Uploaded on June 15, 2020
Honouring Human Dignity and Responsibility of Muslims
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
General Secretary, All India Milli Council
Taqwa (piety) enriches humans with great virtues. Taqwa means being conscious and cognizant of Allah, of truth, of the rational reality, piety, fear of God. This Islamic term is often mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Taqwa is the ethical base for the Muslim community. Concentration and humility brings out humans from the mud of evil and transforms them into an embodiment of goodness and virtues which reflect the effects of change in their lives, and then they try to benefit with their selfless service their society, their country and the whole world. Their thoughts and efforts aim at bringing a revolution in this world; they see to it that evil vanishes from the surface of the earth, and good prevails all around, everyone in the world cares for fellow humans, keeping away from all that is considered evil.
After obtaining the virtues of taqwa a Muslim sincerely strives to bring transparency, improvement and excellence in every system and organisation he finds in operation. He struggles hard and shows concern to obtain these goals. Cultivation of taqwa in one’s life, enables one to work for human welfare. No doubt, human welfare is an essential, indispensable and important matter. Allah commands Muslims to engage in human welfare and development and honour human dignity. Honouring human dignity is an integral element to ensure human development and magnanimity.
No nation can be regarded civilised unless it honours human dignity. The Noble Qur’an says: “And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam” [17:70], meaning man is great, deserves respect and dignity. Honouring human dignity is essential in all circumstances because all humans are equal; no one has supremacy or preferential rights over others. A man born in America holds the same essential status as one man born in the forests of Africa. A man from Arabia is equal to one from India. No one enjoys preferential rights and supremacy over others on the basis of race, caste, creed, region or territory. All are equal and one and the same.
The basic teaching of Islam is to spread this message of equality. No one can discriminate on grounds of race, caste and creed. All humans born in this world are the subjects of Allah and entitled to uniform status and rank. Islam refuses to award superiority even of the size of an atom to any of His subjects on grounds of caste, race and land; Islam has instead severely condemned such an attitude. In Islam all are freemen. Islam is opposed to subjecting humans to slavery. The belief that all humans are free on the surface of the earth is an integral part of the basic teachings of Islam. No one has the right to enslave another man. However, the world history tells us the tragedy that befell on the weaker people who were enslaved by those who occupied powerful positions.
There were people who considered themselves privileged by taking pride in their race and caste and humiliated others on grounds of their caste and race, taking them into bondage, projecting themselves as their master and enslaving weak people, rendering them bonded labour and extracting hard work from them for their own luxurious life. They cornered all rewards and natural resources declaring that they were rightful owners of all the gifts of nature. They brought under their exclusive control all divine favours and important creations for their personal aggrandisement, depriving the weak and oppressed sections of the society of all gifts of the nature and coerced them into their service.
History is a witness to such crimes nations in different parts of the globe. Historically speaking, India has suffered most on account of discrimination and social injustice meted out over hundreds of generations, exploiting weaker sections of society by imposing on them laws which they created to subjugate the ordinary people. America and Europe are also involved in targeting people on the ground of colour of skin and claiming superiority on the basis of their fair skin. Islam is opposed to this kind of discrimination based on race or skin colour. In Islam all are regarded equal in status as they are all humans, creatures of One God. No one is placed above the rest of the people on grounds of race, nation, colour of skin, wealth and linguistic variations.
Only knowledge and piety elevate people to distinction before God; only knowledge and piety distinguish people from each other. It is said that the developed societies put this knowledge behind a thick curtain. By denying the light of knowledge to weaker sections they made them slaves. They thought that if they made knowledge accessible to the unprivileged, their false laws would be exposed which would ruin them and all their ambitions would crumble into dust; the dream to rule over them would not be realised. So, they conceived the idea that the unprivileged should not be allowed to acquire knowledge, and they denied education to them. They asserted that education was their group’s prerogative and it should not be made universal. The unprivileged should be engaged in manual work only; don’t tell them what knowledge aims at. Contrary to this, Islam from the very beginning has laid emphasis on knowledge. The first verse of the Holy Qur’an is about knowledge. A basic idea in Islam is that knowledge makes humans respectable. Knowledge leads to introspection and encourages humans to strive for their rights; an educated man can’t be subjected to slavery. Thus equality gains ground among human beings.
Now it is necessary to reflect on how to protect the honour and dignity of humans. What are the ways which will signify human dignity, enhance the prestige of humanity, and it will get due respect and value in the society since honouring human dignity is a top priority. Islam has an elaborate concept emphasising the need to protect human dignity. Islam insists that the right of every human to justice, equality, freedom and safety must be recognised; justice, equality, freedom and security must be accessible to all human beings. The Holy Qur’an focuses on these values. Islam made this concept popular across the world and this is why Islam gained ground in the world.
It is important today to assess whether everyone is getting justice, equality, freedom and security enshrined in world constitutions. Are all humans enjoying these rights? Are all humans being treated equally? It is asserted in the 21st century that all humans across the world are entitled to justice. It is stated strongly that equality and freedom should reach every human, but the reality is opposite to it. Even today humans are being discriminated against on grounds of race, religion, territory and colour of skin; one is regarded high-born whereas another is low-born. Sometimes people drive a wedge between the rich and the poor. Some people who are deprived of wealth are looked down upon while those in possession of wealth are shown great respect whereas by virtue of being humans they possess the same attributes and characteristics, and both of them, rich or poor deserve, equal treatment. Both of them are entitled to a dignified status. But the world order dominated by a select privileged people has created a discriminatory order which does not treat humans with humanity. Instead of honouring human dignity humans are treated with contempt and humiliation. It is fashionable among those in power in the world at the moment to shout insults at people living in deprivation. This attitude amounts to the negation of human dignity; it is a blot on the human world, injuring humanity and violating human values. This state of affairs betrays the absence of taqwa.
Honouring human dignity and respecting humanity is possible only when hearts become the repository of taqwa (fear of and obedience to God), Muslims are under obligation to set by their conduct an example of taqwa. The taqwa that Muslims observe during the holy month of Ramadan should become the rule of the day through all times. Muslims should set the precedent of honouring human dignity by practising what they believe in and preach. They should convince the whole world that they are a people who are regardful of human rights. They should initiate concerted efforts to see that every human, every citizen gets his or her fundamental rights.
Let the flag of justice, equality, freedom and fraternity fly high. This is the message and call of Islam and this is our basic responsibility to transform it into action. If this does not happen, the world will meet with destruction, peace and security will vanish from the surface of the earth. Ongoing protests in the United States of America and parts of Europe reflect the failure of democracies where blacks are looked down upon as inferior and contemptible as compared to the white people. Racial discrimination has turned this developed nation (the US) into a land of protests and a great part of the world is witnessing unprecedented mass protests. This is the time when the message of Islam to honour human dignity must be spread throughout the world. In this regard Muslims can’t shrink from their responsibility.