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Ислам в современном мире № 1-2 (13-14) 2009 — Human Dignity: An Islamic Perspective

Human Dignity: An Islamic Perspective


Mohammad Sammak
Secretary General of the Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue
Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Christian-Muslim Arab Group


I have divided my paper into two parts : in the first part I will deal with the concept of human dignity, throwing some light on its (Islamic) legal or canonic bases while in the second part I will talk about an Islamic attitude towards challenges to human dignity.


First : An Islamic Concept of Human Dignity

Religious literature tells us that at the beginning, man enjoyed a life in Paradise characterized by eternal bliss. After having fallen into temptation, committing sin and the showing penitence, man has led a life in this world based on principles that can be derived from the Holy Quran. They are as follows:

Man is not held guilty for an offence he has not done and, consequently, he is not born guilty but endowed with an innate character i.e. designed to search for God and belief in Him.

“Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself : no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another” (Sura 6, Verse 164).

Man is God’s vicegerent on this Earth and God’s vicegerency is a task that reflects the loftiest divine honor bestowed on man: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels : I will create a vicegerent on earth. They said : Wilt thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? – whilst we do celebrate thy praises and glorify thy holy (name)? He said I know what ye know not”. (Sura 2, Verse 30).

Because man is God’s vicegerent, He subjugated to his (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, (Sura 31, Verse 20). “It is God who hath created the heavens and the earth and sendeth down rain from the skies, and with it bringeth out fruits wherewith to feed you, it is He who hath made the ships subject to you, that they may sail through the sea by his Command; and the rivers (also) hath He made subject to you. And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon. Both diligently pursuing their courses; and the Night and the Day hath He (also) made subject to you. And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favors of God, never will ye be able to number them. Verify, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude”. (Sura 14, Verse 34).

This means that God has created the laws of nature to be subjected to man in order to enable him carry out the task of its development :” It is He who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein” (Sura 11, Verse 61). For one of the constituents of God’s vicegerency is the development and construction of the universe so that it may serve man, and not the corruption and destruction thereof.

God’s vicegerency is a trust and faithfulness in people (government), or in nature (environment). Trust is a heavy responsibility. “We did indeed offer the trust to the heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof : but man undertook it ; – he was indeed unjust and foolish” (Sura 33, Verse 72).

God has created man in such a manner that he is able to elucidate and assimilate all types of knowledge in this world “And He taught Adam the nature of all things” ( Sura 2, Verse 31 ). God has, therefore, urged man to think deeply about how he was created, about his own self and about the universe around him, so that he may realize that the ceiling of knowledge is high, that its horizons are so wide that, regardless of the learning equations which he may discover, there is still more for him to think hard about in order to discover. “Of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you (o, men !)” (Sura 17, Verse 85). “But over all with knowledge is one, the All-knowing” (Sura 12, Verse 26).

God has created man “in the best moulds” (Sura 96, Verse 4) “and has made his shape in the best form” ( Sura 64, Verse 3), starting from the living cell with its contents of genes and functions up to the thinking mind and whatever it can reach in terms of knowledge and creative and deductive. That is, all human beings are honored by God, regardless of their color, ethnicity or religion.

The honor conferred by God on man in Islam is an honor for man’s human entity and his role as God’s vicegerent. God has conferred on man special favors over a great part of his Creation (Sura 17, Verse 70). God has given man preference even over angels whose sole work is simply worshiping God and whom He created from light while He created man from clay. This preference has been demonstrated when God commanded angels to bow down to Adam who is a human being. The constituents of this honorific presence have emerged through the knowledge which God has willed to be lodged in the minds of men and not in the minds of angels. “And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels and said : Glory to thee : of knowledge we have none, save what thou hast taught us : in truth it is thou who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom. He said : O Adam ! tell them their natures. When he had told them, God said L Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal ?” (Sura 2, Versed 31-33).

God has also placed in man some of the keys of knowledge which are, in themselves, divine attributes without which man cannot perform his duty as God’s vicegerent. Such keys/attributes include man’s role as a supervisor, controller and guardian of his own self in the manner explained by Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (d.1111 A.D.) in his book “Ihya’ Ulumiddin”. Man should also be a judge and arbiter of his-her -own deeds and intentions in accordance with Prophet Muhammad’s Hadith which says:” Deeds should be judged according to (the doers’) intentions”; and subsequent to what Almighty God says” For verily He Knoweth what is secret and what is yet more hidden”. (Sura 20, Verse 7).

