Islamic Human Rights (46)
The right of access to welfare and social security is one of human rights which have been attended by the sacred religion of Islam. Today, we study Islam’s outlook toward the right to benefit from welfare and social security.
Humans, as members of the community, maintain a large number of demands, tendencies, and instincts. Logical and principled access to these demands, inclinations, and instincts is a must in order to achieve a merited and desirable life. Access to food, clothing, and accommodation, in addition to establishment of a family and fulfillment of one’s welfare, are some of the rights which the community is duty-bound to respect, honor and secure.
The right to benefit from welfare and social security is a human right.
According to the 1st clause of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone maintains the right to have a desirable life and to access food, clothing, accommodation, medical care, and other social services. Furthermore, in case of unemployment, illness, or an advanced age, the individuals should be assisted to maintain a graceful life.
A desirable life is a justified expectation which can materialize for the members of the community upon the establishment of social justice.
Social security is one of the main pillars of social justice; within which people shoulder the responsibility to support each other, and the wealthy are duty-bound to assist the poor and needy.
Irrespective of emphasis placed on a desirable life, members of communities are always faced with a number of unwanted events and developments. Under such conditions, organization of the community’s support for individuals is a must. The divine religion of Islam has put emphasis on this social duty.
The concept of social security has experienced a number of changes and developments in the past century. In the beginning of emergence of this concept, social security was defined as a supportive plan for those, who failed to meet their basic needs. In that phase in time, social security maintained a definition similar to the definition of social insurances. Upon the termination of World War II, the basic needs of mankind in regard to medical care, food, clothing, housing, transportation and fuel were attended by governments, and states became responsible to meet the minimal needs of those, who were poor and needy. Meanwhile, gradually, social insurances were replaced by social security.
In the recent decades, instead of trying to promote the economic abilities of some members of the community to an acceptable level, emphasis is put on promotion of the life conditions of the entire community. In this phase in time, the notion of social security has gotten closer to a developed concept of social welfare, and has covered an all-encompassing health system; educational services, tax exemptions, minimal wages, guarantee of purchase of agricultural goods, plans to construct and provide housing, and payment of subsidies. Items covered by social security differ in different countries, and are tied to each country’s level of development, and rules and regulations.
One of the historical phases; whose study clarifies the terms of emergence of the idea of social security and the role of divine religions in this domain, is the history of advent of Islam.
Prior to the divine appointment of the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny), and within the Age of Ignorance, there was no organized model for social security in the Arabian Peninsula. The first important factor in establishment of a social organization is the values which govern the related community. Hence, in his first step for establishment of his considered system, the Prophet of Islam invited everyone to monotheism and cemented the ideological principles of social behavioral patterns and organizations. Faith in the Day of Judgment, and the pledge of grant of heavenly blessings to those who cover the divine path, were two of the ideological principles which Prophet Mohammad presented to people. These two beliefs set the stage for implementation of developments in other aspects of life, such as social security.
Upon his migration to the city of Medina, the Prophet’s first measure was to establish, reinforce, and orchestrate social organizations in order to implement social security policies. Family is the first and foremost social unit which maintains several important functions in supporting children, elderly, women, and vulnerable strata. This social unit existed prior to Islam, while the Prophet of Islam cemented and reinforced this social unit in a number of ways. Firstly, youths and singles were encouraged to get married. Secondly, the emotional bonds between the family members, especially between spouses, and between parents and children, were boosted thanks to the guidelines presented by the Prophet of Islam. Thirdly, the economic and financial relations between family members were elaborated.
The Prophet of Islam encouraged individuals to support each other within the framework of families and relatives, in addition to emphasizing on unity, which maintains the strength to unite the entire community. Meanwhile, the unifying factor was the religious dependency of individuals on each other in the community.
Based on the principle of religious unity, the Prophet of Islam carried out two major measures in his initial months of residence in Medina. His first step was preparation of a charter for Islamic Ummah. This charter maintained a supportive tone. For instance, one of its clauses stated that in case of emergence of a problem for each of the faithful; such as debts, and bankruptcy, other Muslims should not leave the related individual by himself, and would assist the needy individual via a number of conventional approaches.
The second step which the Prophet of Islam took was the conclusion of a fraternity accord between Muslims. Based on this agreement; Muslims, who had migrated from Mecca to Medina and did not have an accommodation, a job, or sufficient income, were assisted by Muslims of Medina, setting the stage for settlement, and employment of Meccan Muslims.
Upon the Prophet’s guidelines to treasure values such as fraternity, kindness, equality, cooperation, and unity; Muslims considered the needs of the community and made every effort to remove and dispel these needs, in addition to meeting their own personal needs.
Next week we will study the practical approaches of the Prophet of Islam in relation to the social security of citizens in an Islamic ruling system.