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Human Rights in Islam



The Political Framework Of Islam

Democracy in Islam

The Purpose of the Islamic State

Fundamental Rights

Executive and Legislature

Human Rights: The West And Islam

The Western Approach

The Islamic Approach

Basic Human Rights

· The Right to Life

The Right to the Safety of Life

Respect for the Chastity of Women

The Right to a Basic Standard of Life

The Individual's Right to Freedom

The Slave Trade of Western Nations

The Position Of Slavery In Islam

The Right To Justice

The Equality Of Human Beings

The Right to Co-operate and not to Co-operate


Rights Of Citizens In An Islamic State

The Security Of Life And Property

The Protection Of Honour

The Sanctity And Security Of Private Life

The Security Of Personal Freedom

The Right to Protest Against Tyranny

Freedom Of Expression

Freedom Of Association

Freedom Of Conscience and Conviction

Protection Of Religious Sentiments

Protection From Arbitrary Imprisonment

The Right To The Basic Necessities Of Life

Equality Before The Law

Rulers Are Not Above The Law

The Right To Avoid Sin

The Right to Participate in the Affairs of State


Rights Of Enemies In War

Law Of War And Peace In Islam

The Rights Of Non-Combatants

The Rights Of Combatants

Torture By Fire

Protection of the Wounded

Prisoners of War Should Not Be Killed

No Looting And Destruction In The Economy's Country

Sanctity Of Property

Sanctity Of A Dead Body

Return Of Corpses Of The Enemy



The Political Framework Of Islam

The political system of Islam is based on the three principles of towhid(Oneness of Allah), risala (Prophethood) and Khilifa(Caliphate).

Towhidmeans that one Allah alone is the Creator, Sustainer and Master of the universe and of all that exists in it - organic or inorganic. He alone has the right to command or forbid. Worship and obedience are due to Him alone. No aspect of life in all its multifarious forms ¾ our own organs and faculties, the apparent control which we have over physical objects or the objects themselves ¾ has been created or a acquired by us in our own right. They are the bountiful provisions of Allah and have been bestowed on us by Him alone.

Hence, it is not for us to decide the aim and purpose of our existence or to set the limits of our worldly authority; nor does anyone else have the right to make these decisions for us. This right rests only with Allah. This principle of the Oneness of Allah makes meaningless the concept of the legal and political sovereignty of human beings. No individual, family, class or race can set themselves above Allah. Allah alone is the Ruler and His commandments constitute the law of Islam.

Risala is the medium through which we receive the law of Allah. We have received two things from this source: the Qur’an, the book in which Allah has expounded His law, and the authoritative interpretation and exemplification of that Book by the Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), through word and deed, in his capacity as the representative of Allah. The Qur’an laid down the broad principles on which human life should be based and the Prophet of Allah, in accordance with these principles, established a model system of Islamic life. The combination of these two elements is called the shari’a (law).

Khilifa means "representation". Man, according to Islam, is the representative of Allah on earth, His vice-gerent; that is to say, by virtue of the powers delegated to him by Allah, and within the limits prescribed, he is required to exercise Divine authority.

To illustrate what this means, let us take the case of an estate of yours which someone else has been appointed to administer on your behalf. Four conditions invariably obtain: First, the real ownership of the estate remains vested in you and not in the administrator; secondly, he administers your property directly in accordance with your instructions; thirdly, he exercises his authority within the limits prescribed by you; and fourthly, in the administration of the trust he executes your will and fulfils your intentions and not his own. Any representative who does not fulfil these four conditions will be abusing his authority and breaking the covenant which was implied in the concept of "representation".

This is exactly what Islam means when it affirms that man is the representative (khalifa) of Allah on earth. Hence, these four conditions are also involved in the concept of Khalifa. The state that is established in accordance with this political theory will in fact be a caliphate under the sovereignty of Allah.

Democracy In Islam

The above explanation of the term Khilafa also makes it clear that no individual or dynasty or class can be Khalifa: the authority of Khilafa is bestowed on the whole of any community which is ready to fulfil the conditions of representation after subscribing to the principles of towhid and Risala. Such a society carries the responsibility of the Khilafa as a whole and each one of its individuals shares in it.

This is the point where democracy begins in Islam. Every individual in an Islamic society enjoys the rights and powers of the caliphate of Allah and in this respect all individuals are equal. No-one may deprive anyone else of his rights and powers. The agency for running the affairs of the state will be formed by agreement with these individuals, and the authority of the state will only be an extension of the powers of the individuals delegated to it. Their opinion will be decisive in the formation of the government, which will be run with their advice and in accordance with their wishes.

Whoever gains their confidence will undertake the duties and obligations of the caliphate on their behalf; and when he loses this confidence he will have to step down. In this respect the political system of Islam is as perfect a dorm of democracy as there can be.

What distinguishes Islamic democracy from Western democracy, therefor, is that the latter is based on the concept of popular sovereignty, while the former rests on the principle of popular Khilafa. In Western democracy, the people are sovereign; in Islam sovereignty is vested in Allah and the people are His caliphs or representatives. In the former the people make their own; in the latter they have to follow and obey the laws (shari’a) given by Allah through His Prophet. In one the government undertakes to fulfil the will of the people; in the other the government and the people have to fulfil the will of Allah.

The Purpose Of The Islamic State

We are now in a position to examine more closely the type of state which is built on the foundations of tawhid, Risala and Khilafa.

The Holy Qur’an clearly states that the aim and purpose of this state is the establishment, maintenance and development of those virtues which the Creator wishes human life to be enriched by and the prevention and eradication of those evils in human life which He finds abhorrent. The Islamic state is intended neither solely as an instrument of political administration nor for the fulfillment of the collective will of any particular set of people; rather, Islam places a high ideal before the state for the achievement of which it must use all the means at its disposal.

This ideal is that the qualities of purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, success and prosperity which Allah wants to flourish in the life of His people should be engendered and developed and that all kinds of exploitation, injustice and disorder which, in the sight of Allah, are ruinous for the world and detrimental to the life of His creatures, should be suppressed and prevented. Islam gives us a clear outline of its moral system by stating positively the desired virtues and the undesired evils. Keeping this outline in view, the Islamic state can plan its welfare programme in every age and in any environment.

The constant demand made by Islam is that the principles of morality must be observed at all costs and in all walks of life. Hence, it lays down as an unalterable policy that the state should base its policies on justice, truth and honesty. It is not prepared, under any circumstances, to tolerate fraud, falsehood and injustice for the sake of political, administrative or national expediency. Whether it be relations between the rulers and the ruled within the state, or the relations of the state with other states, precedence must always be given to truth, honesty and justice.

Islam imposes similar obligations on the state and the individual: to fulfil all contracts and obligations; to have uniform standards in dealings; to remember obligations along with rights and not to forget the rights of others when expecting them to fulfil their obligations; to use power and authority for the establishment of justice and not for the perpetration of injustice; to look upon duty as a sacred obligation and to fulfil it scrupulously; and to regard power as a trust from Allah to be used in the belief that one has to render an account of one's actions to Him in the life Hereafter.

