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Teaching Children Human Rights

Teaching Children Human Rights

Was published in Arabic in August 9, 2015\

Translated by Ahmed Fathy

Introduction:

 I work as an authorized notary of marriage contracts where we live (Fairfax - Virginia), and we specialize in drawing marriage contracts that unite Muslim women and non-Muslim men. This is wholly unacceptable in the Sunnite creed, but it is permissible in Islam, i.e. the Quran, and we have written a lot about that issue in our website. One day, we have been in a gathering among members of an Egyptian family. The same question about uniting Muslim women and non-Muslim men in marriage has been raised, and we have answered by quoting the same Quranic verses. The usual question about the religious identity of the offspring of intermingled marriages has been raised as well. Should this offspring follow the creed of the mother or the father? We have answered as follows. It is the main duty that children should learn common sense and higher Islamic values and notions, which are identical to human rights, which include justice, liberty, peace, charity, mercy, and doing good deeds. Later on, children will choose their path as long as creeds are concerned. In the permissive American society that is based on religious freedom, it is most probable that children of Muslim women who got married to non-Muslim men will choose to be Muslims. That is because real Islam is, in short, following human rights in dealing with people. A child who has been brought up in a family whose members are following multiple creeds and believe in plurality in a social atmosphere that is based on religious freedom will compare all available creeds and will have a certain cultural background upon which discussions of the deification of both Jesus by Christians and Muhammad by the Muhamadans will be based. Such a child will certainly discover the real Islam, i.e. the Quran alone, and its basic notions of submitting to God alone in matters of religion and the absolute liberty of individuals in the matter of religion in our terrestrial life. Such a child will learn all about the Muhamadans' flagrant violations of human rights. Accordingly, such a child will choose a creed that takes the side of human rights, if ever such a child would care to adhere to any religion whatsoever. We have been asked then about how children should be taught human rights. Hence, we re-publish this old article of ours on the subject.

 

Firstly: stinginess and childhood nature:

1- We will cite two only of the Quranic references to the childhood stage traits: stinginess and innate sense.

2- It is noteworthy that children in their early recognition of things around them show an excessive sense of stinginess and egoism as if all things, toys and persons were their own. Hence, they refuse sharing things with others at first. Later on, children will learn gradually to share their toys with playmates to enjoy group play. Gradually, children find pleasure in sharing for their own benefit, not for the benefit of other playmates. This egoism or stinginess is inherent in human nature, as the Quran says:"…And present in [human] souls is stinginess…"(An-Nisaa - 128). Accordingly, the human soul contains some degree of stinginess as a basic instinct. Stinginess without proper discipline is the common way of dealing among forest wild animals. Stinginess is the root of evil in human societies worldwide. The Quran says:  "…And present in [human] souls is stinginess. But if you do good and fear Allah - then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted." (An-Nisaa - 128). We understand then that mankind should learn charity and piety instead of stinginess and egoism. People should reach the level of altruism; i.e., to prefer fulfilling others' needs above one's own. We cite an example of altruism in the Quran: "It is He who expelled the ones who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture from their homes at the first gathering. You did not think they would leave, and they thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah ; but [the decree of] Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts [so] they destroyed their houses by their [own] hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision."(Al-Hashr - 9). With proper upbringing and good education, piety and charity will lead to altruism, and hence, one could control stinginess and egoism. Both traits are the main cause of troubles and problems among couples, siblings, relatives, and other members of society in the fields of neighborhood, work environment, financial matters, and political affairs. This leads eventually to creating enmity among states of the world at large. Lastly, the illness of stinginess is the real enemy of human rights and real development.

3- Accordingly, the paramount importance of shielding children against stinginess is emphasized. In the above verses, the Quran shows that the remedy for stinginess is to ingrain charity and piety in children, i.e., to develop elements of doing good deeds to others instinctively to overcome injustice and miserly attitudes. Innate sense born with children should be developed with care, as we will see in the next passage.

Secondly: innate sense and childhood nature:

1- God asserts in the Quran that He has created both conflicting traits in the human soul: stinginess versus piety and charity, and justice versus injustice. Upbringing leads to favoring and prevailing of either side of these contrary traits. God says in the Quran: "And[by] the soul and He who proportioned it.And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness.He has succeeded who purifies it.And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]." (Ash-Shams – 7:10). Hence, one will succeed in life in this world and the next through piety and lose true happiness in life in this world and the next through losing the innate sense of righteousness and harboring attitudes of stinginess and greed. If values of materialism and struggling for the transient materialistic possessions prevail and dominate a given society, humans will be transformed into beasts among which the strong will do injustice to the weak and violate their rights. We see this in today's world in the prevalent violations of human rights worldwide. The reason behind such violations is the domination of stinginess and wickedness instead of righteousness and charity. Both traits of righteousness and charity elevate human beings and prevent crises in human societies. Lack of both righteousness and charity cause internal fragmentation within societies. God says in the Quran: "Andspend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good." (Al-Baqarah - 195).

