Universal human rights are the things that naturally belong to us as human beings, including but not
Limited to such things as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As much as some might argue that there are those who don’t deserve to have their rights respected, the principle of human rights declares that our rights belong to us by virtue of our very humanity.
As to what actually comprises these rights and under what circumstances they should be waived or constrained (the liberty, for example, of dangerous criminals) are topics of ongoing debate.
As much as we can agree that rights are belong to all, the recognition of these rights is far from universal, and it’s not a natural human tendancy to respect them. The Quran makes repeated reference to rights, suggesting that within the Prophet’s environment human beings were no more ready to respect the rights of others than we are today.
These are the verses of Allah. We recite them to you, [O Muhammad], in truth; and Allah wants no injustice to the worlds. [Quran, 3:108]
What are some of the things that prevent people from honouring human rights?
Believing That It’s Okay to Exploit and Oppress the Weak
Women and orphans often get a raw deal from those who exercise power over their affairs. Allah makes it clear that this is a no go.
And they request from you, [O Muhammad], a [legal] ruling concerning women. Say, ‘Allah gives you a ruling about them and [about] what has been recited to you in the Book concerning the orphan girls to whom you do not give what is decreed for them – and [yet] you desire to marry them – and concerning the oppressed among children and that you maintain for orphans [their rights] in justice.’ And whatever you do of good – indeed, Allah is ever Knowing of it. [Quran, 4:127]
Hiding the truth in order to better one’s own position (in this case keeping a man from knowing whether or not a child is his) takes away a measure of freedom from another human being because their decision is not based on reality.
Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day . . . [Quran, 2:228]
Lack of Reverance
As the following aya attests, human rights are inextricably tied to the fear of Allah.
O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. [Quran, 4:1]
Ignoring the Needs of Family Members
Does it seem unfair to you that we’re to put family members first, at the expense of others? Think about it— if everyone took responsibility for the needs of their own families, how many needy people would be left? And who knows better than family what those needs might be?
This clearly doesn’t mean that we’re to walk past homeless people on the way to buying costly designer clothing for our children.
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. [Quran, 17:26]
If you break an agreement you’re depriving the other person of their rights to whatever it was you agreed to exchange.
And to every one We have appointed heirs of what parents and near relatives leave; and as to those with whom your rights hands have ratified agreements, give them their portion; surely Allah is a witness over all things. [Quran, 4:33]
Those who refuse to believe the signs and messages of Allah have no personal investment in respecting human rights.
Those who disbelieve in the signs of Allah and kill the prophets without right and kill those who order justice from among the people – give them tidings of a painful punishment. [Quran, 3:21]
In spite of the command to look first to the needs of our families, we’re strictly forbidden to lie on behalf of our families, communities, social class, race, or on behalf of anyone who might grant us an advantage for lying.
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. [Quran, 4:135]
Fear of Social Disapproval
Respecting human rights won’t win you any popularity contests. Respect them anyway.
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. [Quran, 5:8]
You’ve seen it happen and you’ve read about it in the Quran; people turn to Allah in their times of need and as soon as he sets them on their feet they promptly forget Him. In forgetting Allah they forget to respect the rights of others.
But when He saves them, at once they commit injustice upon the earth without right. O mankind, your injustice is only against yourselves, [being merely] the enjoyment of worldly life. Then to Us is your return, and We will inform you of what you used to do. [Quran, 10:23]
The debates surrounding human rights are unending. Alhamdulillah that we have a steadfast guide that makes human rights a spiritual matter— an essential part of the straight path to which we’ve been called.
Today may you examine your own responsibility as a Muslim to engage in compassionate response to the rights of others. Ameen.
M J, Farah IND. Political Analysis and writer, BA. B.Eng (honour).
References : Dr. Abdulazeez Abdulraheem