Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not the Cairo Declaration!

Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States holds a Declaration of Human Rights poster in English on November 1, 1949 at the United Nations in Lake Success, New York.

Written and collected by , Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

This article has four parts:

1. Universality and beauty of ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’

2. Limitations of ‘the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.’

3.  Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s understanding of Human Rights.

4.  Originally racial equality an Islamic virtue and not a Western value

Part I: Universality and beauty of ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was the summation of human philosophical, religious and political wisdom of the ages in 1949 and has thirty different articles. These rights have served the world well for the last seven decades and in my opinion in our Global village this is the only shared vision that will save humanity from self destructing itself from mutual jealousy, rivalries, greed and sheer myopia.  Let me share the first ten of the thirty articles here:

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Rest of the articles of the Declaration can be read at the following link: Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Part II: Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Many teachings of the Sharia can serve as useful inspirations for the Muslims to negotiate the universality of the Human rights with the fellow citizens.  However, some teachings in different versions of the Sharia Law reflect only myopic visions and misunderstandings of some of the medieval Muslims and simply have no place in discussions in 21st century.  Having said this, I will now share information about the Cairo Declaration.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) is a declaration of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference adopted in Cairo in 1990,[1] which provides an overview on the Islamic perspective on human rights, and affirms Islamic Shari’ah as its sole source. CDHRI declares its purpose to be “general guidance for Member States [of the OIC] in the Field of human rights”. This declaration is usually seen as an Islamic response to the post-World War II United NationsUniversal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948.


Predominantly Muslim countries, such as Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, frequently criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries.[citation needed] In 1981, the post-revolutionary Iranian representative to the United Nations Said Rajaie-Khorassani articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by saying that the UDHR was “a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition”, which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law.[2] The CDHRI was adopted in 1990 by members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and in 1992 the CDHRI was presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where it was strongly condemned by the International Commission of Jurists.


The Declaration starts by forbidding (in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities) ” discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations”. It continues on to proclaim the sanctity of life, and declares the “preservation of human life” as “a duty prescribed by the Shariah“. In addition the CDHRI guarantees “non-belligerents such as old men, women and children”, “wounded and the sick” and “prisoners of war”, the right to be fed, sheltered and access to safety and medical treatment in times of war.

The CDHRI gives men and women the “right to marriage” regardless of their race, colour or nationality, but not religion. In addition, women are given “equal human dignity”, “own rights to enjoy”, “duties to perform”, “own civil entity”, “financial independence”, and the “right to retain her name and lineage”, though not equal rights in general. The Declaration makes the husband responsible for the social and financial protection of the family. The Declaration gives both parents the rights over their children, and makes it incumbent upon both of them to protect the child, before and after birth. The Declaration also entitles every family the “right to privacy”. It also forbids the demolition, confiscation and eviction of any family from their residence. Furthermore, should the family get separated in times of war, it is the responsibility of the State to “arrange visits or reunions of families”.

Article 10 of the Declaration states: “Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism.”

The Declaration protects each individual from arbitrary arrest, torture, maltreatment and/or indignity. Furthermore, no individual is to be used for medical or scientific experiments. It also prohibits the taking of hostages of any individual “for any purpose” whatsoever. Moreover, the CDHRI guarantees the presumption of innocence; guilt is only to be proven through a trial in “which he [the defendant] shall be given all the guarantees of defence”. The Declaration also forbids the promulgation of “emergency laws that would provide executive authority for such actions”. Art. 19 stipulates that there are no other crimes or punishments than those mentioned in the Sharia, which include corporal punishment (whippings, amputations) and capital punishment.[3] The right to hold public office can only be exercised in accordance with the Sharia,[4] which forbids Muslims to submit to the rule of non-Muslims.

