To address this question, we need first to clarify what we mean by ‘human rights’. Does the term refer to the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UDHR? Or does it simply refer to the rights of humans in a general sense?
To start with, Islam does indeed confirm the basic human rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UHDR. That is to say, rights such as the right to life, freedom, equality, etc. are acknowledged by Islam. However, the way Islam looks at these concepts may be different.
That is probably the reason why the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, the CDHR, was composed some years later. The declaration included nearly the same basic human rights mentioned in the UHDR; what distinguishes the two, however, is the special perspective of Islam on the Human Being and the subject of rights.
Before examining human rights from an Islamic perspective, the following points may be considered: Is the concept of human rights a ‘modern’ phenomenon? Are human societies, let’s say human authorities, to define certain rights for human beings? If so, are these established rights all-inclusive? Can they be applied to every human being regardless of time and place or any other particular circumstances?
It seems that Islam has a distinct perspective on human rights; something that has to be elaborated in more detail.
Firstly, Islam views rights as being inherent in human beings. This means that, according to Islam, God has granted humans certain rights since the very beginning of creation. There seems no need for a group of people to establish rights for human beings; whether it be the United Nations or any other international institution.
This can explain, to a great extent, any dissimilarity between Islam and the UDHR. Accordingly, there may be certain rights recognized by Islam that are not found in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and equally, there may be rights stated in the UDHR that are not recognized by Islam.
If we have a closer look at the Islamic traditions, we realize that not only they have addressed human individual and collective rights in some great detail, but also gone beyond our ‘modern’ definition of the rights of humans! They have introduced something much more valuable, that is, ‘human dignity’!
To begin with, the Holy Scripture of Islam, the Quran, looks upon humans as one endowed with dignity. Human beings’ dignity refers to their advantages. This means that God has endowed them with sublime traits .
"Certainly We have honored the Children of Adam ….. and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created" (17:70).
Also, all humans are children of Adam and are created from clay. They are equal regardless of gender differences, ethnicity, color, etc.
"Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another"(49:13).
There are plenty of writings on the subject of rights in Islamic resources, amongst which Imam Sajjad (AS)’s The Treatise on Rights is one of the best. Imam Ali b. al-Hussain (AS), known as Sajjad (the Often in Prostration) , has left a comprehensive account on the issue . Almost 50 rights and duties are introduced and discussed in this momentous document; it includes various social relations of any individual such as rights of parents, spouses, children, neighbors, teachers, students, believers, the leader of Congregational Prayer, the government, etc. It also defines the duties that humans have towards their ‘self’ and even their organs:
“The right of your ‘self’ (nafs) against you is that you employ it in obeying God.”
“The right of the tongue is that you consider it too noble for obscenity, accustom it to good, refrain from any meddling in which there is nothing to be gained, express kindness to the people, and speak well concerning them.” 
The treatise was written centuries ago, yet it addresses not only the issue of rights in an extensive manner, but also illustrates the ethical principles of citizenship in detail:
“The right of your neighbor is that you guard him when he is absent, honor him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged… if you know of any evil from him, you conceal it…You do not forsake him in difficulty, you release him from his stumble, you forgive his sin, and you associate with him generously”.
“The right of the people of your creed is harboring safety for them, compassion toward them…you should love for them what you love for yourself and dislike for them what you dislike for yourself…” .
Our concise examination of the Islamic viewpoint on the subject of human rights implies that Islam does recognize human rights. Nonetheless, a particular Islamic perspective on human beings as the honored creature of God with specific rights and duties has to be taken into consideration.
- "Statement on Human Rights" (PDF), Retrieved 2017,
- Islami, S. H. (2005). Retrieved 2017, from Noormags
- Javadi Amuli, ‘Abdullah. Sources Of Human Rights In Islam. Retrieved 2017, from
- ‘Life of Imam Sajjad (a.s)’. Retrieved 2017, from http://shiastudies.org/article/imam-ali-b-al-husayn-al-sajjad-beginner
- ‘Risalat al-huquq’. Retrieved 2017, from http://en.wikishia.net/view/Risalat_al-huquq_(book)
- TREATISE ON RIGHTS (RISALAT AL-HUQUQ). Retrieved 2017,
Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world, with many apparent similarities between their beliefs. However, there is a crucial difference among some sects of Christianity and Islam, which is the question of the divinity of Prophet Jesus (PBUH). Christianity is usually regarded as a Monotheistic religion, some of its denominations, though, hold that Jesus (PBUH) is a part of Trinity and is God. But Muslims believe Jesus (PBUH) is a human being. They love prophet Jesus (PBUH) and honor him as one of the greatest prophets, yet for them, Jesus (PBUH) is not God nor the son of God.
According to the verses of the Quran and what Muslims believe, God is One and unique in essence, attributes and actions, and is not like any of His creatures. So having a child, which is the reproduction of a similar one, is impossible for Him. “The originator of the heavens and the earth—how could He have a child when He has had no spouse? He created all things, and He has knowledge of all things” (6:101).
From the Islamic perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to consider human form for Allah. This is also acknowledged in the bible as Jesus (PBUH) said once when he was among his followers: “You have never heard His voice at any time nor seen His form” John (5:37).
