HUMAN RIGHTS, EDUCATION AND
Posted on March 28th, 2011

Dr. Ifthikhar Ahmad Ayaz, OBE

(Given below is the summary of the speech delivered by Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad Ayaz, O.B.E. at: University of Malta recently)

1. (Officer of the Excellent Order of the British Empire)

2. Consul General of Tuvalu Island in the United Kingdom

3. Senator World Nations Congress

4. Ambassador of Peace appointed Universal Peace Foundation

5. Recipient of International Peace Prize

6. Member UN Human Rights Council Committee in the Rights of

Minorities “”…” Rights of Woman / Rights of Children

7. Member World Poverty Alleviation Forum

8. Honored as the 2010 Man of the Year in Human Rights.

9. Awarded the Ambassador of Knowledge Medal

10. An eminent member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Islam.

Since times immemorial, man has, at the hand of man, been suffering all kinds of miseries and cruelties; his rights have been violated; he has become alienated from his own species.

Today, most of the evils humanity is confronted with are rooted in the violation and deprivation of human rights. No doubt in the dark corridors of history, we hear echoes reverberating protest against human sufferings and exploitation. No doubt in these very corridors sometimes we also see a chink of light of hope for man in the form of Charters, such as Magna Carta, English Petition of Rights, The Virginian Declaration of Rights, American Bill of Rights and so on and so forth. However, when we critically look at these various documents, we are a bit disappointed. We soon realise that they are not after all what humanity expected them to be. They disappoint not so much in what they say, but in what they leave out to say. They give no redeeming hope to man, or offer any source of perennial light for humanity. They, if not in their letter, at least in their spirit and the way in which they were composed, and have been understood, interpreted and applied, epitomise the Orwellian formula:

“ƒ”¹…”All are equal but some are more equal than others.’

(Adapted from Animal Form “”…” Penguin Classic, by G. Orwell).

 As far as the U.N.O’s Charter of Human Rights is concerned, by and large its value remains academic, in that it is a testimony to a very important historical fact; namely, that over the centuries man’s conception of human rights has gradually evolved to reach a stage where it could be documented in such detail as we find in the U.N. Charter and subsequent Declarations.

However, I personally have been associated with the U.N. Human Rights organisations for the past seventeen years and can vouchsafe that in spite of the Charter, the world situation with regard to Human Rights has not changed much since its inception. If anything, it has worsened in many respects as we witness today. The means of subjecting man to all kinds of exploitation and suffering have become more sophisticated and its ways more subtle. Might has become mightier, and the right has become correspondingly weaker. The hypocrisy, the apathy, the selfishness, the arrogance of those who presume to be the spokesmen of human rights and who regard themselves as their custodians, have bred international terrorism, militancy, religious fundamentalism and all kinds of psychopathic violence. We all live under the constant shadow of terror. Man has turned against man, as he never did in the past.

With that in mind and in the world of today, the repeated association between Islam, terrorism and human rights abuses, I have the honour to speak on this topic, for Islam truly offers the light, the hope, and the justice and peace for all, without any distinction or discrimination.

It also emphasises the enlightenment of the soul and mind and intellect through the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. Thus, as the Holy Prophet of Islam says: “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

 When we make a comparative study of Human Rights as prescribed by Islam and those found elsewhere, we are at once impressed by three facts:

 Firstly, for Islam the question of Human Rights is part of a much wider question of rights of all creation of God, and for that matter the Rights of the Creator Himself. We cannot separate the question of Human Rights from the question of, say, the rights of animals. If we do so the very rationale of Human Rights would collapse.

 Secondly, all kinds of rights as prescribed by Islam derive their significance from the moral and spiritual values of Islam in which they are firmly embedded and on which they are founded. These values are, in turn, based on the concept of the unity of God. No other view of rights has ever been able to provide such secure foundations for them. The assumptions and the principles on which secular doctrines base the concept of rights are, on examination, found to be either outright untenable or inadequate and flimsy.

 Thirdly, Islam deals with all kinds of rights, including human rights, in such profound depth and in such wide range that no secular view has ever been able to cover them in such depth and in such range.

In the Holy Quran, God Almighty says:

 “Weigh all things with justice and fall not short of the measure.” (55:10)

 That is, God has set up the measure and balance so that order and harmony pervade and govern the entire Universe. It is the right of every creation of God that its order and balance should at no cost be disturbed. We are enjoined to weigh all things with justice and not to fall short of the measure.

 Thus “ƒ”¹…”Justice’ – the very principle and basis of all rights – is inexorably joined with measure, balance and order of the Universe. Violate rights in one area and you not only violate rights in other areas but also disturb the balance and order of the Universe.

 God says 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 recognise one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.” (49:14)

 This verse reminds us of the fact that as our Creator is One and we are created by Him from a single soul, no discrimination and injustice can have any place or justification in human society. The verse emphatically and unequivocally asserts the principle of human fraternity and equality and calls upon us all to be righteous and God-fearing. It lays an axe at the false and foolish notions of superiority, born of racial arrogance or national conceit. The worth of man is to be judged only by his moral greatness and by the way he discharges his obligations to God and His creation.