The Declaration also emphasizes the “full right to freedom and self-determination”, and its opposition to enslavement, oppression, exploitation and colonialism. The CDHRI declares the rule of law, establishing equality and justice for all. The CDHRI also guarantees all individuals the “right to participate, directly or indirectly in the administration of his country’s public affairs”. The CDHRI also forbids any abuse of authority ‘subject to the Islamic Shari’ah.’

Article 22(a) of the Declaration states that “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.” 22(b) states that “Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah.” 22(c) states: “Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.” 22(d) states “It is not permitted to arouse nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form of racial discrimination.”

Religious features

Though using a universalist language akin to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “quite a number of [its] features express an Islamic particularity.”[1] The preamble is mostly religious rhetoric, and the particulars of the CDHRI contain numerous references to the Quran, sharia and aspects of the Islamic faith that appear on no other similar international list.[1] The CDHRI concludes in article 24 and 25 that all rights and freedoms mentioned are subject to the Islamic Shariah, which is the declaration’s sole source.[5] The CDHRI declares “true religion” to be the “guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity”. It also places the responsibility for defending those rights upon the entire Ummah.

The CDHRI does not discuss freedom of religion, assembly, association or the requirement of free consent to marriage, the right to a fair trial, prisoners’ rights, minority rights, the right to a nationality, suffrage, social security, trade unions, strikes or participation in cultural life.[1] The Cairo Declaration also includes several crucial limitations, including all rights being bound by Islamic law; it allows the right to take a life, inflict bodily harm, that the education of children be in accordance with sharia, that there are rights that can be claimed from children or kin, restriction on freedom of movement and the ability to deny refugees protection whenever permitted by sharia.[1]


The CDHRI has been criticized for being implemented by a set of states with widely disparate religious policies and practices who had “a shared interest in disarming international criticism of their domestic human rights record.”[1]

Article 24 of the declaration states: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.” Article 19 also says: “There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Sharia.”[6]

The CDHRI has been criticised for failing to guarantee freedom of religion as a “fundamental and nonderogable right”.[6]

In a joint written statement submitted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a non-governmental organization in special consultative status, the Association for World Education (AWE) and the Association of World Citizens (AWC): a number of concerns were raised, that the CDHRI limits Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Freedom of Expression. It concludes: “The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam is clearly an attempt to limit the rights enshrined in the UDHR and the International Covenants. It can in no sense be seen as complementary to the Universal Declaration.”[7]

The Centre for Inquiry in September 2008 in an article to the United Nations writes that the CDHRI: “undermines equality of persons and freedom of expression and religion by imposing restrictions on nearly every human right based on Islamic Sharia law.”[8]

Rhona Smith writes that because the CDHRI’s reference to Shariah implies an inherent degree of superiority of men.[9]

Adama Dieng, a member of the International Commission of Jurists, criticised the CDHRI. He argued that the declaration gravely threatens the inter-cultural consensus on which the international human rights instruments are based; that it introduces intolerable discrimination against non-Muslims and women. He further argued that the CDHRI reveals a deliberately restrictive character in regard to certain fundamental rights and freedoms, to the point that certain essential provisions are below the legal standards in effect in a number of Muslim countries; it uses the cover of the “Islamic Shari’a (Law)” to justify the legitimacy of practices, such corporal punishment, which attack the integrity and dignity of the human being.[2][10]

Part III: Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s understanding of Human Rights

We believe that the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights is the only sensible way to move forward in our Global village.  This is an agreed upon set of standards, which offers a panacea to human struggles in our times of turmoil.  It can be argued that the thirty articles are exactly in keeping with Islam and in some ways their roots can be traced to Islam.

