not believe that true justice has been served. Many controversies exist about appropriate terms and sentencing. Not to mention the expenses of maintaining a huge system of prisons and related facilities.
To begin, we must mention that the system of criminal punishments in Islam is part of the entire just and equitable Islamic system of life, which allows equal opportunity and provides for the welfare of all the citizens, not leaving any pretext for criminal activity.
The system of criminal punishments in Islam is part of the entire just and equitable Islamic system of life, which allows equal opportunity and provides for the welfare of all the citizens.
Crime in Islam is divided into two categories:
- Crimes that have prescribed punishments according to Shari’ah laws. These crimes include murder and manslaughter, assault, fornication and adultery, robbery, theft, drinking alcohol and intoxicants, false accusation of adultery or other immoral acts, and terrorism or aggression against people.
- Crimes that do not have a definite punishment according to Shari’ah laws. The legal authority sets the punishments for such crimes according to the public interest of Muslims and the Islamic society. These types of punishments are known as “Ta’zeer” (reprimands).
Crimes that have a definite punishment according to Shari’ah laws are further divisible into two categories. The first category refers to that which involves the victim’s personal rights, such as murder, manslaughter, assault and slander. The punishments of these offenses maybe reduced if the plaintiff drops the charges, or he may accept the blood money in cases of murder, manslaughter, and assault.
The second category refers to punishments for violating the Commands of God and other prescribed Shari’ah injunctions. These crimes include drinking alcohol, fornication and theft. Penalties for such crimes once brought before the authorities and confirmed, cannot be dropped even if the plaintiff drops the charges.
The rules in application of the Hudood, (capital and corporal punishments) of the Islamic Shari’ah are to ensure justice. For instance, these punishments are applicable only for crimes seriously violating the five essential necessities of human life (religion, life, mind, honor/progeny and wealth). They are only applicable upon a competent and sane adult confirmed by confession or trustworthy and competent testimony. The punishments may be dropped in case of suspicion or
insufficient evidence of the crime, as it is reported from the traditions:
“Stop the Hudood, punishment when there are suspicions (about evidence and mitigating circumstances).” [Reported by Dhahabi and others with an unreliable chain of narrators, and more probably it is the saying of Abdullah ibn Mas’ood as al-Baihaqi mentioned]
The objective of executing these harsh punishments is to teach exemplary lessons to the criminal elements of the society. They act as proven and successful deterrents against the temptations towards committing criminal acts, and therefore protect the rights of all individuals; the entire society enjoys peace and security. For example, if someone knows that he may be struck with the same force as he used, cutting the skin and breaking the bone, in return for his crime – would he be inclined to go ahead with his assault?
In addition to the worldly temporal penalties, criminals are also advised to beware of the eternal punishment of God in the Hereafter for committing crimes. All individuals in the Islamic society who break the laws and Islamic regulations would be subjected to such severe penalties. There are certain individuals in every human society who would not be disciplined except with corporeal punishments. We notice that Islam determines a suitable penalty for every crime because God, the Wise and Omniscient, knows intimately all realities about the human soul and various types of His creatures.
There are certain individuals in every human society who would not be disciplined except with corporeal punishments.
Hiraabah includes highway robbery, killing as a result of robbery, breaking into residential or commercial areas with weapons, intimidating innocent residents with weapons and terrorism. It literally means waging warfare within the society.
The stipulated punishment for Hiraabah is based on the statement of the Qur’an:
(The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Messenger, and strive with might for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a grievous punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; Except for those who repent before you apprehend them. In that case, know that God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) [5:33-34]
Theft is a very serious crime which if left without proper punishment may become a widespread phenomenon threatening the social and economic life of the community.
This punishment is applied variously according to the nature and intensity of the crime, with leeway for the authority to apply the punishment to suit the crime. If the terrorist kills and steals money, the punishment may be killing and crucifixion. If he takes money and threatens but does not kill or assault, the punishment may be amputation of his hand and leg. If he kills the victim but does not take his money, he may be executed as in murder. If he frightens innocent residents but does not kill any of them, he may be exiled, which is actually imprisonment according to some scholars.
