We live in an age that is striking in its unprecedented technological sophistication. Unfortunately, the prejudices and inequities that have plagued the human race historically, continue to exist, and are responsible for untold human suffering. It is in this context that the subject of human rights is especially pertinent. What constitutes human rights? Can we come to a common understanding of these rights and thereby ensure that these are universally granted to every member of society? These questions have been the subject of historic documents such as The Magna Carta, The French Declaration of the Rights of Man, The American Bill of Rights, and The Geneva Convention. The history of human rights covers thousands of years and draws upon religious, cultural, philosophical and legal developments throughout recorded history. Several ancient documents and later religions and philosophies included a variety of concepts that may be considered to be human rights. Notable among such documents are the Cyrus cylinder of 539 BC, a declaration of intentions by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great after his conquest of the Neo-Babylonian Empire; the Edicts of Ashoka issued by Ashoka the Great of India between 272-231 BC; and the Constitution of Medina of 622 AD, drafted by Muhammad to mark a formal agreement between all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib (later known as Medina), including Muslims, Jews and Pagans. The English Magna Carta of 1215 is particularly significant in the history of English law, and is hence significant in international law and constitutional law today. Magna Carta (Latin for Great Charter, literally "Great Paper"), also called Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Freedoms), is an English legal charter, originally issued in the year 1215. It was written in Latin.Magna Carta required King John of England to proclaim certain rights (mainly of his barons), respect certain legal procedures, and accept that his will could be bound by the law. It explicitly protected certain rights of the King's subjects, whether free or fettered, most notably the writ of habeas corpus, allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment. What is often overlooked, however, is that these questions have also been addressed by various religious traditions. The Islamic model of human rights in particular is striking in its rigor, its vision and its relevance to modern times. Islam’s contribution to human rights can be appreciated when compared against the backdrop of world history as well as the realities of modern times. Social, racial, gender, and religious inequities have always existed. Economic and social disparities have resulted in oppression of the lower classes; racial prejudices have been the cause of subjugation and enslavement of people with darker skin; women have been weighed down by chauvinistic attitudes, and pervasive attitudes of religious superiority have led to widespread persecution of people with different beliefs. When considering the question of human rights and Islam, it is important to remember the distinction between textually prescribed rights, and their misapplication and misinterpretation by imperfect human beings. Just as Western societies still fight against racism and discrimination, Muslim societies struggle to fully implement Islamic human rights. Divinely Mandated The distinguishing feature of human rights in Islam is that these rights are the natural outcome of a broader practice of faith; deeds and social behavior that Muslims believe are divinely mandated. The Glorious Quran says: Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition. [Quran, 16:90-91] Dignity and Equality Human rights can be seen as stemming from two fundamental principles: dignity and equality. Dignity is a fundamental right of every human being merely by virtue of his or her humanity. The Glorious Quran says: Verily we have honoured the Children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea, and have made provision of good things for them, and have preferred them above many of those whom we created with a marked preferment. [Quran 17:70]

2 Regarding equality, the Quranic verse is explicit: O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. [Quran 49:13] Thus, what distinguishes one human being from another, in the Sight of God, is the person’s piety and God-consciousness. The proliferation of humanity into many races and ethnicities is a testament to Gods Majesty and Wisdom. Physical and racial differences among human beings do not imply inequality. However, racial superiority and discrimination is prohibited in Islam and contradicts its essence. This concept is exemplified in the following prophetic tradition: Arab does not have any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Nor does a white man have any superiority over a black man or the black man any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay. Equality of Women As creations of God, women are accorded spiritual equality with men. They are rewarded for prayer and charitable acts, and likewise held accountable for their actions, good or bad, while on earth. The Glorious Quran says: If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them. [Quran 4:124] Both men and women have responsibilities towards their families and societies as is clear from the following verse: The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is exalted in power, Wise? [Quran, 9:71] Under