Many are the occasions on which divine addresses are directed in the Koran to people who understand; people who have knowledge, and people who reflect.

“ Do they not reflect in their won minds ? Not but for just ends and for a term appointed, did God create the heavens and the earth and all between them” (Sura 30, Verse 8).

“Now let man but think from what he is created” (Sura 86, Verse 6).

“Say : Behold all that is in the heavens and on earth; but neither Sings nor Warners profit those who believe not” (Sura 10, Verse 101).

“Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom” (Sura 22, Verse 46).

“Do they see nothing in the government of the heavens and the earth and all that God hath created?” (Sura 7, Verse 185).

“Do they not look at the Camels how they are made? And at the Sky, how it is raised high? And at the Mountains, how they are fixed firm? And at the earth, how it is spread out?” (Sura 88, Verses 16-20).

“And none will grasp the Message except men of understanding” (Sura 3, Verse 7).

When “God subjects to man’s use all things in the heavens and on earth” (Sura 3, Verse 20), it means that man is more important than nature i.e. man is greater than the sun (for example) which he has gone so far in the glorification thereof as to worship it. Man is also of greater importance than the moon, fire, wind and other transitory phenomena. When God makes man directly to him, when He brings man to account for reward or for punishment and restricts man’s accountability to Himself only; when God places on man the responsibility for his options and deeds in this world and makes him a judge for himself and for his own intentions, He thereby raises his status, honors him and chooses him above so many of His creatures.

Such qualities divest man of blind dependency and elevate him to the rank of absolute obedience to God through reason, learning and thought. “Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?” (Sura 39, Verse 9). “Those truly fear God among His believers, who have knowledge” (Sura 35, Verse 28).

To go further in bestowing honor on man’s entity, faith in God according to Islam is not hereditary through another, for example: nor is it formal through performance of certain rituals, but it comes about through an individual will. “Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject” (Sura 18, Vere 29).

Nor does belief come forcibly. “Let there be no compulsion in religion : Truth Stands out clear from Error” (Sura 2, Verse 256). This Quranic verse means that belief does not or cannot come by compulsion.

Human identity is crystallized in the ego through the formulation of the first pillar of Islam i.e. “I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah “ which means that I , man, state that I believe and testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah. Belief here is neither an inheritance nor a favor or a compulsory duty. Belief is guidance granted by God. “God doth guide who He will to His light” (Sura 24, verse 35). It is a guidance that illuminates and makes open human mind to knowing and believing in God”.

To emphasize the honorific human freedom bestowed on man, many Quranic verses occur, reminding the Prophet of the limits of his mission as a Apostle of God.

“Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Thou art not are to manage men’s affairs. But if many turn away and reject God,- God will punish him with a mighty Punishment. For to Us will be their return; then it will be for Us to call them to account” (Sura 88, Verse 20-26).

 “ Say : Obey God, and obey the Apostle : but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance. The Apostle’s duty is only to preach the clear (Message)” (Sura 24, Verse 54).

“ If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would have all believed, – all who are on earth !! wilt thou then compel mankind against their will, to believe !” (Sura 10, Verse 99).

He who obeys the Apostle, obeys God : but if any turn away We have not sent thee to watch over their (evil deeds)” (Sura 4, verse 80).

“If any will see, it will be for (the good of) his own soul; if any will be blind, it will be to his own (harm) : I am not (here) to watch over you doings” (Sura 6, Verse 104).

“Verily we have revealed the Book to thee in Truth for (instructing) mankind. He then that receives guidance benefits his own soul : but he that strays injures his own soul. Nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs” (Sura 39, Verse 41).


Islam has gone so far in respecting man’s freedom and respecting his acting on his own behalf before God by way of underlining his human dignity, that it (Islam) has abolished any mediation between God and man-woman . Thus there is no authority for any responsible agency over the individual’s faith except his own authority in this world and God’s authority in the hereafter whether in terms of reward or with regard to punishment.

