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Human rights,the west and islam

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 confusion 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

them. 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 dis

Believers (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


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