Human Rights, as all of us perceive, are rights one can enjoy simply by the virtue of being human. However, these rights become even more significant and imperative once they are listed as a legal document, and declared by a noted authority. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. It consists of 30 articles that talk about the different rights one can enjoy for being a human. In other words, it is concerned with establishing boundaries that one is prohibited from transgressing. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Now, one can actually give up a legal proof if one’s rights as being a human are denied or violated.
Talking about the Quran, it is largely concerned with establishing boundaries that human beings are prohibited from transgressing. Now that’s exactly what the UDHR is concerned with! Within these established boundaries, the Quran treats human beings as individuals endowed with certain rights by virtue of simply being human, hence Human Rights. Briefly mentioning, the Human Rights mentioned in the Quran include the right to life, work, property and protection; and also rights for orphans, poor, minority groups and women. From the perspective of the Qur’an, these rights came into existence when we did; they were created, as we were, by God in order that our human potential could be actualized.
Having mentioned about the UDHR and the Quran, let’s talk of how the Quran justifies the existence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in itself. The Qur’an is the charter of human rights. It is in every way concerned to free human beings from the bondage of traditionalism, authoritarianism, racism, sexism, slavery and anything else that prohibits human beings from realizing that they breath just the same air as those who they proclaim above them or below them breaths.
Here is a list of all the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Along with each article are mentioned verses that marvelously justify that Quran focuses on nothing but giving human beings the rights they deserve.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The Quran goes over the same concept of equality stating on various occasions that “GOD knows best about your belief, and you are equal to one another, as far as belief is concerned…” (4:25). Talking about one’s freedom, the Quran states “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures” (17:70). Thus, the Qur’an liberates all human beings from any kind of oppression.
Article 2 states that all human beings are entitled to all the rights and freedoms irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, etc. The Quran beautifully elucidates that it is we – human beings, who divide ourselves along superficial lines, and cause unnecessarily riots to prove our apparent hypotheses. The Quran expounds on this statement asserting that God created us from the same male and female and rendered us distinct people and tribes that you we recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous (49:13). The last line of this verse also indicates that we are and we will only be judged on the level of our righteousness, and nothing else!
Article 3 of the Declaration states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The Qur’an upholds the sanctity and absolute value of human life stating that “You shall not kill any person – for GOD has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, he will be helped” (17:33).This verse also reiterates that none have the right to deprive others of any sort of necessity.
Article 4 marks that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. During the 7th century, slavery was a common practice. It was at this time that The Quran was sent down through Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Quran strongly emphasizes on human dignity and equality as mentioned earlier, thus encouraging the freeing of slaves. At one instance, The Quran states that Charities shall go to the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, the new converts, to free the slaves, to those burdened by sudden expenses, in the cause of GOD, and to the traveling alien. Such is GOD’s commandment. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise (9:60).
Article 5 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This Article talks about mercy, and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent down as the messenger of mercy for all the worlds. It was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on whom The Quran was revealed, and he was a living example of The Quran! The Quran clearly condemned the lack of mercy at various occasions. It states at one point that Pharaoh turned into a tyrant on earth, and discriminated against some people. He persecuted a helpless group of them, slaughtering their sons, while sparing their daughters. He was indeed wicked (28:4). The Quran also quotes that oppression is even worse than murder. Indeed, true!
Article 6 states that everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. This statement has a strong connection with Article 1 where all human beings are stated to be equal and the Quran, also reiterating this point as mentioned earlier. The existence of equality as a virtue clearly reassures us that all human beings stand equal before one common Creator, which thus proves that we rightfully deserve equal treatment before the law. The Quran thus enlightens this concept by stating that anyone seeking dignity should know that to GOD belongs all dignity. To Him ascends the good words, and He exalts the righteous works. As for those who scheme evil works, they incur severe retribution; the scheming of such people is destined to fail (35:10).
Article 7 states that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. As mentioned previously, The Quran puts in plain words that all human beings are equal. When we talk about law, who could be a better judge than Allah, in whose eyes all human beings are equal and he is the only ‘just’ existence. The Quran marvelously explicates this Article stating O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether the accused is rich or poor, GOD takes care of both. Therefore, do not be biased by your personal wishes. If you deviate or disregard (this commandment), then GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do (4:135).
Article 8 states that everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law. This Article can be deemed as the Article of Equivalence. The Quran clearly states its law of equivalence thus explaining this Article in the following words, “O you who believe, equivalence is the law decreed for you when dealing with murder – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the female for the female. If one is pardoned by the victim’s kin, an appreciative response is in order, and an equitable compensation shall be paid. This is an alleviation from your Lord and mercy. Anyone who transgresses beyond this incurs a painful retribution” (2:178). Thus, while at one hand, the Quran encourages mercy in every possible way, on the other hand it also decrees equivalent punishment as a fundamental right guaranteed to the victim.
