The following is the transcript of a talk delivered recently to a group of lawyers and intellectuals.
وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
“We have made you an Ummah in equilibrium that you may be witness over the affairs of mankind, and the Messenger is a witness over you.” [Qur’an, 2:143]
Allah (swt) in this verse emphasizes to us our role as witnesses over mankind, the meaning of witness here is not just to witness the problems that face humanity as onlookers without doing anything – rather being witnesses here means being responsible for humanity
When we survey the problems that humanity is facing today, we see:
· The current food crisis where according to the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick: "In Bangladesh a two-kilogramme bag of rice...now consumes about half the daily income of a poor family".
· The economic situation where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where 3 billion live on less than $2 a day and 1.3 billion on less than $1 a day.
· We have increasing levels of crime - where alcoholism, drug abuse have become a norm, where women are exploited as objects of desire rather than honoured
· The strong oppress the weak, where the third world countries are strangled by IMF and World Bank loans, where wars are fought for the sake of increasing the balance sheets of the Big Corporate powers like the Oil and Defence companies in America.
· We see innocent people being killed on a mass scale – such as in Afghanistan, Iraq – where over 1 million people have died according to their own statistics since the current occupation of Iraq, the turmoil in Rwanda, etc
We need to feel the responsibility – as we have the guidance from Allah (swt) which has been revealed to resolve the problems of humanity and bring them under justice, peace and tranquility. Allah (swt) says:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have sent you (O Muhammad SAW) not but as a mercy for the 'Alamîn.” [TMQ 21:107]
Bi’isnillah, today I want to discuss how the Quran has been revealed not only as a theoretical book guidance highlighting the rights of humanity that should be secured – rather it has been revealed as a source for us to establish a system to ensure that we rule and govern by its laws and values to bring people from darkness to light, from injustice into the justice of the system of Islam
Before elaborating upon the system of Islam and how it protects the rights of human beings I want to clarify something regarding the terminology of ‘human rights’.
The term ‘Human rights’ today is an idiomatic term which carries a specific meaning, although it is claimed that it is Universal, the meaning of human rights as defined in the ‘Universal declaration of Human rights’ by the United nations in 1948 as well as in other international agreements – is linked fundamentally to the idea of freedom which emanates from secular liberal philosophy. As the famous French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau said, “Man is born free but is in chains everywhere”.
The concept of freedom is intellectually false and is by no means a universal truth. In reality we are all slaves, either to our own desires, man made laws or to Allah (swt). In Islam we are rationally convinced that Allah (swt) exists and that the Quran is the word of Allah (swt). Thus we are not free to be rebellious to our parents, nor treat women as objects as they are today where the pornography industry generates $8 billion every year in the US, a figure greater than the whole of the so-called “legitimate film and music industries” combined. Nor are we allowed to trade in intoxicants that have ruined the lives of millions around the world through alcoholism and drug addition. Issues which are perfectly fine according to the secular concept of human rights.
In Islam, we are not slaves to what man made, rather we are slaves to what made man, Allah (swt). We look to the creator of the Universe, Allah (swt) to define for us the rights of humanity and to determine for us the difference between good and bad, what should be legal and what should be illegal. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:
وَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَى أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“But it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows and you know not.” [TMQ Al-Baqara: 216]
Therefore in my view, we should use the term basic rights as it conveys the meaning we intent without having the same ideological baggage.
The rights that should be secured
When we discuss these rights, we have to discuss the method securing them practically otherwise they remain as theoretical in the pages of books and the minds of men without having any affect in reality. Islam is not a religion like Christianity or any other – it is not just a set of vague rules and a moral code, it is an ideology with a complete system of life to solve the problems of humanity. Allah (swt) says:
[وَأَنْ احْكُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ وَاحْذَرْهُمْ أَنْ يَفْتِنُوكَ عَنْ بَعْضِ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ]
“Judge between them by that which Allah has revealed and follow not their desires and beware of them lest they seduce you from some part of that which Allah has revealed to you..” [TMQ 5:49]
The system of Islam was established by the Prophet (saw) upon his migration to Madina. When he entered Madina, he entered it as its ruler. His Sunnah or example provides for us further details on how the basic rights of people were secured by the Islamic state which was known as Dar al-Hijra (land of migration) and Al-Khilafah after the death of the Prophet (saw).
Oppression and tyranny according to Islam exists when the laws of Allah (swt) are not established. Allah (swt) says:
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“Those who do not judge by whatever Allah has revealed are oppressors”. [TMQ 5: 44]
There are many rights established in the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, I will touch upon some of the key rights.
1) Securing the basic needs of human beings
The Capitalist system which is dominant the world over today although paying lip service to caring about human lives and poverty in reality focuses the economy on production and not distribution of wealth.
