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September 23, 2018

Putting humanity first

Religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian faith at a meeting./FILE
Religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian faith at a meeting./FILE

Human beings have an inherent capacity to live together in

harmony irrespective of their socio-economic, political, racial and religious differences.

 

About a fortnight ago, Muslim faithful, scholars and spiritual leaders converged on Nairobi’s South B area to witness the commissioning of the newly built South B Mosque.

In December 2000, the site where this mosque stands was the scene of ugly skirmishes between Muslim youth and traders after the former pulled down trading stalls that were deemed to have been built too close to the old mosque, encroaching on the mosque’s land. The irate traders turned their anger on the mosque and burnt it down, leading to retaliatory attacks that led to the burning of the nearby Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

Thanks to the quick intervention by Muslim and Christian leaders working in brotherhood, the situation was calmed down and the feuding youth from both sides agreed to cool down their tempers.

Later, Muslims and Christians came together in a fundraiser that mobilised funds to rebuild the church. The building of the new mosque was sponsored by Muslim well-wishers. As the South B community celebrates a new beginning, the lesson we learn is that human beings have an inherent capacity to live together in harmony irrespective of their socio-economic, political, racial and religious differences. This capacity is what we refer to as ‘humanity first’.

The concept of ‘humanity first’ was the key topic at the interfaith conference held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre that preceded the commissioning of the new South B mosque. Attendees were reminded that when everything else is set aside— be it religion, race, economic power, social status or political affiliation— human beings will always have a common denominator in the form of an inherent instinct to live together harmoniously through inter-dependent relationships.

Drawing from the concept of ‘humanity first’, Muslims were urged to aim at promoting peace and understanding, and strengthening people’s capacity to help themselves. When Muslim passengers on a Mandera-bound bus risked their own lives to shield their Christian counterparts against the evil intentions of a murderous gang in December 2015, that was ‘humanity first’ at its best.

In Islam, the concept of ‘humanity first’ is encapsulated in a number of teachings, key among them being the Quran verse which states: “Surely, We have created man in the best make; then if he does evil deeds, We degrade him as the lowest of the low.” (Al-Quran 95: 4-6 ).

This reminds Muslims that God placed a high value on all human beings, such that even before one becomes a Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist, he or she is human first and that humanity is something that God values most.

The concept of ‘humanity first’ can be summarised as follows: suppose there is a God who a long, long time ago spoke to Abraham, promising to bless the world through his descendants. Suppose his descendants told their friends who told their friends who told their friends about Abraham’s encounter with God, with some of those friends identifying as Jews, some as Christians, and some as Muslims. Their descriptions agree in many respects — they all believe that God is one, merciful, just and Creator. They also differ in some respects. Christians, for example, think that God was incarnate in Jesus while Muslims and Jews reject the Trinity. And they, Muslims-Christians-Jews, even call God different names— Allah, the Father and Yahweh respectively. Different names and descriptions, but we are human first.

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