An Ideal Personality
by Hadhrat Imam Ghazali (RA)
Prophet's Moral Teachings
Islam had come to illuminate the lives of the people with the light of virtue and good manners, to create in them brightness of character, and to fill their laps with the pearls of good conduct. It made the stages that came in the process of achieving this great objective as an important part of the prophet hood. Similarly it declared all attempts to create disruption in these stages as an expulsion from the religion and equivalent tothrowing away the yoke of faith from one's neck.
The position of morality is not like that of the means of pleasures and luxuries, from which indifference may be possible. But morality is the name of the principles of life which the religion must adopt and must care for the respect of its standard-bearers.
Islam has enumerated all these virtues and principles and has encouraged its followers to make them parts of their lives, one after another.
If we collect all the sayings of the holy Prophet about the importance of good moral character, then a voluminous book will be prepared, about which many of the great reformers will be ignorant.
Before we enumerate these virtues and state their details, it will be proper if we quote some examples of how strongly and emphatically Islam has called upon the people to adopt good moral character.
Usama bin Shareek says: "We were sitting in the presence of the Messenger of Allah so quietly as if birds were perched on our heads. Nobody had the courage to open his mouth. In the meanwhile some people came and asked: "Amongst the slaves of God who is the dearest to Him." The Prophet replied: "One who has the best moral character." (Ibn Haban)
Another tradition has it: "They asked what is the best thing given to man ?" He replied: "Best moral character." (Tirmizi)
The Prophet was asked: "Which Muslim has the perfect faith ?" He answered: "He who has the best moral character." (Tibrani)
Abdullah bin' Amar has reported: "I have heard the Prophet as saying: 'Should I not tell you who amongst you is the most likeable person to me 1 And who will be the nearest to me on the Day of the Judgment 1' He repeated this question twice or thrice. The people requested him to tell them about such a person. He said 'He who amongst you has the best moral character.'"(Ahmed)
In another hadith, he has said: "On the Day of the Judgement there will be nothing weightier in the balance of a momin than the goodness of character.
Allah dislikes an obscene and a rude talker and the bearer of a good moral character reaches to the level of the observer of the prayer and fasting, on account of his character." (Imam Ahmed)
There would be nothing surprising if such teachings were to come from a philosopher who was busy in his campaign of moral-reform. But the great surprise is that these teachings come from a man who strived for establishing a great new faith, when all other religions turn their attention first only towards the performance of worship and such other religious rites.
The last Prophet gave a call for the performance of various Corms of worship and for the establishment of such a government that was involved in a long-drawn war with its large number of enemies. Inspite of the expansion of his religion and the immense increase in the various tasks of his followers, the Prophet informs them of the fact that on the Day of the Judgment there will be nothing weightier in their balance than their good moral character, then definitely this reality is not hidden from him that in Islam the value of morality is very high.
The fact is that if the religion is the name of good conduct between man and man, then on the other hand in its spiritual sense it is also the name of the best relationship between man and his God, and in both these aspects there is the same reality.
There are many religions which give this glad tiding that you may embrace any belief, your sins will be washed away and offering fixed prayers of any religion will cancel your mistakes.
But Islam does not believe in this. According to it, these benefits will be available only when the axis and centre of belief is a conscious step towards virtue and payment of the compulsory dues, and when the proposed worship can become the real source of washing away the sins and generating the real perfection. In other words evil can be removed by those virtues which man makes his own and by which he is able to reach high and lofty standards.
The holy Prophet has very forcefully emphasised these valuable principles so that the Ummah may understand it very clearly that the value of morality may not go down in its eyes and the importance of mere forms and shapes may not increase.
Hazrat Anas has reported: "Allah's Messenger has said: 'A slave achieves, by means of the goodness of his character, great position and high honour in the Hereafter, though he may be weak in matters of worship; but on account of his wickedness of character he is thrown in the lowest recesses of the Hell." (Tibrani).
Hazrat Ayesha narrates: "I have heard the Prophet as saying: 'Momin, by goodness of his character, achieves the high position of the one who observes fast and offers prayers." ( Abu Dawood).
