Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
If the world knew it, and if the Muslims understood it and conveyed it to the world, which is their duty, everyone would know that the Qur’an is the mother of all freedoms and rights – both animal and human.
Muslims don’t know it. The world doesn’t know it. No one told anyone anything. So everyone thinks human rights started with any or all of the following landmarks in human history:
The Magna Carta — the Great Charter or Paper — at the beginning of the 13th Century.
The English Bill of Rights in the late 17th Century.
The Age of Reason or Rationalism in Europe in the 17th Century.
The Age of Enlightenment in Europe in the 18th Century.
The British Glorious Revolution in the 17th Century.
The American Revolution in the late 18th Century.
The French Revolution in the late 18th Century.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen by France in the 18th Century.
The American Declaration of Independence in the late 18th Century.
The Bill of Rights in the American Constitution in the late 18th Century.
The American Constitution as a whole in the late 18th Century.
The First Geneva Convention in the middle of the 19th Century.
The other three Geneva Conventions in the middle of the 20th Century after World War II.
The fact of the matter – as they say – is that many of these events had little to do with ordinary human beings or their rights and privileges. In many cases they were simply agreements between the rich, the powerful, the Royalty, the Nobility and the Clergy as in the case of the Magna Carta or among warring governments on how best to protect and promote their own interests, armed forces and prisoners of war, as in the case of the Geneva Conventions.
Here is a bit more detailed light on the Geneva Conventions that the world swears by and yet does not hesitate to abrogate or turn its back on whenever it finds it necessary or convenient to do so:
First Geneva Convention was adopted in 1864 for the “Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field.”
Second Geneva Convention was adopted in 1949 – 85 years after the First Geneva Convention – for the “Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of the Armed Forces at Sea.”
Third Geneva Convention (1949) was all about the “Treatment of Prisoners of War.”
Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) was concerning the “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.”
Did anyone of you reading this column find in these four Geneva Conventions anything about ordinary human beings and their supposed rights and privileges? You probably did not. That is because they are not there. That is because no one ever cared much about ordinary human beings – except their God, the Almighty; His noble prophet, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam; Islam; and the Qur’an.
Yet, these were important markers in humanity’s dazed and befuddled lurch toward the realisation of whatever crumbs of rights and privileges the rich and the powerful were willing to throw in its direction over the long, dark and painful period of a whole millennium – a full 1000 years. And they show how desperate and starved the world was for any semblance of rights and dignity for the human race.
It was in this sense that the Dark Ages were truly the dark period of human history. And this darkness engulfed Europe as a result of its turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the light of Islam and the Qur’an that shone so brilliantly right in its midst.
For, beginning with the inception of the 7th Century, the Qur’an had laid out in front of the world a most comprehensive blueprint and a most forward-looking master plan for the codification and realization of human rights and freedoms – as well as all kinds of animal rights – at all levels on the firmest and most sweeping scale to every man and woman on earth, no matter how humble their origin and how “low” or degraded their station in life – and to all the animals in the world.
And the Qur’an then went on to create a complete socio-political order as well as a vibrant cultural environment at the hands of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and his noble companions for the enforcement and guaranteeing of these rights in practice to all human beings. And to all animals.
It was this egalitarian social order and political arrangement the Qur’an built starting with the middle of the Seventh Century that became the lodestar, the inspiration and the mother of all so-called “Human Rights” and freedoms on earth in all societies of the world, including Europe and America.
UN AND HUMAN RIGHTS
This master plan for human rights that the Qur’an laid out, and which the Muslims practiced throughout their history to one degree or another, did not find a full acceptance from the rest of the world until the middle of the 20th Century when the United Nations finally adopted its Universal Declaration if Human Rights in 1948.
Below are some salient aspects of that UN charter. Anyone can compare those things item by item to the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all human beings by the Qur’an and by Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, nearly 1400 years before the rest of the world got around to it.
And in the case of Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an, these human rights and freedoms were not just a piece of paper of historic interest, but, however imperfectly, a living reality in various Muslim lands, cultures and societies.
So, here are some of the more significant clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly:
Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
Member nations pledged to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
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.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
All are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
For the rest of the world, all this is part of a United Nations General Assembly Resolution. For anyone who is willing to examine the Qur’an and Muslim history without bias or prejudice, it is Islam in a nutshell.