“ If anyone invokes, besides God, any other god, he has no authority therefor; and his reckoning will be only with his Lord !! and verily the Unbelievers will fail to win through ! So say: O my Lord ! Grant thou forgiveness and mercy ! For Thou art the Best of those who show mercy” (Sura 23, Verses 117-118). “Say : The Truth is from your Lord. Let him who will , believe and let him who will, reject (it)” (Sura 18, Verse 29).

In his book “Al-Islam Aqida wa Sharia” ( Islam : a faith and a Canon law) Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut, the former Rector of Azhar, talks about the one who apostatizes from Islam in the light of the following Holy Quranic  verse :

“ And if any turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of fire and will abide therein”. (Sura 2, Verse 217).

Sheikh Shaltut observes that this Holy Verse does not include except two punishments : one in this world “their work will bear no fruit” and one in the hereafter “they will be the companions of fire”.

Islam has approved that punishment in general, and death punishment in particular, belongs to God during both the foundational phases of Islam in its beginnings despite the fundamental differences between these two stages : first during the Meccan phase which was characterized by stronger pagans and weaker Muslims who were but a small helpless minority, and secondly during the Medinese stage when Muslims became predominant and established the earliest nucleus of their state. Abiding by the principle of leaving punishment to God alone, Muslims in both periods also stuck to the maxim of arguing with the other side(s) in the best way, without allowing the transformation from weakness to strength to have any impact on their clinging to the basic constants.

It may be useful to note also that the Quranic verse says: “And if any turn back from their faith and die” and did not say :” and will be killed”. In this context death is the movement of the soul to its Creator in a natural way whereas killing is death through aggression or punishment.

Here we must elucidate the difference between apostasy from religion on the one hand and deserting Muslims in order to join the ranks of their enemies, on the other hand. Judgement of apostasy (riddah) is a divine one in this world (their works will bear no fruits) and in the hereafter (they sill be the companions of fire and will abide therein). But to leave Muslims and join their enemies is a worldly treason which has a worldly punishment defined by laws while verdicts relevant thereto are issued by competent juridical bodies.

It is common knowledge that Islamic legislation is fundamentally based on the Holy Quran; the Holy Sunnah and the rational discretionary judgement that agrees in spirit with the transmitted tradition through consensus (Ijrma’), analogy (qiyas), presumption of continuity (istishab) and this last one is the most needed in the 21 Century. Sharia has also laid emphasis on many things that safeguard human dignity, most significant of which is equality and protection of the right to life. “Take no life, which God hath made scared except by way of justice and law” ( Sura 6, Verse 151), and protection of humanity at large. “If anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land- it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind” ( Sura 5, Verse 35). One thousand years before Jean Jacques Rousseau declared that “Men are born free” Caliph Ruler Umar ibn al-Khattab stated in his message to his viceroy of Egypt Amr Ibn al-Ass “When have you enslaved people although they were born free ?”.

Jurisprudentially independent or discretionary judgement (ijtihad) is, per se; a prominent parameter of respecting human dignity in terms of exercising freedom of thought, opinion and search for reality. Prophet Muhammad – peace be on him – called for discretionary judgement (ijtihad) by saying : “Practice ijtihad, for everyone is made suitable to perform what he has been created for”. This is a general rule open for all societies at all times. Thus Imam Malik rejected Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s decision to impose his own madhab (denomination) on people. Imam Malik explained his rejection by his keenness on placing no restrictions on freedom of ijtihad or independent judgement. The story of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab about dower or bridal money is well known when he, the proverbially just caliph, revoked a wrong independent judgement of his and loudly exclaimed :”A woman is right and Umar is wrong!”.

Respecting human freedom in Islam has been so great as to legitimize differences of opinion in interpreting and explaining the verses of the Holy Quran itself. Difference here, however, does not lie in the Holy text, but it is a human difference on how the holy text is understood. It is a difference among exegetists and mujtahids about the emanations of more than one meaning in various minds with regard to a particular textual statement. It is a difference of opinions and not with the text. Hence came the various religious schools and denominations (madhabs) that constitute a healthy phenomenon in a society which respects human mind, dignity and right in deducing judgements within the context of well-founded scientific and religious frameworks.

