Rights are those conditions of social life without which man cannot be at his best or give of his best what is needful to the adequate development and expression of his personality. Looked at from another angle, rights are those opportunities the absence of which deprives man of something essential. A man without rights, absolutely dependent on the caprice of a superior authority, is a slave. Political thought of every community has, therefore, assumed the existence of these rights. Laski in his book “A Grammar of Politics” holds that every state is known by the rights that it maintains. Our method of judging its character lies, above all, in the contribution that it makes to the substance of man.

Human rights are variously called. Sometimes they are called fundamental rights, sometimes they are called civil rights and in reference to freedom from state restrictions they are called civil liberties. However, all these terms have no fixed and uniform definition. Often they are used interchangeably. 

List of the human rights granted by the Qur’an is quite exhaustive. But, in this chapter we shall discuss, because of space constraints, only few most important of these rights. It should be kept in view that all the rights granted by Islam are meant for all the male and female citizens of an Islamic state without any discrimination based on gender, race, colour, language, blood, place of birth, caste or creed.

Right to security of life

Of all the things of the world, life of man is no doubt the most valuable. Rights arise because of human life and without that there can be neither state nor rights. Life is, in fact, a trust of Allah and it is our bounden duty to preserve it and to protect it in all circumstances. The right to protection and security of life is, therefore, the most fundamental human right and Islam as the religion of humanity has greatly stressed the sanctity of human life. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam says, after condemning the first human murder committed by a son of Adam (Cains) who murdered his brother (Abel): “For that cause We decreed for the children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of the whole mankind …….” (5:32). This verse emphatically asserts that human life is very valuable. It is so valuable that murder of even one individual without justification will be treated as if the whole mankind were killed, and the preservation of the life of a single person will be taken as if the whole human race had been saved. A few other verses of the Qur’an can also be quoted to emphasise how strongly the murder of a human being has been forbidden by the holy book of Islam. For example: And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! he will be helped.   (17:33)

Right to protection of Property and Honour

Property rights include right to earn and acquire property, right to own, possess and enjoy property, and finally the right to alienate it through sale, gift, exchange, will or through other lawful means. Islam recognized all these rights to property and granted the same to its followers some fourteen hundred years ago.

The Qur’an allows an individual to acquire property, movable or immovable, through lawful means. He can earn as much wealth as he can through his knowledge, skill, experience and effort. The Qur’an says: “………unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned …” (4:32). At another place, it says: “….. And that man hath only that for which he maketh effort. And that his effort will be seen. And afterward he will be repaid for it with fullest payment……” (53:39-41). Thus there is no restriction or limit on acquiring of property provided it is acquired through permitted, fair, moral and legal means. In the Islamic state, no body is allowed to earn and acquire wealth and property or earn livelihood through unlawful and prohibited (Haram) means. The Qur’an says: “And eat not up your property among yourselves in vanity, nor seek by it to gain the hearing of judges that ye may knowingly devour a portion of the property of others wrongfully.” (2:188). At another place it exhorts the believers not to usurp each other’s wealth by unlawful means by saying: “O ye who believe! Squander not your wealth among yourselves in vanity, except it be a trade by mutual consent, and kill not yourselves. Lo! Allah is ever Merciful unto you” (4:29).

The right to protection of honour means that each citizen of the state, irrespective of his race, colour, faith, property, sex or status, possesses honour, dignity and self-respect, and that it should not be violated by any individual or even by the state. In Islam right to honour and self-respect is inviolable. It is the duty of an Islamic state to protect the honour of its citizens. It cannot pass any law or do any act which ridicules or humiliates or brings any dishonour to any of its citizens. The state has also an obligation to protect the honour and dignity of its citizens from other. The duty is also obligatory on every member of the Muslim Ummah not to degrade or humiliate any other one who is his brother.

The Qur’an says: “O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turneth not in repentance, such are evil-doers. O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.” (49:11-12)

The Prophet of Islam in his famous farewell address which was delivered by him in his last pilgrimage, said: “O people! Surely your blood, your property and your honour are as sacred and inviolable as the inviolability of this day of yours, this month of yours and this very town of yours. Surely you will soon meet your Lord and you will be held answerable for your actions.”

Right to Equality

Right to equality means that all the citizens of the Islamic state should be equally treated in the sight of law. In the application of the criminal laws, the civil laws and fiscal laws, no discrimination should be made in courts.

