Human rights in Islam (1)

The Right to Life

By Magdy Abd Al-Shafy
The Supervisor and the Editor in chief of the worldwide " What is Islam "

Islam never fought nations but fought only despotic authorities. Islamic war was one of liberation and not of compulsion. Muslims are prohibited from opening hostilities without properly declaring war against the enemy, unless the adversary has already started aggression against them.

It was long before the Magna Carta and Geneva resolutions came into being that Islam had set human rights in its teachings . Unmindful that Allah's word will reach every corner in the world ,media and false thinkers tried to blur these ever-shining facts of the Islam with the aim of alienating people. Long ago the world suffered from violating human rights , a recently coined expression , and still does . The United Nations , dubbed as the divided nations by the persecuted every were , decreed a group of articles that have never been fully into action . Nothing to help the wounded , nothing to help widows , nothing to help the fatherless children , nothing to bring a piece of bread to the hungry but strangled by a veto resolution . When these rights were revealed in the Holy Quran and detailed in the prophets sayings , they were put into action . This is the difference between Allah's laws and man-made laws that can be violated or changed or modified . The first and the foremost basic right in Islam is the right to live and the respect of human life.

The holy Quran and the traditional sayings and acts of the prophet strictly impose the following injunctions during the time of peace and the time of war .

•No one should be burned alive or tortured with fire.

•Wounded soldiers who are neither unfit to fight, nor actually fighting, should not be attacked.

•Prisoners of war should not be killed.

•It is prohibited to kill anyone who is tied up or in captivity.

•Residential areas should not be pillaged, plundered or destroyed, nor should the Muslims touch the property of anyone except those who are fighting against them.

•Muslims must not take anything from the general public of the conquered country without paying for it.

•The corpses of the enemy must not be disgraced or mutilated..

•Corpses of the enemy should be returned.

• Treaties must not be broken.

In Islam , taking one's life is equal to taking the life of the whole of the world , how a heinous picture ! God says in the holy Quran what means " Whosoever kills a human being without (any reason like) man slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is as though he had killed all mankind ... (5:32) . This Holy verse refers to the killing of Moslem or non-Moslem .

As far as the question of taking life in retaliation for murder or the question of punishment for spreading corruption on this earth is concerned, it can be decided only by a proper and competent court of law. If there is any war with any nation or country, it can be decided only by a properly established government. In any case, no human being has any right by himself to take human life in retaliation or for causing mischief on this earth. Therefore it is incumbent on every human being that under no circumstances should he be guilty of taking a human life. If anyone has murdered a human being, it is as if he has slain the entire human race. These instructions have been repeated in the Holy Quran in another place saying:"Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law ... (6:151) " .No racialism in Islam , all people are equal before the Divine law . Some religions , being distorted , give every privileges to their adherents only . This is not the case in Islam , the word " soul " is significant , it refers to all people , irrespective of their religions or creeds . In Islam the human soul is sacred.

Nothing is as bad as polytheism in Islam ,the Prophet, may God's blessings be on him, has declared homicide as the greatest sin only next to polytheism. The Tradition of the Prophet reads: "The greatest sins are to associate something with God and to kill a soul (human beings.)" In all verses of the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet the word 'soul' (nafs) has been used in general terms without any distinction or particularization which might have lent itself to the elucidation that the persons belonging to one's nation, the citizens of one's country, the people of a particular race or religion should not be killed. The injunction applies to all human beings and the destruction of human life in itself has been prohibited.

Allah has made the quality of respecting one's life among the most important qualities of the true slave whom all Moslems take him as an example to follow , Allah says in the holy Quran what means " And those who invoke not any other ilaha (god) along with Allah, nor kill such person as Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse - and whoever does this shall receive the punishment." (TMQ, 25:68).

when someone is offended in any way , Allah limits his retaliation and even recommends forgiveness . Allah says in the holy Quran what means " And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you put: but if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient "

Also Islam allows dismissal or ransom for the prisoners , Allah says in the holy Quran what means when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates." (Muhammad: 4)

The Qur’anic verse thus provides alternatives: either the Muslim commander should free those captives who can not offer ransom either in the form of money or an equivalent number of Muslim captives, or he should ransom his captives for money or for a similar number of Muslim captives. This is what is now known as an exchange of prisoners. That kind of ransoming should be adopted, as it leads to the release of two big groups of people – Muslims and non-Muslims. The Qur’anic verse does not mention a third choice, namely the enslavement of captives; the Qur’anic text explicitly forbids it by limiting the choice to only two alternatives – free dismissal or ransoming – without referring to enslavement. Thus enslavement is not involved in the choice

Islam doesn't only impose the respect to human life of the prisoner but also impose feeding them ; the sound emitting from the words of the following verse, when reading it in Arabic , is soul-stirring and extremely touching. Allah has made feeding the captive as virtuous as feeding the orphan . Allah says in the holy Quran what means " And they feed, for the love of God, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive" . To visualize this , remember the following Hadith by the prophet "" I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him , will be in paradise like this , " putting his index and middle fingers together .