Fundamental Rights

Although an Islamic state may be set up anywhere on earth, Islam does not seek to restrict human rights or privileges to the boundaries of such a state. Islam has laid down universal fundamental rights for humanity which are to be observed and respected in all circumstances. For example, human blood is sacred and may not be spilled without strong justification; it is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded; women's honour and chastity must be respected; the hungry must be fed, the naked clothed and the wounded or diseased treated medically irrespective of whether they belong to the Islamic community or are from amongst its enemies. These, and other provisions have been laid down by Islam as fundamental rights for every man by virtue of his status as a human being.

Nor, in Islam, are the rights of citizenship confined to people born in a particular state. A Muslim ipso facto becomes the citizen of an Islamic state as soon as he sets food on its territory with the intention of living there and thus enjoys equal rights along with those who acquire its citizenship by birth. And every Muslim is to be regarded as eligible for positions of the highest responsibility in an Islamic state without distinction of race, colour or class.

Islam has also laid down certain rights for non-Muslims who may be living within the boundaries of an Islamic state and these rights necessarily form part of the Islamic constitution. In Islamic terminology, such non-Muslims are called dhimmis (the covenanted), implying that the Islamic state has entered into a covenant with them and guaranteed their protection. The life, property and honour of a dhimmis is to be respected and protected in exactly the same way as that of a Muslim citizen. Nor is there difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim citizen in respect of civil or criminal law.

The Islamic state may not interfere with the personal rights of non-Muslims, who have full freedom of conscience and belief and are at liberty to perform their religious rites and ceremonies in their own way. Not only may they propagate their religion, they are even entitled to criticize Islam within the limits laid down by law and decency.

These rights are irrevocable. Non-Muslims cannot be deprived of them unless they renounce the covenant which grants them citizenship. However much a non-Muslim state may oppress its Muslim citizens it is not permissible for an Islamic state to retaliate against its non-Muslim subjects; even if all the Muslims outside the boundaries of an Islamic state are massacred, that state may not unjustly shed the blood of a single non-Muslim citizen living within its boundaries.

Executive And Legislature

The responsibility for the administration of the government in an Islamic state is entrusted to an amir (leader) who may be compared to the president or the prime minister in a Western democratic state. All adult men and women who subscribe to the fundamentals of the constitution are entitled to vote for the election of the amir.

The basic qualifications for an amir are that he should command the confidence of the majority in respect of his knowledge and grasp of the spirit of Islam, that he should possess the Islamic quality of fear of Allah and that he should be endowed with qualities of statesmanship. In short, he should have both virtue and ability.

A shoora(advisory council) is also elected by the people to assist and guide the amir. It is incumbent on the amir to administer his country with the advice of this shooraThe amir may retain office only so long as he enjoys the confidence of the people and must relinquish it when he loses that confidence. Every citizen has the right to criticize the amir and his government and all reasonable means for the ventilation of public opinion must be available.

Legislation in an Islamic state is to be carried out within the limits prescribed by the law of the shari’a. The injunctions of Allah and His Prophet are to be accepted and obeyed and no legislative body may alter or modify them or make any law contrary to them. Those commandments which are liable to two or more interpretations are referred to a sub-committee of the advisory council comprising men learned in Islamic law. Great scope remains for legislation on questions not covered by specific injunctions of the shari’a and the advisory council or legislature is free to legislate in regard to these matters.

In Islam the judiciary is not places under the control of the executive. It derives its authority directly from the shari’a and is answerable to Allah. The judges are appointed by the government but once a judge occupies the bench he has to administer justice impartially according to the law of Allah; the organs and functionaries of the government are not outside his legal jurisdiction, so that even the highest executive authority of the government is liable to be called upon to appear in a court of law as a plaintiff or defendant. Rulers and ruled are subject to the same law and there can be no discrimination on the basis of position, power or privilege, Islam stands for equality and scrupulously adheres to this principle in social, economic and political realms alike.

Human Rights, The West And Islam

The Western Approach

People in the West have the habit of attributing every beneficial development in the world to themselves. For example, it is vociferously claimed that the world first derived the concept of basic human rights from the Magna Carta of Britain - which was drawn up six hundred years after the advent of Islam. But the truth is that until the seventeenth century of no-one dreamt of arguing that the Magna Carta contained the principles of trial by jury, Habeas Corpus and control by Parliament of the right of taxation. If the people who drafted the Magna Carta were living today they would be greatly surprised to be told that their document enshrined these ideals and principles.

To the best of my knowledge, the West had no concept of human and civic rights before the seventeenth century; and it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that the concept took on practical meaning in the constitutions of America and France.

After this, although there appeared references to basic human rights in the constitutions of many countries, more often than not these rights existed only on paper. In the middle of the present century, the United Nations, which may now be more aptly described as the Divided Nations, made a Declaration of Universal Human Rights, and passed a resolution condemning genocide; regulations were framed to prevent it. But there is not a single resolution or regulation of the United Nations which can be enforced if the country concerned wants to prevent it. They are just expressions of pious hopes. They have no sanctions behind them, no force, physical or moral, to enforce them. Despite all the high-sounding resolutions of the United Nations, human rights continue to be violated and trampled upon.

The Islamic Approach

When we speak of human rights in Islam we mean those rights granted by Allah. Rights granted by kings or legislative assemblies can be withdrawn as easily as they are conferred; but no individual and no institution has the authority to withdraw the rights conferred by Allah.

The charter and the proclamations and the resolutions of the United Nations cannot be compared with the rights sanctioned by Allah; the former are not obligatory on anybody, while the latter are an integral part of the Islamic faith. All Muslims and all administrators who claim to be Muslim have to accept, recognize and enforce them. If they failed to enforce them or violate them while paying lip-service to them, the verdict of the Holy Qur’an is unequivocal:

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

The following verse also proclaims:

"They are the wrong-doers (zalimoon)". (5:45)

A third verse in the same chapter says:

"They are the perverse and law-breakers (fasiqoon)." (5:47)

In other words, if temporal authorities regard their own words and decisions as right and those given by Allah as wrong, they are disbelievers. If, on the other hand, they regard Allah's commands as right but deliberately reject them in favour of their owns decisions, then they are wrong-doers. Law-breakers are those who disregard the bond of allegiance.


Basic Human Rights

We have already seen that every man, whether he belongs to this country or that, whether he is a believer or unbeliever, whether he lives in a forest or in a desert, has certain basic human rights simply because he is a human being. We have seen, too, that it is the duty of every Muslim to recognize these rights. They are:

1. The Right To Life

The first and foremost basic right is the right to life. The Holy Qur’an lays down:

"Whosoever kills a human being (without any reason like) man-slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is thought he had killed all mankind." (5:32)

The propriety of taking life in retaliation for murder or for spreading corruption can be decided only by a competent court of law. During a war it can be decided only by a properly established government. In any event, Qur’an makes clear:

"Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law." (6:151)

Homicide is thus distinguished from destruction of life carried out in the pursuit of justice. The Prophet, blessings of Allah and peace be upon him, has declared homicide as the greatest sin after polytheism. A Tradition of the Prophet reads: "The greatest sins are to associate something with Allah and to kill human beings."

