An Invitation to Other Religions: Demonstrating Human Rights and Universal Brotherhood from Your Scriptures?

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Kaaba: The first house of God

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!

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.

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)

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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 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.

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Kaaba in a year when there were more than 2 million pilgrims

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

Holy Bible

Please speak from your scripture, not just from your inspiration, which may be coming from someone’s else scripture

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.

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 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)
Let the discussions begin and please make a case from your scripture, rather than trying to link Islam with terrorism, through some twisted logic.
To read more about Toynbee’s views about Islam in general and racial issue in particular go to the following, please click here

15 replies

  1. Practically all Muslim agree with the content of this article by brother Zia Shah. (may be with the exception of the tiny fraction of ‘sectarian extremists’). See this article as a reference:
    http://www.themuslimtimes.org/2014/06/countries/saudi-arabia/world-muslim-body-vows-to-combat-sectarian-policies
    So why all this turmoil in ‘the Muslim world’? One reason could be that countries like Saudi Arabia say one thing (see the above article) but behind the scenes do another thing (supporting rebels in Syria and Iraq). Actually what we can also gather from this is that ‘religiously’ also Saudi Arabia agrees on the equality of all Muslims. The support for rebels in Syria and Iraq is purely political, to try and undermine the supposed influence of Iran and strengthen the Saudi power. (just my personal interpretation – other views welcome).

  2. I think Brother Zia if I might so respectfully address you that you have lofty ideals and a head in the clouds with it.

    Would you take credit for bringing all these religions together. Would you like to be King Canute stand on the beach and command the waves to desist from their activities of rolling surf towards the beach.

    Consider human nature and power struggles and one up man ship are you trying to top off what we all hope and dream for in world peace without getting on your knees in prayer and hope and besiege God for what is a human struggle. Getting religions together is not enough. its like getting all the behemoths and dinosaurs together for a meeting each with their guiding fictions. Each entrenched in their own entrenchments.

    I have read a lot of your long winded writings and pompous posturing before and you seem a little dim as to how you can gather the masses and very short of specifics and detail.

    Catch you in a years time and we will see if you make any ground on this latest piece of posturing, My recommendation is you take some flatulence tablets to clear some wind away. Better still stand on the beach and talk to the wind and waves it will not be noticeable.

  3. Zia,
    I am ready to take up your challenge on behalf of the Christian religion. But if there must be a meaningful debate, the rules of fairness to all must be observed so that this does not become a platform for you to vent your diatribe on others while they are not in a position to respond.Everybody, regardless of his/her views, must not be gagged in the name of moderation. Since you are the one posing the challenge, it is imperative that you set out what human rights provisions have either been brought about or are in tandem with your muhammadanism. I have no need or time to read Zafrulla Khan’s book.
    Having said that, I am at liberty to state my views which include debunking any of your assertions in the article.
    Quran 5:33 “WE(ALLAH) PRESCRIBED FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL–“.
    Notice how allah chose the plural pronoun ‘WE’ to describe itself.
    From the statement, it is clear that the order had already been given to the children of Israel and the quran is only repeating what was in existence. For that reason, the quran is not the primary source. Being only a secondary source, your assertion “–I REJOICE THAT THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN LIFE, IN ITS PRISTINE FORM, COMES FROM THE HOLY QURAN”, is fraudulent. You cannot give credit to a secondary source while neglecting the original.
    As a matter of fact, that statement came from the Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5 which the Jews do not regard as having been revealed. It was just an opinion or folklore.
    About 3,000 years before Muhammad, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. In Deuteronomy 5:17, God said “THOU SHALT NOT KILL”.
    Between the Bible and the quran, which came much much later, which provides for the human rights and the dignity of man in its pristine form?
    Leviticus 19:13-18 lay down the rules which promote human dignity and excellent relations.
    :13″THOU SHALT NOT DEFRAUD THY NEIGHBOR, NEITHER ROB HIM: THE WAGES OF HIM THAT IS HIRED SHALL NOT ABIDE WITH THEE ALL NIGHT UNTIL THE MORNING”.
    This calls for the worker to be paid as at when due without any delay except there is a prior agreement. It creates an atmosphere of industrial harmony.
    :14″THOU SHALT NOT CURSE THE DEAF, NOR PUT A STUMBLING BLOCK BEFORE THE BLIND, BUT SHALL FEAR THY GOD: I AM THE LORD.
    :15″YE SHALL DO NO UNRIGHTEOUSNESS IN JUDGMENT: THOU SHALT NOT RESPECT THE PERSON OF THE POOR, NOR THE PERSON OF THE MIGHTY; BUT IN RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALT THOU JUDGE THY NEIGHBOR”.
    This means equality before the law. The law must be executed without fear or favor.
    :16″THOU SHALT NOT GO UP AND DOWN LIKE A TALE BEARER AMONG THY PEOPLE:NEITHER SHALT THOU STAND AGAINST THE BLOOD OF THY NEIGHBOR: I AM THE LORD”.
    Sowing discord in the community and betraying another to death is forbidden. Muhammad plagiarized the first arm and called it sowing descention and attached capital punishment to it.
    :17″ THOU SHALT NOT HATE THY BROTHER IN THINE HEART: THOU SHALT IN ANY WISE REBUKE THY NEIGHBOR, AND NOT SUFFER SIN UPON HIM”.
    This is for all to eschew every form of hatred and avoid causing the down fall of the other.
    :18″THOU SHALT NOT AVENGE, NOR BEAR ANY GRUDGE AGAINST THE CHILDREN OF THY PEOPLE, BUT THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF: I AM THE LORD”.
    This is to promote peace and good neighborliness.
    Deuteronomy 24:14 “THOU SHALT NOT OPPRESS AN HIRED SERVANT THAT IS POOR AND NEEDY:WHETHER HE BE OF THY BRETHREN, OR OF THE STRANGERS THAT ARE IN THY LAND WITHIN THY GATES:”.
    Proverbs 18:13 “HE THAT ANSWERETH A MATTER BEFORE HE HEARS IT, IT IS FOLLY AND SHAME UNTO HIM”.
    This is a call to adhere to natural justice of hearing all parties.
    On racism, St Paul, who lived not less than 500 years before Muhammad, said in Christ there is neither Greek(Gentile) nor Jew. No circumcised or uncircumcised. No male or female. No bond man(slave) or free born. Every body is equal. For this reason, there is no record that the Apostles had slaves. …