I was very happy to see the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile, in October of 2010, after an ordeal of more than two months. I noted all the international media focused on this and I wondered how wonderful our human community will become if we valued every human life regardless of race, religion or creed, with a similar zeal. I also wondered where do the human rights come from and what is the worth of an individual human life. This reminded me of a verse of the Holy Quran that declares the worth of human life to be priceless, it equates the saving of one life to the saving of the whole humanity:

We (Allah) prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. (Al Quran 5:33)

In what may be considered by others a self-indulgent thought, I rejoiced that the human rights and the dignity of human life, in its most pristine form, comes from the Holy Quran. It seems self evident to me that followers of other religions will not agree, some may even violently disagree, but, here I suggest a peaceful solution. I will demonstrate the roots of the human rights and the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in my holy scripture, in my comments and the links that I offer here and I would plead that the Christians, the Jews, the Hindus and the Buddhists will reciprocate the favor and make their case from their respective scriptures.

The Holy Quran not only encourages rights of others and justice but prescribes unilateral goodness even in the face of evil:

And who is better in speech than he who invites men to Allah and does good works and says, ‘I am surely of those who submit?’ And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend. (Al Quran 41:34-35)

I suggest the 30 articles as a matrix or yard stick against which we choose to measure our respective scriptures. Let this Knol be a purist’s pursuit to demonstrate the elegance of his or her own scripture without maligning others. Let the race begin, and do not focus on just one article of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights, rather show how your scripture is in line with or better than all the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration!

Fourteen hundred years before USA elected her first African-American President Barack Obama who jokingly described himself a ‘mutt’ and a similar number of years before Nelson Mandela could be free and the leader of South Africa the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him said, addressing a historic crowd of a hundred thousand people in the sparsely populated desert peninsula of Arabia, at the time of Hajj, “O men, all of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal. Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.”  It has been noted by the Muslim theologians, the Prophet never made any big or tall claims that did not have their foundation in the holy scripture, the Quran.
As the Holy Quran is the final revelation by God to the whole of mankind, it addresses humanity as a whole.  There are at least 65 mentions of ‘mankind,’ in the Holy Quran. The Quran intends to unify Homo sapiens into ‘Universal Brotherhood.’ Many verses in the Holy Quran start with the term, يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ meaning, ‘O mankind.’
A couple of examples of the use of the expression, O mankind:
O mankind! be mindful of your duty to  your Lord, Who created you from a single soul and created therefrom its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women; and fear Allah, in Whose name you appeal to one another, and fear Him particularly respecting ties of relationship. Indeed, Allah watches over you.  (Al Quran 4:2)

In this verse, Allah is defining the unity of mankind and highlighting that the whole of humanity is coming from one source and as such are related to each other, and should fear God in regards to their responsibilities to each other.  Incidentally, the verse also talks of evolution of life on the planet earth and how all life forms are related and the initial biological reproduction was asexual.“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Indeed, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.” (Al Quran 49:14)

O mankind, the Messenger has indeed come to you with Truth from your Lord; believe therefore, it will be better for you. But if you disbelieve, indeed, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and in the earth. And Allah is All-Knowing, Wise. (Al Quran 4:171)

Say, ‘O mankind! truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah to Whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. There is no God but He. He gives life, and He causes death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Prophet, the Immaculate one, who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him that you may be rightly guided.’ (Al Quran 7:159)

O mankind! there has indeed come to you an exhortation from your Lord and a cure for whatever disease there is in the hearts, and a guidance and a mercy to the believers. (Al Quran 10:58)

The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue.  (Famous historian: Arnold Joseph Toynbee)

The Holy Quran has a universal approach when it deals with different religions. Despite the fact that it was revealed in the desert of Arabia in the seventh century,  it stated that the purpose of defensive warfare is to preserve the sanctity of cloisters, churches, synagogues and mosques. The Quran named the place of worship of the Muslims as the last on this sacred list. In so doing the Holy Quran established the religious freedom for the whole humanity. The verses pertaining to the religious rights for all are:Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them — Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ — And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty. (Al Quran 22:40-41)I would urge apologists for different religions and philosophies to bring forth the equivalent teachings from their scriptures. If they succeed, I am happy for them, for my goal is to be able to establish ‘Universal Brotherhood’ for the whole humanity.
To further make my case for the Holy Quran and human rights let me introduce an author:

About the author of the book: Islam and Human Rights

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan

“Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan was a Pakistani politician, diplomat, and international jurist, known particularly for his representation of Pakistan at the United Nations (UN).

