Islam and Human Rights by Imam Al Asi - Universal Justice Network Conference

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Jumada' al-Akhirah 12, 1433 2012-05-04

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

When we go back to the ayah in Surah Al Kahf, follow me especially those of you who know a little bit of Arabic or much more of it. OK- let us just give you the meaning of that.

وَقُلِ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَن شَاءَ فَلْيُؤْمِن وَمَن شَاءَ فَلْيَكْفُر

… Al haqq is from your Sustainer; whoever chooses to commit to Allah may do so and whoever chooses to deny Allah may do so… (Surah Al Kahf verse 29)

Then, what does the following sentence say?

إِنَّا أَعْتَدْنَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ

… We have prepared for Adh Dhaalimeen… (Surah Al Kahf verse 29)

He didn’t say Inna a’tadna li Al Kafireen. Remember, this is in the same ayah. OK- we are talking about iman and kufr and then immediately, We have in store for Adh Dhaalimeen not Al Kafireen- why? Is there a disconnect here? No it’s not; because kufr, (as we said), has a life of its own. It has its dynamics, it begins as this conviction (or) this persuasion in a person- that’s fine. They can have that, whatever it is. If its denial of Allah at that level- no problem; but if they want to take it to the next step… Let’s say a person who’s a Kafir believes in (and one of the subjects that was brought up was), homosexuality. One of the Liberals and the free love people and all of these stuff say “oh what’s wrong with that? It’s consensual. Two individuals of the same sex decide to have an affair with each other, so what’s the problem?” Well as far as we are concerned, we say: you may think that there’s no problem and you may believe that there’s no problem- up until there, that’s your right; but for you to step out into society and make this a social norm we do not permit that. We do not permit that for a couple of reasons: the first reason is we know from Allah’s revelation to us (or) from the information that comes to us from Allah that this is immoral, it’s not right and it’s not sanctioned by Allah. So we don’t want this in our society. The second thing is that if you don’t believe in Allah, (and these Kuffaar don’t believe in Allah), then it is common sense that those of the same gender don’t have sex with each other. It is human nature (and) it is common sense that this does not occur! Has anyone seen an animal out there having sex with the same sex? Even animals know better! This is referred to in Islamic terminology, (if we understood our terminology accurately), as al ma’ruf and al munkar. Remember, you go you always hear these words- al ma’ruf is what is intrinsically self evident in as far as its morality and its validity are concerned; every human being knows it- that’s al ma’ruf. So al ma’ruf is a concept that goes beyond Muslims. (If) you go out there and you ask a non Muslim in this world, whatever religion they have, is lying a ma’ruf or a munkar? You know lying, i.e. just lie. Every time you speak you lie- is that a ma’ruf or a munkar? That person could be elementary in their education or they can be doctoral graduates in their education- it doesn’t matter; common sense, human nature and even statistical facts tell you it’s a munkar. Lying is a munkar. You don’t need Islam to prove that lying is a munkar. This is ma’ruf, this is self-evident in as far as its destruction to human society and to human life. (It’s the) same thing if we take the reverse- is saying the truth a ma’ruf or is that a munkar? Any human being of whatever religion or religious persuasion they may have will tell you “no- telling the truth is a virtue and a merit.” So there are values and there is a common sense in the world that we are responsible for- al ma’ruf and al munkar that even those beyond our jurisdiction, (let’s say that we have an Islamic jurisdiction in a certain territory in this world); as far as issues pertaining to al ma’ruf and al munkar beyond this territory- our responsibilities extend into those areas.