  4. Namelee for starters you could disclose your identity and put your full comments on your website, without our moderation.

    We will very seriously consider leaving your link in the comment section.

    Please instead of poking holes in what you understand to be Islam and the Quranic message, first, make a case for each of the thirty articles from the Bible.

    If you do not keep mixing your defense with unnecessary criticism and make thirty comments for each article from the Bible, it is very likely you will find no moderation.

    Are you up to the task?

    By the way, Moses was 2000 years before the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on both.

  5. Zia,
    I sense a threat of the usual ‘moderation’ here. Since this site is the one sponsoring the debate, it is better to keep everything said here. There is no need for me to go to my website. …

  6. Namelee unfortunately you cannot take a straight forward offer on face value. Please note, I said above:

    Please instead of poking holes in what you understand to be Islam and the Quranic message, first, make a case for each of the thirty articles from the Bible.

    If you do not keep mixing your defense with unnecessary criticism and make thirty comments for each article from the Bible, it is very likely you will find no moderation.

  7. Since we believe that all religions are from the same God, it is only natural that teachings of brotherhood and peace will be found in all scriptures. Therefore this challenge is not useful as every scripture will have at least some of those teachings. The real challenge for all religions including Islam and Muslims is the demonstration that some useful political, social, economic or scientific principal was discovered through their scripture before any one else knew about it.
    These days it has become a fashion to claim such things after the fact. An example would be the book of Sir Zafrullah referenced above. We did not see these principals put forth like this until the UNO constitution was written. So not much credit can be claimed.
    Same goes for slavery, women rights, crime and punishment, political and economic rights etc.
    Muslims claim and point to verses in the Quran describing a consultative government. But Democracy was invented in the West. Muslims had 1400 years to understand the Quran and implement democracy but did not do it. So now no credit can be claimed.
    So here is the challenge: Show from your scriptures the example of a political or economic idea that was then put into practice by the followers of that scripture before anyone else in the world.


  8. Said Rajaie-Khorassani, Iranian Ambassador to the UN in the 1980s described the UDHR as a “SECULAR UNDERSTANDING OF THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION”.
    Jurgen Habermas, German philosopher and atheist, expressed the view that the values of individual rights, moral equality and human dignity might not survive the decline of the Judeo-Christian cultural framework which they first developed from.
    Alvin Schmidt in his book ‘Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilaztion’ documents at length the Judeo-Christian tradition as the direct source of the moral reforms concerning the treatment of the individual-such as the abolition of slavery-that modern Westerners take for granted, and that have spread from the West to much of the rest of the world.
    That tradition, he says, is also the direct source of the notion of universal human rights, which has become a hallmark of the rhetoric of international ‘bureaucratist’ of the European stripe otherwise contemptuous of Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

  9. Agree with Lutf.
    UN charter was signed in 1945 which is like yesterday! In 1765, eleven years before composing the Declaration of Independence, President Thomas Jefferson bought a Qur’an and acquired numerous books on Middle Eastern languages, history, and travel, taking extensive notes on Islam as it relates to English common law. Therefore we cannot deny that the UN charter or the Declaration of Independence did not make use of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.

    So the dilemma is that we take note of our resource books when the West points out something out of them and this is in every field.

    Mehdi Hasan the famous singer of Pakistan always had a great voice and yet was not identified dually till the West projected him as the topmost artist.

  10. Namelee

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful quotes from others. Now, please go ahead and show the derivation of each of the Articles of Universal Declaration from the Bible.

    One Article in each comment. If you go through the effort, you may then be able to publish it in book form, like Sir Zafrulla Khan did for the Holy Quran and Islam.

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