Pars Today, the English section of the voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has posted a series of articles on its website in which the issue of Human Rights in Islam is thoroughly discussed. Following comes the first part:
Undoubtedly, the issue of human rights is the most important and most complex human topic of the 20th Century and a major challenge for 21st Century. Today, human rights have turned into the main talking point in the current world order. Many acts, behavioral patterns, decisions, and plans are assessed based on the criterion of human rights, while even the opponents to human rights try to conceal their opposition. Meanwhile, discussions and topics resulting from human rights leave a fateful impact on the current performance and policies of countries and formation of different political and judicial systems. Hence, human rights cannot be considered as benchmark on the performance of United Nations or human rights organizations. Every now and then, human rights have turned into a tool at the hands of major powers and an ideological cover up on the expansionist policies of world powers. However, this doesn’t mean that the concepts which have emanated from human rights should be suddenly placed aside and neglected under this pretext.
Human rights are the manifestation of the novel definition and status which the contemporary man has found for him. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which have been approved in 1948 AD: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
In fact, human rights are the most fundamental and primary rights of individuals.
Mankind has always dealt with justice and injustice, equality and discrimination, freedom and oppression, war, peace, morality, and immorality and has faced major problems, but, is yet to attain an ideal or even an appropriate state.
Throughout the recent centuries; major developments have taken place in the domains of civilization, ideology, culture, and economy in Europe; all of which have occurred following the Age of Renaissance and religious reform in the realm of Christianity. The talking point of modernity is Humanism, while parameters such as self-founded wisdom, determinism, and demand for power and independence have shaped Humanism in the face of all outside factors.
Under fresh humanistic and social developments, man attained a unique status and credibility. Hence, innate and natural rights gained further importance and credibility than the past. Especially, given the ever-increasing power of Westerners and equipment of the civilized man with unprecedented economic, military, and cultural weapons, consecutive destructive wars took place one after the other; the latest of which were World War I and World War II.
The break out of these wars, and emergence of wide-scale discriminations and injustices under the shadow of modern humanism led to fresh efforts for revival of human dignity, and provision of freedom, and justice for mankind. A long path was covered from then up until the 20th Century and the bitter experiences of mankind led the Europeans to seek fresh measures for materialization of human rights and provision of peace, justice, security, and virtues.
In this manner, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved in the year 1948. This Declaration is the accomplishment of Western nations from their past experiences. It has been shaped in continuation of a historical process and has been rendered to mankind and signed by all of the governments of the recent 50 years.
In order to better understand the content of its prelude, some of its phrases are exactly cited:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
What is currently presented under the heading of human rights, are principles, rules, and concepts which have been founded on the Declaration of Human Rights and the thoughts of Western thinkers. These thinkers generally consider human rights to belong to the non-religious realm of human thoughts.
Meanwhile, divine religions have made the highest contribution to the historical trend of human right topics; because divine religions have usually emerged against the oppressors and violators of human rights. Hence, undoubtedly, elevated concepts such as dignity, human character, freedom, and equality are rooted in the teachings of divine prophets, and heavenly religions have highly contributed to promotion of human rights. Meanwhile, the sacred religion of Islam maintains an elevated status for mankind and human rights. Therefore, many thinkers believe that basically human rights cannot be void of divine sources. For this reason, some Islamic thinkers and scientists consider the view of Islam toward concepts such as rights and freedom to be different from the outlook of Humanism toward human rights.
Islamic scientists consider God Almighty as the origin of all creatures. So they cannot consider rights for mankind without consideration of the one and only creator of the world, God Almighty. The ultimate goal of human life is to establish a close bond with God. Hence, no right can be considered for humans other than those which originate from God’s resolve and demand.
Meanwhile, the most important commonalty among humans is their divine nature. Therefore, upon reliance on this divine nature and divine rules and regulations, one can gain access to the true origin of human rights.
Moreover, in order to set laws and rights, there is need for a complete understanding of the universe. Humans maintain a highly limited knowledge on themselves and their community. Even this limited knowledge is at times blighted with personal emotions and interests and selfishness.
Hence, such a full understanding of the universe only belongs to God and is impossible for mankind. So only God maintains the right and ability to set rights and this marks the superiority of divine rules and regulations in comparison with non-divine set of laws. So, only upon reference to religious sources, human rights can be set.