2- Human rights are not just what are being sought by the cultural elite such as the right of participation and the right to express oneself freely. Human rights include as well the social and economic rights of the poor and underprivileged in the wealth of their societies. The Quran asserts these rights in many verses: the rights of the deprived, the traveller, the poor, the weak, the starving people, etc. if a human being is raised and brought up to have a sound conscience who likes charitable acts, this person will acknowledge and respect the rights of others and give them their due. Thus, this person will follow the innate righteousness ingrained inside us by God.

3- A child is born with innate instinct and sense, and any child does not know yet about the earthly human-made creeds and religions of society and its false mortal gods. A child, driven by innate sense, raises queries that hold existential nature, such as questions posed by wise men and philosophers, about the nature of creation and the Creator and how and why we, humans, come to exist and where we are to go eventually. The answer to such queries lies in our innate nature itself in our soul and told in the divine message of the Quran; the belief in God without partners, and the fact that He was not begotten and did not beget offspring. He is the sole Creator of the universe. This is the soul of Islam, i.e., the Quran. "So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the' fitrah' (innate nature) of Allah upon which He has created [all] people." (Ar-Rum - 30). Any child, with unadulterated innate nature, cannot deify human beings or things. Such heretic notions are taught by society and are linked to popular creeds and beliefs and dominant social norms. Carnal desires, if dominant over one's soul, increases stinginess and make one's only goal in life is to satisfy one's lusts. This leads to more endless struggles in life with others that end eventually in the body's destruction by death. The moment of dying for bad people is the time when one feels extremely sorry for wasting one's time on earth over trivial matters and lusts, and one begs for safety and mercy, to no avail of course. The Quran reminds us of this in many verses. It is habitual that when any human being finds refuge after any fearful calamity, this human being returns to the habitual stinginess and struggle, to engage full-time in them till death. The moment such a person dies, it is no use begging for another chance.

4- Hence the importance of emphasizing the cultural and religious (i.e., Quranic) awareness of children. A child ought to learn innate sense of soundness and righteousness as well as charity and altruism in dealing with people in life. Such are the traits of piety that make one's soul get rid of stinginess, materialism, and egoism. Thus, when  children grow up, they will respect human rights and values of civil society. Hence the atmosphere in which development and increase of individual and national income will flourish.

Thirdly: Quranic principles of teaching children human rights:

1- In a word, the main principle is justice. Justice is the first and main reason that made God sent His messenger and His books. The Quran says: "We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice." (Al-Hadid - 25). That is to say that establishing a just society is realizing God's sharia ordained by all prophets. Any society that respects human rights is an Islamic society.

2- Justice comprises three degrees: dealing justly with God, with people, and with environment.

2:1. Dealing with Allah justly and giving Him his due respect is by believing in Him as the sole creator and God with no other partners. Polytheism is committing injustice toward God. He has created us, how could we worship other gods along with Him? God says in the Quran: "…do not associate [anything] with Allah . Indeed, association [with him] is great injustice." (Luqman - 13). This issue is disputed among human beings who hold different views about it. God will judge all people in the Day of Judgment and will decide who is right and who is wrong in many different issues, including the Oneness of God.

2:2. Dealing with people justly should be indiscriminately: whether they are friends, relatives, non-believers, or enemies. The Quran says: " .And when you testify, be just, even if [it concerns] a near relative…" (Al-An'am - 152).  "O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives."(An-Nisaa - 135). "O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah , witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness." (Al-Ma'idah - 8). "…And give full measure and weight in justice…."(Al-An'am - 152). "O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write [it] between you in justice. Let no scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him. So let him write and let the one who has the obligation dictate." (Al-Baqarah - 282). "Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly." (Al-Mumtahanah - 8). "…and I have been commanded to do justice among you.…"(Ash-Shura - 8). "…And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly."(Al-Hujurat - 9 ). Accordingly, when we give God his due respect and justice, we should not fear nor worship anyone else among the mortals, and thus, we minimize injustice and stinginess and human rights violations. One would turn to work and production while knowing that all one's rights are protected as long as one is faithful to one's work. Justice on the social, political, legal, and economic levels protects society from uprisings, violations, and unrest. Problems will be kept at bay. Justice will ensure that wrongdoers will pay for their crimes even if they were apparently protected by authority.

2:3. Rendering justice toward environment is signified by the Quran in the word 'balance'. In our modern culture, this word signifies moderation. Balanced and just dealing is the criterion of justice and the essential component of the creation of the universe, God's message to mankind, the Quran, and the reckoning in Doomsday.

3- Here are some details covering the above-mentioned point.  

3:1. God has created the universe with precise balance "And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance.That you not transgress within the balance.And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance." (Ar-Rahman – 7:9). We should never temper with that balance: people pollute the environment with chemical, biological, and physical experiments that disrupt the natural balance and lead to corruption. Likewise, overlooking God's command regarding justice creates corruption in human societies.

