Duty Before Right
      Before World War I, as in the years since, many of the world's serious thinkers tried to formulate an order acceptable to man, an order that would spare him the misery and pains brought about by the causes of world turmoil that I have previously discussed.

      One of the many organizations concerned with this task was a group of noteworthy men from London publicized by the well-known writer H. G. Wells. After debating and corresponding at length, the group presented a program which enunciated the rights of man, and proposed that this program become a constitution for the world in the postwar era.

      The constitution consisted of eleven articles which, in the opinion of the group, embodied the rights of man, and asserted that these rights should not be contradicted by any existing law, constitution, or local custom of tribe or nation; for this constitution was to be the fundamental law which would abrogate every law that disagreed with it.

     The most important of these articles dealt with the sanctity of property, the right to education, freedom of belief, personal freedom, the right to work, and the right of the weak to protection from the community.

      The group sent the program to two of the great thinkers of the East, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, seeking their advice. Their responses were very different.
     Gandhi answered by first making a question: what were the practical results of declaring such rights, and who would watch over them and safeguard them? He suggested that the group had begun at the wrong end of the problem, that what the world needed rather was a conviction concerning human duties. This reply provoked Wells's anger, and the latter unleashed a shameful attack on the great leader for having refused to cooperate because of his passive faith, accusing him of retrogression and lack of appreciation of the necessities of the age.

      But did Wells do justice to Gandhi? Does his response not deserve consideration and reflection?

     As for Jawaharlal Nehru, his answer pleased Wells, who considered it practical and worthy of concerted attention, although he disagreed with him over a few minor issues. Nehru declared that, like the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war, the proposed declaration might end in nothing because it did not incorporate specific methods for its realization. He said that the blame for the sufferings of the world of our time could be laid to the corruption of its imperialistic and capitalistic political and economic system, and that the system had to be altered before men could enjoy the rights outlined in the declaration. A new world based on socialism was the answer, in Nehru's view, to the problem of assuring all men their basic rights and liberties.

     I would agree that the rights of man have been frequently declared and as often violated; but I would depart sharply from Nehru's standpoint and cleave to Gandhi's in this: that as long as men of power are not motivated by ethical conduct, laws, and conscience-by the perception of their duties-the rights of man will remain in their present state: impossible of realization.

     It is proper that we try a new system of ethical conduct and a new approach, with a new order based on duty; instead of attempting to equate people on the basis of rights, we should make duty the basis of equality-perhaps that would be more effective in repelling aggression and more conducive to respect for the rights of others.

     If through training we can accustom people to honoring the person who fulfills his duty rather than the one who demands his rights, we might succeed in making duty the source of ethical and social relations and thereby initiate a new order for a better world. For the training which focuses on duty as the goal of the refined human being leads to a form of respect for the rights of others which is more protective and beneficial than the employment of force in establishing and safeguarding those rights. Such training is more in conformity with the history of human reform inasmuch as it has always been the method of prophets and reformers. It would not be difficult to return to this method or to create a new attitude that dwells on praising those who fulfill their duty toward the rest of mankind.

     Prophets have forbidden killing, stealing, betraying, and deceiving, and have expounded upon the importance of one's duties to others, not one's rights. Should we become accustomed to denying ourselves that which is harmful to others and make our example universal, we would be taking a positive and decisive step in the direction of establishing a new order, although on the surface this might appear to constitute a negative message.

    By way of example, let us suppose that men were trained not to make distinctions between killing and warring because duty obliges the cultured and self-respecting man to refrain from depriving others of their lives when no crime has been committed and no law has been trespassed upon. This training could dissuade people from warring; the duty of the soldier fighting in a legitimate war would be regarded in the same light as the duty of the executioner is regarded by the public almost everywhere. Such training, and the ethics and law it would engender, would be more effective in preventing wars than all the pacts and charters mankind might draw up.

     Transforming the human concept of life is indeed a strenuous task, but then have not many views changed completely in a generation or two? Why should it not be possible to create, through proper upbringing and training, fundamental universal customs based on a respect for duty in all situations and circumstances? Perhaps it is feasible to direct those human instincts which we regard as sources of corruption to- ward the realization of pride in the fulfillment of duty.

