By Dr. Obaidur Rahman Nadwi
Islam, no doubt, is the religion of an equilibrium between body and soul. It solves every issue of human life and leads to such a way in which human beings may live with peace and amity. Islam introduced Human Rights and stressed its importance. The Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the First Charter of Human Rights.
The term ‘Human Rights’ had been alien for a long time. After the French Revolution of 1789 and the American Revolution of 1775, the concept of Human Rights fostered. It was after the World War II that the UNO set up a Human Rights Commission.
Swami Vivekananda says: “My experience is that if ever any religion approached to this equality (egalitarianism) in an appreciable manner, it is Islam and Islam alone, I am firmly persuaded, therefore, that without the help of practical Islam, theories of veganism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind.” (Letters of Swami Vivekananda, p. 463)
G.B. Shaw is also of the same view: “I have always had the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me that possesses that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness. I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.” (The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol. 1, No, 8, 1936).
Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi says, “Socially, a most epoch-making change was brought about by the Islamic notion of human equality and brotherhood. There was no division of society into permanent classes and no such community as the Untouchables among the Muslims: Their belief was that no one born unclean into the world nor predetermination ignorant and debarred by the very fact of his birth in a certain class from the acquirement of knowledge. No trade or occupation was reserved for any particular section of humanity. On the other hand, they fraternised freely with each other at all levels, the rich strove with the poor in the pursuit of learning and there was freedom of profession for all. The idea of brotherhood was for the Indian mind and the Indian society a novel experience and a call to renewed thinking which did a lot of good to the country. The bonds of the then existing class-ridden society were relaxed to a considerable extent and thus witnessed a widespread recoil from the excessive rigidity of the caste-system. The advent of Islam acted as a challenge to social reformers in other fields also.”
The well-known Indian freedom fighter and poetess, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu has precisely said, “It was the first religion that preached and practised democracy; for, in the mosque when the call from the Minaret is sounded and the worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and the king kneel side by side and proclaim “God alone is great”. I have been struck over and over again this indivisible unity of Islam that makes a man distinctly a brother. When you meet an Egyptian, an Algerian an Indian and a Turk in London, what matters that Egypt was the motherland of one and India motherland of another.” (“The Ideals of Islam” in Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu, Madras 1918, p. 169)
Islam regards all human beings alike. Its main plank is to prevail equality and justice in order to create an atmosphere of peace and amity in the world. The Qur’ān says: “We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and repeated with them the scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure; and revealed Iron, wherein is mighty power and (many) uses for mankind….”
If we study Islam and ponder over its contributions and services to humanity, we reach the conclusion that current misgivings about Islam are unfounded. Suffice it to say that Almighty Allah Himself addressed the Prophet ﷺ to say: “(O Muhammad!) Say to people, “To you be your religion, and to me mine. (109:6) That is why the Prophet never compelled Jews or Christians to accept Islam. The Qur’ān strongly advocates: “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.” (2:256)
It will be in the fitness of things that one should know Islam before levelling any allegation against it. It is time to foster brotherhood and fraternity regardless of caste, creed, colour and region and create an atmosphere of peace and amity throughout the world.
U.N. General Assembly declared December 10 as Human Rights Day in 1948 and it is observed every year. None can gainsay the achievements and contributions made by the UNO in eradicating racism and racial discrimination, racist policies and racist regimes. We may recall the atrocities and oppressions perpetrated by the whites of ruling class in South Africa. But under the pressure of the UNO, the ruling party had to give up the age-long policy of apartheid or racial discrimination. Consequently Nelson Mandela, the most popular leader of the African people, had been released from jail in February, 1990.
Later on the South African Government had to conduct the first multi-racial elections in South Africa on April 27,1994. Wherein the African National Congress (ANC) got 252 seats out of 400 and formed the first democratic Government in South Africa with Nelson Mandela as its first president. Thus imperialism came to an end in South Africa and so did apartheid. But it is unfortunate that the UNO’s services are one-sided. Since the World War II, the US has attacked 21 countries from Vietnam to Yugoslavia to Nicaragua, killing millions of innocent people. Gulf countries have faced three wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973 after the World War II and creation of Israel. The recent attack on Iraq dethroning Saddam Hussein is most deplorable.
Today the Islamic world, including Syria and Palestine, is passing through an ordeal. No country raises voice against the atrocities and oppressions being meted out to the people of the Islamic World. It is an open secret that despite all its brutalities, Israel gets all-out support of America.
It is time the UNO got the issues of the Islamic world solved amicably; only then celebration of the “Human Rights Day” will be meaningful and appropriate.
[The writer is Faculty Member, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh]