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The Right to Equality in Islam

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Words: 1723 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 1723|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Human Rights in Islam
  3. Racial Equality in Islam
  4. Equality Between Men and Women in Islam
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

Introduction

The aim of this essay is to discuss the concepts of equality and justice in Islam. The concept of equality or equity stands as a fundamental pillar in the core values of Islam. However, it's crucial to clarify that this notion of equality should not be conflated with absolute sameness or stereotypes. Islam teaches that in the eyes of Allah Almighty, all individuals are equal, but this equality doesn't imply identical attributes or characteristics. There exist variations in abilities, aspirations, potentials, wealth, and other factors.

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These variations can be broadly categorized into two types: natural and societal. Natural variations are inherent and not subject to change, while societal limitations are imposed by society based on experiences and practices, essentially learned behaviors related to the aforementioned attributes. For instance, a clear distinction exists between the educated and the uneducated, and it would be impractical to assign significant community responsibilities to someone lacking knowledge. However, these differences alone do not establish the superiority of one individual or group over another.

In the eyes of Allah, factors such as a person's physical appearance, wealth, or social status bear no significance when evaluating their character and identity. The only criterion that Allah recognizes is one's piety and adherence to goodness and spiritual growth. In essence, Islam does not elevate one nation above others or favor any race, as human worth, both in the view of humans and Allah, is determined by one's deeds and submission to Allah.

Distinctions based on race, skin color, or economic status are superficial and do not affect a person's true stature in the sight of Allah. In Islam, the value of equality is not just a matter of legal rights or acts of benevolence by the privileged; it is a tenet of faith that every Muslim must genuinely uphold. The foundations of this Islamic principle of equality are deeply embedded in the structure of Islam.

Human Rights in Islam

It is widely acknowledged that Islam endorses equal status and rights for every human being, regardless of their origin or affiliation. The dignity that God has bestowed upon humans, as affirmed in the Quran, is universal and extends beyond male members of the Muslim Ummah. The emphasis on Adam and Eve as the common ancestors of all humanity unites people of all ages, clans, communities, and nationalities in a bond of brotherhood.

The fundamental principle of human rights, which asserts that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood," is fully endorsed by the Quran and the Prophet's farewell message from Jabal-I-Rahmah in Arafat.

Nevertheless, the Quran recognizes and legitimizes the existence of collectives such as tribes and communities, which share common features facilitating social and cultural cohesion but do not necessarily constitute the basis for independent political entities. Islam strongly rejects any claim of superiority or inferiority based on birth, race, ethnic group, class, caste, religion, or gender.

While Islam maintains its unwavering commitment to the fundamental principles of Tawheed (the oneness of God), Hereafter, and individual human accountability to God, it also explicitly instructs the Prophet and Muslims to respect the right to equal freedom of conscience for all individuals. The issue of equality of status and rights for women, non-Muslims, and dissenters has, however, been a complex one in past and present Muslim societies and countries. To comprehend this issue comprehensively, one must consider that Islam's value system, as conveyed under God's guidance, had to contend with the socio-cultural specificities of its initial recipients and, consequently, of various peoples and civilizations.

A pertinent example of this is the status of "slaves" and "slavery" during the time of the Prophet, which illustrates the compromise between the ideal Islamic principles and the practical, necessitating acknowledgment of the potential for progress and development in the pursuit of justice. The status and rights of women as human beings and vicegerents of God on earth are on par with those of men. Any exemption from certain rituals during specific periods, such as menstruation, should not be seen as evidence of inherent incapacity but rather as a divine decree that women must comply with.

If the natural distinction in the roles of men and women in procreation does not render men inherently disabled or inferior to women, men cannot claim any superiority on such grounds. In contrast, Islam elevates motherhood far above fatherhood. Any discrimination in civil, political, social, economic, or cultural rights arising from the natural distinction in gender roles can be attributed not to the Quran but to male-dominated and patriarchal social structures, which persisted even during the early era of Islam.

The conservative tendency among some Muslims to idealize the social practices of the early Islamic period has led to misconceptions, such as the belief that emulating the Taliban model would make them more authentic Muslims. It is worth noting that Iranian Islamic scholars, the Revolutionary Iranian government, and Shia Muslims, in general, have largely been proponents of a more equitable path regarding women's rights.