Islam has conferred equal rights on all human beings and no distinction or discrimination is made between man and man on the basis of race, caste, colour, wealth,            nationality, sex, language, faith or place of birth. It has removed all artificial and man-made barriers and brings all human beings on the same level in social, economic and political areas of life. According to the teachings of Islam, all mankind has sprung from one man and one woman. Just as there is no reason for discrimination between the children of one parents, similarly, it would be absurd to discriminate between man and man or between man and woman on any basis what-so-ever. The Qur’an says: O mankind! Lo! We have created you from a male and a female and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct…….(49:13). Thus all human beings are equal according to the revealed book of Islam and there is no reason why there should be made any distinction between them. However, superiority of one over the other in the Sight of Allah is due to one’s virtues and merits. One who is more pious and righteous would be considered more honourable. The basis of superiority is thus moral excellence and good conduct instead of race, tribe, caste, nationality or colour.

This point was further clarified by the Prophet of Islam by his words and actions. In his famous sermon delivered on the occasion of farewell pilgrimage, he declared: “Verily all the rites and traditions of the period of ignorance are trampled under my feet.” “O people! be aware: your God is One. No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and no non-Arab any superiority over an Arab, and no white one has any superiority over a black one, and no black one any superiority over a white one, except on the basis of taqwa (piety). The most honourable among you in the Sight of Allah is he who is the most pious. 

Right to Basic Needs

Another right which has been greatly stressed in Islam is that of provision of basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter to every individual. It is an essential right of every person that he should be provided with these basic human needs for him and his family if he is unable to earn and arrange them due to any disability. The individual has a legal right to demand from the state that it should fulfil its obligations of providing him with a livelihood before it demands obedience from him. This is one of the fundamental rights of a citizen of an Islamic state that he should be provided with the basic necessities of life.

Islamic state has been vested with the right to collect Zakat from its well-to-do citizens, to collect Ushr, to collect Khums from spoils of war, to acquire Fai properties and, above all, to collect Jizyah and Kharaj so that adequate sources should be available at her disposal for meeting its expenditure and for providing basic needs to the poor and the distressed who are unable to provide for themselves. Following verses of the Qur’an throw light on the  purpose of Zakat, alms (Sadaqat), spoils of war, etc, which are collected by the Islamic state:-

·        And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the Messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer………(8:41)

·        The alms (Zakat) are only for the poor and the needy and those who collect them and those whose hearts are to be reconciled and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarers;   (9:60)

·        That which Allah giveth as spoils unto His messenger from the people of the townships, it is for Allah and His Messenger, and for the near of him and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer that it become not a commodity between the rich among you…….. (59:7)

The duties of the Islamic state towards the poor and the needy have been further elaborated by the Prophet of Islam in his following sayings:-

·        Allah has made Zakat obligatory upon the Muslims. It is to be collected from the wealthy among you and distributed among the needy ones.

·        The government is the guardian of anyone who has no other guardian.

·        When anyone dies in debt or leave behind dependants unprovided for, the latter should come to me because I am their guardian (as head of state)

·        If anybody dies while he owes a debt and does not leave behind any property for its payment then the responsibility for its payment is mine (as head of the state). But if anyone leaves any property behind, it is for his heirs. 

Freedom of Religion

The right to religion and conscience provides every citizen liberty of belief and worship. It means everyone is free to profess and practice any religion he has adopted. He is free to perform the rites connected with his religious beliefs and the state would neither interfere nor prevent him from doing so.

The Qur’an guarantees religious freedom to every individual. In an Islamic state, every citizen is at liberty to profess and practice any religion which he has chosen. It is the fundamental right of an individual in an Islamic state to follow any religion and perform worship and rituals according to his religious beliefs. The state does not interfere in religious matters and shows complete tolerance to those who profess and practice religions other than Islam though the religion of majority is Islam. Even the Muslim citizens are not allowed to interfere in the religious matters of non-Muslims or obstruct them from following or practicing their religion. The Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, says:

·        There is no compulsion in religion……… (2:256)

·        Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion and unto me my religion.   (109:1-6)

The above mentioned verses show that there is no compulsion in the matters of religion in an Islamic state. Everybody is free to follow and practice his religion on the basis of the Qur’anic principle: “Unto you your religion and unto me my religion.” It is because everyone is responsible for his own actions before God and none is accountable for the actions of others. Hence nobody can be forced to embrace Islam.


