What are the fundamental rights Islam gives to man?
To comprehend the importance given to human rights in Islam, it is better to have a glance at the circumstances of the world before Islam. As follows:
1. All of the states in the world were ruled by monarchy. The ruling king, monarch or emperor had full authority over the people he ruled. He used to kill or exile the people he desired, and he did not have to account for anything he had done to people.
2. People were divided into classes. The monarchs close acquaintances and relatives (the nobles) were in the privileged class. Besides, a large group of people who were despised and whose rights were violated constituted a separate class. There was a deep gap between those classes.
3. Slavery was carried out in the most barbarous way. Personal dignity was flagrantly violated.
4. People were treated depending on their races and color of their skins; the superiority of the lineages were accepted as the unique superiority measure. People were not appraised according to their intelligence, knowledge, competence, morals and virtue.
5. There were no fundamental rights or freedoms. None of the fundamental rights or freedoms such as freedom of conscience and religion, right of property, freedom of having a residence, freedom of opinion were considered for an ordinary person. People were subjected to oppression and persecution because of their belief and opinions; and consciences were under oppression.
6. The fundamental principles of law were disregarded. It was even impossible to imagine fundamental judicial concepts like equality in law, domination of the laws, individuality and legality of the punishments. Personal desires and commands were deemed as law, different punishments were applied to the persons committing the same crime but belonging to different classes.
The religion of Islam came and committed the greatest revolution in the history of humanity when the world was in such a dark state.
If it is examined fair-mindedly, it can be seen that the ultimate humane targets that have been attained today were realized many centuries before the human rights declarations were published in the Western World both in the Noble Quran and in the practices of the Prophet (PBUH),
As a matter of fact, the principles included in the speech (the Farewell Sermon) the Prophet (PBUH) gave during his Farewell Hajj are the clearest examples about the issue.
This sermon was read in the year A.D. 632 in the presence of more than 100,000 Muslims. That is, 1157 years before the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which is regarded as the first written text concerning human rights.
The new principles Islam brought to human rights also had major effects on the struggle of the human rights in the West.
Man has a different value from the other beings. That value increases through belief in Allah and obedience to His commands. Thus, man becomes the most honorable guest in the universe. Man gets the value of humanity by his birth, in fact by the beginning of his formation in the uterus and he bears that value throughout his life.
The value of being a human surrounds everyone. Woman-man, elder-younger, black-white, weak-strong, poor-rich, no matter from what religion and nationality, race or color; the shadow of that compassion encompasses all.
Thus, Islam protects the blood of every person from being shed illegally, his chastity from being violated, his property from usurpation, his dwelling from being violated, his lineage from being deteriorated, his conscience from being under constraint. Islam assures the honor and dignity of humanity.
The fundamental rights and freedoms Islam has provided humanity are as follows:
1. Islam put an end to the discrimination of race and color. All people descended from Hazrat Adam. It is not possible for a person to choose his own race and color. It is completely by Allahs determination. It is extremely wrong and harmful to make discrimination and to regard some races and colors as supreme by condemning some races and colors both from the point of view of Islam and humanity.
Almighty Allah says in the noble Quran that He created mankind from a male and a female, and that when their numbers increased, he made them into nations and tribes so that they would know and help each other easily and they would make friends . (al- Hujurat, 13)
As it is seen, the fact that people are from different races and colors are not for superiority to each other but for getting acquainted with and helping each other.
An event illuminating that approach of Islam is as follows:
Abu Dharr, from the companions (sahaba), got angry with Bilal al-Habashi and insulted him by saying: Son of the black woman. He despised him because of his mothers color. When the Prophet (PBUH) was informed of the event, he got very angry and told Abu Dharr the following:
— O Abu Dharr. You have despised Bilal because of his mothers color, is that so? Then, you still have the mentality of the age of ignorance (jahiliyyah).
