In his lecture, Professor Sachedina challenged the exclusive claims to universality by some advocates of the International Declaration of Human Rights and their dismissal of the relevance of religion – Islam included – to the universal foundation of human rights. He called for an examination of the juridical and Qur’anic sources and foundations of human rights principles and went on in his lecture to elaborate those sources and foundations. In the course of his elaboration, he provided a well rounded critique – based on textual and historical evidence - to those who question the compatibility of Islam and human rights, including Muslim rulers, traditional or conservative jurists, political extremists as well as western analysts and policymakers.
In his lecture, and in his book Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights, Professor Sachedina rejects this informal consensus. He argues, instead, for the essential compatibility of Islam and human rights. To make his point, he not only measures Islam against the yardstick of human rights, but also measures human rights against the theological principles of Islam. He offers a balanced and incisive critique of western experts who have ignored or underplayed the importance of religion to the development of human rights, arguing that any theory of universal rights necessarily emerges out of particular cultural contexts. At the same time, he re-examines the juridical and theological traditions that form the basis of conservative Muslim objections to human righta, arguing that Islam, like any culture, is open to development and change.
In conclusion, Professor Sachedina called for a correspondence between Islam and secular notions of human rights. Grounding his work in Islamic history and thought, he reminded his audience that while both traditions are rigorous and rich in meaning, neither can lay claim to a comprehensive vision of human rights. He never loses sight of the crucial practical consequences of his theory: what is needed is not a comprehensive system of doctrine, but a set of moral principles that are capable of protecting human beings from abuse and mistreatment.