Acknowledging rights and lifting oppression are among the central tenants found in all divine laws and are also called for by people of sound minds. Islam is a divine religion, whose source of authority is the Lord of the worlds. Therefore, there is no doubt that its laws would be wiser and more just than purely man-made laws which are prone to human error. In the following section, we will highlight some key differences between Islamic law and man-made declarations regarding human rights.
1- Precedence and power of enforcement
Islamic law set the precedent over 14 centuries ago when it laid down clear human rights from which subsequent international declarations and covenants drew inspiration. What is mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements, are but a repetition of central tenants contained in Islamic law.
According to Islam, human rights are inherent, inalienable and unchangeable. They are divinely ordained and, therefore, binding upon people to uphold. Their application cannot be suspended, even by an individual against his own self. This is in contrast to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the United Nations which is a non-compulsory declaration.
Human rights in man-made covenants, thus, are recommendations or moral rulings. This is in contrast to an Islamic system, where the government is obligated to guarantee and protect these rights for its citizens.
2- Depth and Inclusiveness
Human rights in Islam are deeper and more inclusive than they are in the man-made documents. The sources of human rights in Islam are divine, found in the Book of God the All-Knowing and the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). As for the international laws and covenants, they are based on the human intellect, which is limited and prone to error.
Rights, in Islam, are considered sacred and inviolable and, unlike man-made covenants, guarantee for man all types of rights.
3- Protection and Guarantee
In man-made laws, human rights have not been given assurances of protection against violations. Looking back to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the United Nations in 1948, we find that it did not specify, on the international level, the means and assurances to prevent any violations against human rights.
The Declaration warned against circumventing its articles or misinterpreting them, but without stipulating penalties when transgressed. It also stated that a committee for human rights should be formed in order to study the reports of member states to ensure the protection of these rights. The committee is to undertake the notifications brought forward by one of the member states against the other regarding the latter’s implementation of their obligations stated in an agreement according to certain conditions.
International efforts to establish and protect human rights ultimately did not reach the level of implementation. They were based on two things:
a- Seeking to agree on general principles acknowledged by all states.
b- Seeking to stipulate binding penalties that condemn any state that violates human rights.
However, since the human rights included in these documents are mere recommendations, it is no surprise that they have been manipulated or neglected by member states who adopted them.
Two objectives highlight the distinguishing approach to human rights in Islam:
a- Putting the legal punishments into effect as this is a means of preserving the rights of individuals.
b- Seeking absolute justice, as enjoined by God in the Quran: “Indeed, God orders justice and good conduct…” (Quran 16:90).
The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was the first to obey the command of his Lord in establishing justice; his whole life was a model of justice. He taught his companions justice and warned them against injustice. He taught us that Islam, as a methodology, is founded on establishing justice, equality and preserving rights.
4- Human rights in man-made laws are strongly influenced by prevailing customs and traditions, some of which conflict with Islamic tenants.
5- In man-made laws, prohibited actions such as fornication and homosexuality are not only permitted but are protected as human rights. Islam, on the other hand, preserves mankind from the evils and destructive consequences of such heinous acts.