Enlightenment and Human Rights

From the heart of the suffering sparked by paths of religious violence, ethnic massacres, and racial movements, centuries ago, the Enlightenment was born in defense of the idea of “natural rights” that individuals have independent of society or “religious or positivist” regimes. The mission of these regimes was to protect rights, and to provide moral guarantees for the possibility of bringing people together, regardless of their gender, intellectual affiliation and religious belief. So that rights would be established through a wide system of laws to limit various violations of human rights and existence.

However, they remained “abstract rights” since their adoption, like the Enlightenment that, with its European ideas and philosophy, remained far from the Islamic world. With the world entering the wave of murder in the name of the Islamic religion, and its use by its “defenders” in response to the idea of jihad, there comes the need for Islamic enlightenment and its strengthening in order to rationalize the mythological horror and end the contradictory nature of religiosity.

Enlightenment: natural truth and divine truth

The idea of a natural right based on the necessity of the continuation of human life, the gathering and stability of human beings, has produced tacit agreements for cooperation equivalent to the right of people on an innate basis. These agreements have been transformed in principle to other foundations for regularity, led by “divine laws” to form another framework for the idea of morality and the preservation of life, property and interest.

these foundations has also eliminated the notion that natural rights were possessed by individuals independently of society or “religious or postural” regimes, and links rights to the moral state of human regulation. This link is to arrange set of legalized laws, which have begun to form throughout history by the correlation of the fields of “religion and the world”, and to consider that any regularity must be subjected to the superior laws of religions and their implications for human affairs; additionally, these laws must be carriers of continuity and inclusiveness that affect the worldly sphere and its administration.

Thus, these laws will be a motive for the Enlightenment movements, a basis for the thinking of the Enlightenment philosophers, and the formation of the wave of liberation to separate the two fields (religious and worldly) in Europe. As a result, to get rid of the seclusion in the collective mind over the centuries that the religious reality has produced.

Despite the difference in the Enlightenment message in proposition among philosophers and on the level of reality, in countries such as Britain, America and France, and each of them turned towards what serves their societal reality and needs. However, what the various principles of the Enlightenment presented between (the management of social virtues, the science of freedom policy, and the ideology of the mind) were based on respect for reason, freedom, science and justice, and part of a historical path to rationalize the world. That is through: the separation of the religious from the mundane, and the meeting of human beings, far from “absolutist” Religions, in order to reach the legitimacy of the independence of human rights (human dignity, freedom and equality) that formed the basis of many charters. Such as: the American Independence Charter, the French National Society for Human Rights Declaration, the women’s rights charters that Mary Wollstonecraft defended, and the expansion of the political polling aspects of A society that was denied political and civil rights.

The Islamic religion and the issue of rights

Although, the Islamic religious principle was not based on denying the natural rights of Muslims, but rather emphasized them in organizing society. However, the issue of submitting to religious organization, customs and traditions, and reconciling them, has formed with time a number of paradoxes. In the Islamic religion, the Quranic text carried many legislative commandments that transformed into a system of religious punishments (legal limits), and depicted images of historical or mythological societal paths that were the cause of their destruction (the people of Pharaoh, the people of Lot, …). Consequently, the Islamic teachings became inconsistent with what the Islamic message wanted to establish in terms of moral and behavioral values, based on the principle of (thinking, remembering, sanity, forethought, and Expectation.)

But following this rule, subject to renewal and change according to the requirements of the times, was not the basis of the law. Since the establishment of the empire, the law (Islamic Sharia) was adopted, which equates to the complete record of the “divine” orders in force in the country. The earthly ruler, whether he was a caliph or an emir, was the Commander of the Faithful and the practitioner of the legal system, and there was no difference in concepts between the religious and the worldly.

This made thinking about rights linked to what was approved first in the Qur’an, then the Sunnah and the consensus of the jurists, thus reducing the possibility of establishing man-made laws commensurate with the variables of public life (political, legislative, social and institutional), to the limits of what the believer must follow in order to win the Day of Judgment. The development of the legal system is based on consolidating and consolidating these sources, without introducing other legal sources with them that may “compete” with Sharia or merge with it, after the jurists worked on:

First: Establishing the legal system on the issue of Muslim rights, and completing its “sacred” structure by incorporating the hadiths of the Prophet into the legislative and judicial structure. Although the authenticity of the “hadiths” was not subjected to the idea of verification, it remained based on sayings that were long ago. In addition, the circumstances related to the formation of the religious system and the sanctions regime (cutting off the hand of the thief – Hirabah), which came in the socio-economic context of trading societies, were not considered.

What was adopted by organizing the fundamentals of jurisprudence: its sources, its material, and the permissible modes of reasoning in it, which the Shafi’i jurist began to establish the Islamic law so that it is no longer possible to add something new. Although it was discussed within different jurisprudential principles such as (the child to bed) or (no divorce, no forced emancipation), but it did not enter the fundamentals of jurisprudence unless it is proven to support it as part of the Sunnah.

Second: The legal structure is no longer limited to the limits of the text and the Sunnah in the Prophet’s society, which can be limited to the stage of the Prophet “hadiths” and The Rashidun Caliphates “organization of society”. Rather, the introduction of laws extended to the jurisprudential affirmation, which in turn added penalties such as (killing an apostate). If the text does not acknowledge penalties for those who neglect prayer, the jurisprudential authority has launched its tools in producing a terrifying religious imagination that develops with each age – the issue of jihad in our time – to suit the complex problem of monitoring the contradictions between the original text of the Qur’an and the texts based on it and its authoritarian jurisprudential legacy.

