Book Review: Islam and Human Rights

Image (1) Zafrulla-and-JFK-e1322703390893.png for post 26889

Sir Zafarullah Khan in a meeting with President John F Kennedy

Book by Sir Zafrulla Khan

Reviewed by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Sir Zafrulla was a polymath and the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan and took office in 1947.

He 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 played an important role in the development of the 30 Articles of  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He saw numerous parallels in the teachings of the holy Quran and these articles and wrote a book to demonstrate that to the world.

In his view Islam was about human rights and creating a compassionate and just society should be a constant goal of each Muslim.

In his booklet he discussed each Article in the light of various verses of the holy Quran.

He introduces the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the following words:

The Declaration of Human Rights does not, in the accepted juristic sense of the term, constitutes a “law”. It stands, nevertheless, as a shining milestone along the long, and often difficult and weary, path trodden by Man down the corridors of History, through centuries of suffering and tribulation, towards the goal of freedom, justice and equality. Man’s struggle for freedom, justice and equality has been waged in all ages and in many fields and theatres, with varying fortunes. Each of these battles, and the ground won in each, have, in turn, forwarded the cause of Man and have contributed towards the formulation and adoption of the Declaration, which is entitled to rank with the great historical documents and Charters directed towards the same objective.

He summarized the dark chapters of history and the hope for the future of humanity in the following words:

How is it that in the last half of the twentieth century, after having passed through the shattering and devastating experience of two world wars and in the shadow of a nuclear holocaust, despite all the effort that has so far been put forth to the contrary, man continues to be the victim of discrimination, intolerance and cruelty at the hands of his fellow man? One would have thought that man’s daily increasing knowledge of the working of the laws of nature and his growing mastery over the forces of nature, which has opened for every one of us the prospect of a richer, fuller and happier life, would have brought in their wake an era in which man could dispense with the weapons of greed, selfishness, exploitation and dominance which had so far been regarded, albeit utterly erroneously, as contributing towards the welfare and prosperity of those who were, from time to time, in a position to employ them. For, indeed, the truth is daily becoming more manifest, as experience in every field continues to furnish fresh confirmation, that the prosperity of all is promoted through mutual sharing and co-operation rather than through the exploitation and domination of some by others. It must be our constant endeavour to bring this  home to all in every corner of the globe.

In correlating the Articles to the Islamic teachings he says:

In studying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the Islamic point of view, we must remember that while Islam lays down broad values and standards which clearly endorse the spirit and purpose of the Declaration, it does not pronounce verbatim on all the specific provisions of the Declaration.

Regarding the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its relation to Islam he writes:

The Preamble of the Declaration recalls in general terms the values and purposes which the Declaration is designed to secure and the methods through which they might be secured.

The preceding sections have drawn attention to some of these values as being part of those that Islam seeks to inculcate and establish. These and some others will be considered in somewhat greater detail with reference to the specific articles of the Declaration. So far as the Preamble is concerned it should be enough to point out that Islam lays the duty of constantly promulgating Islamic values upon every individual Muslim. The generic word for these values is ma‘roof, meaning that which is good, equitable, desirable.

To read the book online: Islam and Human Rights

About the author of the book from Encyclopedia Britannica:

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]

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.