Abuse of human rights continues to this day and Muhammad witnessed similar injustices in seventh century Arabia. Racism, oppression, female infanticide, exploitation of the weak – Muhammad denounced them all and fought against inhumane practices that had become part of a decaying system. In their place he championed freedom, equality, and justice for everyone. “Assist any person who is oppressed, whether he is Muslim or not,” he instructed. He made formal agreements with the Christians of Najran and the Jews of Medina promising full protection. The contract with the latter stated they had ‘support and the same equal rights as any one of us’. His commitment to justice was such that the Medina Jews asked Muhammad to deal with their cases, which he did according to Jewish law.
Muhammad’s principles of safeguarding human rights were applied throughout Muslim lands. Those of other faiths enjoyed protection and control over their places of worship and the freedom to perform their religious ceremonies in peace. The English author historian HG Wells writes in ‘A Short History of the World’ that the Islamic teachings “brought into existence a society in which hard-heartedness and collective oppression were at the lowest level when compared with all other societies preceding it...Islam is replete with gentleness, tolerance and fraternity”.
Muslims today work as human rights lawyers and towards protecting civil liberties and equal opportunities in various organisations. “All mankind is from Adam and Eve” said Muhammad, emphasising the equality between people. Now, 1,430 years later, the duty to protect the rights of every human is as vital as ever.