Home Religion & Spirituality Humanism Versus The Concept of Human Values In Islam: A Comparative Study

Humanism Versus The Concept of Human Values In Islam: A Comparative Study


Humanism and its human values: Humanism is a special term which refers to a rationalist movement that came into existence during the European Renaissance, with the motive of adhering to humanity and resisting fundamentalism and recession. It aimed, in particular, at eliminating the authority of the Church and all the restrictions of the middle ages.[1]

During the European Renaissance, the ideas of Humanism served as a cultural revolution that confirmed the commendable achievements of humanity, such as human rights and freedom in a society that was controlled by the Church and feudalism, and in which many forms of human rights violations were permitted in the name of submission to God. Moreover, the ideas of Humanism found a remarkable place in the books of thinkers and philosophers in the eighteenth century, during the emergence of the Great French Revolution. They raised the voice for freedom, equality and brotherhood as well as for the right of people to develop their personal potential and abilities, with a concern for their happiness and well-being. These are ideas that subsequently contributed to set up the first building blocks of the human rights chapter.[2]

The idea of Humanism is based solely upon the bond of human unity, defying all national, religious, and other differences in principles, doctrines, beliefs, and interests.[3]

Even though  Humanism, unlike Islam, rejects the fact that the universe is dominated by a creator, who created man to be tested in the journey of his life, so that he might be recompensed with reward or punishment depending upon his good or bad deeds. It, however, sees religion as beneficial for human life with a view that, in religion, the human emotions can be exploited for the well-being of human society and its protection from degradation and corruption. So, for this purpose, the ideologues of Humanism invented a religion in which all religious deeds converge on the point of serving humanity. They, at the same time, described Humanism as God instead of the Lord Almighty.[4]

The proponents of Humanism are of the opinion that the goal for which a person should take pains and sacrifice his individuality, is to serve the human race. They do that under the slogan “life for the sake of others” invented by Konnight, one of the proponents of Humanism.[5]

This is what Humanism is all about. But due to the fact that this doctrine has been incapable of performing its role in protecting human dignity and rights, it came in for severe criticism by many Western thinkers. They described Humanism as merely lip service that is just confined to the literary salons, shying away from the every-day life of hard-working, downtrodden, and oppressed sections of the society. And this is what prompted the philosopher Michel Foucault to proclaim the famous slogan of “Death of Humanity” after he saw heinous brutality of colonization in the colonial countries, the plunder of their wealth, killing and annihilating of their inhabitants, destruction of their culture, and their geographical displacement.[6]

As a matter of fact, humanity today is in dire need of promoting humanism through spirituality, or else it will vanish if it is based upon temporary interests or the exchange of material benefits, and not upon the religious belief that holds everyone responsible before Allah for every action they do.

Seen in this light, the world will not find a call for humanity like Islam, nor can there be a system that is more merciful to humanity than Islam. So, in order to clarify the extent to which Islam gives importance to human values, I am going to address below some of the values that Islam promotes.

Human values in Islam: Islam instills in the soul the seed of compassion. Allah has described Himself with it over and over again in the Quran. And in His prophet’s heart, he has poured the mercy, as he says: “so by the mercy from Allah you were lenient with them, and if you had been rude and harsh to them, they would have deserted you, so pardon them, and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in the matter.”[7]

The Quran described the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as a mercy, and vividly stated that this mercy is not meant just for particular sect or group, but comprehensively meant for the creations altogether, as it says: “we did not send you (O, Mohammad) but as a blessing and mercy for all beings.”[8] In addition, see what a gripping picture of his mission the prophet drew after he was asked to curse on idolaters, he replied: “ I was not sent to curse, I was sent as a mercy”[9]

Furthermore, this mercy in Islam goes beyond the world of human beings and extends to every living being, as in the following hadith (prophetic narration) the prophet is narrated to have said: “while a man was walking on his way he became extremely thirsty. He found a well; he went down into it to drink water. Upon leaving it, he saw a dog which was panting out of thirst. His tongue was lolling out and he was eating moist earth from extreme thirst. The man thought to himself: ‘This dog is extremely thirsty as I was.’ So he descended into the well, filled up his leather sock with water, and holding it in his teeth, climbed up and quenched the thirst of the dog. Allah appreciated his action and forgave his sins”. The companions asked: “shall we be rewarded for showing kindness to the animals also?” He said, “A reward is given in connection with every living creature”.[10]

