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Rights and Duties of a Citizen
Political Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

An important issue pertaining to the relationship between a state and an individual is the rights and duties of a citizen. People generally believe that their history began in 1215 with the imposition of the Magna Carta in England and after progressing through the stages of Thomas Paine’s "The Rights of Man", Rosseau’s "The Concept of a Social Contract", and "The Manifesto of Human Rights" of the French Revolution reached its pinnacle in "The Universal Charter of Human Rights" of the United Nations; But, the truth of the matter is that centuries ago the Qur’ān had enunciated them in just two sentences in its own miraculous style, making all this human endeavour appear mediocre if not very ordinary in front of it. Furthermore, human intellect after discovering its far reaching implications is compelled to acknowledge that it can neither imagine something better nor add anything to it. The Qur’ān says:

"If they repent [from all unIslamic beliefs], establish regular prayers, and pay zakāh, leave them alone." (9:5) 

"If they repent [from all unIslamic beliefs], establish regular prayers, and pay zakāh, they are your brethren in religion." (9:5)

Both these verses of Sūrah Taubah have the same context. The Qur’ān says that it should be proclaimed in the congregation of Haj that those who fulfil the conditions stated in these verses ie, repentance, establishing of regular prayers and paying of zakāh are the brethren of the believers and that their lives should be spared.

A little deliberation on these verses reveals their similarity of words except their respective endings. The first verse which ends with a negative note directs the believers to spare those who fulfil these three conditions, while the second one which closes on a positive note directs the believers to consider them as their brethren in religion. Moreover, two fixed and positive conditions have been coordinated with a comprehensive term fa in tāboo, which implies the giving up of all prohibited things. 

If these aspects of the verse are kept in consideration, five things become very evident:

Firstly, people who fulfil these conditions, irrespective of their status in the Hereafter, shall be considered as Muslims in the eyes of the law and the state, and they shall be entitled to all the rights which as Muslims they should have in an Islamic State.

Secondly, after fulfilling these conditions the mutual relationship between the rulers and the ruled is necessarily that of brotherhood. They are like brothers and, therefore, possess the same legal rights. There is no question of any discrimination between them in Islam.

Thirdly, due to this relationship of brotherhood, all responsibilities which reason and intellect endorse are imposed on the rulers and the ruled.

Fourthly, in these verses the Qur’ān instead of saying: `if they accept faith’ (fa in āmanoo) has said: `if they repent’ (fa in tāboo) which, in fact, means `to refrain from what is prohibited’ and has coordinated it with two positive requirements of Islam: prayers and zakāh; a corrollary of this is that fa in tāboo should denote its literal meaning ie, `to refrain from what is prohibited’ and imply repentance from every faith and deed which is prohibited in Islam.

Fifthly, irrespective of the duties and obligations imposed on a person as far as the accountability in the Hereafter is concerned, an Islamic State can only legally ask its citizens and force them to fulfill the three requirements mentioned in these verses. Nothing can be added or taken away from this list. The Almighty Himself has fixed them once and for all; therefore, no rule or regulation, and no state or parliament can tamper with the life, wealth, honour, and freedom of expression of the Muslims.

If these aspects of the verse are kept in consideration, it is clear that indeed an Islamic State has the authority to force its Muslim citizens to refrain from everything which is prohibited and to punish them if they do not comply because they have been considered as Muslims only after they have accepted to refrain from all prohibited things under the words `fa in tāboo’, but, positively, an Islamic State has no authority to require anything of the Muslims except salāt and zakāt. It certainly has the right to legislate about the prohibited things in Islam and punish people if they violate them: for example, laws can be enacted against theft, adultery, murder and things which come under Shirk and Kufr; similarly, it can forcibly stop everything which endangers the life, wealth and property of the people, but except for salāt and zakāt, it cannot positively demand anything from the believers. It cannot force a Muslim to keep fasts nor can it compel him to perform Hajj if he has the financial position to do so; nor can it pass a law for compulsory military recruitment for the purpose of Jihād. In short, as far as legislation against prohibited things is concerned, it has all the authority to do so, but except for salāt and zakāt, it can only urge and exhort, educate and indoctrinate people to fulfil the other positive requirements of Islam. Its jurisdiction ends here in this regard.

