Man from the Qur'anic point of view
The story of Adam as portrayed in the Qur'an shows that in the course of his material development and physiological changes,(1) man reached a stage where he obtained a new birth(2) with the infusion of the Divine spirit.(3) Then in the course of his normal development, he suddenly experienced a divine change as the result of which he was transformed into such a super being(4) that even the angels were asked to pay obeisance(5) and the world forces were made subservient to him.
The Forbidden Tree of Paradise is not that of knowledge which should not be approached, but it is a tree of lust which should be controlled. It is a means by which man tests his will-power and the power of self-control. Even man's disobedience is a symbol of the freedom granted to him by Allah.
To have access to 'knowledge' is not forbidden to him: In fact, it is a gift with which he has been especially blessed. Allah taught him that which none else knew.(6) Knowledge is one of the factors by which man gained superiority over the angels.(7)
Even Adam's expulsion from Paradise was a forerunner of a sort of self-sufficiency, the blooming of his talents and the beginning of his creative struggle.(8) It was a stage preliminary to his self-making. Though 'fall' came in the wake of disobedience, but it did not culminate in condemnation and permanent contempt. As the result of seeking forgiveness and attaining self-consciousness, it became a matter of blessing.(9)
Man's relation with Allah is not that of hostility or rivalry, for Allah is Self-sufficient and All-powerful. Even if all men disobey him, He is going to lose nothing.(10) He is far away from jealousy and any kind of anxiety. Therefore man cannot place any restraint on Him through his disobedience. Man's disobedience is only a manifestation of his free will and power of choice granted to him by Allah.
Allah appointed man as His vicegerent on the earth,(11) that is to say that He gave him authority and power. Not only that, whatever man could use and could control in the heavens, was also subdued to him.(12)
Allah is not apprehensive of man. He urges him to settle on the earth(13) and make use of all the forces hidden in its mountains and plains.(14)
Man's domination over land and sea and his control of them is one of the requirements of his dignity.(15)
According to the Qur'an man is neither a predestined being(16) nor has he been given a free reign to pass an aimless life.(17)
He has been endowed with many capabilities, dispositions and motives accompanied by a sort of inner direction(18) and innate guidance(19) which if nut corrupted, lead him to truth, knowledge,(20) and all stages of creative skills, including those of new discoveries based on previous experience, those of the invention of new tools and equipment for the expansion of. his control of nature and those of increasing his efficiency in overcoming any hurdles which he may have to face.
Besides that, man is also the bearer of the `Divine trust'(21) representing consciousness, will and power of choice, which are the symbol of his humanity and make him a responsible being. This Divine trust is that magnificent gift of Allah, which the heavens, the earth and the mountains were not competent enough to accept. Only man could bear the responsibility of having the power of conscious choice and free will.
RANGE OF MAN'S CHOICE AND WILL
In order to know the conditions, limits and the field of man's choice, to ascertain the effects of this power on him, and to find out what factors influence his way of thinking, we must take the following points into consideration:
(1) Innate nature of man and his disposition
Man has many motives and instincts which pull him towards themselves. Some of his instincts are derived from a material source, and some others from a Divine spirit. You may call these instincts propensity, disposition, natural urge, tendency or inclination. Some most important of these instincts are as under:
• Inclination towards and need of food, clothing and
• The instinct of self-defence;
• Sexual urge;
• Aesthetic sense;
• The instinct of gaining position and respect;
• The instinct of seeking truth and liking it;
• Love of knowledge;
• Love of justice;
• Love of perfection and a desire to seek it.
Such instincts and urges are interwoven with the innate nature of man,(22) and hence they are not transient and acquired. But still their existence does not mean that man is a captive of them. These instincts only bring about a sort of inclination and attraction. They work as a motive force, but they do not tie the hands of man. Man has the power to follow or not to follow them. It is within his power to satisfy his instinctive desires or to restrain them, to supervise and guide them or to change their direction.
These urges are actually controlled by man's will based on his way of thinking.
(2) Modification of Propensities
The modification of propensities and instincts is essential, though it is very difficult and requires a great deal of effort, awareness and hard work.
It may be easily understood that each of the abovementioned instincts is in itself a need of life.
Should there be no sexual urge, there shall exist no motive for procreation and formation of a family.
Should there be no inclination to food, man shall take no steps to meet his nutritional requirements and consequently he shall perish.
Should man have no desire to gain honour and social position, he shall succumb to disgrace and humiliation.
A desire to secure position and social respect can impell one to make fruitful efforts and to do social work etc. But if this very desire becomes too excessive, it may overcome all other motives and may turn into a lust for power and position. In that case man begins to worship the idol of power and becomes a tyrant. He may go to any extent and may adopt any means, including spending money, making flattery and taking any mean action. In some cases one may even bear hunger and any other hardships to gain one's selfish ends.
