Qasim A. Moini
world, ‘human rights’ has become quite a buzzword, so much so that even blatant
violators of the people’s rights try to cover up their misdeeds through spin
the perspective of Islam, the rights of man have been a central concern right
from the beginning; the Holy Quran declares in very emphatic words that Allah
“desired to show favour upon those who were oppressed in the land and make them
leaders” (Surah Qasas), while the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has also greatly
emphasised huqooq ul ibad (rights of individuals/mankind).
following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet, his grandson Imam Husain took
the field in Karbala on this day 14 centuries ago to raise a voice for these
very rights and confront head-on the Umayyad imperial challenge to the Muslim
faith’s egalitarian order. While some revisionists never tire of saying that
Karbala was a struggle for power, Imam Husain himself clarified, during his
sermon in Mina that, “O God! Everything we did was not prompted by rivalry for
political power, nor for a search for wealth and abundance; rather it was done
to demonstrate to men the shining principles and values of Your religion. …”
was a battle for these very values, a stand for the weak and oppressed against
the arrogant and the vain. The facts of the battle and its tragic aftermath
have been explained by scholars of repute. However, one key witness of Karbala,
Imam Ali ibn al-Husain Zain al-Abidin, Imam Husain’s son, who could not
participate in combat due to his indisposition, has discussed the issue of
rights in a very lucid and succinct manner after the tragedy that befell his
family on Ashura.
Sajjad’s, as Imam Zain al-Abidin is also known, contribution to rebuilding the
edifice of Islamic ethics and spirituality through his Duas as recorded in
Sahifa-i-Sajjadia after the Karbala tragedy is well-known. But the Imam has
also discussed the question of rights in a document which is known as Risalah
al-Huqooq or ‘treatise on rights’. Indeed, such a collection of the Imam’s
sayings — narrated by a scholar of Shaikh Suduq’s standing — is quite
awe-inspiring, especially considering that it was written sometime in the seventh
century, and that too after the Imam witnessed the events of Karbala.
al-Huqooq, Imam Sajjad has discussed multiple rights, such as the rights of the
tongue, the eyes, the ears, the rights of prayers, which fall into the realm of
ethics and morality, while also discussing the rights of the ruled, the wife,
the child, the neighbour, etc, which concern sociopolitical issues. In an era
when rights were trampled upon without any restraint, Imam Sajjad made it clear
— using the Quran and hadith as a barometer — that from the most powerful
segments in society to the weakest — slaves, children, women — all had rights
which had to be respected.
of the tongue,” the Imam says, “is that you consider it too noble for
obscenity, accustom it to good.” And in an age where the treatment of women was
far from ideal, the Imam advises that “the right of your wife is that you know
that God has made her a repose and a comfort for you … so you should honour her
and treat her gently”.
encourage social cohesion and build community relations, Imam Sajjad says: “The
right of your neighbour is that you guard him when he is absent, honour him
when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged.” As for mentoring the
youth, he says, “the right of him who is younger is that you show compassion
towards him through teaching him, pardoning him, covering his faults”.
are just a few examples of the divinely inspired maxims of Imam Sajjad
contained in Risalah al-Huqooq. It is testament to the Imam’s lofty character
that he gave the Muslim world such gems after seeing his beloved father,
brothers, kinsmen and supporters massacred by the merciless Syrian hordes on
the burning sands of Karbala. Moreover, this gentle soul had to suffer the
tribulation of having his aunts — the granddaughters of the Holy Prophet —
sisters and other female relatives taken prisoners of war, while he himself was
cruelly made to march to Kufa and then on to Damascus.
Sajjad proved through these spiritual gifts to the ummah that he was a worthy
successor to Imam Husain, Hazrat Ali and the Holy Prophet, guiding the masses
and pointing the people towards the principles of forbidding evil and promoting
good even under the most trying of circumstances. Today, when we see many
Muslim societies, including our own, devoid of rights, gems such as the Risalah
al-Huqooq point the way to what a better society based on mutual rights and
responsibilities can look like.
Moini is a member of staff.
Headline: Karbala & rights
Source: The Dawn