Hazrat Abu Dharr felt very sorry and repented for those words that slipped out of his mouth with a momentary anger without his intention. He began to cry, threw himself to the ground and put his face on the ground and he said:
— I swear, I wont raise my face from the ground unless Bilal threads and tramples on my cheek with his foot.
He apologized to Bilal al-Habashi repeatedly.
2. Islam put an end to the superiority of family and ancestry and being proud of that. During a meeting that the Companions (sahaba) were present, Sad b. Abi Waqqas offered some of the notables to mention the names of their ancestries. He named his ancestors from the beginning to the end. Salman al-Farsi, who was originally from Iran, was also present there, He didnt have a famous lineage as the notables of Quraish. He did not know his ancestors in detail, either. When Hazrat Sad offered him to name his ancestors, he found this offer strange and gave him this answer: I am Salman, son of Islam. I dont know my ancestors like you. I know one thing that Allah has honored me with Islam
Hazrat Umar also felt uncomfortable with that unnecessary offer of Sads about naming ancestors that reminded the mentality of the age of ignorance . He was so pleased with Salmans meaningful answer that he likened his answer to Salmans answer saying, I am Umar, the son of Islam, too.
When the Prophet (PBUH) heard the case, he also liked Salmans answer and he said: Salman is from me, from my family.
The Prophet demolished the mentality of ignorance based on the superiority of the lineages by giving the noblest families daughters in marriage to some companions that were slaves set free.
3. Islam brought the citizens the right to control and supervise their administrators. It aimed to put an end to the arbitrary management, injustice and illegality in the administration of the state. Hazrat Abu Bakr expressed that issue as follows in his speech when he was elected as the Caliph: O people! I have been elected as your administrator although I am not the best one among you. Obey me if I perform my duty in accordance with Islam. If I go astray, warn me.
One day, Hazrat Umar asked the Muslims in the mosque, If I go astray, what will you do? They replied: We will straighten you with our swords. Hazrat Umar was very pleased with that answer.
4. Freedom of Thought and Conscience. Freedom of thought and conscience is the most important human right after right of living. Not giving this right to man means reducing him to the degree of the animals by getting him out of his real essence. Therefore, Islam by no means allows thoughts and consciences to be kept under oppression. With the principle There is no compulsion in religion, Islam does not approve of making people accept the fundamentals of belief by force.
5. Islam has paid attention to the establishment of slavery painstakingly and brought it to a judicial regulation.
When the religion of Islam arose, slavery was prevalent as he most barbaric and inhuman practice all over the world. Islam, of course, could not have been expected to abolish that establishment completely that was prevalent all over the world. So, Islam did not choose to abrogate slavery completely at once but gave it the most humane and civil form by making great reforms regarding it. In addition, Islam supplied some formulae to make slavery abolish indirectly by increasing and facilitating the ways of passing to freedom from slavery.
6. Freedom of Property. Love of property and desire to have goods are among the various feelings Allah has given to man. That issue has been specified clearly in the Quran. Islam has given man the right to have property and has laid the groundwork for satisfying that feeling in a legal way. Nobody can interfere in any way with anybodys right of having property that Islam gives to him without his permission.
7. Equality before Law. Islam accepts all people equal before law like the teeth of a comb. Islam does not allow making a privileged treatment to the people in accordance with their social status and pedigrees.
In Islam, the dominance and the superiority of the laws are essential. The president and any of the citizens are treated equally before law. The guilty one is penalized even though he is a president. The most striking examples of it are that Fatih Sultan Mehmet and a Greek architect; Hazrat Ali and a Jewish; Salahaddin al- Ayyubi and an Armenian were taken to the court to be judged.