3:2. God's balance in His creation is found also in the number of atoms and their internal mechanisms as well as in chemical and mathematical equations, astronomical discoveries, and the Relativity Theory discovered by Einstein. God says in the Quran that all the universal scope is based on mathematical precision. "It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases - that you may know the number of years and account [of time]…"(Yunus - 5). "He is] the cleaver of daybreak and has made the night for rest and the sun and moon for calculation. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing."(Al-An'am - 96). "And the earth - We have spread it and cast therein firmly set mountains and caused to grow therein [something] of every well-balanced thing…..And there is not a thing but that with Us are its depositories, and We do not send it down except according to a known measure."(Al-Hijr – 19:21).

3:3. This precise balance in inanimate and animate creatures entails not to temper with it so as not to corrupt and pollute the environment. Likewise, God has given us His book with balance to make us able to deal justly with Him, with the environment, and with people."We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people…"(Al-Hadid - 25). The Balance, i.e., the Quran, is the way to apply justice in our life in all respects. "It is Allah who has sent down the Book in truth and [also] the balance."(Ash-Shura - 17).

3:4. In Doomsday, human good deeds are measured using a just, precise balance. "And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant."(Al-Anbya - 47).

3:5. Good deeds are measured against the celestial book, the Quran, which is the balance by which we are to seek judgment in our lives and affairs. "And the weighing [of deeds] that Day will be the truth. So those whose scales are heavy - it is they who will be the successful.And those whose scales are light - they are the ones who will lose themselves for what injustice they were doing toward Our verses."(Al-'Araaf – 8:9). Hence justice is to be done in this life and the next.

3:6. Corruption is the opposite feature of justice. If corruption reigns supreme in social life among people, injustice will prevail and human rights violated. Unrest, revolts, and uprisings ensue. Environment will accordingly suffer pollution, corruption, and transgressions. For example, corrupt public employees burn inventories before the annual time of counting stocks in Egypt. Arsons lead to air pollution. Another example is waging wars and using biological and chemical weapons that lead to more destruction to the environment. Egoism and money worship as exemplified by the blood-sucking capitalism lead capitalists to support tyrant rulers all over the world to wage wars to try weapons and sell them. Let us remember the Ozone layer hole and corrupt experiments like cloning and genetical engineering. Eventually, all humanity pays the exorbitant price of corruption in environment, morals, and human relations. Remember this Quranic verse: "Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]."(Ar-Rum - 41).     

3:7. The Quranic balance of justice is so precise; justice is to be rendered 100% not 99.99%, as less than 100% is considered injustice. This is the exact difference between justice and injustice. Unjust people are condemned in Hell. The Quran says: "But as for the unjust, they will be, for Hell, firewood."(Al-Jinn - 15). The notion that God likes the just people recurs three times in the Quran. Al-Ma'idah – 45, Al-Hujurat – 9, Al-Mumtahanah – 8.

3:8. If justice is the essence of human rights, then as much as one applies human rights, one is rendered just. This applies to God's laws of justice that realize social peace and economic flourish.

Fourthly: The Quranic vision in children upbringing:

1- A child knows the need to share toys and play with other children, to learn from them more than from adults. The most important notion to be learnt is to get rid of stinginess and egoism so that the child may gain more friends. Lack of discipline at home and overindulgence lead to being egoistical and miserly. One's family is the primary teacher of children in matters of altruism, charity, and piety.

2- Piet leads to justice: this is the role of schools, houses of worship, and the family together. This is not to minimize the role of religious and social impact on children. A child should learn to render justice in all deeds and words in dealing with God, people, and environment. This is easy if inculcated in early childhood when existential questions are posed by children about God and the creation…etc. A child ought to be taught the Quranic notions that are simple enough in themselves and so easily absorbed by children: one should worship God alone not along with His creations. Justice to others equals justice to oneself. Altruism and respecting human rights are basic tenets in Islam. Do to others as you want then to do to you. These simple facts are accepted by the minds of children, and this is the notion of justice in the Quran.

3- The Quran has its means of education to being up children properly:

3:1. Learning by experiment and trial: let us remember this Quranic verse: "Indeed, those you [polytheists] call upon besides Allah are servants like you. So call upon them and let them respond to you, if you should be truthful.Do they have feet by which they walk? Or do they have hands by which they strike? Or do they have eyes by which they see? Or do they have ears by which they hear? Say, [O Muhammad], "Call your 'partners' and then conspire against me and give me no respite."(Al-Araaf – 194:195). Thus, those who worship shrines and tombs, thinking they might draw benefit from them, the Quran admonishes them by telling them to try and seek help of these dead bones. This method of trial and experimentation is a physical empirical method to discover the truth that nothing should be worshipped with God.

3:2. The simple reasoning method. Let us be reminded of this Quranic verse: "Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah, they both would have been ruined…."(Al-Anbya' - 22). A child's mind can understand this and perceive God's commands of justice and fighting against injustice.

3:3. The parable method of stories with a moral and good example. Let us be reminded of this Quranic verse: "Allah presents an example: a slave [who is] owned and unable to do a thing and he to whom We have provided from Us good provision, so he spends from it secretly and publicly. Can they be equal? Praise to Allah! But most of them do not know."(Al-Nahl - 66).  You can find yourself lots of parables in the Quran that urge good deeds and justice and warn against injustice and evil ways. Such Quranic parables should be used to teach children the culture of human rights and doing good deeds to all people and to human societies at large.   

              


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