Even after gaining power in order to maintain and enhance it, such a person may commit any crime and resort to telling lies, and intimidating and slaughtering people.(23) In other words he may trample upon the high values of justice, realism and benevolence. (24)
We observe how one instinct can overpower a man if it is not properly checked and is allowed to exceed the proper bounds; but we must not forget that in this case the instinct becomes an idol which man creates for himself(25) by misusing his power of choice, and it is he himself who can break this idol and can promote his higher tendencies. He can check and reform those instincts which exceed the proper bounds, so that he may save himself from sinking into sin.
'As for him who repents, believes and does what is right, it is boped that be will prosper". (Surah al-Qasas, 28:67).
"But be who fears the position of his Lord and curbs his base desires, shall surely dwell in Paradise" . (Surah al-Nazi'at, 79:40-41).
"Those who are saved from their own greed sball surely be prosperous" . (Surah al-Hashr, 59:9).
There are many other verses which strongly censure imbalance in tendencies and declare that the problem should be solved by making positive efforts to promote higher tendencies.
The Qur'an considers man to be always responsible to make efforts to reform himself and to guide all his tendencies so that none of them may exceed its limits and shrivel the freshness of human nature.
(3) Role of natural and geographical environment
It is not possible that the natural and geographical environment of a man should have no effect on his spiritual and emotional life. just as the features and muscles power of all men cannot be the same, similarly the spirituality of a man who has grown up in the scorching heat of a desert amidst sand-dunes cannot be similar to that of another man who lives in a coastal region having humid climate and dense forests. There is no doubt that hot climate, salt water, or mountainous region cannot have the same effect on human tendencies as for instance, cold climate, sweet water or marshy land has. This is just as the physique of the people of all regions cannot be the same.
However these varied natural and physical conditions do not compel a man to go in a particular direction though they may provide him to some extent a conducive atmosphere to induce him to adopt a certain way of life. No region compels a man to maintain or lose his self-respect, to defend his freedom or succumb to subjugation, to be virtuous or wicked or to be laxy or industrious.
It is man himself, who in spite of all difficulties and unfavourable conditions, can find his way and use his will-power to strengthen his constructive spirituality.
(4) Role of historical, social and economic factors
The historical factors, social atmosphere, economic relations and social conditions also play a basic role in giving direction to man's tendencies, his motives, his outlook and his way of life. Some times they set iip hurdles in the way of man's freedom and his power of choice.
But we should not forget that the present conditions were brought about gradually by some people and other people can fight the existing evil factors under the banner of freedom and knowledge, can add to their intellectual matureness, and by using what remains of their will and decision-making power can fight corruption. This subject will be discussed further while dealing with the historical outlook of Islam.
(5) Role of the rules and regulations in the field of choice
We have come to know that man has certain tendencies and instincts which must be guided and modified. As natural factors and environmental conditions affect his choice and his mode of life, he must take steps to improve his surroundings and change them for the better. The principles and rules on the basis of which this modification and improvement should take place, are one of the most important topics connected with the question of man's choice and his will.
How should he mould his life and in what direction should he turn himself? What should he choose and on what basis? Should he allow others to impose certain principles on him and then of his own accord choose those very principles and go the way to which he is led in an invisible manner, as normally is the case in modern democracy?
Or should he allow himself to be involved in an ideological conflict on the basis of the theory of material compulsion and historical dialectic as advanced by certain schools of thought, and by bringing about further contradiction in this process, invigorate the movement and development of history?
Or should a man, as a principle, free himself from all principles already enunciated, get rid of his own preconceived ideas, and then with complete freedom make his choice and create leis own principles and rules, because there exists no principle other than that which one himself chooses? Or is there any other way out? If so, what is that?
From Islamic point of view, man has been created free from all such compulsions and no pre-concieved principle or view can be imposed on him to deprive him of his free will and power of choice.
Man should himself choose the rules and principles for moulding himself rightly and to serve his society in the light of his expanded knowledge. All the emphasis which the Qur'an lays on thinking, -understanding and reasonableness and that too on the thinking free from whims, myths and the wrong notions prevalant in the environment or inherited from forefathers, is aimed at paving the way for finding the truth.
(6) Divine revelation
One of the most important sources of knowledge and the domains of thinking is Divine revelation.
The world is not dark and void. In addition to those inner faculties with which Allah has provided man in order to help him find the truth. He has sent Prophets to guide him aright. This guidance does not mean forced imposition of Allah's will, nor does it mean the suppression of the creative will of man. It only means a sort of exhortation and Divine help. It shows kindness and graciousness of Allah. This guidance is a light which adds to the insight of man and does not restrict his will.
Man should get benefited by this guidance with his eyes wide open, and for that purpose, he should use his knowledge and insight. He should first think and evaluate, and only then make his choice. If even after identifying the truth, he persists in his disbelief, he shall stand condemned.