 Again the Holy Quran says:

“Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed.’ (16:91)

 As far as the moral and spiritual life of man is concerned, this is the most comprehensive and all-embracing verse. It contains three commandments and three prohibitions.

 In short, the message is: Do not do any evil which harms you personally, nor do any evil which harms others, nor do any evil which is detrimental to the interests of State and egregiously injurious to society in general. These three simple words cover all conceivable vices.

 In the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is described as a “ƒ”¹…”Lamp’ which gives bright light (33:47). He rose from a part of the world which was totally immersed in darkness- intellectual, social and educational. With his advent dawned an era of spiritual and intellectual revolution through learning and pursuit of education. Right from the beginning, he placed great emphasis on education.

 Acting upon this directive, the early Muslims embarked upon the pursuit of knowledge and learning, the blessings emanating from which were to inspire a great civilisation in which Muslims and non-Muslims alike lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievements, enriched the whole world. History bears witness that Islam was the intermediate stage between the ancient East and the modern West.

 For centuries, Muslims introduced the world to concepts that would underpin the development of science beyond boundaries thought humanly possible at the time. The development of modern medicine, astronomy and mathematics, the refinement of algebra, trigonometry and the physical use of optics were legacies from an Islamic era. Muslim scientists brought both knowledge and application into inventions that remain central to modern life today. Indeed, for Muslims, the study of the Holy Quran is central to all knowledge and scientific research. The development of life, both in human and other forms, is specifically addressed by the Holy Quran..

 The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once said: “He who issues forth in search of knowledge is busy in the cause of Allah till he returns from his quest.”

And in another narration, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said: “The word of wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim, so that wherever he finds it, he should take it, as he is the most entitled to it.”

 These charming quotes of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) disclose an excellent avenue of a passion for knowledge and education. Knowledge is not limited to the four walls of a school or to informal education; On the contrary, knowledge is something very vast and a man going about in life with his ears and eyes open can acquire it from every page of the record of the Universe. The treasure house of all this knowledge is the Holy Quran which is unlimited in its bounties of spiritual wealth.Islam stresses that education for men and women is of equal importance and the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) laid down that education is compulsory for both.

Nowadays, you will see Muslim women active in many professions, such as medicine, nursing, politics, engineering, teaching, and so on.

 However, history also tells us how the glory of Islam ebbed when Islam was gradually forgotten and the Muslim Empire lost its unity and influence. But there is also the decree of the rise and eventual renaissance of Islam at the hands of the Promised Messiah, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him), the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The Promised Messiah has been raised to dispel darkness from the world, to reform mankind and to restore Islam to its former glory. Today that renaissance of Islam continues in the form of “ƒ”¹…”Khilafat,’ the system of succession instituted after the demise of the Promised Messiah. His successors have also produced many great literary works. Collectively, these represent an inexhaustible ocean of religious knowledge.

 The present Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Community, Hadrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, in one of his recent addressed in Ghana, West Africa, said:

“Excel others in hard work. Excel others in education. That should be the hallmark of an Ahmadi. God Almighty told the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) that the people of his Community will progress in knowledge. Therefore, I advise the youth: Immerse yourself in studies to the exclusion of everything else. Advance so much in every field in education that your minimum target is a Nobel Prize.”

The first Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize in Science, Dr Abdus Salam, was a devout member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Today, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, more than any other Muslim group, actively champions the cause of education, learning and debate. It wages a “ƒ”¹…”Jihad’ of the pen to defend and unearth the truth in religious matters and to banish ignorance. The intellectual struggle and the quest for knowledge all over the world continues, ushering in a new era of Islamic civilisation just as the early Muslims led the world to a new age of enlightenment in their time.

 The World Human Rights organisations have divided Human Rights into various categories. But the fact remains that all these categories taken together fail to cover the wide spectrum of Human Rights as prescribed by Islam; By general Rights of Man, Islam gives to each and every individual in virtue of the fact that he or she is a human being as, for example, the Rights of freedom of thought and expression. By particular rights, Islam gives to an individual, over and above his or her general rights, in virtue of gender as well as in virtue of his or her role or station in society “”…” the role and station being determined by kinship as well as civic, social, economic, political and other realities of society. Islam acknowledges these realities but regards exploitation on their basis as sinful and by giving these particular rights to various social groups safeguards their interests.

In short, each and every human being is given general as well as particular rights, the latter being a distinctive feature of Islam.

 Some of the General Rights include the Right to Life and Security of a person, Property, Protection of Honour, Personal Freedom, Equality, Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Thought and Expression, basic survival needs, Freedom of Work, Justice, Education, the Right to have a Family, Privacy and Medicare.

 Some of the Particular Rights include the Rights of Women, Men, Children, Parents, the Mutual Rights of Husband and Wife, the Rights of Orphans, Relatives, Neighbours, Wayfarers, Sick and disabled, the Rights of Guests, Hosts, Prisoners of War, Labourers and Minorities.