the laws of Islam, women have the right to own property and businesses, engage in financial transactions, vote, receive inheritance, obtain an education and participate in legal and political affairs. The fact that Muslim societies do not always accord women all these rights is an example of how human beings can fall short of fully implementing the Divine Will. The Right to Life and Safety The most basic right of a human being is the right to live. The Glorious Quran recognizes this right in the following verses: Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause. [Quran, 17:33] Whosoever kills a human being without due reason not in retaliation for murder or corruption on earth, it is as though he had killed all of mankind? [Quran, 5:32] Islam’s position on life is that it is a sacred trust from God. No human being is permitted to take the life of another, unless it is for justice administered by a competent court following due process of law. Not only do human beings have the right not to be harmed, they have the right to be safeguarded from harm, physical or otherwise. So under Islamic law, people are legally liable for instance, if they did not prevent a blind man from dying of a perilous fall, if they were in a position to do so. Even in a state of war, Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly on the battlefield. Islam has drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the noncombatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: "Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman". "Do not kill the monks in monasteries". During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: "She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?" Thus non-combatants are guaranteed security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state. Freedom of Beliefs Contrary to popular misconceptions, a genuine Islamic state is obligated to not only permit but respect diversity. Thus non-Muslims in an Islamic state are allowed to worship in accordance with their religion. When Spain was under Muslim rule, the city of Cordova, was considered the intellectual center of Europe, where students went to study philosophy, science and medicine under Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars.

3 This rich and sophisticated society took a tolerant view towards other faiths. Tolerance was unheard of in the rest of Europe. But in Muslim Spain, thousands of Jews and Christians lived in peace and harmony with their Muslim overlords. (Burke, 1985, p. 38) 5 The Right to a Basic Standard of Life A basic standard of life includes the minimum essentials necessary for survival, such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anyone suffering from deprivation of these economic necessities is entitled to receive aid in order to meet their needs. It is the duty of every Muslim with adequate means to give from their wealth, in order to eradicate poverty from society. Dignity and Equality The Glorious Quran says: And in their wealth the beggar and the outcast had due share. [Quran 51:19] The Right to Justice Islam requires that Muslims possess upright character and deal justly with the entire human race, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, creed, and whether they are friend or foe. The Glorious Quran says: O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. [Quran, 5:8] The sense of justice that Islam encompasses is one of the most wonderful ideals of Islam, because, as I read in the Qur'an, I find those dynamic principles of life, not mystic but practical ethics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world. [Lectures on The Ideals of Islam see Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu, Madras, 1918, p. 167] Rights and Mutual Responsibility From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that Islamic law has divinely mandated rights for individuals in their specific roles as spouse, parent, child, relative, neighbor, friend, and even foe. In its distribution of rights and responsibilities, Islam has addressed the social, racial, gender, and sectarian issues plaguing the world. Although much of the world, including Muslim nations, have yet to fully implement it, the model of rights and mutual responsibilities enshrined in Islam, has a tremendous potential for individual and social reform. Ali (AS), the fourth Caliph & son in law of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had written a comprehensive letter articulating principles of public policy for the guidance of the newly appointed Governor to Egypt, Maalik al Ashtar. In this fascinating directive, Ali (AS) advises the new governor that his administration will succeed only if he governs with concern for justice, equity, probity and the prosperity of all. There is a timeless applicability of this famous letter. Selected passages from the text are reproduced below: Religious tolerance Amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you [and] are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than yours, [who] are human beings like you. Men of either category suffer from the same weaknesses and disabilities that human beings are inclined to; they commit sins, indulge in vices either intentionally or foolishly and unintentionally without realising the enormity of their deeds. Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect Allah to show mercy and forgiveness to you. Equity is best A policy which is based on equity will be largely appreciated. Remember that the displeasure of common men, the have-nots and the depressed persons, over-balances the approval of important persons, while the displeasure of a few big people will be excused… if the general public and the masses of your subjects are happy with you. The rich are the people who will be the worst drag upon you during your moments of peace and happiness, and the least useful to you during your hours of need and adversity. They hate justice the most. They will keep demanding more and more out of State resources and will seldom be satisfied with what they receive and will never be obliged for the favour shown to them if their demands are justifiably refused. On judiciary You must select people of excellent character and high caliber with meritorious records. When they realise that they have committed a mistake in judgment, they should not insist on it by trying to justify it. They should not be corrupt, covetous or greedy. These appointments must be made. without any kind of favouritism being shown or influence being accepted; otherwise

4 tyranny, corruption and misrule will reign. Let the judiciary be above every kind of executive pressure or influence, above fear or favour, intrigue or corruption. Poverty If a country is prosperous and if its people are well-to-do, then it will happily and willingly bear any burden. The poverty of the people is the actual cause of the devastation and ruination of a country, and the main cause of the poverty of the people is the desire of its ruler and officers to amass wealth and possessions, whether by fair or foul means. Corruption undermines national well-being I want to advise you about your businessmen and industrialists. Treat them well; they are the sources of wealth to the country. You must keep an eye over their activities as well. You know that they are usually stingy misers, intensely self-centered and selfish, suffering from the obsession of grasping and accumulating wealth. They often hoard their goods to get more profit out of them by creating scarcity and by indulging in black-marketing. On communicating with people You must take care not to cut yourself off from the public. Do not place a curtain of false prestige between you and those over whom you rule. Such pretension and shows of pomp and pride are in reality manifestations of an inferiority complex and of vanity. The result of such an attitude is that you remain ignorant of the conditions of your subjects and of the actual cases of the events occurring in the State. Peace leads to prosperity If your enemy invites you to a peace treaty, never refuse to accept such an offer, because peace will bring rest and comfort to your armies, will relieve you of anxieties and worries, and will bring prosperity and affluence to your people. Be very careful never to break your promise with your enemy; never forsake the protection or support that you have offered to him; never go back upon your word, and never violate the terms of the treaty. In history human rights violation is as common as any other human behaviour. All over World history the Ruling classes to establish their hegemony curbed the rights of their subjects. It is said that it is always advantageous for the ruling class to control the flow of information in order to prevent public scrutiny of official decisions and also in order to be able to release information selectively at a convenient time. Freedom of speech is one of the basic human rights included in all religious as well as modern legislations. Right of dissent is one of the basic rights inclusive of right of freedom of speech. Holocaust was one of classic case of greatest Human rights violation. It is said that Nazis killed the majority of European Jewry (an estimated 5.1 million according to Raul Hilberg, 5.27 million according to the Munich-based Institut für Zeitgeschichte) and about 30% of the Jewish people worldwide. Although some people dispute the figures as exaggerated & some say that Holocaust is being misused, as Arun Gandhi (grand son of Mahatma Gandhi) had said that “Israel & Jews are ‘the biggest players’ in a global culture of violence. Jews today not only want the Germans to feel guilty but the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews. The world did feel sorry for the episode but when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on the regret turns into anger.” This debate may go on but the fact of the matter is that humans were brutally killed & their right to live was snatched by using brutal force, although the figure of deaths may vary. But the way in which we should start a dialogue is important. If someone has a right to project their grievances then others have also equal right to project their own grievances. In the context of violation of human rights in Holocaust some people in Europe itself raised their voice which is echoed by Arun Gandhi. But the dissenting voices against exaggeration or misuse of Holocaust are being curbed in total violation of respect of rights of dissent. Although such dissenting voices have equal right to express themselves. In Europe 13 countries ban speeches denying the Holocaust. Holocaust denial is explicitly or implicitly illegal in 13 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland. Slovakia made Holocaust denial a crime in late 2001 but repealed the legislation in May 2005. Spain decriminalized Holocaust denial in October 2007. ***********

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