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Islam and Human Rights ( 7 Apr 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Notes on Various Aspects of the Question of Compatibility between Islam and Human Rights



Researched and compiled By Adis Duderija, New Age Islam

April 8, 2013

This is a compilation of information on Islam and human rights with particular focus on how Islam contributed to the area of human rights, key areas, texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah, Islamic history, contribution in the modern period to the debate with the emphasis on compatibility of Islamic norms and human rights norms.

From   Recept Senturk,“ Sociology of Rights: “I Am Therefore I Have Rights”: Human Rights in Islam between Universalistic and Communalistic Perspectives“, Muslim World Journal  of Human Rights, 2, (2005) : 1-33.

History of Human Rights In Islam

-Abu Hanifa and his followers advanced the cause of universal human rights – universally and unconditionally granted to all by birth, on a permanent and equal basis, by virtue of being a human - which cannot be taken away by any authority. Abu Hanifa established an unbreakable relationship between the concept of âdamiyyah (personhood, humanity) and the concept of ‘ismah (inviolability). Based on this relationship, he argued that being a child of Adam or a human, whether Muslim or not, serves as the legal ground for possessing basic rights (al-’ismah bi al-âdamiyyah) ., p.11

-Basic human rights are granted to all human beings for the sake of their humanity. The Hanafites such as Sarakhsi, Zaylai, Dabusi, Marghinani, Ibn Humam, Bâbartî, Kâsânî and Timurtâshi, to name a few, are of this opinion.

-The universalistic jurists used mainly the following arguments while defending their doctrine: (1) God’s purpose in creating humanity, the trial (ibtila) and holding them responsible (taklif) for their actions, cannot be achieved unless all human beings are granted sanctity and freedom. (2) A human being must be protected because God does not want His creation to be destroyed, which is possible only by granting sanctity to each one of them. (3) God in the Quran and Prophet Muhammad in his sayings strictly prohibited assaulting and slaying any human being.  They ordered protecting non-Muslim women, children and clergy even during war. (4) Disbelief (Kufr) is not normally harmful to Muslims unless the disbelievers engage in a war against Muslims. So it must be tolerated. (5) Jihad is a defensive, but not an offensive, war. Therefore, when non-Muslims do not assault other people they should enjoy sanctity. (6) The objective of war is not to exterminate the enemies but to force them to make peace and, if required, pay tribute. (7) The justifying reason for war is protecting sanctity against those who assault it. The disbelief of the enemies is not a valid reason to make war against them. Therefore when peace prevails everyone must enjoy sanctity. (8) The non- Muslims must be given chance to learn about Islam which they cannot do unless they are granted sanctity. (9) Compulsion in religion is forbidden in the Quran. p.12

-a narrative has it that when Egypt was conquered, ‘Amr Ibn ‘Âs allowed the Egyptians to practice their conventional laws except the custom of sacrificing a girl to the Nile for more water.  Likewise, it is also reported that, in India, the Hindus were allowed to practice their law except the custom of sati, burning the widow with the body of her late husband ,p.13

-The idol-worshippers and polytheists, who lived outside Arabia, had been allowed to practice their religions freely under Islamic rule. This is because, in practice, Islamic law extended the status of the “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitab) to all religions, including such religions as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Therefore these religious communities survived for centuries under Islamic rule until today. They had been seen as Aadami and therefore given basic human rights., p.15

-Abu Hanifa’s influence continued until the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, Al-Miydani (d. 1881), a Syrian scholar from Damascus, wrote at the end of the 19th century that the person has sanctity by virtue of her existence (al- Hurr ma‘sum bi nafsihi) ,p.16

-Non-Hanafite scholars such as Ghazzali from the Shâfi‘ite school, Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya from the Hanbali school, Ibn Rushd, Shâtibî and Ibn al-‘Âshûr from the Mâlikite school, and Maghniyya from the Jafari Shiite School also share the universalistic view initially advanced by the Hanafites.,p.18

-The Ottoman Caliph, advised mostly by the Hanafite Ulema, granted equal rights to non-Muslims for the protection of life, property, honor and religion in the 1839 declaration of Tanzimat. Later, other declarations concerning human rights had also been issued in the reforming Ottoman State which, in some aspects, resembled the decrees by earlier sultans known as Adalatname or Kanunname. Faced with Western ideological and cultural influence, the Ottomans had to compete with the European powers in extending rights to their citizens on equal basis. They had Hanafite law at their disposal to achieve this objective. The universalistic approach to human rights made it possible for them to reform Islamic law, parallel to changing legal customs. p.23-24.

-The Royal Decree of the Rose Garden (Gülhane Hatt-ı Hümayunu) was launched in 1839, during the Tanzimat Reforms. This declaration, which may be seen as the first declaration of human rights by a Muslim state, assured all citizens their basic rights: right to life, property, freedom of religion, protection of honor, education, employment and due process. The Tanzimat declaration was grounded on the doctrine of ‘ismah in Islamic law. The document is especially significant for its recognition of equal rights in education and in government administration for those of Christian persuasion, exemplifying egalitarian principles. The Ferman declared: “All Muslim or non-Muslim subjects shall benefit from these rights. Everyone's life, chastity, honor and property is under the guarantee of the state according to the Shari‘ah laws.” Representatives of all religious groups and the ambassadors of European states were present in the declaration ceremony, which was closed by the prayer of Shaikh al-Islam. In 1875, the Imperial Edict on Justice (Ferman-i Adalet) provided for independence of the judicial courts and ensured the safety of judges., p.25

-In 1949, Huseyin Kazim Kadri, a renowned Turkish author on Islam, wrote an Islamic commentary on the UN Charter where he concluded that it is in complete conformity with Islamic law.  After the declaration of the UN Charter, Ali Fuad Başgil, a religiously oriented professor of law from Istanbul University, strongly supported the concept of universal human rights in his public lectures.

What Is Needed For Acceptance of Human Rights by Muslims Of Today


Without putting the issue [of human rights] into an historical and sociological perspective, the confusion on and deprivation from human rights cannot be understood and solved in the Muslim world. Nor can the human rights dependency, on the part of Muslims who believe in human rights, be overcome without linking the chain of memory to the past cultural reservoir. Human rights discourse in the Muslim world needs philosophical, moral and historical roots to grow on, gain strength and bear fruits. Otherwise, its defenders will remain dependent on the Western discourse and consequently will get easily dismissed by the conservative population, traditional Ulema and the authoritarian rulers. The power of precedence, on the theoretical and historical levels, must be put in use in justifying human rights in Islam today.,p.28

From Maher Abu Munshar, Islamic Jerusalem and its Christians: A History of Tolerance and Tensions, (New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007)

There are a large number of verses in the Qur’an pertaining to Muslim treatment of non-Muslims, whether in or outside the Muslim state. The four main Qur’anic injunctions focus on:

• Human brotherhood

• Religious tolerance

• Justice and fair treatment

• Loyalty and alliance

Human Brotherhood

Many verses in the Qur’an refer to humankind being one nation emanating from a single origin. The Qur’an emphasizes that all people were created from one person, Adam, although they differ in size, race, language, nation, tribe, and whether they are believer or atheist, good or bad, constructive or destructive. These differences should not contradict the principle of unity. They are intended, rather, to serve as a medium for people to come together and not to enter into conflict or to despise one another. p.12

Consequently, the protection, rights and security of non- Muslims are derived from the principle of human brotherhood, since all mankind is the creation of God, the only God, without discrimination between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam enjoins and promotes universal brotherhood, peace and unity. The only difference that the Qur’an recognizes is in piety towards God (Taqwa):

O mankind! We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other [i.e. not that ye may despise each other]. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is [he who is] the most righteous of you. And God has full Knowledge and is well acquainted [with all things]. As this verse shows, Islam honours mankind, especially believers in God, and mankind should promote peace, unity and universal brotherhood.

