Human rights in islam


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One might define a sound opinion as the conclusion arrived at in the mind after research and reflection. Any society which enriches the minds of its members has the right to benefit from the fruits of their thought. But, society cannot benefit from opinions unless they are regulated and disseminated in a way that contributes to the general welfare. Such ideas must be guided by reason and must not violate established virtuous practices or usurp the rights of others. Sound opinion creates a conductive atmosphere for the advancement of civilization. It also provides the basis for the upliftment of the Islamic systems in which man is permanently God-conscious and in which constructive thought and action is fostered more than in any other religious or secular ideology. A classic example of the place of opinion in Islam may be demonstrated by an incident which took place during the campaign of Badr, which was the first military encounter between the Muslims and idol worshipper after the Prophet’s migration to Madinah. The Prophet (pbuh) chose what he thought was the most strategic site for the battle; however, in spite of the high respect in which the Prophet companions held him, there was still room for discussion and an exchange of opinion. Al-Hubab ibn Al-Mundhair, full of concern for the battle, politely asked the Prophet (pbuh), “has this place been chosen by God without our having any choice in the matter, or has it been chosen according to your own opinion on war strategy?” the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “It has been chosen according to my personal opinion of war tactics”. Al-Hubaib said, “O messenger, it is not a strategic place. Lead us to the enemy’s nearest water-source, where we can block their access to the water and make use of it ourselves”. The Prophet (pbuh) gladly followed the wise opinion of that courageous and faithful soldier.

In the expedition of Al-Ahzab, the Prophet (pbuh) adopted the opinion of Salman Al-Farisi in digging a trench (Khandaq). During the expedition of Banu Qurayzah, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Those who believe in God and in the Day of Judgment should not perform their afternoon prayer except at Banu Qureyzah”8 (1). Some of the companions thought that they had to pray there even if the time of prayer was over while others thought the Prophet (pbuh) had meant for them to be quick, so some of them performed their prayer on the way. When the Prophet (pbuh) found out what each group had done, he accepted both opinions.
Nevertheless, freedom of opinion should not be employed as a means of spreading anarchy, corruption and falsehood. All opinions should be consistent with Islamic teachings and high moral principles and they should commend themselves to scientific examination of falsehood may be unwittingly circulated. In order to achieve this main, people have to exercise their intellectual faculties, with which they have been endowed, with in the frame work of divine guidance. The Qur’an says:
(O man) do follow what you have no knowledge of. Lo! The hearing, sight and the heart will be questioned” (Surah Al-Isra 17:36)

There is a big difference, however, between the modern connotation of freedom of opinion and the Islamic principle which approves any opinion so long as it remains within the range of public benefit, instruct people to do good deeds, and prohibits them from immorality. Contrarily, the modern connotation of freedom of opinion means that everyone has the right to publicly express his opinion whether it be right or wrong. Islam considers voicing an Islamic opinion an Islamic opinion the duty of all able Muslim men and women. In this way Islam mobilizes all the faculties of the mind to think properly about what takes place in society, formulate a sound opinion and then declare it to people. This declaration is an obligation. In other words, the setting forth of a sound opinion in Islam is not merely an intellectual exercise but is a social obligation and a religious responsibility which a man of faith pursues to the best of his ability. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If a person sees an abomination, he should speak the truth about it; if he can not speak the truth he should resent it in his heart and this is the least level of faith”.

The Qur’an also highlights the characteristic of the Islamic society as follows:
And the believers, men and women are protecting friends one of another, they enjoin right and forbid wrong” (Surah Al-Taubah 9:71)
The Muslims worthiness for the leadership of humanity is based upon their performance of this duty and their strict adherence to the faith. The Qur’an reminds us thus:
You are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. You enjoining right conduct, forbid indecency and you believe in God.” (Surah Al-‘Imran 3:110)


There is a fundamental difference between the Islamic system which commends work and encourages it by various mean and other system which merely recognize a person’s right to work. In the following verse, for instance, God orders man to work:

And say (unto them), ‘Act!’ God will behold your actions and (so will) His messenger and the believers.” (Surah Al-Taubah 9:105)
He it is Who has made the earth subservient unto you, so walk in the paths thereof and earn of His providence. And unto Him will be the resurrection (of the dead).” (Surah Al-Mulk 67:15)
Sometimes the Qur’an explains how God has made the universe subservient to man if he could only utilize its bounties.
He who has appointed the earth as bed, has threaded roads for you therein and sent down water from the sky. With it He has brought forth different kinds of vegetation, saying, eat you and your cattle. Lo! Herein verily are portents for men of thought.” (Surah Ta-Ha 20:53/54)

At other times emphasis on the importance of work is made by stressing the blessedness of self-reliance on earning one’s living. The Prophet’s (Pbuh) traditions teem with such sayings, “No Person has ever enjoyed food more delicious than what he has prepared himself, and David the Prophet of God, used to eat from what he himself had made [Bukhari].’ The Prophet (pbuh) also says, “God loves the believer who is gainfully employed.” The Prophet considered working a form of struggle in the cause of God, when the intention was noble. Once, a man passed by while the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting with a group of companions. The companions noticed his activity and steadfastness in his work was impressed by the man’s fortitude and patient perseverance. The companions said. “O messenger of God! This man would really be wonderful if only his actions were for the cause of God”. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If he goes to work to support his young children, his old parents or for the satisfaction of hi sown needs, all his work would be regarded as a struggle in the cause of God. But, if he goes to work in order to boast and be proud, it would be for the cause of the devil. [Bukhari].

