Human Rights in an Islamic State
- The Security of Life and Property: In the Prophet’s address during his final pilgrimage, he said: “Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.” He also said: “One who kills a man under covenant (i.e., a non Muslim citizen of a Muslim land) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.”
- The Protection of Honour: The Qur’an does not allow one’s personal honour to be abused: “O You who believe, do not let one set of people make fun of another set. Do not defame one another Do not insult by using nicknames. Do not backbite or spear? (Al-Qur’an, Chapter 49: verse 11)
- Sanctity and Security of Private Life: The Qur’an guarantees privacy “Do not spy on one another” (Qur’an, chapter 49, verse 12)
- The Security of Personal Freedom: Islam prohibits the imprisonment of any individual before his guilt has been proven before a public court. This means that the accused has the right to defend himself and to expect fair and impartial treatment from the court.
- The Right to Protest against Tyranny: This is mentioned clearly in the Qur’an: God does not love evil talk in public unless it is by someone who has been injured thereby. In Islam, as has been stated earlier, an individual’s power and authority is a trust from God. This is an awesome responsibility for a person, for he must use this trust in a way that is acceptable to God or else suffer the consequences. This was acknowledged by Abu Bakr (The first Caliph after the Prophet), who said in his very first address: “Cooperate with me when I am right, and correct me when I commit error. Obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet (PBUH), but turn away from me when I deviate.”
- Freedom of Expression: Islam allows complete freedom of thought and expression, provided that it does not involve spreading that which is harmful to individuals and the society at large. For example, the use of abusive or offensive language in the name of criticism is not allowed. In the days of the Prophet (PBUH), the Muslims used to ask him about certain matters. If he had received no revelation on that particular issue, they were free to express their personal opinions.
- Freedom of Association: The formation of associations, parties, and organizations is allowed, on the understanding that they abide by certain general rules.
- Freedom of Conscience and Conviction: The Qur’an states: There should be no coercion in the matter of faith. Totalitarian societies of all ages have tried to deprive individuals from their freedom by subordinating them to state authority. This condition is equivalent to slavery, the only difference being that physical slavery has been replaced by mechanisms of control that allow the individual no freedom of choice. Islam forbids such a practice.
- Protection of Religious Sentiments: Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience, Islam guarantees to the individual that his religious sentiments will be given due respect and that nothing will be said or done which may encroach upon his right.
- Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment: Islam states that each individual is responsible only for his own actions. Therefore, he cannot be arrested and imprisoned for the offences of someone else. We read in the Qur’an: No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another.
- The Right to Basic Necessities of Life: Islam recognizes the right of the needy to demand help from those who are more fortunate: And in their wealth there is acknowledge right for the needy and the destitute.
- Equality before the Law: Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in the eyes of the law.
- Rulers Are Not Above the Law: According to the Islamic concept of justice, absolutely no one is above the law, for all people are equal. This point was made in a very dramatic fashion by the Prophet himself. One day, a woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet with the recommendation that she be spared the mandated punishment for theft (amputation of the hand). The Prophet replied: “The nations that lived before you were destroyed by God because they punished the common man for their offences and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes. I swear by Him Who holds my life in His hand that even if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad, had committed this crime, I would have amputated her hand.”
- The Right to Participate in the Affairs of State: In the Qur’an, we find the statement “And their business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves” (Al-Qur’an, chapter 42:verse 38). This procedure is known as shura, which is usually translated as “consultation”. In practice, it means that the executive head of the government and the members of the assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the people.
Lastly, Islam seeks to achieve the above-mentioned human rights and many others through the provision of certain legal safeguards, but primarily through calling upon individuals to transcend their lower animal-like instincts so that they can go beyond mere ties fostered by the kinship of blood, racial superiority, linguistic arrogance, and economic privilege. Islam urges man and woman to move on to a plane of existence where, by reason of his or her inner excellence, he or she can realize the ideal of the brotherhood of both men and women.