BOOK REVIEW

HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM. By the International Commission of Jurists. Geneva, Switzerland: International Commission of Jurists 1982. Pp.
ii, 95. Annexes. $7.50.
The position of human rights in the cynosure of world attention has
created a need among scholars to explore the historical development of
human rights. The Muslim world has contributed to this historical development. A timely seminar organized by the International Commission of
Jurists, the University of Kuwait and the Union of Arab Lawyers in Kuwait answers many frequently asked questions by Muslims and non-Muslims about human rights in Islam. The participation of jurists in the
seminar is important, because jurists represent the most significant objective of human rights: justice. The seminar also examines the scope of the
International Commission of Jurists' endeavors concerning human rights
in Africa, Asia and other areas of the world where Muslims comprise a
significant portion of the population.
Human Rights in Islam is divided into two parts. Part One explains the
purpose, aims, conclusions and recommendations of the seminar. The
seminar's purpose is neither to address human rights situations in particular countries nor to provoke a dialogue between the Muslim and Western
worlds. Rather, the seminar is a forum for discussion of human rights
issues which are important to Muslims.' Niall MacDermot, SecretaryGeneral of the International Commission of Jurists, comments on the different approaches to the concept of human rights employed by Muslims
and Westerners. He notes that "[m]any of the conclusions and principles
are the same, but they are arrived at by a different route. The western
dichotomy between economic, social and cultural rights and the classic
civil and political rights does not exist for you [Muslims]." 2 Human rights
in Islam are based upon the premise that man is God's representative on
earth.3 "All human rights are part of a single whole, and include or perhaps.., are derived from our duties to our fellow men and women. All
are united in the concept of the self-realisation and fulfilment of each
per' 4
son in and through a community dedicated to the service of God.
Part Two contains the addresses delivered at the opening of the seminar
and synopses of the papers presented. The book contains only the high1. INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JuRisTS, HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM 31 (1982).

2. Id.
3. Id. at 38.
4. Id. at 31.

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lights of the seminar; for a more detailed study one may look to the full
seminar report which is being published in Arabic and which will be translated into other languages soon. The conclusions and recommendations
presented in Human Rights in Islam are of particular interest and relevance to Muslim countries and countries with Muslim minorities. One of
the seminar's conclusions is that "[riegrettably enough, contemporary Islamic practice cannot be said to conform in many aspects with the true
principals of Islam. Further, it is wrong to abuse Islam by seeking to justify certain political systems in the face of obvious contradictions between
those systems and Islamic law. ' 5 Even though the seminar in its recommendations refers to these countries as "Islamic states," after looking into
their political, social and economic structures and becoming aware of Islam's requirements for an Islamic state, one finds that all fall short of being
known as "Islamic states." More appropriately they should be called
"Muslim countries." "Islamic state" and "Muslim state" are terms which
cause much disagreement among Muslim scholars and can be blamed for
the confusion they create in the minds of students of Islam and those who
see Islam as it is practiced in Muslim countries.
The keynote speech of Dr. A.K. Brohi, former Pakistani Minister of Legal and Religious Affairs, is a hallmark in this book. It successfully explains the Islamic concepts of "right" and "just" in comparison to their
Christian and Judaic counterparts. Brohi argues convincingly for the establishment of a moral value system before guarantees can be given for
any kind of rights. To illustrate his point he notes, "There is no such thing
as human right in the abstract. First we have to locate the human being in
a given social cosmos, view him against the background of a certain economico-political and socio-cultural conditioning before we can meaningfully talk about his rights."' 6 Commenting further on Islam's contribution
to humanity Brohi remarks, "But in this diabolical age so many counterinitiatory forces are raising their heads that the very attempt to combat the
forces of evil, that we witness are being considered at war with the harmony of life, seems to evoke a cynical response. . .It is against this background that the contribution made by Islam fourteen hundred years ago
of the Divine Element that
can be seen as representing the manifestation
' 7
somehow will not let man devalue man.
Khizr Muazzam Khan*

5. Id. at 7.
6. Id. at 51.
7. Id. at 50.
* LL.B. 1974, University of Punjab, Pakistan; LL.M. 1982, University of Missouri;
Director, Islamic Center Houston.

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