1. Despotism: At the time of the advent of Islam in 610 CE, kings and tyrants were ruling countries, nations and tribes. There was no idea of human liberty and rule of law, no concept of people having any say in the government. Islam's was the first voice against that universal exploitation of the masses.
No person has the right to command obedience of people even though he be a messenger of God (3:79).
Command belongs only to (the Law of) Allah (6:57).
Now look at the recent history. Isn't the world moving away from despotism, kingdoms and autocracies?
2. Democracy: It is often thought that Bacon, Rousseau, Locke and other European thinkers laid down the foundations of modern democracy. But the Qur’an decreed 14 centuries ago:
The affairs of the believers are a matter of counsel (42:38).
This Injunction was meticulously observed in the seventh century Islam. The Muslim rulers had to be elected and then obtain allegiance of the masses. They always worked with an advisory council.
Today, mutual consultation in political matters is the hallmark of democracy. (Ironically kingdoms, sheikdoms, despotism and autocratic rule today are seen mostly among countries that call themselves Muslim. This is another instance of the Muslims' departure from the Qur’an).
It may not be out of place to mention here that mutual counsel in today's democracies will soon take one more vital step; all legislation would take place in the Light of Divine Guidance. Whichever country takes that vital step will formulate a truly Islamic government and become a model state for the rest of the world. Other nations will follow suit. This is no utopia. Please see the conviction in Al-Qur’an 2:213, 9:32-33, 10:19.
3. Human worship: The exalted Messenger broke the idols of personalities. The greatest man who ever walked this earth kept repeating,
"I am but a human like you.” (18:110)
“O People! I am only Muhammad son of Abdullah.”
“I am the son of an ordinary Quraishi woman who used to (save and) eat dry meat.”
Further, Muhammad (S) said, "One who loves people to keep standing before him, should seek his abode in hellfire."
We observe that since the exalted Messenger's advent human worship has been dwindling throughout the world. (Ironically again, today it is mostly Muslims who are prostrating before religious people, before their ancestors' graves or humbling themselves in front of those in power and authority).
4. Racism: 14 centuries ago the whole world was drenched in racism. Aristotle taught around 500 BC that the Greeks were superior to all nations. The Romans divided their own people among classes. There were about 8 slaves per Roman elite. India demonstrated racism to the extreme degree where a newborn's whole life depended on whether he was born into a Brahman, Khatri, Vaish, or Shudra family.
Muhammad (S) toppled the world of false ideas, "There is no superiority of a black over a white or a white over a black. All of you humans belong to the same single stock. The best among you is the one who is best in conduct." (Farewell Address)
Now let us think. Is not the world moving away from racism? At least open expression of racial bias has become condemnable in most parts of the world.
5. Human Rights: Here I suggest that the reader examine three most celebrated documents on human rights:
- The British Magna Carta
- The American Constitution
- The United Nations Charter of Human Rights.
Then study only the brief "Farewell Sermon" of Messenger Muhammad, the exalted, and compare. The intelligently written human documents seem to fade away and pale in comparison to just one sermon of Muhammad (S)! Please see Robert Briffault's quote at the beginning of this chapter.
Haven't human rights become a vital issue at the international scene? True, the world including Muslims have to go a long way. But, Islam is on the march. The Qur’an had declared in the 7th century, "Now, indeed, We have conferred dignity on all children of Adam (as their birth-right)." (17:70)
History stands witness to the blessings of the Qur’anic Way of Life. In the truly Qur’anic era of Islam, the (emancipated) black slave of Ethiopia, Bilal, the poor laborer of Rome, Suhaib, and the lonely wanderer of Persia, Salman, were equal to, and had the same rights as, the most powerful man of the time. Umar Farooq the Great (RA) the second Caliph of Islam used to address Bilal, "O My master!" He requested that Suhaib lead the Caliph's funeral. And the exalted Messenger had himself honored Salman by calling him a member of his own household.