The son of the leading attorney of his native city, Zafrulla Khan studied at Government College in Lahore and received his LL.B. from King’s College, London University, in 1914. He practiced law in Sialkot and Lahore, became a member of the Punjab Legislative Council in 1926, and was a delegate in 1930, 1931, and 1932 to the Round Table Conferences on Indian reforms in London. In 1931–32 he was president of the All-India Muslim League (later the Muslim League), and he sat on the British viceroy’s executive council as its Muslim member from 1935 to 1941. He led the Indian delegation to the League of Nations in 1939, and from 1941 to 1947 he served as a judge of the Federal Court of India.

Prior to the partition of India in 1947, Zafrulla Khan presented the Muslim League’s view of the future boundaries of Pakistan to Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the man designated to decide the boundaries between India and Pakistan. Upon the independence of Pakistan, Zafrulla Khan became the new country’s minister of foreign affairs and served concurrently as leader of Pakistan’s delegation to the UN (1947–54). From 1954 to 1961 he served as a member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He again represented Pakistan at the UN in 1961–64 and served as president of the UN General Assembly in 1962–63. Returning to the International Court of Justice in 1964, he served as the court’s president from 1970 to 1973.

He was knighted in 1935. He is the author of Islam: Its Meaning for Modern Man (1962) and wrote a translation of the Qur’an (1970).” [Encylopaedia Britannica]

In this book he has beautifully co-related human rights in Islam and as expressed in the Universal Charter of Human Rights.  The book, Islam and Human Rights is available online:

In discussion forums I have noted that it seems convenient for non-Muslims to try to link terrorism with Islam, a reasoning denied by the common cliche of guilt by association, but they never try to make a case for their own scripture by co-relating its teaching with the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is easy to criticize other groups by picking up the worst representatives from those groups and trying to judge them by lowest common denominator in them but fairly hard to make a case for Universal Brotherhood from your scriptures and in the case of agnostics and atheists from whatever principles they hold as sacred.  I encourage the readers to advocate their philosophy by using the Universal Declaration as a yard stick in the comments below.
I do believe that in the 30 articles that were developed in the aftermath of untold destruction of World War II, we have a pragmatic solution to solve the current disorder in the world.  There is hardly any need to reinvent the wheel, all we need is a resolve to implement these articles internationally.
The Christian apologists need to show correlation between human rights and the Bible as demonstrated in the book, Islam and Human Rights for the Holy Quran. These apologists seem to have very tall claims, but, those need to be substantiated from their scriptures and the history of their scriptures; otherwise it only amounts to hollow Monday morning quarterbacking.
Few verses I want to specifically quote in this article in addition to the book that I have presented here.  The Holy Quran states:
O mankind, worship your Lord Who created you and those who were before you, that you may become righteous; Who made the earth a bed for you, and the heaven a roof, and caused water to come down from the clouds and therewith brought forth fruits for your sustenance. Set not up, therefore, equals to Allah, while you know. (Al Quran 2:22-23)
Here the Holy Quran is giving a paradigm of unity of mankind, that they together have the stewardship of the earth and they have been well provided for on the planet earth. The verses are recognizing the basic needs of food and shelter of all human beings and Providence of Allah without any discrimination.

Kaaba: The very First House of God

Every year, during the Hajj, the world witnesses the wonderful spectacle of this international exhibition of Islam in leveling all distinctions of race, color and rank. Not only the Europeans but the Africans, the Arabians, the Persians, the Indians, the Chinese all meet together in Mecca as members of one divine family, but they are clad in one dress. Thus there remains nothing to differentiate the high from the low and every pilgrim carries home the impression of the international significance of Islam and Universal Brotherhood of humanity.

