It is generally assumed that the history of human rights started from the “Magna Carte of England in 1215 A.D and it reached its climax traveling through the work of Tom pan’s “Human Rights”, Rousseau’s “The Social Contract”, “Manifesto of Human Rights” of the French Revolution, and finally U.N’.S “Charter of Human Rights”.
Before we make a comparative study of world’s “Charter of Human Rights” and the Islamic teachings, it seems more appropriate that we positively glance at the instructions laid down by the Quran regarding the responsibilities of the state and the rights of the citizens.
It is the responsibility of a Muslim state to promote “Maaruf” and to eradicate “Munkar”.
“Maroof” means everything and value which is good, right and desirable according to the collective human conscience. Thus it is the duty of every Muslim state to nourish and establish every virtue and good values in the society, for example justice, fairplay, merit and truthfulness etc:
“Munkar” means every crime or evil or wrong according to the collective human conscience. Thus it is the duty of a Muslim state to eradicate and discourage every crime from the society, for example murder, dacoity, theft, corruption and oppression etc.
“Maroof” and “Munkar” do not mean the specific religions commandments of Islam because according to the Holy Quran, good jews and Christians also nourish “Maroof” and forbid “Munkar”. It is clear that the religions commandments and rituals of all the three religions are different. The Holy Quran says:
“Not all of them are alike. There is a portion among “the people of the Book” who stand for the right. They rehearse the signs of God all night long and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in God and the Last Day, the promote “Maaruf” and forbid “Munkar”. They hasten in emulation in all good works. They are in the ranks of the righteous people”. (Al-Imran 3- 113-115)
It is also clear from the Holy Prophet and Sunnah that there are only four areas out of the specific religious commandments where a Muslim government can punish the culprits, they are: refusal to pay Zakat (a tax payable by the Muslim citizens having a prescribed financial status), adultery, drinking alcohol and indulgence in usury. Apart from these four areas, the Holy Prophet never used force for promulgating any religious instruction. The Holy Prophet has also not mentioned any penalty for the violation of any other religious commandment. It means that all other religious commandments have to be encouraged through education and persuasion.
It is obligatory upon a Muslim sate to accord all human rights to the non-Muslims living in it. The ratio of the tax imposed upon them must not exceed the ratio of Zakat. It is obligatory to adopt an attitude of broad mindedness and nicety with them.
The state cannot demand more from its citizens in addition to those mentioned above. For example their wealth, property, and honor must be safeguarded. Their freedom should remain intact. They cannot be forced to adopt a particular opinion. All people are equal in law and society. It is also the state’s responsibility to provide the basic necessities to needy person.
Now, all the above points would be explained in the light of the Quran. The Quran has determined the following four responsibilities of the state:
“Allah will assuredly help those who, once made masters in the land, will attend to their prayers and pay the Zakat, enjoin “Maroof” and forbid “Munkar” (Al-Hajj-22:41)
It is necessary that the state maintains justice and observes merit in all affairs:
“Allah commands you to hand back your trusts to their rightful owners, and to pass judgment upon human beings with fairness”. (Al-Nisa-4:58)
A Muslim government cannot impose any other restrictions if a Muslim citizen offers his prayers, pays Zakat and does not commit a crime:
“If they repent and take to prayer and pay the Zakat, let them go their way” (Al-Tawbah-9:5)
They will be granted equal rights with the rest of the citizens:
“If they repent and take to prayer and pay the Zakat, they shall become your brothers in the faith (Al-Tawbah-9:11)
Islam gives three guiding principles to deal with the non-Muslim citizens of a Muslim state. The first is to keep all promises made with them:
“And keep your promise, surely it will be inquired into” (Al-Isra-17:34)
Second, that justice must always be done to them. Islam insists on maintaining justice with every person, even the enemy.
“Do not allow your hatred for other nations to turn you away from justice, deal justly; justice is nearer to true piety” (Al-Maidah-5:8)
Third, that they should be granted even more than they deserve and they should be kept satisfied and happy regarding their requirements:
“Deal nicely as Allah loves those who are good in their behavior” (Al-Baqarah-2:159)
After the above discussion it would be convenient to clarify the differences and the common factors between the Islamic teachings and the U.N.s “Charter of Human Rights”. If observed minutely, we would find almost the whole of the charter similar to the teachings of Islam except a partial article. According to this article there should be no hurdle of race, complexion, religion, nationality and the like when a man and a woman want to marry each other. Islam allows the marriage of a Muslim man with a Christian or a Jew woman besides a Muslim woman, but he can’t marry a woman outside these religions. A Muslim woman can marry a Muslim man only. Thus Islam attaches fundamental importance to the institution of marriage in religion. Let us reflect why it is so.
In fact the basic reason lies in the difference between Islam and the West regarding the importance of family as a unit. The West does not attach much importance to family or at least regards it not more than the individual. Unlike this, although Islam weighs the individual’s freedom much, yet it can be sacrificed for the greater interest of the family under special circumstances, such as the case of marriage. In case of different religions there would be difference of opinion between the husband and the wife on every matter including culture, point of view, living style, birth of child, the and values of life. It would all reflect on children, which would result in a conflict among the members of the family.
Islam allows the marriage of a Muslim man with a Christian or a Jew woman because the difference among these religions regarding the basic values can be accommodated.
It can be asked why a Muslim woman can’t marry a Christian or a Jew man when men are allowed to do so. It has a sound reason. A Muslim man as a custodian of a family will respect Christianity and Judaism as the Muslims acknowledge Christ and Moses as their sacred Prophets. In case, a non-Muslim man becomes the custodian of a family, there is little likelihood that he would respect Muhammad (the Prophet of Islam SWS), as he does not acknowledge him as a Prophet. This situation might hurt the feelings of a Muslim woman.
So it can be said that there is no other remarkable difference between the Islamic teachings and the U.N’S “Charter of Human Rights”. The same is the case with all the other rights, which have assumed much importance these days. Since Islam stresses on the promotion of every good and eradication of every evil according to human’s conscience, it always favours the voice of the conscience. For instance, it is against any atrocity upon children including forced labour, it wants every child to acquire education because the future of the humankind depends on these matters. The U.N.S “Charter for the Rights of the Children” is in accordance with the Islamic teachings.
Since pollution and narcotics are the social evils and harmful for humanity, Islam makes it obligatory upon every Muslim individual and state to struggle against them. Same is the instruction about other evils. Islam deems it essential for every Muslim individual and state to contribute towards the collective progress of the humankind. Islam recommends reformation and checks disorder. The Quran says:
“Do not corrupt the land after it has been purged of evil. That is best for you, if you are true believers” (Al-A`raf-7:85).
Several other verses with the similar sense have been revealed in different stages of the Quran.
Another aspect needs our attention. Every sensible person would agree that hunger, fear and ignorance must be uprooted from the world. Every one needs shelter for safety and medicine for protection from disease. However, it is also an undeniable fact that there are innumerable people and nations in the world who are stricken with poverty and ignorance quite unlike the people of the developed world, who own much more than they need. These people lack even the basic necessities of life. The bitterest reality of this story is that the economy of these underdeveloped countries is in the control of the developed countries. The major part of their budget is consumed in the payment of the debt they have already taken from these developed countries in order to meet their basic necessities. Thus these nations are constantly in an intricate circle of poverty, ignorance and sufferings where there is no way out. It is a pity that the U.N.O. has not included putting an end to this sheer injustice and discrimination in the “Charter of Human Rights”. It is an incomplete document in this context. It is the responsibility of the well off nations of the world to take steps for the redressel of the suffering nations and the individuals.