The Islamic Declaration of Human Rights
Ayatullah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri
When we study the preamble, we realize that the relation between the two issues is so logical that it enables us to conclude the following principles easily:
1. Belief in the Almighty God and His attributes (creation, blessings, generosity, viceroydom, granting the earth to man, and love). All these are thoughts, which constitute the belief in the Almighty God, and human rights, enable us to enjoy all these rights.
2. The second article of the Islamic declaration states that Islam is the true religion for all mankind. It is the religion of breaking from the bonds; it is a religion of equality and justice. It combats all kinds of corruption and injustice and discrimination. The scholar should understand these important principles(the right to cooperation, the right of freedom, the right to rebel against tyranny)
3. Belief in the oneness of God (worshipping only the almighty God)
4. Islam protects religion, life, reason, property, decency and children.
5. The role of the Islamic civilization is introduced as the best people that have created a civilization for all mankind, a civilization binding the world to the hereafter and to knowledge and religion.
6. Belief in man’s participation in protecting human rights
7. Belief in man’s increasing need to protect religion
8. Belief that fundamental rights are parts of religion and protecting it is worship and being fanatic is considered wrong and each individual is as well as the conununity is responsible towards it. This is the foundation of individual and social responsibilities for the full realization of the principles set therein.
These are the firm foundations of the rights set forth in the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights and as we said before, these constitute the basis of human rights.
The Shortcomings of the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights
We believe that this requires reevaluation; so we shall point out the shortcomings in the hope that they will be removed:
1. The necessity of pointing to the divine attributes as the first principle including knowledge, power and life and these are important facts for understanding these rights; Islam attempts to confer these divine attributes on Muslims and particular rights are derived thereby.
2. The third principle mentioning divine unity should be placed before the second, which discusses Islam as a universal religion, and after the first, which discusses divine attributes. This ordering would seem more logical.
3. The fourth principle should be integrated within the third one and it should be shown how these particular rights are related to divine attributes. Islam offers a universal plan for the promotion of man: that is, for drawing him closer to God by conferring upon him attributes which are perfectly characterized by divinity. Hence, the program of Islam and the rights it advances for humanity are best understood in terms of the divine attributes.
4. The preamble to the Islamic declaration of human rights should be supplemented by a discussion of Islamic law and morality and their objectives.
5. It is fit to propose this declaration as truly universal for given the Islamic understanding of the essence of man, his innate needs and its realism about the human condition, there should be no doubt or hesitation about the fact that Islamic rights are capable of meeting the needs of all human beings anywhere in the world.
A Comparative Study
Before we embark on making a comparative study of the two declarations, we should pay attention to the principles set forth in the two declarations. Before understanding these rights, we have to state that the ordering of the principles is different in them. However, the important point lies in the ordering of the principles set forth in the Islamic declaration, which are effected in a more correct manner. This shows how perfect it is. On the other hand, some of these rights can be referred to particular and public cases. However, the inclusion of any principle in the declaration should be for the sake of the importance they attach to it.
Common Points in the Two Declarations
We can express the common points in the following way: Both declarations lay emphasis on the right to life, freedom, security, rejection of torture and unjust punishment and ill treatment. They also agree on the right to hygiene, social services, respectable life and the prohibition of detention and exile exceeding the crime. They both emphasize on the social position of individuals and providing them with the best standards of life.
The two declarations stress that man is born free and cannot be held in captivity. Everyone are equal in rights, endowed with conscience and reason and should act in a spirit of brotherhood.
The two declarations emphasize on the equal rights of men and women in dignity and the necessity of having a proper social status for both men and women. Also, marriage between men and women should take place with the full consent of both parties and that the family is the fundamental unit of the society. Women have the right to enjoy the protection of the government and the society. It is also necessary as implied by the two declarations to provide the security of person, property, personality and family at internal and international level.
Also, the two declarations place stress on the education whose goal is to promote the personality of all the conununity members. Also, the consent of the parents in every affair is expressed in the two declarations.
The two declarations stress that human being is born free and no one can put him on slavery. All persons are legally equal and possess intellect and conscience (this is not a legal issue) and they shout cooperate on the bases of brotherhood.
The two declarations lay stress on freedom of thought and opinion and expression. They both claim that man has the right to enjoy the material and spiritual interests of any literary works of which he is the author. They have the right to choose any religion they desire. They have the right to enjoy freedom of thought as long as it does not hurt anyone. They have the right to a legal personality and freedom of movement and residence. They can seek political asylum provided that they have not committed a non-political crime.
The two declarations state that people are free to choose their own profession and that no one has the right to impose on others what they cannot do. The workers have equal wages and have the right to enjoy the advantages in time of unwilled unemployment, illness, physical mutilation, old age and celibacy.
The two declarations state that people are to be presumed innocent as long as their crime has not been proved. Crime is a personal matter and everyone has the right to have a just tribunal and the punishment is to be detennined by law.
Also, the two declarations agree on the prohibition of despotism and believe that any individual has the right to participate in the government. Equality should be realized before the law and the people should be allowed to take claims establish to the just courts. There is also the right to organize charity organization.
