We pointed out that the spirit and foundation of the Declaration of Human Rights is that even human being should benefit from a kind of essential and honourable respect and individuality. In the context of his creation and formation, a series of rights and freedom were given to him which can no way be taken from or denied him.
We also said that this spirit and foundation is upheld by Islam and is in harmony with the philosophy of the east. What is incompatible with the spirit and essence of this Declaration, and what shows it to be false and baseless is the very explanation given in many of philosophical systems of the west concerning man and the make-up of his existence.
Evidently the sole reliable testimony to which we can refer for the purpose of finding out the true rights of human beings is the priceless book of creation. By referring to the pages and lines of this great book, the real rights held in common by all human beings and the position of the rights of man and woman in comparison with each other may be determined. Strangely enough, there are some naive people who are not prepared to recognize the great testimony of the book of creation unless they see some reason to do so. In their opinion the only competent authority is the body of the people who had a hand in the preparation of the Declaration and are today the masters and the supreme rulers of the world. It does not matter if they themselves are not concerned to abide by the subject-matter of this Declaration. Others should not be so presumptuous as to question what they say. However, on the basis of these very same human rights we believe we have a right to question and to take note of what they say and do. We consider the huge process of creation, the speaking book of God, to be the only competent referable source of evidence.
I again apologize to my worthy readers that in this series of articles, certain of the questions which I put forward have a somewhat philosophical tinge and seem rather dry, and for some readers may be rather boring. I myself, as far as possible, avoid discussing these sorts of problem, but sometimes the relevance of these dry, philosophical matters to the problems of the rights of women are so great that it is impossible to avoid them.
The connection between natural rights and the direction in which nature moves:
In our view, natural and innate rights come into existence when the handiwork of creation directs created beings towards the perfection of their qualities, the predisposition for which is inherent in them, although in a latent state, and does this with clear-sightedness and by keeping in view the function and purpose of all of them.
Every innate aptitude is the basis of a natural right. For example, the child of a human being has a right to education and schooling but a young lamb has no such right. Why? Because the aptitude for leaning and attaining wisdom exists in a human child, but not in a lamb. The plan of creation has assigned this aptitude of acquiring knowledge to mankind, but has not ascribed it to sheep. The right to think, to give expression to one’s thoughts and to hold independent opinions, is of the same category.
There are some people who think that to assume natural rights and to claim that mankind has been given the distinction of having a particular kind of right by creation is a baseless and self-centered idea and should be discarded. There is no difference at all as far as the rights of human beings and other creatures are concerned.
This is a totally mistaken idea. As a matter of fact, natural aptitudes are very varied. The creative plan has assigned to every kind of creature its own particular sphere, and its well-being is also determined to be within the path of its own orbit. The creative process has its own plan in relation to this matter, and it has left this basic document in the hands if its creatures so that there could not the even the least possibility of an accident based on ignorance or lack of information.
The root and foundation of family rights, which is the subject under discussion, should also he looked for in nature like all other natural rights. By looking into the natural characteristics of men and women and the inborn aptitudes that creation has endowed them with, we can understand whether men and women have identical rights and duties. Do not forget us we have mentioned in our preceding articles, that the problem under discussion is the identicalness of the rights of men and women and not the equality of their rights.
As far as non-family social rights are concerned, that is, as far as rights within society at large, outside the circle of the family, are concerned, an individual acquires both equal and identical rights. In other words, fundamental natural rights are equal and identical to each other. Every member of society has an equal right to benefit from his innate talents; everyone has the right to work; everyone has the right to take part in the race of life; every individual has the right to offer himself for any post or position in society and try to get it in a lawful manner; everyone has the right to demonstrate his personal academic achievements and practical worth.
Of course, the same equality in basic natural rights gradually places people in an unequal position as far as acquired rights are concerned; that is to say, everyone has an equal right to work and to take part in the competition of life, but when the question of the result of the competition, the standard of work and the level of adequacy is considered, not every one come’s up to the required standard. Some prove themselves more talented and some are found to be less talented. Some are more efficient and some less efficient, some are more capable and some are less capable. Some are found to be more learned, more proficient, more skilful, more useful and more efficient than others in the task, and so, naturally, their acquired rights assume an unequal patterning. If we resolved that people’s acquired rights should also be equal like their basic natural rights, our decision could be called nothing but cruel and unjust.
Now, why should all individuals be considered equal in their natural fundamental social rights? The reason is that observation of human beings demonstrates that amongst human individuals no-one is born the ruler or the ruled. No-one has come into this world as a worker or a craftsman, or a professor, or a teacher, or an officer, or a soldier, or a minister. These are the merits and peculiarities which are a part of acquired rights. It means that individuals, by their competence, potential, work and activity, must take them from society, and that society by positive law give them to its individuals.
This is a very important difference between the social life of mankind and the collective life of gregarious animals like the bee. The institutions in the life of these animals are totally natural. Their duties and functions are all assigned by nature and not by their own choice. Some are born rulers and some are born to be ruled. Some are laborers and some engineers, while others are born executives. Evidently the life of man is not like this, and that is why some thinkers have totally refused to accept the old philosophical idea that man is by nature gregarious, and have considered human society to be based completely on arbitrary convention.
This is the state of affairs in society outside the family. Do the individuals within the family unit also have identical fundamental natural rights, the difference only lying in acquired rights? There is a lot of difference between a family which consists of wife and husband, the father and mother, and sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters and society outside the family, regards fundamental rights, and the law of nature has set up family rights in a special pattern.
Here there are two different opinions. One view is that the fact of being a wife or a husband, a father or a child, a mother or a child, like all other social relationships and like the cooperation between individuals in public or state institutions, is not a reason in itself for some persons to have automatically a special status. Only required privileges can be a reason for some one of them, for example, to be the head and the other a subordinate, one to be obeyed and others to obey him, one to get more monthly pay and the other less. If a person is wife, or a husband, or a father, or a mother, or a son, or a daughter, this would not be in itself a reason for him to have a special status. Only acquired privileges can determine their position in relation to each other. The idea of the identicalness of the rights of men and women within the family, to which they have wrongly given the name of equality of rights, is based upon this very opinion. According to this idea, a man and a woman with similar talents and needs who have an understanding of similar rights to which they are temperamentally disposed will get married. As a result, it is necessary that family rights should be based upon equality, identicalness and uniformity.
As opposed to this, the other view is that their basic natural rights are also different. To be a husband in itself, that is, the fact of being a husband, imposes certain obligations and signifies certain rights, and to be a wife in itself imposes certain obligations and implies certain rights, and likewise in the case of being a father, or a mother, or son, or a daughter. Anyhow, according to this view, the family is different from all social partnerships and associations. The unidenticalness of the rights of men and women, which Islam endorses, is based upon this principle.
Now, which of the two above opinions is valid, and in what way can we understand which of the two is correct?