Ibn Umayr, one of the captives of Muslims in the Battle of Badr recalled: "Whenever I sat with my captors for lunch or dinner, they would offer me bread and themselves [eat] the dates, in view of the Prophet's recommendation in our favor." Please note that in that desert situation, bread was a more luxurious item of food than dates. Another example ,When the Jewish tribe of Bani Qurayzah were captured, loads of dates were regularly carried to them, with the Prophet's instructions to shelter them from the summer sun and to provide them with water to drink.

Thumama ibn-Athal, was taken prisoner and brought to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who said: “Be good to him in his captivity.” When the Prophet went home he instructed to collect whatever food there, and ordered it sent to the prisoner.

Moving to the Prophetic Hadiths ( traditioan sayings ) , we shall again find that the Prophet never enslaved a free man throughout his reign . His acts were moving injunctions that should be strictly followed.

Umarna Ibn-Athal was set free upon his promise not to help the enemy . This gentle treatment touched the man’s heart and was then converted to Islam saying to the Prophet: "There was a time when your face was the most hated face to me, and there comes a day when it is the most loved.”

The prophet's companions used to remind each other of the injunction concerning the respect of the prisoners . Contrary to what is practiced against the prisoners in the prisons , Islam gives good treatment to the prisoners . The messenger of Allah (SAWS) has forbidden harming or doing any injustice to prisoners of war . On the authority of Shihab he said," Accompanied by a prisoners of wars , Abo-Baker once passed by Sohib while he was sitting in the mosque , on seeing him , Sohib said " who is this with you ? " "He is a prisoner of war ; I am going to ask the prophet's consent to set him free " . Replied Abo-Baker . " There seems to be what could be the effect of a sword in his neck !!" Said Sohib ; Abo-Bakr got angry because of being accused of causing the prisoner some harm and as a result headed to the prophet . On seeing him as so angry , prophet Mohummed said " why are you angry ?" " I passed with my prisoner by Sohib ,who said when he saw the sign of a sword in my prisoner's neck " what is that in his neck ?" " prophet Mohummed said " Mind you didn't cause him any harm !!" Abo Bakr said " I swear by God , I didn't ." If you had harmed him , you would have disobeyed and displeased God and His messenger ." prophet Mohummed said .

Among those whom the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, granted freedom was a poet called Abu-Azza , who said to the Prophet: “I have five daughters who have no one to support them, so give me away to them as a charity and I promise never to fight you or help your enemies.

Abul-As Ibn Al Rabiae was freed for a ransom, which the Prophet later returned back to him. Later, the man embraced Islam.

Many Hadiths were said by the prophet in this regard , one of the most important Hadith is that which likens the belief in Allah as a circle in which a Moslem should confine himself ; if he kills ,he will throw himself out of this circle , prophet Mohummed says " A Moslem can remain within the sphere of belief in Allah as long as he doesn't take one's life"

Nothing is great as the following situation , it is not this time that the prophet will lead himself the army in defence of the Islamic country , so he was worried lest the limits and injunctions of Allah ( concerning the human rights during wars ) should be transgressed or violated . So he stood reminding the leaders of the army of the ever-applied war ethics of Islam.

In all his battles, the Prophet (SAWS) advised the army leaders and said, "Go ahead in the name of Allah, and by the blessing of his Messenger. Don't kill an old man, or a child, or a young person or a woman. Don't betray. Act in the Right way, and do good, truly Allah loves the good-doers".

And He (SAWS) forbade also mutilating dead bodies as he said: " I warn you of mutilating the killed, even if it was a slaughter dog".

He (SAWS) said also:
Don't kill women, or children, or those who are in the monasteries."
" Fear God regarding prisoners of war"
Take care of prisoners of war"

When the Prophet (SAWS) saw a woman killed in the battlefield, he denounced that saying
"She did not fight".

"Don't fight them until you invite them to Islam. if they refuse, don't begin fighting until they kill one from you.Then, show them this killed Muslim and say, if you say La ilaha Ila Allah ( There's No God but Allah), we'll let you go…. Because, if Allah guides one man at your hands, this will be better than having all what is under the sun."