Ibn Umar is reported to have narrated: "I have heard the Prophet as saying: 'A Muslim who observes moderation in matter of worship, on account of the goodness of his character and decency achieves the position of that man who observes fast and recites Allah's verses during prayers in the night." (Ahmed)
Abu Huraira has quoted the Prophet as saying: "A Momin's nobility is his religiousness, his tolerance is his intelligence, and his lineage is his goodness of character." (Hakim)
Abu Zar has narrated: "Successful is the man who had purified his heart for faith, kept his heart on the right lines, his tongue was truthful, his self was content, and his nature was on the right path."(Ibn Haban)
The Prophet's Excellent Example
Mere teachings and commands of Do's and Don'ts do not form the foundation of good moral character in a society, because only these things are not sufficient for developing these good qualities in the human nature; a teacher may merely order to do such and such things and not to do such and such things, and the society becomes a moralist society. The teachings of good conduct which is fruitful requires long training and constant watchfulness.
The training cannot be on the right lines if the example before the society is not such that commands full confidence, because a person having a bad moral character cannot leave a good impression on his surroundings.
The best training can be expected only from such a man whose personality, by the force of its morality, would create a scene of admiration in the beholders. They would sing praises of his nobility and feel the irresistible urge to benefit from the example of his life. The world would spontaneously feell the urge to follow his footsteps.
For nourishing and developing more and more excellent good character among his followers it is necessary that the leader must possess higher and nobler character and attributes than his followers.
The holy Prophet himself was the best example of the good moral character, to emulate which he was giving a call to his followers. Before advising them to adopt a moral life by giving sermons and counsels, he was sowing the seeds of morality among his followers by actually living that kind of life.
Abdullah Ibn Amar says: "The Messenger of Allah (p. b. u. h.) was neither ill-mannered nor rude. He used to say that the better people among you are those who are best in their moral character." (Bukhari)
Anas says: "I served the holy Prophet for ten years. He never said 'Uf (expressing dissatisfaction), nor did he ever ask me why I did this or did not do that(Muslim)
It is also reported by him: "My mother used to hold the Prophet's hand and used to take him wherever she wanted. If any person used to come before him and shake his hand, the Prophet never used to draw away his hand from the other person's hands till the latter drew away his hands, and he never used to turn away his face from that person till the latter himself turned away his face. And in the meetings he was never seen squatting in such a way that his knees were protruding further than his fellow-squatters." (Tirmizi)
Hazrat Ayesha says: " If there were two alternatives, the holy Prophet used to adopt the easiest alternative, provided there was no sin in it. If that work were sinful, then he used to run away farthest from it. The prophet did not take any personal revenge from any body. Yes, if Allah's command were to be disobeyed, then his wrath was to be stirred. Allah's Messenger did not beat anybody with his own hands, neither his wife nor a servant. Yes, he used to fight in the wars in the cause of Allah." (Muslim)
Anas has narrated: "I was walking with the Prophet. He had wrapped a thick chadar round his body. One Arab pulled the chadar so forcefully that a part of his shoulder could be seen by me, and I was perturbed by this forceful pulling of the chadar. The Arab then said: '0 Muhammed! Give me some of my share from the property which Allah has given you.' The Prophet turned towards him and laughed, and gave orders for a donation being given to him." (Bukhari)
Hazrat Ayesha has reported that Allah's Messenger has said: "Allah is soft-hearted. He likes soft heartedness. And the reward which He gives for soft-heartedness does not give for hardness, nay, such a reward He does not give for any thing." (Muslim)
In another tradition it is stated: "Softness in whichever thing it may be, will make that thing beautiful. And from whichever thing softness is taken out, it will become ugly." Jarir narrates that the Prophet has said: "The reward which Allah gives for soft-heartedness He does not give it for folly; and when Allah makes any slave His favourite, He gives him softness. Those families that are devoid of softness become deprived of every virtue." (Tibrani)
Abdullah bin Harith has reported that he did not see anybody smiling more than the Messenger of Allah. (Tirmizi)
Hazrat Ayesha was asked what did Prophet do at home? She replied:" He used to be in the service of his home people; and when the time of prayer came he used to perform ablutions and go out for prayer." (Muslim)
Anas has narrated: "Allah's Messenger had the best manners of all the persons. I had an adopted brother, whose name was Abu Umair. He had a sick sparrow, who was called 'Nagheer'. Allah's Messenger used to be playful with him and ask him : '0 Abu Umair! what has happened to your Nagheer'. " (Bukhari)
Of the habits and traits of the Prophet one trait was very well known that he was extremely philanthropic. He was never miserly in anything. He was very brave and courageous. He never turned away from Truth. He was justice, loving. In his own decision he never committed any excesses or injustice. In his whole life he was truthful and an honest trustee.