Right to Justice

On the one hand the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam enjoin upon the believers to do justice to all without favour and without any discrimination; whereas on the other hand it gives right to every person living in Islamic state to seek for justice in case of wrong done to him even if the wrongdoer is the caliph or head of state. Following are some of the verses of the Qur’an and Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which urge the believers to do justice and earn Allah’s pleasure and His rewards:

·        O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor.   (4:135)

·        O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye depart from justice. Be just, that is nearer to piety.   (5:8)

·        ……… But if thou judgest, judge between them with equity, Lo! Allah loveth those who judge in equity.   (5:45)

·        ……… Do justice there unto, even though it be (against) a kinsman ……   (6:152)

·        Say: My Lord enjoineth justice……   (7:29)

·        Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness ……   (16:90)

·        Abdullah bin Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Verily the just persons near Allah will be upon pulpits of light on the right side of the Merciful………   (Muslim)

·        Ayesha reported from the Messenger of Allah who said: Do you know who will be the foremost unto the shade of the Almighty and Glorious Allah on the Resurrection Day? They replied: Allah and His Apostle know best. He said…… who dispense justice for the people like their doing justice to themselves.   (Ahmad, Baihaqi)

Anybody, how low or poor he may be, who is subjected to any oppression or wrong or is deprived of his property or right can go to a Qazi and lodge complaint against the oppressor or the wrongdoer even if the latter is highly placed person.

Many instances can be quoted from the life of the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam to show how the Prophet offered himself for retaliation if some wrong was committed by mistake to anybody else. On many occasions he gave decisions against his near kindred and against the nobles of the Muslim Community. Caliphs of Islam like Hadrat Umar and Hadrat Ali appeared in the courts like ordinary citizens upon the complaints filed against them by the common people. Hadrat Ali failed to prove a case against a non-Muslim and decree was given against him.

Kindly also refer to Chapter on Justice.

Right to Education

Islam grants paramount importance to education and learning. The importance which revealed book of Islam gives to education can be pointed out from the very fact that the first verses of the Qur’an which were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instructed him to ‘read’. Al-Qur’an says: “Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth, createth man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the most Bounteous, Who teacheth by the pen, teacheth man that which he knew not” (96:1-5). So the Holy Qur’an, if its revelation is put in the chronological order, starts with the commandment ‘read’. In these verses, the Qur’an uses three words ‘read’, ‘teach’ and ‘pen’, which shows how much is the importance of reading, learning, writing and teaching.

The Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about the importance of knowledge and need of education for the men and women are cited below:-

·        Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Search for knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim male and Muslim female.   (Ibn Majah)

·        Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso goes out in search of knowledge, he is in the path of Allah till he returns.   (Tirmizi)

·        Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Search knowledge though it be in China.   (Baihaqi)

In Islam, it is the basic right of every individual to get education. Since the human beings, male as well as females, are responsible and accountable for their actions and deeds on the Day of Judgement, they are required to have the knowledge of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah particularly the basic knowledge of the fundamentals of Islam like Belief, Prayer, Zakat, Fating, Hajj, etc. Besides that, they are also obliged to know the Attributes of Allah, knowledge of lawful and unlawful, right and wrong, laws promulgated by the Qur’an regarding marriage, dower, divorce, inheritance, will, adultery, murder, theft, etc.

The Prophet of Islam recognized this basic right of every individual to get education. He, therefore, took been interest in the education and training of his followers. He is reported to have released even some of prisoners who had been captured in the Battle of Badr, without ransom on the condition that each of them should teach at least ten Muslim children how to read and write. This shows how the Prophet viewed the need of education and literacy for the Muslim children.

Kindly also refer to Chapter No 30 on Education.

Right to Freedom of Work

Right to freedom of work includes one’s right to choose his profession or source of income which one likes. Islam recognises this right of man and permits an individual to do any lawful work and to pursue any career for earning his bread and butter. In this respect no bar is placed on a citizen’s choice or freedom on any basis except that he should not earn income through any means prohibited by the Qur’an and Sunnah such as usury, bribe, embezzlement, gambling, dealing in wine, prostitution, theft, dacoity, business malpractices, hoarding, tax evasion, etc. Barring this, an individual is allowed to adopt any job and work to earn his and his family’s livelihood.

