“Indeed, We have given dignity to the progeny of Adam, and bore them across land and sea and provided them with good things for their sustenance, and exalted them above many of Our creatures.” (Bani Israel: 70)
Islam accentuates the dignity of man and accords tremendous importance to human life, honour and property. No one is allowed to cause harm to life, honour and property of another. Homicide or murder is considered the most abominable act and Allah Almighty has prescribed serious punishment, both in this world and in the hereafter, for those who commit this crime. Subject to due process of law, the legal heirs of deceased person do have the right to take revenge in form of Qisas or blood money known as Diyat. In cases of murder, there is no distinction on account of religion, race or sex, and all are considered equal. In this regard, Allah Almighty says:
“O believers! Retribution is prescribed for you in the case of those who are unjustly slain: a free man for a free man, a slave for a slave and a woman for a woman. Then, if he (the murderer) is granted some remission (in retribution) by his brother (the victim’s heir), that should be executed fairly according to the law, and (retribution) should be paid (to the heirs of the slain) in a graceful manner. This is a concession and kindness from your Lord. So, anyone who transgresses after that, there is painful torment for him. And there is a (guarantee of) life for you in retribution, O wise people, so that you may guard (against bloodshed and destruction).”
The gruesomeness of committing the offence of murder can be judged from the fact that it is the only offence for which, Allah Almighty has fixed four kinds of punishment as elaborated in verse 93 of Surah An-Nisa which states:
“And he who wilfully slays a believer his reward is Hell, where he will abide. Allah’s wrath is against him and He has cast His curse upon him, and has prepared for him a great chastisement.”
Similarly, in cases of inflicting harm and injuries, all human beings have been declared equal before law. In verse 45 of Surah Al-Maidah, it has been said:
“And therein We had ordained for them a life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth and for all wounds, like for like. But whosoever foregoes it by way of charity, it will be for him expiation. Those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are indeed the wrong-doers.”
It is the responsibility of the state to ensure protection of lives, honour and properties of its citizens. The 2nd Pious Caliph Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq (RA) used to say, “Even if a dog dies within territorial jurisdiction of Muslim state, I will be held accountable for that.” During his reign, a person came to him and complained that the son of Governor of Egypt Amr ibn al-’As had physically assaulted (slapped) and thrashed him on account of surpassing him in a horse race. The Caliph (RA) summoned the Governor and his son and ordered the complainant to avenge the harm caused to him. Thus, in the presence of governor Amr ibn al-’As, the Copt boy whipped his son, stopping only when he was satisfied that the punishment was sufficient. Then the Caliph himself addressed the governor, saying: “O Amr, since when have you enslaved people who were born free?”
Islam accords great importance also to safeguarding man’s honour and property. No one is allowed to forcibly occupy other’s land or property. Anyone who is killed in the legal course of protecting his property and honour has been equated with a martyr. Islam has prescribed strict punishment for those people who commit theft and robbery. In the same way, exemplary punishments have been prescribed for those people who cheat or fraud others and deprive them of their valuables. It is the fundamental responsibility of Islamic state to protect property and honour of its citizen without any distinction on account of religion, race, creed or language etc. About sanctity of human honour and property, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said in his last sermon: “…O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.”
Moreover, no one is allowed to cast evil eye on the honour of another as Islam ordains its followers to safeguard their eyes and private parts through verse 30-31 of Surah an-Noor. Islam also prescribes strict punishment for those who commit Qazaf (slander) i.e. who accuse a chaste woman of committing adultery in order to dent her honour. Other means of causing harm to respect and prestige of human beings such as taunting, finding faults in others, backbiting, disdain, mocking, etc. are strictly prohibited in the light of verses of the Holy Quran and traditions from Prophet’s (SAWW) Sunnah. The Muslims have been directed not to expose/reveal shortcomings of their brethren but to conceal those. On this account some jurists have even stated that it is better for person who has seen committing of adultery to remain silent and not to testify, however if he/she testifies in a court of law he/she has not sinned.
Islam has prescribed that all Muslims are brothers and no one is having superiority over others on account of colour, creed, race, language, etc. and the only criterion for superiority is piety as envisaged by Allah Almighty in verse 13 of Surah Al-Hujraat which states:
“Human beings, we created you all from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware”.
On the occasion of the Last Sermon, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) declared, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”
Throughout his lifetime, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) never discriminated among Muslims, and always treated them on equal footing. The important task of calling people to prayers was assigned to Hazrat Bilal (RA) who was a former Negro slave. Hazrat Zaid bin Haritha (RA) was a slave of Mother of Believers Hazrat Khadija (RA) and was given to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as a gift. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) treated him in such a kind manner that people of Makkah started calling him Zaid bin Mohammad. In the battle of Muttah, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) appointed him as Commander-in-Chief of Muslim Army — an unprecedented event in Arab history.
In consonance with teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the four rightly-guided caliphs set great examples of equality. They never considered themselves superior to ordinary Muslims; they didn’t segregate themselves from common Muslims by making palaces or adopting royal lifestyles. They lived in mud houses and were easily accessible to all Muslims. Although Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq (RA) was the most powerful ruler of his time, yet when he was coming to Jerusalem for getting its keys from the patriarch, he was exchanging ride on camel back with his servant. The 3rd Pious Caliph, Hazrat Usman-e-Ghani (RA) had no security guards or servants at the time of his martyrdom in his small mud house despite of the fact that he was the caliph of Muslims and was wielding enormous political authority and solid financial position. The 4th Pious Caliph Hazrat Ali (RA) appeared in person before Qazi/judge named Shuraih like an ordinary citizen for getting custody of his lost armour. On these accounts, we can easily claim that Islam has prescribed great canons and norms of dignity of man and equality that have no parallel in human history.
The principle of equality, dignity of men and rule of law are also integral parts and essence of modern democracy and success of a country is dependent on true implementation of these principles. The most serious problem being faced by us in our beloved motherland is that we are not adhering to Islamic principles of equality and dignity of men. Our constitution and laws accord utmost importance to dignity of man and equality but practically the situation is abysmal. In practice we are not having uniform and equitable standards of law. In majority of the cases the rich and the influential flout laws with impunity whereas the poor and the weak are often exploited and tormented. This situation is a blatant violation of Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 which guarantees that “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.” If we want to put our country on the road to progress and prosperity, then it is inevitable to have uniform standards for all.