Over a billion humans in the world today are Muslims. As Muslims, they believe in human rights. But their bill of human rights is not one composed by a committee of scholars or leaders, resolved and promulgated by a government, a parliament, or a representative assembly. What humans compose can only be tentative; and what they resolve can only be temporary. With their partial knowledge and passing interests, humans are known always to contend with one another, to agree and disagree and to keep on changing. Human rights cannot be subject to such vicissitudes. Hence, Muslims believe in a bill of human rights which is eternal whose author is Allah — subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT). Theirs is a bill which was taught by all the prophets and which is crystallized in the Holy Qur’an, the revelation which came to the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (SAAS). Islam’s bill of human rights was promulgated by God for all places and times. The Islamic bill of human rights is the oldest, as well as the most perfect and greatest. The Muslims of the world rejoice that humanity has in this century come to acknowledge the greater part of Islam’s Bill of human rights and pray that Allah (SWT) may guide humankind to recognize these rights and actualize them in their lives.
The Islamic bill of human rights is a system of axiolgical principles or values. The deontological applications of them, or the duties and ought’s deriving therefrom, have been elaborated in the shari’ah — the law of Islam. Hence, Islam’s human rights are not merely ethical desiderata, or ideals of administrative policy, which cannot be invoked in legal processes. They have the full force of established law, and they have been known both to the literate and illiterate Livnat poran a whole millennium before the age of printing. Equally, except in a few cases, the letter of the prescriptive elaborations of human rights in Islam is not sacrosanct and hence absolutely unalterable. The qualities of eternity and immutability belong to the principles behind the prescriptive elaboration, not to their figurization , i.e. to the legal form given them by translation of the purposes of the law into legislative prescriptions. Eternity and absoluteness, belong in the main, to the axiological postulates. With the exception of these postulates and directions, all deontological elaborations, whether legal or methodological, and other prescriptive particularizations of the shari’ah are ever-open to reinterpretation by humans. This openness is dictated by the ever-changing conditions and situations of human life which demand in turn a readiness on the part of the law to meet them in pursuit of its eternal objectives. The shari’ah is divine and eternal therefore, not in its letter, but in its spirit.
The letter of the law is honoured precisely because of its derivation from that which is divine and eternal. To enable itself to move with time and to accommodate changing human conditions, the shari’ah established the science of usul al fiqh. This science recognized from the earliest time that the shari’ah has other sources, besides the texts of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, which guarantee dynamism and creativity. To this purpose, usul al fiqh established a methodology of logical deduction and analogical extrapolation from the data revelata, as well as criteria for an empirical discovery of the common welfare of the people which it declared an equally valid source of law. For the overwhelming majority of Muslims (the adherents of the Hanafi, Maliki and Ja’fari schools or madhahib of law) to establish critically — i.e. empirically — the requisites of public welfare and to subsume them, either through istihsan (juristic preference) or maslahah (juristic consideration of the commonweal), under the Maqasid al Shari’ah (the general purpose of the law), is the pinnacle of juristic wisdom and Islamic piety.
We are therefore dealing with neither a fossilized law whose form or letter is immutable; nor with a flux of precepts which change with every situation. Rather, Islam’s human rights are anchored in eternal principles or values whose applications may develop following human situations, but only with critical guarantees for the permanence of those principles and values.
As values, Islam’s human rights arrange themselves in clusters and are best discerned as such; for a recognition of each value becomes at once a recognition of its relatives, as well as of its order of rank within the cluster and in the realm of values as a whole. There are nine such clusters.
I. Values Associated with Birth
All humans are born innocent.
1) There is neither original sin nor fall; neither vicarious guilt, nor vicarious merit; neither predestination to be saved, nor to be condemned.
The Qur’an also affirms that no soul will get any more or any less than it has earned (Qur’an 3:25); that no person is responsible for the guilt of another, or may intercede on another’s behalf (Qur’an 2:48): that guilt is not transferable (Qur’an 6:164); that no atom’s weight of good or evil will be lost in the final reckoning on the Day of judgement (Qur’an 99:7-8). Allah who created everything perfect (Qur’an 32:7); “We created man in the best of forms” (Qur’an 95:4) God then perfected man, breathed into him of His own spirit. God gave man his hearing, his sight and heart, as faculties of cognition and knowledge (Qur’an 32:9)
2) On the contrary, all humans are created in the best of forms and perfect; i.e., endowed with faculties which enable them to recognise their Creator and their creaturely status, to discern good and evil, to acknowledge their own human rights and obligations.
