Human Rights 2: The Islamic Approach

The United Nations was formed in the wake of World War II by the victorious countries, most of which were colonial powers. Their goal in the war was to break up the German, Italian and Japanese empires. Ironically, most of the victors also lost or gave up their colonies after the war, with only the totalitarian Communist powers in Russia and China managing to maintain or significantly expand their territories. It was in this rush of activity after the war that the United Nations was formed and the progressive idealist Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) written. The world rolled along, and then the sixties came along and the ex-colonies joined the UN, and called every assumption of the UN into question.

David G. Littman wrote on this topic in a 2003 article in National Review:

The principal aim of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was to create a framework for a universal code based on mutual consent. […] In the 1960s, with the arrival of a large number of third-world states that had not been present in 1948, there were discussions as to whether new states were bound by those covenants that had been adopted before they became independent and joined the U.N. By and large, consensus was reached on the universality of human rights, but a new concept — that of “cultural relativism” — was to evolve soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

A crucial part of the debate has consisted in bringing national legislation into conformity with the universal human-rights standards defined in what is usually called the “International Bill of Human Rights” — that is, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Usually, states that ratified the international covenants modified their legislation when it was not in conformity.

But the problem with such goals is that they can be repeatedly nullified through attempts to deliberately confuse universal human-rights issues. One “religious” example of this was the “Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights,” proclaimed at UNESCO in 1981 and followed by the “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam” (CDHRI), adopted in August 1990 by the 19th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers of the 45 OIC countries.

Already in 1981, at the 36th session of the U.N. General Assembly, the representative of Iran had declared that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented a secular interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which could not be implemented by Muslims; if a choice had to be made, he said, between its stipulations and “the divine law of the country,” Iran would always choose Islamic law. Since then, Iran has led the struggle to modify the UDHR.

In the spirit of the comment of the representative of Iran, the Islamic approach to Human Rights is based solely on Islamic Law, or Sharia. It rejects the progressive, universalist ideals expressed in the Universal Declaration for the ideals of submission to Allah and the Sharia.

Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights

21 Dhul Qaidah 1401 / 19 September 1981

This is a declaration for mankind, a guidance and instruction to those who fear God.
(Al Qur’an, Al-Imran 3:138)


Islam gave to mankind an ideal code of human rights fourteen centuries ago. These rights aim at conferring honour and dignity on mankind and eliminating exploitation, oppression and injustice.

Human rights in Islam are firmly rooted in the belief that God, and God alone, is the Law Giver and the Source of all human rights. Due to their Divine origin, no ruler, government, assembly or authority can curtail or violate in any way the human rights conferred by God, nor can they be surrendered.

Human rights in Islam are an integral part of the overall Islamic order and it is obligatory on all Muslim governments and organs of society to implement them in letter and in spirit within the framework of that order.

It is unfortunate that human rights are being trampled upon with impunity in many countries of the world, including some Muslim countries. Such violations are a matter of serious concern and are arousing the conscience of more and more people throughout the world.

I sincerely hope that this Declaration of Human Rights will give a powerful impetus to the Muslim peoples to stand firm and defend resolutely and courageously the rights conferred on them by God.

This Declaration of Human Rights is the second fundamental document proclaimed by the Islamic Council to mark the beginning of the 15th Century of the Islamic era, the first being the Universal Islamic Declaration announced at the International Conference on The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Message, held in London from 12 to 15 April 1980.

The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah and has been compiled by eminent Muslim scholars, jurists and representatives of Islamic movements and thought. May God reward them all for their efforts and guide us along the right path.

Paris 21 Dhul Qaidah 1401 Salem Azzam
19th September 1981 Secretary General

O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all aware.
(Al Qur’an, Al-Hujurat 49:13)


WHEREAS the age-old human aspiration for a just world order wherein people could live, develop and prosper in an environment free from fear, oppression, exploitation and deprivation, remains largely unfulfilled;

WHEREAS the Divine Mercy unto mankind reflected in its having been endowed with super-abundant economic sustenance is being wasted, or unfairly or unjustly withheld from the inhabitants of the earth;

WHEREAS Allah (God) has given mankind through His revelations in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of His Blessed Prophet Muhammad an abiding legal and moral framework within which to establish and regulate human institutions and relationships;

WHEREAS the human rights decreed by the Divine Law aim at conferring dignity and honour on mankind and are designed to eliminate oppression and injustice;

