What are Islam's rulings on democracy and human rights?

31 Aug

1. Islam was the first religion to call for human rights emphasizing the necessity of safeguarding them. Any scholar of Islamic legislation learns that it declares the fundamental rights of man, which include man’s life, belief, opinions, wealth, and family, all of which are safeguarded by Islam. The history of Islam records ‘Omar Ibn Al-Khattab’s decisive stance against the violation of human rights when he said: "Why do you enslave people after their mothers gave birth to them as free individuals?"
2. The human rights in Islam are based upon two fundamental principles: (a) Equality among all human beings. (b) Freedom, which is the right of every human being. Islam bases equality on two foundations, namely (the first) that all human beings originated from the same human origin, and (the second) human dignity, which is granted to all mankind. As for the common origin of all mankind, Islam declares that God created mankind from one soul and hence all human beings are brothers and sisters in one large family in which there is no room for privileges on account of wealth or status. The difference that exists between human beings does not affect their origin and essence, which are one and the same. The differences that exist between human beings in the world should urge them to become acquainted with each other and to cooperate with one another in various walks of life: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other". [49/13]. The second foundation is that equality is based on the honor and dignity with which God Almighty graced all mankind: "We have honored the sons of Adam". [17/70]. God made man a vicegerent on earth and ordered the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam and made him a master in this universe. God also rendered all that is in the heavens and the earth subservient to man. These privileges honored and elevated man above other created beings. God conferred this honor and dignity in principle on all human beings without exception so that it would immune and protect every single human being, and so rich or poor, rulers or subjects, are all equal in the sight of God and in the eyes of the law. The second principle upon which the Human Rights are founded in Islam is freedom. God created man as a responsible human being for populating the earth and establishing civilization. Naturally, responsibility cannot exist without freedom even in the matter of the choice of believing in God or rejecting to believe in Him, which is left to man’s free will: "Let him who will, believe, and let him who will reject (it)". [18/29]. Freedom includes all aspects of human freedom, whether religious, political, intellectual, or civilian matters.
3. Passing judgment in Islam is based upon justice and consultation as is declared in the Qur’an: "And when you judge between man and man, judge with justice". [4/58] God Almighty ordered justice and benevolence in dealing with others: "God commands justice, the doing of good and liberality…" [16/90] There are also many other verses in the Qur’an which illustrate this point. As for consultation, it is a fundamental and obligatory principle in Islam. When the Prophet was not inspired by divine inspiration in any matter, he consulted his companions and acted according to the opinion of the majority, even if it were contrary to his own opinion. An example of this was the consultation concerning the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet was of the opinion that the Muslims should not set out to fight, yet he submitted to the opinion of the majority, who advocated fighting, and the result was defeat. Despite this, the Qur’an emphasized the necessity of consultation and addressed the Prophet in the following Qur’anic verse: "So pass over (their faults) and ask for (God’s) forgiveness for them and consult them in affairs". [3/159]. Accordingly, we must not be misled by the opinion held by a minority of jurists who maintain that consultation is not obligatory, since their opinion is inconsistent with the religious texts of the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet. Islam left to the judgment of the Muslims the method of consultation in keeping with the interests of the community. If the welfare of a Muslim nation should require that consultation should follow the acknowledged system currently practiced by modern nations, Islam does not object to that system, the application of which must necessarily take into account the circumstances of every era on the national and international levels. The aforementioned facts illustrate the extent of Islam’s concern for safeguarding the human rights and the application of the principle of consultation or democracy as it is understood today.
4. Islam permitted people to have different opinions and allowed interpretative judgment in religious matters provided that these people fulfilled the necessary qualifications to do so. Islam declares that the person who uses his judgment in the matter and errs is rewarded by God, whereas he who uses his judgment and arrives at the correct result is doubly rewarded by God. The scholars of the doctrines of jurisprudence have come across many different opinions concerning many matters and nobody has ever claimed that a difference of opinion is prohibited by Islam. Islam, therefore, allows the expression of differing opinions without any limitations, provided that they are sincerely concerned with the welfare, security and peace of their community.

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