The same Quran, the same Criterion, the same Yasin, the same Taha
Allah has commanded all the Muslims to follow the excellent habits and the best traits of the Prophet and to take guidance from the holy life of the holy Messenger.
"Surely there is in the person of Allah's .messenger an excellent example for you-for every person who has hope in Allah and the Hereafter and remember, Allah, reciting His name many times." (Ahzab: 21) Qazi A'yaz says that the Prophet was the most excellent-mannered, most philanthropic and the bravest of all. One night cause). They saw that the Prophet was coming from that direction. He had rushed before all others to find out what was the trouble. He was riding the horse of Abu Talha, without a saddle, and a sword was hanging from his neck, and he was comforting the people not to be afraid saying there was nothing to worry.
Hazrat Ali says that in the battles when fighting started, we used to worry much about the Prophet, because nobody was nearer to the enemy in the fighting than the Prophet.
Jabir bin Abdullah says that whenever anything was requested of him, he never said: No.
Hazrat Khadija had told him when he was first blessed with the Divine Revelation: "You carry the loads of the weak people, you earn for the poor, and help a person if any trouble comes to him in following the Truth."
Once he received seventy thousand dirhams. They were placed before him on the mat. He distributed them standing. He did not refuse a single beggar till he finished the entire amount.
A man approached him and requested for something. He said: "At present I do not have anything, buy something in my name, and when we will get some money we will pay for it."
Hazrat Umar stated: "Allah has not made it compulsory for you to do a thing on which you have no power or control." This saddened the Prophet.
One Ansari said: "O Messenger of Allah! Spend and be not afraid of the straitened circumstances imposed by Allah."
The Prophet smiled and his face shone resplendently. He said: "I have been commanded to do this only."
The holy Prophet used to love his companions. He did not hate them. He respected every respectable man from any other nation, and he used to appoint him as a responsible officer over them. He used to be in search of his companions and gave them their shares. No companion thought that any other person was more respectable in the Prophet's eye than the companion himself.
Any person who adopted his companionship or anybody who came to him for his need, he used to advise him to be patient, till he was satisfied. If anybody asked anything from him, he gave it to him or else talked to him so lovingly that he came back satisfied. The river of his kindness was flowing for every body. For his companions he was a guardian, and in matters of Truth all were equal in his eyes.
He was good-looking, decent, humble and soft hearted. He was not a narrow-minded and a hard person. Quarrelling was not his habit. He never spoke obscene words. To condemn others or to praise some one excessively was beyond the pale of his character. He expressed indifference towards unnecessary things, but he was never given to pessimism.
Hazrat Ayesha says that there was none who possessed a better moral character than the Prophet. Whenever his friends or his home people called him, he readily responded.
Jarir bin Abdullah says: "Since the time I became a Muslim, the Prophet did not prevent me from entering (the house); whenever he looked at me, he smiled."
He used to exchange repartees with his companions, mix up with them freely, and tried to be nearer to them. He played with their children and took them in his lap.
Invitation from free men, male or female slaves, or poor persons were acceptable to him. He visited the ailing and invalid persons in the far-flung areas of Medina. He accepted the excuses of the really helpless people.