3) They are created absolutely equal. Their physical characteristics as well as those which pertain to the geography or sociography of their birth and are no more than aids for personal identification.
4) There can therefore be no division of human castes, destined at birth for one kind of living or another, as Hinduism claims; or into classes destined at birth for one kind of function or another, as Marxism claims; nor predestination to salvation or damnation as Calvin taught; nor, finally, ontological election to a “chosen” status different from all humans, as Judaism claims. A human’s personal worth or unworth can never be a function of that person’s birth. To be born is to have the right to be, to live as long as God alone permits. No one may be deprived of life except for legitimate cause, and none may take away his own life.
5) Equally, to be born is to be endowed with God’s amanah or trust to actualize the divine patterns, i.e., to realize the absolute in this space-time.
6) This is the meaning of khilafah or vicegerency of God.
7) As well as the ground of cosmic status, the station higher than that of the angels, which belongs to all humans by virtue of birth.
8) No human may be deprived of the right to fulfill the amanah and khilafah, to the full extent of one’s power.
II. Values Associated with Childhood
All humans are entitled to have parents, descendents from whom gives them their names and identities.
9) No foundling may remain a foundling but must be rehabilitated into his natural family.
10) All humans are entitled to a free education which fully develops their potentialities and prepares them for their khilafah.
11) They are entitled to training in the vocation best adapted to their capacities so as to produce in their productive years more than they cost or consume from conception to burial. Unless they do so they would not have increased the total quantitative and qualitative good of creation, of history, which is the criterion of their moral worth.
III. Values Associated with Adulthood
A. Rationalism. The truth is, and it is knowable by humans. It is one; just as God is One.
12) It is knowable by any of the twin avenues of reason and revelation, since the object of both is one and the same, namely, the will of God which is knowable as the divine patterns of creation, in the realms of nature, of the psyche, of society, of ethical religious and aesthetic consciousness.
13) No contradiction between reason and revelation is ultimate.
14) Wherever contradiction occurs, it is our understanding of either the data of revelation, or the data of nature, that is at fault, necessitating re-examination. All humans are entitled know the truth; and no censorship or restriction may be imposed by anyone.
15) All humans are hence entitled to inquire, to search, to learn and to teach one another. Human society is a school on grand scale where everyone is student and teacher at the same time.
16) No one may promote it to destroy the tradition of human knowledge and wisdom, though questions may always be asked to increase that legacy.
B. Life and World Affirmation. God has created life and the world for good purpose.
17) Fulfillment of self as well as of creation is indeed a divine purpose established that humans, in their pursuit of it, do the good deeds which actualize the moral values, i.e., the higher part of the divine will. Conversely, no human may destroy life and the world, or subvert culture or civilization. Cynicism is a denial of the divine purpose of creation and action based upon it is a defiance of the Creator Himself (SWT).
C. Freedom. The liberty to know and to think (mind), to judge and to choose (heart), to act or not to act (arm), belongs universally and necessarily to all humans.
18) As creatures of God, all humans are absolutely equal in their relation to Him, to His providence and justice, His love and mercy as well as to His judgement in this world and in the next.
19) Their equal creatureliness is the corollary of His unity and transcendence. Differentiation among them is legitimate only when it is based upon individual effort and merit.
20) On the other hand, racism, chosenness, or any discrimination on the basis of religion, race, colour, language, ethnicity, descendence geography or history, is evil prohibited by God and a threat to His unity and transcendence.
E. Ummatism. Belonging to an ummah or society is a fact of nature and a divine pattern. All humans are members of one ummah or another.
21) While no human may turn his back to, and dissociate himself from society as such, each is free to associate with, or dissociate from any group or ummah. To this end, humans are free to communicate and assemble with one another, to build such institutions as would promote and express such association.
F. Responsibility. Except minors and the legally-declared insane, all humans are mukallafun; i.e., responsible before God and the law, each within his/her sphere of influence. Both men and women are responsible for the welfare of their dependents, relatives, and neighbors, according to the prescriptions of the shari’ah if they are Muslims, and to millah law if otherwise.
22) They are responsible for their contracts and covenants;
23) for fulfillment of established customs.