It is clear from the foregoing discussion that in these two verses the Almighty has comprehensively stated a manifesto of human rights. It is impossible to mention all the rights of a Muslim citizen which as a result of this manifesto he possesses; however, we shall attempt to state a few of them.

Rights of Muslim Citizens

If the citizens of an Islamic State refrain from what is prohibited, establish regular prayers and pay zakāh, then according to the words `leave them alone’ of verse five of Sūrah Taubah quoted above, it is their right that:

Their lives should be safeguarded at all costs and they should not be compelled to put their lives in danger even for a very noble cause.

Their rightfully owned wealth and property should be protected.

No tax should be imposed on them.

Their honour and integrity should be given protection.

Even in extraordinary circumstances their personal freedom should not be curtailed totally or partially, until after an open court hearing, a court pronounces a verdict after they have been given a chance to plead.

They should not be forced to adopt any particular thought, opinion, view, occupation, dress or attitude.

No restriction should be imposed on them as regards forming an opinion is concerned as well as its presentation wherever and whenever they like.

No responsibility should be imposed on them against their wishes.

Similarly, according to the words `they are your brethren in religion’ of verse eleven of Sūrah Taubah quoted above, it is their right that:

Every citizen rich or poor, high or low, strong or weak, ruler or ruled should be considered equal in the eyes of the law and no discrimination in this regard should be tolerated.

The state must grant each citizen the same social status irrespective of his colour, creed and rank which are given importance only in `uncivilized’ societies.

The state must provide food, clothing, shelter, education, health facilities and all such basic necessities to every needy citizen.

The doors of the ool-ul-amr must always remain open without any restriction on the general public so that at any time and place they are able to reach them to present their grievances and petitions, and are also able to criticize them and to freely call them to account.

They should be provided unbiased justice in all circumstances.

These are the rights of a citizen. Parallel to these, according to the same words `they are your brethren in religion’ of verse eleven of Sūrah Taubah, there are some duties also which are imposed on the Muslim citizens of an Islamic State.

Duties of Muslim Citizens

Their first duty is obedience to the state. In the Islamic Political Law, it is termed as sam’u tā’t. After pledging this covenant with the state, they should remain loyal and sincere to those in authority just as a brother is loyal and sincere to a brother. They should not intentionally do something which is harmful in any way to the state and should honestly serve the state; if it at anytime they are consulted, they should say only what they consider as correct.

Their second duty is that they should always keep a watchful eye on the state and its machinery that they should not deviate from the path prescribed by Allah and His Prophet (sws). Whenever they see the ool-ul-amr doing something ungainly or deviating from the right path, they should do all they can to stop them so that their brothers are shielded from the wrath of Allah in this world and in the Hereafter.

Their third duty is that they should co-operate with the state and its machinery just as a brother co-operates with his brother. The ultimate form of this co-operation is that they should put their life and wealth at stake when it appeals for their help in certain situations like an enemy invasion or efforts to achieve the supremacy of Islam.

These are the implications of the above two verses of Sūrah Taubah. The Prophet (sws) has also explained them on a number of occasions in the following words:

"I have been ordained to fight1 with these people until they testify to the oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Mohammad2 , establish regular prayers and pay zakāh. If they accept these conditions their lives shall be given protection except if they are deprived of this protection on the grounds of some offense they may commit3. As far as their account is concerned, it rests with Allah." (Muslim, Kitab-ul-Imān)

In the sermon of the Last Hajj, the Prophet (sws) has rephrased this in the following words:

"Indeed, your life, honour and wealth are as sacred and inviolable as this day4 of yours, this city of yours5 of yours in this month6 of yours." (Muslim, Kitab-al-Hajj)

"People! Listen! An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. And a white is not superior to a black and a black to a white. Only piety should be the basis of superiority for a person." (Musnad Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Vol 5, Pg 411)

"People before you were destroyed because they punished the weak and acquitted the strong. By the Lord! in whose hands is my life, even if Fātimah [my daughter] had committed this crime, I would have cut her hand off." (Bukhari, Kitāb-ul-Hudood)

"A ruler who closes his doors on the poor and the needy, [should know that] the Almighty shall close the doors of the heavens on his needs, indigence and poverty." (Tirmazee, Kitāb-ul-Ahkām)

"Anyone who left behind responsibilities [not yet fulfilled], I shall fulfil them and the heirs of a person  shall receive the wealth he has left behind. I am the heir of the person who has no heirs. I shall pay Deeyat on his behalf and receive his inheritance." (Abu Daud, Kitāb-ul-Farāidh)

"It is your duty to listen and obey your rulers7 whether you are in a difficulty or at ease, whether willingly or unwillingly and even when you do not receive what is your right." (Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Imārah).