Religious Tolerance

Religious tolerance is an essential cornerstone for the peaceful coexistence of different religious groups in a community, and is an important right given by Islam to non-Muslims. The Qur’an frequently calls for tolerance and respect towards the People of the Book, who are entitled to freedom of belief, conscience and worship. Neither the Qur’an nor the sayings of the Prophet have ever encouraged the use of force, pressure or manipulation in regard to religious belief. The most obvious verse that emphasises freedom of religion is the following:

Let there be no compulsion in religion …20 The reason is that faith, to be genuine, needs to be an absolutely free and voluntary act. Indeed, this verse was revealed to condemn the attitude of some Jews and Madinans – those newly converted to Islam in Madinah – who wished to convert their children to their new faith.  , p.12-13

-when Caliph al-Walid Ibn ‘Abd al-Malik forcibly took possession of part of a Christian cathedral in Damascus and incorporated it into a mosque. No redress took place under his successor, Caliph Yazyd Ibn al- Walid Ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, but when Caliph ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al- ‘Aziz succeeded him, the Christians of Damascus reported this injustice. ‘Umar wrote to the official in charge to pull down the portion of the mosque that had formerly belonged to the cathedral, and the land was handed back to the Christians. , p.15

Justice and Fair Treatment

The fundamental Qur’anic verses that determine the natures of Muslim treatment of non-Muslims are the following: God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for [your] Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For God loves those who are just. God only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for [your] faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support [others] in driving you out, from turning to them [for friendship and protection]. It is such as turn to them [in these circumstances] that do wrong.34, p.16 Imam al-Qarafi (d. 684 AH /1285 CE), a well-known Maliki jurist, considered that birr or fair treatment to non-Muslims consists of the following:

Showing kindness to their weak and helping their poor and destitute, and feeding their hungry, clothing their naked, and uttering kind words to them from the position of grace and mercy and not from the position of fear and disgrace and removing their hardship as their neighbours if you

[Muslims] have power to remove it, praying for their guidance so that they can become happy and fortunate people, giving them good advice in all their affairs – the affairs of this world and the hereafter and looking after their interest in their absence. If anyone hurts them and deprives them of their property or family, possessions or their rights, you should help them by removing their persecution and make sure to restore all their rights back to them. , p.19

-Abu Yusuf advised Caliph Haroon al-Rashid on the rights of non-Muslims:

O Amir of the Faithful, it is necessary that you should show kindness to the dhimmis of your Prophet Muhammad and you should keep an eye on them so they are not oppressed or persecuted, nor is anything imposed upon them beyond their capacity; nor should anything be taken from their properties except with justification which is incumbent upon them. It has been related to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that he said, ‘whoever oppresses one with whom a treaty has been made, or imposes on him a burden beyond his capacity, then he will have to answer me on the Day of Judgment’. Furthermore, the Holy Prophet’s talk with ‘Umar Ibn al- Khattab at the time of his death, contained ‘I commend to the caliph after me that he exercise good treatment on those who are under the Prophet’s protection. He should keep to the covenant with them, fight those who are after them, and do not tax them beyond their capacity’. , 33-34

-Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH/1328 CE), a well-known Syrian jurist uses the example of his request to the leader of the Tartar invasion of Syria, asking him to spare the suffering of his people. The Tartar leader agreed to this in regard to Muslims, but refused to treat non-Muslims (mostly the Christians taken from Islamic Jerusalem) in the same way. Ibn Taymiyyah said that this would not please the Muslims, since the Jewish and Christian families were under their protection. On the insistence of Ibn Taymiyyah, all non-Muslim prisoners of war, including Jews and Christians, were released. , 35.

-El-Awaisi argues that core Muslim teachings reject the philosophy of a conflict based on eliminating the other party so that the victor could have the stage to himself. He adds that:

As confirmation of that idea, Islam favoured another method, namely tadafu‘ or counterbalance, as a means of adjusting positions using movement instead of conflict…This conflict-free method is what Islamic teachings see as a means of preserving a non-Muslim presence in this life. Tadafu‘is not only to preserve Muslim’s sacred places, but to preserve the sacred places of others. The Qur’an says: ‘And if God had not counterbalanced (duf‘u) some people’s deeds by others, there surely would have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure.’ This means that, from a Muslim point of view, tadafu‘is the means of preserving a plurality of sacred places or the plurality of religions. , p.43

On Constitution of Medina

-The constitution [of Medina] recognised freedom of religion for all citizens. It made non-Muslim citizens equal partners with the Muslim inhabitants of Madinah in the material wealth and progress of the Muslim state. It gave rights of protection, security, peace and justice not only to Muslims, but also to Jews who lived in Madinah, as well as to allies of the Jews who were non-Muslims. It allowed Jews to practice their religion freely., p.44

-The pact with the Christians of Najran

In the name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful, this is what Muhammad the Prophet of God wrote to the people of Najran, when they were under his command … And for the people of Najran and its bordering country, there is the protection of God and the compact of Muhammad the Prophet (regarding their property, their lives, their land and their people, whether present or absent, in their families and their trade, whether great or small. No Bishop will be forced to renounce his bishopric nor any monk will be asked to forsake his monastery nor any diviner abandon his profession. None of them will be subjected to humiliation. There will be no retaliation for the bloodshed committed in pre-

 Islamic times. They will not be made to suffer any loss; they will not be reduced to destitution. No troops will trample upon their land. If any of them claims his right, justice will be done to him: neither will he be wronged, nor will he be allowed to do any wrong to others. I will not be responsible if any of the governors devours usury and no man will be taken to task on account of wrong done by others. Whatever this document contains has the protection of God and the protection of the Prophet till God issues some other command so long as people discharge their duties rightly and do not attempt to flee away after doing wrong. Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb, Ghailan Ibn ‘Amr Malik Ibn ‘Awf from Banu Nasr, Aqra’ Ibn Habis Al-Hanzali and Mughira Ibn Shu‘bah witnessed the document. This document was written for them by ‘Abdallah Ibn Abu Bakr.  .p/46-47


He who hurts a dhimmi hurts me and he who hurts me hurts Allah,  p.48

Whoever kills a man having a treaty with Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of paradise thought its fragrance is perceived from a distance of forty years.,, p.48

Let it be known if anyone including Muslims commits injustice, or insults, aggravates, mistreats or abuses a person from the people of the Book[protected by the state or by agreement] he will have to answer me [or his immoral action] at the Day of Judgement, ,p.49.

When you conquer Egypt, take good care of the Copts, and treat them well as they have a pledge (dhimmtan) and kinship( Rahman), ,p.49

Polly Vizard, Antecedents of the Idea of Human Rights:

A Survey of Perspectives,

Antecedents In Islamic Traditions Of Tolerance, Freedom And Rights

1. Lauren focuses attention on the work of Al-Farabi, an Islamic philosopher of the tenth century, who wrote in his book The Outlook of the People of the City of Virtue of a vision of a moral society in all which individuals were endowed with rights and lived in love and charity with their neighbours 1998, 11). 

2. UN Secretary General has highlighted the relevance of Islamic traditions of equity and mercy to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, noting that Imam Ali, the fourth Khalifa after Prophet Muhammad, instructed the governor of Egypt to rule with mercy and tolerance towards all his subjects:

"... Let the dearest of your treasuries be the treasury of righteous action... Infuse your heart with mercy, love and kindness for your subjects. Be not in the face of them a voracious animal, counting them as easy prey, for they are of two kinds: either they are your brothers in religion or your equals in creation" [cited in Annan (1997a)].

3. Annan has also highlighted the work of Sa'adi, the thirteenth century Persian poet, who offered a moving tribute to the values of tolerance and equality among all peoples and nations: "The children of Adam are limbs of one another And in their creation come from one substance. When the world gives pain to one member, The other members find no rest. Thou who are indifferent to the sufferings of others Do not deserve to be called a man" [cited in Annan (1997a)].