The Capitalist economic thought based on the works of Adam Smith views it as a problem of unlimited needs and limited resources – so they believe their must be a focus on production – this is why they law so much emphasis on the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or GNP (Gross National Product), such that the BJP launched the ‘India is shining’ campaign despite 2 thirds of the country being in poverty. They basically believe in what is known as trickle down economics, that we need to increase the size of the cake and somehow it will trickle down into everyone’s stomachs. This is obviously a fallacy, what if people can’t find work and don’t have jobs to earn income to access the resources? This is why there is huge poverty in the west where 35 million people in America are below the poverty line and 12.5 million people (nearly 1 in 4) are in the UK.
Islam views the economic problem in a radically different way than Capitalism. Islam focuses on the distribution of wealth not just the production. There are enough resources in the world to provide the basic needs for over 60 billion people according to some statistics. The problem of poverty will not be solved by producing more and more for the rich to consume rather it will be solved by ensuring that basic needs of every individual are satisfied completely. There is enough wealth in the bank accounts of the elite, such as Bill Gates, Ambani’s and Mittal’s of this world to resolve poverty. The problem today is the rich get richer and poor get poorer.
Allah (swt) emphasizes that the wealth should not circulate amongst the few, He (swt) says referring to wealth:
كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنْكُمْ
“That it does not become a commodity between the rich among you.” [TMQ Al-Hashr: 7]
وَأَطْعِمُوا الْبَائِسَ الْفَقِيرَ
“Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor who have a very hard time.” [TMQ Al-Hajj: 28]
It is the responsibility of the state to guarantee housing, clothing and food for every single citizen of the Islamic state if they are unable to achieve these for themselves and if their family are unable to provide for them. The Prophet (saw) said:
"The Son of Adam has no better right than that he would have a house wherein he may live, a piece of clothing whereby he may hide his nakedness and a piece of bread and some water." [Tirmidhi]
Islam wages a war on poverty not a fake war on terror like we have today. Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) said: “If poverty was a man, I would kill him”. The leader of the Islamic state is obliged to work to eliminate poverty.
2) The protection of innocent human life
Islam protects innocent human life, it is known as one of the Maqasid (objectives) of the Shariah. Allah (swt) says:
مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
“If anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind…” [TMQ Al-Maida: 32]
Islam doesn’t permit launching wars for the sake of corporate interests of oil and defence companies, as the Western colonial powers do. And they have the cheek to call us Muslims, terrorists!
The foreign policy of the West is based on colonialism: they are driven by corporate interests and material benefit .
o 1 million innocent deaths due to the current Iraqi occupation
o The bombing of innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan
o Millions of murdered American Red Indians
o 140,000 people killed in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by dropping of atomic bombs by America
o Economic colonization - Over 60 million preventable deaths is Africa due to unjust trade laws and economic policies in the past decade?
o British, French and Dutch colonialism – people still remember and hate these colonialists
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ
“And when it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth," they say: "We are only peacemakers." [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 11]
Yes Islam like any ideology has rules of warfare but contrary to what the media attempts to propagate Islam prohibits the killing of innocent civilians, this has been mentioned in many of the books of hadith such as Bukhari, Musnad of Ahmad and Abu Dawud. For example, Abu Dawud narrated from Anas that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Go forth in the name of Allah, with Allah and in the creed (millah) of the Messenger of Allah. Do not kill a perishing (fani) old man (shaykh), a child or a woman and do not betray.”
Islam even gave rights to prisoners of war, such that many of them used to embrace Islam after witnessing its justice. Islam made torture of prisoners haram (forbidden). In contrast we see how the Americans treat the Muslims in Guantanamo bay and Abu Ghraib.
The Islamic system has placed harsh punishment to protect the lives of people. Allah (swt) told us that there is life for us in the punishment for murder, meaning it acts as a deterrent. He (swt) says:
وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقِصَاصِ حَيَاةٌ يَا أُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ
“Verily there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding.” [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 179]
The lives of all innocent people must be protected by the Islamic state. When the Prophet (saw) was the ruler of Madina, a Muslim who had killed a Jew was brought to the Messenger of Allah (saw), so he killed him and said: “We are the worthiest in fulfilling our oath.”
3) Justice for all regardless of race, language or religion
The Capitalist system claims to provide justice for all, in reality we can see that there is institutionalized racism in the system even in America where the rights of the black community are repeatedly violated. In India, the so-called largest democracy in the world, we all know about the atrocities committed in Gujarat, event after the recent Tahelka expose – there has been no justice.
Some may think these are exceptions to the norm and that happens in any system. This is false, as in Capitalism the system is endemically corrupt this is due to the criterion of benefit and self interest (expediency). The foundation of Capitalist society is secularism, the detachment of religion from life’s affairs – they believe in utilitarianism that human beings should determine good and bad based on their desires. A founding philosopher of Secular Liberal thought, Jeremy Bentham said:
“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do…” [Bentham J., Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation]
Then it is no wonder that politics in Capitalism is synonymous with lying, cheating, corruption and scandals. Clinton’s lying under oath, or the Worldcom or Enron scandals in America were no surprise as its clear that people follow their own interests even if it violates the law. It is lethal cocktail of freedom and the criterion of benefit that had created a perverse society where in the US, a rape occurs every minute, and in the UK, one-third of women have been sexually abused by the age of 18 according to their own statistics.