A brief resume of human rights given in the Qur’an will now be given. These points also reflect the Moral Code of Islam.
a. Equal human dignity by birth (17:70, 95:4)
b. Gender equity (4:32, 33:35)
c. Superiority by character only (49:13, 46:19)
d. Rule of law, not of individuals (3:79)
e. Full compensation of work (53:39, 53:41, 39:70, 37:39)
f. Provision of basic needs (20:118-119)
g. Security of faith, life, mind, honor, and property (6:109, 6:152, 2:269, 17:36, 24:2, 22:40, 6:152, 5:90, 2:195, 5:32, 17:32, 17:35, 17:29, 83:1)
h. Choice of spouse (4:3, 4:19)
i. Freedom of religion (22:40, 6:109, 2:256)
j. Freedom of expression (2:42, 3:71)
k. Redress of grievances (4:148)
l. Privacy (33:53, 24:27)
m. Care of handicap (4:36, 70:24)
n. Presumption of innocence (49:6)
o. Sanctity of name and lineage (49:11, 33:4)
p. Right to residence (4:100, 2:85, 6:41)
q. Aesthetic choice (18:31, 76:13-15)
r. Protection of chastity (17:32, 24:2)
s. Race, color, gender, lineage, wealth are no criteria of superiority.
t. Degrees of people according to their deeds (2:212, 3:163, 6:132)
It is noteworthy that the United Nations and the UNESCO Commission subject human rights to certain conditions and limitations. They further differentiate between a person owning those rights and application of those rights according to the local law. Human rights outlined in the Qur’an are not subject to the whims of nations or individuals.
6. The Caste System: The exalted Messenger declared and established human brotherhood and equality by personal example. He belonged to the noblest of tribes and families. Yet, he humbly repeated "I am a human just like you." He further advised his closest family members that being a relative of Muhammad will be of no avail to them. Last, he established that the only criterion of superiority among men and women is their conduct. Color, creed, family, gender, wealth would not impart honor to any individual.
Now which way is the world moving? India, which has been the chief cradle of the detestable caste system, is trying to get rid of this curse of humanity. The Untouchables are being called “Harijan”, ‘the bearers of Divine Spirit’. And India is just one example. Remember what happened to apartheid in South Africa?
7. Slavery: The exalted Messenger shook up the so-called masters of men, "Their mothers had born them free. How could you enslave them? What if you were made their slaves and they were made your masters!"
The Qur’an, while explicitly pronouncing equality and brotherhood of all men, ordered to "Free all slaves for ransom or better as kindness" (47:4). Few people know that the Islamic methodology resulted in the emancipation of slaves (male and female) without the least friction and bloodshed. Islam initiated a noble revolution in the hearts of people. Without the Divine Light, the 19th century America, even under the great leadership of Abraham Lincoln, had to sacrifice one million dead and wounded attempting to abolish slavery!
8. Priesthood: At the Dawn of Islam, priesthood was the worst oppressor of humanity. They were considered to possess infinite occult powers. They were thought to know the Unseen and supposed to be intercessors between man and God. They enjoyed greater authority than the kings did. Well, they knew what was in a person's heart! They could condemn the "Children of God" to be hanged, crucified or burnt alive! Their tyranny outlasted their own lives. Their tombs remained centers of worship and exploitation.
The Qur’an announced that Allah is the only Knower of the Unseen (72:26). There is no medium between man and God because He is “closer to him than the Vena Cava" (50:16). Now we see that humanity has been gaining freedom from priesthood the world over. (Ironically once again, Muslims, not currently heeding the Qur’an, are lagging behind even in this arena.)
The modernization of my nation consists
Of what has been outworn by all creation
9. Womens' Rights: In the times when the woman was considered the property of the man and was treated worse than slaves; when "Eve" and "evil" were thought to be synonymous and woman was a "shameful load of sin", when she spent her life in bondage first to her father, then to her brothers and eventually to her husband; when Christian conferences were discussing questions such as
- Does the woman have a soul?
- Is she human?
