Human rights in islam


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Political freedom might be defined as man’s right to occupy any administration post in the government if he is competent enough to do so. It also means his right to freely express his opinion regarding the conduct of public affairs. In both sense, political freedom means that government has been instituted as a social service, not as a social burden. In other words, the ruler is the servant of his nation, one who works to fulfill its interests and aspirations. A regime cannot be considered valid, even one which adopted Islam as its state religion, if it deviates even one iota from this principle. This opinion is based upon the fat that in Islam true caliphate (Leadership) comes from Shura13, and general acknowledgement by the masses of the one most qualified and most deserving to assume the position of leader. The system of free consultation, Shura, and general acknowledgment are very necessary since the Prophet passed away leaving matters to be settled on the basis of free consultation among Muslims.

Islam goes even further by demanding that a person in a superior position consult with his subordinates in important matters. God addressed His Prophet (pbuh) saying:
Consult them in affairs (of the moment). Then when you have made a decision, put your trust in God” (Surah Al-Imran 3:159)
God describes the believers as those:
Whose affairs are a matter of mutual consultation” (Surah Al-Shura 42:38)

During the battle of Uhud14, the Prophet (pbuh) established the foundation of consultative rule and made the world aware of the principles of true democracy which were implemented through his practice and sagacious policy. When the Prophet (pbuh) realized that the army of Quraishite pagans had marched from Makkah to Madinah in order to attack Muslims, he called on his companions for consultation concerning it. he began by saying, “If it is your opinion to stay in Madinah and allow them to make camp wherever they want, we can do so. If they make camp, they will make camp in the worst position and if they invade us, they we will fight them in Madinah15. Despite the Prophet’s frank expression of his opinion and the willingness on the part of his companions to carry out his command, the way was left open (in true Islamic atmosphere) for discussion and counsel. The council was divided into two groups one in agreement with the Prophet (pbuh), represented by the majority of the Muhajrin (Makkan Muslim emigrants) and some leaders of the Ansar (the Prophet’s supporters in Madinah), and one group which did not agree, comprised of the enthusiastic young men of the Ansar and a few emigrants. The group which was in disagreement said to the Prophet (pbuh), “O Messenger of God, Lead us to our enemies so that they will not think that we are cowards or weak-hearted people”, other added, “Messenger of God, we do not want the Quraish pagans to go back to their people and say, ‘We have besieged Muhammad in the forts and hills of Yathrib16’. This will encourage the Quraish, as they are already treading on our palm groves. If we do not go out and defend our valley, we will not be feared”. The discussion became heated with each group expressing its views, yet all of them were faithful to the Prophet (pbuh). If we compare the two views in retrospect, it becomes obvious that the Prophet (pbuh) held the sounder opinion. He had noticed that the Makkan army was not wholly made up of Quraishites but also included mercenary allies like Ethiopians who would inevitably fall into dispute with the Makkans and abandon them if they were made to march all the way to Madinah. However, once the Prophet (pbuh)saw that the majority supported the opinion of the young men, he decided not to contradict the principle of consultation and thereby set a historical precedent for dictatorship. The Prophet (pbuh) did this because he knew that he was to be an example to the followers of Islam until God brings the world to an end. The Prophet (pbuh) led the Friday prayer, then he went to his house to put on his suit of armor. While he was preparing himself, Muslims crowded together and some of them expressed that they had misbehaved with the Prophet (pbuh). They said to others. “You have forced the Prophet to leave the city and lead you to war when you should have left the final decision to him”. Once again, the Prophet (pbuh) laid down another principle of consultation. This principle being once the council had decided upon a certain step and then dispersed, there should be no changed of mind whatever the case may be, lest it lead to confusion and then facture. So when they approached him, he said, If a Prophet puts on his armor it is not befitting that he should take it off until God judges between him and his enemies.

The Islamic practice during the early caliphate confirmed the fact that the nation as a whole is the source of authority, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said to the people, “I wish that you and I were in a boat carrying us to the East and the Wet. And I hope that the people would always be able to choose from among themselves a leader, who, if upright, they would follow and if he goes astray, they would kill”. Another companion of the Prophet (pbuh): Talha said, “Would it not be better if you said, ‘if he goes astray, they should remove him?” ‘Umar replied, “Killing him would be frighten the one who came after him more”. ‘Umar wrote the following letter to Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, the governor of Kufah: “O Abu Musa, you are only one among the people except that God has made you carry the heaviest burden. He who is appointed to take charge of Muslims has the same responsibility that a slave has towards his mater”. When Abu Bakr was appointed first caliph, he said, “O people, I have been appointed as your leader though I am not the best of you. if you see me following the wrong way, help me to the right one. Obey me as long as I obey God and if I disobey God, you should not obey me”. The third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn Affan said, “I will repent, desist from and ever return to a thing censured by Muslims. When I step down from my pulpit, let your chiefs give me their opinions. By God, If I am rightly condemned to servitude I would humble myself as slaves do”.

It should be noted, however, that there is a difference between the modern view regarding democracy Islamic view. In Islam, the people – though the majority – cannot annul an ordinance of God or modify Islamic law, unless they are backed by the Qur’an or the Sunnah (sayings and practiced of the Prophet (pbuh)). The Islamic constitution was not set down by humans who may adjust it as they wish; it is a divine revelation from God, who does not make mistakes concerning human welfare or any other affair. That is, if the Qur'anic text appears to contradict human interest, priority is given to the text and the apparent human advantage is viewed with suspicion, because Muslims believe that is impossible for a contradiction to exist between the real interest of the community and a divinely revealed text. Right is right even if all the people contradict it, and falsehood is falsehood even if all the people sanction it. God says:

If you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far from God’s way”(Surah Al-An’am 6:116)
So far we have dealt with one side of political freedom and the conditions concerning this form of freedom. This much is clear; the ruler is a servant of the nation, chosen from among them to be obedient to their command and subservient to their council. He should be the one most suitable for the office and he should have the people’s confidence. The second side of political freedom concerns, criticism, which Islam does not view as another form of political freedom, since it is part of the concept of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong – a duty on all Muslims. In fact, righteous criticism raised against an unjust ruler is superior to fighting a religious war. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The greatest of martyrs is Hamzah17 and one who faces an oppressive ruler and command him to do good and then is slain”. Our righteous Muslims predecessors were not afraid of rebuke when upholding the right. They were not afraid of telling the truth openly and frankly to any ruler, no matter how great his power and authority was. During the caliphate of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, Umar saw a man and woman committing adultery. He called the people to a meeting and asked them. “What do you think the leader of the faithful (the Caliph) should do if he finds a man and woman committing adultery?” ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib said, “He should produced four witness to the act before accusing them, or he should be whipped for defamation like any other Muslim”. Then he recited God’s words:

And those who accuse honorable women but bring not four witness, scourge them (with) eighty stripes” (Surah Al-Nur 24:4)
So ‘Umar kept quite and did not name the man and woman. On another occasion, a man said to the second caliph, ‘Umar, “Fear God!” And one of the members of the assemble rebuked the man for his statement. ‘Umar got angry and supported the man saying, “You should say it! For there is no good in you if you do not say it, and there is no good in us if we do not listen to it.”

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