-4.It is important to recognise that Islam is a highly rights-focussed religion and certain Islamic precepts and principles place a great emphasis on reform and rights to protect the interests and well-being of vulnerable, oppressed and needy groups. Arguably, these precepts and principles comprise important antecedents of the modern idea of human rights and - when analysed in their historical context - these precepts and principles can provide foundations for modern ideas about human rights. For example, more than 1400 years ago, Qur'anic injunctions emphasised the importance of human diversity, tolerance and respect for human diversity; condemned, limited and regulated the practice of slavery; protected the interests of vulnerable children including orphans and girls; recognised rights that limited the harsh consequences of discrimination against women; and introduced reforms to ensure better provision for the poor.

The Qur’an Ushered In an Age of Reform and Rights

Human diversity, tolerance and mutual respect Many Qur’anic verses are interpreted as implying that diversity and plurality are inherent characteristics of the human condition and that these characteristics ought to be tolerated and respected. For example, one Qur’anic verse states: “We [God] have created you [human beings] into [different] peoples and tribes so that you may [all] get to know [understand and co-operate with] each other; the most honourable among you in the sight of God are the pious [righteous] ones” [49:13,]. Another states: “For each community, we have granted a Law and a Code of Conduct. If God wished, He could have made you One community, but he wishes rather to test you through that which has been given to you. So vie with each other to excel in goodness and moral virtue” [5:48].

Treatment of non-Muslims More than fourteen hundred years ago, discrimination against religious minorities was the norm in many different countries and societies. Shari’a limited the harsh consequences of discrimination against religious minorities in Muslim societies, restricting discrimination, and reducing its scope (An-Na’im, 1990, 170&175). Fundamental rights of non-Muslims to protection from internal tyranny and persecution, and freedom of religious practice and personal status, were recognised (Ally, 1996, 253). When judged in their historical context and against the European record, these principles for the treatment of non-Muslims are often noted for their relative tolerance and humanity (Mayer, 1999, 136).

The limitation and regulation of slavery. Fourteen hundred years ago, slavery was a common practice in many different parts of the world. Qur’anic injunctions limited and regulated the practice of slavery by emphasising the dignity and personal safety of slaves, and encouraging their emancipation (e.g. 5:89, 24:33, 58:3, and 90:13.)

New rights for women. Certain practices that affected the interests and wellbeing of women were reformed by Islam. For example, Qur’anic injunctions qualified the exercise of polygamy by Muslim men, and protected women by giving them more control over their dowry. In addition, while distinguishing between the position of men and the position of women, the Qur’an states “And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women” (2:228), and recognises the rights of women to own property, to a share of inheritance and to divorce. When analysed in their historical context, it is generally agreed that these reforms and rights limited the harsh consequences of discrimination against women (An-Na’im, 1990, 170&175). Indeed, some scholars have argued that, given the position of women in many cultures and societies fourteen hundred years ago, the reforms and rights for women recognised in the Qur’an would have been considered “revolutionary” (Othman, 1999,  181).

Provisions for the protection of the well-being of the girl-child. Qur’anic injunctions condemn practices that adversely affect the wellbeing and rights of the girl-child. For example, one verse in the Qur’an condemns the practice of female infanticide. “When the female (infant), Buried alive, is questioned - For what crime She was killed; [81:8-9,].

Recognition of the importance of education for men and women. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: “The search for knowledge is an obligation laid on every Muslim” [Hadith, Book II, Knowledge,]. The word every is generally interpreted as including men and women and this Hadith is interpreted by many scholars as implying that there is an obligation on all Muslims - girls and boys, men and women - to pursue their education as far as possible. In addition, the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have made arrangements for the education of women as well as men and to have encouraged the education of people from all social strata, including the education of slave girls [Hadith, Book III, Knowledge, 4-5: translation in Ali (n.d, 33-34)].

Obligations to assist. Islam places a great emphasis on social and economic justice and the Qur’an introduced far-reaching rights and obligations to protect the interests of the poor, needy and vulnerable. For example, the rights of orphans to identity and inheritance are protected and one Qur’anic verse states: “And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy)” [51:19]. The Qur’an encourages assistance for vulnerable and poor groups such as orphans, the needy and the travelling homeless (eg 2.215) and the obligation to assist members of the wider community is institutionalised through the duty of poor-due or zakah [2:43]. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recently highlighted the relevance of the Islamic conception of the obligation to assist to Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that " everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible" [Robinson (1998) ].

5. Othman notes that:

"Muslims past and present, from all juristic schools (Mazhab) and political persuasions,  orthodox conservatives as well as modernists, acknowledge that Islam was the earliest religion to emancipate women, giving them rights unknown to any other society at the time. They agree that the Qur'an introduced various positive reforms for women, including a woman's right to contract marriage, to divorce, and to inherit and dispose of her property as she pleases" (1999, 177-8).

On the other hand, many human rights thinkers and activists have suggested that these progressive tendencies are not reflected in certain interpretations and codifications in Shari'a Law.

For example, in Othman's view:

"Although progressive in tendency, these early ideas of the rights and status of women did not develop further, nor did they sustain any emancipating or egalitarian impetus within the interpretation of Shari'a by later generations of Muslims ... A disregard for the historical context within which the Shari'a was constructed, and for the historical character of the Shari'a itself as it was developed and applied within early and classical Islamic civilisation, has permitted fundamentalists to perpetuate in our own times a pre-modern antagonism against women" (1999, 178/172).

6. Fatima Mernissi - a feminist and a founding member of the Moroccan Organisation for Human Rights - is a leading proponent of the view that Islamic ideas and traditions provide rich foundations for ideas of gender equality and the human rights of women. She has expressed the view that:

"... Muslim women can walk into the modern world with pride, knowing that the quest for dignity, democracy, and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs for our country, stems from no imported Western values, but is a true part of the Muslim tradition ... Ample historical evidence portrays women in the Prophet's Medina raising their heads from slavery and violence to claim their right to join, as equal participants, in the making of their Arab history. Women fled aristocratic tribal Mecca by the thousands to enter Medina, the Prophet's city in the seventh century, because Islam promised equality and dignity for all, for men and women, masters and servants. Every woman who came to Medina when the Prophet was the political leader of Muslims could gain access to full citizenship, the status of Sahabi, Companion of the Prophet. Muslims can take pride that in their language they have the feminine of that word, Sahabiyat, women who enjoyed the right to enter into the councils of the Muslim Umma, to speak freely to its Prophet-leader, to dispute with the men, to fight for their happiness, and to be involved in the management of military and political affairs. The evidence is there in the works of religious history, in the biographical details of Sahabiyat by the thousands who built Muslim society side by side with their male counterparts" (1991, viii).

7. The words of the late Ayatollayh Taleghani, a prominent Iranian cleric

“The most dangerous of all forms of oppression are laws and restrictions forcibly imposed on people in the name of religion. This is what the Monks, through collaboration with the ruling classes, did with all the people in the name of religion. This is the most dangerous of all impositions, because that which is not from God is thrust upon the people to enslave and suppress them and prevent them from evolving, depriving them of the right to protest, criticise and be free. These very chains and shackles are the ones which the Prophet [Muhammad] came to destroy. Islam is an invitation to peace and freedom. Let us keep aside opportunism, group interests, forcible imposition of ideas and, God forbid, dictatorships under the cover of religion. [Let us] raise our voices with the toiling, oppressed, the deprived masses. Islam as we know it, the Islam which originates from the [Qur’an] and the traditions of Prophet, does not restrict freedom. Any group that wants to restrict people’s freedom, [the freedom] to criticise, protest, discuss and debate does not comprehend Islam”. Cited in Mayer (1999, 25).