- Murder and manslaughter: The punishment of Qisas (execution) is legislated for premeditated murder as a just and suitable penalty for taking life unjustly. Qisas acts as a successful deterrent to prevent murder. God, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an:
(O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.…) [2:178]
If the family of the victim pardons the killer, the capital punishment will be dropped. If they accept the blood money, the punishment is also dropped. God says in the Qur’an:
(But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment.) [2:178]
- Robbery and Theft: God set the penalty of cutting the hand as a penalty for theft. This is based on the Qur’an:
(As for the thief, the male and the female, amputate the hand of each in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.) [5:38]
The amputation of the hand is based on very specific conditions and circumstances. First, the item stolen must be over a set limit of value. Second, the stolen item must be under proper protection. Third, if the accusation of theft is only a suspicion, or if the reason for theft is hunger due to acute poverty, in such a case the hand of the thief will not be amputated and his case for welfare and assistance will be assessed. Theft is a very serious crime which if left without proper punishment may become a widespread phenomenon threatening the social and economic life of the community. Thieves may confront resistance, prompting them to commit other crimes like manslaughter and assault. If a thief realizes that his hand would be cut off because of his theft, he will definitely hesitate or desist from his crime Fornication and adultery: Islam prescribes the punishment of flogging for those that have never been previously married and are guilty of fornication. God commands in the Qur’an:
(The woman and the man guilty of fornication flog each of them with a hundred lashes: let not compassion move you in their case in a matter prescribed by God, if you believe in God and the Last Day: and let a party of the believers witness their punishment.) [24:2]
For previously married male or female who commit adultery, the punishment applied to them is stoning. This punishment is only applicable and executed when specific conditions are met.
As for the previously married male or female who commit adultery, the punishment applied to them is stoning. This punishment is only applicable and executed when specific conditions are met. A married male or female is stoned to death in either of the following two cases: confession or the testimony of four eyewitnesses.
Open and clear confession entails that no compulsion or force is exerted to obtain a confession. The sentence is not executed after the first admission of guilt. The confession will become effective only if it is repeated four times or in four different meetings or court sessions. The judge may say something to the effect, ‘It could be that you just kissed, hugged and touched without penetration. This is to leave the door wide open for withdrawal of the original confession. This practice is based on the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) when the various confessors insisted repeatedly that they had actually committed adultery, and when one was proved pregnant as a result.
The second situation requires four just witnesses. These four just and fair witnesses must be known as truthful in their statements and conduct. The four witnesses must confirm observation of the actual intercourse directly, meaning that the four witnesses testify that they actually saw penetration of the male’s penis into the female’s vagina. Such a situation is truly rare and only observed when the two parties are openly committing such an illegal act of indulgence, showing no respect to the law or honor and dignity of the society.
All types of intoxicants are prohibited since not only do they harm the person’s body, mind and family, but they also harm the moral fabric of the society at large.
Adultery and fornication (from a purely Islamic perspective) are not considered, as in secular law, to be merely a personal prerogative and private affair. It is considered an infringement on the rights of the society because there are many harmful effects and consequences. It demoralizes the social values and
principles of the society in general. It leads to the spread of venereal diseases. It leads to abortion. It leads to illegitimate children without proper care from parents. Mixing of the lineage occurs when a child is attributed to a person other than his real father. A child maybe deprived of the honor of being attributed to his real father. It causes problems in inheritance whereby those who are not entitled to inheritance may become heirs and those who are entitled may not get any of the inheritance. Furthermore, a person may even marry out of ignorance someone related to him, such as a sister or a niece. It is truly a crime to these innocent children to deprive them of the guardianship of parents and family as well as an honorable identity, which may lead to physiological and social illness and instability. For a child, a mother and father are essential for peace of mind, shelter, security, support and happiness.
