Islamic Theology Human Relations Select Disciplines Comparative Religion


 Chapter 1:
 Chapter 2:
 Chapter 3:
 Chapter 4:
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Chapter One


Before I discuss the human rights in Islam I would like to explain
a few points about two major approaches to the question of
human rights: the Western and Islamic. This will enable us to
study the issue in its proper perspective and avoid some of the confu-
sion which normally befogs such a discussion.

The Western Approach:

    The people in the West have the habit of attributing every good
thing to themselves and try to prove that it is because of them that the
world got this blessing, otherwise the world was steeped in ignorance
and completely unaware of all these benefits. Now let us look at the
question of human rights. It is very loudly and vociferously claimed
that the world got the concept of basic human rights from the Magna
Carta of Britain; though the Magna Carta itself came into existence six
hundred years after the advent of Islam. But the truth of the matter is
that until the seventeenth century no one even knew that the Magna
Carta contained the principles of Trial by Jury; Habeas Corpus, and
the Control of Parliament on the Right of Taxation. If the people who
had drafted the Magna Carta were living today they would have been
greatly surprised if they were told that their document also contained
all these ideals and principles. They had no such intention, nor were
they conscious of all these concepts which are now being attributed to

    As far as my knowledge goes the Westerners had no concept of
human rights and civic rights before the seventeenth century. Even
after the seventeenth century the philosophers and the thinkers on
jurisprudence though presented these ideas, the practical proof and
demonstration of these concepts can only be found at the end of the
eighteenth century in the proclamations and constitutions of America
and France. After this there appeared a reference to the basic human
rights in the constitutions of different countries. But more often the
rights which were given on paper were not actually given to the people
in real life.

    In the middle of the present century, the United Nations,
which can now be more aptly and truly described as the Divided
Nations, made a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and passed a
resolution against genocide and framed regulations to check it. But as
you all know there is not a single resolution or regulation of the
United Nations which can be enforced. They are just an expression of
a pious hope. They have no sanctions behind them, no force, physical
or moral to enforce them. Despite all the high-sounding ambitious
resolutions of the United Nations, human rights have been violated
and trampled upon at different places, and the United Nations has
been a helpless spectator. She is not in a position to exercise an
effective check on the violation of human rights. Even the heinous
crime of genocide is being perpetrated despite all proclamations of the
United Nations. Right in the neighbouring country of Pakistan,
genocide of the Muslims has been taking place for the last twenty-
eight years, but the United Nations does not have the power and
strength to take any steps against India. No action has even been taken
against any country guilty of this most serious and revolting crime.

The Islamic Approach:

    The second point which I would like to clarify at the very outset
is that when we speak of human rights in Islam we really mean that
these rights have been granted by God; they have not been granted by
any king or by any legislative assembly. The rights granted by the
kings or the legislative assemblies, can also be withdrawn in the same
manner in which they are conferred. The same is the case with the
rights accepted and recognized by the dictators. They can confer them
when they please and withdraw them when they wish; and they can
openly violate them when they like. But since in Islam human rights
have been conferred by God, no legislative assembly in the world, or
any government on earth has the right or authority to make any
amendment or change in the rights conferred by God. No one has the
right to abrogate them or withdraw them. Nor are they the basic
human rights which are conferred on paper for the sake of show and
exhibition and denied in actual life when the show is over. Nor are
they like philosophical concepts which have no sanctions behind

    The charter and the proclamations and the resolutions of the
United Nations cannot be compared with the rights sanctioned by
God; because the former is not applicable to anybody while the latter
is applicable to every believer. They are a part and parcel of the
Islamic Faith. Every Muslim or administrators who claim themselves
to be Muslims will have to accept, recognize and enforce them. If they
fail to enforce them, and start denying the rights that have been
guaranteed by God or make amendments and changes in them, or
practically violate them while paying lip-service to them, the verdict
of the Holy Quran for such governments is clear and unequivocal:

  "Those who do not judge by what God has sent down are the disbelievers."
(Kafirun). 5:44

The following verse also proclaims: "They are the wrong-doers (zalimun)" (5:45),
while a third verse in the same chapter says:  "They are the evil-livers (fasiqun)" (5:47).

        In other words this means that if the temporal authorities regard their
own words and decisions to be right and those given by God as wrong
they are disbelievers. If on the other hand they regard God's commands
as right but wittingly reject them and enforce their own decisions
against God's, then they are the mischief-makers and the wrong-doers.
Fasiq, the law-breaker,is the one who disregards the bond of allegiance,
and zalim is he who works against the truth. Thus all those temporal
authorities who claim to be Muslims and yet violate the rights
sanctioned by God belong to one of these two categories, either they
are the disbelievers or are the wrong-doers and mischief-makers.
The rights which have been sanctioned by God are permanent,
perpetual and eternal. They are not subject to any
alterations or modifications, and there is no scope for any change or



by  'Allamah Abu al-'A'la Mawdudi
al Tawhid Journal, vol. IV No. 3 Rajab-Ramadhan 1407