(8) The Proper Honoring of Humankind

There is no question that in God’s scheme for this creation, humans have been given many special talents and skills, making them distinct from other creatures. Thus, Allah says in the Quran, “And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea, and have provided them with lawful good things, and have preferred them above many of those whom We have created with a marked preference” (17:70). This marked preference is not the result of a random form of “evolution” but is the intentional determination of the Creator.

Through divine guidance one can fully understand the many ways by which humans have been honored by their Lord. Through Allah’s revelation, one discovers that humans are not in a battle against “nature” which needs to be conquered. One also learns that humans are not simply the “cousins of apes” with no particular purpose or goal in this life. One also learns that this creation is not “inherently evil” or that one is born with “an original sin” that cannot be removed save through the sacrifice of another being. Starting from vantage points such as those, it is not surprising to see the worth of humans being reduced to virtually nothing.

It is not surprising to see humans being used as simply tools for economic advantage and profit. Indeed, it is not even surprising to see thousands of humans killed simply for the sake of economic advantages and natural resources. After all, coming from such a perspective, why should humans be treated any differently from other animals that are similarly exploited, killed and destroyed? Truly, it is via Allah’s revelation that one becomes to fully appreciate what a human is and how humans should be treated and respected.

In reality, Allah allowed humans to bear the great responsibility of being His servants, by which they can attain the greatest of all rewards. Allah honored humans by revealing books specifically for their guidance. Allah chose messengers and prophets from among humans, giving them the noblest task of conveying Allah’s guidance for humankind. Allah has even subjugated everything in the heavens and the earth to the needs of humans: “He has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a favor and kindness from Him. Verily, in it are signs for a people who think deeply” (45:13).

In addition, He has given the opportunity to humans to become His devoted servants, martyrs for His cause and scholars of His religion, giving them special nobility and honor. These great achievements are equally open to the males and females of this species. Thus, Allah says, for example, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. You are (members) one of another, so those who emigrated and were driven out from their homes, and suffered harm in My Cause, and who fought, and were killed (in My Cause), verily, I will remit from them their evil deeds and admit them into Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise); a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best of rewards” (3:195). Allah also says, “Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do” (16:97).

In fact, the only real difference between people has nothing to do with their gender, their ethnicity, their race, their wealth, their sex appeal or their class. All of those are false ways of considering humans. Such standards, in fact, do nothing but denigrate humans. The only real standard for the worth of1430 2009 a human is his relationship with his Lord. Thus, Allah says, “O humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has piety. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware” (49:13).

One hears a lot of talk about human rights nowadays. This seems to be an attempt to treat humans in the most dignified and respectable manner. However, the biggest problem with human rights is that God is not given His proper role with respect to humans. Instead, humans virtually become the ultimate object of worship—and the “rights” of humans are given dominance over anything else, even the rights of God. In fact, much talk about human rights is not much more than freeing humans from the worship of Allah.72

This is not a proper way of honoring humans. Indeed, this is a type of extremism. Whenever anything is magnified out of proportion and giving rights or responsibilities above what it can bear, the result will be harm and suffering. Humans cannot be put into a role where they are given the choice to decide everything for themselves, including what rights they must have upon one another. These kinds of issues can only be decided by their Creator who knows the innermost details of their creation and the interactions with the rest of creation.

In the law of Allah, by the mercy of Allah, Allah has given humans all of the rights that they need and deserve, as only He could possibly determine for them based on His knowledge and justice. They receive from God the rights that they need to live a prosperous and happy life. At the same time, though, they are also given responsibilities. Both rights and responsibilities have to go hand and hand for humans to interact with each other properly in this creation.

The greatest drawback, though, of the human rights proponents is that they can only touch upon rights related to this world. In this way, they are forgetting the most important right because it is beyond the realm of human experience. This is the right that Islam brings them—their special right upon Allah. This right is described in the following hadith:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “O Muaadh!” Muaadh replied, “At your beck and call, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then asked him, “Do you know what Allah’s right is over His servants?” Muaadh replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet then told him, “Allah’s right upon His servants is that they worship Him [alone] and do not ascribe any partners to Him.” Then after a while, the Prophet said, “O Muaadh ibn Jabal!” He replied, “At your beck and call, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then asked him, “Do you know what the right of the servants upon Allah is if they do that?” He replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then told him, “The right of the servants upon Allah is that He will not punish them.”73

72 In fact, if a society decides it wishes to worship Allah completely, both as individuals and as a society, and thereby forbids certain practices, such as homosexuality, that society would definitely be accused of violating human rights today. In fact, if an individual submits to God and thereby avoids homosexuals in his life, he would be accused of not honoring human rights. In other words, as part of human rights, a human has virtually every right except the right to truly worship and submit oneself to God.

73 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.