So far we have been speaking about the certain ayaat and certain concepts in the Qur’an. And there’s in the Sunnah- if you take a look at the Prophet’s farewell address, khutbah Al Wada’, you will find that most of the instructions there deal with what we are speaking about- the issue of human rights. Obviously we can’t go through them all but one of the statements of that farewell address was women are the twin equivalents of men... That’s one of the ways of translating shaqa’iq. You can’t get more equal in describing the status of men and women than this statement. … only a person of honour and dignity dignifies them and only a person of perfidy is the one who dishonours them or humiliates them. (Take a) look at this sentence in today’s real world. Women in different societies around the globe are subject to maltreatment in their families- it is sometimes very ridiculous. Maybe we should give you some examples. We know (that) you can probably fill in the blanks but we’ll feel a little more satisfied if we can at least give you a couple of examples so that you can see what we mean even in our so called Islamic societies where women are degraded and even dehumanised. These examples come from, of all places, the area that is supposed to have been the first area that was liberated by the Prophet of Allah and the first generation of Muslims. In today’s world, what do you have? What we’re telling you have been reported. These are news reports that have not been denied by those who were involved in them.

There’s a husband and a wife that just got married in, (what is called today), Saudi Arabia- newly weds. They were watching TV one evening and the husband said to his wife “he is going to go out and buy something for the house.” He is going to the market store or the grocery store or wherever. He wants to buy something. That’s fine, that’s normal. She said “OK- see you a little later.” So he goes. He is out there for probably an hour or so (and) then he comes back home. He opens the door and he finds his wife watching a male news broadcaster, a man who’s reading the news. He looks at her and she’s looking at this person reading the news. This is a normal thing. What does he expect her to do? She is watching the news and then he asks her “why are you watching that man.” She said “look- there’s a man on TV. He’s reading the news and I’m watching.” He said “no; but you’re watching that man. Don’t you know that you’re not supposed to be looking at a man.” They got into an argument and that resulted in a divorce. … only a person of honour and dignity dignifies them and only a person of perfidy is the one who dishonours them or humiliates them.

On another occasion, (that was also in the past year in what is supposed to be the birth place of our iman, our Qur’an and our Islam), a person who has been married for ten years- husband wife and a couple of children. We’re speaking about issues pertaining to women in society and these things with another person- a journalist. So one discussion and one question led to another and what happened at this point is the journalist asks this person “what do you think about al niqaab? Your wife wears the niqaab.” You know- the niqaab is covering the whole face except the eyes. He said “yeah I’m one-hundred-percent for it. The niqaab is something that all women should look up to.” Before I go on, please don’t misunderstand me. If a Muslim women or lady wants to wear a niqaab, that’s her choice. We’re not saying she should wear a niqaab or she should not wear a niqaab. Don’t be judgemental about this issue. When it comes to me even though I personally dislike the issue of wearing the niqaab, but if a Muslim women or lady wants to wear it- well that’s her choice. We’re not going to raise cane for someone who is wearing a niqaab. But in this case this husband says “yeah I’m very proud of my wife wearing a niqaab.” Listen to this- “I’m so proud of it that we’ve been married for ten years and I never saw her face.” … only a person of honour and dignity dignifies them and only a person of perfidy is the one who dishonours them or humiliates them. When we speak about the Prophet and his khutbah al wada’ (and) the ayaat in the Qur’an what is happening to women in this world?

Obviously there’s going to be a reaction to that. Every type of action has some type of corresponding reaction and we dread to think of how there reaction to this is going to be! Both, this type of attitude and whatever future attitude that’s going to clash with it are going to be extremes. It’s like the land of the extremes.

When we speak about human rights, you know there are two words in the Qur’an that we also want you to be aware of. One of them is al adl and the other one is al qist. We pray that the day will come sooner rather than later when we can think for ourselves- reading the Qur’an there is these words when you read the translations- English translations; you’ll find that these two words are interchangeably used to refer to justice. In other words you read the words

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ

Allah requires justice… (Surah An Nahl verse 90)

Then you read another ayah

لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ

… so that people may establish justice… (Surah Al Hadid verse 25)

But why? If one word is the exact of the other, then why is there the word al qist here? Because there’s a difference. Al adl is simply the word justice or fairness but al qist is a step above that; it means social justice or institutionalised justice. Next time when we refer back and we read the ayaat in the Qur’an try to understand what may seem to some as a subtle difference between al adl and al qist.