In support of these points, there is enough evidence "in the Qur'an. We have already quoted some verses.
(7) Man's own deeds make his destiny
Another question which gives direction to man's will and choice is his giving attention to the fact that his deeds make his destiny and that every action of his shall have a reaction sooner or later. Man's future actually depends on his own deeds.
The Qur'an says:
" Man gets only what be strives for". (Surah al-Najm, 53:39) "Corruption has become rife on land and sea because of the misdeeds of the people". (Surah al-Rum, 30:41).
It is the resistance of the people which prevents corruption.
"If Allah bad not repelled by the might of others, the earth would have been corrupted". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:251).
Paradise and Hell are the outcome and the reflection of the deeds of the people. "Tbis is Paradise which you have inherited by your righteous deeds ". (Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:72). "In fact those who commit evil and are engrossed in their transgression, shall be consigned to the fire in which they shall abide". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:81).
In fact the deeds of the people are preserved accurately and carefully. "Tbese shall have a share of what they have earned. No doubt Allah is swift at reckoning". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:210).
As in this world everything is well-planned and well-managed and there is nothing futile and haphazard, all human deeds have a role and a constructive effect.
This view makes it very clear that a man has to be very careful while making his choice. He is not allowed to set his hand to anything haphazardly and carelessly.
It is also essential that he should choose only what is right. He must not take a decision light-heartedly. That is why he is anxious and apprehensive. Perhaps it is this fear of Allah that leads one to practical piety.(26)
(8) Aim of Man's efforts
Now let us see what should be the aim of man's efforts. We know that
Islam proposes certain goals and principles and calls man to adopt them. This in itself is a blessing of Allah. But it is man himself who should choose his way thoughtfully.
Prosperity and salvation
According to the Qur'an one of the aims of the efforts of man is to achieve falah which means salvation and prosperity.
Fallah means the cultivator, who cleaves the land, prepares it for cultivation and arranges for all the conditions necessary for the growth and development of seed, which under the favourable conditions of soil and water shoots forth from land and with the help of natural forces increases in height and size.
Similarly if man arranges the conditions conducive to his human growth the perfection in every sphere and all dimensions of his nature, he will become free from the shackles of selfishness and base desires. He will be able to take full advantage of his talents and potentialities and his higher instincts will take a firm root. Such a man is said to have achieved falab and to have `prospered'. The Qur'an declare that this prosperity depends on self-making(27) modification of natural urges,(28) good deeds,(29) constructive and positive efforts,(30) resistance against the evil, co-operation for the good, piety,(31) betterment of the environment, diffusion of virtues, prevention of corruption(32) and the like.
(9) Ideals and values
With one evolutionary jump man begins to hold an ideal for the sake of which he forgets himself, concentrating his attention on faith and the service of humanity. A stage comes when for the realization of ,his ideal he not only forsakes his pleasures and comforts, and his position and wealth, but even lays down his life.
A scientist makes sincere efforts to make a discovery, not to serve a tyrant or to get fame or secure a reward, but to add to knowledge and to serve humanity.
A sincere social worker makes efforts for the treatment of the sick for helping the afflicted and the hungry and for defending the oppressed, not for the sake of any reward or publicity and not in a just formal or a professional way, but for the sake of humanity and service.
An ideological worker faces all sorts of hardships and dangers and makes sacrifices for the deliverance of a nation. What name will you give to such a man and how will you interpret his working for an ideal?
There is no harm if you call him an idealist, for what he strives for, does not already exist as a reality, neither in nature nor in society. He only perceives it as an ideal in his mind and makes it a part of his life. This ideal becomes a driving force which moves him to continue his efforts till what was a mere idea, is realized and becomes a historical fact.
Every ideological school must have an ideal, which though does not already exist as a reality, but sacrifice should be made to achieve it. This is a thing which no theory of material compulsion can explain. It cannot be judged by any scientific standard, nor can it be interpreted by any material or natural law.
These very ideals are the high values to which one should dedicate himself and for the sake of which-one should make sacrifice. If you want to find a person who really possesses `human' qualities, you should look for one who is dedicated to these ideals and values, which are beyond
the scope of physiological and biological laws.
(10) Seeking Allah and Truth
Islam maintains that these values in their highest form are concentrated in Allah, and the man of Islam is enamoured of this absolute perfection. He is fit to yearn for and move towards and source of all virtues and values. A man having a perfect faith actually moves towards this goal. This absolute perfection is a pure reality and the essence of existence, which has created values and power. This truth cannot be perceived by material thinking, which cannot go beyond matter and energy and cannot think of reality and value or the source of power and motion.