Islam has not imposed itself through violence nor has if forced its way into hearts and minds by means of miracles. Prophet Muhammad – peace be on him – did not perform preternatural feats like curing sick people, bringing dead people back to life with God’s permission , transforming the stick into a snake that creeps also with God’s permission, speaking to animals or other deeds that lie beyond human beings’ capacities. The only miracle presented by Muhammad was the Holy Quran in that it is a divine text which embodies, within the limited number of its words and letters, limitless meanings that can be deduced to fit in with the nature of human development and evolution at all times and everywhere and anywhere.

Islam has respectfully addressed human mind and has relied on reason and argument to stultify polytheism, and liberate man of idolatry out of veneration to man and by way of convincing him to worship Allah the only one God. Islam has not aggressively resorted to the sword except only for self defense and for the defense of faith.

Having said all that we may pause for while before an important point, namely, that the honor bestowed by God on man-woman- as stated in the Holy Quran is to be understood in an absolute sense. Man is divinely honored whether he is a believer or a disbeliever in God, and whether he submits to God or renounces Him. Thus, honor is not restricted to one group of people to the exclusion of the other. For human dignity, which is derived from God’s will and benevolence, embraces all people regardless of race, color, language or faith. God is not the Lord of the Jews alone, or the Christians alone or the Muslims alone. He is the Lord of all worlds.


Secondly : Challenges Facing Human Dignity :

There are two topics whose presentation may be regarded as a novelty in sociopolitical thought: one is human rights, the other is pluralism and minority (ethnic or religious).

Numerous conferences and symposiums have been held about these two topics during the recent few years, particularly after the decline of communism, the end of the Cold War, the fragmentation of former Soviet Uni оn and the outbreak of civil war in former Yugoslavia.

With specific reference to Muslims, both these issues address Islam from a negative and even accusatory angle under the pretext that if refuses pluralism and disregards human rights. Such an attitude has led to reactions embodied in two basic ways:

On the one hand some people have hastened to sentimentally defend Islam without exerting any serious intellectual effort and even in a manner devoid of any scientific argument or discussion of any topic susceptible of confusion or misunderstanding.

On the other hand, this thesis has been linked with what is believed to be a fully integrated and comprehensive campaign against Islam as the new enemy which must be targeted after the collapse of communism. In both cases, Islam has been put on the defensive, a position which is basically a weak one.

At all events, human rights and minority rights pose fundamental challenges that face the normalization of relations between Islam and the West during the post-Cold War period.


First: Human rights

On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly (numbering only 58 member states at that time) issued the International Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to several countries (the Communist Bloc) that expressed reservations concerning the Declaration, Egypt has confined its reservations to the two following articles:

Article 16 which provides that men and women, upon reaching marriageable age, are entitled to get married and raise a family without any ethnic, nationality or religious restrictions. For Egypt regarded that to be conflicting with Islamic Sharia which permits a Muslim man to marry a woman who belongs to a monotheistic religion (one of the People of the Book i.e. Christian or Jewish) while it forbids the marriage of a Muslim woman to a man who is one of the People of the Book. This stand is based on the fact that Islam recognizes Christianity and Judaism while neither of them recognizes Islam or Muhammad’s message.

Article 18 which provides that everyone is free to change his religion or belief. Egypt regarded also this to be against Muslim Sharia which considers any Muslim who changes his religion to be an apostate. Apart from that, Egypt, Egypt approved all other articles.

The number of (U.N) member states has risen to 186. No country which has joined UN since 1948 has ever asked for amendment of, or made any reservations about this do*****ent including Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member states which number 54.

The same thing happened with regard to the International Declaration of Children’s Rights. When the UN in 1989 announced the international convention about the children’s rights, 171 countries including 43 member states of O>IC approved it while 29 including five from OIC refrained.

Although three Muslim countries took part in the drafting committee which laid down the text of the do*****ent, 12 Muslim countries have expressed reservations about a number of its articles particularly Article 14 which provides for the child’s freedom of thought, conscience and religion; Article 16 which forbids any molestation of the child’s private, family or home life or private correspondence; Article 17 which provides that the child shall have access to information and material from various national and international sources; that the media should pay special attention to the linguistic needs of children who belong to minority groups or natives; and Article 20 which calls for child’s adoption and states in paragraph C that “the adopted child is entitled to benefit from guarantees and standards equivalent to those in effect with regard to national adoption”.

On Article 29 which commits signatory countries to approve “development of the respect of the child’s next of kin, his cultural entity, language and values, the national values of the country in which the child lives, the country where he was originally raised and the civilizations different from his own”.