Anas says that if any person who whispered anything into his ears, he never removed his ear from his mouth unless the whisperer himself withdrew his mouth. Whenever anybody held his hand, he never tried to withdraw his hand unless the other man withdrew his. He always used to be the first to salute anyone who met him or to be first to shake hands with his companions. He never stretched his legs in the midst of his companions so that they may not be inconvenienced.
Whoever came to him was duly respected by him. Many times he used to spread his cloth for the visitor, and used to place the cushion which was in his use behind the visitor's back. If the visitor were reluctant to lit on the cloth, he used to insist.
He gave new family names to his companions. In their honour, he used to call them by beautiful names. He never used to interrupt anybody's talk till the speaker either stopped or stood up.
Anas narrates that if anybody brought a present to the Prophet he used to ask him to take it to a particular house Hazrat Ayesha says: "I was not jealous of any woman, nor did I feel any ill will towards Khadija, as I used to hear of her repeatedly from the Prophet. If any goat were slaughtered, he used to send it to her friends' house as a present. Once her sister asked for permission to come in. He was very pleased to see her.
A woman came to him and spoke endearingly of Khadija and asked questions about her lovingly. When she went away, he said: "This woman used to come during Khadija's time. Good relationship is a sign of faith".
He treated his relatives kindly, but he did not give them preference over better persons.
Abu Qatawa has reported that when a delegation of Najashi came to the Prophet, he rose for serving them. His companions told him that they were sufficient to serve them. He replied:
"They had honoured our companions, therefore I personally want to serve them."
Abu Usama has narrated that once the Messenger of Allah went among his companions leaning on a cane and his companions stood up. The Prophet said: "Do not stand up. Do not adopt the system of these Non Arabs who stand up to pay respect to one another."
He said:"I am a slave of Allah; I eat as other people eat, and I sit as other people sit." When he rode a mule, he allowed some one else to ride behind him. He used to visit poor invalids. He allowed the beggars to sit in his meetings. He mixed up freely with his companions. Where the meeting was over, he used to sit there.
The Prophet once performed Hajj on a cheap Kajawa on the back of a camel on which an old, torn chadar was spread, whose cost could be at the most four dirhams. He said: "O Allah I This is my Hajj in which there is neither hypocrisy nor show."
When Makkah was conquered and the Muslim soldiers entered the city, the Prophet was riding a camel and his head was bowed down in humility, so much 80 that it appeared that his head was touching a part of the kajawa.
He was of a quiet nature. He never talked without necessity. And if anybody talked with a wry face, he used to be indifferent to him and ignored him.
His smile was his laughter. His talk was straight and direct, in which there was no excess. His companions, in his honour and in following him, considered it sufficient to smile in his presence.
His meetings manifested a spirit of tolerance, trusteeship, honesty, virtue and righteousness. Voices were not raised there and no back-biting was allowed therein.
Whenever he opened his mouth to speak, his companions used to keep silent, as if birds were perched on their heads.
When he walked, it was with a balanced gait. There was neither fright nor haste in his gait, nor was there laziness.
Ibn Abi Hala says: "His silence was on account of tolerance, far-sightedness, estimation and thinking and contemplating."
Hazrat Ayesha says that he talked in such a way that if anybody wanted to count the words, he could do so.
The Messenger of Allah liked fragrance and used perfumes many times.
The world was presented to him with all her allurements and amusements. Victories were won by his armies, but he was indifferent to luxuries and pleasures. He died in such a condition that his armour was pledged to a Jew.http://archive.islamkashmir.org/radiant-reality/nov-2006.htm#10.%20An%20Ideal%20Personality
Some selected verses from the Holy Qur'an about his life, status, morals and mannerscompiled by Siddiq Osman Noormuhammad
On one occasion when mother of the faithful, Aisha (radi-Allah Anha) was asked about the morals and manners of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), she replied: "His morals are the Qur'an." This meant that the Holy Prophet's actions and sayings were a practical commentary of the Holy Qur'an, or, in other words, the Holy Prophet was the embodiment of action based upon the Holy Qur'an.Read more...
