Rights and Responsibilities


Traditionally Islam is explained in terms of the moral value of actions ranging from prohibited to obligatory. These descriptions apply to both the ruler and the ruled. Islam doesn't therefore start from the concept of a constitution, which is a means of binding the rulers to obey certain rules. Rather Islam is the law for everyone - the same rule for the ruler as for the ruled.

For the sake of argument many of these moral rules can be phrased in terms of rights and responsibilities when we consider who is involved. For example the duty to consult people on who should be the next political leader can be put in terms of the right to be consulted. A duty of the husband to provide for the wife can be described as the right of the wife for provisions.

In general a prohibition may amount to a right of some form not to have that act happen (e.g. do not steal - the right to property) and a duty may amount to a right that it does happen (e.g. the duty to look after the sick, poor and elderly amounts to a right of these people over the rest of the population).

Some of these rights and responsibilities are expressed very explicitly through original sources; others have been derived more indirectly. The state has a role of implementing justice and this means that the rights and responsibilities are recognised between people and between groups of various forms. There has been a general agreement among Muslims scholars on the rights that apply to all people regardless of religion and on the matter that there are rights and responsibilities that are internal to your particular religion.

It is the duty of the ruler of an Islamic state to maintain 5 basic universal rights among the people:



#freedom of conscience

#freedom of religion


These need a little explanation:

1. Life

This is the right that your body as an individual or any one of your bodies as a group is safe from harm.

2. Property

This is the right to own property safe from any attempts to force it away from you or to defraud you.

3. Freedom of conscience

This right is the right that no one can try to force you into having any opinion or belief and is closely related to 4.

4. Freedom of religion

This is a lot more than freedom of conscience. It implies that you are able to follow the teachings of your religion so long as it doesn't infringe on the freedom of others to do likewise. An Islamic state would try to ensure that each religious group could have its own laws and own legal system for matters of distinctive religious laws (e.g. marriage , divorce, inheritance etc.)

5. Honour

This is the right not to be defamed and libelled in public.

These rights were recognised as universal rights of every human being living in the Islamic state. This preceded any concept of universal rights in the Western world and may well have been the source of the concept entering Western thought in the first place as with many foundational ideas of Western civilisation which came through contact with the Muslims in the time leading up to the renaissance and during it.

This is all background material though. The misconceptions held in the West about Islam are basically related to what makes Islam a good story in the media - Sex and Violence. So this is what is tackled next.


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