WHEREAS by virtue of their Divine source and sanction these rights can neither be curtailed, abrogated or disregarded by authorities, assemblies or other institutions, nor can they be surrendered or alienated;

Therefore we, as Muslims, who believe

  1. in God, the Beneficent and Merciful, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Sovereign, the sole Guide of mankind and the Source of all Law;
  2. in the Vicegerency (Khilafah) of man who has been created to fulfill the Will of God on earth;
  3. in the wisdom of Divine guidance brought by the Prophets, whose mission found its culmination in the final Divine message that was conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to all mankind;
  4. that rationality by itself without the light of revelation from God can neither be a sure guide in the affairs of mankind nor provide spiritual nourishment to the human soul, and, knowing that the teachings of Islam represent the quintessence of Divine guidance in its final and perfect form, feel duty-bound to remind man of the high status and dignity bestowed on him by God;
  5. in inviting all mankind to the message of Islam;
  6. that by the terms of our primeval covenant with God our duties and obligations have priority over our rights, and that each one of us is under a bounden duty to spread the teachings of Islam by word, deed, and indeed in all gentle ways, and to make them effective not only in our individual lives but also in the society around us;
  7. in our obligation to establish an Islamic order:
    1. wherein all human beings shall be equal and none shall enjoy a privilege or suffer a disadvantage or discrimination by reason of race, colour, sex, origin or language;
    2. wherein all human beings are born free;
    3. wherein slavery and forced labour are abhorred;
    4. wherein conditions shall be established such that the institution of family shall be preserved, protected and honoured as the basis of all social life;
    5. wherein the rulers and the ruled alike are subject to, and equal before, the Law;
    6. wherein obedience shall be rendered only to those commands that are in consonance with the Law;
    7. wherein all worldly power shall be considered as a sacred trust, to be exercised within the limits prescribed by the Law and in a manner approved by it, and with due regard for the priorities fixed by it;
    8. wherein all economic resources shall be treated as Divine blessings bestowed upon mankind, to be enjoyed by all in accordance with the rules and the values set out in the Qur’an and the Sunnah;
    9. wherein all public affairs shall be determined and conducted, and the authority to administer them shall be exercised after mutual consultation (Shura) between the believers qualified to contribute to a decision which would accord well with the Law and the public good;
    10. wherein everyone shall undertake obligations proportionate to his capacity and shall be held responsible pro rata for his deeds;
    11. wherein everyone shall, in case of an infringement of his rights, be assured of appropriate remedial measures in accordance with the Law;
    12. wherein no one shall be deprived of the rights assured to him by the Law except by its authority and to the extent permitted by it;
    13. wherein every individual shall have the right to bring legal action against anyone who commits a crime against society as a whole or against any of its members;
    14. wherein every effort shall be made to
      1. secure unto mankind deliverance from every type of exploitation, injustice and oppression,
      2. ensure to everyone security, dignity and liberty in terms set out and by methods approved and within the limits set by the Law;

Do hereby, as servants of Allah and as members of the Universal Brotherhood of Islam, at the beginning of the Fifteenth Century of the Islamic Era, affirm our commitment to uphold the following inviolable and inalienable human rights that we consider are enjoined by Islam.

