The first thing that we find in Islam in this connection is that it lays down some rights for man as a human being. In other words it means that every man whether he belongs to this country or that, whether he is a believer or unbeliever, whether he lives in some forest or is found in some desert, whatever be the case, he has some basic human rights simply because he is a human being, which should be recognized by every Muslim. In fact it will be his duty to fulfil these obligations.

1. The Right to Life
The first and the foremost basic right is the right to live and respect human life. The Holy Quran lays down:

Whosoever kills a human being without (any reason like) man slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is as though he had killed all mankind ... (5:32)

As far as the question of taking life in retaliation for murder or the question of punishment for spreading corruption on this earth is con- cerned, it can be decided only by a proper and competent court of law. If there is any war with any nation or country, it can be decided only by a properly established government. In any case, no human being has any right by himself to take human life in retaliation or for causing mischief on this earth. Therefore it is incumbent on every human being that under no circumstances should he be guilty of taking a human life. If anyone has murdered a human being, it is as if he has slain the entire human race. These instructions have been repeated in the Holy Quran in another place saying:

Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law ... (6:151)

Here also homicide has been distinguished from destruction of life carried out in pursuit of justice. Only a proper and competent court will be able to decide whether or not an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings. The Prophet, may God's blessings be on him, has declared homicide as the greatest sin only next to polytheism. The Tradition of the Prophet reads: "The greatest sins are to associate something with God and to kill human beings." In all these verses of the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet the word 'soul' (nafs) has been used in general terms without any distinction or particularization which might have lent itself to the elucidation that the persons belong- ing to one's nation, the citizens of one's country, the people of a particular race or religion should not be killed. The injunction applies to all human beings and the destruction of human life in itself has been prohibited.

'The Right to Life' has been given to man only by Islam. You will observe that the people who talk about human rights if they have ever mentioned them in their Constitutions or Declarations, then it is clearly implied in them that these rights are applicable only to their citizens or they have been framed for the white race alone. This can clearly be gleaned by the fact that human beings were hunted down like animals in Australia and the land was cleared of the aborigines for the white man. Similarly the aboriginal population of America was systematically destroyed and the Red Indians who somehow survived this genocide were confined to specified areas called Reservations. They also penetrated into Africa and hunted down human beings like wild animals. All these instances go to prove that they have no respect for human life as such and if they have, it is only on the basis of their nationality, colour or race. Contrary to this, Islam recognizes this right for all human beings. If a man belongs to a primitive or savage tribe, even then Islam regards him as a human being.

Source:Human Rights in Islam
by 'Allamah Abu al-'A'la Mawdudi

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