Racial Equality in Islam

One of the most remarkable sights that Muslims encounter after completing their pilgrimage to the sacred city of Mecca during the Hajj journey, or when visiting any other Islamic holy sites in the broader Middle Eastern region, is not just the sanctity of the places themselves, but the incredible diversity of the pilgrims who flock to these destinations. It is common to hear reports about the countless pilgrims who perform Hajj each year or the millions more who visit the holy city of Karbala during the observance of Ashura or Arbaeen. However, what the media sometimes overlooks is the faces of these pilgrims.

A closer examination reveals a multitude of distinct skin colors, races, and ethnicities. These are people hailing from countries all over the world, speaking various languages. But when observing these devotees, they are all considered as one and the same. As God states in the Holy Quran, "O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted."

Equality Between Men and Women in Islam

The verse mentioned above begins with a significant directive, urging individuals to stand together in a spiritual, emotional, and compassionate alliance rooted in their shared belief in God and His Prophet. It is a harmonious union described using terms like "partners of each other," where one can discern an underlying closeness among people, where one is an integral part of the other in camaraderie and unity. This partnership that binds hearts and actions together is essentially a call for gender equality.

This equality, when applied in everyday life, translates into tangible actions and acts of human solidarity, where the primary criterion for evaluating one another is integrity and moral character. Despite being evident, these concepts have been conspicuously absent from many traditional interpretations, which have tended to interpret this verse as a call for spiritual equality, particularly in worship (ibadat). This is often the case because the latter part of the verse mentions prayer and almsgiving. However, this verse contains a prescription of utmost importance at its core: the command to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. This crucial instruction is presented independently and precedes acts of worship.

In other words, the Quran portrays ideal male and female believers as individuals who support one another, on equal terms, in promoting what is good and discouraging evil actions, and then as individuals who perform their religious rituals, such as prayer and charity, consistently in unity and collective solidarity. Therefore, most classical hermeneutical texts understood the directive to enjoin good and forbid evil, which is repeated several times in the Quran, as an obligation related to socio-political action, incumbent upon the entire community or an elite segment of it, aimed at ensuring the minimum conditions for social justice and prosperity within that community.

However, it is surprising to note that this same directive, when found in the verse concerning partnership and unity among individuals, does not generally give rise to similar discussions. Strangely, the Quran's wording is interpreted differently when it addresses believers, typically construed as addressing only "men," even though all Muslim scholars are of the opinion that when the Quran employs the general term "al mu'minun" - the believers - it is often addressing both men and women, and that these exhortations apply to women as much as they do to men.

The Quran is unequivocal and strongly advocates this close collaboration or "wilayah" among men and women in socio-political action, before summarizing it in the context of religious rituals. Incidentally, some contemporary scholars harken back to this original meaning and affirm the prescription of joint socio-political participation by both men and women, as explicitly endorsed in the Quran.

Conclusion

This essay provides a brief overview of the rights that Islam granted to humanity fourteen hundred years ago, to those who were at war with one another and to the citizens of its state, which every believer regards as sacred law. On one hand, it reinforces and strengthens our faith in Islam when we realize that even in this modern age, which boasts of great progress and enlightenment, the world has not been able to produce fairer and more impartial laws than those given 1400 years ago.

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On the other hand, it is disheartening that Muslims possess such a comprehensive and profound system of law, yet they seek guidance from Western leaders who could not have dreamed of achieving the levels of truth and justice that were attained long ago.

References

  1. Quran. (n.d.). Surah Al-Hujurat (Chapter 49), Verse 13. Retrieved from https://quran.com/49/13
  2. Ramadan, T. (2007). In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad. Oxford University Press.
  3. An-Na'im, A. A. (1992). Human Rights in the Muslim World: Socio-Political Conditions and Scriptural Imperatives. Oxford University Press.
  4. Saeed, A., & Saeed, H. (2004). Freedom of Religion, Apostasy, and Islam. Ashgate Publishing.
  5. Al-Dawoody, A. I. (2009). The Islamic Law of War: Justifications and Regulations. Palgrave Macmillan.
  6. Ghobadzadeh, N. (2007). The Right to Self-Determination in the South Caucasus: Nagorno Karabakh in Context. Brill.
  7. Moaddel, M. (2005). Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse. University of Chicago Press.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Right To Equality In Islam. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-right-to-equality-in-islam/
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The Right To Equality In Islam [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Apr 23]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-right-to-equality-in-islam/
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