"The Almighty has approved three things for you and disapproved three. The three things he has approved are: you should worship Him without associating others with Him and hold fast to the cable of Allah and show nus-h to your ool-ul-amr." (Musnad Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Vol 2, Pg 327)

"Not many days will pass when those people will rule over you in whose hands will be your livelihood. Whenever they will say anything to you, it will be a lie and whatever they will do, it will be against the right path. They will not be happy with you until you praise their evil deeds and affirm their lies. At that time you should say what is right until they tolerate it, and if they exceed from this, then whoever is executed on this basis, he is a martyr." ("Kanz-ul-Ummāl", Vol 6, Pg 296)

"The greatest Jihād is to say what is just in front of a cruel ruler." (Abu Daud, Kitāb-ul-Malāhim)

Rights of Non-Muslims

In the foregoing discussion, we have delineated the rights and duties of Muslim citizens of an Islamic State. As far as non Muslim citizens are concerned, they are of only two categories regarding their citizenship in a state: (i) Mu`āhids ie, those have come under an Islamic State on account of a treaty with it, (ii) Zimmees ie, those who have come under an Islamic State on account of being subdued in a battle.

All dealings with the Mu`āhids should be according to the terms of the peace treaty concluded with them. Muslims have been binded by Islam to abide by these terms in all circumstances and to never violate them in the slightest way. Such violations according to Islam are totally forbidden and, in fact, amount to a grave transgression. The Qur’ān says:

"Keep [your] covenants; because indeed on the Day of Judgement you will be held accountable for them." (17:34)

The Prophet is said to have said:

"Beware! I myself shall invoke the justice of the Almighty on the Day of Judgemen against the person who oppresses and persecutes a Mu`āhad, or reduces his rights, or burdens him [with responsibilities] he cannot bear, or takes something from him against his will." (Abu Daud: Kitāb-ul-Jihād)

As Zimmees, after accepting the supremacy of an Islamic State by paying Jizyā, they shall have all the rights which they should have according to all norms of justice and fairness. In this regard, the Qur’ān has explicitly stated the principle that Muslims while dealing with their enemies must not exceed the limits of justice, not to speak of the Zimmees who have accepted the authority of an Islamic State:

"And let not the enmity of a people turn you away from justice. Deal justly; this is nearer to piety." (5:8)

Therefore, according to this principle, it is the right of the Zimmees that:

Their life, wealth and honour should be protected by the state such that no one whosoever is able to lay hands on them.

The Jizyā imposed on them should be according to their financial conditions and it should necessarily be taken into consideration that the amount imposed should be in their reach.

Jizyā should only be imposed on individuals who can take part in a war. Children, women, the handicapped, the insane,the darvesh and monks who have given up the pleasures of the world, the old and the sick who cannot earn their living should in all circumstances be exempted from this tax.

The needy and poor among them should be provided the basic necessities of life.

Their personal matters and religious rituals should be exempted from the law of the state and no interference should be made in their faith and religion.

Their places of worship should not be tampered with.

They should be allowed to present their religion to others in a polite manner.

In short, except for participating in the state affairs, they should be given all the rights which are sanctioned by the norms of justice and fairness for people in a civilized society, and in this regard all dealings should be done in a befitting manner because Allah likes people who adopt this attitude.








1. It should be noted that the opponents in this case were the Bani Ismael, the nation towards whom the Prophet (sws) was directly assigned. Since the truth had been unveiled to them in its ultimate form, the law for them was either to accept faith or face destruction.

2. The Prophet (sws) has actually stated in these words the outcome of repentance from every faith and deed against Islam.

3. For example, if they are be executed if they kill someone or if deeyat is extracted from them .

4. ie, the day of sacrifice.

5. ie, the city of Mecca.

6. ie, the month of Zulhaj.

7. ie, in matters in which, according to the Qur’an, they have the right to give a directive.

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