24) All duties incumbent upon the collectivity of Muslims become personal duties incumbent upon every adult individually, wherever and whenever the collectivity fails to carry them out.
25) It is both the right and the duty of every member of the ummah, of every citizen of the Islamic state, to bring court action against any violation of the shari’ah; and it is the duty of society to support such an initiative and protect its author.
G. Universalism. Humans were created to form an open society, where action is meant to actualize the divine patterns.
26) Any person or group may join this society, fulfill its functions, rise in hierarchy or achieve in its arena all that personal qualification, self-exertion and effort make possible.
27) Righteous achievement of the individual person is the only basis of merit. All humans have the right to reside wherever they choose, to change their residences at will.
28) Equally, they are entitled to transport their wealth and goods wherever they wish, to join or secede from the ummah of their birth.
IV. Values Associated with Economic Activity
29) All wealth belongs to Allah (SWT) who made everything in creation subservient to man.
30) If they have acquired it legally, humans are the trustees and stewards of it, entitled to its usufruct and enjoyment without limits. No property may be expropriated without legitimate cause and equitable compensation. No one may prevent another from drawing benefit from God’s bounty in any amount.
31) Property may be owned privately, corporately or publicly. It may not be destroyed or abused. Likewise, no one may make a misrepresentation in business transactions or cheat, steal, or rob another of his/her wealth.
32) None may hoard or monopolize any commodity for the purpose of “cornering the market” and raising prices artificially.
33) None may lend more on interest, or share the profits without sharing the risks.
34) All humans are entitled to employment, and all employment should earn enough to support the workers and their dependents throughout life, according to a clearly defined and agreeable minimum standard of living.
35) Equal works should earn equal pay in all cases. All humans are entitled to their savings and their private properties. They may give their wealth as gifts or pass it to their descendants according to the inheritance laws of their ummah.
36) The orphans, the poor and the destitute are entitled to the assistance of society in such measure as would guarantee the minimum standard of living.
V. Values Associated with Political Activity
Islam regards decision-making as a process determined by the principle of shura, or participation of ruler and ruled together. Participation in the political life of the ummah or world state of Islam, is not only a basic human right, but a religious duty.
37) This participation Islam directs, should express itself in the selection and appointment of the ruler
38) Ruler and government are expected to fulfill the shari’ah and actualize the vision of Islam.
39) These are not only “official” duties of the ruler and members of the administration, but personal religious and civil duties incumbent upon all individuals in case the ruler and government fail to realize them.
40) Islam regards political office as a sacred trust placed in the candidate most capable of fulfilling the ideal of Islam relevant to that office. Islam regards a human as entitled to live under the Pax Islamica — the jurisdiction of the Islamic state — if they so wish, regardless of whether or not they are Muslims; and to exit therefrom, otherwise.
“In their possession is the Torah wherein is the law of God” (Qur’an 5:43); “As to the People of the Evangel [the Christians], let them rule themselves by what God has revealed therein.” (Qur’an 42:38). In the former case, they have to abide by the laws or institutions of their millah, or faith-community.
41) Islamic law will not apply to them unless they themselves request such application. No human may be arrested or interned except under the laws of his millah or under criminal laws of the shari’ah; and none may be subject to harassment or invasion of privacy by government officers.
VI. Values Associated with Social Activity
42) All humans are entitled to marry and raise a family; to exercise control over their children and to acculturate them into their own traditions. The family in its extended form is the basic unit constitutive of society.
43) All humans have the right to identify with the ummah whose ideology represents their personal convictions, to lead their lives in ways which they determine as most consonant with that ideology, to express that ideology in theoretical, actional or esthetic form, and to order their life and leisure as the ideology dictates. They are entitled to build and maintain such social and cultural institutions as their culture and its creative development demand.
44) They are entitled to help and support one another if they suffer injustice, and to prevent same before its occurrence whether themselves or others. Men and women are full legal persons and equal in all matters affecting their lives.
45) Both sexes are entitled to the names and identities given to them at birth, to equal education and full exercise of all religious, cultural, moral, social, economic, and political rights and duties under the law. In matters of support and inheritance, and in some cases of legal witness, Muslim men and women are not equal.
VII. Values Associated with Judicial Activity
46) All humans are equal before the law; the rulers and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the black and the white, the Muslim and non-Muslim. All humans have the right to arbitrate their disputes among themselves or have them adjudicated by the courts under the shari’ah.
