Dhul Hijjah is a truly blessed month in the Islamic calendar.
- It is one of the four sacred months (the other three being Dhul Qa’dah, Muharram and Rajab).
- Righteous deeds done in the first ten days of this month are more beloved to Allah than in any other time (hadith).
- We learn about the amazing sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim, the submission of Prophet Ismail, and the tawakkul (reliance) of Sayyidatina Hajar in this month.
- Pilgrims perform the Hajj in Dhul Hijjah.
- We celebrate Eid ul-Adha on 10 Dhul Hijjah.
- And we learn about the Prophet’s Last Sermon that he gave on Mount Arafah on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah!
This sermon by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was given to about 100,000 early Muslims during the Prophet’s final pilgrimage. It is popularly known as either the Last Sermon or the Farewell Sermon because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away shortly thereafter. The sermon is largely considered as the Prophet’s will to his Companions and an enduring universal message and teaching to the Ummah.
One of the Earliest Declarations of Human Rights in Written History
When the topic of human rights is mentioned, people would generally invoke two documents: the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights published in 1948, or the Magna Carta written much earlier in 1215.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was the result of the experience of the Second World War and the Holocaust. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed to never allow atrocities like that to happen again.
Although the Magna Carta covered the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, the charter remained a powerful, iconic document and a symbol of liberty for the American and British legal communities.
Another figure oft-mentioned when it comes to the history of human rights would be the 17th-century English philosopher John Locke who discussed natural rights in his work, identifying them as being “life, liberty, and estate (property)”.
In the book “Furthering Human Rights” by C.G. Weeramantry, specifically the chapter titled “The Contribution of Islamic Jurisprudence to International Law and Human Rights”, it is mentioned:
“We know also of Locke, the founding father of Western human rights, that he was a brilliant student at Oxford who played truant in regard to most of his lectures but that he assiduously attended only the lectures of Professor Pococke, the professor of Arabic studies. When Locke proclaimed his theory of inalienable rights and conditional rulership, this was new to the West, but could he not have had some glimmerings of this from his Arabic studies?”
The concept of human rights is extremely influential within international law and global and regional institutions as they form the basis of public policy worldwide.
In the same book above is this gem:
“We are constantly taught in law schools and international forums that the first systematic treatment of international law as a discipline was at the hands of Grotius with his famous Law of War and Peace in 1625. Rarely are we told, and few are the law teachers who are aware, that Mohammed bin Hasan Shaybani wrote an Introduction of the Law of Nations at the end of eight century, i.e. over 800 years earlier, and followed it with a second and more advanced treatise. Nor are we told that multi-volume treatises on the same subject followed within the next century or two.”
The Prophet’s Last Sermon
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was gifted with jawami al-kalim — speech that was concise, yet comprehensive and full of meaning. We see this perfectly illustrated in his last sermon which covered property rights, women’s rights, addressed racism and others.
Before I post the full text of his Last Sermon, here’s one more quote from “Furthering Human Rights” that hopefully gives you a better appreciation of how advanced and comprehensive the Shariah and the Prophet’s teachings are.
“The many aspects of human rights which we today tend to look upon as Western inventions — the notion of the supremacy of the law, the notion of judicial independence, the notion of judicial impartiality, the notion of democratic participation, the notion of the rights of women, the notion of the dignity of labour — all of these were concepts elaborated on by the Islamic jurists well before the twelfth century.”
There are so many lessons we can glean from the Prophet’s Last Sermon. Even though he (peace be upon him) said these words over 1400 years ago, it is still so relevant, and perhaps even more, today; not just for Muslims but for the global community. However, as Muslims, we should lead the way in realising these core teachings and abiding principles to fix what feels like an increasingly-broken world.
Here is the Prophet’s Last Sermon:
“O People, listen well to my words, for I do not know whether, after this year, I shall ever be among you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Treat others justly so that no one would be unjust to you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (riba), therefore all riba obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity. God has judged that there shall be no riba and that all the riba due to `Abbas ibn `Abd al Muttalib shall henceforth be waived.
Every right arising out of homicide and blood-killing in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabi`ah ibn al Harith ibn `Abd al Muttalib.
O people, the Unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar in order to make permissible that which God forbade, and to forbid that which God has made permissible. With God the months are 12 in number. Four of them are sacred, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Sha`ban. Beware of the devil, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. It is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, perform your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your financial obligation (Zakat) of your wealth. Perform Hajj if you can afford it.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action. Know that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before God and you will answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People, no prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words, which I convey to you. I am leaving you with the Book of God (the Quran) and my Sunnah (the Prophet’s life and example). If you follow them, you will never go astray.
All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”
May we truly understand the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) words, be given the tawfiq to act upon them, and to share it with others, ameen!
Please visit www.launchgood.com/Discover to find inspiring campaigns to donate during these blessed days of Dhul Hijjah! You can find campaigns relating to Qurbani, building of mosques or wells, education, supporting orphans and refugees, providing humanitarian aid to Uyghurs, Rohingyans, Yemenis, Syrians, Palestinians and so much more.
Ameera Aslam is passionate about telling stories about incredible Muslims around the world and loves working with her sincere and passionate colleagues. Outside of LaunchGood, she is an award-winning poet and a mountain lover. You can buy her book at www.desiringlightbook.com.