In all these verses of the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet the word 'soul' (nafs) has been used in general terms without any indication that citizens belonging to one's own nation or the people of a particular race or religion should not be killed. The injunction applies to all human beings.

The 'Right to Life' has been given to man as a whole only by Islam. You will observe that reference to human rights in constitutions or declarations in many countries clearly implies that these rights are applicable only to the citizens of that country or to the white race. For example, human beings were hunted down like animals in Australia and the land was cleared of the aborigines for the white man. Similarly, the aboriginal population of America was systematically destroyed and the Red Indians who somehow survived this genocide were confined to reservations. In Africa human beings were also hunted down like wild animals. Contrary to this partial concept of human rights, Islam recognizes such rights for all human beings.

2. The Right To The Safety Of Life

Immediately after the verse in the Holy Qur’an which has been mentioned in connection with the right to life, Allah says:

"And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind." (5:32)

There can be several forms of saving man from death. If a man is ill or wounded it is your duty to get him medical help. If he is dying f starvation, it is your duty for feed him. If he is drowning, it is your duty to rescue him. We regard it as our duty to save every human life, because it is thus that we have been enjoined in the Holy Qur’an.

3. Respect For The Chastity Of Women

The third important element in the Charter of Human Rights granted by Islam is that a woman's chastity must be respected and protected at all times, whether she belongs to one's own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether we find her in a remote forest or in a conquered city, whether she is our co-religionist or belongs to some other religion or has no religion at all. A Muslim may not physically abuse her under any circumstances. All promiscuous relationships are forbidden to him, irrespective of the status or position of the woman or of whether she is a willing partner to the act.

The words of the Holy Qur’an in this respect are: "Do not approach (the bounds) of adultery" (17:32). Heavy punishment has been prescribed for this crime, and no mitigating circumstances are indicated. Since the violation of the chastity of a woman is forbidden in Islam, a Muslim who perpetrates this crime cannot escape punishment-whether he receives it in this world or in the Hereafter.

This concept of the sanctity of chastity and the protection of women can be found nowhere else except in Islam. The armies of the Western powers need the daughters of their own nations to satisfy their carnal appetites even in their own countries, and if they happen to occupy another county, the fate of its womenfolk can better be imagined than described.

But the history of the Muslim, apart from individual lapses, has been free from this crime against womanhood. It has never happened that after the conquest of a foreign country the Muslim army has gone about raping the women of the conquered people, or, in their own country, the government has arranged to provide prostitutes for them.*

4. The Right To A Basic Standard Of Life

Speaking about economic rights, the Holy Qur’an enjoins its followers:

"And in their wealth there is acknowledge right for the needy and destitute." (51:12)

The wording of this injunction shows that it is categorical and unqualified. Furthermore, this injunction was given in Makkah where there was no Muslim society in existence and where the Muslim came in contact mostly with disbelievers.

The clear meaning of this verse is that anyone who asks for help and anyone who is suffering from deprivation has a right to share in the property and wealth of a Muslim; irrespective of whether he belongs to this or to that nation, to this or to that country, to this or to that race. If one is in a position to help and a needy person asks for help or if one comes to know that he is in need, then it is one's duty to help him.

5. The Individual's Right To Freedom

Islam has categorically forbidden the primitive practice of capturing a free man to make him a slave or to sell him into slavery. On this point the unequivocal words of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) are as follows: "There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment . Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money" (Bukhari and Ibn Maja).

The words of this Tradition of the Prophet have not been qualified or restricted to a particular nation or race, or to followers of a particular religion. The Europeans take great pride in claiming that they abolished slavery from the world, though they had the decency to do so only in the middle of the last century. Before this, the Western powers had been raiding Africa on a very large scale, capturing free men, putting them in bondage and transporting them to their new colonies. The treatment which they meted out to these unfortunate people was worse than that given to animals. Accounts in Western books themselves bear testimony to this fact.

The Slave Trade Of Western Nations

After the occupation of America and the West Indies, traffic in slave trade continued for three hundred and fifty years. The African ports where the Africans were brought from the interior and put on ships came to be known as the Slave Coast. In the course of only one century (from 1680 to 1786) the total number of free people who were captured and enslaved for the British Colonies amounts, according to the estimate of British authors, to 20 million. We are told that in the year 1790, 75,000 human beings were captured and sent for slave labour in the colonies. The ships which were used for transporting the slaves were small and dirty. These unfortunate Africans were thrust into the holds like cattle and many of them were chained, one on top of the other, to wooden shelves on which they could hardly move because they were only eighteen inches apart. They were not given proper food, and if they fell ill or were injured, no attempt was made to provide them with medical treatment.

Western writers themselves state that at least 20 per cent of the total number of people who were captured for slavery and forced labour perished while being transported from Africa to America. It has also been estimated that the total number of people who were captured for slavery by the various European nations during the heyday of the slave trade was at least one hundred million. This is the record of the people who denounce Muslims for recognizing the institution of slavery. It is as if a criminal is pointing the finger of blame at an innocent man.

The Position Of Slavery In Islam

Islam tried to solve the problem of the slaves that were already in Arabia by encouraging people to set them free. Muslims were told that freeing slaves would mean the expiation of some of their sins. Freeing a slave of one's own free will was declared to be an act of such great merit that the limbs of the man who manumitted a slave would be protected from hell-fire-one for each limb of the slave freed.

The result of this policy was that , by the time the period of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs was reached, all the old slaves of Arabia had been liberated. The Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) alone liberated as many as 63 slaves. The number of slaves freed by }'isha was 67; Abbasliberated 70; }Abd Allahbin }Umar liberated one thousand; and }Abd al-Rahmnpurchased thirty thousand and set them free. Other Companions of the Prophet liberated a large number of slaves, the details of which are given in the Traditions and books of history of that period.

The problem of the slaves of Arabia was thus solved in under 40 years. After this the only slaves left in Islamic society were prisoners of war captured on the battlefield. These were kept by the Muslim government in question until their own government agreed to receive them back in exchange for Muslim soldiers they captured by them or arranged the payment of ransom on their behalf. If the soldiers they captured were not exchanged for Muslim prisoners of war, or their people did not pay their ransom money to purchase their liberty, the Muslim government distributed them among the soldiers of the army which had captured them.

This was a more humane way of disposing of them than penning them like cattle in concentration camps and taking forced labour from them and, if their womenfolk were also captured, setting them aside for prostitution. Islam preferred to spread them through the population and thus being them in contact with individual human beings. Their guardians, in addition, were ordered to treat them well.

The result of this policy was that most of the men who were captured on foreign battlefields and brought to the Muslim countries as slaves embraced Islam and their descendants produced great scholars, imams, jurists, commentators, statesmen and generals. So much so that later they became rulers of the Muslim world.

Today, prisoners of war throughout the world are exchanged on the cessation of hostilities. This is a practice which has been learnt from Islam. But treating well prisoners who cannot, for one reason or another, be exchanged, has not been learnt. Can anyone tell us, for example, the fate of the thousands of prisoners of war captured by Russia from the defeated armies of Germany and Japan in the Second World War? No one knows how many thousands of them are still alive and how many thousands of them perished due to the hardships of the Russian concentration and labour camps. It is doubtful if, even in the times of the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt, such harsh labour was exacted from the slaves who built the pyramids as was exacted from the prisoners of war in Russia who developed Siberia and other backward areas of the country.

