(Arab. Huquq al‑Insan, Turk. İnsan Hakları)
Human rights describe those universal rights and demands of human beings that are deserving of protection and that accrue to the individual from nature. In Islam, because they are so closely related, the notions of ‘right’ and ‘obligation’ are often used together. As a result, every person shares in the responsibility for protecting the rights of his or her fellows. Reminded of his or her corresponding obligations, a person will remain aware of his or her own rights and of those of the others as well.
In Islamic culture, the modern term ‘human rights’ corresponds to the five fundamental values (al‑darurat al‑khamsa) addressed in the Qur’an. These are life, property, dignity, judgement, and religion; to protect these is seen as a necessity in Islam. These values have been mentioned in various declarations in regard to human rights in Islam.
The Qur’an emphasises the inviolability of life and prohibits the wrongful taking of a person’s life (2:178; 4:29; 5:33; 6:151; 17:33). Moreover, Muhammad prohibited vendetta and torture in any form (cf. Muslim). The right to property is also viewed as inviolable, and theft is subject to severe penalty (5:38). The wrongful appropriation of another’s possessions is a grave sin (2:188). In Islam, an individual’s status as person, his or her honour and respectability are expressed under the notion of ‘dignity’. To protect this, the Qur’an prohibited extramarital sexual intercourse and slander, ordering penalties for violations of these prohibitions (17:32; 24:4). Also prohibited are alcoholic drinks and drugs as they are harmful to health and judgement; people must be free of impediment in the use of their faculties of thought and will.
Today, the severe penalties mandated in the Qur’an are subject to fresh interpretation within the framework of human rights. To ensure that justice will prevail, violations of the law are subject to penalty. The underlying thought here is that the type and form of punishment meted out must be oriented around the development of thinking about justice.
The verse ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.’ (2:256) makes it clear that no pressure is to be applied in decisions of conscience, and that every individual may choose his or her faith as he or she sees fit. In addition to the five fundamental values referred to above, the Qur’an also emphasises the protection of privacy (24:27, 58). To ensure free and open communication, eavesdropping on private conversations is not permitted. To protect the individual’s moral rights, spying, gossip and the disclosure of confidential information are all prohibited as well (49:12). In his Farewell Sermon, Muhammad also declared that life, property and human dignity are inviolable.
İsmail Hakkı Ünal