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Social Behavior and Respect for Human Rights

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Q: In a Muslim society, we normally know how to pray and to do other acts of worship. We love to visit Makkah and Madinah, to read the Qur’an and we may also offer voluntary prayer and other types of worship. Seldom, however, do we care for human rights, cooperation, doing our duty, etc. We do not mind contravening laws. We do not behave in a civilized manner. Rarely do we differentiate between what is right and what is wrong; and few of us know how to live with respect and show good manners. In my view, all responsibility is on the shoulders of parents and teachers who neglect to teach children how to behave and observe Islamic manners. Please comment.

A: Much of what you have said is correct. Our social behavior lacks so much refinement. But since Islam went on the decline in the Muslim world, so did our social behavior and our respect for other people’s rights. Our respect of the law is very much lacking, and this is entrenched in our behavior due to the fact that we, in most areas of the Muslim world, lived under foreign rule. They begin to try to outmaneuver the oppressive authority. With time, this develops into a normal attitude of disrespect to the law. Even when they live under the benevolent government, their entrenched attitude often takes the better of them. This is unfortunate, but true. It is true that we tend to give a great deal of emphasis to worship, and that we do not give due importance to other people’s rights. This is due to the fact that we tend to overlook the numerous Hadiths which make it clear that our faith requires us to love for others what we love for ourselves. The Prophet says: “None of you is a true believer unless he loves for his brother what he loves to have himself.” Islam does not know the selfish attitude. It inculcates in every Muslim the concept that a Muslim must always be one of a community where mutual love and compassion are paramount characteristics. I think you are asking parents and teachers a little too much. You cannot get out of anyone something that he has not got himself. All the parents and teachers are in the same boat as the rest of us. How can they inculcate such values in their children or students? The matter requires much more than that. It requires a return to our Islamic values, and this cannot be achieved unless scholars begin to teach people that Islam is much wider in outlook than the whole list of acts of worship. Governments should also give a helping hand by according such values the supremacy they deserve. To develop such social attitudes as Islam desires is a complete process, and the approach to achieve the desired goal must tackle all its aspects at the same time. The issue is much too serious to be given to teachers at schools or parents at home. It requires a whole national and community effort.