6. The Right To Justice

This is a very important and valuable right which Islam has given to man. The Holy Qur’an has laid down: "Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression" (5:3). "And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness" (5:8). Stressing this point the Qur’an again says: "You who believe stand steadfast before Allah as witness for (truth and) fair play" (4:135).

The point is thus made clear that Muslims have to be just not only to their friends but also their enemies. In other words, the justice to which Islam invites her following is not limited to the citizens of one's own country, or the people of one's own tribe, nation or race, or the Muslim community as a whole; it is meant for all human beings.

7. The Equality Of Human Beings

Islam not only recognizes the principle of absolute equality between men irrespective of colour, race or nationality, it makes it an important reality. Almighty Allah has laid down in the Holy Qur’an: "O mankind, we have created you from a male and female." In other words, all human beings are brothers. They all are the descendants from one father and one mother. "And we set you up as nations and tribes so that you may be able to recognize each other" (49:13). This means that the division of human beings into nations, races, groups and tribes is for the sake of distinction, so that people of one race or tribe may meet and be acquainted with people belonging to another race or tribe and co-operate with one another.

This division of the human race is neither meant for one nation to take pride in its superiority over others nor for one nation to treat another with contempt. "Indeed, the noblest among you before Allah are the most heedful of you" (49:13). That is, the superiority of one man over another is only on the basis of Allah-consciousness, purity of character and high morals, and not colour, race, language or nationality. People are therefore not justified in assuming airs of superiority over other human beings. Nor do the righteous have any special privileges over others.

This has been thus exemplified by the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) in one of his sayings: "No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over a black man, or the black man any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay." (Bayhaqi and Bazzaz). In this manner Islam established the principle of equality of the entire human race and struck at the very root of all distinctions based on colour, race, language or nationality.

According to Islam, Allah has given man this right of equality as a birthright. No man should therefore be discriminated against on the grounds of the colour of his skin, his place of birth, the race or the nation in which he was born.

Malcolm X, the leader of African Negroes in America, once launched a bitter struggle against the white people of America in order to win civil rights for his black compatriots. But when he went to perform the pilgrimage, he saw how the Muslims of Asia, Africa, Europe and America were all wearing the same dress and were all hurrying towards the Ka'ba ¾ and were offering prayers standing in the same row. He realized that this was the solution to the problem of colour and race, and not what he had been trying to seek or achieve in America. Today, a number of non-Muslim thinkers openly admit that no other religion or way of life has solved this problem with the same degree of success as Islam.

8. The Right To Co-operate And Not To Co-operate

Islam has prescribed a general principle of paramount importance and universal application. The Holy Qur’an says: "Co-operate with one another for virtue and heedfulness and do not co-operate with one another for the purpose of vice and aggression" (5:2). This means that the man who undertakes noble and righteous work, irrespective of whether he is living at the North Pole or the South Pole, has the right to expect support and active co-operation from Muslims. But he who practices vice and aggression, even if he is our closest relation or neighbour, does not have the right to our support and help in the name of race, country, language or nationality, nor should he expect Muslims to co-operate with him. The wicked and vicious person may be our own brother, but he is not of us, and he can have no help or support from us as long as he does not repent of his ways. On the other hand, the man who is doing deeds of virtue and righteousness may have no kinship with Muslims, but Muslims will be his companions and supports, or at least his well-wishers.


This is a brief sketch of those rights which 1400 years ago Islam gave to man, to those who were at war with each other and to the citizens of its state. It refreshes and strengthens our faith in Islam when we realize that even in this modern age, which makes such loud claims of progress and enlightenment, the world has not been able to produce more just and equitable laws than those given 1400 years ago. On the other hand, it is saddening to realize that Muslims nonetheless often look for guidance to the West. Even more painful is the realization that, throughout the world, rulers who claim to be Muslims have made disobedience to their Allah and the Prophet the basis and foundation of their government. May Allah have mercy on them and give them true guidance.

Rights Of Citizens In An Islamic State

We have discussed human rights in general. We turn now specifically to the question of the rights of citizen in an Islamic state. At these rights are more extensive than the general human right which have been described earlier, they need separate treatment.

1. The Security Of Life And Property

In the address which the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) delivered on the occasion of the Farewell Hajj, he said: "Your lives and properties are forbidden on one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection." Allah Almighty has laid down in the Holy Qur’an: "Anyone who kills a believer deliberate will receive as his reward (a sentence) to live in Hell for ever. Allah will be angry with him and curse of Allah and peace be upon him) has also said about the dhimmis (the non-Muslim citizens of a Muslim state): "One who kills a man under covenant (i.e. a dhimmis will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise" (Bukhari and Abu Dawood).

Islam prohibits all killing except that done in the due process of law. This is referred to in the Qur’an as bi'l-haqq ("with the truth"). During wars or insurrections, only a jut and righteous government, which follows the Shari’a, can decide whether the taking of a life is justified.

These weighty decisions may not be left in the hands of a court which has become heedless of Allah's will and is under the influence of the administration. Such judiciary may miscarry justice. Nor can the state seek justification in the Holy Qur’an or Traditions if it murders citizens because they oppose unjust policies and actions or criticize it for its misdeeds; equally, the state has no right to hire assassins to kill innocent people and then protect the assassins from the just retribution of the courts. The very existence of such a government is a crime and none of the killings carried out by it can be called "execution for the sake of justice", as the Holy Qur’an puts it.

Along with security of life, Islam has with equal clarity conferred the right of security of ownership of property. The Holy Qur’an goes so far as to declare that the taking of people's possessions or property is prohibited unless done by lawful means: The law of Allah categorically declares: "Do not devour one another's wealth by false and illegal means" (2:188).

2. The Protection Of Honour

The second important right is the right of citizen to the protection of their honour. In the address delivered on the occasion of the Farewell Hajj the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) not only prohibited Muslims taking the life and property of other Muslims, but also any encroachment on their honour, respect and chastity. The Holy Qur’an lays down:

(a) "You who believe, do no let one (set of) people make fun of another set.

(b) Do not defame one another.

(c) Do not insult by using nicknames.

(d) And do not backbite or speak ill of one another" (49:11-12).

This law is superior to the Western law of defamation. Under Islamic law, if it is proved that someone has attacked the honour of another person, then, irrespective of whether the victim is able to prove himself a interesting and honourable person, the culprit will be punished. The interesting a fact about the Western law of defamation is that the person who files suit for defamation has first to prove that he is a man of honour and public esteem and during the interrogation he may be subjected to scurrilous attacks and accusations by the defence counsel - to such an extent that the court hearing may be more damaging than the attack on his reputation which originally led him to the court. In addition, he also has to produce witnesses to testify in court that, the defamatory accusations have damaged his reputation in their eyes.