This contradiction had a great impact on the Islamic social reality, through the absence of the legal right of individuals and of social actors. Moreover, it had a great impact on the reality of Islamic countries, especially in its part represented by the political sphere and the issue of collective representation, as the beginning of constitutional rule based on the human rights “the citizen”. This legal organization that appeared in the nineteenth century as a result of the European presence in the Middle East, was based on the borrowing of many European legal principles, or used it as a basis for creating a legal system that recognized Islamic principles. However, did not separate religion from the state, to follows that from the first aspect: the failure of these mixed formulations to recognize the need to distinguish between the principles stated in Islamic sources and the historical patterns of interpretation of these sources. So the main clash is not between legal religious structures and capable political systems, but between these two structures’ alliance against the establishment of the legal and human rights personality of individuals or civil groups.

On the second side: the rejection of the human rights issue as a normative issue, as the Arab countries adopt a charter derived from the international legitimacy of human rights and specific to it, which was adopted at the sixteenth summit of the League of Arab States in 2004. Under the pretext of cultural specificity in their presentation of the law on family jurisprudence, religion change and other topics, not all provisions of the Declaration of Human Rights have been ratified. Noting that international law itself sets specific standards for non-compliance with international human rights, and it does not allow the introduction of religious laws to restrict or cancel international human rights.

Islamic Enlightenment and Human Rights

Despite the abundance of criticism directed against Islamic religious behaviors and legislative texts, the concept of enlightenment in the Islamic world did not take the same European approach, neither in principle nor in effect. Rather, it remained hidden behind the concepts of religious reform and Islamic renewal, such as the pioneers of the reform school Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Sheikh Muhammad Abdo, and even Rafaa al-Tahtawi and Sayyid Amir and others.Those have worked hard in religious reform within the Islamic home, with sincere intentions to reform and renew, but their projects did not win the required acceptance in Islamic circles. The Islamic circles considered what the Enlightenment presented to humanity offensive to morals, religion and Islamic society. The absence of enlightenment has led to various problems, including:

First: The restriction of the worldly sphere to the religious right has led to the continuation of the approach of civilized backwardness. The worldly sphere extending from science and the renaissance of knowledge to state building and development is based on human action, and not on religious sociology. The matter that carried the Islamic religion more than necessary, it is not the task of religions to answer worldly questions or scientific facts, especially since the Islamic religion does not forbid the use of reason, follow science or reject the human will. This makes the rejection of enlightenment a motive for converting religion into a coercive power, and this calls for enlightenment as a necessity to save religion and restore it as sacred.

Second: The absence of enlightenment has led to spread a situation that is inconsistent with time, as there are those who work to impose the certainty of solutions by the retroactive revival of the heritage but are blind to the reality of the contradiction between the custom of the old traditions and what has been added recently. Our intellectual traditions are unable to process the modern problems and dilemmas, and Islamic societies have found their solutions Syncretism by bridging the conflict between (faith and reason, transcendence and the sensory) or by integrating what can be incorporated into religious systems and inserting them into beliefs, since these beliefs cannot answer the questions raised by religion or religious heritage.

Third: rejecting the Enlightenment and the separation of the religious concept from the wordly one both have formed a rooting base for the absence of the meaning of the religion’s existence, especially with the arrival of public life into a stage in which religiosity has been transformed into a commodity, and religion into a tool to serve personal ends or to be violent against the other. As a result, the positive matter in religion and its ethics has been turned into a negative, rather destructive, matter that affects the whole religion.

The process of the Islamic religion, whether through myth (historical religiosity) , popular religion, or through religion’s conversion into a large number of conflicting interpretations and fatwas, and finally its use as a tool to terrorize and subdue the others, has made it necessary that, in order to bring back the religion to its holy place, there must be a search for Reforms and an effectuating use for the cognitive mind, which will help with solving the Social phenomena that are diverging from religion and humanism and preparing the next generations that can be more likely to drown in the reality of problems.

The problem of Islamic enlightenment and the way to direct it remain. Some Islamic enlightenment currents do not differ from their opposite “those standing in the face of enlightenment”, as these currents proceed using the same methods and tools from the interpretation of texts to their interpretation, to the adoption of linguistic and grammatical analysis and reasoning by analogy, which makes the enlightenment’s current mired in selecting certain texts and specific interpretations to refute the opposite argument, both of which acknowledge that the commands of God are completely given to human and that the human should only work within this specific epistemic entity.

This makes the calls for enlightenment limited to “guiding” the believers to the right thing, instead of working on other methods and different methods of spreading enlightenment, using neutral areas such as science, knowledge, observations, experience and logic that humanity has reached, in analyzing religious discourse and knowing what can be renewed and that would reflect the essence of religion and his message? What must be followed to get rid of the norms that conflict with conscience, reason, and natural law? How can an open formula be developed that is not based on the atonement of human beings based on their preferences?

And many other questions that require that the Enlightenment thinker be clear in his perceptions, regarding the difference in the age, the difference in thinking about issues of religion and religiosity and the human being and its issues. The concept of enlightenment does nothing but search for the plausibility of religion and restore the meaning, “the message of religion,” and trust the ability of the individual to use his reason, wisdom, and humanity. Furthermore, the enlightenment concept makes

sure that the faculties of thought control their balance and monitor each other so that none of them overwhelm the other to judge between the correct and the false.


Freedom, human rights and other human concepts can only be reached by adopting new methods by shifting attention from the conflict between human rights and religious right, to another area of ​​harmony to humanize the Islamic religion, and to spread enlightenment among people. The Enlightenment, in its essence, is a social movement that aims to be independent from the unseen forces and to deviate from what is forbidden by religious authorities or permitted by the supreme hegemony of any person in the management of life. The enlightenment seeks to state the legal and human rights legislation in place of Sharia and traditional custom, as they are an old system that has lost its usefulness.

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