It was Islam that made it incumbent to discriminate between combatant and non combatant in holy wars ; the west brags about this , though this article was never put into effect

The Prophet (SAWS) has forbidden burning people with fire. He said, "Lord of fire is the only One Who can punish by fire.", narrated by Abu-Dawud and al-Dârimî.

Gandhi , when contemplating on the ethics of Mohummed especially those which mirror the true picture of the prophet , was moved to say " "I become more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days. ) (Young India, 1922).

And also Alphonse de LaMartaine says " "If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad?... "'Historie de la Turquie,' Paris, 1854.

Neitherdid Abo-Baker nor did his successors ,who were imbued with the luminous teachings of the prophet forget to inculcate the same injunctions (after the death of the prophet) in the hearts of the war leaders.

Abo-Baker , being filled with the light of the prophet's teachings , used to remind his leaders saying " “Do not betray or be treacherous or vindictive. Do not mutilate. Do not kill the children, the aged or the women. Do not cut or bum palm trees or fruitful trees. Don’t slay a sheep, a cow or camel except for your food. And you will come across people who confined themselves to worship in hermitages, leave them alone to what they devoted themselves for.”

And in another situation , he ordered another army leader saying " “I give you ten commandments: don’t kill a woman or a child or an old person, and don’t cut trees or ruin dwellings or slay a sheep but for food. Dont burn palm trees or drown them. And don’t be spiteful or unjust.”

In addition, The Caliph Omar Ibnul-Khattab has advised his leader of the army saying: …… Fight and transgress not the limits, truly Allah likes not the transgressors. …….Never mutilate when you've the ability to do so. Don't exceed the limits in the matter of taking life when you're the winners. Don't kill an old man, or a woman, or a child and avoid killing them in all..."

In quoting this particular example, one dare say that such an attitude was quite different from the behavior characterizing the invading crusaders. When the crusaders entered Jerusalem on July 15th 1099, they slaughtered seventy thousand Muslims including women, children and old men. They broke children's skulls by knocking against the wall, threw babies from roof tops, roasted men over fire and cut up women's bellies to see if they had swallowed gold.

It was long before it was decreed by Geneva convention that Islam give shelter and medicine to the prisoners of wars .

A well-known example is that of Salahuddin Ayyubi (Saladin), who gave medical help to his opponent Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, who was seriously ill during the Crusades. He sent his own doctor and personally supervised Richard's treatment until he became well. This is in contrast with the behavior of the invading crusaders. When they entered Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, they slaughtered seventy thousand Muslims, including women, children, and the elderly: "They broke children's skulls by knocking them against the wall, threw babies from roof tops, roasted men over fires and cut open women's bellies to see if they had swallowed any gold."

This description was given by Edward Gibbon, the famous historian; and in modern warfare, this example is paralleled by the atrocious behavior of the Serb army in Bosnia, to quote just one instance.

It is interesting to mention that when Muslims fought the Romans in Egypt, the Egyptian Copts sided with and helped Muslims against the Romans who were Christians like them. This was because Christian Egypt was suffering religious oppression by the Christian Romans to compel them to adopt their religious beliefs. One of the earliest actions of the Muslims in Egypt was the assurance of religious freedom and the reinstatement of Benjamin as Bishop of Alexandria after years of hiding from the Romans in the western desert.

In five successive international law conferences , law scientists spoke vociferously about how the Islamic law meets the human needs . Having studied the Islamic law , those scientists issued the following recommendations :

The Islamic jurisprudence is to be another reference when comparing different jurisprudences.

The Islamic law is independent and irrelative to the Roman law or any other law .The Islamic law is valid for every age and place.

The Islamic law is to be represented in the international law and in International Court of Justice.

In the Comparative Law Conference of The Hague in(1932), the French jurist (Lambert) , referred to the great appreciation that began to prevail amongst European and American jurists concerning the Islamic law at the present time,

He said "I needn't quote some of the Islamic Laws to justify what I am saying about them , The Islamic law implies rules that , if formulated creatively , would be of so useful.Many western jurists admitted the favour of the Islamic law over the international law , among those are Vito Rea and Baron "
Michel de Taub

George Bernard Shaw , comic dramatist, literary critic, and socialist propagandist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925., says
"I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving the problems in a way that would bring the much needed peace and happiness. Europe is beginning to be enamored of the creed of Muhammad. In the next century it may go further in recognizing the utility of that creed in solving its problems."

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