Islam regards all kind of labour, physical or mental as honourable and respectable. There is no concept of any menial or indignified work in Islam. In fact, Islam gave dignity and respect to manual work and completely abolished any distinction between man and man on the basis of his work. Unearned income and windfalls are not seen with favour by Islam. Following Ahadith of the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam show how much labour and work is dignified in Islam:-

·        Abu Hurairah reported from the Holy Prophet who said: Allah did not raise up any Prophet who did not graze goats. His companions asked: You too? ‘Yes’, said he, I used to tend goats for the inhabitants of Makkah for some Qirats.   ((Bukhari)

·        Meqdam-bin-Ma’de Yakrab reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Never has anyone eaten a better food than what he has eaten out of the labour of his own hands; and David, the Prophet of Allah, used to eat out of the labour of his own hands.   (Bukhari)

Right to work also includes right to get a job if one has not got any employment or occupation. The Prophet of Islam recognized this fact when a poor person approached him begging. The following Hadith shows how the Prophet provided him an occupation:-

Anas reported that one of the Helpers came to the Messenger of Allah begging of him. He said: Have you got anything in your house? He replied: Yes, I have a woolen carpet with one part of which we cover ourselves and spread the other (part) and a cup in which we drink water. He said: come to me with both of them. The man came to him with both of them, and the Holy Prophet took them in his hand and said: Who will buy these two? A man said:-I shall take them both for one silver coin. He enquired twice or thrice: Who will pay more than a silver coin? A man said: I will take them both for two silver coins. Then he gave them both to him and took the two silver coins and paid them to the Helper and said: Buy food with one of these, and let it go to your family, and buy an axe with the other and come to me therewith. Then he brought it. The Messenger of Allah fixed a handle to it with his own hand and said: Go, cut wood and sell it, let me not see you for fifteen days. Then the man went to cut the wood and sell it. Then he came to him when he had already earned ten silver coins. He purchased a garment with some of these and food with some. Then the Messenger of Allah said: This is better for you than that the begging should put a spot upon your face on the day of Resurrection.   (Abu Daud)

Following the footsteps of the Prophet, Islamic state is thus responsible to provide employment to its citizens if they have no employment or occupation to earn their livelihood.

Right to Privacy

Right to privacy means that nobody should enter into the house or private apartments of an individual without seeking his permission and that the others should not spy and try to look into or know his purely private affairs. Islam fully guarantees this right to the citizens of an Islamic state. Al-Qur’an the revealed book of Islam, says:

·        O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own without first announcing your presence and invoking peace upon the folk thereof. That is better for you, that ye may be heedful.   (24:27)

·        O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you ……… (24:58)

Following Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also stress an individual’s right to privacy:-

·        Kaldah-bin-Hanbal reported that (once) he went to the Messenger of Allah and did neither salute nor seek permission. The Messenger of Allah said: Go back and say: peace by on you. May I come.   (Tirmizi, Abu Daud)

·        Ata’a-bin-Yasar reported that a man asked the Messenger of Allah: Shall I seek permission to see my mother? ‘Yes’, said he. The man said: I live with her in the house. The Messenger of Allah said: Seek permission to go to her. The man said: I serve her. The Messenger of Allah said: Seek permission to go to her. Do you like to see her naked? ‘No’ said he. He said: So take permission to go to her.   (Malik)

Right of Protest and Resistance against Oppression

It is one of the basic rights of a citizen of an Islamic state to protest against injustice and oppression and if possible he should resist it with all his might. Allah does not like utterance of harsh words but He gives permission to an individual to do so if he has been wronged. The Qur’an says: “Allah loveth not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who hath been wronged……… (4:148).