Slander: Public flogging is the prescribed punishment for false accusation of fornication or adultery. God, the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:
(And those who slander chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations), flog them with eighty lashes; and reject their evidence ever after: such are wicked transgressors.) [24:4]
The purpose of establishing and executing this punishment is to protect the honor and reputation of the innocent. Unpunished false accusation is a vice that generates retaliatory behavior, vengeance and even assault or murder. The Islamic Shari’ah prescribes this severe punishment against the offender if he does
not produce confirmed evidence as a proven deterrent to eradicate this from the society. Islam does not stop at the physical punishment for this crime but requires that the future testimony of someone confirmed for false accusation is not to be accepted since he or she is a confirmed liar. If the slanderer fully repents to God and improves his entire behavior, then the situation may be reviewed.
Intoxicants Man is free to eat and drink of the wholesome legal food and drink within the confines set forth by God. All types of intoxicants are prohibited since not only do they harm the person’s body, mind and family but also harm the moral fabric of the society at large.
Intoxicants are called, ‘the root of all evil or vice’ because they lead to other sins. Islam sets the punishment of flogging for public intoxication and traffickers. Lashing is the prescribed punishment in Islam in order to eradicate the use of such harmful substances and ensure the protection of wealth, and mental and physical health.
Some of the negative effects and the consequences resulting from the abuse of alcohol and drugs include the tendency towards other crimes like murder, assault, fornication, adultery, rape and incest under the influence of the abused substances.
An alcoholic or drug addict becomes a useless member in the society, unable to hold productive employment. An addict may do any immoral act to get the illegal drug he needs. Serious health hazards and epidemics may be caused by alcohol and drug addiction, as substantiated by medical and labor studies.
Much wealth, resources and time is wasted with serious harm to the community and the society in general. Since the alcoholic or addict temporarily loses his mind, under the influence, he may become criminally dangerous, a situation Islam does not tolerate.
A general ruling in Shari’ah is that the punishments should be commensurate to the size and type of the sin.
All the above punishments in Islam are to preserve human rights and the dignity of law-abiding citizens and they are a demonstration and illustration of the absolute divine wisdom and justice. A general ruling in Shari’ah is that the punishments should be commensurate to the size and nature of the sin. For instance God states in the Qur’an:
(The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree).) [42:40]
God also states in the Qur’an:
(And if you punish then punish them with the like of that with which you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, verily, it is better for the patient ones.) [16:126]
Islam does not aim to retaliate from a sinner nor imposes severe punishment just for the sake of being harsh and severe
The just punishment of the crime is an equal measure, but as a mercy, Islam leaves the door open for either acceptance of blood money as a compensation or pardon and forgiveness insofar as personal rights and injuries are concerned. God explains in the Qur’an:
(And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.) [5:45]
Pardoning is encouraged as God the Most Merciful states in the Qur’an in one case:
(Let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that God should forgive you? For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) [24:22]
And God the Most Forgiving says in the Glorious Qur’an:
(But if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God.) [42:40]
Islam does not aim to retaliate from a sinner nor imposes severe punishment just for the sake of being harsh and severe. The objective of the punishment is to protect human rights and preserve respect for law and order through strict justice and exemplary deterrents. The overall aim is to maintain peace and to
cause everyone to think twice before they commit a crime. If a murderer realizes that he will be killed for killing a person, and a thief realizes that his hand is going to be cut off for his theft, they will think seriously before they commit their intended crimes. The fear of the punishment holds the perpetrator back from the crime and consequently the society becomes safe, respectful and peaceful.
God states in the Qur’an:
(And there is saving of life for you in Al-Qisâs (legal retribution), O men of understanding, that you may become pious.) [2:179]
The answer to the objection that these stipulated punishments in Islam are exceptionally cruel is simple. Since all agree that crimes are extremely harmful to the society, that strict measures must be taken to counter them, and that the people who commit them must be punished – the only problem remains is determining the best, most just and effective punishments for reducing the crime rate. This entails a comparison between Islamic law and man-made secular laws; between the punishments mentioned above and the system of lengthy terms of imprisonment with all their negative consequences on the victims, criminals and the society in general.