The Pact of 'Umar

We heard from 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghanam [died 78/697] as follows: When Umar ibn al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, accorded a peace to the Christians of Syria, we wrote to him as follows:

In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. This is a letter to the servant of God Umar [Ibn al-Khattab], Commander of the Faithful, from the Christians of such-and-such a city. When you came against us, we asked you for safe-conduct (Aman) for ourselves, our descendants, our property, and the people of our community, and we undertook the following obligations toward you:

We shall not build, in our cities or in their neighbourhood, new monasteries, Churches, convents, or monks' cells, nor shall we repair, by day or by night, such of them as fall in ruins or are situated in the quarters of the Muslims.

We shall keep our gates wide open for passersby and travellers. We shall give board and lodging to all Muslims who pass our way for three days.

We shall not give shelter in our churches or in our dwellings to any spy, nor bide him from the Muslims.

We shall not teach the Qur'an to our children.

We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it. We shall not prevent any of our kin from entering Islam if they wish it.

We shall show respect toward the Muslims, and we shall rise from our seats when they wish to sit.

We shall not seek to resemble the Muslims by imitating any of their garments, the qalansuwa, the turban, footwear, or the parting of the hair. We shall not speak as they do, nor shall we adopt their kunyas.

We shall not mount on saddles, nor shall we gird swords nor bear any kind of arms nor carry them on our- persons.

We shall not engrave Arabic inscriptions on our seals.

We shall not sell fermented drinks.

We shall clip the fronts of our heads.

We shall always dress in the same way wherever we may be, and we shall bind the zunar round our waists

We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims. We shall use only clappers in our churches very softly. We shall not raise our voices when following our dead. We shall not show lights on any of the roads of the Muslims or in their markets. We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims.

We shall not take slaves who have been allotted to Muslims.

We shall not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.

(When I brought the letter to Umar, may God be pleased with him, he added, "We shall not strike a Muslim.")

We accept these conditions for ourselves and for the people of our community, and in return we receive safe-conduct.

If we in any way violate these undertakings for which we ourselves stand surety, we forfeit our covenant [dhimma], and we become liable to the penalties for contumacy and sedition.

Umar ibn al-Khattab replied: Sign what they ask, but add two clauses and impose them in addition to those which they have undertaken. They are: "They shall not buy anyone made prisoner by the Muslims," and "Whoever strikes a Muslim with deliberate intent shall forfeit the protection of this pact."  from Al-Turtushi, Siraj al-Muluk, pp. 229-230.

This was a from hand out at an Islamic History Class at the University of Edinburgh in 1979. Source of translation not given.]


Umar’s Assurance to the People of Aelia ( At Tabari Version)

In the name God, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate. This is the Assurance of safety [ Aman ] which the worshipper of God [ the second caliph ] Umar [ Ibn al-Khattab ] , the Commander of the Faithful, has granted to the people of Aelia. He has granted them an Assurance of safety [Aman ] for their lives and possessions, their churches and crosses ; the sick and the healthy [ to everyone without exception ] ; and for the rest of its religious communities. Their churches will not be inhabited [taken over ] nor destroyed [ by Muslims ]. Neither they, nor the land, on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their possessions will be encroached upon or partly seized. The people will not be compelled [ yakrahuna ] in religion, nor any one of them be maltreated [ yadarruna ]. No Jews should reside with them in Aelia. The people of Aelia must pay the Jiziyah tax like ahl al-Mada’in the people of the [ other ] region / cities, they must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. As for those [ the First Byzantine Group ] who will leave [ Aelia ] , their lives and possessions shall be safeguarded until they reach the place of safety, and as for those [ the second Byzantine Group ] who [ choose to ] remain, they will be safe. They will have to pay tax like the people of Aelia. Those people of Aelia who would like to leave with the Byzantines, take their possessions and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until they reach their place of safety. Whosoever was in Aelia from the people of the land [ e.g. , refugees from the villages who sought refuge in Aelia ] before the murder of fulan may remain in Aelia if they wish, but they must pay tax like the people of Aelia. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines, and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing will be taken from them until their harvest has been reaped. The contents of this Assurance of safety are under the covenant of God, are the responsibilities of His prophet, of the Caliphs, and of the Faithful if [ the people of Aelia ] pay the tax according to their obligations. The persons who attest to it are: Khalid Ibn al-Walid, Amr Ibn al-‘As, Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf, and Mu’awiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan. This Assurance of safety was written and prepared in the year 15 [AH ].


Speech Human Rights in Islam given in 1987,

With the formation of the UN after the Second World War and the subsequent drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a concrete model came into existence as a result of this emphasis that can serve as a criterion and basis of our judgment and analysis of the ideals voiced in this regard during the last two hundred years and especially in the last few decades. We Muslims, of course, know it very well that if the Western world and the Western civilizations have paid attention to this matter in the recent centuries, Islam has dealt with it from all the various aspects many centuries back. The idea of human rights as a fundamental principle can be seen to underlie throughout Islamic teachings. And this does not need any elaboration for a Muslim audience. That the verses of the Quran and the traditions handed down from the Prophet (SA) and the Imams of his Household (AS), each one of them emphasizes the fundamental rights of man something which has caught the attention of men in recent years-- is known to Muslims, and there is no need for the scholars to be reminded about this fact. However, I would say, that today it is big responsibility on the shoulders of the Islamic society to make this reality known to the world.

13. Islam and the Rights of Minorities, by Maulana Aslam Qadri


In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (s) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.

An English translation of that document is presented below.

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them.

Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.

The Muslims are to fight for them.

If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

From Abdullahi An Naim,“ The Best of Times and the Worst of Times: Human Agency and Human Rights in Islamic Societies“ , Muslim World Journal of Human Rights, 1(2004): 1-12.

On The Right to Be Different In the Quran


The reality and permanence of difference among all human beings, Muslims and non-Muslim alike, is expressly affirmed in the Qur’an in, for example, Chapter 10 verse 93;  Chapter 11 verses 118-119 ; Chapter 32 verse 25 ; and Chapter 45 verse 17.  That is one reason why the protection of such human rights like freedom of belief, opinion and expression, is imperative from an Islamic point of view, p.3.

Various Charters And Declarations Singed By Muslim States Relevant To HR

1. The Arab Charter on Human Rights, 

2. The Charter of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC),

3. The OIC Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam; and

4. The OIC Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam,

All of these respectively make references to Islam as a relevant factor in the human rights discourse in the Muslim world.

From Cairo Declaration on HR in Islam that resonate most with UNHRC:


Believing that fundamental rights and universal freedoms in Islam are an integral part of the Islamic religion and that no one as a matter of principle has the right to suspend them in whole or in part or violate or ignore them in as much as they are binding divine commandments, which are contained in the Revealed Books of God and were sent through the last of His Prophets to complete the preceding divine messages thereby making their observance an act of worship and their neglect or violation an abominable sin, and accordingly every person is individually responsible - and the Ummah collectively responsible - for their safeguard.


(a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of race, color, language, sex, religious belief, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True faith is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human perfection.

(b)All human beings are God's subjects, and the most loved by Him are those who are most useful to the rest of His subjects, and no one has superiority over another except on the basis of piety and good deeds.


(a) Life is a God-given gift and the right to life is guaranteed to every human being. It is the duty of individuals, societies and states to protect this right from any violation, and it is prohibited to take away life except for a Shari'ah prescribed reason.

(b) It is forbidden to resort to such means as may result in the genocidal annihilation of mankind.

(c) The preservation of human life throughout the term of time willed by God is a duty prescribed by Shari'ah

(d) Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right. It is the duty of the state to safeguard it, and it is prohibited to breach it without a Sharia-prescribed reason.


(a) In the event of the use of force and in case of armed conflict, it is not permissible to kill non-belligerents such as old man, women and children. The wounded and the sick shall have the right to medical treatment; and prisoners of war shall have the right to be fed, sheltered and clothed. It is prohibited to mutilate dead bodies. It is a duty to exchange prisoners of war and to arrange visits or reunions of the families separated by the circumstances of war.

