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Fundamental rights in islam

Publishing Date : 27 November, 2018


For Muslims the Qur’an is an all-embracing guide that lays down the basis of Islamic law, economic and social systems of Islam and also certain basic rights that we should render to our fellow humans. When we talk of human rights in Islam we mean those rights that have been granted by God Almighty; not those granted by any legislative body or ruler.  

In the world of today there are many organisations that fight for and promote the rights of individuals some of those rights are against the laws of the Almighty. For example in some countries people are openly urging and pressuring religious organisations and even churches to accept and conduct same sex marriages, taking it even further they are pushing for the ordination of gay priests; both the Quran and the Bible prohibit such acts yet there are the proponents for such rights of an individual. It is strange that those who shout the loudest for ‘rights’ usually introduce many ‘wrongs’ in the name of those rights?

In todays’ world there are groups that are demanding ‘personal rights and freedoms’ of the individual however let us differentiate ‘freedom’. Their logic is that it is their ‘human right’ to do or say whatever they want to. This is in despite of the fact that even though some of those rights and freedoms being claimed may be or are in direct contravention of the Laws of God; regardless they want to abolish the Laws of God and to replace them with the laws of man. In Islam or in any other religious faith for that matter, the laws of man cannot take precedence over the Laws of God. Here are but a few of those fundamental, individual and communal rights that are embedded in Islam.

Right to life

The most basic and fundamental of human rights is the right to life, the Qur’an says: “Whosoever kills any human being (without any valid reason) unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief on earth, it is though he had killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life it is though as he had saved the lives of all mankind” (Qur’an 5: 32). “Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except by way of justice and law” (Qur’an 6: 151). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explained: ‘The greatest sins are to associate partners with Allah and to kill a human being’. In Islam this right to life is for all human beings and not only confined to its adherents.


This is a right which God Almighty has bestowed on all human beings, believer or non-believer, friend or foe. The Qur’an teaches and promotes universal justice. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “We sent our messengers with clear teachings and sent down along with them the Book and the Balance so that society may be established on the basis of justice” (Qur’an 57 : 25). It further says “O Believers stand for the cause of God and as witness to justice and remember that enmity of some people should not lead you to injustice. Be just as it is nearest to God consciousness” (Qur’an 5: 8 ). This makes it obligatory that a believer in God Almighty must uphold justice in all circumstances and not only to his own people but even to his enemies.


The Qur’an recognises that all human beings are equal irrespective of any distinction of race, colour or sex. The Qur’an says: “O Mankind We have created you from a male and female, and We made you as nations and tribes so that you may be able to recognise each other…… Indeed the most honourable among you before God is the most righteous”. (Qur’an 49 : 13).. Therefore any superiority for man is based on his piety, righteousness, sense of responsibility and character. Even then one who has these noble qualities would not have any privileged rights over others.

Freedom of conscience and religion

The Qur’an asserts that Islam is the path to salvation however it clearly mentions that there is no compulsion in accepting or rejecting the religion of Islam. “There is no compulsion in (submitting to) the religion, truth stands out clear from error” (Qur’an 2 : 256). Every individual has been granted basic freedom to accept a religion of his or her choice.

Therefore no religion should be imposed on a person. Additionally there is personal freedom; No person can be deprived of his or her personal freedom except in pursuit of justice. Therefore there should not be any arbitrary detention without the permission of a duly appointed judge and with proof.

Protection of Honour

Every person must be afforded basic human dignity which should not be violated. If someone attacks the honour of a person the culprit will be punished according to the Islamic Law. The Qur’an says: “Do not let one group of people make fun of another group”…. “Do not defame one another”…………. And do not backbite or speak ill of one another” (Qur’an 49: 11-12).

Another important right granted is the respect for the honour and chastity of women which must be respected and safeguarded in all circumstances and cannot be outraged even in war. A report in South Africa revealed that ‘on average a woman is raped every five minutes’. This violation of women is slowly beginning to rear its ugly head in Botswana. Can we just sit by and allow the honour of our women folk to be abused and violated in this manner? In Islam if a person is found guilty of raping a woman then capital punishment applies.
Right of Association

The right to associate with anyone in the matters of virtue and goodness and the right to oppose evil and not cooperate in sinful acts is enshrined in the following verse; “And co-operate with one another on matters of righteousness and God-consciousness and do not co-operate with one another on matters of sin and enmity” (Qur’an 5: 2)

Rights of the Weak

It is not permissible to oppress or take undue advantage of women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded. The hungry person must be fed, the naked clothed and the wounded or diseased treated medically irrespective of whether they belong to the one’s own community or not. A believer has a duty to support and help the less privileged, poor and needy persons of our society:

“and in their (believers) wealth there is an acknowledged portion for the needy and the deprived” (Qur’an 70: 25. Therefore in Islam we have what is called Zakaat (poor due). This is the fourth pillar of Islam and it is obligatory upon every Muslim who possesses enough means, to yearly distribute a certain percentage of their assets to the poor and needy. ‘…..and those who pay Zakaat have the assurance of the Hereafter…..and these are the ones that will prosper’ (Quran 31; 1-5)

This is but a partial list of those rights that have been sanctioned and granted by Almighty Allah; they cannot be suspended, trodden over or tampered with by any individual or legislative body. They have to be respected and promoted in all circumstances as a religious duty.



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