Islamic punishments are just, easy, universal, practical and logical when examined closely because they give the criminal the exact taste of the pain he inflicted on the victim and against the moral basis of the society. God knows best His creation and what is truly the just punishment and effective deterrent to crime. Logic and justice demand more recognition of the rights of the victims. Their rights should not be made insignificant through being lenient to the criminals. A cancerous organ must be removed if it cannot be cured.
It should be noted that all too often the media propagates a distorted image about Islam, Muslim society, and the Shari’ah law. By this propaganda, one may think that Islamic punishments are applied and executed on a daily basis. The truth is that throughout the Islamic history the instances where the punishment of execution, stoning to death and amputation, were recorded and applied are actually quite few.
Throughout Islamic history, the instances where the punishments of execution, stoning to death, and amputation were recorded and applied are remarkably few in number.
For instance, cases of stoning are rare and the vast majority of them were based on sinners who confessed their crimes and expressed their desire to receive the punishment in order to purify themselves from the sin and meet God sinless in the Hereafter. The case with the other punishments is similar.
Many claim that the punishment prescribed in Islam for apostasy is a violation against human rights. The modern concept of human rights ensures freedom of religion to all people. This punishment, they claim, contradicts what God, the Exalted and Almighty, said in the Glorious Qur’an:
(Let there be no compulsion in religion.) [2:256]
Rejecting Islam as a way of life after its acceptance can sometimes be followed by malicious propaganda against Islam.
The well known tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) states,
“The blood of a Muslim may not be legally spilled except in one of three (instances): the married person who commits adultery; a life for a life; and one who forsakes his religion (of Islam) and abandons the community.” [Reported by Bukhari no. 6935 and Muslim no. 6524]
The Prophet (pbuh) also said:
“Whosoever changes his religion (of Islam), execute him.” [Reported by Bukhari no.2854]
Without a doubt, this is a very contentious issue within the Muslim community and a matter of disagreement between the scholars. The reasons for this disagreement are as follows:
- There is no capital punishment for apostasy mentioned in the Qur’an.
- The aforementioned hadith only provide part of the picture and they are not definitive in their meanings.
- The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is our example in Islam and yet there are clear evidences of people leaving Islam in his lifetime, but he did not order their execution. So there is missing historical context.
If we look deeper into the hadith, we find that there is an equally authentic report that clarifies the hadith mentioned first above:
‘Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, narrated that the Messenger of God (pbuh) said “The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: a married man who commits adultery – he is to be stoned; and a man who went out fighting against God and his Messenger – he is to be killed or crucified or exiled from the land and a man who murders another person – he is to be killed on account of it.” [Reported by Abu Dawood, verified as authentic by Al-Albani]
This authentic version of the statement of the Prophet (pbuh) sheds more light on the issue. Specifically that it isn’t the action of apostasy alone that mandates capital punishment, but the typical consequence of apostasy – fighting against the community of the believers in conjunction with the apostasy that leads to
Thus, we can understand the Islamic verdict regarding apostasy as follows:
- If a person abandons the religion, and leaves the community without fighting them or attacking them, then they are left to live their lives and no harm comes to them. This is how the Prophet (pbuh) managed such cases as seen in his history (Seerah).
- If a person abandons the religion, and then joins the enemies of the community to fight them, then the Islamic government has the option to execute or jail the person, depending on what it sees fit. This is consistent with the hadith of Aisha mentioned above.
- If a person abandons the religion, but doesn’t leave the community or fight against them, then his case is referred to the scholars and counselors of the Islamic government who will try to assess why he made this decision and if he may have been deceived, or if he is not sane. If he is found to be sane and understands but persists in his apostasy, then he is exiled.
Islam does not treat rejection of the faith as a personal matter but rather a rejection that harms the entire system
It is important to add that regardless of the situation, the issue of execution is an executive decision to be made only by the government and never a matter to be taken into the hands of the public.