The General Rights in Islam and the Particular Rights are based on certain fundamental Islamic Principles. They are God-given and do not derive their significance from human wisdom alone. Hence their sanctity, indefeasibility and universality.

 The first and foremost of these is the Right of Life. In fact according to Islam every form of life is sacrosanct and cannot be taken without justification. Even unnecessarily killing of animals or destroying other kinds of life is forbidden in Islam. But human life is especially sacrosanct.

 “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.” (Holy Qur’an: 5:33)

 Further, in Chapter 17, verse 32 of the Holy Quran God Almighty says: “Suicide and infanticide are particularly condemned.” (17:32)

 Anyone committing suicide or inciting others to become suicide bombers is in fact committing a grievous sin and humiliating the teachings of Islam.

 Next, in importance to the Right of Life is the Right to Basic Human needs.

 That is, to have food, water, clothing and shelter “”…” the basic necessities of life is the right of every individual. It is the individual duty of each and every person and collective duty of a government and society as well as the world at large that no human being remains hungry or thirsty or without adequate clothing and reasonable shelter.

 Unfortunately, in spite of the World Summits, U.N Conferences and forceful tirades, more than a half of the world population is deprived of these basic survival necessities. But by the grace of Allah, we can say with absolute certainty, that there is not a single Ahmadi in the world today who remains hungry or thirsty or without adequate clothing and reasonable shelter inspite of the fact that the Ahmadiyya Jamaat is established in nearly 200 countries of the world with millions and millions within its folds. It is because the Ahmadiyya Jamaat is doing its best to present to the world a Pristine pure model of the teachings of Islam.

 Next comes the right to Freedom to work within the limits laid down by Islam. For if this right is denied, human capacities are sure to be wasted. In work as well as in reward for work, Islam condemns all kinds of exploitation and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, nationality or religion.

 Islam gives man the Right of Protection of Property and Honour. Several verses of the Holy Quran can be cited in this respect.

 In his Sermon at his last Pilgrimage, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said;

“O People! Surely your blood, your property and your honour are as sacred and inviolable as the sanctity and inviolability of this day, that is the day of Pilgrimage.’ (Bukhari)

 Islam gives to all the Right of Freedom of Conscience. Giving this right means that every one is free to profess, practice and preach any faith, religion, opinion or creed he or she holds to be true.

 The Holy Quran states:

“There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:257)

 The Holy Quran explains that it is only within the competence of God Almighty to make a person believe but even He chose not to force anyone to believe. He leaves every one to exercise his or her reason and judgement. If He does that, it behoves no one else to try to force people to believe.

In this connection, it should also be noted that apostasy is not according to Islam, as some believe, a crime to be punished by man in this world.

 Islam is very particular about the sanctity of family and foremost among the Particular Rights are the rights of those who constitute a family i.e. Husband, Wife and Children. Islam was the first to give sanctity to the institution of marriage and explicitly lays down the mutual rights and obligations of members of a family. What, according to the Holy Quran, cements and maintains married life is mutual love of husband and wife.

 The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said: “The best among you is he who treats his wife best.”

 Next to the rights of members of a family, come the right of neighbours. Islam lays great stress on the rights of neighbours. The concept of “neighbourhood” in Islam is a very wide concept, which covers all possible neighbourly situations and is not confined to the ordinary concept of neighbourhood.

 The Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is reported to have said:

“One whose neighbour is not safe at his hands shall not enter Paradise.” (Muslim)

 The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) always treated his neighbours with extreme kindness and consideration. He used to say that the angel Gabriel had emphasised considerations towards one’s neighbours so often that he sometimes began to think that a neighbour would perhaps be included among the prescribed heirs (Bukhari).

 This beautiful teaching extends from door to door to communities, nations and countries to cohere humanity into a family with respect, care and love, creating an environment of well being, development, peace and prosperity for all.

 Before I close I would like to leave for your thought a few excerpts from the writings and recorded sayings of the Promised Messiah, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him), the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam, which beautifully sum up the teachings of Islam regarding the rights and the brotherhood of mankind. He said:

 “ƒ”¹…”A person can be held to be a Muslim when the whole of his being together with all his faculties, physical and spiritual, is devoted to God. This devotion has two aspects. First, that God Almighty should become the object of worship and the true goal and beloved, and that no one should be associated in His worship and in His love. The second, that one’s life should be devoted to the service of His creatures and to sympathise with them and to share their burdens and sorrows. One should suffer pain to bring them comfort, and one should experience grief to bring them consolation.’ (Aeena Kamalat-e-Islam pp. 559-62).

 He further said:

“ƒ”¹…”Be the true well-wishers of every one. There should be nothing inside you except truth and there should be nothing outside you except truth and sympathy for mankind. If you desire that God should be pleased with you in Heaven, become to each other like real brothers. It is our principle to have sympathy for the whole of mankind. If a person sees that fire has broken out in the house of a Hindu neighbour and he does not get up to help in putting it out, I tell you truly he is not of me. If one of my followers sees a Christian being killed and he does not go to his assistance to rescue him, then I tell you quite truly that he is not of us.'(Malfoozat, viii pp 26-27)

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