Islam has laid down universal and fundamental rights for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed and respected under all circumstances. These basic rights are associated with Islamic faith and belief because they are divinely ordained. Thus, human rights in Islam are religious obligations, meaning that it is obligatory for every Muslim to protect them and restore them if they are violated.
Islam declares all people equal in terms of human values, and all individuals are equal before the Islamic code of law. Its judgments and legal penalties are applicable to all races and classes of people without any distinction, and without any person, group or nation acquiring immunity or privilege. Every human being is entitled to his integrity, honor and reputation during his life and after his death.
Islam condemns the abuse of power, position and authority and commands people to assist an oppressed person even with the use of force when necessary. Every individual in an Islamic society, regardless of his faith or religious affiliation, position or social status, has certain immutable rights, which include:
• The right to be consulted on issues that concern their economic and social affairs
• The right to be considered innocent unless proven guilty
• The right to seek judgment against oppressors and to have an equal hearing before the judge
It is an unfortunate reality of our time, however, that the governments of many so-called “Muslim” countries do not apply these principles but rather suppress public opinion and violate human rights. However, such tyranny is in no way representative of Islamic teachings. In fact, the Prophet of Islam warned, “The most ruthless in punishing people in this world will be the most ruthlessly punished of people by God on the Day of Resurrection.”
“O you who have believed, stand up firmly for God and witness with justice, and do not let hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.” [ 5:8]
No one may be arrested, exiled, punished or his freedom restricted without adequate legal action. No one may be subjected to physical or psychological torment, medical experimentation, or any other humiliating treatment. And it is not permitted to empower executive authority to issue exceptional laws.
These human rights are comprehensive and applicable to every person under Islamic jurisdiction, regardless of his race, religion, nationality or social status. They cannot be altered at any time or under any circumstance. Violation of these rights is a violation against the divine decree and necessitates punishment in the Hereafter in addition to that of this world, unless the offender repents and reforms.
If such human rights had never been enforced at some time in human history, they would have remained no more than theoretical ideals in people’s minds. But Prophet Muhammad founded a civilization in which they were fully implemented, serving as an outstanding example for all future generations of mankind.
A Muslim believer is obligated to oppose injustice and oppression no matter who the victim happens to be. When seeing another human being in distress or critical need of assistance, it is his duty to help that person; otherwise, he is accountable for whatever increase in suffering was caused by his neglect. Even during war it is not permissible to harm women, children, the elderly, the sick or the wounded. The hungry person must be fed, the naked clothed, and the wounded or diseased treated medically, irrespective of who they are.
Under Islam the lives and properties of all citizens are inviolable, whether they are Muslims or not. The right of security and protection to a person and his family is the most basic of all rights. It is unlawful in a Muslim society for any of its citizens to be harassed or threatened by words, acts or weapons of any type. For the protection of human life in particular, Islam has required severe punishments for criminals who murder, injure and harm others.
One of the fundamental rights established by the sacred texts is that no one can be compelled to accept Islam. It is the duty of Muslims to establish the proofs of Islam to people so that truth can be distinguished from falsehood. After that, whoever wishes to accept Islam may do so, and whoever wishes to continue in unbelief may do so.