  1. Right to Life
    a) Human life is sacred and inviolable and every effort shall be made to protect it. In particular no one shall be exposed to injury or death, except under the authority of the Law.
    b) Just as in life, so also after death, the sanctity of a person’s body shall be inviolable. It is the obligation of believers to see that a deceased person’s body is handled with due solemnity.
  2. Right to Freedom
    a) Man is born free. No inroads shall be made on his right to liberty except under the authority and in due process of the Law.
    b) Every individual and every people has the inalienable right to freedom in all its forms¾ physical, cultural, economic and political — and shall be entitled to struggle by all available means against any infringement or abrogation of this right; and every oppressed individual or people has a legitimate claim to the support of other individuals and/or peoples in such a struggle.
  3. Right to Equality and Prohibition Against Impermissible Discrimination
    a) All persons are equal before the Law and are entitled to equal opportunities and protection of the Law.
    b) All persons shall be entitled to equal wage for equal work.
    c ) No person shall be denied the opportunity to work or be discriminated against in any manner or exposed to greater physical risk by reason of religious belief, colour, race, origin, sex or language.
  4. Right to Justice
    a) Every person has the right to be treated in accordance with the Law, and only in accordance with the Law.
    b) Every person has not only the right but also the obligation to protest against injustice; to recourse to remedies provided by the Law in respect of any unwarranted personal injury or loss; to self-defence against any charges that are preferred against him and to obtain fair adjudication before an independent judicial tribunal in any dispute with public authorities or any other person.
    c) It is the right and duty of every person to defend the rights of any other person and the community in general (Hisbah).
    d) No person shall be discriminated against while seeking to defend private and public rights.
    e) It is the right and duty of every Muslim to refuse to obey any command which is contrary to the Law, no matter by whom it may be issued.
  5. Right to Fair Trial
    a) No person shall be adjudged guilty of an offence and made liable to punishment except after proof of his guilt before an independent judicial tribunal.
    b) No person shall be adjudged guilty except after a fair trial and after reasonable opportunity for defence has been provided to him.
    c) Punishment shall be awarded in accordance with the Law, in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and with due consideration of the circumstances under which it was committed.
    d) No act shall be considered a crime unless it is stipulated as such in the clear wording of the Law.
    e) Every individual is responsible for his actions. Responsibility for a crime cannot be vicariously extended to other members of his family or group, who are not otherwise directly or indirectly involved in the commission of the crime in question.
  6. Right to Protection Against Abuse of Power
    Every person has the right to protection against harassment by official agencies. He is not liable to account for himself except for making a defence to the charges made against him or where he is found in a situation wherein a question regarding suspicion of his involvement in a crime could be reasonably raised
  7. Right to Protection Against Torture
    No person shall be subjected to torture in mind or body, or degraded, or threatened with injury either to himself or to anyone related to or held dear by him, or forcibly made to confess to the commission of a crime, or forced to consent to an act which is injurious to his interests.
  8. Right to Protection of Honour and Reputation
    Every person has the right to protect his honour and reputation against calumnies, groundless charges or deliberate attempts at defamation and blackmail.
  9. Right to Asylum
    a) Every persecuted or oppressed person has the right to seek refuge and asylum. This right is guaranteed to every human being irrespective of race, religion, colour and sex.
    b) Al Masjid Al Haram (the sacred house of Allah) in Mecca is a sanctuary for all Muslims.
  10. Rights of Minorities
    a) The Qur’anic principle “There is no compulsion in religion” shall govern the religious rights of non-Muslim minorities.
    b) In a Muslim country religious minorities shall have the choice to be governed in respect of their civil and personal matters by Islamic Law, or by their own laws.
  11. Right and Obligation to Participate in the Conduct and Management of Public Affairs
    a) Subject to the Law, every individual in the community (Ummah) is entitled to assume public office.
    b) Process of free consultation (Shura) is the basis of the administrative relationship between the government and the people. People also have the right to choose and remove their rulers in accordance with this principle.
  12. Right to Freedom of Belief, Thought and Speech
    a) Every person has the right to express his thoughts and beliefs so long as he remains within the limits prescribed by the Law. No one, however, is entitled to disseminate falsehood or to circulate reports which may outrage public decency, or to indulge in slander, innuendo or to cast defamatory aspersions on other persons.
    b) Pursuit of knowledge and search after truth is not only a right but a duty of every Muslim.
    c) It is the right and duty of every Muslim to protest and strive (within the limits set out by the Law) against oppression even if it involves challenging the highest authority in the state.
    d) There shall be no bar on the dissemination of information provided it does not endanger the security of the society or the state and is confined within the limits imposed by the Law.
    e) No one shall hold in contempt or ridicule the religious beliefs of others or incite public hostility against them; respect for the religious feelings of others is obligatory on all Muslims.