On Article 30 which says that in countries which have ethnic religious or linguistic or native people, children belonging to those minorities or people must not be deprived of the right to enjoy, together with the other members of the group, his culture, his public proclamation of his faith, practice of his rituals and use of his own language.

There are Muslim countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Mauritania and Djibouti, who expressed their reservations in general terms, saying that they do not subscribe to any article which conflicts with Islamic sharia. Such reservations have left impressions in the international community which can be exploited for depicting Islamic Sharia as one that disregards, or is not interested in, children’s rights.

For this reason, the Sixth Muslim Summit which was held in Dakar, Senegal, in September 1990 called for organizing “an intellectual symposium for preparing a do*****ent about children’s rights in Islam”. The Muslim Countries 21st Foreign Ministers Conference held in Karachi in April, 1993 also recommended that this symposium be held in cooperation with UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund).

On June 28, 1994 the specialized symposium was held at the premises of the Islamic Conference Organization, Jeddah, Participants included representatives from 11 Muslim countries comprising Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Egypt, Sultanate of Oman, Kuwait, Senegal, Tunisia and Gambia in addition to 15 experts in Sharia and childhood affairs who were chosen in coordination between Organization of the Islamic Conference and UNICEF. Other specialized agencies also participated in the symposium such as ISESCO ( Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), International Islamic Relief Organization of the Muslim World league, Mecca, and the Arab Gulf Fund for Supporting UN Development Organization as observers.

The symposium laid down a general statement which was submitted to the Muslim countries’ Foreign Ministers for approval. It was not meant to disavow or to ignore the international agreement but to introduce the Islamic viewpoint concerning children’s rights and underline the religious values which constitute bases and starting points for protection and defense of these rights. The formulation of the statement prepared by the symposium voiced this objective; for the preamble of the declaration emphasized that social values and principles emanate from divine revelation and that it was these values and principles which shaped the Muslim Ummah (nation) and formed the patterns of its social behavior. The declaration also pointed out that failure to abide by these values in addition to inexorable historical, economic and political pressures, has led to this decline, to collapse of family cohesion and to deterioration of the cultural, health and social level. It has asserted, moreover, that the basic remedy lies in individuals’, societies’ and governments’ resort to heavenly values and not to values imposed from outside sources.

Making of this preamble its starting point, the Muslim declaration emphasized that children’s rights in Islam are pre-natal. They begin with restricting the sexual relation between man and woman to legal marriage (which non-Muslim communities lack). Islam also forbids adultery, sexual perversity and concubinage. Islam furthermore, urges that the spouse be chosen from those who have a good character and a sound faith and calls for freedom from hereditary diseases to safeguard the child even before birth.

During pregnancy Islam endows the fetus with absolute right to live by forbidding abortion. The right to own and inherit is given to the child even when he is still an embryo. Islam also urges us to take care of the pregnant mother through relieving her of some of the tasks she is normally charged with according to Sharia, an indication that instructs society to exempt her from some of her civil and practical duties.

Islam regards the newborn baby to be a divine gift entitled to absolute right to live. He I also entitled to claim descent from a particular father; for which reason Islam has banned formal adoption but has been careful to secure proper guardianship of care for the orphan.

Islam. Moreover, has stressed the child’s right to enjoy proper nursing and upbringing because this would provide him with appropriate material and psychological care and comfort. The child has also the right to be suckled from his own mother’s breasts and to be properly tended and protected within his own family; and therefore, high moral standards have been set by Islam for the parent’s duty towards children particularly in terms of care and protection and concerning children’s duties towards parents, especially obedience.

In Islam the rights of ownership, education and even play and recreation have been guaranteed to children. Children with special needs and living under abnormal conditions such as orphans, physically and mentally handicapped, refugees, illegitimates, homeless, beggars, workers and stateless children have been provided with legislation’s that safeguard their rights in society. The do*****ent has also asked Muslim states to abide by these religious legislation’s in their own national laws and regulations.

Having highlighted the deeply humane dimension of Islamic Sharia, the declaration has also urged Muslim countries to support the Children’s Right’s Agreement and the international declaration for child’s survival, protection and development.