Islam pulls the individual out from his limited self to the higher horizon, in the same way as it takes a nation or group out from its narrow perspective to the broad horizons of humanity. In this case, an individual or nation comes to live not for only himself but for the sake of the whole of humanity. Islam addresses Muslims as: “You are the best nation produced for mankind, you enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah”.[11]

In another verse of the Quran, Muslims are obliged to protect the weak and vulnerable sections of the society, as Quran says: “And what is the matter with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and for the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from yourself a protector and appoint for us from yourself a helper?”[12]

Islam has set a universal brotherhood in which all are equal, men and women, no matter what the tribes or nations they are coming from, and the professions and posts they belong to, be they rich or poor, all are equal in the eye of Islam, that’s why Allah says: “O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you people and tribes that you may know each other. Indeed the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”[13]

Thus Islam has struck a harsh blow to every vanity or humiliation based on the tribal discriminations, and commands everyone to treat others with equality, as the prophet says: “No one of you becomes a true believer until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself”[14]

These are some of the virtuous human values that Islam has brought forth, and it is obligatory for the Muslims to take these values and others of the same kind into account while dealing with people, whether they be Muslims or Non-Muslims.

Conclusion: What this all boils down to is that Islam and Humanism both agree on some basic moral values, such as compassion, justice and brotherhood, and others that bring laurels to the ones who hold them. However, what distinguishes Islam from Humanism is that, in Islam, these values stem from the true faith in Allah, but not the other way round. This is why the prophet linked good manners with true faith, he said: “The most perfect believer in respect of faith is he who is best of them in manners”.[15]

This faith inculcates these values deep in an individual, as he adopts them in pursuit of Allah’s happiness. So neither does he place them on the back burner nor does he relinquish them. On the other hand, as for the one who lacks faith in Allah, as is the case with the believer in Humanism, he adheres to morality as long as he obtains through it what, he thinks, is more important, such as earning money, fame or respect. If these are out of the picture he will not hesitate a bit to relinquish or kick these values off.

Works Cited:

  • Almojamu-ul-falsafi, Majma-Ul-Luga Alarabiyya, Alhaiat-ul-Amma lishuoon-il- matabe Alameeriyya,Cairo, 1983AD.
  • Aldavi, Abdur Razzaq, Mout-Ul-Insan Filkhitab-il-Falsafi Almuaasir, Daruttaliaa, Beirut.
  • Almaidani, Abduer Rehman Hasan, Kawashifu Zuyoof, Darul Qalam, Damascus, Second Edition, 1991AD.
  • Awaji, ghalib bin Ali, Almazahib-Ul- fikriyya, Vol 2, Almaktabat-Ul-Asriyya Azzahabiyya, Jeddah, 2006AD.
  • Alrifai, Abdul Jabbar, Inqaz-Un-Nazat-UL-Insaniyya, Markazu Dirasaati Falsafat-ud-Deen, Baghdad, Second Edition, 2013D.
  • Al-Quran.
  • Sahih Almuslim.
  • Sahih Albukhari.
  • Sunan Abu-Dawood.

[1]  Almojam-ul-falsafi, p,174

[2]  Aldavi, Abdur Razzaq, Mout-ul-Insan, p,190-191

[3]  Almaidani, Abdurrehman Hasan, Kwashifuzuyoof, p276

[4]  Ibid, p,415

[5]  Awaji, Ghalib bin Ali, Almazahib-ul-fikriyya, v2,p830

[6] Alrifaee, Abdul Jabbar, Inqaz-un-Nazatul insaniyya, p. 285-286

[7]  Surah Al-Imran: 159

[8] Surah al-Ambiya: 107

[9] Sahih Al-Muslim H.N.2599

[10] Sahih albukhari, H.N.6009

[11] Surah Al-Imran: 110

[12] Surah, Al-Nisa,75

[13] Surah Al-hujurat: 13

[14] Sahih Al-Bukhari: H,N.13

[15] Sunan Abu Dawood, H. N.4682