If such a person though confines his disbelief and apostasy to himself, and does not proclaim and propagate it, he is left to God and the punishments of the hereafter. God knows best who believes and who rejects faith, who is sincere and who is a hypocrite. Muslim authorities only base their judgments and sentences upon open external matters and leave the internal realities to God.
Islam bans the marriage of a non-Muslim man with a Muslim female because a Jew, Christian or polytheist denies the Message of Muhammad and his prophet-hood.
Some claim that the prohibition of a female Muslim to marry a non-Muslim is an infringement against her human rights and her personal freedom, which is permitted in the modern secular law; any individual may marry whomsoever they desire. It is important to note here that the Muslim male is also prohibited from marrying a polytheist such as a Hindu or Buddhist women. Is this then an infringement against his human rights and personal freedom? Clearly the answer to this question and the aforementioned misconception is that these prohibitions do not in any way infringe on the human rights of either the male or the female in Islam, as will be explained below; rather it is to ensure the harmony of the marriage.
Reply to the Misconception about Marriage to a non-Muslim [Quoted with paraphrasing from Symposium on Islamic Shari’ah and Human Rights in Islam, Beirut, Dar-al-Kitab-al-Lebnani, 1973]
The Islamic rationale behind this restriction is for her protection and for the preservation of family values. Most modern secular laws permit any and all sexual relations between consenting adults, even homosexuality. All this is unacceptable in Islam since sexual relations are only allowed through legal and honorable marriage between a male and a female. Since Islam seeks all means to protect the morality of the human race and guard the family unit against dissolution by divorce, the potential spouse is encouraged to seek harmony, security, and compatibility with the one chosen for marriage. This ensures personal happiness and the success of the future family. Anything that would be a cause for serious potential conflict would be a reason for not allowing the marriage. Differences in religion between the two spouses is naturally a known potential cause. The following three possible cases exist:
1st Case: A Muslim male is prohibited from marrying a polytheist, idolater or atheist female because the Islamic Faith does not condone or respect polytheism, blasphemy and idolatry. Islam prohibits the marriage where a spouse will not show consideration to the primary principles of the other spouse.
The entire family in this case would be in continuous dispute and confusion.
Such a problematic marriage most likely would end up in divorce leading to the dissolution of an existing family, affecting the children of the family the most.
2nd Case: A male Muslim is allowed to marry a chaste Christian or Jewess because Islam accepts Moses and Jesus, may God exalt their mention and render them safe from every derogatory thing, as true Prophets and Messengers from God. Regardless of certain differences in some principles of faith, belief and religion, the marriage does not have the problematic nature mentioned above, and may continue and prosper if all other factors are satisfactory between the two spouses, God willing.
3rd Case: Islam bans the marriage of a non-Muslim man with a Muslim female because a Jew, Christian or polytheist denies the Message of Muhammad (pbuh) and his prophethood. By natural and historical precedent, men typically dominate women. A non-Muslim husband may possibly take advantage of his strength and dominance, and demonstrate in the private confines of the home disrespect to the wife’s Islamic faith and principles.
He may talk with derogatory language about the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam, a situation that would cause intense hatred and problems between the two spouses. Naturally this will lead to a dispute between the two spouses, or tempt her from her faith. If she defends her faith vigorously, this may lead to unjust subjugation and physical violence against her person. As the physically weaker gender, she may accept this dire situation of maltreatment and suffering to protect herself and her children. Islam bans this kind of marriage that inevitably leads to maltreatment, conflict, severe trials, or near certain divorce for those concerned, similar to the first case. This third case, in summary, is the worst-case scenario for potential conflict, and therefore prohibited.
The system of slavery in Islam contradicts Islamic concepts of equality and full personal freedom. This, too, is an encroachment upon human rights.
The system of slavery in Islam contradicts Islamic concepts of equality and full personal freedom. This, too, is an encroachment upon human rights.
