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National Qur’an Literacy Camp in the Caribbean: Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It!

DR.PASHA | July 12, 2008 | Section: Articles | 1390 reads


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United Nations 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Member nations pledged to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  3. 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.
  4. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  6. All are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.
  7. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  8. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.
  9. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  10. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
  11. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  12. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  13. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  14. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  15. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

It is a shame and travesty that all too many Western, Christian, European and American scholars, thinkers and writers fail all too frequently to acknowledge the debt Europe and the Christian world in general owe to Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an.

What the world seems to forget conveniently is that it was the Qur’an that provided the light and luminosity to the Enlightenment movement in Europe.

That it was the Qur’an that laid the groundwork for and made possible the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

That it was the Qur’an that made possible the writing of a book like The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine.

That it was the Qur’an that provided the guiding spirit and broad theoretical framework for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson and led to the enshrining of the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments) in the American Constitution.

The First Amendment that guarantees everyone the freedom of religion as well as the freedom of speech and the Press is almost a direct echo of the various relevant Aayats of the Qur’an on these topics.

So, no matter how you look at it, Qur’an is the mother of all freedoms and human rights in this world.

Yet, sadly and reprehensibly, there was no acknowledgment of the role of and debt to the Qur’an in any of this.

If any of our High School or University students behaved in this manner, and we determine it to be deliberate, we would call it intellectual dishonesty or Plagiarism. But the idea of Intellectual Property Rights itself did not catch on in much of the world until recently.

But if it turns out that our students did it out of ignorance, we would send them back to the library to do more research. In either case we would hold our students accountable for their faulty scholarship or flawed character.

Yet, not a peep or squeak is heard from anyone with regard to these most egregious examples of Plagiarism on the part of entire cultures and civilizations.

Foundations of the First Amendment in the Qur’an

Here is the First Amendment for you to read and judge for yourself:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Now very quickly consider the following Aayats of the Qur’an with my very quick and partial paraphrases:

1. Freedom of “Religion” in the Qur’an is absolute and unconditional.

Laa ikraaha fiddeen: There shall be absolutely no force or coercion of any kind in all matters pertaining to faith or “religion.”

2. Speech and expression are inherent to human nature and essence and, therefore, come under the category of inalienable human rights.

Arrahmaan. ‘Allamal Qur’an. Khalaqal insaan. ‘Allamahul bayaan: The most loving, merciful one. He taught the Reading – the Qur’an. He created the human being. He then taught him speech and expression.

3. Guarantee of untrammeled right of protest and petition for redress of grievance.

Laa yuhibbullahul jahra bis-soo-i minal qawli illaa man zulim: Allah does not like loud utterances and protestations of bad things except for the voicing and redress of grievances in the case of those who have been victims of wrongdoing, atrocity and oppression. 

Now you tell me which is which and what exactly is going on here.

Yet, absent a direct acknowledgment of the debt owed to the Qur’an, and not having full faith in and allegiance to the Qur’an, those who engaged in the lofty rhetoric of human equality and dignity in Europe and America could not bring themselves to embrace the basic human dignity and equality of all of humanity, including the original inhabitants of the American continents; the mostly Black and other slaves; European Gypsies; Jews; and women in general.

So, if you are looking to the mother of all rights and freedoms with regard to all human beings, then look no farther than the Qur’an. For that is where it all began.

And that is where it all seems to come back to in a world which simply does not have the faith or largeness of heart or generosity of spirit to guarantee and grant these rights to all human beings regardless of their color or creed and regardless of whether or not they are part of your own cultural or national group.

In all too many painful cases, the modern world seems to be only too willing to stop the recognition, granting and enforcement of these rights at its own national borders and frontiers.

A Stranger Qur’an in Our Midst

Yet, it is this same Qur’an that gave freedom and education to the world that has become a stranger in lands that by right should be considered its own natural habitat. Many Muslims can barely read the Qur’an today.

Many resort to English transliterations to be able to read the original text of the Qur’an which is in Arabic, a task which I consider to be impossible and therefore not generally permissible.

I have even seen a Tamil transliteration of Surah Yaaseen, which Tamil-speaking Muslims seem to use for doing their readings during various death ceremonies. Take it from me: starting from Aayat Number Five, it is a complete non-starter.

I shudder to think what will be the fate of a people, both in this world and in the next world, who do not hesitate to cheat and cut corners in this manner. They seem to have made a mockery of the Qur’an even in death. What kind of Thawaab or Ajr do you expect to send to your dead when all you can manage is to read the Qur’an, and read Surah Yaaseen in particular which is the heart of the Qur’an, in English or Tamil or some other foreign transliteration?

Allah says about certain kind of people in the Qur’an that their hearts have become hard as rock if not harder. Then he goes on to say that there are certain kinds of people who flout the commands of Allah, and make a mockery of them, so brazenly and openly that Allah hits them with a punishment of utter helplessness and humiliation right here in this world.

Does anyone reading this column think Muslims today by and large live a life of humiliation and abject helplessness? Does that surprise you given how we Muslims have turned the Qur’an into a stranger in our midst?

Not just in matters of life but also in death?

I don’t think even Mahirul Qadri would have anticipated anything like this in his famous poem Complaint of the Qur’an.

 

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