Muslims believe Jesus (PBUH) was created just as Adam (PBUH) was created without a father. And that his life as a human began miraculously by Allah just as He created Adam (PBUH) the first time. If Jesus Christ (PBUH) was God, then how could he be born of his mother, Saint Mary? Or how could he die in the hands of humans? Also, if God could take human form, wouldn’t there need to be another God to run the universe? These ideas are explicitly rejected in the holy Quran: “There is no god but Allah, and indeed Allah is the All-mighty, the All-wise” (3:62)
We, human beings, need to have children for various reasons. We would satisfy many of our desires, having them, like our sensual or emotional needs. Some of us might want to have one to assist us with our works and needs. Some might seek a name after death, etc. None of these, however, would make any sense about Allah, who is the Creator of the universe, the All-mighty and the All-sufficient: “O mankind! You are the ones who stand in need of Allah, and Allah—He is the All-sufficient” (35:15).
The other reason that proves Jesus Christ (PBUH) is not God or the son of Him is that he was a human being with all human attributes and requirements. He was in his mother’s womb for some time; he was born; he would eat, drink and sleep and was nothing different from all other human beings except that he was the messenger of Allah: “The Messiah, son of Mary, is but an apostle. Certainly, [other] apostles have passed before him, and his mother was a truthful one. Both of them would eat food. Look how We clarify the signs for them, and yet, look, how they go astray!” (5:75).
More importantly, Jesus Christ (PBUH) himself never claimed that he is a God and has to be worshipped. In fact, he said the contrary in Mathew (15:9): “They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Or, in Numbers (23:19), he said: “God is not man… or a son of man”. In many other verses, he admitted that he was only an apostle of God, not God, nor the son of Him, and there is only one true God: “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only TRUE God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” John (17:3).
You see, there are serious contradictions and misconceptions between different verses of the New Testament and also what Christians believe about Prophet Jesus (PBUH). But what the holy Quran suggests is clear: “Say, ‘He is Allah, the One. Allah is the All-embracing. He neither begat, nor was begotten, nor has He any equal.’” (112:1-4) And that Jesus (PBUH) was a prophet, born without a father, just as Adam and Eve were born without parents. Miracles were given to him by Allah to convince people that Allah, the only true God exists.
Whatever we look at or even see, enters our mind and soul, and sticks to them. Imam Ali (AS) said: “The eye is the reporter of heart and the messenger of mind.” . It means that every act of looking profoundly affects our heart and soul. The prophet (PBUH&HP) said: “Avoid unnecessary excess looks as they grow lust in your hearts and make you heedless.” .
In another saying from Imam Ali (AS), we read that: “The eyes are the snares of Satan” . That is why Islam has special guidelines and rules about at what or whom, one is allowed or not to look. And, this is more pressing in case of Muslims living in a non-Muslim society, where they are constantly exposed to both men and women freely and improperly dressed in the streets, TV, magazines, web pages, etc. Islam has regulated looking at the opposite gender according to the two categories: Mahrams and non-Mahrams .
A man is permitted to look at the body of a woman who is his Mahram, except her private parts (Awrah). And he must not look at her body from the navel down to the knee. This means that a woman should dress decently even in the presence of her Mahrams. One’s wife is an exception to this rule; married couples are allowed to look at the entire body of each other.
It is forbidden for a man to look at the body of any non-Mahram woman but he can look at her hands and face as long as they do not have any decoration. If the woman is Muslim, then he is not allowed to look at her hair. But if she is not Muslim, looking at her hair is not forbidden as long as it is not for pleasure.
Generally, there is no sin on a man for the first involuntary look at any non-Mahram woman, but the second look should be avoided . In any case, men should remember that: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them.” (24:30).
This rule also extends to adolescent boys and even younger ones, who understand women’s physical attributes and might be attracted to them. They should be taught to lower their gaze, too. Since children’s minds and souls are clear lands ready to be cultivated with several types of thoughts and ideas mostly captured by eyes, we need to teach them which seeds they should plant in their lands to attain Allah’s eternal satisfaction.
A man is not allowed to look at another man’s private parts, nor a woman at those of another woman; whether Muslim or not. Besides, looking at any parts of the body of another man, even the face and arms, will be forbidden for a man if done with the intention of having pleasure. The same ruling applies to a woman towards another woman. This also means that one should always cover his/her private parts in the presence of others, even of the same gender.
A woman is allowed to look at the body of a man who is her Mahram, except his private parts, if it is not for having pleasure. One’s husband is an exception to this rule as mentioned earlier.
A woman is not permitted to look at the body of a non-Mahram man, except for the face, hands, and that amount which men usually [i] do not cover and if it is not for pleasure.
One is permitted to look at the entire body of a child until he/she reaches the age when the child’s consciousness of sex has developed, or when evidence of sexual urge is noticed on him/her; even if it is before reaching puberty. However, it is better to accustom the child to always dress properly.
As a general rule, it is forbidden (Haram) to look at anyone (even at one’s own body) or anything (including people’s photos and films, statues, etc.) with the intention of having pleasure (with the exception of one’s spouse), even if one is looking at a Mahram.
In cases of “necessity” such as in administering first aid, medical treatment [ii] or during a trial testimony where the judge requests the witness to look at a non-Mahram to identify him/her , all the rules of the prohibition of looking become void. As an instance, if a doctor is compelled to look at a part of the body of a non-Mahram woman, he must only look at that part necessary for the treatment, but not more than that. Also, if possible, the examination or testing must be performed over the clothing. Other exceptions are looking at one’s spouse as explained above.
[i] This, although following a definite limit indicated in Islamic ruling that should be respected, is based on the normal condition of each society to some extent.
[ii] In the case that a doctor of the same skill and with the same gender is not available.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 104, p. 41, T. 52.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 72, p. 199.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 77, p. 294.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.3, p.474, T. 4658.
- looking to others