The slavery system among Muslims in many aspects was different from other societies, and what many people envision about slavery according to practices among the Greeks, Romans and European colonialists. Islam initially accepted the slavery system because it was an accepted and necessary part of the economic and social conditions in those times. The system of slavery was a worldwide phenomenon with many vital sectors of livelihood dependent on slave labor. Slavery was accepted and recognized in the previous religions. As it is stated in the Bible:
Islamic law followed a long-term and gradual plan to eliminate slavery from society.
“10. When you come neigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. 11. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. 12. And if it will make no peace with thee, but it will make war against thee, then thou shall besiege it. 13. And when the Lord Thy God has delivered it into thine hands, thou shall smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. 14. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shall you take unto yourself, and you shall eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God has given thee. 15. Thus shall you do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. 16. But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive that breathes. 17. But you shall utterly destroy them.” [Deuteronomy 20:10-17]
And a master in the Judaic Law could even beat his slave to death as this next text states:
“And if a man smites his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he [the slave] continues [to live] a day or two, he [the slave owner] shall not be punished: for he [the slave] is his money [property].” [King James Version Exodus 21:20-21]
Nowhere are there any indications in the Bible about the prohibition of slavery and this lead many to boldly proclaim, as Jefferson Davis the president of the Confederate States of America said:
“[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.” [Dunbar Rowland quoting Jefferson Davis, in “Jefferson Davis”, Volume 1, Page 286, see also Jefferson Davis’s «Inaugural Address as Provisional President of the Confederacy, Montgomery, AL, 1861-FEB-18, Confederate States of America, Congressional Journal, 1:64-66. Available at: http://funnelweb.utcc.utk.edu/~hoemann/jdinaug.html]
Considering this world environment, Islamic law followed a long-term and gradual plan to eliminate slavery from society. We do not find any direct command to abruptly stop all dealings with slavery but, rather wisely, the sources of slavery were gradually restricted and diminished and emancipation of slaves encouraged. Moreover, strict rules of fair and honorable conduct were applied in dealing with slaves and allowing them to buy their own freedom. The first stage was liberating themselves from within their hearts and minds. They were instructed to feel strong, healthy and capable within, and discouraged from feeling weak and inferior. Islam reconstructed the human feeling and integrity in the hearts and minds of the slaves by calling them brethren to their masters and owners. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said,
“Your servants are your brethren. Almighty God placed them under you [for your services]. Whosoever has one [of his brethren] under him [working for him], he must feed him of what he eats, clothe him of what he clothes himself and do not assign them to do what they cannot do. If you do, then help them.” [Bukhari no.2406 and Muslim no.1661]
A person could sell his own freedom against payment of a certain sum.
Slaves have established rights. The commandments of the Qur’an and Sunnah order Muslims to be kind and good to their male slaves and maiden servants. Almighty God states in the Qur’an:
(Worship God, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are your kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet) and slaves that your right hands possess, for God loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious.) [4:36]
The Prophet’s longstanding concern about slaves is evidence by the fact that on his deathbed, the Messenger of God (pbuh) ordered the Muslims as a dying request to guard their prayers and the rights of the slaves.
He (pbuh) is also reported to have said:
“Whosoever castrated a slave, we will castrate him.” [Mustadrak al-Haakim 4/409 no. 8100]
The freeing of slaves was declared one of the most beloved charitable acts of worship in the Sight of Allah
Slavery, according to Islamic teachings, is limited to physical slavery only and there are no forced conversions to the way of the master. A slave has the right to maintain his own faith.
Islam sets forth the best example in human equality by making the superiority based on piety and righteousness. Islam made brotherhood or unity of ties between slaves and their masters by the excellent example of God’s Messenger (pbuh) when he offered in marriage his cousin, Zainab bint Jahsh a noble Quraishi lady, to his freed slave, Zaid bin Harithah. The latter was also designated as a leader of the army that consisted of some leading and well-known Companions of God’s Messenger (pbuh).