Article 9 states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. The Quran commands all human beings to be just and righteous in every way. It points at the root causes of all the heavy crimes and prohibits man to come to those roots, thus never questioning the existence of any arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. In one instance, the Quran instigates in man never to spy or backbite, thus indirectly commanding man to never reach the greatest of crimes. It states, “O you who believe, you shall avoid being overly suspicious, for some suspicion may be sinful. You shall not spy on one another, nor shall you backbite one another; this is as abominable as eating the flesh of your dead brother. You certainly abhor this. You shall observe GOD. GOD is Redeemer, Most Merciful” (49:12).
Article 10 and 11 state that everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing. One has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. These Article focus on the concept of fairness and impartiality. The Quran beautifully expounds the need for fair judgments not by commanding just powers to any authorities (since all are equal in the eyes of Allah), but by teaching man the smallest of credos. It states, “O you who believe, no people shall ridicule other people, for they may be better than they. Nor shall any women ridicule other women, for they may be better than they. Nor shall you mock one another, or make fun of your names. Evil indeed is the reversion to wickedness after attaining faith. Anyone who does not repent after this, these are the transgressors” (49:11).
Article 12 talks about right to privacy. It states that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against interference with his privacy, family, home, correspondence or any attacks upon his honour and reputation. The Qur’an recognizes the need for privacy as a human right and lays down rules for protecting an individual’s life in the home from undue intrusion from within or without. The above two mentioned verses talk about a man’s right to protection from any kind of attack upon his honour and dignity, which may well initiate by suspicion, backbiting or slander. At one place, the Quran emphasizes on the right to protection of one’s privacy stating that “O you who believe, do not enter homes other than yours without permission from their inhabitants, and without greeting them. This is better for you, that you may take heed. If you find no one in them, do not enter them until you obtain permission. If you are told, “Go back,” you must go back. This is purer for you. GOD is fully aware of everything you do. You commit no error by entering uninhabited homes wherein there is something that belongs to you. GOD knows everything you reveal, and everything you conceal” (24:27-29).
Article 13 and 14 gives every individual the right to move around or reside anywhere within the borders of the state, and also gives the right to leave or return to his own country. We have been lately witnessing a lot of people being oppressed due to the religion they follow. These people end up taking the decision to migrate to a new place. This decision is clearly supported by the Universal declaration. Also, the Quran adds up blessing for one who emigrates in the cause of God, as stated in the following verse: Anyone who emigrates in the cause of God will find on earth great bounties and richness (4:100). Another instance from the Quran gives one the right to move around and reside through a short dialogue between the angels and the one who succumbed to oppression. “Those whose lives are terminated by the angels, while in a state of wronging their souls, the angels will ask them, “What was the matter with you?” They will say, “We were oppressed on earth.” They will say, “Was GOD’s earth not spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?”(4:97).
Article 14 gives an individual the right to visit and enjoy the marvel of other countries without any fear of being persecuted. This Article indirectly gives an individual the right to develop his own artistic receptivity and aesthetic sensibilities. Thus, this right clearly allows one appreciate beauty in all its forms, and what God has provided for the nurture of humankind. The Quran justifies the existence of this Article in itself by stating, “Say: ‘Who is there to forbid the beauty which God has brought forth for His creatures, and the good things from among the means of sustenance?’ Say: ‘They are [lawful] in the life of this world unto all who have attained to faith – to be theirs alone on Resurrection Day.’ Thus clearly do We spell out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge!” (7:32).
Article 15 states the right to nationality about which the Quran says that all human beings are created by God form one make and one female and then rendered them distinct peoples and tribes, so that we may recognize and befriend one another (49:13).
Article 16 gives an individual the right to find a spouse and marry out of his own free will and the family thereafter shaped is entitled to protection by society and the State. The Quran strongly emphasizes the right of an individual to marry and form a family. It states at one place, |”Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think” (30:21).
Article 17 states the right to own property. The Quran in plain words depicts this right at various places. It states, “You shall test the orphans when they reach puberty. As soon as you find them mature enough, give them their property. Do not consume it extravagantly in a hurry, before they grow up” (4:6). at another place, it states, “O you who believe, do not consume each others’ properties illicitly – only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. GOD is Merciful towards you” (4:21).
Article 18 talks about one’s right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion; freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The Quran guarantees each individual complete freedom of religion stating, “There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient” (2:256).