  13. Right to Freedom of Religion
    Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and worship in accordance with his religious beliefs.
  14. Right to Free Association
    a) Every person is entitled to participate individually and collectively in the religious, social, cultural and political life of his community and to establish institutions and agencies meant to enjoin what is right (ma’roof) and to prevent what is wrong (munkar).
    b) Every person is entitled to strive for the establishment of institutions whereunder an enjoyment of these rights would be made possible. Collectively, the community is obliged to establish conditions so as to allow its members full development of their personalities.
  15. The Economic Order and the Rights Evolving Therefrom
    a) In their economic pursuits, all persons are entitled to the full benefits of nature and all its resources. These are blessings bestowed by God for the benefit of mankind as a whole.
    b) All human beings are entitled to earn their living according to the Law.
    c) Every person is entitled to own property individually or in association with others. State ownership of certain economic resources in the public interest is legitimate.
    d) The poor have the right to a prescribed share in the wealth of the rich, as fixed by Zakah, levied and collected in accordance with the Law.
    e) All means of production shall be utilised in the interest of the community (Ummah) as a whole, and may not be neglected or misused.
    f) In order to promote the development of a balanced economy and to protect society from exploitation, Islamic Law forbids monopolies, unreasonable restrictive trade practices, usury, the use of coercion in the making of contracts and the publication of misleading advertisements.
    g) All economic activities are permitted provided they are not detrimental to the interests of the community(Ummah) and do not violate Islamic laws and values.
  16. Right to Protection of Property
    No property may be expropriated except in the public interest and on payment of fair and adequate compensation.
  17. Status and Dignity of Workers
    Islam honours work and the worker and enjoins Muslims not only to treat the worker justly but also generously. He is not only to be paid his earned wages promptly, but is also entitled to adequate rest and leisure.
  18. Right to Social Security
    Every person has the right to food, shelter, clothing, education and medical care consistent with the resources of the community. This obligation of the community extends in particular to all individuals who cannot take care of themselves due to some temporary or permanent disability.
  19. Right to Found a Family and Related Matters
    a) Every person is entitled to marry, to found a family and to bring up children in conformity with his religion, traditions and culture. Every spouse is entitled to such rights and privileges and carries such obligations as are stipulated by the Law.
    b) Each of the partners in a marriage is entitled to respect and consideration from the other.
    c) Every husband is obligated to maintain his wife and children according to his means.
    d) Every child has the right to be maintained and properly brought up by its parents, it being forbidden that children are made to work at an early age or that any burden is put on them which would arrest or harm their natural development.
    e) If parents are for some reason unable to discharge their obligations towards a child it becomes the responsibility of the community to fulfill these obligations at public expense.
    f) Every person is entitled to material support, as well as care and protection, from his family during his childhood, old age or incapacity. Parents are entitled to material support as well as care and protection from their children.
    g) Motherhood is entitled to special respect, care and assistance on the part of the family and the public organs of the community (Ummah).
    h) Within the family, men and women are to share in their obligations and responsibilities according to their sex, their natural endowments, talents and inclinations, bearing in mind their common responsibilities toward their progeny and their relatives.
    i) No person may be married against his or her will, or lose or suffer dimunition of legal personality on account of marriage.
  20. Rights of Married Women
    Every married woman is entitled to:
    a) live in the house in which her husband lives;
    b) receive the means necessary for maintaining a standard of living which is not inferior to that of her spouse, and, in the event of divorce, receive during the statutory period of waiting (iddah) means of maintenance commensurate with her husband’s resources, for herself as well as for the children she nurses or keeps, irrespective of her own financial status, earnings, or property that she may hold in her own rights;
    c) seek and obtain dissolution of marriage (Khul’a) in accordance with the terms of the Law. This right is in addition to her right to seek divorce through the courts.
    d) inherit from her husband, her parents, her children and other relatives according to the Law;
    e) strict confidentiality from her spouse, or ex-spouse if divorced, with regard to any information that he may have obtained about her, the disclosure of which could prove detrimental to her interests. A similar responsibility rests upon her in respect of her spouse or ex-spouse.
  21. Right to Education
    a) Every person is entitled to receive education in accordance with his natural capabilities.
    b) Every person is entitled to a free choice of profession and career and to the opportunity for the full development of his natural endowments.
  22. Right of Privacy
    Every person is entitled to the protection of his privacy.
  23. Right to Freedom of Movement and Residence
    a) In view of the fact that the World of Islam is veritably Ummah Islamia, every Muslim shall have the right to freely move in and out of any Muslim country.
    b) No one shall be forced to leave the country of his residence, or be arbitrarily deported therefrom without recourse to due process of Law.