Islam followed two main methods to eliminate slavery from the Islamic society to avoid any confusion or chaos in the society. These methods did not create animosity or hatred between various classes of the Islamic society, or cause detriment to the prevailing socio-economic situations.
The first method: Eliminating and restricting the sources of slavery, which were historically very vast. The sources of slavery before Islam were many and included warfare whereby the defeated fighters were captured and consequently enslaved. Piracy, kidnapping and abducting people was another common source wherein the kidnapped people were taken and sold like slaves. If a person was in financial debt he could become a slave to the debtor. Another source was the practice of fathers selling their children, male or female, into slavery. A person could sell his own freedom against payment of a certain sum. Many crimes were punishable by imposing slavery on the accused. The criminal person would become a slave to the victim or his family members or heirs. Reproduction of slaves, even if the father was a freeman, was another source of slaves Islam blocked these sources with only two exceptions as legitimate sources of slaves, which was entirely logical given the circumstances of the times.
- War captives, or prisoners of lawfully declared wars by a Muslim ruler: Notice that not all such prisoners of war were declared as slaves, some were set free while others were allowed to pay ransom. This is based on the Qur’an: (Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers in war strike at their necks. When you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them: thereafter is the time for either 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 enemies of Islam used all means to stop progress and the spread of Islam in the early era. Non-Muslims at that time held Muslims as prisoners-of-war, and thus the Muslims in retribution did the same.
- An inherited slave born from two slave parents. Such a child is considered a slave as well. However, if the master of a slave girl took her as a legal concubine, the product of this relation is a free child who is also attached in lineage to his free father. In such case, the slave-girl is called “a mother of a child” who cannot be sold and cannot be given as a gift and must be freed upon the death of her master.
The enemies of Islam used all means to stop the progress and spread of Islam in the early era. Non-Muslims at that time held Muslims as prisonersof-war, and thus the Muslims in retribution did the same.
The second method of eliminating slavery involved encouraging and expanding the ways of liberation of slaves. Originally the only way for freedom was the will of the master to free the slave. Prior to the advent of Islam, a slave was considered a slave throughout his life and the master who liberated his slave sometimes had to pay a fine. Islam introduced the practice of self-liberation of slaves, whereby they could pay their masters a contracted amount to purchase their freedom. The master was also given the latitude to liberate his slave at any time and without any obligation or financial fine. Some of the prescribed means for liberating the slaves are mentioned below:
Atonement for sins: The atonement for killing by mistake was set to be the liberation of a believing, faithful Muslim slave, in addition to the blood money to be given to the affected family.
- Atonement for sins: The atonement for killing by mistake was set to be the liberation of a believing, faithful Muslim slave, in addition to the blood money to be given to the affected family. This is found in the Qur’an:
(And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a believing slave and a compensation payment presented to the deceased’s family [is required] unless they give [up their right as] charity. But if the deceased was from a people at war with you and he was a believer – then [only] the freeing of a believing slave; and if he was from a people with whom you have a treaty – then a compensation payment presented to his family and the freeing of a believing slave.) [4:92]
- Atonement for Dhihaar oath: This is from the Qur’an:
(But those who divorce their wives by Dhihaar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered, (it is ordained that they) should free a slave before they touch each other: this is an admonition to you: and God is well-acquainted with (all) that you do.) [58:3]
[Dhihaar is a type of oath where a person used to say to his wife, ‘You are unlawful for me to touch, like the back of my mother’. This was a practice during the pre-Islamic era and Islam banned it]
- Atonement for breaking an oath: This is from the Qur’an:
(God will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever cannot find [or afford it] – then a fast of three days [is required]. That is the expiation for oaths when you have sworn. But guard your oaths. Thus does God make clear to you His verses that you may be grateful..) [5:89]
- Atonement for breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan. An example of this is the incident of the man who came to God’s Messenger (pbuh) telling him:
‘O Prophet of God! I have destroyed myself!’ God’s Messenger (pbuh) asked the man, ‘Why?’ The man informed God’s Messenger (pbuh) that he had intercourse with his wife during the fasting hours of the day of Ramadan.