- Will she be resurrected?
The Qur’an thundered that Allah has created people males and females.
"Women have rights unto you as you have rights unto them." (2:187)
"Every person will be rewarded according to one's actions; male or female." (4:32)
And the "Mercy for the Worlds" Muhammad, the exalted taught:
"Paradise lies at the feet of your mothers."
"The best among you is the one who is best to his wife."
"O Men! You will be questioned about your treatment of women."
On the other hand, Michael Hart notes that the New Testament still teaches: "Let the woman learn in silence . . . She is to keep silent . . . Adam was not deceived but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children (Timothy 2:11-15). "The head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband . . . for if a woman will not veil herself then she should have her head shaved . . . woman [was created] for man" (Corinthians 11:3-10).
Now, look back with an open mind. Which way has the mankind moved in the last 1400 years? Surely, Islam is on the march! It may also be of interest to note here that in the USA women gained the right to vote in 1920. When did Muslim women attain it? In the 7th century!
10. Science: While Europe was struggling through the Dark Ages, Muslims were performing scientific miracles under the Qur’anic teaching that natural laws had been made subservient to man. (This topic of the Qur’an and Science will be further discussed in a later chapter). Here is an example of the scientific guidance in the Qur’an: Until recently, the sun was thought to be stationary in the center of the solar system. The Qur’an had, however, revealed 1400 years ago, "The sun is moving along toward its appointed destination."(36:38) The great Russian philosopher, astronomer and scientist, P.D. Ouspensky, maintained that any science that contradicted the Qur’an would turn out to be false. Then, during Ouspensky's lifetime, it was discovered that the sun is moving toward a specific destination at 12 miles per second i.e. 43,200 miles per hour! This destination has even been assigned names, the Solar Apex, the Constellation of Hercules. Guess what Ouspensky did! He embraced Islam.
“Roger Bacon owed his illumination to the Muslim Moors of Spain. The great figures of European Renaissance could see further because they stood on the shoulders of the giants of the Muslim world. -- Those achievements represent what the Muslim world has been in the past. They also point to what it could become in the future.” (Richard Nixon - Nixon's Ten Commandments)
11. Nationalism: Arnold Toynbee in his 1952 work, The World and the West, called nationalism a form idol worship. In his writing and lectures he repeatedly urged the world leadership to break this idol. After all, who is unaware of the devastation caused to our planet by the World Wars I and II. Nationalism was the obvious root cause of this massive trauma to humanity.
Years before Toynbee, Sir Iqbal, on the authority of the Qur’an, called nationalism "the modern idol which the humanity has sculpted". The Qur’an ordained all mankind to be one nation and declared that all believers in the Final Revelation, regardless of where and when they live, are tied in the sacred bond of brotherhood and sisterhood (49:10). That announcement left no room for manmade geographical boundaries.
It is heartening to note that great western minds such as Nicholes Berdyeau, Henry Bergson, A.C. Ewing, Rene Guenon, Alfred Cobban, Frederick Hertz, H.G. Wells, and numerous others, not only support the unity of mankind but also predict it!
12. Pragmatism: At the dawn of Islam, Greeks were the torchbearers of knowledge in the world. Many scholars including Briffault and Higgins have correctly remarked that the Greek knowledge rested on theory and logic. Experimentation had no place in the Greek system of learning. Aristotle had written that women were deficient in intellect because they had only 28 teeth. He never even bothered to look! He also stated that an egg would float in the ocean! It was only Islam that taught mankind of the necessity of testing a theory or ideology by way of experimentation.
17:36 And you shall not follow blindly any information of which you have no direct knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and conception) you must verify it for yourself. In the Court of your Lord, you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning.
“The Renaissance of Europe did not take place in the 15th century. Rather it began when Europe learned from the culture of the Arabs. The cradle of European awakening is not Italy. It is the Muslim Spain.” (Robert Briffault, The Making of Humanity)
For the sake of brevity, our list has been kept very incomplete.