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Our Rights in Islam

Publishing Date : 06 November, 2017


Nowadays when we talk of ‘rights’ we immediately think of ‘human rights’ and the constitutional ‘rights’ that we enjoy under the umbrella of our laws.Whilst these rights are very important to us we should spread the net wider and think about human rights in a broader perspective. Unfortunately we prefer to or tend to focus on ‘our rights’ before we think of the rights of others or even what our own responsibilities as humankind are towards achieving those rights.

In Islam each one of us has certain rights and obligations to fulfil. We believe that Allah created us and sent us to this temporary world to fulfil certain obligations and commands. Those obligations we owe are firstly to our Creator and then come the other obligations that we owe to our fellow creation. Allah is Almighty, the Creator, the Sustainer and is totally Independent of us.

‘O mankind! We have created you from a single pair of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you. (Quran 49: 13)

The Almighty has outlined certain duties and obligations that we owe to Him. We can classify these as the Rights of Allah over us. As Muslims the first obligation is to believe in the Testimony and Declaration of Faith called the Shahadah: This declaration is a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce: “We sincerely bear witness that Allah is One and has no partners to share His Glory and there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger to all human beings until the Day of Judgment.”

These words are the sincere conviction and the driving force in every Muslim’s belief that our only purpose in life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through following the teachings of the Quran and the example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Among some of the rights and duties that we owe to Him, although compulsory, are spaced out and include concessions for example, are the following: the compulsory five times a day prayer; the compulsory fasting in the month of Ramadan; obligation of the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca); and, Zakaat (compulsory charity / the poor due).

These obligations though compulsory may in the eyes of non–Muslims to be difficult somewhat difficult to practice, our Creator has been Kind and Merciful because He has allowed concessions in these obligations that we owe to Him. For example, the five times daily prayers are so well spaced out that they give us time for our family and occupation. The same prayers are shortened when one is on a journey. For fasting, when one is sick or on a journey the fast can be postponed till one is better. The obligation of Haj and the poor due (Zakaat) becomes compulsory only if certain conditions are met among them is our financial ability.

Among the other obligations that we ‘owe’ to our Lord is that to our fellow creation. Many of the obligations are to do with our social interaction among ourselves and those around us. When it comes to mutual relations Islam requires us to be very particular that we do not wrong anyone, as on the Day of Judgement every person will have to account for what wrong he did to the other person.

This is where Islam broadens the interpretation of human rights; whilst most of us interpret and understand human rights to mean “what I am entitled to as a person in my sphere of life and community”. Islam defines human rights as “what I owe to others”. This means that I have a duty to fulfil towards the rights of others, provided that they are within those parameters that do not conflict with the Commands of our Lord. The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘Have mercy on those on the earth, and the One in the sky will have mercy upon you’.

We need to step back and think about our own interaction with those around us and how we treat them before judging them, because ‘what we give is what we receive’. Yes I agree that it is not easy to deal with all people and to treat them with kindness and respect. It is indeed a difficult task at times. The Quran says: ‘…and who will explain to you the path that is steep?…….it is…..those who believe, and enjoin patience, constancy and self-restraint and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion….such are the companions of the Right Hand’. (Quran 90: 12-18)

Today, the world is filled with problems; starting with the problems at home between husband and wife; the husband feels that my wife is not fulfilling my rights and vice-versa; parents feel the children are not appreciating and fulfilling our rights and vice-versa, neighbours have mutual dissent. This goes on right up to the global scene to the problems between countries and regions of the world. Why? This is because each person, individual, family, tribe, clan, community, region, country feels that my / their rights are not being fulfilled as they are entitled to more.

Let us take for example, a husband may feel that his wife is not fulfilling his rights just because she did not have the dinner ready in time or have his shirt ironed and ready. We know of all those little things that can create a bubble that is likely to burst into anger one day when the husband feels that his wife is not taking him seriously. But he should pause and ask himself what about the rights that I owe to my wife. She has sacrificed so much to leave her family and dedicate herself to being with me. She is the mother of my children, she bore the pains of pregnancy and delivery; spent sleepless nights looking after them. She maintains and looks after the home in my presence and in my absence – you begin to realise, I owe her so much.

Therefore, in addition to overlooking some of those small irritants I have to be loving, kind, sincere and truthful to her; I have to see to all her needs and comforts and of course give a helping hand. The Quran is clear: ‘Women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable….’ (Quran 2: 228)

Further Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said; ‘The best amongst you are those who are best to their wives’. Likewise much emphasis is placed on the woman to be grateful, sincere and dutiful to him, so much so that ‘when a woman passes away whilst her husband was happy with her, has glad tidings when she goes into the next life of Jannah (Heaven).’     
………….To be continued next week.



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