Human dignity

The Spirit Of Islam

Khalid Baig

A society’s treatment of other humans depends upon its perception of the status and value of humanity itself. If there is no inherent human dignity than there can be no inherent human rights. Then human rights are reduced to the level of a policy to be decided by the calculations of governments. If, on the other hand, we accept the first view then human rights become both serious and inalienable; they cannot be taken away in the name of this or that expediency.
The first view is expounded by the Qur’an which declares in no uncertain terms: “Now, indeed, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam” (17:70). This is brought out through the Story of Creation. For God created man “with My two Hands” (38:75). Further, He breathed into Adam from His Spirit (15:29). This was so because Man was created as God’s vicegerent on earth (2:30).
Islam is not alone in asserting this dignity. All previous prophets had the same message. Thus both Judaism and Christianity affirmed it because man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This view was challenged by modern science. Resting on the twin pillars of Darwinism and Freudianism, its great “achievement” was in announcing that dignity and nobility of the human soul was a myth. Darwin claimed that man was not specially created. Freud added that he had no free will that would distinguish him from animals. Rather man was subject to instinctive drives, unconscious impulses, and emotions over which he had no control.
It was not that science had discovered that the first view was baseless, since it had no capacity to affirm or reject claims about matters it could not observe. Rather it was that some of its proponents had developed a fanatical religious hatred against all religion because of their bad experience with some of it. As it evolved under their patronage, modern science became a new faith that claimed to have made the faith in God and the moral values based on it obsolete. Of course, it could measure the speed of light, split the atom, and analyse the structure of DNA to “prove” its claims.
Those who have been mesmerised by the achievements of science have been torn between these opposing claims about human dignity. They claim that human beings have inalienable rights then proceed to forfeit those rights on one or the other pretext. They champion religious freedom then proceed to curb it. They affirm commitment to human dignity then proceed to defile it.
In fact that function is integral to a central value in Islam: Haya. Although normally translated as modesty for lack of a better word, haya encompasses much more than that. It is modesty, decency, moral propriety, and inhibition against all evil, with special emphasis on concealing parts of the body. Haya is the anti-thesis to nudity. As for its importance, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “Every religion has a distinct call. For Islam it is haya.” [Ibn Majah]. Another famous hadith says: “ Haya is a branch of Iman (faith) “ [Bukhari, Muslim]. It is the basic building block of Islamic morality. When it is lost everything is lost.
— Courtesy: Albalagh.com

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