Islam, Individualism and Human Rights

Unlike the West, human rights in Islam are not absolute since they must always consider the teachings of Islam over all. Even then, the individual guarantees in Islam are unprecedented and are much more advanced than many other religions. Concepts like democracy and individual freedoms are all defended in the Qur’an, but they are always under the specific prohibitions and allowances of Islamic law. Muslims consider this situation as ideal since they consider that the Qur’an and the Hadith give these concepts a moral framework and a spiritual direction that they need to avoid falling into anarchy and chaos.

Individualism in Islam is subject to the same restrictions; man is not left entirely up to his own desires but can do so if he adheres to the law of Islam only. Otherwise, Muslims believe that an exaggerated individualism can cause man to veer away from the path to God.  There is prejudice on both sides. Islam has nothing to fear from individualism and independence and freedom are both values embraced by the Qur’an and by Islamic law. Despite the current divide today, Muslims have an attitude towards individual rights that is quite similar to that of Westerners. In fact, Islam is individualistic in nature. It is a central tenet of Islam that each Muslim is independent and on his own on the path towards following God. It is an important part of Islam that for a Muslim there is no authority other than God, making Muslims an extremely free people. A Muslim’s only allegiance is to God, and this is a God that a Muslim contacts directly without the need of any intercession by any person or institution. Under Islamic law all Muslims are equal regardless of their race or wealth. Islam is a religion of freedom and equality.

One however, cannot argue that all Muslims are lovers of these principles. There are many authorities, secular and religious, in the Muslim world that, afraid of losing their positions of power and wealth, engage in the systematic subjugation of millions of Muslims. Here it should be said that these practices are not Islamic at all and are due to these despots using a twisted form of Islam for their own greed and to further their own goals. There are many aspects of tradition in the Arab world that are quite contrary to the teachings of Islam and an adequate interpretation of the example of the Prophet is a good path towards making sure that Islam defends each person’s individual rights and freedoms.  Current trends seem to indicate that the idea that the future of Islam does not lie in countries with a Muslim majority but rather with Muslims living as outsiders amongst Western society. These communities have managed to distance themselves from harmful Arab traditions more suited to a tribal and medieval society and now practice a kind of Islam that is more in accordance with the Qur’an and the Hadith and how Islam was practiced in the times of the Prophet.

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