The following traditions of the Prophet of Islam show how the Prophet enjoined upon his followers to protest against injustice and to resist oppression:-

·        Abu Sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The best jihad (holy war) is that of one who says a true word before a tyrant.   (Ibn Majah, Tirmizi, Abu Daud)

·        Abu Sayeed Al-Khodri reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoever from among you comes across a certain undesirable thing must stop it by his hands. If it is not possible for him, he must stop it by his tongue. And if this also is not possible, he must condemn it in his heart, and this is the weakest position of belief.   (Muslim)

·        Abu Bakr Siddiq said: I have heard the Messenger of Allah say …… When the people see an oppressor but don’t overtake him by his hand, it is near that Allah will overtake them all with His punishment.   (Abu Daud)

Islam not only grants right of protest against oppression but also goes further, in case the protest fails, exhorting the believers to withhold their support and disobey the oppressor and tyrannical rulers. The Qur’an says: “…… And obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and whose case hath been abandoned.” (18:28) At another place, the Qur’an says: “……… And obey not the command of the prodigal who spread corruption (disorder) in the earth and reform not.” (26:151-152). Hadrat Ali has reported a tradition of the Prophet of Islam who said: “There is no obedience in transgression. Verily obedience is in good deeds”. (Bukhari, Muslim). At another occasion, the Messenger of Allah said: “There will soon come some rulers after me. Whoso will visit them and hold their falsehood as true and help them in their oppression, they are not of me……” (Tirmizi, Nisai). According to Aus-bin-Shorahbil, the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever walks with a tyrant to empower him knowing that he is a tyrant has indeed gone out of Islam.”   (Baihaqi)


Prophet’s Farewell Address

During his Farewell Pilgrimage Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered his famous address on 9th of Zilhajj 10 A.H. (632 A.D.) at Mount Arafat to multitude of believers exceeding one lac according to some estimates. This address is known as Farewell Address and is regarded not only by the Muslims but also by non-Muslim impartial scholars and historians as gist of Islamic teachings. This address which is fairly comprehensive contains in itself, apart from Islamic teachings on devotional acts, a charter of human rights which can be favourably compared with Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by United Nations Organization some fourteen centuries later (1948). It would be most appropriate if we conclude this chapter with some of the extracts from the said historical address of the Prophet of Islam.

·        Ye people! Listen to my words: I will deliver a message to you, for I know not whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you here again. O people! Verily your blood, your property and your honour are sacred and inviolable until you appear before your Lord, as this day and this month is sacred for all. Verily you will meet your Lord and you will be held answerable for your actions. Have I not conveyed the message? O Allah! be my witness.

·        He who has any trust with him he should restore it to the person who deposited it with him.

·        Beware, no one committing a crime is responsible for it but he himself. Neither the son is responsible for the crime of his father nor the father is responsible for the crime of his son.

·        O people! Listen to my words and understand them. You must know that a Muslim is the brother of a Muslim and they form one brotherhood. Nothing of his brother is lawful for a Muslim except what he himself allows willingly. So you should not oppress one another. O Allah! have I not conveyed the message?

·        Behold! All practices of paganism and ignorance are now under my feet. The blood revenges of the days of Ignorance are remitted. The first claim on blood I abolish is that of Ibn Rabi’ah Harith who was nursed in the tribe of Sa’d and whom the Hudhayl killed.

·        Usury is forbidden, but you will be entitled to recover your principal. Wrong not and you would not be wronged. Allah has decreed that there should be no usury and I make a beginning by remitting the amount of interest which ‘Abbas bin. Abd al-Muttalib has to receive. Verily it is remitted entirely.  

·        O people! fear Allah concerning women. Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah and have made their persons lawful unto you by words of Allah! Verily you have got certain rights over your women and your women have certain rights over you. It is incumbent upon them to honour their conjugal rights and, not to commit acts of impropriety which, if they do, you have authority to chastise them, yet not severely. If your wives refrain from impropriety and are faithful to you, clothe and feed them suitably. Behold! Lay injunctions upon women but kindly.

·        O people! Listen and obey though a mangled Abyssinian slave is your amir if he executes (the ordinances of) the Book of Allah among you.

·        O people! Verily Allah has ordained to every man the share of his inheritance. The child belongs to the marriage-bed and the violator of wedlock shall be stoned. He who attributes his ancestry to other than his father or claims his clientship to other than his masters, the curse of Allah, that of the Angels, and of the people be upon him. Allah will accept from him neither repentance nor righteousness.

·        And your slaves! See that you feed them with such food as you eat yourselves; and clothe them with the clothes that you yourselves wear. And if they commit a fault which you are not inclined to forgive, then part with them for they are the servants of Allah and are not to be chastised.

·        O people! Verily your Lord is one and your father is one. All of you belong to one ancestry of Adam and Adam was created out of clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab; nor for white over the black nor for the black over the white except in piety. ‘Verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious.’   (49:13)


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