Allah, the Exalted, says:
"Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.'' (4:36)Read more...
You may be an atheist or an agnostic or you may belong to any of the religious denominations that exist in the world today. You may have been a Communist or a believer in democracy and freedom. No matter what you are, and no matter what your religious and political beliefs, personal and social habits happen to be— YOU STILL MUST KNOW THIS MAN!
He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numberless social and political reforms, established a dynamic and powerful society to practice and represent his teachings, and he revolutionized the worlds of human thought and human action for all time. His name was Muhammad (peace and blessings of Almighty Creator be upon him)—and he accomplished all these wonders in the unbelievably short span of twenty-three years.
Ignorant media, ignorant or hate-mongering "scholars" are busy in coining terms and propaganda of falsehood. Islam and its teachings are defined by the God, Almighty and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) and no one else!
A widely used term is "Islamic terrorists". Sorry, but there are NO Islamic terrorists. It is true that some with Muslim names have committed acts of murder and terror, but then there are governments, groups and individuals all over the world, some Muslim and some non-Muslims, engaged in such evil activities. When you use the word "Islamic", you associate it with the Islamic teachings. Islam does not teach evil. Islam asks for Faith, submission and obedience to God and God alone. Take it or leave it. Choice is yours. False definitions of Islam and propaganda of falsehood can only come from disciples of terror. Don't be one.
Now, let us read the following report:
Covering 150 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Amnesty International Report 2006 is a commentary on the state of the world’s human rights. It covers a range of issues and the responsibilities of governments - big and small - armed groups and business. But the overarching message that comes through is that:
Powerful governments are playing a dangerous game with human rights.
Those with power and influence – the US, European Union members, China and Russia – have been either complicit or compromised by human rights violations in 2005 at home and abroad.
Governments continued to sacrifice principles in the name of “the war on terror”.
A year ago, almost to the day, here in this room, on behalf of Amnesty International (AI), I called for Guantánamo prison camp to be closed. What was then AI’s lone voice has now become a large and influential chorus, including opinion leaders in the US, religious figures, key governments and UN entities, including the UN Committee against Torture. The US Administration reacted strongly to our call, but in a recent interview on German TV, even President Bush said that he “would very much like to close Guantánamo and put the prisoners on trial”. We in AI strongly urge him to do that or to release them immediately.
A year is a long time in politics – but it is an even longer time if you happen to be a prisoner without charge, trial, or prospect of release in Guantánamo. Some 460 people of around 40 different nationalities remain in Guantánamo. Their desperation is evident in the large numbers of suicide attempts, in one case more than 12 times, and hunger strikes. Last Friday’s incident of the attack on prison guards was yet another sign of the desperate situation. Guantánamo is a pressure cooker waiting to explode.
Guantánamo is only the tip of the iceberg of a large network of detention centres in Iraq, Afghanistan and secret locations around the world where the US and its allies are holding thousands of prisoners without charge or trial. Last week the UN Committee against Torture asked the US delegation whether the US maintains secret detention centres, the delegate responded: “No comment”.
Duplicity and double speak have become the hallmark of the war on terror.
Senior US officials – including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and President George Bush – gave assurances that the US does not practice torture. Yet, our research over the past year has shown evidence of widespread torture and ill treatment in the US-controlled detention centres. Our research also shows that the CIA has forcibly transferred prisoners to countries where they have been tortured. The IT industry outsources software development to India – the US outsources torture to countries like Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
A new aspect of the “war on terror” in 2005 was the concrete evidence that European governments are partners in crime of the US in rendering or transferring prisoners forcibly to countries where they have been tortured. At least seven European countries have been implicated in the rendition of fourteen individuals – but so far only one country (Italy) has opened criminal prosecution against the CIA.
Public outrage has forced accountability, with investigations by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and some national institutions, into renditions and US-run secret prisons.
Public institutions refused to undermine the prohibition on torture. The UK House of Lords rejected the argument of the government that it is lawful to introduce evidence in court proceedings that has been extracted as a result of torture by foreign agents abroad.
