Fundamental Rights Tract
by Ayatollah Monatseri
Ghom-Iran, May 2005
Translator's remark: This document represents a novelty within the Islamic administration of justice called ”Fatwas”. For the first time basic human rights and the democratic form of government have unmistakably been declared legitimate by a great Ayatollah. Now we must wait and see how the governing totalitarian Mullahs react to this.
Human rights are not the result of specific social requirements or temporary and spacious conditions. And this is because these rights, just as the right to live, the right to livelihood and a wholesome existence, the right to freedom of thought and freedom to express one's opinion, the right to individual and social security are, above all, rights which have emerged from the nature of man himself. Hence they are essentially crucial, unchangeable and inviolable rights to which man owes his existence and human dignity.
The roots of such rights are not grounded in legislation nor in the will of governments but rather in human nature itself. They belong to the evidence of practical reason, and the view point of “SCHARIAT” related to those rights is a guideline.
The “human” right in its objectivity and reality is situated outside any determination and validity of laws (SCHARIAT).
Anyone who takes into account (man's) welfare and doom will be referred to as righteous. Neglecting welfare and doom during the legislative process will be regarded by God as injustice. HIS realm is not affected by this, and therefore the order of divine legislation is usually referred to as a just order. Seen from the aspect of freedom of worship and speech, it is a right to obey divine faith. However from the view point of practical consequences, it is a “reasonable” duty”.
The right to human dignity forms a basic and fundamental right for further rights set up by mankind. The sublime prophet (Mohammad) and the sovereign of the believers (Ali) deemed that fraternity in religion and faith are equal to humanity and the affiliation to the human race. They did not consider that faith as such implicates a preference before law…
As evidence of human dignity a series of traditions (RAWAYAT) can be
mentioned. Human dignity resulting from the Koran and Rawayat is not
imaginable without the admission of similar rights to the truth of mankind –
irregardless of opinion or faith, since man's dignity is a kind of evaluation and upgrading of man because he is man. The sense of this is preconditioned by the fact that man has certain hereditary, natural and social rights, as for example the right to live, the right to freedom of thought, the right to free speech and many more. Therefore the sheer possession of a certain conviction – even if this should be true – cannot be accepted as a reason for being granted privilege when social and civil rights are being allocated.
(It has been written that) the most valuable amongst you is the most virtuous before God. However, the appraisal of religious values has no influence on social rights; everyone enjoys – regardless of the degree of their piety and virtue – the same rights. God has ordered the enjoyment of natural blessings for all people in this world – regardless of their beliefs and their religions. HE disapproves of the opinion that the believers (the pious) should be privileged with the enjoyment of their natural rights.
If religious conviction should be the soil from which human rights grow, the strength or weakness of this conviction would have to be the benchmark for the strength or weakness of these rights. But it can certainly be said that this is not the case and that the strength and weakness of man's right faith only results in his spiritual evaluation before God.
Since reason and thinking determine man's nature, the freedom of thought and the freedom to express one's opinion are the inviolable rights of all people and all people have the right to think freely about different confessional, political and social problems and circumstances and to express themselves. In a certain sense we can assert that the rights to freedom of opinion and speech belong to the most important rights of mankind. The violation of these rights is the worst injustice that can be inflicted on mankind.
Every person has the right to express an opinion, right or wrong, but he has no right to distort, to scorn or to vilify the thoughts and convictions of others – above all, what is sacred to them. But the conversion or alteration of thoughts or convictions cannot be prosecuted as such unless there is a violation of a legal title and therefore is a punishable act. Hence freedom of thought and conviction, freedom to alter and express or the freedom to acquire information about the thoughts and convictions of others cannot be linked to a punishable title such as “reneging”, corruption, blasphemy, false accusation, etc.
The right to fight the deprivation of rights (also: destitution) is a right to justice and perfection which is anchored in man's nature. All arguments in favor of the refusal of tolerance or the tacit approval of injustice and of the struggle against the tyrant as well as all principles pertaining to “dissuasion against evil” refer expressly to this right.
It is feasible that a rather virtuous, pious man rises to power but becomes subjected to its influence, unconsciously or even willingly and is forced to dictatorship during his reign. Just as his Highness Imam Ali says: He who executes power will be caught by its influence! In other words, he who gains power will be seduced to egocentricity and tyranny. Hence the best and most efficient way to thwart the abuse of law in the name of law lies in external mechanisms: the institutionalisation of control by the people, the safeguarding of political freedom and the freedom of thought in the form of parties, legal associations and organizations, independent media and newspapers as well as the separation of powers and the avoidance of their concentration in one hand or in a few unchangeable hands, the limitation of the period of office of the governing and finally their responsibility towards the sovereign.
If people are free to possess and have the right of ownership, they are also consequently entitled to determine their own fate since the freedom of will in self-determination is deemed to be the reason …(so) no person's opinion nor the opinion of a generation, with the exception of the opinion of the infallible (i.e. the absent 12 th Imam of the Shiites), is either rational evidence or evidence according to SCHARIAT. People have the right to associate at any time with anyone who provides the necessary prerequisites for the administration of their public affairs within a legitimate framework.