Human Rights in Islam

Human Rights in Islam

Human Rights in Islam

When Yousef started up his computer and entered the chat room, he found a message from Michael, saying, "Prepare yourself for the next meeting ... there are important issues we have to discuss: dealing with others, repression, freedom of thought…Goodbye..."

Yousef found his two companions inside the chat room. He greeted them, and then said:

Yousef: There are many issues related to human rights, and they are not limited to only what you mentioned, my friend Michael. This calls me to lay down a fully comprehensive framework, through which we will be able to understand the issues, no matter how different or divergent they may be.

Michael: I do not mind giving some examples; such as those I mentioned in my message to you; so that our talk can be practical and applicable.

Yousef: Of course, go ahead.

Rajiv: You mentioned in our previous meeting a rule that we can build on. This rule is that if we really want to review these rights and freedoms, we must examine the values and principles upon which they were built, and not the actual applications and practices of people.

Yousef: True...The concept of the values of freedoms and human rights are tinted with the intellectual background from which these rights come, and is subject to the general values system of the society from which they emerge. And here, I ask my friend Michael, is it possible to explain the Western intellectual background and values system upon which the Western concept of human rights was built?

Michael: We can present the features of the conceptual framework and the values space from which the rights and freedoms emerged in the West in the following points:

1- The abstract mind, as it is the reference of these rights and freedoms, even if this mind borrows some of the values from religion, as in the case of the influence of Liberalism by Protestantism - the abstract mind remains the governor of these values, according to what is accepted and rejected.

2 – Secularism, or the separation of religion from daily life and the state, is the methodology in which these rights and freedoms are organized.

3 - Freedom and equality are the highest values of society, which are subject to and rely on the other organized values of the community. They are constants and sacred, and can't be touched.

4 - Raising the value of the individual and his interests, while not neglecting the role of the community and its interests, so as to achieve happiness and improve the individual's life.

Yousef: A clear and precise presentation, thank you. So, it is clear that the reference in the West, after its separation from the church in the areas of daily life, turned to the mind, as well as to the use of experiments. These rights and freedoms grew from this reference, and it's also clear that the methodology on which these rights and freedoms are established is secular.

We can also say that freedom and equality sit at the top of the pyramid of values which the West has accepted as being suitable (according to this reference). Realizing these two values, therefore - according to the concept which is accepted in the West - takes absolute priority over other values of the community, to which they should be subjected, with which they should comply and according to which they should be organized. From that, freedom and equality became the top sacred constants; which can't be touched, and for which, as well, other values and other rights may be sacrificed in order to maintain them.

This is what is totally different from the Islamic background and system that contains the same vocabulary or terminology.

Rajiv: So that we can compare, explain to us the intellectual framework and the area of values in which this term, human rights, orbit in Islam?

Yousef: In Islam and the Muslim community, there is quite a different system:

In place of the abstract mind and the use of experiments, revelation is the first reference of values and principles from which sacred constants are derived, while not neglecting the importance of knowledge gained by the mind and the senses, in their appropriate fields.

In place of secularism, Shari’ah, or Islamic legislation and the use of religion to organize the daily life is the methodology on which the community stands.

In place of freedom and equality, slavery to God and justice among humans sit at the top of the pyramid of values in the Muslim community (and justice does not necessarily mean equality, as understood by some people). The achievement of these two values, and not compromising either of them, takes absolute priority, and other community values, including rights and freedoms, should be subjected to, abided by, and organized according to them.

And in place of individuality, we find in Islam mutual responsibility between the individual and society, and harmony between them, without one infringing on the other.

Rajiv: Perhaps we should apply these two views on some rights; to get a clearer picture.

Michael: We can determine the issue of the freedom of belief to compare between Islamic and Western views, based on the benefits that emanate from each system, one of such benefits being human rights.

Yousef: Freedom of belief, or freedom of religion, is already a fertile field for comparison; and the subject goes back to the difference in the concept of religion and its relationship with the pyramid of values in both systems.

In the West, any person may profess any religion, be an atheist or change his religion; because that is part of the right of freedom of belief, which is a personal/individual right, and no one is is allowed to interfere with it.