(b) It is prohibited to fell trees, to damage crops or livestock, and to destroy the enemy's civilian buildings and installations by shelling, blasting or any other means.


Every human being is entitled to inviolability and the protection of his good name and honor during his life and after his death. The state and society shall protect his remains and burial place.


(a) The family is the foundation of society, and marriage is the basis of its formation. Men and women have the right to marriage, and no restrictions stemming from race, color or nationality shall prevent them from enjoying this right.


(a) Everyone shall have the right to live in security for himself, his religion, his dependents, his honor and his property.

(b) Everyone shall have the right to privacy in the conduct of his private affairs, in his home, among his family, with regard to his property and his relationships. It is not permitted to spy on him, to place him under surveillance or to besmirch his good name. The State shall protect him from arbitrary interference.

(c) A private residence is inviolable in all cases. It will not be entered without permission from its inhabitants or in any unlawful manner, nor shall it be demolished or confiscated and its dwellers evicted.


(a) All individuals are equal before the law, without distinction between the ruler and the ruled.

(b) The right to resort to justice is guaranteed to everyone.

(c) Liability is in essence personal.

(d) There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari'ah

(e) A defendant is innocent until his guilt is proven in a fair trial in which he shall be given all the guarantees of defence.


It is not permitted without legitimate reason to arrest an individual, or restrict his freedom, to exile or to punish him. It is not permitted to subject him to physical or psychological torture or to any form of humiliation, cruelty or indignity. Nor is it permitted to subject an individual to medical or scientific experimentation without his consent or at the risk of his health or of his life. Nor is it permitted to promulgate emergency laws that would provide executive authority for such actions.

From Mashood Baderin,“ Islam and the Realization of Human Rights in the Muslim World: A Reflection on Two Essential Approaches and Two Divergent Perspectives „ The Muslim  World Journal of Human Rights ,4 (2007): 1-25.

Islamic historical accounts indicate that Prophet Muhammad had participated in an organisation called Hilf al-Fudūl (League of Excellence) in Mecca around 590CE as a young man before his call to prophethood.  The League undertook the task of intervening and protecting the interest of the oppressed and victims of injustice in any transaction involving the chieftains and the powerful people in Mecca at that time. He is reported to said, about the League, after his prophethood many years later, that it was a League he loved to join and if he were to be ‘invited to have a hand in it even after the advent of Islam, [he] would have undoubtedly joined again’.  The Hilf al-Fudūl League has been described as the first human rights NGO in Islamic history.

From Mashood Baderin, International Human Rights and Islamic Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)

On Compatibility between Islam and HR


The sources and methods of Islamic Law contain common principles of good government and human welfare that validate modern international human rights ideals“,  p.13

Respect for justice, protection of human life and dignity are central principles inherent in the Shari'ah which no differences of opinion can exclude. They are the overall purpose of Shari’ah, to which the Qur'an refers.,p. 13.

From Ebrahim Moosa, “The Dilemma of Islamic Rights Schemes,  Journal of Law and Religion, 40 (2000-. 2001), 185-215.

-Cites the response of caliph Umar who was informed that the son of his governor in Egypt ‘Amr bin Al ‘As chastised an Egyptian Copt during a sporting game without there being a corrective justice from the governor himself, the caliph uttered the following words: Since when have you enslaved people , oh Amr, when their mothers had given birth to them in freedom? , 188. -cites Al Ghanushi who said the following:

A comparison between the principals of human rights in Islam and the modern human rights charters discloses that there is a large area of commonality, with few exceptions, which is the reason why the universal declaration of human rights, for example, in its general thrust- is so widely received by the Muslim who has a good understanding of his religion. ,

From Riffat Hassan, “Are Human Rights Compatible with Islam?”

Summary of General Rights of In the Quran

General Rights

A. Right to Life

The Qur'an upholds the sanctity and absolute value of human life  and points out that, in essence, the life of each individual is comparable to that of an entire community and, therefore, should be treated with the utmost care. 

B. Right to Respect

The Qur'an deems all human beings to be worthy of respect  because of all creation they alone chose to accept the "trust" of freedom of the will . Human beings can exercise freedom of the will because they possess the rational faculty, which is what distinguishes them from all other creatures . Though human beings can become "the lowest of the lowest", the Qur'an declares that they have been made "in the best of moulds" , having the ability to think, to have knowledge of right and wrong, to do the good and to avoid the evil. Thus, on account of the promise which is contained in being human, namely, the potential to be God's vicegerent on earth, the humanness of all human beings is to be respected and considered to be an end in itself.

C. Right to Justice

The Qur'an puts great emphasis on the right to seek justice and the duty to do justice. In the context of justice, the Qur'an uses two concepts: "'Adl" and "Ihsan". Both are enjoined and both are related to the idea of "balance", but they are not identical in meaning.

"'Adl" is defined by A.A.A. Fyzee, a well-known scholar of Islam, as "to be equal, neither more nor less." Explaining this concept, Fyzee wrote: " a Court of Justice the claims of the two parties must be considered evenly, without undue stress being laid upon one side or the other. Justice introduces the balance in the form of scales that are evenly balanced."  . "'Adl" was described in similar terms by Abu'l Kalam Azad, a famous translator of the Qur'an and a noted writer, who stated: "What is justice but the avoiding of excess? There should be neither too much nor too little; hence the use of scales as the emblems of justice" . Lest anyone try to do too much or too little, the Qur'an points out that no human being can carry another's burden or attain anything without striving for it. 

Recognizing individual merit is a part of "'adl", The Qur'an teaches that merit is not determined by lineage, sex, wealth, worldly success or religion, but by righteousness, which consists of both right "belief" ("Iman") and just "action" (" 'Amal") . Further, the Qur'an distinguishes between passive believers and those who strive in the cause of God pointing out that though all believers are promised good by God, the latter will be exalted above the former.

Just as it is in the spirit of "'adl" that special merit be considered in the matter of rewards, so also special circumstances are to be considered in the matter of punishments. For instance, for crimes of unchastely the Qur'an prescribes identical punishments for a man or a woman who is proved guilty , but it differentiates between different classes of women: for the same crime, a slave woman would receive half, and the Prophet's consort double, the punishment given to a "free" Muslim woman . In making such a distinction, the Qur'an while upholding high moral standards, particularly in the case of the Prophet's wives whose actions have a normative significance for the community, reflects God's compassion for women slaves who were socially disadvantaged.

While constantly enjoining "'adl", the Qur'an goes beyond this concept to "ihsan", which literally means, "restoring the balance by making up a loss or deficiency" . In order to understand this concept, it is necessary to understand the nature of the ideal society or community ("Ummah") envisaged by the Qur'an. The word "Ummah" comes from the root "umm", or "mother". The symbols of a mother and motherly love and compassion are also linked with the two attributes most characteristic of God, namely, "Rahim" and "Rahman", both of which are derived from the root "Rahm", meaning "womb". The ideal "Ummah" cares about all its members just as an ideal mother cares about all her children, knowing that all are not equal and that each has different needs. While showing undue favour to any child would be unjust, a mother who gives to a "handicapped" child more than she does to her other child or children is not acting unjustly but exemplifying the spirit of "ihsan" by helping to make up the deficiency of a child who need special assistance in meeting the requirements of life. "Ihsan", thus, shows God's sympathy for the disadvantaged segments of human society (such as women, orphans, slaves, the poor, the infirm, and the minorities)

D. Right to Freedom

As stated earlier, the Qur'an is deeply concerned about liberating human beings from every kind of bondage. Recognizing the human tendency toward dictatorship and despotism, the Qur'an says with clarity and emphasis in Surah 3: Al-'Imran: 79:

It is not (possible) That a man, to whom Is given the Book, and Wisdom,  And the Prophetic Office,  Should say to people: "Be ye my worshippers Rather than Allah's" On the contrary (He would say): "Be ye worshippers Of Him Who is truly The Cherisher of all."

