In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Rights of Allah and Rights of the Servants
The Islamic conception of human rights is that our terminology comes under the title of “Rights of Allah and Rights of the Servants.” The Holy Qur’an has spoken of both the Rights of Allah and the Rights of the Servants, defining what are the rights of Allah and what are the rights of His creatures. Meanwhile, Western discourse speaks of human rights, but it doesn’t talk about the rights of God; whether there is a concept of God in the West or not, it’s the same thing; whether God has any rights or not, it’s the same thing. In our view, the first right is that of Allah, followed by the rights of His creatures. The Qur’an has repeatedly stated this order, that there are both Rights of Allah and Rights of the Servants.
For instance, in Surah Al-Maun, four rights have been mentioned. One of Allah’s and three of His creatures’. Scolding an orphan is not a Muslim’s job; he who denies the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah) is the one who pushes the orphans away. An honest and religious person does not push an orphan away. This is a mention of the rights of the creatures. Feeding the indigent and needy is also a right of the creatures. Then there is a mention of the prayer (Salah), stating that it is a right of Allah. Not offering prayer is a violation of Allah’s right. Being lazy in prayer is a violation of Allah’s right. After that, it is stated:
و یمنعون الماعون» (سورہ الماعون ۷ )
You should lend things that are used mutually; this also falls under human rights. I have summarized that even in this short Surah, Allah Almighty has mentioned both kinds of rights, the Rights of Allah and the Rights of the Servants.
The rights of Allah and the rights of the servants have been mentioned at many other places in the Holy Qur’an. There is another blessed verse in which Allah, the Lord of Honor, has sequentially mentioned what are the Rights of Allah and what are the Rights of the Servants. The command of the Almighty is:
وَٱعْبُدُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا۟ بِهِۦ شَيْـًۭٔا ۖ وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَـٰنًۭا وَبِذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينِ وَٱلْجَارِ ذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْجَارِ ٱلْجُنُبِ وَٱلصَّاحِبِ بِٱلْجَنۢبِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُكُمْ ۗ (سوره النساء ۳۶)
The initial part of the text talks about how Allah has delineated certain rights in the Quran. The first and foremost is the right of Allah himself: to worship Him and not associate any partners with Him. Following this, the rights of various categories of individuals are mentioned. These categories include parents (with emphasis on treating them with kindness), close relatives, orphans, the needy, neighbors (both those who are relatives and those who are not), companions at your side, the traveler, and slaves.
وات ذالقربی حقه والمسكين وابن السبيل“ (سوره الاسراء ۲۶)
The text stresses that in modern times, people often discuss the rights of individuals, but the primary right—that of Allah—is often overlooked. It further elaborates that the Quran discusses in great detail both the rights of Allah and the rights of individuals (known as “Haqooq Allah” and “Haqooq-ul-Ibad” in Arabic), and that this level of detail is unmatched by any other legal system in the world. However, the writer points out, people often read the Quran not to understand these rights but to seek blessings, and they do indeed receive these blessings.
The discussion then shifts to the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) concerning rights. It mentions that there are numerous hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) on this topic, and the writer promises to discuss a couple of them. One story from Sahih Bukhari, a significant hadith collection, is highlighted. It’s about Salman the Persian, who went through a remarkable journey of faith, from Zoroastrianism to Christianity, then being enslaved by Jewish families for a long time, and eventually coming to Medina as a slave. However, this slavery turned out to be beneficial for him, as he reached Medina where Prophet Muhammad resided, and he eventually purchased his own freedom.
The arrangement of the rights of Allah and the rights of servants
Here is a fundamental point that both the rights of Allah and the rights of servants are essential, but their order is such that the rights of Allah take precedence in obligations and duties, whereas the rights of servants take precedence in permissible and desirable actions. Jurists write on this issue that it is not permissible to break an obligatory fast for anyone, but if one has to break a voluntary fast to honor a guest, then they should do so and make up for it later, as the right of the guest is greater. Therefore, Hazrat Abu Darda (رضي الله عنه) broke his fast and joined the guest for a meal, and Hazrat Salman Farsi (رضي الله عنه) did the same, as his fast was broken. When it was time to sleep at night, Hazrat Abu Darda (رضي الله عنه) laid a bed for Hazrat Salman Farsi (رضي الله عنه) to rest. He asked what your program is? He said, “I spend the whole night praying voluntary prayers, I do not sleep at night, I worship.” He said, “Bring the bed and rest with me.” He said, “Sir, this is not my routine.” He said, “Whether it is routine or not, bring the bed here and rest.” He had to lay down on the bed reluctantly because Hazrat Salman Farsi (رضي الله عنه) was made the elder brother of Hazrat Abu Darda (رضي الله عنه), and an elder brother is indeed an elder brother, known for his persuasion. Hazrat Abu Darda (رضي الله عنه) himself says, “I lay down thinking that a little later, when Hazrat Salman Farsi (رضي الله عنه) would fall asleep, I would get up and go to the prayer mat. A little later, when I tried to get up, Hazrat Salman Farsi (رضي الله عنه) was awake, asking, ‘Where are you going? Sleep peacefully.’ In the morning, at dawn, Hazrat Salman Farsi (رضي الله عنه) got up, woke me up as well, saying, ‘This is the time for worship, get up, you also pray voluntary prayers, I also pray.’ After that, the program was made that we would go and pray the Fajr prayer behind the Prophet in the Mosque of the Prophet. As they were going to the mosque, Hazrat Salman Farsi gave Hazrat Abu Darda some advice…
Hazrat Salman Farsi’s advice
He addressed Hazrat Abu Darda and said;
ان لربک علیک حقا و لنفسک علیک حقًا ولزوجک علیک حقا و لزورک علیک حقًا فاعط کل ذی حق حقہ
Give the one who has rights his due at the right time. In the time for Allah’s rights, فاعط كل ذي حق حقه; in the time for the soul’s rights, [give] the soul’s rights, including eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.; in the time for the wife’s rights, [give] the wife’s rights; and in the time for the guest’s rights, [give] the guest’s rights. Fulfill the rights of each at their respective times; this is the religion.” This advice was given, and then both brothers presented themselves in the service of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ). They performed the Fajr prayer behind him in the Prophet’s Mosque.
These are the rights that the religion of Islam has taught us.