Explanatory Notes

1 In the above formulation of Human Rights, unless the context provides otherwise:
a) the term ‘person’ refers to both the male and female sexes.
b) the term ‘Law’ denotes the Shari’ah, i.e. the totality of ordinances derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah and any other laws that are deduced from these two sources by methods considered valid in Islamic jurisprudence.
2 Each one of the Human Rights enunciated in this declaration carries a corresponding duty.
3 In the exercise and enjoyment of the rights referred to above every person shall be subject only to such limitations as are enjoined by the Law for the purpose of securing the due recognition of, and respect for, the rights and the freedom of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare of the Community (Ummah).

The Arabic text of this Declaration is the original.

Glossary of Arabic Terms
SUNNAH – The example or way of life of the Prophet (peace be upon him), embracing what he said, did or agreed to.
KHALIFAH – The vicegerency of man on earth or succession to the Prophet, transliterated into English as the Caliphate.
HISBAH- Public vigilance, an institution of the Islamic State enjoined to observe and facilitate the fulfillment of right norms of public behaviour. The “Hisbah” consists in public vigilance as well as an opportunity to private individuals to seek redress through it.
MA’ROOF – Good act.
MUNKAR – Reprehensible deed.
ZAKAH – The ‘purifying’ tax on wealth, one of the five pillars of Islam obligatory on Muslims.
‘IDDAH – The waiting period of a widowed or divorced woman during which she is not to re-marry.
KHUL’A – Divorce a woman obtains at her own request.
UMMAH ISLAMIA – World Muslim community.
SHARI’AH – Islamic law.


Note: The Roman numerals refer to the topics in the text. The Arabic numerals refer to the Chapter and the Verse of the Qur’an, i.e. 5:32 means Chapter 5, Verse 32.

I 1 Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:32
2 Hadith narrated by Muslim, Abu Daud,Tirmidhi, Nasai
3 Hadith narrated by Bukhari

II 4 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
5 Sayings of Caliph Umar
6 Qur’an As-Shura 42:41
7 Qur’an Al-Hajj 22:41

III 8 From the Prophet’s address
9 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai
10 From the address of Caliph Abu Bakr
11 From the Prophet’s farewell address
12 Qur’an Al-Ahqaf 46:19
13 Hadith narrated by Ahmad
14 Qur’an Al-Mulk 67:15
15 Qur’an Al-Zalzalah 99:7-8

IV 16 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:59
17 Qur ‘an Al-Maidah 5:49
18 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:148
19 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi
20 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
2l Hadith narrated by Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmdhi, Nasai
22 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai
23 Hadith narrated by Abu Daud, Tirmidhi
24 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai
25 Hadith narrated by Bukhari

V 26 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
27 Qur’an Al-Isra 17:15
28 Qur’an Al-Ahzab 33:5
29 Qur’an Al-Hujurat 49:6
30 Qur’an An-Najm 53:28
31 Qur’an Al Baqarah 2:229
32 Hadith narrated by Al Baihaki, Hakim
33 Qur’an Al-Isra 17:15
34 Qur’an At-Tur 52:21
35 Qur’an Yusuf 12:79

VI 36 Qur’an Al Ahzab 33:58

VII 37 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai
38 Hadith narrated by Ibn Majah

VIII 39 From the Prophet’s farewell address
40 Qur’an Al-Hujurat 49:12
41 Qur’an Al-Hujurat 49:11

IX 42 Qur’an At-Tawba 9:6
43 Qur’an Al-Imran 3:97
44 Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:125
45 Qur’an Al-Hajj 22:25

X 46 Qur’an Al Baqarah 2:256
47 Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:42
48 Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:43
49 Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:47

XI 50 Qur’an As-Shura 42:38
51 Hadith narated by Ahmad
52 From the address of Caliph Abu Bakr

XII 53 Qur’an Al-Ahzab 33:60-61
54 Qur’an Saba 34:46
55 Hadith narrated by Tirmidhi, Nasai
56 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:83
57 Qur’an Al-Anam 6:108

XIII 58 Qur’an Al Kafirun 109:6

XIV 59 Qur’an Yusuf 12:108
60 Qur’an Al-Imran 3:104
61 Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:2
62 Hadith narrated by Abu Daud, Tirmidhi,Nasai, Ibn Majah

XV 63 Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:120
64 Qur’an Al-Jathiyah 45:13
65 Qur’an Ash-Shuara 26:183
66 Qur’an Al-Isra 17:20
67 Qur’an Hud 11:6
68 Qur’an Al-Mulk 67:15
69 Qur’an An-Najm 53:48
70 Qur’an Al-Hashr 59:9
71 Qur’an Al-Maarij 70:24-25
72 Sayings of Caliph Abu Bakr
73 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
74 Hadith narrated by Muslim
75 Hadith narrated by Muslim, Abu Daud,Tirmidhi, Nasai
76 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai
77 Qur’an Al-Mutaffifin 83:1-3
78 Hadith narrated by Muslim
79 Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:275
80 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim,Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai

XVI 81 Qur’an Al Baqarah 2:188
82 Hadith narrated by Bukhari
83 Hadith narrated by Muslim
84 Hadith narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi

XVII 85 Qur’an At-Tawbah 9:105
86 Hadith narrated by Abu Yala¾ Majma Al Zawaid
87 Hadith narrated by Ibn Majah
88 Qur’an Al-Ahqaf 46:19
89 Qur’an At-Tawbah 9:105
90 Hadith narrated by Tabarani¾ Majma Al Zawaid
91 Hadith narrated by Bukhari

XVIII 92 Qur’an Al-Ahzab 33:6

XIX 93 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:1
94 Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:228
95 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim,Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nasai
96 Qur’an Ar-Rum 30:21
97 Qur’an At-Talaq 65:7
98 Qur’an Al-Isra 17:24
99 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim,Abu Daud, Tirmidhi
100 Hadith narrated by Abu Daud
101 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
102 Hadith narrated by Abu Daud, Tirmidhi
103 Hadith narrated by Ahmad, Abu Daud

XX 104 Qur’an At-Talaq 65:6
105 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:34
106 Qur’an At-Talaq 65:6
107 Qur’an AtTalaq 65:6
108 Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:229
109 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:12
110 Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:237

XXI 111 Qur’an Al-Isra 17:23-24
112 Hadith narrated by Ibn Majah
113 Qur’an Al-Imran 3:187
114 From the Prophet’s farewell address
115 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
116 Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim,Abu Daud, Tirmidhi

XXII 117 Hadith narrated by Muslim
118 Qur’an Al-Hujurat 49:12
119 Hadith narrated by Abu Daud, Tirmidhi

XXIII 120 Qur’an Al-Mulk 67:15
121 Qur’an Al-Anam 6:11
122 Qur’an An-Nisa 4:97
123 Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:217
124 Qur’an Al-Hashr 59:9

Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Done at Cairo on the 5 August, 1990

The Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference,

  • Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which God made the best nation that has given mankind a universal and well-balanced civilization in which harmony is established between this life and the hereafter and knowledge is combined with faith; and the role that this Ummah should play to guide a humanity confused by competing trends and ideologies and to provide solutions to the chronic problems of this materialistic civilization.
  • Wishing to contribute to the efforts of mankind to assert human rights, to protect man from exploitation and persecution, and to affirm his freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah;
  • Convinced that mankind which has reached an advanced stage in materialistic science is still, and shall remain, in dire need of faith to support its civilization and of a self-motivating force to guard its rights;
  • Believing that fundamental rights and universal freedoms in Islam are an integral part of the Islamic religion and that no one as a matter of principle has the right to suspend them in whole or in part or violate or ignore them in as much as they are binding divine commandments, which are contained in the Revealed Books of God and were sent through the last of His Prophets to complete the preceding divine messages thereby making their observance an act of worship and their neglect or violation all abominable sin, and accordingly every person is individually responsible – and tile Ummah collectively responsible – for their safeguard.
  • Proceeding from the above-mentioned principles,
  • Declare the following:

Article 1: [All Humanity is Descended from Muslims, and Muslims are the Most Beloved of God]

  1. All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, language, sex, religious belief, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True faith is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human perfection.
  2. All human beings are God’s subjects, and the most loved by Him are those who are most useful to the rest of His subjects, and no one has superiority over another except on the basis of piety and good deeds.

Article 2: [The Right to Life Unless Sharia Dictates Otherwise]

  1. Life is a God-given gift and the right to life is guaranteed to every human being. It is the duty of individuals, societies and state to protect this right from any violation, and it is prohibited to take away life except for a Shari’a prescribed reason.
  2. It is forbidden to resort to such means as may result in the genocidal annihilation of mankind.
  3. The preservation of human life throughout the term of time willed by God is a duty prescribed by Shari’a.
  4. Safely from bodily harm is a guaranteed right. It is the duty of the state to safeguard it, and it is prohibited to breach it without a Chore-prescribed reason.

Article 3: [Just Behavior in War]

  1. In the event of the use of force and in case of armed conflict, it is not possible to kill non-belligerents such as old men, women and children. The wounded and the sick shall have the right to medical treatment; and prisoners of war shall have the right to be fed, sheltered and clothed. It is prohibited to mutilate dead bodies. It is a duty to exchange prisoners of war and to arrange visits or reunions of the families separated by the circumstances of war.
  2. It is prohibited to fell trees, to damage crops or livestock, and to destroy the enemy’s civilian buildings and installations by shelling, blasting or any other means.