In addition to instructing people to work, Islam prohibits begging and self-imposed unemployment. The Prophet (pbuh) said, He who begs continually, will meet God without a trace of flesh on his face [Muslim]. Islam also prohibits earning money it out exerting effort such as occurs in the case of interest which is prohibited in Islam. The Qur’an says:
O You who believe, observe your duty to God and give up what remains (due to you) from interest, if you are (in truth) believers, And if you do not, then be warned of war (against you) from God and His messenger. (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:278-9)
If a person lends money to another person on condition that it be returned along with an additional sum, this form of profit is called interest. Islam also prohibits the unlawful accumulation of wealth by the embezzlement of people’s money, the monopolization of their basic necessities, or the bribery of authorities God almighty says:
And eat not up your property among yourselves in vanity, nor seek by it to gain hearing of the judge that you may knowing devour a portion of the property of others wrongfully.’ (Surah al-Baqara 2:188)
The Prophet (pbuh) has also said, “he who cheats Muslims is not of us.” [Muslim]
He has also said, “one who hoards and withholds food for forty days removes himself from the mercy of God, and God has no connection with him.” [Ahmad ibn Hanbal]

Once the Prophet (pbuh) appointed a man from the Azdi tribe to collect alms from Muslims. When the Azdian returned, he divided the collected alms into tow parts and said, “This part is for you, and this part was given to me as a present”. The Prophet (pbuh) got angry, then he stood up, praised God and said, “I employ people from you to perform a task to which God appointed. And here comes a man who says, ‘This part is for you and this was given to me. If this man sat in his house, would he expect to be given any present? By God who has full authority over my soul, if a man takes anything illegally, on Doomsday he will carry it on his neck. If that thing were a camel, it will foam, if it were a cow it will moo and if it were a sheep, it will drop dung”9. Following in the footsteps and guidance of the Prophet (pbuh), ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, confiscated the gifts presented to the governors of Al-Bashrah and al-Bahrain, took half the money of the governor of Kufah and did the same with ‘Amir ibn al-As, who had been appointed governor of Egypt. The spirit in which the gifts and money were confiscated can be seen in the caliph’s correspondence with ‘Amr ibn al-As. He wrote to him saying. ‘Prophet are talking about personal property, slaves, kitchen wares, and animals which you did not posses before you were appointed governor of Egypt.” ‘Amr replied “our land is land of agriculture and commerce, and we produce more than we need for our expenses”. Umar answered, “I know enough about evil governors. Your letter to me is the letter of one who is troubled by the violation of others’ right. I have become suspicious of you and have sent Muhammad ibn Maslamah to asses your wealth. Obey him by letting him know your income, and by giving him whatever he asks. Save him the trouble of being cruel with you because everything has been revealed ‘Amr acquiesced and gave half his wealth to Muhammad ibn Maslamah. Such decisive legislation exalts the value of work which, in Islam, is considered even better than devoting all of one’s time to the worship of God. Some people once came to the Prophet (pbuh) in the company of a hermit. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Who is he?” They said, “He is a man who has devoted himself to worship”. The Prophet (pbuh0 said, “Who feeds him?’ They said, “All of us do”. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “all of you are better than he is”. [Bukhari & Muslim].

In this capacity as leader of the nation, the Prophet (pbuh), the Prophet (pbuh) endeavored to provide work opportunities for everyone. Once a man from the Ansar (Muslims citizens of Madinah) asked the Prophet (pbuh) to give him some provisions. The Prophet (pbuh) asked him, “Do you have anything at home?” The man replied, “Yes, we have some clothes and bowl”. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Bring them”. When the man brought them, the Prophet asked, “Who will but these?” The A man from the crowd said, “I will pay on dirham”. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Who will double the amount two or three times?”. A man said, “I will pay two dirhams”. The Prophet (pbuh) took the two dirhams, gave them to the Ansari and said “Buy some food for your family with one dirham, buy hatchet with the other and bring it to me”. The man brought the hatchet. The Prophet (pbuh) fastened it to a wooden handle and said to the man, “Go, cut some wood and sell it, but do not return to me before fifteen days have passed”. Fifteen days later, the Ansari came back with ten dirhams. With some of the money he bought some food and clothes. The Prophet (pbuh) said to him, “This is better for you than coming before Allah on Doomsday with spots on your face from begging”. [Bukhari & Ibn Majah].
In Islam, just treatment of workers is observed and they are to be given their due without any delay or deficit. God says:
So give full measure and full weight and wrong not mankind in their goods” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:85)
The Prophet (pbuh) also said, “Give the worker his wages before his sweat dries up”. [Ibn Majah]

In addition to protecting the monetary rights of workers, Islam urges that workers be protected against the dangers of work and that they be offered sufficient care and attention on the job. The story of Al-Khidr, who helped a crew of seamen protected their ship from being usurped by a despotic king, is told in the Qur’an:

As for the ship, it belong to poor working on the sea, and I wished to mar it, for there was a king behind them who took every seaworthy ship by force.” (Surah Al-Kahf 18:79)
This story instructs Muslims to follow the example of Al-Khidr, whom the Qur’an honors. The Qur’an states:
They found one of Our slaves unto whom We had given mercy from Us, and had taught him knowledge from Our presence.” (Surah Al-Kahf 18:65)
Since man’s physical and spiritual capacity for work is limited, Islam grants the laborer the right to rest by limiting working hours in a manner that protects his health and contributes to the renewal of his activity and energy. The Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have said, “give your own body its due” [Bukhari]. He also said. “The laborer who works all the times wastes his life”. Further more he recommended that a servant be well-treated by his master by saying, “A master should not ask his servant to do something that is beyond his capacity. If that which the master demands is necessary, the master himself should lend a helping hand to the servant” [Bukhari]. Basically Islam enables the worker to earn a decent living without undue hardship. If he us unable to do so, it becomes obligatory upon the state to provide for him from the “Bait al-Mal”10.

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