The US Senate adopted a law prohibiting the torture and ill treatment of prisoners in US custody anywhere in the world.
Sadly, instead of accepting and welcoming the efforts of courts and legislatures to reinstate respect for human rights, some governments found new ways to deny or dodge their international obligations
Bending to Republican pressure President Bush signed the bill prohibiting torture, but attached a statement effectively reserving the right of the executive to bypass the provision on national security grounds.
The UK professed to uphold the prohibition against torture but then, negotiated diplomatic assurances from countries that have a record of torture so that it could freely return people, including persons who had been tortured there previously. Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, Egypt, Algeria are all countries with which the UK has obtained or is in the process of obtaining such guarantees.
The position in international law is clear. Nothing can justify torture and ill treatment. Just as we must condemn terrorist attacks on civilians in the strongest possible terms, we must resist claims by governments that terror can be fought with torture. Such claims are misleading, dangerous and simply wrong – you cannot extinguish a fire with petrol.
When the US government ignores the absolute prohibition on torture and fails to investigate abuses by its soldiers, when the European governments bury their collective heads in the sand and refuse to question their own record on renditions, racism or refugees, they damage their ability to champion human rights elsewhere in the world.
Not every human rights abuse can be attributed to the war on terror but there is no doubt that it has given a new lease of life to old fashioned repression in some parts of the world.
In 2005 it provided an effective smoke screen for governments in the Middle East and North Africa to carry on with arbitrary detention, torture, unfair trial, suppression of political dissent, ethnic persecution, for instance of Kurds and religious minorities. These governments today do with greater confidence what they did in the past with fear of criticism. The war on terror has seen the rehabilitation of Libya, formerly considered a terrorist state, with the US re-establishing diplomatic ties, and the UK negotiating diplomatic assurances. On Sunday a Swiss Amnesty member in Tunisia was expelled, and yesterday a Tunisian member was arrested and then released – just two cases among many of harassment of human rights defenders.
But the real cost of the war on terror has not only been in the curtailment of civil liberties but in the lives and livelihoods of the poor.
2005 saw the biggest ever mobilization of civil society and public support to eradicate poverty. But in response, the UN Summit showed governments miserably failing to match promise to performance on the Millennium Development Goals. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and riots in France, 2005 was also a year which showed the glaring disparity, discrimination and alienation in the heart of richest countries of the world.
Women’s human rights have been another hidden casualty of the war on terror. March 2005 marked the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action for Women – but rather than building on the progress, it was spent resisting the backlash from conservative forces who have gained new lease of life in the current security environment. War on terror gets attention – the war on women goes unnoticed, with hundreds of women, for instance, in Mexico and Guatemala being killed with impunity; or 25% of women globally facing sexual abuse at the hands of their partner.
At a time of unprecedented globalization, with barriers to goods and capital being dismantled, 2005 saw the building of borders against refugees and migrants. Ignoring the economic exploitation of illegal migrants, governments focussed instead on building borders – whether against Burmese workers in Thailand, or African migrants in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and now in the US.
The security agenda of the powerful and privileged hijacked the energy and attention of the world from serious human rights crises.
Social development was not the only casualty. The forgotten conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East took their toll. Israel and the Occupied Territories also slipped off the international agenda in 2005, deepening the distress and despair of Palestinians and the fear of Israelis.
Powerful governments squandered their resources and spend their capacity in pursuit of military and security strategies that reaped a bloody harvest.
The score card of continued conflict and mounting human rights abuses are there for all to see in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The failure to investigate or prosecute abuses committed by their own soldiers or private security contractors undermined the claims by the Multi National Forces (MNF) that they were restoring the rule of law in the country. The current strategies of the Iraqi government and the MNF are clearly not working. When the powerful are too arrogant to review and reassess their strategies the heaviest price is paid by the poor and the powerless: in this case ordinary Iraqi women, men and children.