Good gracious! What a subtle point of law, and what an adherence to the spirit of law! How can this unfair and unjust law be compared to the Divine law? Islam has declared defamation a crime irrespective of whether the accused is a man of honour, or of whether the words used have actually disgraced the victim and harmed his reputation. Under Islamic law it is sufficient to prove that the accused said things which, according to common-sense, could have damaged the reputation and honour of the plaintiff.

3. The Sanctity And Security Of Private Life

Islam recognize the right of every citizen in an Islamic state to no undue encroachment on the privacy of his life. The Holy Qur’an has laid down the injunction: "Do not spy on one another" (49:12). "Do not enter any houses except your own homes unless you are sure of their occupants' consent" (24:27). The Prophet (blessing of Allah and peace be upon him) went to the extent of instructing his follows that a man should not enter even his own house suddenly or surreptitiously. He should somehow indicate to those inside that he is entering so that he may not see his mother, sister or daughter in a condition in which they would not like to be seen, nor in which he himself would like to see them.

Peering into the houses of other people has also been strictly prohibited ¾ so much so that there is the saying of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) that if a man finds another person secretly peering into his house, and he puts out his eye or eyes as a punishment, he will not be liable to prosecution.

The Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has even prohibited people from reading the letters of others; indeed, if a man is reading his letter and another man casts sidelong glances as it and tries to read it, his conduct becomes reprehensible. These are examples of the sanctity of privacy that that Islam grants to individuals.

On the other hand, in the so-called modern civilised world we find that not only are the letters of other people read and censored, but even that photostat copies are retained for future use or blackmail, Bugging devices are secretly fixed in houses so that conversations taking place behind closed doors can be taped. In other words, in many spheres of life individuals have no real privacy.

This prying into the life of the individual cannot be justified on moral grounds by a government saying that it needs to know the secrets of potentially dangerous person. The basis of this philosophy is the fear and suspicion with which modern governments look at those of their citizens who are intelligent and dissatisfied with official policies. This is exactly what Islam has called the root cause of mischief in politics. The injunction of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) is: "When the ruler begins to search for the causes of dissatisfaction amongst his people, he spoils them" (Abu Dawood)). The Amir Mu'awiya has said that he himself heard the Prophet saying: "If you try to find out the secrets of the people, then you will definitely spoil them or at least you will bring them to the verge of ruin."

"Spoiling" people is what happens when secret police are spread all around a country looking into their affairs: men begin to look at one another with suspicion, so much so that they are afraid of talking freely in their houses lest some word should escape from the lips of their wives and children which may put them in embarrassing situations. In this manner it becomes difficult for a common citizen to speak freely, even in his own house; society begins to suffer from mutual distrust and suspicion.

4. The Security Of Personal Freedom

Islam has laid down the principle that no citizen may be imprisoned unless his guilt has been proved in open court. To arrest a man only on the basis of suspicion and to throw him into prison without proper court proceedings and without providing him with a reasonable opportunity to produce his defence is not permissible in Islam.

It is related in the Traditions that the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) was once delivering a lecture in the Mosque, when a man rose and said: "O Prophet of Allah, for what crime have my neighbours been arrested?" The Prophet appeared not to hear the question and continued his lecture. The man rose again and repeated the question. The Prophet again did not answer and continued his lecture. The man rose for a third time and repeated the question. Then the Prophet ordered the man's neighbours to be released.

The reason why the Prophet had not answered when the question was asked twice earlier was that the police officer who had carried out the arrest was present in the Mosque; if there had been valid reasons for the arrest, he would have got up to give them. Since the police officer did not, the Prophet ordered that the arrested persons should be released. The police officer was aware of Islamic law and therefore he did not get up to say: "The administration is aware of the charges against the arrested men, but they cannot be disclosed in public. If the Prophet inquires about their guilt in camera I will enlighten him." If the police officer had made such a statement, he would have been dismissed then and there. The fact that the police officer did not give any reasons for the arrests in open court was sufficient for the Prophet to give immediate orders for the release of the arrested men.

The injunction of the Holy Qur’an is very clear on this point. "Whenever you judge between people, you should judge with (a sense of) justice" (4:58). And the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) said: "I have been ordered by Allah to dispense justice between you." This was the reason why the Caliph "Umar said: "In Islam no-one can be imprisoned except in pursuance of justice." The words used here clearly indicate that justice means due process of law in open court.

If a government suspects that a particular individual has committed a crime or is likely to commit an offence in the near future, it should give reasons for its suspicion before a court of law and the culprit or the suspect should be allowed to produce his defence. If good reason for suspicion is proved, he should be informed of how long he will be kept in preventive detention.

In all such circumstances, it is essential that the public hear the charges brought by the government, as well as the defence made by the accused, and thus have the opportunity of seeing that the due process of law is being carried out.

The correct method of dealing with such cases in Islam is exemplified in the famous decision the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace by upon preparations for the attack on the city when one of his Companions, Hatib bin Abi Balta'a, sent a letter through a woman to the authorities in Makkah informing them of the impending attack. The Prophet came to know of this through a Divine inspiration. He ordered 'Ali and Zubair: "Allah quickly on the route to Makkah, at such and such a place, you will find a woman carrying a letter. Recover the letter from her and bring it to me." So they went and found the woman exactly where the Prophet had said. They recovered the letter from he and brought it to the Prophet.

This was indeed a clear case of treachery. In fact, one cannot think of a more serious crime during a time of war than giving a military secret to one's enemy. What could have been a more suitable case for a secret hearing than one into the betrayal of a military secret? But the Prophet summoned Hatib to the open court of the Mosque of the Prophet and in the presence of hundreds of people asked him to explain his position with regard to the letter addressed to the leaders of Quraysh.

The accused said: "O Allah's Messenger (may Allah's blessings be on you) I have not revolted against Islam, nor have I done this with the intention of betraying a military secret. The truth of the matter is that my wife and children are living in Makkah and I do not have my tribe to protect them there. I had written this letter so that the leaders of Quraysh may be indebted to me and may protect my wife and children out of gratitude." 'Umar rose and respectfully submitted: 'O Prophet, please permit me to put this traitor to the sword." The Prophet replied: "He is one of those people who took part in the battle of Badr* and the explanation he has advanced in his defence would seem to be acceptable."

Let us look at this decision of the Prophet in perspective. It was a clear case of treachery and betrayal of military secrets. But the Prophet acquitted Hatib on two counts. Firstly, that his past record was clean in that he had fought at the battle of Badr when there were heavy odds against the Muslims. Secondly, his family was in fact in danger in Makkah. In such circumstances it was sufficient punishment that his secret offence became public and that he was disgraced and humiliated in the eyes of the Believers.

The attitude and activities of the Kharijites in the days of the Caliph ‘Ali are will known to students of Muslim history. They used to abuse the caliph openly, and threaten him with murder. But whenever they wee arrested for these offences, ‘Ali would set them free and tell his officers: "As long as they do not actually perpetrate offences against the state, the mere use of abusive language or the threat of use of force are not such offences for which they can be imprisoned." The Imam Abu Hanifa has recorded the following saying of the Caliph ‘Ali: 'As long as they do not set out on the armed rebellion, the Caliph of the Faithful will not interfere with them."

