The Quran lays down sacrosanct human rights as basic rights of every human being:
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ
“NOW, INDEED, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam.” – (17:70)
That is, Allah has conferred dignity and honor on every human being. Every human being is worthy of equal respect – by virtue of being human. Respect must be given to one’s humanity, not to any physical attributes. So, the core universal value is: whatever is done in the name of Islam – whether establishing a system, developing a concept, enacting a law, or conducting a business – if there is anything in it that disrespects or denigrates any human being, then it is non-Quranic, it is non-Islamic. It is a crime against humanity, because Allah has declared that He has conferred dignity to all humans.
Another universal value is related to work ethic. The Quran describes this universal value as a principle related to occupation in life:
وَلِكُلٍّ دَرَجَاتٌ مِّمَّا عَمِلُوا ۖ وَلِيُوَفِّيَهُمْ أَعْمَالَهُمْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
“And to all are (assigned) degrees according to the deeds which they (have done), and in order that (Allah) may recompense their deeds, and no injustice be done to them.” (46:19)
The principle is that one must be assigned a position purely based on merit, qualification, and performance of duty. One will receive full recompense of one’s endeavors irrespective of demographics or any other consideration – such as elitism due to birth; or religious or temporal connection or confederation. None will be shown any favor, and no one will be wronged. This is Allah’s Law of Requital. If anyone is denied this merit-based appointment for a job, then one should be able to demand justice based on one’s God-given human rights.
Therefore, leaving aside other principles, even if these two basic principles – (i) equal dignity to all human beings and (ii) appointment to positions based purely on merit and qualifications and everyone receiving full recompense of one’s effort – get established in a society, then won’t that society turn into heaven on earth? In Arabic the root of ظلم (Dhulm) (ظ – ل – م) means things not being kept at their proper place: a human given lower position than the one he/she deserves or vice versa. This is the real source of corruption in society. The cries we hear – that there is corruption everywhere – is the result of this unfairness or ظلم (Dhulm).
But people who deny the truth (of Allah’s Law of Requital), make enjoyment of worldly comforts and luxuries the sole aim of life till they reach their graves (102:1). They become arrogant and glorify themselves and cause corruption and imbalance in the world in clear violation of Allah’s order (55: 8-9). They achieve greatness without doing any good (balance-restoring) deeds.
The Quran says:
وَيَوْمَ يُعْرَضُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا عَلَى النَّارِ أَذْهَبْتُمْ طَيِّبَاتِكُمْ فِي حَيَاتِكُمُ الدُّنْيَا وَاسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهَا فَالْيَوْمَ تُجْزَوْنَ عَذَابَ الْهُونِ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَسْتَكْبِرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَبِمَا كُنتُمْ تَفْسُقُونَ
“And on the Day when those who were bent on denying the truth will be brought within sight of the fire, [they will be told:] “You have exhausted your [share of] good things in your worldly life, having enjoyed them [without any thought of the hereafter]: and so today you shall be requited with the suffering of humiliation for having gloried on earth in your arrogance, offending against all that is right, and for all your iniquitous doings!” (46:20)
وَمَا هَـٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَهْوٌ وَلَعِبٌ ۚ وَإِنَّ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ لَهِيَ الْحَيَوَانُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ
“For, [if they did, they would know that] the life of this world is nothing but a passing delight and a play – whereas, behold, the life in the hereafter is indeed the only [true] life: if they but knew this!” (29:64)
If they were to use their intellect and wisdom, they would clearly realize that if life means continuance of breath only, then there would be no high ideal or objective before human beings. Living would mean only the satisfaction of physical desires and nothing but a passing delight or a display. If they analyze logically they will realize that real life means “living at human level.” Life at human level goes on even beyond death. Life that ends with death is the physical body, the “animal level of life” of the human. Allama Iqbal says:
It is what human does that defines his “life” of heaven or hell;
The human, made of dust, in its nature, is neither fire nor light!
The Quran distinguishes human “life” from human “age.” The stoppage of human breath ends his age not his life. Death ends the physical life, but the human life moves on. Age is related to physical processes and ends due to physical reasons. But “life” is built with balance-restoring righteous deeds (عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ – ‘Amilus Saalihaat) which then moves ahead carrying these deeds with it to the next level after the physical death. Those who do not believe this, their deeds are related to age; and their deeds and the results of their deeds end with age. They receive their high accolades in the world. They receive all the credits of their good charitable deeds in the world. They do everything for allure of age, and it ends with the end of age. This is their motive. So, there would be nothing left for them in the Hereafter. But the driving force for achieving continuous stream of life is quite lofty, well beyond their motive to gain worldly fame and accolades. As Allama Iqbal says:
Your way is to count the number of breaths;
My way is focused on how to boost life itself.