God’s Messenger (pbuh) asked the man, ‘Do you have a slave to free?’ The man answered negatively. God’s Messenger (pbuh) asked the man again, ‘Do you have the means to feed sixty poor people?’ The man replied negatively.
While the man and the rest of the people were sitting, God’s Messenger (pbuh) was presented with an amount of fresh dates. God’s Messenger (pbuh) asked about the man who committed that sin, and he came forward. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said to the man, ‘Take these dates and give them to the poor in charity [atonement for your sin].’ The man replied, ‘O Prophet of God! By God! There is no poorer family in the entire city of Madinah than my family.’
Upon hearing this, God’s Messenger (pbuh) smiled in such a way that his cuspid teeth appeared, saying, ‘Then, take the dates and feed your family.’ [Bukhari, Hadith No. 1834]
A person who is required to pay atonement for his sin and is financially capable and does not possess a slave to liberate can purchase a slave, if possible, and liberate it in atonement for his sin.
The freeing of slaves was declared one of the most beloved charitable acts of worship in the Sight of Allah.
- Liberating of slaves was declared one of the most beloved charitable acts of worship in the Sight of God: God, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an.
(But he has made no haste on the path that is steep. And what will explain to you the path that is steep? It is freeing a slave.) [90:11-13]
Moreover, the statements of God’s Messenger (pbuh) along with his actions, in this regard, encouraged people to liberate slaves for the cause of God. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Whosoever frees a Muslim slave, God will free every organ of his body from the hell-fire against every organ of the freed slave….” [Bukahri, Hadith No. 6337 and Muslim, Hadith No. 1509]
In addition, God’s Messenger (pbuh) is reported to have said,
“Visit the ill, feed the hungry and release the slave.” [Bukhari, Hadith No. 2881]
Islam requires freeing a slave if the slave master beats or slaps his slave on the face.
- Liberating a slave by a will: One of the means of liberating a slave is through the death-will. The will may be written, announced verbally, or the like. If a master declares in any form that his slave will be a freeman upon the master’s death, the slave has secured his freedom after the death of the master. As a precautionary measure, Islam bans selling or giving away of such a slave after this declaration. If a slave-girl is given such a promise and the owner takes her as a concubine, the child who is a product of that cohabiting is born as a freeman also. Similarly, the slave girl, in such a case, is not to be sold or given away as a gift to a third party, but rather liberated as well.
- Slave liberation is one of the proposed channels of Zakah: This is based on the statement in the Qur’an:
(Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.) [9:60]
- Atonement for undue beating and slapping of the slave on the face: Islam requires freeing a slave if the slave master beats or slaps his slave on the face.
This is based on the Hadith of God’s Messenger (pbuh):
“Whosoever slaps his slave or hits them on the face must pay an atonement by freeing them.” [Muslim, Hadith no. 1657]
- Contracting freedom by a slave: This involves a situation when a slave requests his master to buy his freedom for a sum of money they both agree upon. If a slave requests his master to issue him such a liberation contract, it becomes binding on the master to grant the slave such a contract. In such a case the slave will have the liberty to buy, sell, trade, own and work in order to accumulate the needed money against his freedom contract. Even working for his master will be for a specific wage against his labor.
In fact, Islam went a step further by asking donations, assistance and support for such people from the wealthy people in the Islamic society. Even the master is urged to discount some of the money agreed upon, or to give him some easier payment facilities to help obtain his freedom. This is based on the statement in the Qur’an:
(And those who seek a contract [for eventual emancipation] from those among whom your right hands possess – then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you.) [24:33]
In brief, we can say that Islam did not legalize and encourage slavery, but rather established laws and regulations that contributed significantly and effectively to help restrict the sources of slavery and emancipate slaves once and for all.
Reference : Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Sheha, Human Rights in Islam, Usool International Centre, Riyadh, ISBN: 978-603-90936-9-5
Main article : Human Rights in Islam
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