Islam is surrounded by a plethora of misconceptions and stereotypes that emerged mainly due to extremists’ actions who use religion as a justification for their crimes. One example of a common misbelief is that in Islam, fundamental human rights that are the basis of Western societies are not accepted, and the rights of women are oppressed. In reality, the Quaran and the history of the Prophet Muhammad’s actions. This paper will examine human rights from the perspective of Islam and the status of women according to this religion.
Human Rights Enriched in Islam
The Islamic religion has a plethora of teachings, which result in different views on how people should behave from the viewpoint of social values and legal restrictions. Juul Peterson (2018) argues that Islam has many interpretations, each treating human rights differently. Commonly, there is a belief that Islam places many restrictions on people’s rights. Human rights defenders often perceive Islam as a religion incompatible with the fundamental freedoms a person must have (Juul Peterson 2018). For clarity, some Islamic states were accused of using inhumane punishments and legislations, which the heads of these states justified with religious motives but this does not mean that Islam’s interpretation that the leaders of these states use is correct. Thus, this is just one interpretation of how the teachings of the Quran since many Muslims are prominent advocates of fundamental human rights and women’s rights.
In contemporary human rights, there are many Islamic advocates. However, Juul Peterson (2018) notes that some Islam representatives reject the concept of “human rights” as a Western and secular invention. Instead, they prefer to use the rights outlined in the Quran. Some examples include “right to life, security, freedom, and justice are basic Islamic right” (Juul Peterson 2018). Moreover, there were attempts to declare these human rights and give them legal grounds. For instance, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) was created in 1990 (Juul Peterson 2018). From these examples, one can assume that there is a conflict between the concept of fundamental human rights, which is perceived by Muslims as inherently Western, and the Western societies who misinterpret the rejection of the notion of “human rights.”
The Islamic religion enriches human rights and does not contradict them. In the CDHRI, it is declared that the basis of these human rights is the Islamic Shari’ah and that they are an integral part of this religion (Juul Peterson 2018). Moreover, social justice is one of the core concepts in this religion. This notion includes peace, brotherhood, love, and prosperity for people (Bhat 2019). These basic rights are granted to all people, not only Muslims, regardless of their religion and country of origin. Bhat (2019) also argues that Islam respects human rights since one of the interpretations of God’s name is “justice.” Justice has to be an integral part of behavior for every Muslim and should be practiced towards all people. Since, as was disclosed in previous parts, Quran outlines fundamental human rights for freedom, security, life, and others. One can conclude that Islam enriches the notion and concept of human rights. Therefore, Islamic teachings emphasize the value of human life, human rights, and the importance of peace and prosperity.
The status of women and women’s rights in Islam is a matter of debate. In some Muslim states, many restrictions are placed on how women can behave and what life choices they make. However, similarly to the misconceptions about fundamental human rights, Islam as a religion and Quaran, in particular, do not declare a woman’s status as inferior to a man. Therefore, one should make a distinction between Islam, different interpretations of it, and the legal status of women in some Islamic states.
The Quran highlights the equal status of both genders in their right to practice religion. The Oxford Islamic Studies resource reveals that in Islam, “men and women are moral equals in God’s sight and are expected to fulfill the same duties” (Oxford Islamic Studies n.d.). Considering this, they have an equal right to worshipping, praying, and performing religious rituals. Hence, this text from the Quran highlights the idea of equality before God.
Before the establishment of Islam, the early Arab religions viewed women as inferior and restricted their rights and freedoms. When reviewing the history of Muhammad, one sees that women were granted all the necessary rights and could serve as imams, medical professions, seek knowledge, and make independent choices (Oxford Islamic Studies n.d.). For example, Muhammad’s wife, Aishah, was an authoritative figure in medicine. Hence, there is no direct contradiction of the rights that women have as opposed to men in Islam. Before Prophet Muhammad, women had few rights, while he expanded them to include inheritance, marriage, and property rights, among others (Deutsche Welle 2018). Therefore, the example of Prophet Muhammad shows that women were given opportunities and rights comparable to those of men.
Similarly to human rights, the social status of females from the viewpoint of some contemporary Muslims is shaped by the patriarchal culture. Due to this, some interpretations of Islamic teachings do oppress women’s rights. For example, the four schools of legal thought, which emerged from Sunni Muslims, approach the teachings of Muhhamad differently (Deutsche Welle 2018). The strictest out of those interpretations is Wahhabism and some variations of Salafism. According to these interpretations, women should have fewer rights, and the social status of a man should be superior (Deutsche Welle 2018). However, some states that follow these conservative religious teachings have declared their desire to change the social status of women as subjugated to that of men. For example, the government of Mauritia proclaimed that they work on legislation that will end the prejudice and discrimination against women (Deutsche Welle 2018). Thus, the conservative interpretation of Muslim laws is one side of the issue, and some Muslim states try to change the attitudes towards women and their legal status.
This shows that Islam has a multitude of interpretations, and different nations or even communities can interpret Quaran’s teachings in a manner that contradicts one another. However, when looking at Islam in general and the source of Islamic knowledge, the Quaran, there are no direct contradictions of women’s rights. The “reformist Islam” defendants try to change the view of women shaped by the patriarchal culture and emphasize women’s rights and freedoms.
In summary, this paper reviews the basic human rights and the social status of women according to Islam. There is a misconception about how Muslims approach the rights of people. However, some states and representatives of this religion use it to justify inhumane actions and oppression of women. Thus, human rights are enriched in Islam through the teachings of brotherhood, love, and the outline of a person’s freedom. Additionally, in this religion, women’s social status is not inferior.
Baht, Bilal Ahmad. 2019. “Social Justice in Islam and Human Rights.” PhD diss., University of Kashmir.
Deutsche Welle. n.d. “Women’s Rights in Islam: Fighting for Equality Before the Law.” Web.
Juul Peterson, Marie. 2018. “Islam and Human Rights: Clash or Compatibility?” London School of Economics and Political Science. Web.
Oxford Islamic Studies. n.d. “Women and Islam.”. Web.