A woman from a noble family of the Mahzum tribe committed a theft on the conquest day of Mecca and she was caught in the act. She had to be punished. But, since the woman belonged to a noble family, they were afraid to blacken the name of the family so they wanted her to be forgiven and not to be punished. But how would they attain it? How would they tell it to the Prophet? Eventually, they sent Usama b. Zayd, the beloved one by the Prophet, to the Prophet as an envoy. Usama entered the presence of the Prophet and told him about the case. He asked him to forgive the guilty woman. The Prophet (PBUH) got very angry with this offer. He got out right away and made this historical speech:
O Muslims, do you know why the nations before you had been demolished and destroyed and had become a thing of the past? When a person from the notables committed a crime, they would not punish him. However, when an ordinary person committed a crime, they would desire strongly to apply the punishment. This injustice caused them to be destroyed. I swear, if the person committing the crime were my daughter Fatima, I would not hesitate to punish her at all.
Thereupon, the punishment was applied immediately.
The following sentences from the speech that Hazrat Abu Bakr made when he was selected as the Caliph also attract attention from that point of view: The weakest ones among you are the strongest before me till they take their rights. The strongest ones are the weakest before me till I take others rights from them.
8. Individuality and Legality of Punishment. In Islam, there can be no illegal punishment, and punishing somebody else instead of the person committing the crime is not in question.
The principle of the individuality of punishment is expressed in Chapter al-Anam as follows: Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden (sin) of another. (Verse: 164)
9. Independence and Impartiality of the Courts. Courts, which are the establishments for justice in Islam, have been kept away from all kinds of outer oppressions, personal animosities, spites andarbitrary applications; and the judges havent been allowed to lose their impartiality. In Islamic courts, presidents were tried with ordinary people and they were punished if they were found guilty.
10. Inviolability of Residence and Immunity of Private Life. In Islam, nobody has the right to interfere with an individuals private life and to enter his residence without his permission. In Islam, it is forbidden inspecting peoples confidential affairs.
11. Freedom of Travel. In Islam, traveling is accepted as a cause to learn lessons and to get healthy. Therefore, people are encouraged to travel.
12. Right of living, assurance of protecting lives, property and chastity from violation. That issue has been manifested in the most beautiful way in the Farewell Sermon by Allahs Messenger:
O people! Just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. They are protected from all kinds of violation.
13. Social Security. The religion of Islam patronizes man so that he wont be aggrieved and wretched due to old age, illness, disasters and accidents, and Islam takes the future of the needy under assurance through social security measures it supplies. Above all, Islam incites people to take themselves under assurance economically by encouraging them to work. Besides, Islam supplies a distinct security in the family, in the circle of neighbors and relatives by various measures it has taken. The state itself takes the individuals security under assurance when all of these security precautions are insufficient. The establishment of zakat (alms) and waqfs are the perfect social security foundations.
14. Freedom of Labor, Justice and Equality of Payment. In Islam, working and endeavoring are appreciated and encourageed greatly. Begging, being a burden to someone else is not welcomed. What is more, working to provide a living for ones family is regarded as worship as long as (fardhs) obligatory duties are performed. The verse, That man can have nothing but what he strives for. shows the importance Islam gives to endeavoring and working
Islam, which assures the freedom of working fully –on condition that it is a legal earning way-, also organizes the relationship between the employee and the employer in the nicest way.
The principle Pay the wages of a worker before his sweat dries assures the rights of workers in the perfect way.
The worker, in return, will try to complete the work assigned to him perfectly and completely and he will accept trying to deserve the wages he receives as a principle.
15. Patronage of Children. Islam patronizes children beginning from their birth; several aids are made to parents for their children nutrition and clothing expenses and subsidies are allocated from the treasury of the government. Today, that aid is supplied in all rich states under the name money for children. Allahs Messenger insistently warned the army of Islam against killing women and especially children in the wars.
16. Fundamental Education is Obligatory and Free of Charge. The hadith Seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman. makes the fundamental education obligatory. The curriculum of the fundamental education has been prepared very carefully in Islam.
The fundamental education includes vocational education besides religious, ethical and moral knowledge. Islam considers it necessary for children to be trained for a profession along with religious knowledge.