The criterion for our personal behavior in Islam is not personal benefit, rather it following the commands and prohibitions of Allah (swt), the halal and the haram. Therefore in an Islamic state, the rulers, judges and officials are obliged to look after the affairs of the people and this is a religious duty linked to their worship of Allah (swt).
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآَنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
“O you who believe! And let not the hatred of others to you to make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety and fear Allah, for Allah is well acquainted with all that you do.” [TMQ Al-Maida: 8]
Non-Muslims are treated equally as Muslims under the system of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “He who hurts a dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen) hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys Allah.” [Reported by al-Tabarani in Al-awsat on good authority]
Even the ruler is not above the law
Narrated ‘Aisha: The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, “Who will intercede for her with Allah's Apostle?” Some said, “No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah's Apostle.” When Usama spoke about that to Allah’s Apostle Allah’s Apostle said: “Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?” Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, “What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah's Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 681]
The Qadi Shurayh said: When Ali was setting out to Siffin, he found that he was missing a coat of armour of his. When the war was over and he returned to Kufah, he came across the armour in the hands of a Jew. He said to the Jew, “The armour is mine; I have not sold it or given it away.” The Jew said, “It is my armour and it is in my hand.” He said, “Let us go to the Qadi.” Ali went first, sat beside Shurayh and said, “If it was not because my opponent is a Jew, I would have sat beside him in the gathering, but I heard the Prophet (saw) saying, “Humiliate them, since Allah has humiliated them.” Shurayh said, “Speak Amir al-Muminin.” He said, “Yes. This armour which this Jews has is my armour; I did not sell it and I did not give it away.” Shurayh said, “What do you say Jew?” He said, “It is my armour and it is in my possession.” Shurayh said, “Do you have any evidence Amir al-Muminin?” He said, “Yes. Qanbar and al-Hasan will witness that the armour is mine.” Shurayh said, “A son’s witness it not acceptable on behalf of his father.” Ali said, “A man from the Garden, and his testimony is not acceptable? I heard the Prophet (saw) saying, ‘Al-Hasan and al-Hussein are the two lords of the youth of the people of the Garden.’” The Jew said, “The Amir al-Muminin brought me before his Qadi, and his Qadi gave judgement against him. I witness that this is the truth, and I witness that there is no god but Allah and I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and that the armour is your armour.” [Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘History of the Khalifahs who took the right way,’ translation of ‘Tarikh al-Khulafa,’ Ta Ha Publishers, p. 139]
Non-Muslims can practice their religion in an Islamic state and in their personal matters such as foodstuffs, worships, marriage, inheritance, etc they are left to follow their religion. As Allah (swt) told us:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ
“There is no compulsion in religion.” [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 256]
There are many other rights that I didn’t address such as how Islam protects the private property and the honour of people, how Islam gave political rights to people to account the rulers, I have just given a taste of the subject as time doesn’t permit to elaborate in detail.
Even many non-Muslims who wrote about the history of Islam bear testimony to the justice of the Islamic system: For example the British author H.G.Wells wrote in his book The Outline of History that “Islam has created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any other society had ever been in the world before.”
Unfortunately today – we see that the system of Islam not implemented by any country, some implement part of Islam.
The West fears that system returning, they sense that increasingly the Muslims are looking towards establishing the Khilafah. For example in a University of Maryland survey of over 4000 Muslims conducted between 2006 and 2007 of 1000 Moroccans, 1000 Egyptians, over 1000 Pakistanis, and over 100- Indonesians-reveal that 65.2% of those interviewed-almost 2/3, hardly a "fringe minority"-desired this outcome (i.e., "To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate"), 65.5% of this Muslim sample approved the proposition "To require a strict application of Shari'a law in every Islamic country."
The are many quotations from Western political leaders that demonstrate that they are worried about the return of a Khilafah, as they see it as a feasible reality. The CIA have already published a report on their website talking about possible scenarios by the year 2020, they mention one of the main ones being the re-establishment of the Caliphate.
That system will return – it is our duty to work for it in the way the Prophet (saw) worked for it – through non-violent intellectual and political struggle, so that the rights the Quran gives humanity are established. Allah (swt) has promised to us that this system will return, He (swt) says in the Quran:
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَى لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“Allâh has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practise their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islâm). And He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they (believers) worship Me and do not associate anything (in worship) with Me. But whoever disbelieved after this, they are the Fâsiqûn (rebellious, disobedient to Allâh).” [TMQ An-Nur: 55]
10th May 2008 / 5th Jummada Awwal 1429 AH