English-speaking nations that have established themselves in the New World overseas have not, on the whole, been ‘good mixers.’  (Arnold Joseph Toynbee)

Part IV: Originally racial equality an Islamic virtue and not a Western value

Here, I propose to share two quotes from the famous historian  Arnold Toynbee and then link a short article.
Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889 – 1975) was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, was a synthesis of world history, a meta-history based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global perspective. He believed that civilizations rose and fell on the basis of their resilience of their ideas and not their military and economic might.
Introduction of Toynbee in Encyclopedia Britannica online states:
Toynbee began his Study of History in 1922, inspired by seeing Bulgarian peasants wearing fox-skin caps like those described by Herodotus as the headgear of Xerxes’ troops. This incident reveals the characteristics that give his work its special quality—his sense of the vast continuity of history and his eye for its pattern, his immense erudition, and his acute observation.
In the Study Toynbee examined the rise and fall of 26 civilizations in the course of human history, and he concluded that they rose by responding successfully to challenges under the leadership of creative minorities composed of elite leaders. Civilizations declined when their leaders stopped responding creatively, and the civilizations then sank owing to the sins of nationalism, militarism, and the tyranny of a despotic minority. Unlike Spengler in his The Decline of the West, Toynbee did not regard the death of a civilization as inevitable, for it may or may not continue to respond to successive challenges. Unlike Karl Marx, he saw history as shaped by spiritual, not economic forces.[1]
Arnold Joseph Toynbee has nailed the issue of racial equality for us in the following words:
We can, however, discern certain principles of Islam which, if brought to bear on the social life of the new cos­mopolitan proletariat, might have important salutary effects on ‘the great society’ in a nearer future. Two conspicuous sources of danger one psychological and the other ma­terial-in the present relations of this cosmopolitan prole­tariat with the dominant element in our modern Western society are race consciousness and alcohol; and in the struggle with each of these evils the Islamic spirit has a service to render which might prove, if it were accepted, to be of high moral and social value.
The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue; for, al­though the record of history would seem on the whole to show that race consciousness has been the exception and not the rule in the constant inter-breeding of the human species, it is a fatality of the present situation that this consciousness is felt-and felt strongly-by the very peoples which, in the competition of the last four centuries be­tween several Western powers, have won-at least for the moment-the lion’s share of the inheritance of the Earth.
Though in certain other respects the triumph of the English-speaking peoples may be judged, in retrospect, to have been a blessing to mankind, in this perilous matter of race feeling it can hardly be denied that it has been a mis­fortune. The English-speaking nations that have established themselves in the New World overseas have not, on the whole, been ‘good mixers.’ They have mostly swept away their primitive predecessors; and, where they have either allowed a primitive population to survive, as in South Africa, or have imported primitive ‘man-power’ from else ­where, as in North America, they have developed the rudiments of that paralyzing institution which in India — ­where in the course of many centuries it has grown to its full stature-we have learnt to deplore under the name of ‘caste.’ Moreover, the alternative to extermination or segregation has been exclusion-a policy which averts the danger of internal schism in the life of the community which practices it, but does so at the price of producing a not less dangerous state of international tension between the excluding and the excluded races-especially when this policy is applied to representatives of alien races who are not primitive but civilized, like the Hindus and Chinese and Japanese. In this respect, then, the triumph of the English-speaking peoples has imposed on mankind a ‘race question’ which would hardly have arisen, or at least hardly in such an acute form and over so wide an area, if the French, for example, and not the English, had been victorious in the eighteenth-century struggle for the possession of India and North America. (Civilization on Trial, published by Oxford University Press 1948) 
For the rest of the story please read a short article: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Islam!
To read more about Toynbee’s views about Islam in general and racial issue in particular go to the following link:


Categories: Ahmadiyyat: True Islam

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  1. Asrb

    This is very nice article. Jazakallah for sharing this. We need to spread this as its the extraction of islamic teaching

    The heading might need change as its not Cairo (cario). Not sure if thats correct.

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