What is the Islamic world view on the status of human being? Does Islam support or oppose dignity of non-Muslims as representative of Allah? What does Islamic scripture say about the unity of mankind? To answer these fundamental, yet not so commonly discussed, questions we need to revisit the Islamic scripture, the Holy Qur’an.
Every human created as a representative of Allah
According to the Qur’an (2:30), when Allah intended to create human on earth, His Majesty told the angels, “I am going to send my representative (khalifah) on earth.” Eventually, Allah SWT end up creating human (insan), namely, Adam and Eve (peace be upon them).
By the account of the above text (and many other verses in the Qur’an), every human is a daughter or son of Adam (bani Adam), and a representative of Allah on earth regardless of her/his race, colour, faith, ethnicity, gender, language etc.
This is the highest dignity that Allah has vested upon everyone of us.
Clearly, it is a very strong and key teaching of the Qur’an that removes all kinds of man-made discrimination and division, and places every human at the same status as the representative of Allah.
As a consequence, every Muslim must respect all humans, believing or not believing, viewing as a representative of Allah. Unfortunately, this core teaching of Islam is very much undiscussed and not so prevalent within the conventional teachings of Muslims.
Of course Allah has clearly stated the severe consequences of not recognizing Him as the unique and ultimate Power/Authority and worshipping Him exclusively.
After speaking about creation of khalifah He created Adam (a) from sounding claysout of dark-slime transmuted (salsalin min hamayinmasnun, 15:26), essence of clay (sulalin min tin, 23:12) and sounding clay, like pottery (salsalinkalfakkar, 55:14). Thus the material component of human being is from soil.
Every human inherit spirit of Allah
After the first creation of human, Allah has put in place embryonic reproduction system for the continuity and growth of human race.
On this point the Qur’an states human reproduction starts from a drop of sperm (nutfa, 16:4, 36:77) and He determines his nature/destiny (qaddarahu, 80:19).
Then elaborates the stages of embryonic growth as creating out of the drop of sperm a germ-cell, then embryonic lump, bones, clothe the bones with flesh to complete a human baby (23:14).
Furthermore, He endowed it with hearing and sight (sami and basir, 76:2), and articulated thought and speech (55:4) as well as breathed into His spirit (nafakatyfihi min roohi, 15:29).
The Qur’an asks Muhammad (s) to say that the spirit (rooh) is a command of his Lord. Thus rooh is a creation of Allah, and as such it is totally different from any physical entity.
So, unlike the body of human being the spirit will never perish. Because of the presence of the spirit of Allah, every human is favoured with His command so that they could strive to acquire His hue (sibghata, 2:138).
By the nature of its creation, every rooh is capable of recognising its Creator and inherently inclined to do good and avoid evil if it is not polluted. Any creation blessed with such divine spirit to be viewed with highest dignity and respect.
Knowledge made human superior to angels
Then Allah taught all names to Adam (2:31) and asked angels to name things which they did not know. When Adam (a) told all the names, Allah asked the angels to prostrate before Adam (2:34), all did except the cursed Iblis (shaitan) who argued he was superior to Adam (a) because he was created from fire and hence superior/better than someone created from soil.
Through this process, Allah has raised the status of human above the angels by imparting superiority of knowledge to the children of Adam (a).
The teaching is simple, salute the one who is more knowledgeable. Even among the children of Adam, the ones with higher knowledge (including science) are revered more than those who do not have knowledge.
Representatives and Messengers of Allah
From the above discussions, it is clear that rooh/spirit has the ability to imitate only some limited attributes (sifaat) of Allah in a much lesser level/degree and dimension than it is for Him, and it is distinctly different from the being (zaat) of Allah who is unique and without any comparison.
This spirit not only makes human a living creature but also takes it to a much higher intellectual level to be able to distinguish between right and wrong and recognise the essence of fully submitting to the creator compared to his physical material being that is made of soil.
Some scholars are in favour of limiting the world ‘khalifah’ to the prophets but they are clearly distinguished, in the Qur’an, from the ordinary servants/worshippers as chosen messengers (nabi and rasool) of Allah.
Their position is much higher than khalifah and they are the manifested role model for the mankind. Many of them were also blessed with the divine revelation (wahi) elevating them above common human folks.
In the general terms and in tune of the verses of the Qur’an related to khalifah, it is used for all children of Adam (a) without any further classifications.
Obviously, any representative only have a very specific and extremely limited ‘authority’ that s/he has been delegated by the One who appoints the representative, and the status of a representative is valid only until the terms and conditions are not violated.
Those Conscious of Allah are the best
To highlight the unity of humanity further, Allah emphasized that mankind was one nation (2:213) and He has conferred dignity on the children of Adam (17:70).
However, He explains that He has created all humans out of a male and a female, and have made them into nations and tribes, so that they might come to know one another, but the best of then in the sight of Allah is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him (39:13).
In view of the above verses related to creation and attributes of mankind in the Qur’an, as a representative of Allah on earth, every human is a part of the same nation, shares common origin from soil and then from sperm.
Furthermore, each one of them are blessed with spirit of Allah and ability to speak, see and hear, and He has raised their status above angels by conferring them dignity as well as superiority of knowledge.
Hence every human is a respectable and honourable being regardless of age, origin and believe. The gender, race and places of birth are only for the purposes of identity, not for discrimination or division or hate, but the closeness to Allah is only on the basis of the level consciousness of Allah.
Thus the Qur’an laid the foundation of equality of all human and thus introduced the modern day concept of human right.
Human created for testing good deeds
Allah has created human in the best stature and then reduced him to the lowest of low (asfala safelin, 95:4-5) as He wants to test which of them is best in conduct (amal, 11:7, 18:7, 67:2).
While inspiring to be in the way of the best deed He warned, while sending human to the earth, that there shall come unto you guidance from Him and those who follow His guidance need have no fear and grieve; but those who are bent on denying the truth and giving the lie to His messages – they are destined for the fire (2:38-39).
About those who reject His messages, He terms them as those who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear, calling them the likes of cattle or worse (7:179).
Human can be worse than animal
Humans have two distinct sides:
(i) Material side that are derived from soil and manifested as flesh, bones, blood etc like that of other animals, and
(ii) Eethical side coming from the spirit of Allah, the rational and intellectual aspects that make human different from the other animals.
The spirituality leads to rationality guided by the morality making human an ethical and rational being, but the material side drives to immorality and other animal instincts making human worse than animals.
The superiority of human (over other animals) is its spirituality through rational choices and ethical actions guided by knowledge.
In the absence of rationality, ethical dictates and consciousness of Allah there is every danger of human to be guided by animality leading to evil, transgression and disaster.