The following article taken from the famous book entitled Risalat al-Hoqouq or the Treatise of Human Rights as dictated to one of his disciples by Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), the 4th Imam of Shia Muslims.
The term Rights is the plural of right, which when used in singular form has a different meaning. Rights is a way of behavior that defines one’s respect for fellow humans that others are also duty bound to observe. The most important characteristic of human rights is that it is a must and not the outcome of others’ favors. Every one of us has rights, and even our own bodily parts have rights of their own, which we ought to observe. According to Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) the rights that the All-Merciful Allah has granted us bestows covers our entire life, for whatever we possess is from the Wise and Omnipotent Creator. If we can move, talk, see, hear, or associate with others, these are all divine favors and for each of these blessings we have a right that should be observed. Each right, however, insignificant in the eyes of the individual, has its own important status. The 4th Imam says the right of the Almighty upon, His humble creatures, is the most important one. Accordingly, whenever a right of a fellow human is violated, one has to ask the forgiveness of Allah, in addition to request from pardon from the person wronged. For instance, one who accuses another for no fault or speaks ill of him, has to apologize to that person since his right of respect has been violated. This does not mean that if the wronged person forgives, the matter is resolved. No, we should simultaneously beseech Allah for forgiveness as well, since we had disobeyed Allah by wronging a fellow human. Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) defines in a beautiful and rational manner that the ignoring of the rights of a person is tantamount to violation of the rights of Allah, Who is the source of all-good, and Who so wisely defined our respective rights.
The point worth noting is that without proper cognizance and consciousness of Allah, Who is nearer to us than our jugular vein, one cannot have a proper understanding of fellow humans and cannot claim to have found the path of perfection. In this regard The Quran Said: “We are nearer to him than his life-vein.” And in part of this verse, Almighty Allah assures man, saying: “And know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart.” The All-Merciful Allah is fully aware of the needs of His creatures. In view of this fact, He has defined to us the paths leading to perfection as well as the pitfalls that plunge us into the abyss of doom and self-destruction. It is rather unfortunate that in many cases, human beings ignore Allah and the wisdom of religious teachings by hopelessly resigning themselves to the fluctuations of life on the presumption of fate and fortune. However, this immersion in worldly fails to satisfy the spirit of man or his own efforts since this sort of attitude to life is actually against innate human nature. The state of affairs of the modern world, with all its scientific and technological progress and the comforts and amenities of life, is testimony to the fact that the soul of the man remains restless and without attaining his quest for tranquility. Decades of Allahless capitalism, as well as socialism, communism, and secularism, have failed to salvage human societies. These facts are making the modern man realize that in order to stop his further straying from the truth, he has to turn to morals, religious teachings, and most important of all, the words of Divine Revelation, as preached by Prophets and saints, especially the Last and Greatest of all Divine Messengers, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
In this regard, we find in the Risalat al-Hoqouq or the Treatise on Human rights, how beautifully the Prophet’s 4th Infallible Successor turns the attention of man to the rights of Allah upon human beings, which also includes the rights of our own bodily parts upon ourselves. For instance, the head, the eyes, the ears, the limbs, and all other organs, have their own respective rights upon ourselves, which we are duty bound to observe. In other words, if we ignore or violate the rights of our own bodily parts, we cannot claim to have observed the rights of others, or the rights of Allah, since by misusing these organs, we are not just harming others, but destroying our own self. Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) also lists the rights that a person is obliged to observe in regards to his parents, family members, neighbors, relatives, leaders, and the other people of the society, in order to attain tranquility of heart and salvation of the self. In the Treatise on Human Rights, we come across this passage of the Imam, which reads:
“Therefore happy is he whom Allah aids in the rights which He has made incumbent upon him and whom He gives success therein and points in the proper direction.”
As we said last week and the week before, in Islam, human rights and social issues are not unconnected from all other rights, and neither are they mere codes without practical purposes. As a matter of fact, unlike the charters and constitutions of international bodies that are either misused or remain impractical because of control by vested interests, the laws of Islam and the rights defined by Allah are rational, practical and easy to observe. This is because, in Islam a human being is dignified, and his greatness does not depend on the number of rights, but in his sense of duty in accepting responsibilities and fulfilling his commitments. For, whenever responsibility is in proportion to a person’s capabilities and talents, it plays a great role in his growth and perfection.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, sociologists and legislators go to great lengths in discussing laws and what they call human rights, but their greatest flaw is negligence of spiritual aspects of human rights and the growth and development of the innate humanitarian spirit. Man has been created by Allah as a multisided being, whose powers of intellect and speech make him capable of not just mastering science, technology and other fields, but also of developing and perfecting his spiritual qualities and the innate humanitarian soul. In this regard, we read in Risalat al-Hoqouq or the Treatise on Human Rights of the Prophet’s 4th Infallible Successor, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) Said:
“The greatest right of Allah upon you is that you worship Him without associating anything with Him. When you do that with sincerity, He has made it binding upon Himself to give you sufficiency in the affair of this world and the next.”
Thus the Imam considers some of the rights of Allah to be superior to other rights, and the greatest right of Allah upon man is to obey the laws of the All-Wise Creator. In other words, polytheism is mere conjecture and nothing but the wild imagination of a warped mind in view of the fact that Allah is One and Only without having any associates or partners. This means those who worship other than Allah are actually relying on unrealities and trying to build their faith on flimsy foundations. A beautiful definition is given in this regard by the verse of the Holy Qur’an, which says:
“Being upright for Allah, not associating aught with Him, and whoever associates (others) with Allah, it is as though he had fallen from on high, then the birds snatch him away or the wind carried him off to a far-distant place.”
Thus the disbeliever is doomed, and it is only monotheism or turning to the One and Only Allah with a purified and sincere heart for observing His commandments that salvages both the human body and the human soul.
The true believer is sure that Allah the Omnipresent, is Unique, Incomparable, without any resemblance to anything, and without any form, shape or place. Allah is also needless of His creatures, while we human beings, as well as all other creatures, are in need of each other, and in need of him. Allah is aware of everything including thoughts that flash across our mind. Thus we have to turn to Him, the All-Merciful, the All-Loving, and the All-Wise, Who defined for us our rights and Who is the source of virtue and perfection. It now becomes clear to us why the Prophets focused on the Oneness of Allah as the fundamental article of faith, since it is only monotheism that instills in human beings and human societies humanitarian aspects and regard for human rights. On the other hands, polytheism, agnosticism, doubt, disbelief, and any other form of deviation, whatever the claim to charters, codes, and constitutions, leads to trampling and violation of human rights and self-destruction. Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) reminds us in this regard that once a person gains the proper cognizance and consciousness of Allah and submits to Him with all his heart, the Almighty saves him from evil and all that is harmful to his soul and salvation.
It is worth recalling that Martyr Ayatollah Morteza Motahharri has written in one of his works that whenever a human being focuses solely on his material life and is engrossed in the adornment of his body, he has in fact completely forgotten himself. According to the famous Persian poet, Jalaleddin Mohammad Mowlavi-Roumi, an unmindful person could be likened to the one who, without realizing, is building a house on a land that does not belong to him, and once he plans to move into this house, he suddenly he realizes that he had built this house on a plot not belonging to him while his own piece of land is lying barren and in a state of ruin. Now we take up the topic of self-awareness or self-cognizance, which is essential for man to discover his/her own potential in order to distinguish right from wrong, and accordingly develop positive characteristics by overcoming negative tendencies.