Secondly : Minority Rights

On December 14, 1993 the UN General Assembly sanctioned the “International Declaration of Minority Rights”. Such declaration would transfer the minority causes from its framework which is confined to the national borders legislation’s and regulations of the concerned country to place it under international legitimacy. Thus the protection of ethnic identity in terms of culture, language or religion of any minority in any country is no longer a purely internal affair of that particular country but a matter of international concern. Hence, as much as Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries benefit from this new international legislation, non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim countries and non-Arab minorities living in Arab countries must also benefit from the same legislation.

Basically an Arab or a Muslim country cannot claim and in the meantime reject the same thing. It cannot claim the right of Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries to freely practice their own religious rites while banning non-Muslim minorities from free practice of their own religions in Muslim countries. In this context, it is noteworthy that if restricting the religious freedom of Muslims in non-Muslim countries is based on not recognizing Islam as a divine religion sent down from God, restricting the People of the Book’s (Christians and Jews) rights in this field runs fundamentally counter to Islamic Shari’a. Therefore, the right of the people of the Book to enjoy religious freedom within a Muslim society did not need an international declaration for minority rights in order to be legitimate; for it is legitimate in accordance with Islamic Sharia and not by virtue of International legitimacy. On the other side, the Muslim’s right to enjoy religious freedom in a non-Muslim society will be consecrated and consolidated in this international declaration of minority rights.

Thus to depict Arab countries as taking a passive attitude towards this declaration is really an exaggeration; because Arab countries have suffered in the past and are still severely suffering from sinister exploitation of minority causes such issues are being utilized to bring about more and more dismemberment and fragmentation of the Arab world. Under such cir*****stances, they have good reasons to have misgivings that this international convention is likely to be used more as a cover to justify calculated and possibly carefully programmed intervention in Arab internal affairs than being used for protecting the legitimate rights of such minorities.

In fact since Europe has adopted at the mid-sixteenth century the policy of winning over Christians in the Arab World to serve as a European foothold, defending the minority rights has intermingled with European colonial and imperialist policies (former world order) which is still taking place through linking American and European policies (new world order) with defending the rights of Muslim non-Arab minorities of Arab non-Muslim minorities in Arab countries. Thus the reserved, and even negative attitude that may be displayed by one or more Arab and Muslim countries towards the declaration of minority rights is due to this linkage and not to the right which is emphasized by Islamic Sharia.

Islamic Sharia reflects the high value accorded to man basically with regard to both liberties and rights, at individual and societal levels, and in a delicate balance between religious, moral and interactive behavioral controls of these liberties and rights. Such controls include avoidance of excess in exercising rights, and avoidance of encroachment on the rights and liberties of others.

If legists of man-made laws divide and civil rights and the other comprising social, cultural and economic rights, Islam divides human rights into three categories : rights of God (religious observances or Ibadat), human rights and thirdly a combination of both.

This was manifested in the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (august 4, 1990) which was unanimously adopted by all Muslim countries.

In the International Declaration of Human Rights (1945) has transferred concern with man and human rights from the national to the international level, and if the relation between man and his state-before the declaration-was a purely internal affair of that state, precluding any intervention by an outside agency ( society or state), the Declaration has thereby laid a new foundation for world peace on mandatory respect of human rights in national societies and has thus authorized the international community to interfere under the guise of defending international peace and stability.

The International Declaration of Minority Rights (1993) made by UN General Assembly constitutes a new step and even a breakthrough towards integrated intervention in the internal affairs of a country that violates the right of any of its national minorities or individual citizens. This means that both declarations constitute together the new basis on which the new world order is built.

But any double standards in practicing this order in various parts of the world, and particularly in the Middle East, would depict human progress on the path of respecting human rights as a mere political fool, or even an instrument of political respression and subjugation.

Starting from this point, the accusations leveled against Islam and against Arab countries of violating human and minority rights would seen to emanate from :

Misunderstanding Islam

Misrepresentation of Islam

Fear of possible utilization of minority and human rights as a tool to deal a blow to national harmony inside every Arab country and to sever relations between Muslim Arabs and non-Arab Muslims on one side and non-Muslim Arabs on the other side.

In sum, human societies as a whole, and not only Muslim and Arab societies, have a long way to go in terms of joint work so that they may arrive at a stage where human rights and dignity will become an end in itself and not a mere means leading to inhuman ends.

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