Finally, the two declarations emphasize that every human person is responsible to protect these rights and freedoms and must strive for promotion ... no one has the right to interfere in the freedom of others and cannot take advantage of them for his personal and social benefit.
Differences between the Two Declarations
The difference between the two declarations can be explained in the following way:
1. The Islamic declaration makes a distinction between the dignity (which man acquires due to his being a human) and the acquired dignity (derived in the course of spiritual development). This is an important point ignored in the universal declaration of human rights. Thus, we consider it imperfect in this regard and believe that conscience makes a distinction between a great sage like Avicenna and an ordinary person w'ho has left nothing useful behind.
2. The Islamic declaration stresses the point that people are the servants of the Almighty God: This shows the perfect concept of this equality in dignity. Besides the relation of dignity in all aspects of life, all the servants of the Almighty are close to God and are equal in His eyes. However among the people there exists a spiritual competition to approach God through self-making by medium of opinion, true faith, virtuous acts effective in the realization the divine justice. However, the universal declaration has been incapable of understanding this relation.
3. The concept noted above may be seen in article two of the Islamic declaration. Life is a gift granted by the Almighty and consequently, its legal value has increased. Hence, it must be guarded and protected.
4. The human dignity must be protected even after death. For instance, Islam claims that slaughtering dogs is unlawful. The secret of this affair lies in moral principles.
However, there is no mention of these things in the universal declaration and this is its major shortcoming and the world attempted to eliminate this fault by an augmentation to the Geneva convention.
5. Article eight of the Islamic declaration places stress on the fame of man, a point stated in the universal declaration with the difference that in the Islamic declaration it is applicable after death as well, by protecting his corpse and grave.
6. The two declarations stress on family as the fundamental unit and the state and the community should defend it in every possible way, every man and woman have the right to found a family and limitations such as color, race and so on cannot prevent them from this. However, in this regard, there are differences between the two declarations which may be mentioned as follows:
A) The Islamic declaration believes that marriage is the foundation of family whereas there is no mention of it in the universal declaration.
B) The universal declaration regards equal rights for men and women which include alimony and divorce and such matters whereas the Islamic declaration makes a distinction between these affairs and emphasizes that women have certain rights which are in proportion to their duties and responsibilities. Women have financial independence, have the right to preserve their names and origins forever and the family expenses are on the shoulders of husbands.
C) The Islamic declaration stresses on the social responsibilities of the state and the elimination of impediments in the way of marriage whereas there is no mention of it in the universal declaration.
D) Another difference is that religion is not mentioned in the universal declaration whereas it is mentioned in the Islamic declaration. It stresses the fact that religion is necessary for the realization of the union between wives and husbands, otherwise all the hopes pinned on family are nullified.
7. The Islamic declaration stresses the rights of parents and relatives.
8. In the field of education, the Islamic declaration stresses that this is essential in all aspects of life whereas the Universal Declaration stresses that this should be free, not compulsory but it has suggested equal related issues for the rest of others.
9. The Islamic Declaration limits the goals of education to the development and balance of personality, and stregthening belief in God and respect for the necessary rights of others whereas the universal declaration stresses the most perfect limits of personality and strengthening of respect for the rights of others and preparing the ground for protection of understanding and human aspirations and sacrifice and respect for opposing views and development of kindness and efforts for protection of peace.
10. Article 10 of the Islamic Declaration deals with the first and the last feature of man, which is religion. As a result, it is natural that it keeps aloof any kind of exploitation, for it means alienating man from himself. Hence, the Islamic declaration suffices to article 10, which prohibits exploitation. This is because Islam has a clear attitude towards this issue stated in this article. Atheism is not only the going from the human realm into the animal world, it is even worse than that. On the other hand, the Universal Declaration places stress on the freedom of religion and opinion; this shows a substantial difference in the two declarations. We do not propose to show the right attitude of Islam but to emphasize that the Universal Declaration distinguishes the legal issue from the philosophical one and we are extremely opposed to this.
11. To article 11 of the Islamic declaration, is opposed to article four of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with blatant differences. The aforementioned article in the Islamic declaration claims that man is born free. Hence, it obviates any sort of slavery, oppression, and exploitation of him. It believes that freedom springs from servitude to the Almighty and the divine servitude as imagined by the ignorant people are not aimed at proving the divine nature and He is needless of all. This servitude means breaking away from all kinds of slavery towards others. However, the universal declaration only rejects the slavery and servitude without stating the main reason or clarifying the relation between man and God.
12. What distinguishes the Islamic declaration is the negation of all kinds of exploitations, the placing of stress on freedom and self-determination and the supporting of other nations. The universal declaration has not dealt with it at all. It shows the weak points of the universal declaration.
13. Another characteristic feature of the universal declaration is that it does not refer to the acceptance of any particular nationality, for it has one of the issues, which have resulted in the breaking asunder of the nations.
14. Although the two declarations refer to the right of occupation, the Islamic declaration demands the workers to work conscientiously as it has demanded of the state to mete out justice to those workers whose rights have been violated.