47) If they are Muslims, under their millah-law otherwise. They have the right and the duty to defend one another before a court, to give witness, to enjoin the good, to prohibit and prevent evil.
“Let there be of you an ummah which calls to the good, which enjoins the acts of righteousness, prohibits the acts of injustice and evil. Such are the felicitous” (Qur’an 3:104). Secondly Muslim commandment towards the neighbor is determined by the Prophet’s commandment: “Whoever witnesses an injustice or evil, let him redress it with his own hand. If he cannot, let him do so with his tongue. And if he cannot, with his heart; but that is the weakest faith.”
48) The best witness is one given before it is asked for. No human may be tried in absentia or without hearing of defence.
49) No one may be commanded or coerced to counter the shari’ah.
50) Every human is presumed innocent and treated as such until proven guilty in a court of law.
51) No one may be held responsible for the crime committed by another except in the case of a minor or a person under guardianship.
52) And no one may be tortured or put under duress to give witness or information under any circumstances.
VIII. Values Associated with International Activity
53) All humans, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, citizen or non-citizen resident or non-resident of the Islamic state, individuals or groups, are entitled to enter into a covenant of peace, mutual security and friendly relation with the Islamic state. Any human may plead any case in its shari’ah courts, seek and obtain permission to reside, to work and trade in peace and security within the Islamic state.
54) In case the non-citizen, non-resident is a Muslim, the shari’ah would apply to him/her in all its provisions; in case of the non-Muslim, the laws of his/her millah will apply. In no case may such a person be treated differently from the citizens.
55) Every human being is entitled to hear the message of Islam without exception; and it is the duty of the ummah to present it.
“Those who rise to redress an injustice perpetrated against them, and achieve victory, are not blameworthy for what they do in course of their action” (Qur’an 42:41); “Felicitous are those who, when We establish their dominions on earth, uphold the salat, pay the zakat, enjoin the good deeds and prohibit the evil” (Qur’an 22:41); “Call unto the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly counsel. Argue with them with the more comely arguments” (Qur’an 16:125); “Say: O People of the Book! Come now to a noble principle common to both of us, that we worship none but God; that we associate naught with Him; and that we take not one another as lords beside God” (Qur’an 3:64).
56) Besides this, the preservation of freedom to hear the word of God, to consider and to judge according to one’s best conscience, no cause justifies recourse of force except in the repulsion of an actual aggressor. No group or people or nation may ridicule another or deride its faith and tradition. A fortioti, no group, people or nation may aggress upon another. Inter-group disputes may be solved only through arbitration or judicial procedure in a court of law. The Islamic state and all nations ought to support the victims of aggression and to redress the injustices committed, even if this requires the taking up of arms against the aggressor nation.
57) All persecuted humans (not those running away from justice) have the right to take refuge in the Islamic state. And the Islamic state is duty-bound to extend its protection to them.
IX. Values Associated with Death
58) All humans are entitled to medical care throughout life and to special care in their old age. If they have no young dependents to care for them, society is obliged to do so in a way which safeguards their mental and social health as well as their personal dignity. Humans are all entitled to free and proper burial according to their millah laws.
59) The human rights and obligations which Islam recognizes constitute a humanism in which man is not the measure of all the thing as Protagoras had thought. God or His will is indeed such a measure. Islam rejects the tragic Promethean view in which man defies God, steals the fire from Him, and ends like the Greek and German gods in eternal doom. It equally rejects the Christian view in which man is fallen and helpless, hopeless except for a God messiah to pull him out of his tragic predicament. But it commends Christianity and its adherent for their humility, their love and concern for humanity. It equally rejects the Hindu Upanishadic and Buddhist Theravadic view that life and existence are an aberration of the Absolute or an evil to be surmounted by withdrawal and meditative processes. Finally Islam rejects all ethnocentrist views of humanity and the world, especially that of Judaism. But it commends Judaism and its adherents for their tenacity in upholding the absolute unity and transcendence of God.
Islam acknowledges man to be the vicegerent of God, fully endowed, free and responsible to realize his cosmic function, and thereby to deserve his eternal bliss or doom. Moreover, Islam’s humanism under God is not a mere philosophy, a system of values advocated by culture alone. Islam’s humanism under God is law known to all, backed by sanctions and the authority of the Islamic state, and promulgated equally for its citizens as well as others, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.