On another occasion, ‘Ali was delivering lecture in the Mosque when the Kharijites raised their special slogan there ‘Ali said: We will not deny you the right to come to the mosques to worship Allah, nor will we stop your share from the wealth of the state, as long as you are with us (and support us against the unbelievers) and we shall never take military action against you as long as you do not fight with us."

One can visualize the opposition which ‘Ali was facing; more violent and vituperative opposition cannot be imagined even in a present-day democratic state; but the freedom that he allowed to the opposition was such that no government has ever since been able to give to its opposition.

5. The Right To Protest Against Tyranny

Among the right that Islam has conferred on human beings is the right to protest against a government's tyranny. The Qur’an says: "Allah does not love evil in public unless it is by someone who has been injured thereby" (4:148). This means that Allah strongly disapproves of abusive language or strong words of condemnation, but that the person who has been the victim of injustice or tyranny has the right to protest strongly against the injury that has been done to him.

This right is not limited to individuals. The words of the verse have general application. If an individual or a group of people or a party usurps power and, after assuming the reins of authority, begins to tyrannize individuals or groups of men or the entire population of the country, then to raise the voice of protest is the Allah-given right of man. Trying to usurp this right is tantamount to rebellion against Allah. The talisman of Section 144* may protect such a tyrant in this world, but it cannot save him from hell-fire in the Hereafter.

6. Freedom Of Expression

Islam gives the right of freedom of thought and expression to all citizens of an Islamic State on condition that it is used for propagating virtue and not for spreading. This Islamic concept of freedom of expression is far superior to that of the West. Indeed, the right to freedom of expression to propagate virtue and righteousness is not only a right, but an obligation. Anyone who tries to deny this right to his people is openly at war with Allah, the All-Powerful. It is equally a right of and an obligation on an individual to attempt to stop evil, whether this evil is perpetrated by an individual or by a group of people or the government of one's own country or the government of some other country. Over and above this, he should openly condemn the evil and point to the morally correct course which would be adopted.

The Holy Qur’an has described this quality of the Faithful in the following words: "They enjoin what is proper and forbid what is improper" (9:71). By contrast, describing the qualities of a hypocrite, the Qur’an says: "They bid what is improper and forbid what is proper" (9:67). The main as follows: "If we give authority to these men on earth they will keep up prayers, and offer welfare due, bid what is proper and forbid what is improper" (22:41). The Prophet has said: "If any one of you comes across an evil, he should try to stop it with his band (using force); if he is not in a position to stop it with his hand then he should try to stop it by means of his tongue (meaning he should speak against it). If he is not even able to use his tongue then he should at least condemn it is his heat. This is the weakest degree of faith."

The obligation to try to persuade people along the paths of righteousness and away from the paths of evil is incumbent on all true Muslims. Any government which deprives its citizens of this right is in direct conflict with divine injunction. Such a government is then not in conflict with its people, but with Allah it is trying to usurp that right of its people which Allah has conferred not merely as a right but as an obligation.

7. Freedom Of Association

Islam has also given people the right to freedom of association and formation of parties or organization. This right is subject to certain general rules. It should be exercised for propagating virtue and righteousness and never for spreading evil and mischief. We have not only been given this right to spread righteousness and virtue ¾ we have been ordered to exercise it. Addressing the Muslims, the Holy Qur’an declares:

"You are the best community which has been brought forth for mankind. You command what is proper and forbid what is improper and you believe in Allah" (3:110)

This means that it is the obligation and duty of the entire Muslim community to enjoin people to righteousness and virtue and forbid them to do evil. If the Muslim community as a whole does not perform this duty then "let there be a community among you who will invite (people) to (do) good, command what is proper and forbid what is improper, those will be prosperous" (3:104). This clearly indicates that if the community collectively begins to neglect its obligations, then it is absolutely essential for there to be at least one group within the community prepared to meet them.

It is ironic that in a Muslim country* the assembly and association that has been formed for the purpose of spreading evil and mischief should also have the right to rule over the country and the association and party which has been formed for the purpose of propagating righteousness and virtue should live in perpetual fear of harassment and of being declared illegal. Conditions here are the reverse of what has been prescribed by God. The claim is that we are Muslim and that this is an Islamic State, but the work that is being done is directed to spreading evil, to corrupting and morally degrading and debasing people, while there is active and effective hindrance on the work being carried out to reform society and point people to righteousness. Moreover, the lives of those who are engaged in spreading righteousness and checking the spread of evil and wickedness are made intolerable.

8. Freedom Of Conscience and Conviction

Islam gives the right to free doom of conscience and conviction to the citizens of an Islamic State. The Holy Qur’an has laid down the injunction: "There should be no coercion in the matter of faith" (2:256). Although there is no truth or virtue greater than Islam, and although Muslim are enjoined to invite people to embrace it and advance arguments in favour of it, they are not asked to spread this faith by force. Whoever accepts it does so by his own choice. Muslims welcome such converts to Islam with open arms and admit them to their community with equal rights and privileges. But, equally, Muslims have to recognize and respect the decision of people who do not accept Islam: no moral, social or political pressures may be put on them to change their minds.

9. Protection of Religious Sentiments

Along with freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience, Islam guarantees the individual that his religious sentiments will be given due respect and that nothing will be said or done which may encroach on this right. It is ordained by Allah in the Holy Qur’an: "Do not abuse those they appear to instead of Allah" (6:108). These instructions are not limited to idols and deities ¾ they also apply to the leaders or national heroes of the people. If a group of people hold certain convictions and certain persons in an esteem which you feel is not deserved, then it is not justifiable in Islam for you to use abusive language to them and thus injure their feelings. Islam does not prohibit people holding debate and discussions to be conducted in decency. "Do not argue with the people of the Book unless it is in the politest manner" (29:46) says the Qur’an. This order is not limited to the people of the Scriptures, but applies with equal force to those following other faiths.

10. Protection From Arbitrary Imprisonment

Islam recognizes the right of the individual not to be arrested or imprisoned for the offences of others. The Holy Qur’an has laid down this principle clearly: "No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another" (6:164). Islam believes in personal responsibility. We ourselves are responsible for our acts, and their consequences cannot be transferred to someone else.

It is a matters of great regret and shame* that we are seeing this just and equitable principle, which has been framed by the Creator and Nourisher of the entire universe, being flouted and violated before our eyes. So much so that if a man is guilty of a crime or if he is a suspect, he wife is also liable to arrest. Indeed, things have gone so far that innocent people are being punished for the crimes of others.

To give a recent example: a man in Karachi was suspected of being involved in a bomb-throwing incident. In the course of police investigations he was subjected to horrible torture to try to extract a confession from him. When he insisted on his innocence, the police arrested his mother, his wife, daughter and sister and brought them to the police station. They were all striped naked in his presence, and he was stripped naked before their eyes so that a confession of the crime could be extracted for him. It appears as if for the sake of investigation of crime it has become proper and legal in our country to stripe innocent womenfolk of a household in order to bring pressure on a suspect.