15. Article 14 of the Islamic Declaration emphasizes on the right of income but it demands it to be lawful and this clearly shows the rejected ways while it places emphasis on the prohibition of usury. However, there is no mention of it in the universal declaration.
16. Article 15 of the Islamic Declaration places stress on the necessity of legality of possession. It insists that possession should not hurt others. When we study the expanse of the nature of loss which per se involves numerous social losses, we come to realize how far the the Islamic interpretation is exact and how far it loathes the capitalistic misuse of this right for hurting the rights of others and economy and looting and plundering their wealth.
17. Another feature of the Islamic declaration is considering the morality as human right stated in articles 17. As opposed to this, the Universal Declaration in article 29 states that morality brings about certain limitations for individuals to enjoy freedom. Considering the statement, within the democratic realm at the end of this article, we conclude that morality is the freedom of others not the sublime moral concepts. Be that as it may, this does not approve a human right entitling man to enjoy a healthy atmosphere in which he can develop his spiritual life.
18. The Islamic Declaration prohibits the placing of others under scientific or medical experiments unless it is without danger.
19. Article 20 of the Islamic Declaration prohibits the torturing and illtreating of others. This is of considerable importance while it is ignored in the Universal Declaration.
20. Some might think that the Universal Declaration has advantages for it expresses absolute freedom of expression for others. However, we believe it to be a fault, for we can never allow the statement of issues, which might offend against the morality of people and the society. Offense against sacred things is far worse than offense against individuals. Hence, the limiting of it in the Cairo Declaration (using the sentence, “in a way that is not against lawful principles”) is closer to the human spirit. And this is clearly stated in paragraph three of article 22.
21. Another feature of the Islamic declaration is that man has the right to bid others to good works and enjoin others to avoid evil. And this places stress on the responsibility the Declaration puts on all the community members. In the Cairo Conference, many agreed on this issue but there were some others who insisted on its elimination from the declaration.
22. In the Islamic Declaration there is an interesting reference to the fact that leadership is a deposit the violation of which is unlawful. There is no such a thing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights although we find that it was a necessity that the public situation in which the Islamic Shari’ah belives in leadership should be pointed out.
23. Another difference between the two declarations is that the Islamic declaration views things from an Islamic perspective while the Universal Declaration limits all individual’s freedoms as opposed to the freedoms of others.
24. The Islamic Declaration states that Shariah is the only source of reference while there is no source of reference in the universal declaration.
Albeit, there are other differences which are beyond the scope of this article including the time when the word freedom is mentioned it generally refers to limited responsibility or responsible freedom within the confines of religion and this per se is a guarantee which stops freedom from turning into a destructive force.
The Shortcomings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The shortcomings of the Declaration of Human Rights can be summarized as follows:
1. The isolation of legal and social issues from philosophical ones
2. The lack of logical order between the preamble and the articles set forth therein
3. The lack of differentiating between the human dignity and the dignity acquired through virtue and good works
4. Ignoring some aspects of life such as fetus and respect -for corpses and destruction of sources of humanity.
5. Ignoring morality in conflicts
6. There are some articles which have not been clearly dealt with (such as equal rights of men and women for ever, or the changing of one’s religion)
7. Ignoring the rights of parents
8. Ignoring the negation of exploitation
9. Ignoring the individual rights in a moral atmosphere
10. Absolute license for freely expressing one’s opinions
Human Rights in the Past and in the Present Times
Although this might be a minor discussion by virtue of the fact that we have bypassed our main discussion, we deem it a basic discussion which shows the rejection of the law itself in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. There is no binding guarantee predicted for the exercise of the articles enunciated in the two declarations. Besides, none of the countries signing them have committed themselves to exercise them.
The Universal Declaration as a sublime goal common among the nations of the world has been agreed upon not by as a binding case. As Mrs. Roosevelt, the president of the commission on human rights states, “The declaration is not an international agreement and is not binding but a collection of rights directly associated with man and the realization of them is regarded meet throughout the world.”
Thus, the declaration turns into a set of moral rights. Sadly, the Islamic Declaration is like this. The preamble to the Universal Declaration begins in a way, which is binding as it is stated in the Tehran Conference,(4) “The Member States of the Organization of Islamic Conference do all the necessary measures set forth in this declaration.”1
However, in the nineteenth conference of foreign ministers held in Cairo, some of the Islamic countries decided to eliminate secularism. They had claimed that they would accept the declaration if it accorded with the rules of their country. However, this is a big contradiction, for Islam may not be accepted unless it is limited.
Has the Universal Declaration been effective? There is no doubt that the Declaration has encountered many problems in putting the principles into practice. However, the main fault lies in the formulators of this declaration or that their power or the slogans they have chanted have caused them to pronounce themselves as the defenders of this declaration and the articles set forth therein; here, the western countries are in mind.
They (the western countries) tear nations into pieces, loot and plunder what they have and speak of human rights. That is why they consider Israel as a democratic country whereas the countries that do not follow the west are accused of antagonizing human rights. Talk of these things is sad especially when we consider the right of veto and the great countries enjoy this right and thus violate the human rights. However, this discussion entails another field which is not our present concern.
We beseech the Almighty to give us hope and ability to step in His cause.