Justification for Human Rights

Most of us seem to agree that equality (metaphysical) and equity (material) are dependent on a sense of justice, and that this sense is a faculty of the human soul. Negar raised a good question in her response regarding whether this faculty requires education, the same as, say, reason does. In trying to formulate an answer, I realized something that worries me: currently the world does not share the sense of justice that we have all been describing, the implications of which can be seen in the suffering of the human race.

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This, I believe, is why Baha’u’llah wrote, “Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression.”1 However, He also offered the road map to comforting these twin Guardians of men: “It is incumbent upon every man, in this Day, to hold fast unto whatsoever will promote the interests, and exalt the station, of all nations and just governments.”2 Upon reading these words I could feel how tenuous the notion of human rights is in the world, even in those countries that are party to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights!?

Let me see if I can make my thoughts clear. As Baha’is, the reason for our belief in and upholding of human rights is our knowledge that we were created from the same dust and that none of us should exalt ourselves over another. With the understanding in our hearts that we are created from the same substance, then we have no choice but to accept to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land. From our inmost being, by our deeds and actions, oneness and detachment are made manifest through our sense of justice.3 In the rest of the world, however, the notion of human rights is founded on something much less enduring. Some concepts may be based on political or religious ideology, others on legal or moral values; but my fear is that these concepts are formed solely to serve a purpose, and if that purpose were to change, then human rights for certain populations would lose their justification. Perhaps this is one way in which the text is helping us appreciate the difference between justice as a spiritual truth and a purely secular view of justice.

In this connection, previously I had little trouble understanding the practical implications of the latter, because it is natural for me to link secular with practical; whereas, I had not given as much thought to the practical implications of a justice rooted in the human soul. If anyone else was in the same boat, then I’m sure you will also be transferring this learning to how you think about other realities as well.

1 Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 91

2 Ibid.

3 Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, p. 68


2 thoughts on “Justification for Human Rights

  1. Pingback: Human Rights: moral authority or relativity? « A mirror of the world

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