Article 4: [The Right to Honor]

  • Every human being is entitled to inviolability and the protection of his good name and honour during his life and after his death. The state and society shall protect his remains and burial place.

Article 5: [The Right to Marry and form a Family]

  1. The family is the foundation of society, and marriage is the basis of its formation. Men and women have the right to marriage, and no restrictions stemming from race, colour or nationality shall prevent them from enjoying this right.
  2. Society and the State shall remove all obstacles to marriage and shall facilitate marital procedure. They shall ensure family protection and welfare.

Article 6: [Marital Duties of the Husband and Wife]

  1. Woman is equal to man in human dignity, and has rights to enjoy as well as duties to perform; she has her own civil entity and financial independence, and the right to retain her name and lineage.
  2. The husband is responsible for the support and welfare of the family.

Article 7: [The Rights and Responsibilities of Children]

  1. As of the moment or birth, every child has rights due from the parents, society and the state to be accorded proper nursing, education and material, hygienic and moral care. Both the fetus and the mother must be protected and accorded special care.
  2. Parents and those in such like capacity have the right to choose the type of education they desire for their children, provided they take into consideration the interest and future of the children in accordance with ethical values and the principles of Shari’a.
  3. Both parents are entitled to certain rights from their children, and relatives are entitled to rights from their kin, in accordance with the tenets of the Shari’a.

Article 8: [The Right to be Judged by Sharia]

  • Every human being has the right to enjoy his legal capacity in terms of both obligation and commitment, should this capacity be lost or impaired, he shall be represented by his guardian.

Article 9: [The Right to an Islamic Education]

  1. The question for knowledge is an obligation and the provision of education is a duty for society and the State. The State shall ensure the availability of ways and means to acquire education and shall guarantee educational diversity in the interest of society so as to enable men to be acquainted with the religion of Islam and the facts of the Universe for the benefit of mankind.
  2. Every human being has the right to receive both religious and worldly education from the various institution of, education and guidance, including the family, the school, the university, the media, etc., and in such an integrated and balanced manner as to develop his personality, strengthen his faith in God and promote his respect for and defence of both rights and obligations.

Article 10: [The Right to Convert to Islam and Prohibition of Conversion from Islam to Any Other Religion]

  • Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism.

Article 11: [The Right to Take up Arms against non-Islamic Governments]

  1. Human beings are born free, and no one has the right to enslave, humiliate, oppress or exploit them, and there can be no subjugation but to God the Most-High.
  2. Colonialism of all types being one of the most evil forms of enslavement is totally prohibited. Peoples suffering from colonialism have the full right to freedom and self-determination. It is the duty of all States and peoples to support the struggle of colonized peoples for the liquidation of all forms of colonialism and occupation, and all States and peoples have the right to preserve their independent identity and exercise control over their wealth and natural resources.

Article 12: [The Right to Travel Freely]

  • Every man shall have the right, within the framework of Shari’a, to free movement and to select his place of residence whether inside or outside his country and if persecuted, is entitled to seek asylum in another country. The country of refuge shall ensure his protection until he reaches safety, unless asylum is motivated by an act which Shari’a regards as a crime.

Article 13: [The Right to Work and be Employed]

  • Work is a right guaranteed by the State and Society for each person able to work. Everyone shall be free to choose the work that suits him best and which serves his interests and those of society. The employee shall have the right to safety and security as well as to all other social guarantees. He may neither be assigned work beyond his capacity nor be subjected to compulsion or exploited or harmed in any way. He shall be entitled without any discrimination between males and females – to fair wages for his work without delay, as well as to the holidays allowances and promotions which he deserves. For his part, he shall be required to be dedicated and meticulous in his work. Should workers and employers disagree on any matter, the State shall intervene to settle the dispute and have the grievances redressed, the rights confirmed and justice enforced without bias.

Article 14: [The Right to a Living Wage and a Prohibition against Paying Interest]

  • Everyone shall have the right to legitimate gains without monopolization, deceit or harm to oneself or to others. Usury (riba) is absolutely prohibited.