Article 19 states one’s right to freedom of opinion and expression; freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any. Just as the Article states, the Quran too states and ensures an individual the right to his own thoughts and beliefs. It states, “Proclaim: “This is the truth from your Lord,” then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve…..” (18:29).
Article 20 states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and none can be compelled to belong to an association. As stated earlier, Quran proclaims that there is no compulsion in religion. “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who believes in GOD, and believes in the Last Day, and leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve” (2:62). This verse clearly explicates that The Quran in no way compels one to accept any belief or become a part for any association.
Article 21 talks about one’s right to be a part of the country’s government or to access its public service without any kind of discrimination. It further states that The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government. The Quran justifies this statement saying that, “Their affairs are decided after due consultation among themselves, and from our provisions to them they give (to charity)” (42:38).
Article 22 talks about the right to social security – economic, social and cultural rights. As such, an individual’s dignity and free development is taken into consideration through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State. This article marks co-operation and compassion as its base, as such, every individual is peacefully handed over his social security. The Quran too, emphasizes on a co-operative initiative and a compassionate approach, such that it doesn’t hinder one’s dignity or development. It states, “It was mercy from GOD that you became compassionate towards them. Had you been harsh and mean-hearted, they would have abandoned you. Therefore, you shall pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them….” (3:159).
Article 23 talks about ones right to work. It focuses the various rights related to work an employment – right to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, just and favorable remuneration and to form and to join trade unions. The Quran promotes trade and commerce thus commanding us to be just and righteous in all our transactions and dealings. It states, “O my people, you shall give full measure and full weight, equitably. Do not cheat the people out of their rights, and do not roam the earth corruptingly” (11:85).
Article 24 states that everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. Resting is a requirement. Nights and days are by the Supreme Will, designed to function in their own specific way, as such our needs are met out. Talking about this, the Quran affirms “It is mercy from Him that He created for you the night and the day in order to rest (during the night), then seek His provisions (during the day), that you may be appreciative” (28:73).
Article 25 talks about the right to a healthy lifestyle and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. The Quran at various occasions guarantees social justice for everyone through the laws of fasting, zakat and prayer. Fasting instills within oneself a sense of empathy towards the less fortunate. Zakat prescribes that we must set aside 2.5% of what we receive from our paychecks as a charity to those in need. Prayer instills in oneself the virtue of treating all equally, be it poor, weak, old or orphans.. Talking about the right to a healthy lifestyle, the depicts, “Do you know who really rejects the faith? That is the one who mistreats the orphans. And does not advocate the feeding of the poor. And woe to those who observe the Prayers (salat) – who are totally heedless of their prayers. They only show off. And they forbid charity” (107:1-7).
Article 26 states the right to education – free, elementary being compulsory thus directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Quran generally encourages reading and learning, thus encouraging us to think freely rather than blindfold our eyes and hearts by our age-old traditions and customs. You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them (17:36). Let the human reflect on his creation (86:5).
Article 27 states that everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. It also talks about the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. The Quran promotes the same stating, “Say, “Who prohibited the nice things GOD has created for His creatures, and the good provisions?” Say, “Such provisions are to be enjoyed in this life by those who believe. Moreover, the good provisions will be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection.” We thus explain the revelations for people who know” (7:32).
Article 28 states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. Similarly, all human beings are to be guaranteed all their rights in the Quran by virtue of being human.
Article 29 talks about one’s ‘duties’ as human beings. It is further mentioned that exercising these duties would allow one’s free and full personality development. Similarly, the Quran clearly affirms that one must follow his duties (i.e. not to infringe the freedom of others) in order to enjoy one’s own rights. It states, “O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses. Do not be provoked by your conflicts with some people into committing injustice. You shall be absolutely equitable, for it is more righteous. You shall observe GOD. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do” (5:8).
Article 30 states that one may not interpret the statements of the Declaration to aim at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth therein. We have been lately hearing and witnessing a lot of riots, schemes and lynching that has taken place to meet one’s corrupt and political agendas – all in the name of religion. Remarkably, the Quran takes note of this and strongly condemns such behavior. It states, “He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses – which constitute the essence of the scripture – as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this – all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed” (3:7).
What distinguish humans from other creatures is their intellect and free will to choose between good and evil. Though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into existence in 1948, the Quran which marvelously justifies this Declaration was revealed a long 1400 years back. It’s since then that man has a legal document – a universal liberation and establishment of justice and maintenance of human rights. It is the individual, social, and universal responsibility of Muslims, according to their faith, to protect the human merits and virtues of all human beings, whatever their differences may be. It is thus to maintain, develop and spread such an understanding of the divine message in our times.