I would here like to ask what right such tyrants who perpetrate these crimes against mankind have to tell us that they are Muslims or that they are conducting the affairs of the state according to the teachings of Islam. They are flouting a clear law of the Holy Qur’an by stripping men and women naked. They disgrace and humiliate humanity ¾ and then they claim that they are Muslims.

11. The Right to The Basic Necessities Of Life

Islam has recognized the right of the needy to assistance. "And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute" (51:19). In this verse, the Qur’an has not only conferred a right to every man who asks for assistance in the wealth of the Muslims, but has also laid down that if a Muslim comes to know that a certain man is without the basic necessities of life, then, irrespective of whether he asks for assistance or not, it is his duty to give all the help that he can.

For this purpose Islam does not depend only on voluntary charity, but has made compulsory charity, zakat, its third pillar, next only to the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has clearly instructed us that: "It will be taken from their rich and given to those in the community in need" (Bukhari and Muslim).

In addition, it has also been declared that the Islamic State should support those who have nobody to support them. The Prophet has said: "The Head of State is the Guardian of him who has nobody to support him" (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi). The word wali which is used by the Prophet has a wide range of meanings. It is the duty and the responsibility of the state to support and assist orphans, the old, the unemployed and the sick if they duty off the state to arrange for his burial. A true Islamic State is therefore a true welfare state.

12. Equality Before the Law

Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute equality in the eyes of the law. As far as Muslims are concerned, there are clear instructions in the Holy Qur’an Hadith that in their rights and obligations they are all equal: "The believers are brothers (to each other)" (49:10). "If they (disbelieves) repent and keep up prayer and pay the welfare due they are your brothers in faith" (9:11). The Prophet has said that: "The life and blood of Muslims are equally precious" (AbuDawood, Ibn Maja). In another Hadith he has said: "The protection given by all Muslims are equal. Even an ordinary man of them can grant protection to any man" (Bukhari, Muslim, AbuDawood). In another more detailed Tradition of the Prophet, it has been said that those accept the Oneness of Allah, believe in the Prophethood of His Messenger, give up primitive prejudices and join the Muslim community and brotherhood, "then they have the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have" (Bukhari, Nisai). Thus there is absolute equality between converts to Islam and born followers of the Faith.

This religious brotherhood and the uniformity of their rights and obligations is the foundation of equality in Islamic society. The position of non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic State has been well expressed by the Caliph ‘Ali: "They have accepted our protection only because their lives may be like our lives and their properties like our properties" (AbuDawood). In other words, their lives and properties are as sacred as the lives and properties of Muslims. Discrimination based on class was one of the greatest crimes that, according to the Qur’an, Pharaoh used to indulge in: "He had divided his people into different classes," ... "And he suppressed one group of them (at the cost of others)" (28:4).

13. Rulers Are Not Above The Law

Islam insists and demands that all officials of an Islamic State, from most senior to most junior, are equal in the eyes of the law. One of them can claim immunity from it. The most humble citizen has the right to file a legal complaint against the highest executive in the land. The Caliph 'Umar said; "I have myself seen the Prophet, may Allah's blessings be on him, taking revenge against himself (penalizing himself for some shortcoming or failing)." On the occasion of the battle of Badr, when the Prophet was straightening the rows of the Muslim army, he hit the stomach of a soldier in an attempt to push him back in line. the solider complained, "O Prophet, you have hurt me with your stick." The Prophet immediately bared his stomach and said, "I am very sorry, you can revenge by doing the same to me." The soldier came forward and kissed the abdomen of the Prophet and said that this was all that he wanted.

A woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet and it was recommended that she be spared punishment. The Prophet replied: "The nations that lived before you were destroyed by Allah because they punished the common man for their offences and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes; I swear by Him (Allah) who holds my life in His hand that even if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad, had committed this crime, then I would have amputated her hand."

During the caliphate of 'Umar, Muhammad the son of 'Amr bin al-'s, the Governor of Egypt, whipped an Egyptian. The Egyptian went to Madina and lodged his complaint with the Caliph, who immediately summoned the Governor and his son. When they appeared before him the Caliph handed a whip to the Egyptian plaintiff and asked him to whip the son of the Governor in his presence. After the Egyptian had taken his revenge, 'Umar said to him: Give one stroke of the whip to the Honourable Governor as well. His son would certainly not have beaten you were it not for the false pride that he had in his father's high office." The plaintiff submitted. "The person who had beaten me, I have already avenged myself on him." 'Umar said: "By Allah, if you had beaten him (the Governor) I would not have checked you from doing so. You have spared him of your own free will." Then he ('Umar) turned to 'Amr bin al-'s, and said angrily: "O 'Amr, when did you start to enslave the people, though they were born free of their mothers?"

When the Islamic State was flourishing in its pristine glory, the common people could equally lodge complaints against the caliph of the time in the court and the caliph had to appear before the qadi to answer the charges. And if the caliph had any complaint against any citizen, he could not act without first referring the case to the court of law.

14. The Right to Avoid Sin

Islam confers the right on every citizen to refuse to commit a sin or a crime; if any government or administrator orders an individual to do a wrong, he may refuse to comply. Not only is his refusal not an offence, the giving of an order to one's subordinates to commit a sin or do a wrong is itself an offence and such a serious one that the officer who gives it, whatever his rank, is liable to summary dismissal.

These clear instructions of the Prophet are summarized in the following Hadith: "It is not permissible to disobey Allah in obedience to the orders of any human being" (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal). In other words, no one has the right to order his subordinates to act against the laws of Allah. No offender may seek to prove his innocence or escape punishment by saying that the offence was committed on the orders of a superior. If such a situation arises, the person who commits the offence and the person who orders it are equally liable to criminal proceedings.

15. The Right To Participate In The Affairs Of State

According to Islam, governments are representatives (khalifa) of the Creator of the universe; this responsibility is not entrusted to any individual or family or to any particular class or group of people, but to the entire Muslim community. The Holy Qur’an says: "Allah has promised to appoint those of you who believe and do good deeds as (His) representatives on earth" (24:55). This clearly indicates the khalifa is a collective gift of Allah in which the right of every individual Muslim is neither more nor less than the right of any other person.

The method recommended by the Holy Qur’an for running the affairs of the state is as follows: "And their business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves" (42:38). According to this principle it is the right of every Muslim either to have a direct say in the affairs of the state or to have a representative chosen by him and other Muslims to participate in the running of the state.

Under no circumstances does Islam permit an individual or a group or party of individuals to deprive the common Muslims of their rights or usurp powers of the state. Nor does Islam regard it as right and proper for an individual to put on a false show of setting up a legislative assembly and by means of such tactics as fraud, persecution, bribery and so on, get himself and men of his choice elected to the assembly. This is not only treachery against the people who rights are illegally usurped, but also against the Creator who has entrusted Muslims to rule on earth on His behalf, and has prescribed the procedure of an assembly for exercising these powers.

The shooraor legislative assembly should embrace the following principles:

1. The executive head of the government and the members of the assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the people.

2. The people and their representatives should have the right to criticize and freely express their opinions.

3. The real conditions of the country should be bought before the people without suppression of fact so that they are in a position to judge whether the government is working properly or not.