Article 15: [The Right to Own Property Unless Sharia Dictates Otherwise]

  1. Everyone shall have the right to own property acquired in a legitimate way, and shall be entitled to the rights of ownership without prejudice to oneself, others or to society in general. Expropriation is not permissible except for the requirements of public interest and upon payment of immediate and fair compensation.
  2. Confiscation and seizure of property is prohibited except for a necessity dictated by law.

Article 16: [Intellectual Property Rights, Unless Sharia Dictates Otherwise]

  • Everyone shall have the right to enjoy the fruits of his scientific, literary, artistic or technical production and the right to protect the moral and material interests stemming therefrom, provided that such production is not contrary to the principles of Shari’a.

Article 17: [The Right to Health Care, a Living Wage, Protections from Vice, and Cleanliness]

  1. Everyone shall have the right to live in a clean environment, away from vice and moral corruption, an environment that would foster his self-development and it is incumbent upon the State and Society in general to afford that right.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to medical and social care, and to all public amenities provided by society and the State within the limits of their available resources.
  3. The State shall ensure the right of the individual to a decent living which will enable him to meet all his requirements and those of his dependents, including food, clothing, housing, education, medical care and all other basic needs.

Article 18: [The Right to Privacy and Security in One’s Home]

  1. Everyone shall have the right to live in security for himself, his religion, his dependents, his honour and his property.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to privacy in the conduct of his private affairs, in his home, among his family, with regard to his property and his relationships. lt is not permitted to spy on him, to place him under surveillance or to besmirch his good name. The State shall protect him from arbitrary interference.
  3. A private residence is inviolable in all cases. It will not be entered without permission from its inhabitants or in any unlawful manner, nor shall it be demolished or confiscated and its dwellers evicted.

Article 19: [The Right to be Legally Subject to the Sharia]

  1. All individuals are equal before the law, without distinction between the ruler and the ruled.
  2. The right to resort to justice is guaranteed to everyone.
  3. Liability is in essence personal.
  4. There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari’a.
  5. A defendant is innocent until his guilt is proven in a fair trial in which he shall be given all the guarantees of defence.

Article 20: [Prohibition of Cruel or Unusual Punishment and Humiliation or Shame]

  • It is not permitted without legitimate reason to arrest an individual, or restrict his freedom, to exile or to punish him. It is not permitted to subject him to physical or psychological torture or to any form of humiliation, cruelty or indignity. Nor is it permitted to subject an individual to medical or scientific experimentation without his consent or at the risk of his health or of his life. Nor is it permitted to promulgate emergency laws that would provide executive authority for such actions.

Article 21: [Prohibition Against Taking Hostages]

  • Taking hostages under any form or for any purpose is expressly forbidden.

Article 22: [The Right to Speech that Adheres to the Prohibitions and Mandates of Sharia, and a Prohibition Against Insulting Islam and Mohammed]

  1. Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’a.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’a.
  3. Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
  4. It is not permitted to arouse nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form of racial discrimination.

Article 24: [Clarification that Articles 1-23 are Subject to Change or Cancellation Without Notice if they Contradict Sharia]

  • All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’a.

Article 25: [Sharia is the Sole Basis for All These Rights]

  • The Islamic Shari’a is the only source of reference for the explanation or classification of any of the articles of this Declaration.

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One response to “Human Rights 2: The Islamic Approach

  1. Naser Khader has addressed many of the shortcomings of the traditional Moslem approach to human rights in his Ten Commandments of Democracy, which is part of his “Democratic Moslems” project.

    The ten commandments of Democracy

    1. We must all separate politics and religion, and we must never place religion above the laws of democracy.
    2. We must all respect that all people have equal rights regardless of sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
    3. No person must ever incite to hatred, and we must never allow hatred to enter our hearts.
    4. No person must ever use or encourage violence – no matter how frustrated or wronged we feel, or how just our cause.
    5. We must all make use of dialogue – always.
    6. We must all show respect for the freedom of expression, also of those with whom we disagree the most.
    7. No person can claim for themselves or assign to others a place apart, neither as superior persons, as inferior persons or as eternal victims.
    8. We must all treat other people’s national and religious symbols as we wish them to treat ours – flag-burning and graffiti on churches, mosques and synagogues are insults that hinder dialogue and increase the repression of the other party.
    9. We must all mind our manners in public. Public space is not a stage on which to vent one’s aggressions or to spread fear and hate, but should be a forum for visions and arguments, where the best must win support.
    10. We must all stand up for our opponent if he or she is subjected to spiteful treatment.

    The commandments were first voiced in a speech by Naser Khader in 2002.