The institution of human slavery is, of course, extremely important in the context of human freedom. Slavery was widely prevalent in Arabia at the time of the advent of Islam, and the Arab economy was based on it. Not only did the Qur'an insist that slaves be treated in a just and humane way, but it continually urged the freeing of slaves . By laying down, in Surah 47: Muhammad: 4, that prisoners of war were to be set free, "either by an act of grace or against ransom"  , the Qur'an virtually abolished slavery since "The major source of slaves - men and women - was prisoners of war" . Because the Qur'an does not state explicitly that slavery is abolished, it does not follow that it is to be continued, particularly in view of the numerous ways in which the Qur'an seeks to eliminate this absolute evil. A Book which does not give a king or a prophet the right to command absolute obedience from another human being could not possibly sanction slavery in any sense of the word.

The greatest guarantee of personal freedom for a Muslim lies in the Qur'anic decree that no one other than God can limit human freedom and in the statement that "Judgment (as to what is right and what is wrong) rests with God alone"  . As pointed out by Khalid M. Ishaque, an eminent Pakistani jurist:

The Qur'an Gives To Responsible Dissent The Status Of A Fundamental Right.

In exercise of their powers, therefore, neither the legislature nor the executive can demand unquestioning obedience...The Prophet, even though he was the recipient of Divine revelation, was required to consult the Muslims in public affairs. Allah addressing the Prophet says:

"...and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And...when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah" .

Since the principle of mutual consultation ("Shura") is mandatory, it is a Muslim's fundamental right, as well as responsibility, to participate in as many aspects of the community's life as possible. The Qur'anic proclamation in Surah 2: Al-Baqura: 256, "There shall be no coercion in matters of faith" guarantees freedom of religion and worship. This means that, according to Qur'anic teaching, non-Muslims living in Muslim territories should have the freedom to follow their own faith-traditions without fear or harassment. A number of Qur'anic passages state clearly that the responsibility of the Prophet Muhammad is to communicate the message of God and not to compel anyone to believe. The right to exercise free choice in matters of belief is unambiguously endorsed by the Qur'an  which also states clearly that God will judge human beings not on the basis of what they profess but on the basis of their belief and righteous conduct , as indicated by Surah 2: Al-Baqura: 62 which says:

Those who believe (in the Qur'an) And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), And the Christians and the Sabians,  Any who believe in God And the Last Day, And work righteousness,  Shall have their reward With the Lord: on them Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

The Qur'an recognizes the right to religious freedom not only in the case of other believers in God, but also in the case of not-believers in God (if they are not aggressing upon Muslims) .

In the context of the human right to exercise religious freedom, it is important to mention that the Qur'anic dictum, "Let there be no compulsion in religion"  applies not only to non- Muslims but also to Muslims. While those who renounced Islam after professing it and then engaged in "acts of war" against Muslims were to be treated as enemies and aggressors, the Qur'an does not prescribe any punishment for non-profession or renunciation of faith. The decision regarding a person's ultimate destiny in the hereafter rests with God.

The right to freedom includes the right to be free to tell the truth. The Qur'anic term for truth is "Haqq" which is also one of God's most important attributes. Standing up for the truth is a right and a responsibility which a Muslim may not disclaim even in the face of the greatest danger or difficulty. While the Qur'an commands believers to testify to the truth, it also instructs society not to harm persons so testifying.

E. Right to Acquire Knowledge

The Qur'an puts the highest emphasis on the importance of acquiring knowledge. That knowledge has been at the core of the Islamic world-view from the very beginning is attested to by Surah 96: Al' Alaq: 1-5, which Muslims believe to the first revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad.

Asking rhetorically if those without knowledge can be equal to those with knowledge , the Qur'an exhorts believers to pray for advancement in knowledge . The famous prayer of the Prophet Muhammad was "Allah grant me Knowledge of the ultimate nature of things" and one of the best known of all traditions ("Ahadith") is "Seek knowledge even though it be in China."

According to Qur'anic perspective, knowledge is a prerequisite for the creation of a just world in which authentic peace can prevail. The Qur'an emphasizes the importance of the pursuit of learning even at the time, and in the midst, of war.

F. Right to Sustenance

As pointed out by Surah 11: Hud: 6, every living creature depends for its sustenance upon God. A cardinal concept in the Qur'an - which underlies the socio-economic-political system of Islam - is that the ownership of everything belongs, not to any person, but to God. Since God is the universal creator, every creature has the right to partake of what belongs to God . This means that every human being has the right to a means of living and that those who hold economic or political power do not have the right to deprive others of the basic necessities of life by misappropriating or misusing resources which have been created by God for the benefit of humanity in general.

G. Right to Work

According to Qur'anic teaching every man and woman has the right to work, whether the work consists of gainful employment or voluntary service. The fruits of labour belong to the one who has worked for them - regardless of whether it is a man or a woman. As Surah 4: An-Nisa': 32 states: men

Is allotted what they earn,

And to women what they earn

H. Right to Privacy

The Qur'an recognizes the need for privacy as a human right and lays down rules for protecting an individual's life in the home from undue intrusion from within or without .

I. Right to Protection from Slander, Backbiting, and Ridicule

The Qur'an recognizes the right of human beings to be protected from defamation, sarcasm, offensive nicknames, and backbiting  . It also states that no person is to be maligned on grounds of assumed guilt and that those who engage in malicious scandal-mongering will be grievously punished in both this world and the next. 

J. Right to Develop One's Aesthetic Sensibilities and Enjoy the Bounties Created by God

As pointed out Muhammad Asad, "By declaring that all good and beautiful things to the believers, the Qur’an condemns, by implication, all forms of life-denying asceticism, world- renunciation and self-mortification. In fact, it can be stated that the right to develop one's aesthetic sensibilities so that one can appreciate beauty in all its forms, and the right to enjoy what God has provided for the nurture of humankind, are rooted in the life-affirming vision of the Qur'an.

K. Right to Leave One's Homeland under Oppressive Conditions

According to Qur'anic teaching, a Muslim's ultimate loyalty must be to God and not to any territory. To fulfil his Prophetic mission, the Prophet Muhammad decided to leave his place of birth, Mecca, and immigrated to Medina. This event ("Hijrah") has great historical and spiritual significance for Muslims who are called upon to move away from their place of origin of it becomes an abode of evil and oppression where they cannot fulfil their obligations to God or establish justice. 

L. Right to "The Good Life"

The Qur'an uphold the right of the human being only to life but to " the good life ". This good life, made up of many elements, becomes possible when a human being is living in a just environment. According to Qur'anic teaching, justice is a prerequisite for peace, and peace is a prerequisite for human development. In a just society, all the earlier-mentioned human rights may be exercised without difficulty. In such a society other basic rights such as the right to a secure place of residence, the right to the protection of one's personal possessions, the right to protection of one's covenants, the right to move freely, the right to social and judicial autonomy for minorities, the right to the protection of one's holy places and the right to return to one's spiritual centre, also exist.

From Heidi Morrison, „Beyond Universalism“, Muslim World Journal of Human Rights, 1(2004):1-21.


