Islam and Human Dignity
As discussed last chapter, one of the arguments often given for the justification of the concept of human rights is the goal of attaining human dignity for all. As a justification for the human rights paradigm, as was noted, it turns out to be very weak. Furthermore, it is questionable as to simply giving people a set of determined rights does actually bring about human dignity. Without a metaphysical basis, stripping human beings to nothing but a material being, one wonders how human dignity could possibly be attained.

The religion of Islam, on the other hand, is all about human dignity. It is about releasing the potential in human beings and guiding them to a path in which they will become “the best that they can be.” From the Islamic perspective, the most noble and dignified a human being can be is in being a worshipper and servant of Allah. Obviously, many human rights advocates would shutter at this very idea where the central piece moves from a glorification of the human to a deserved glorification of the One true God. However, it must be accepted that if that were what humans were meant to be, then this goal is the real fulfillment of human dignity. human rights advocates may not agree with that premise but, at the same time, they have nothing to prove it to be false or unreasonable.

Allah tells humankind about how He has honored and favored them: “We have honored the descendents of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of Our Creation” (al-Israa 70).  This means that all of humankind start out as honorable creatures of God. Allah has blessed humans with many things that He has not blessed other parts of the creation. Furthermore, according to Islamic beliefs, when Allah created the first human, He ordered the most noble of creations, the angels, to bow down to him. This was indeed one of the greatest displays of showing the important place that this new creation possesses. Finally, the rooh or spirit that was breathed into the original human has been described by Allah as coming specifically from Him, “And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My soul [that I created]” (al-Hijr 29). In particular, humans have been blessed with a great intellect and will that puts them above the other creatures of this world.

Thus, from the Islamic perspective, humans are a noble creation and with a very noble purpose indeed: to become true servants and worshippers of God. The greatest of all humans according to Islamic beliefs, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) demonstrated that being a servant of God is the most honored and exalted a human being can be. Thus he said, “Do not extol me like the Christians extolled the son of Mary. I am His slave-servant, so say, ‘Slave of Allah and His Messenger.’”  According to Islamic beliefs, being a true servant of God is the ultimate expression of humanness. In fact, there can be no other sound goal because, as Muslims believer, this is the only goal that is truly consistent with the nature and souls of humans.

However, not all humans choose to follow the path of human dignity. From the Islamic perspective, humans were created with a limited free will. Humans are free to develop their great potential or they are free to debase themselves. Allah says, for example, “Say [O Prophet], ‘O humankind, the truth has come to you from your Lord, so whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul, and whoever goes astray only goes astray [in violation] against it. And I am not over you a manager’” (Yoonus 108). Allah juxtaposes the two decisions even clearer in the following verses: “We have certainly created man in the best of stature; then We return him to the lowest of the low, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward uninterrupted” (al-Teen4-6).

In sum, from the Islamic perspective, true human dignity and worth comes from the human realizing his real purpose and worth, which is found in being a true and devoted servant of the Creator of the Universe. This implies submitting with true sincerity and devotion to the revelation that has come from God, without any arrogant rejection of what God has commanded.It is important for contemporary human rights activists to realize that they often demand of Muslims that they do what strikes at the very heart of the Muslim’s perception of human dignity. Muslims are asked to literally disobey or “alter” clear commandments of the Quran or Sunnah—albeit very few will openly admit that such is what is being requested of Muslims. From the Muslim’s perspective, this strikes at the very root of what it means to be a true and righteous human.