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Human Rights, The West And Islam

based on a talk by Syed Abul A'la Maudoodi

translated into English by Prof Ahmed Said Khan and Prof Khurshid Ahmad.

The Western Approach

People in the West have the habit of attributing every beneficial development in the world to themselves. For example, it is vociferously claimed that the world first derived the concept of basic human rights from the Magna Carta of Britain - which was drawn up six hundred years after the advent of Islam. But the truth is that until the seventeenth century of no-one dreamt of arguing that the Magna Carta contained the principles of trial by jury, Habeas Corpus and control by Parliament of the right of taxation. If the people who drafted the Magna Carta were living today they would be greatly surprised to be told that their document enshrined these ideals and principles.

To the best of my knowledge, the West had no concept of human and civic rights before the seventeenth century; and it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that the concept took on practical meaning in the constitutions of America and France.

After this, although there appeared references to basic human rights in the constitutions of many countries, more often than not these rights existed only on paper. In the middle of the present century, the United Nations, which may now be more aptly described as the Divided Nations, made a Declaration of Universal Human Rights, and passed a resolution condemning genocide; regulations were framed to prevent it. But there is not a single resolution or regulation of the United Nations which can be enforced if the country concerned wants to prevent it. They are just expressions of pious hopes. They have no sanctions behind them, no force, physical or moral, to enforce them. Despite all the high-sounding resolutions of the United Nations, human rights continue to be violated and trampled upon.

The Islamic Approach

When we speak of human rights in Islam we mean those rights granted by Allah. Rights granted by kings or legislative assemblies can be withdrawn as easily as they are conferred; but no individual and no institution has the authority to withdraw the rights conferred by Allah.

The charter and the proclamations and the resolutions of the United Nations cannot be compared with the rights sanctioned by Allah; the former are not obligatory on anybody, while the latter are an integral part of the Islamic faith. All Muslims and all administrators who claim to be Muslim have to accept, recognize and enforce them. If they failed to enforce them or violate them while paying lip-service to them, the verdict of the Holy Qur’an is unequivocal:

    "Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are the disbelievers (Kafirun)." (5:44)

The following verse also proclaims:

"They are the wrong-doers (zalimoon)". (5:45)

A third verse in the same chapter says:

"They are the perverse and law-breakers (fasiqoon)." (5:47)

In other words, if temporal authorities regard their own words and decisions as right and those given by Allah as wrong, they are disbelievers. If, on the other hand, they regard Allah's commands as right but deliberately reject them in favour of their owns decisions, then they are wrong-doers. Law-breakers are those who disregard the bond of allegiance.



Article on Basic Human Rights

And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.

Quran: 3:103
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