Public & Private rights in Islam

Islam endeavors to strengthen the social ties among the members of the Islamic society. Islam addressed the rights of the immediate members of the family first, then the kindred who have obligations and rights towards each other according to their closeness. The value and the importance of such rights vary according to the kind and degree of relationship. Allah, the Almighty, states in the Glorious Qur'an:

O Mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person, and from him He created his wife; and from them He created many men and women; and fear Allah through Whom you demand (your mutual rights) and (do not cut the relations of the wombs). Surely Allah is ever an All-Watcher over you.

And Allah says in the context of inheritance rules:

You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit, (these fixed shares) are ordained by Allah. And Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.

Other relationships were not neglected in Islam either since they are all part of the network that joins people making them closer to each other personally and socially. More distant people to each other also need a type of bond that brings them together in the net in order to help and appreciate one another and build a cohesive society. Allah, the Almighty states in the Glorious Qur'an:

(They are) those who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong: With Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs.

Strengthening of relationships is also guided by the statement of Allah's Messenger ,

Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices on one another; do not hate one another; do not turn away from one another; and do not undercut one another, but be you, O servants of Allah, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him, he neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. Piety is right here - and he pointed to his breast three times. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. A Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable; his blood, his property, and his honor."
Reported by Muslim no. 2564.

And he said:

The example of believers in love, affection, cooperation and sympathy is like that of one body. If one organ of the body aches, the entire body will support the aching body part by wakefulness and fever.
Reported by Bukhari no. 2238 and Muslim no. 2586.

Therefore, there are well-established public and private rights in the Islamic society. In the section below we will highlight the most important public and private rights in the Islamic law and teachings:

  1. Rights of Almighty Allah
  2. Rights of the Prophet Muhammad
  3. Rights of other Prophets and Messengers
  4. Rights of Parents
  5. Rights of Husband towards His Wife
  6. Rights of Wife towards Her Husband
  7. Rights of Children
  8. Rights of Relatives


A Word on Public Rights and Duties

Islam instructs a believer to share the concerns and the trials of his Muslim brethren all over the world and assist them according to his ability. The Messenger of Allah said:

A Believer to the other is like the bricks of one building: each one strenghtens the other. Upon saying this, the Messenger of Allah intertwined his fingers .
Bukhari, Hadith no. 5680 and Muslim, Hadith no. 2585.

Islam teaches a Muslim to respect the reputation of a fellow Muslim and avoid undue suspicion. The Messenger of Allah said:

Avoid suspicion. Suspicion is the worst lie. Do not follow the bad news, shortcomings and deficiencies of your Muslim brethren. Do not spy upon your Muslim brethren. Do not compete [with evil minds and intentions] against your Muslim brethren. Do not hate your Muslim brethren. Do not turn away from your Muslim brethren [when they are in need of your help and assistance]. O slaves of Allah! Be brethren to one another, as He commanded you to be. A Muslim is a brother to another Muslim. A Muslim must be just to his Muslim brother. A Muslim must not let his brother down and forsake him. A Muslim must not discern or expose his Muslim brother [in any possible way or mean]. Everything that a Muslim possesses is unlawful for other Muslims to use [without prior approval of the owner] or abuse [for no due right]. Piety [and righteousness] is here, pointing out to his chest [i.e. the heart]. Piety is here. It is a sufficient evil for a Muslim to expose his Muslim brother. Everything that a Muslim owns or possesses is unlawful for another Muslim [to tamper with]; his blood [i.e. killing one another], his protected items [in terms of dignity, honor and family members], and his wealth or possessions. Truly, Allah does not care to look at your bodies, shapes or forms, but rather He is concerned with your hearts, deeds and actions.
Muslim, Hadith no. 2563.

Another guideline for this is contained in the words of Allah's Messenger :

A Muslim will not become a true believer until he likes for his Muslim brother what he likes for himself.
Bukhari, Hadith no. 13.

The public rights that are common to all Muslims of the Islamic society are as follows:

  1. Rights of a Ruler
  2. Rights of the People towards the Government
  3. Rights of Neighbors
  4. Rights of Friends
  5. Rights of Guests
  6. Rights of the Poor & Needy
  7. Rights of Employees/Laborers
  8. Rights of Employers
  9. Rights of Animals
  10. Rights of Plants & Trees
  11. Miscellaneous Rights