Al- Marzouqi argues that the modern concept of human rights not only has an equivalent in Islamic law but also is, broadly speaking, its fundamental purpose. He investigates how human rights under Islamic law are processed in a framework based on four cornerstones: freedom, rights, justice, and morality. Islam, in its legal and moral sense, is detailed, compassionate, and flexible enough to respond to the progressive needs and demands of mankind for more human rights and honourable happiness. , p.5

Ahmad Moussalli

Moussalli investigates how the basic classical and medieval Islamic doctrines are not contradictory to, but in fact, include the seeds of, modern liberal Western democracy, pluralism, and human rights. Bearing in mind the difference between Islam as a divine belief system and the Islamic state as a humanly developed political system, Moussalli argues that Islamic thought has long viewed itself as more equitable, less racial, and more humane than Western political thought. ,p.5 An-Nazim

argues that Shari’a (Islamic law), as historically developed and understood by Muslims, is based on the specific experience of the seventh century Muslim community in Medina and that while it may have been appropriate for medieval times, it can be transformed for modern times. According to An-Na’im, once it is appreciated that Shari’a was constructed by its founding jurists, then it is possible to think about reconstructing certain aspects of Shari’a, provided that such reconstruction is based on the same fundamental sources of Islam (namely, the Qur’an and the Sunna). This reconstruction would reveal similarities to modern concepts of constitutional order, criminal justice, international relations, and human rights. , p.6. From Shadi Mokhtari,“ The Search for Human Rights Within an Islamic Framework in Iran”, Muslim World, 94( 2004): 469–479

 In relation to reinterpretation of Shariah by Iranian intellectuals who argue for compatibility of Islam and HR 

Broadly, the arguments being formulated by reformist jurists and intellectuals that are of relevance to human rights encompass the following:

• Islam and human rights are not inherently incompatible.

• The essence and most fundamental principles of Islam are grounded in notions of respect for human dignity and human rights.

• Islamic law should be interpreted in accordance with the exigencies of time, place, and context in any given society, and Islamic jurisprudence must be dynamic.

• Jurisprudence is not synonymous with Shari ah, instead Shariah should be defined more broadly and holistically.

• The relationship between the individual and God is direct.

• Divine will and human agency are not mutually exclusive., p.472

On the impact of this reformist school:

-Shariah and notions of Islamic government interpreted in line with contemporary thought and knowledge including international human rights norms are not only just as authentic as other interpretations, they enjoy greater justification based on their moral and ethical foundations., p.473

- jurist crucial to the Iranian debate over human rights in Islam ayatollah Mohammad Mussavi Bojnordi, Head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission contends broadly that Islam prescribes its adherents to do that which is good, moral and in the best interests of society, and prohibits Muslims from doing that which is undesirable. Yet, religion does not determine what specifically constitutes the good and the undesirable. Islam provides only a number of core principles, such as adherence to justice, which form the parameters for human determinations of what constitutes good and undesirable conduct in a given time, place, and societal context.,p.474

-Bojnourdi maintains that Muslims can look beyond the Muslim world to the opinions of international intellectual elites (oqala), parting with the long-held conservative contention that international human rights norms are Western, and thus un-Islamic. For example, he states, “At one time lashing (as punishment) was accepted, but today it is discussed as torture. So we cannot come and say that our shari’ah, which is based on justice and ethics, accepts something that all of the major thinkers of the world consider torture.”,p.474.

Monshipouri, Mahmood (2010) "Review of Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights," Muslim World Journal of Human Rights,  7(2010):1-7.

-Sachedina argues that modern notions of liberty, pluralism, and human rights have their antecedents in the authoritative theological and legal traditions of Islam.

- Sachedina advocates a major epistemic shift—from a juridical to a theological-ontological status of human personhood—as a key condition for the development of human rights discourse in the Muslim world (p. 23). He believes that the difference between secular humanist conceptualization of human rights and that of Muslim traditionalists is not dialectical but one of perspective.


“Islamic political theology based on the central doctrine of a just and merciful God bound by His own moral essence to guide humanity to create a just public order can serve as the major theological-ethical foundation for human rights and its prerequisite, namely, democratic governance in Muslim societies” (p. 25).

- writes that Islamic civilization was deeply committed to peaceful intercommoned relations, and that at the core of Islam’s message was a concern with developing just and fair relationships among people. 

- Sachedina asserts that Islamic theology—not Islamic law—is a logical point of departure in searching for human rights foundations in Islam (p. 87). “If traditionalist Muslim scholars can be convinced of the authenticity of natural law in Islamic theological ethics,” Sachedina writes, “then human rights discourse in the Muslim world can be based on this foundational doctrine, which treats human equality as its first and essential tenet” (pp. 113-114).

-He supports the idea of natural law by using the Qur'anic story of the genesis, the concept of Khilafah, Amana, ma'ruf, Fitrah, and karama.


- it is the investigation of the ethical underpinnings of the revealed texts that can usher in the necessary reform of these laws to meet the universal standards recognized in human rights norms.,p.52.


Islamic religious thought is based on the human ability to know right from wrong. Through God’s special endowment for all of humanity, each and every person on earth is endowed with a nature (fit:ra), the receptacle for intuitive reason, that guides humanity to its spiritual and moral well-being. On this notion of divine endowment, moral cognition is innate to human nature and gives human beings the capability to discern moral law. There is no discussion of natural law or natural rights in Muslim theology. But the Qur’anic notion of universal morality with which all human beings are blessed and held accountable to God, regardless of their particular faith commitment or even lack of it, as I will elaborate in chapter 3, makes it legitimate to speak about Islamic idea of natural law. The moral law that is discernible through the naturally endowed minimal knowledge of good and evil, then, is universal and can be discovered by all due to the simple fact of sharing a common humanity through creation. p.52.

Summary of Main Argument:

The thesis that is to be propounded in this chapter, that Islamic and secular presuppositions about universal human rights are in agreement about innate human dignity, human moral agency, and the role intuitive reason plays in ethical cognition, received its main thrust from my argument founded upon comprehensive doctrine about God’s purposive creation with political implications.,p.53.

Shabestari View on Islam And HR

Roman Seidel in his article Mohammad Shabestari : Faith,, Freedom and Reason, gives a summary of Shabestari's view on Islam and HR:

In Shabestari's view human rights and democracy are in keeping with Islam not because they have been dictated by the Koran or prophetic tradition or legitimized by the Shariah but because they are sensible and contemporary interpretations of just rule ,


Kadivar considers that accepting the idea of human rights is not submission to the West but a submission to the norms of human reason and justice( ,2002 ,5105-5109)


-considers that human rights are dictated by reason and therefore cannot be in conflict with religion because God's will cannot be unreasonable.


Mohammed Abed AL Jabri, Democracy, human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought ( IB Tauris,2008)

This is how that [between human rights and Islam] correspondence may be addressed in this connection:

(i) The European philosophers used the principle, or the premise, of ‘correspondence’ between the ‘natural and rational systems’ to make the mind the ultimate authority and the first and last arbiter. I believe this kind of correspondence can be seen in the Islamic call and in the Quran, in particular. The Quran has urged its audience over and over again to meditate upon the system of nature and derive there from the correct conclusions (i.e. the existence of a Creator who alone has to be followed, disregarding all other authorities). Those admonitions are often concluded by expressions suggesting that the natural system is, itself, the rational system, or at least they indicate and stress that meaning:

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies and the life. He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds trailed between the sky and the earth, [here] indeed are signs for people that are wise (2, al-Baqura, 164).

The system of nature here (i.e. the heavens and earth, day and night) are signs the significance and indications of which are grasped by the mind. It is obvious that the mind could not realize the significance of the natural system if its own system were not correspondent to the system of nature, or if its judgments did not correspond with the laws of nature. The European philosophers themselves declared that God made the natural system and the rational system in such correspondence and harmony.

On the other hand, we find the Quran using the mind (al-aql), over and over again, as an arbiter and authority, reproaching those who submit to imitating tradition (al-taqlid) and calling on them to follow the judgment of the mind alone:

They said, ‘We worship our idols, and we remain in constant attendance to them.’ He said, ‘Do they listen to you when you call [on them]. Or do they benefit you or harm you?’ They said, ‘No, but we found our fathers doing thus [what we do]’ (26, al-Shura , 71–4).