As far as man is concerned, it is he himself who begins his move towards perfection, though he is invited and attracted towards it by Allah, but not to the extent of compulsion and imposition, for in that case his move will have no value. He himself is responsible to make the journey with untiring efforts to reach his goal. How encouraging this promise is!
"Man, strive hard to get closer to your Lord, and so you will certainly receive the recompense (of your deeds) ". (Surah al-Inshiqaq, 84:6).,
(1) "We created you from clay, then from a living germ, then from a clot of blood and then from a lump of flesh". (Surah al-Hajj, 22:5)
(2) " . . . Then from et We produced a new being". (Surah al-Mo'minun, 23:14).
(3) "He completed him and breatbed His spirit into bfm". (Surah al-Sajdah, 32:9).
(4) "Indeed We bane bonoured the children of Adam and bane definitely given them superiority above many of Our creatures': (Surah al-Isra, 17:70).
(5) "When I bave completed him and breatbed My spirit into him, then fag prostrate before him": (Surah Sad, 38:72).
(6) "He taught man what be did not know": (Surah al-Alaq, 96:5).
(7) "He taught Adam all the names, then He presented those (things) to the angels . (Surab al-Baqarah, 2:31).
(8) 'The earth will provide you dwelling and sustenance for an appointed time". (Surah al-A'raf, 7:24).
(9) "Adam acted contrary to the counsel of bit Lord and tbus be erred. Tbereafter his Lord forgave him. He accepted his repentance and rightly guided him". (Surah Taha, 20:121 - 122).
(10) "If you aft those who are on the earth prove to be ungrateful, Allah does not at all need your thanks. He is Laudable". (Surah Ibrahim,14:8).
(11) "When your Lord said to the angels: I am appointing on earth a vicegerent' : (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:30).
(12) "Have you not seen that Allah bas put at your service wbateaer there is in the heavens and the earth ". (Surah Luqman, 31:20).
(13) "He produced you from the earth and settled you there". (Surah Hud, 11:61).
(14) "It is He who bas made the earth subservient to you. So walk about in its regions and eat what Allah bas produced". (Surah al-Mulk, 67:15).
(15) "Indeed We have bonoured the children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea ". (Surah al-lsra, 17:70).
(16) "Does man think that he will be left unchecked". (Surah al-Qiyamah, 75:36).
(17) "Did you think We have created you in vain and that you would never be returned to Us" (Surah al-Mo'minun, 23:115).
(18) "Indeed We have created man from the union of sperm and egg, to test him. We gave him the faculties of bearing and seeing". (Surah al-Dahr, 76:2).
(19) "By the soul and its Creator wbo inspired it as to what is
right and what is wrong for it". (Surah al-Shams, 91:7 - 8).
(20) "Follow the dictates of (true) human nature as created by Allah. Allah's creation is not to be changed. This is surely the upright religion". (Surah al-Rum, 30:30).
(21) "We offered the trust to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it. And man undertook to bear it ... ". (Surah al-Ahzab, 33:72).
(22) "Follow the dictates of (true) buman nature as created by
Allah". (Surah al-Rum, 30:30). "Surely man was created restless". (Surah al-Ma'arij, 70:19).
" Alluring for people is the love of the joys that come from women, sons, boarded beaps of gold and silver, borses of mark, cattle and plantations ": (Surah Ale 1mran 3:14).
"He is passionate in his love for wealth ". (Surah al-Adiyat, 100:8).
(23) "Look! indeed man rebels, wben be considers bimself to be independent and self-sufficient". (Suurah al-Alaq, 96:5-6).
(24) 'Judge rightly between people and do not follow your own caprices, which will deviate you from the path of Allah ". (Surah Sad, 38:26).
(25) "If we give him a taste of affluence after adversity that bad befallen, be says: My bad days are over, and becomes proud and insolent; except those who are steadfast and do good deeds ". (Surah Hud, 11:10).
(26) "This is the punishment of which Allah warns His slaves.
Therefore, my slaves! Have fear of Me". (Surah al-Zumar, 39:16).
(27) "The prosperous is he who purified himself". (Surah al-Ala. 87:14).
(28) "Those who are saved from their own greed, shall surely be
prosperous". (Surah al-Hashr, 59:9).
(29) "Worship Allah, and do good so that you may prosper". (Surah al-Hajj, 22:77).
(30) "Prosperous. indeed are the believers, who are humble in their
prayers, who keep themselves aloof from what is absurd . . ."
(Surah Mo'minun, 23:1-11).
(31) "Believers, have patience, help each other with patience, establish good relations with one another and have fear of Allah so that you may prosper". (Surah Ale Imran, 3:200).
(32) " . . . .They call to virtue, exhort to what is good and restrain from evil. It is such people who shall prosper".(Surah Ale Imran,3:104).
- Philosophy of Islam
- By Beheshti and Baho
Translated by:- Syed Mohd Abbas
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