4. There should be adequate guarantee that only those people who have the support of the masses should rule over he country and those who fail to win this support should be removed from their position of authority.


Rights Of Enemies In War

Before the advent of Islam the world was ignorant of the concept of humane and decent rules of war. The West first began to develop this concept through the works of the seventeenth century thinker, Grotius. But the nineteenth century. Prior to this all forms of barbarism and savagery were perpetrated in war, and the rights of those in a war were not even recognized, let alone respected.

The 'laws' which were framed in this field during the nineteenth century or over the following period up to the present day cannot be called agreements, because nations do not regard them as bindings unless, of civilized laws imply that if our enemies respect them, we shall also respect them but if they ignore them then we shall ignore them, too. Arrangements which depend on mutual acceptability cannot be called 'laws'. This is the reason why so-called 'international law' has been constantly flouted and ignored.

Law Of War And Peace In Islam

The rules which have been framed by Islam to make war civilized and humane are in the nature of law, because they are the injunctions of Allah and His prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) which are followed by Muslims in all circumstances, irrespective of the behavior of the enemy. It would be instructive to research into how well the West has adopted the laws of war given by Islam fourteen hundred years ago; and, even after their adoption, how well the West has managed to attain those heights of civilized and human warfare behaviour which Muslims have reached through the blessings of Islam.

Western writers have often asserted that the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) borrowed his teachings from the Jews and the Christians. It is sufficient here to recommend the reader to refer to the Bible* so that he can see what methods of ware are recommended by the sacred Book of these Western claimants to civilization and culture.

We have examined in some detail the basic human rights that Islam has conferred on man. Let us now look at the rights and obligations Islam recognizes for any enemy.

The Rights Of Non-Combatants

Islam has drawn a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants in any enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population it concerned ¾ women, children, the old and the infirm ¾ the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: "Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman" (AbuDawood). "Do not kill the monks in monasteries" and "Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship" (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal).

During a war, the prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: "She was not fighting. How then came she to be killed?" From this statement of the Prophet the exegetists and jurists have drawn the principle that those who are non-combatants should not be killed during or after a war.

The Rights Of Combatants

Now let us see what rights Islam has conferred on the combatants.

1. Torture by fire

In the Hadith there is a saying of the Prophet that: "Punishment by fire does not behoove anyone except the Master of the Fire" (AbuDawood). The injunction deduced from this saying is that the adversary should not be burnt alive.

2. Protection of the wounded

"Do not attack a wounded person" said the Prophet. This means that wounded soldiers who are not fit to fight, nor actually fighting, should not be attacked.

"Do not attack a wounded person" said the Prophet. This means that wounded soldiers who are not fit to fight, nor actually fighting, should not be attacked.

3. Prisoners of war should not be slain

"No prisoner should be put to the sword" ¾ a very clear and unequivocal instruction given by the Prophet.

4. No-one should be tied to be killed

"The Prophet has prohibited the killing of anyone who is tied or is in captivity."

5. No looting and destruction in the enemy's country

Muslims have been instructed by the Prophet not to pillage or plunder or destroy residential areas, nor harm the property of anyone not fighting. It has been narrated in the Hadith: "The Prophet has prohibited the Believers from loot and plunder" (Bukhari, AbuDawood). His injunction is: "The loot is no more lawful than the carrion" (AbuDawood). AbuBakr Siddeeq used to tell soldiers on their way to war: "Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle."

Booty of war from the battleground is altogether different. It consists of the wealth, provisions and equipment captured from the camps and military headquarters of the combatant armies and may legitimately be appropriated.

6. Sanctity of property

Muslims have been prohibited from taking anything from the general public of a conquered country without paying for it. If the Muslim army occupies an area of the enemy country, it does not have the right to use the things belonging to the people without their consent. If the army needs anything, it should purchase it from the local population or should obtain permission from the owners. AbuBakr Siddeeq used to tell Muslim armies being dispatched to the battle-from that they should not even use the milk of the cattle without the permission of the owners.

7. Sanctity of a dead body

Islam has categorically prohibited its followers from mutilating the corpses of their enemies, as was practised in Arabia before the advent of Islam. It is said in the Hadith: "The Prophet has prohibited us from mutilating the corpses of the enemies" (Bukhari, AbuDawood). The occasion on which this order was given is highly instructive. In the battle of Uhud the disbelievers mutilated the bodies of the Muslims who had fallen on the battlefield by cutting off their ears and noses and threading them together to put round their necks as trophies of war. The stomach of Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet, was ripped open by the Quraysh and his liver was taken out and chewed by Hinda, the wife of AbuSufyan, the leader of the Makkan army. The Muslims were naturally enraged by this horrible sight. But the Prophet asked his followers not to mete out similar treatment to the dead bodies of the enemies.

This great example of forbearance and restraint should be sufficient to convince any reasonable man that Islam really is the religion sent down by the Creator of the universe; if Islam allowed human emotions free rein, this horrible sight on the battlefield of Uhud would have provoked the Prophet to order his followers to mutilate the bodies of their enemy in the same manner.

8. Return of corpses of the enemy

In the battle of Ahzab a renowned enemy warrior was killed and his body fell into the trench which the Muslims had dug for the defence of Madina. The unbelievers presented ten thousand Dinars to the Prophet and requested that the dead body of their fallen warrior be handed over to them. The Prophet replied: "I do not sell dead bodies. You can take away the corpse of your fallen comrade."

9. Prohibition of breach of treaties

Islam has strictly prohibited treachery. One of the instructions that the Prophet used to give to Muslim warrior when sending them to the battlefront was: "Do not be guilty of breach of faith. "This order has been repeated in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith again and again. there is a famous incident in the peace treaty of Hudaybiya when, after the settlement of the terms of the treaty, AbuJandal, the son of the emissary of the unbelievers who had negotiated the treaty with the Muslims, came bound and blood-stained to the Muslim camp crying for help. The Prophet told him: "Since the terms of the treaty have been settled, we are not in a position to help you. You should go back with your father. God will provide you with some other opportunity to escape this persecution."

The entire Muslim army was deeply touched and grieved at the plight of AbuJandal and many of them were moved to tears. But when the Prophet declared "we cannot break the agreement," not a single person came forward to help the unfortunate prisoner; so the unbelievers forcibly dragged him back to Makkah. This is an unparalleled example of the observance of the terms of agreement by Muslims; Islamic history can show many similar examples.

10. Rules about declaration of war

It has been laid down in the Holy Qur’an: "If you apprehend breach of treaty from a people, then openly throw the treaty at their faces" (8:58). In this verse, Muslims have been prohibited from opening hostilities against their enemies without properly declaring war against them, unless, of course, the adversary has already started the aggression. Present-day 'international law' has also laid down that hostilities should not be started without declaration of war, but since this is a man-made rule, it is often disregarded. Muslim laws, on the other hand, have been framed by Allah and may not be disregarded.


This article is based on a talk by Syed Abul A'la Maudoodi and has been translated into English by Prof Ahmed Said Khan and Prof Khurshid Ahmad. It was published by the Islamic Foundation, UK.


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