(ii) This call to follow reason and leave aside traditions and conventions, guided by the signs of the universe (the natural system), is coupled in the Quranic discourse with a call to return to al-Fitrah (innate nature). Islam is the ‘religion al-Fitrah’ (the religion of innate nature). The Arabic Fitrah is almost identical, in Quranic discourse, with the concept of the ‘natural state’ [in European thought]:

So, set up your face steadfastly and truly to the faith; the Fitrah of Allah upon which he created (fatara) the human being. There is no change in the creation of Allah. That is the upright religion, but most people know not (30, Al- Rum, 30).

The ‘upright faith’ (al din  al-qayyim) or the ‘pious religion’ (al din al Hanif ) or the ‘religion of al-Fitrah’ is the religion of Abraham preceding the religions – the Jewish and Christian – which were being practised in the Arabian peninsula prior to the call of Muhammad on the basis of [the Quranic text]:

‘Abraham was neither a Jew or a Christian, but he was true [in faith] (han∞fan), a Muslim [one who submits to Allah] , and he was not of those who worshipped [other things] in partnership’ (3, Al Imran , 67). The faith of Abraham is Islam itself, which is the only religion accepted by Allah: ‘The religion with AllAh is Islam [i.e. submission to His Will]’ (3,Al Imran , 14). Islam is the religion of al-Fitrah, it is the right religion, as it covers:

What has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in [the books] given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah we bow our will [in Islam]. If anyone desires a religion other than Islam [submission to Allah], never will it be accepted of him, (3, Al Imran , 84–5).

What is meant by ‘Islam’ is the faith of Abraham, which is the origin of every religion, and it is prior to any religious controversy, as it is the religion of al Fitrah : ‘Nor did the People of the Book dissent there from except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them’ (3,Al Imran , 19).1

There is, therefore, a justification in comparing the ‘state of al-Fitrah’ in the Quranic sense with the ‘natural state’ on which European philosophers of the eighteenth century based the concept of human rights and its modern connotations. This comparison can be augmented by quoting other Quranic verses: ‘Mankind was but one nation but they differed [later]’ (10, Younis, 19); also, ‘Mankind was one single nation, and Allah sent messengers with glad tidings and warnings’ (2, al-Baqura, 213). We can also refer to the famous Hadith: ‘Every newborn is born according to al Fitrah (innate nature). His parents turn him Jewish, Christian, or Magian.’ p.184-185


From Mashood A. Baderin, „Establishing Areas of Common Ground between Islamic Law and International Human Rights“, The International Journal of Human Rights, 5, (2001),72-113.

-the term Huquq al adamiyya was used in the 11th century by Al  Mawardi in the context of the ruling authority having to protect and ensure certain rights to individulas,p.85.

-identifies the following divine principles of Islam relevant to human rights:

Major moral principles that serve as basic postulates for the concept of human rights can be listed as “dignity (karamah), freedom (hurriyah), humaneness (insaniyah), equality (Musawaat), beneficence (Ihsan), responsibility (masuliyyah), co-operation (ta’awun) and justice (Abdallah). [They] evolved, and were embodied in the general doctrine of Islamic theology, law and governance.,p.86

Origins of HR in Quran

Quotes Briffault who asserted the following:

The ideals of freedom for all human beings, of human brotherhood, of the equality of all men before the law, of democratic government by consultation and universal suffrage, the ideals that inspired the French Revolution and the Declaration of Rights, that guided the framing of the American Constitution and inflamed the struggle for independence in the Latin American countries were not innovations of the West. They find their ultimate inspiration and source in the Holy Quran. They are the quintessence of what the intelligentsia of Medieval Europe acquired from Islam over a period of centuries through the various channels of Muslim Spain, Sicily, the Crusader; and of the ideals propagated by the various societies that developed in Europe in the wake of the Crusades in imitation of the brotherhood associations of islam,p.86. 

-gives example of individual rights to challenge state legislation when it infringes their legal rights at time of caliph Umar when a women protested against caliph  Umar's decision to limit the amount of dowry to 400 Dirhams by saying that the Quran  had permitted  that the entire treasure (kintar) can be given to a women as dowry.,p.88.

List of Rights in Islamic Law


„The Islamic law thus confers an array of rights through many imperative injunctions of the Quran and the Sunnah. These include, inter alia, right to life, right to property, right to privacy, right to justice, right to personal freedom, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of religion and conscience, right to freedom of association, right to freedom of movement, right to equality, right to education, right to housing, right to sustenance, right to asylum, right to basic needs, right to freedom of assembly, right to protest and resistance against oppression,“p.95.

-gives example of Mazalim courts that were established under the Abbasids  to protect the rights of individuals from the state as important antecedent of the idea of HR in Islam,p.97-98,102.

Interdependence of HR and Shariah


...the balance that Islamic law maintains between the individual and the State does not constitute any irreconcilable deviation from international human rights principals as it is often portrayed by many writers on the subject. Rather as the international human rights movement challenges Islamic legalists into resuscitating the dynamism of the Shari'ah , the ideals of Shari'ah also promote a more rounded and ethical enforcement of international human rights law.,p.105.

From Khaled Abou El Fadl, “The Human Rights Commitment in Modern Islam”,

On Compatibility between Islam and HR


-the Islamic tradition has generated concepts and institutions that could be utilised in a systematic effort to develop social and moral commitments to human rights., p.113

- I do believe that even if Islam has not known a human rights tradition similar to that developed in the West, it is possible, with the requisite amount of intellectual determination, analytical rigour, and social commitment, to demand and eventually construct such a tradition, p.115.

- The Qur’anic celebration and sanctification of human diversity, in addition to the juristic incorporation of the notion of human diversity into a purposeful pursuit of justice, creates various possibilities for a human rights commitment in Islam. This discourse could be appropriated into a normative stance that considers justice to be a core value that a constitutional order is bound to protect., p.144.

Some Pre Modern Antecedents of HR In Islam

-Muslim jurists developed the idea of presumption of innocence in all criminal and civil proceedings and argued that the accuser always carries the burden of proof (al-bayyina ‘ala man idda‘a). In matters related to heresy, Muslim jurists repeatedly argued that it is better to let a thousand heretics go free than to punish a single sincere Muslim wrongfully. The same principle was applied to criminal cases; the jurists argued that it is always better to release a guilty person than to run the risk of punishing an innocent person. Moreover, many jurists condemned the practice of detaining or incarcerating heterodox groups that advocate their heterodoxy (such as the Khwarij) and argued that such groups may not be harassed or molested until they carry arms and form a clear intent to rebel against the government.,

Muslim jurists also condemned the use of torture, arguing that the Prophet forbade the use of muthla (the use of mutilations) in all situations and opposed the use of coerced confessions in all legal and political matters. A large number of jurists articulated a doctrine similar to the American exculpatory doctrine; confessions or evidence obtained under coercion are inadmissible at trial. P.150-151.

- The Qur’an does not differentiate between the sanctity of a Muslim and that of a non-Muslim. It repeatedly asserts that no human being can limit the divine mercy in any way or even regulate who is entitled to it (Al-Baqarah 2:105, Al-Imran 3:74, Al-Fatir 35:2, Sad 38:9, Az-Zumar39:38, Ghafir 40:7, Zukhruf 43:32).,p.156.

Mohammed Cherif Bassiouni

Bassiouni has also referred to some relevant Islamic principles for human rights including “brotherhood, mercy and compassion.”

Mohammed Cherif Bassiouni, ‘Sources of Islamic Law, and the Protection of Human Rights In the Islamic Criminal Justice System’ in, M. Cherif Bassiouni (ed.) Th e Islamic Criminal Justice

System (Oceana Publications, Inc, London, Rome, New York, 1982), p. 13.

Dr. Adis Duderija is a Visiting Senior Lecturer, Gender Department, University Malaya is the author of Constructing a Religiously Ideal Believer and Woman in Islam, (Palgrave, 2011