Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
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 for everyone, 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 article and comments in here 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!
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.
Continuing with our examples of ‘O mankind,’ in the Holy Quran:
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)
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)
About the Author of the Book: Islam and Human Rights
“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 correlated human rights in Islam and the articles of 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 correlating its teaching with the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Guilt by association can sometimes also be a type of ad hominem fallacy, if the argument attacks a person because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument or holding of the same views, race, ethnicity or religion.
This form of the false argument works as follows:
Source S makes claim C.
Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits all the negativity associated with this.
An example of this fallacy would be “My opponent for office just received an endorsement from the Puppy Haters Association. Is that the sort of person you would want to vote for?”
It is easy to criticize other groups by picking up the worst representatives from those groups and trying to judge them by the 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.
English-speaking nations that have established themselves in the New World overseas have not, on the whole, been ‘good mixers.’ (Arnold Joseph Toynbee)
Racial Equality is an Islamic Virtue and not a Western Value
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.
“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 elsewhere, 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)