But, at the same time we see that for a Muslim in the West, we are able to assume that he can believe what he wants, but he still has no right to put this belief into practice. In other words, the West confiscates the right of a Muslim to practice his life according to his religion. In more than one country in the West, a Muslim is prevented from, for example, slaughtering animals according to Islamic legislation. He is also prohibited from getting married to a second wife, and in some countries it is forbidden for a Muslim woman to wear the clothing that she believes her religion makes obligatory upon her. These practices are considered by the Muslim as a part of his religion...Can you explain that to me?

Michael : Because this practice has gone out of the framework of personal emotions and conscience, and therefore goes beyond the right of freedom of belief, and because this is a violation of the law and the social contract, and of the system favored by most individuals, which provides for the separation of religion from the affairs of life.

But at the same time, I assure you that it is permissible for a Muslim, by law, to cohabite with other women outside of wedlock, as long as it is consensual and not on the marital bed.

Yousef: But this practice which is permitted by law is contrary to the religion in which he believes and to which he belongs.

But concerning the practices of belief I just have mentioned, of course, I understand that you do not consider these restrictions as a derogation of rights and freedoms, because you do not see, in the first place, that there is a relationship between these practices and religion. Rather, you consider this limitation and restriction as a way of protecting the civil gains your society has received, which have become sacred constants.

The reason for this is that this view of belief or religion is consistent with the Western secular view of religion, which separates religion from daily life; for religion, according to this system, has nothing to do with the community, but it is an emotion or personal conscience the person holds only within himself, and for that reason this emotion should be entirely separate from daily life, as you've already pointed out earlier.

Rajiv: Now I begin to understand the Islamic point of view.

Yousef: In the Islamic perception freedom of religion is guaranteed in the framework of taking into account the most important constant of this society, which is slavery and submission to God Almighty. Accordingly, the Muslim community accepts to have under its umbrella all those who announce their acceptance of the authority of God, in the general sense, and rejects all those who announce their rebellion against and violation of this authority. Hence, the Muslim community accommodates a multi-religious presence by accepting to co-exist with people who believe in Judaism and Christianity, allowing them to freely organize their personal affairs, while it has no room for other pagan religions or for atheism. This is because Judaism and Christianity are religions which have a heavenly origin and they announce their acceptance of being under the umbrella of slavery and submission to God, in the general sense.

But the deviation and distortion which those two religions have suffered, according to the religion of Islam - which clash with the constant fact of slavery to God - makes the circle of freedom of expression for them narrower than the circle of their freedom of belief. They are, therefore, not entitled to call others to their religion, have missionary activities, or expose the signs of their worship that represent how they have deviated, outside the circle of those who believe in these two religions. This is because freedom of expression beyond this circle violates the social system and destroys the basic and sacred constant of the pyramid of values of the community.

Michael: What about Islam preventing its adherents from converting to another religion?

Yousef: This issue is also consistent with what I've just said. The issue of an apostate from Islam is related to the perception of freedom of belief, according to the Islamic perspective. Islam does not punish those who have not embraced it in the first place, and it does not force or compel anyone to convert and enter into it. Allah says in the chapter named Al-Baqarah, verse 256: {There is no compulsion in religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.}. And in the chapter named Al-Kahf, verse 29, Allah says: {And say (O Muhammad), "The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve."} Allah also says in the chapter named Al-Kaferoon: {For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.}… We also find that Islam, at the same time, punishes anyone who leaves it for another religion.

We can understand the position of Islam in relation to an apostate, given that this transition out of Islam is a challenge to the highest and the basic value on which the society is founded. In other words, it is considered as a declaration that challenges the validity of this religion, i.e. a declaration that humans don't need this religion, which is unacceptable in a society that derives its legitimacy and authority from its belief in the soundness and from its need of this very religion.

This is exactly the same as one – springing from a country that is built on freedoms - demands the demolition and destruction of the (sacred constant) of freedom. Automatically, the immediate reply of the supporters of freedom is to raise the known slogan ‘no freedom for the enemies of freedom’; because this person will use freedom to kill freedom, i.e., the demolition of the highest value and the basis of the community.

Michael: Thank you Yousef for that clarification. I'm happy with these dialogues and I hope they will continue.