Governments, collectively and individually, paralysed international institutions and squandered resources and capacity in misguided military and security strategies.
Darfur was the saddest case in point in 2005. Two million people have been displaced, over 200,000 have died, thousands have been raped and the atrocities continue unabated. Intermittent attention and feeble action by the United Nations and the African Union fell pathetically short of what was needed in Darfur. China and Russia paralysed the UN Security Council to protect their oil interests and arms trade with Khartoum. The US was keen but its capacity was sapped by Iraq, and its moral authority tarnished by the war on terror.
In a year in which the UN spent much of its time discussing reform and membership of the UN Security Council, it failed to give attention to the performance of two key members – China and Russia – who have consistently allowed their narrow political and economic interests to prevail over human rights and responsibilities domestically and internationally.
Russia’s behaviour sent a strong message on human rights to its close neighbours. Its hostility to its own human rights defenders did not go unnoticed by other states with similar desires to clamp down on civil society. Russia supported Uzbekistan when it refused to allow an independent investigation into the Andizhan killings. Russia’s own approach to Chechnya was based on impunity for the abuses committed by its own security forces.
China’s rise as a global economic power places upon it greater responsibility in international relations. But China continued to show little concern for human rights at home or abroad, entering into economic partnerships with some of the most repressive regimes around the world, and continuing to restrict human rights at home.
2005 has been a year of contradictions – with signs of hope wrestling against failed promises and failures of leadership.
The overall number of conflicts worldwide has been decreasing, thanks to international conflict management, prevention and peace-building initiatives, giving hope to millions of people in countries like Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In Nepal, resistance by human rights defenders, journalists and political leaders, on the one hand, and firm pressure from allies abroad on the other, forced the King to hand power back to Parliament.
Despite the shortcomings of national judicial systems, the fight against impunity continues to gain new strength with steps being taken to bring Augusto Pinochet, Alberto Fujimori and Charles Taylor to justice. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first indictments against leaders of armed groups in northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The much discredited UN human rights machinery was overhauled and a new Human Rights Council has been established.
And in 2005 we saw an extraordinary display of solidarity and resistance across borders of human rights activists and ordinary people. From indigenous groups rallying in Latin America, to women asserting their rights in Asia, to mass demonstrations of migrants in US cities, the human rights idea – and the world-wide movement of people that drives it forward – is more powerful and stronger than ever.
More and more, governments are being called to account: before legislatures, in courts and other public forums. Lines, however fragile, are being drawn. Voices are being raised. This offers hope for a more principled approach to human rights and security in the future. In the long-term, this growth of civil society and mass action bodes well for the protection of human rights. There is real potential here for change.
As we look forward to 2006 it is clear that there are both opportunities and risks – through our campaigns we are putting four challenges.
First, Guantánamo must close. President Bush should keep his word. His credibility will be held hostage until he ends this shameful symbol of US abuse of power. The US and its allies must disclose the names and locations of all others held in secret detention – the detainees should be prosecuted or released.
Second, small arms are the real weapons of mass destruction. They fuel conflict, poverty and human rights abuses worldwide. The UN Review Conference this June is an opportunity for governments to agree to an Arms Trade Treaty. We call on all governments to support it.
Third, the new UN Human Rights Council machinery will meet for the first time next month. It must not be tainted with old power games. It must insist on equal standards by all governments, whether in Darfur or Guantánamo, Chechnya or China.
Finally, the killings, rape and displacement in Darfur must stop. The Darfour Peace Agreement contains strong human rights provisions that offer a way ahead, if properly implemented. But for it to work, the UN Security Council must urgently deploy UN peacekeepers, and must not allow itself to be manipulated by the government of Sudan. Pending their deployment, the African Union monitors must be supported by the international community to carry out their work. There is a particular responsibility on the Arab states to encourage Sudan to concede to the UN operation. Arab leaders do a disservice to themselves and their people when they use solidarity as a shield to avoid their human rights responsibilities.
More than ever the world needs countries with power and influence to behave with responsibility and respect for human rights. Governments must stop playing games with human rights.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
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