We’re not people who dwells very much on gender issues but being that we are speaking about rights- human rights- and many times there is an issue that “ Muslims oppress their women, their wives, their daughters, the womenfolk in their family; men are oppressive of them.” This may be true in some families even in some communities and societies. We’re not going to argue that because we don’t have an Islamic dispensation in the full meaning of the word but we do have our Islamic traditions and our Islamic rituals which in and of itself do not constitute the Islam that Allah and His Prophet intended. If you take Surah An Nisa’, there’s an ayah in which the word al adl and al qist are mentioned

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ

And if you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably toward orphans, then marry from among widowed women such as are lawful to you a corresponding second, third or fourth … (Surah An Nisa’ verse 3)

and then

فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً

… but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then only one wife … (Surah An Nisa’ verse 3)

You see- in this ayah there are these two words: al qist and al adl. It begins by saying

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ

If you, Muslims in society, fear that you are not able to deliver social justice or institutionalised justice to orphans then you marry the second, or the third or the fourth co-wife… (Surah An Nisa’ verse 3)

What does this tell us? Listen to this carefully because, (we doubt), you’ll hear it from probably anyone else. It’s telling us that if our societies or the governments or the administrations that we have that are in charge of social justice (and) we no longer can deliver social justice towards orphans- and orphans is a big issue; don’t think that when it is mentioned in the Qur’an it’s some type of exception to the rule. (Take a) look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan, look at Palestine, look at other many areas in the Muslim world- you’ll see millions of orphans. This is no exaggeration, and these orphans have mothers and if our collective governmental capacity cannot deliver social justice to these orphans- we’re talking of orphans, we’re not talking about men’s sexual drive and we’re not talking about the women sexual drive, we’re talking about orphans. If we as a government cannot take care of these orphans, feed them, clothe them, offer them tender loving care, then at that point Allah says

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ

… to do justice to these orphans you marry their mothers- the widows as your second or your third or your fourth co-wife… (Surah An Nisa’ verse 3)

This is not a liberal license for men to go out there and marry four wives like you see done in today’s world; but because the issue of rights and social justice, (all of that), has gone out of the public mind then instincts took over. You have some prince who has billions and billions of dollars (and) he comes along and he wants to choose some second, third and fourth wife. She can be a virgin, She can be whoever he wants her to be?! Where does he get that from? Where does he get that permission from when the ayah is concentrating on orphans and offering these orphans a home and family life and solidifying a family (and) not permitting a family be railroaded by society and the forces in society? But who’s going to acknowledge this human right of these orphans and these widows?

Here we’re going to part for a minute or two and address ourselves to you, (sisters). We get this from our family and our relatives and we’re say it to them just like we’re going to say it to you- why is it that you sisters do not become fuqaha’? You are no lesser human beings? You were not born from another father or mother. Many of these ayaat in the Qur’an need your input, but if you don’t concentrate on the meanings of the Qur’an we’re going to remain having a Qur’an that is almost hijacked by individuals and traditions that try to justify what they are doing by quoting some ayaat and some ahadith out of context, as is the case plainly with this example that we have just cited from Surah An Nisa’ i.e. men marrying any four women they choose to marry without consideration to social justice, without consideration for orphans (and) all of these issues that are involved in this ayah. We need, the Muslims need, the world needs your input into the meanings, especially of these types of ayaat of the Qur’an.

We hope and we pray the day will come when we are able to understand the meanings of the words of Allah and His Prophet in the world that is crying because of injustice. Some people say “the opposite of poverty is wealth.” The opposite of poverty is justice. If justice is done poverty, which is at the bottom of many in the social ailments and ills, will be erased. Poverty is not going to be erased by abundance of wealth. The abundance of wealth is going to be monopolised by those who are in power and poverty will continue. We have legal systems and court systems in this world who treat a poor person, just because he’s poor, and look at him like he is potentially guilty; and the rich person, even though he may be a criminal, (these legal systems) looks at him after all the crimes that he or she commits as being a potentially innocent?!

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