Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion or language. However, many centuries before this, Islam spoke about human rights in the Quraan. This week, inshaAllah, we will look at some of these rights mentioned in the Quraan…
The Right to Life
The right to life is the most basic of human rights and an essential foundation for all others. In Islam, the sanctity of life is an inherent right for every human being because life is a gift from Allah and a manifestation of His divine grace. Since Allah is the Creator and Grantor of life, any kind of unlawful aggression or violation of this right is considered a crime and a transgression against the rights of both Allah and man.
To emphasize the sanctity of human life, the Quran comprises numerous verses and unequivocal warnings addressed to those who deliberately kill and take other people’s lives. Allah says,
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ َ
“We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever kills another human being without the latter being guilty of murder or corruption in the land, it would be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one person, it would be as if he has saved all of mankind” (Quran 5:32).
The mentioning of the laws of the Torah in this verse indicates the continuity of values in all divinely revealed laws. It is also worth noting that the wording of the verse was set in the broadest terms without any specification of race, religion, age or gender of either the killer or victim. The purpose is to demonstrate that any infringement of this right is tantamount to the destruction of humankind in totality.
Islam even set the precedent for the moral guidelines of warfare. Islam forbids Muslims from:
- – Killing anyone except active combatants.
- – Killing women, children, or the elderly.
- – Mutilating enemy corpses.
- – Burning trees and destroying crops.
- – Killing monks in monasteries or those sitting in places of worship.
In Islam, human life is a divine gift. As such, it is sacrosanct and therefore it is impermissible to kill others or even oneself.