By Musdah Mulia

Islam has since the beginning proclaimed itself as defender of human rights, especially of the marginalized and oppressed people. The Prophet’s sermon in Mecca and Madina was wholly an effort to enforce the rights of the oppressed people (al-mustadh’afin). Islam came and liberated all human beings from the shackles of injustice, oppression, slavery, money-lending practices, and all form of discrimination and violence.

Muslims should not be hesitant to act and should not consider human rights as Western values. It is a fact that long before the Declaration of Human Rights, even before its existence, Islam has already proclaimed the importance of respecting human beings ((karâmat al-insân), the importance of fulfilling the rights of vulnerable and marginalized people (al-mustadh’afin).

Islam strongly teaches that human being is a noble creature entrusted with a special task to be khalifah fil ardh (leader or manager in the world). As khalifah fil ardh, every human being is obliged to uphold justice, prosperity, welfare, and peace in the universe. Islamic teaching proclaims the importance of respecting and honoring human beings as the creation of God who have dignity.

Muhammad is the most beloved name among Muslims. Muhammad was not a man of violence. Muhammad had been distinguished in his selfless treatment of the people around him. The image of Muhammad in the minds of Muslims is of a pious, simple man who understood people’s limitations. He was gentle, humble, loving, witty and accommodating. He asked his followers to respect every life  even the lives of animals and plants. He forgave his enemies. He savored the company of slaves and the disenfranchised. He denounced racism and championed social justice. He told men to honor women and not to hurt them.