      Man boasts when he saves someone from drowning or exposes himself to danger in extinguishing a fire. Now, if he could accustom himself to regarding nonviolence and self sacrifice - even martyrdom-in duty as deeds deserving the highest awards of society and as constituting perfect heroism, he would be employing his instincts for self-exaltation and boastfulness in the service of the general welfare.

      Why not immortalize the memory of those who have displayed virtue in fulfilling their duty rather than the memory of those who have exhibited their power in devouring and destroying others? To teach what constitutes duty and to sanctify it would be to erect and immortalize the citadel of the right. Thus, we would attain to reform through our natural disposition and refrain from disturbing such a disposition as we direct it toward the maintenance of the new order. It is difficult to believe that any member of my generation who has witnessed two world wars and who concedes that it is possible to achieve a new world order worthy of perpetuation would not advocate that war be completely outlawed. Can there be a way to this end more righteous than the way of the prophets-the abolition of crime through instruction in the precepts of duty?

      Why not teach people, therefore, to loathe war as they loathe murder? Is it possible to guarantee peace by disarming nations or by appointing certain armed nations as custodians of peace? What is there to prevent the armed custodians from warring against each other in a greedy desire to devour their charge if they do not have the self-discipline that ethical training based on the sanctity of duty instills? Such training is not impossible, nor are its fruits undependable; in the early times of man's experience he had considerable pride in his self-control and self-restraint. The history of human virtue is a long one, attending man in every generation, and the self-denial contingent on such virtue was acquired by man through social custom and religion. It became part of man's instinctive behavior because the instincts that serve human virtue are the same as those that suit man's sense of aggressiveness.

     When men take pride in being generous, they are satisfying their instinct to excel by expending and giving; but when they pride themselves on their material acquisitions, they are exercising the same innate power with selfishness and egotism.

      If, for example, we were to teach our children that their pleasure and self-admiration should not depend on donning new clothes on a holiday when the children of their cousins and neighbors cannot do the same, accustoming them to take pride rather in voluntarily refraining from putting them on as a form of self-respect, then the instinctive love for ostentation would be trained to satisfy its ends through restraint and would discover its fulfillment in duty.

     This would not be a new experience in the annals of mankind as it would conform with the spirit of the religions that have dominated man's history.

     Any natural disposition of man is universal, but its manifestations are many and various inasmuch as the human ego is shaped according to precepts of training and particular customs that aim at appeasing man's secret drives. There is no denying the fact that those who purport to organize the world should always have the natural instincts in mind. The way of the prophets, who directed instincts in a manner satisfactory to the standards of virtue and the common welfare, is the righteous way. If today, instead of announcing the rights of man, we enunciated his duties and clothed these duties in robes of honor and sanctity, we might succeed in arriving at a new order of righteousness. Let the law and customs fundamental for this order define the duties of man toward members of his household, his neighbors, and his country, toward his own kind and other beings. This practice may prove more enduring and more stable for future generations.

MENTOR Books of Related Interest
An explanatory translation of the sacred scriptures of Islam by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall. (# CQ375-950)

islam IN MODERN History by wilfred Cantwell Smith A noted scholar of comparative religions discusses the impact of Mohammedanism on Middle Eastern political life today. (#MT537-750)

THE FAITH OF OTHER MEN by Wilfred Cantwell Smith The essence of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and the faith of the Chinese, presented through a major symbol from each of the four religious traditions. (#MP627-600)

Varieties OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE by William James A new edition of James's classic work on the psy chology of religion and the religious impulse. Introduction by Jacques Barzun. (#MT320-75c)

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Copyright & 1964 BY THE Devin-ADAIR COMPANY.
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 Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship

none save Him, and [that ye show] kindness to parents.

if one of them or both of them

attain old age with thee, say not "Fie" unto them nor repulse them, but speak Unto them a gracious word.

And lower Unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: my Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. kORAN, 17:23-24

For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother) let him die the death. MATT. 15:4

To my father, who lived a prosperous, intellectual life within the bounds of Muslim law and faith, and to my pious, tolerant mother, who is a hundred years old and surrounded by the love and respect of more than a hundred children and grandchildren, some of whom are already grandparents. 6