Monday, November 22, 2010

The Status of the Human Being

By Muhammad Allie Khalfe, extract from the Honor and Status of the Human Being

Men and women are created equal in their basic humanity and all have the shared lineage (all are children of Adam (Peace be upon him)) and dignity of Allahs creation. Human beings are privileged to be a degree higher than other creatures. And discrimination due to race, sex, colour, lineage, region or language is strongly prohibited in Islam to avoid the artificial barriers between the privileged and needy. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, ‘People are equal like the teeth of a comb.’

Human beings are Allah's creation. Allah created not only the human being but also the father of all human beings, our father Adam (Peace be upon Him), the first human being, by His own two hands, as Allah said:

يإِبْلِيسُ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَن تَسْجُدَ لِمَا خَلَقْتُ بِيَدَىَّ أَسْتَكْبَرْتَ أَمْ كُنتَ مِنَ الْعَـلِينَ

O Iblis! What prevented you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with My two hands? Are you haughty? or are you one of the high (and mighty) ones? 38:75

Says Imam Suyuti in Tafsir Jalalayn comments, ‘In other words, whose creation I (Myself) have undertaken. This (in itself) is an honour for Adam, as Allah has (Himself) undertaken the (unmediated) creation of all creatures. Are you being arrogant, now, in refraining from prostrating (an interrogative meant as a rebuke); or are you of the exalted?’, of the proud, and have therefore disdained to prostrate yourself, because you are one of them?’

When Allah mentions His hand or His eyes or His hearing, then we must understand that Allah is speaking and communicating to us as human beings in a way that we may receive and understand this message as best we can. The important thing to take note of is what the scholars (‘Ulama), namely the Ahli Sunnah and Ash’ari by ‘Aqida have written and explained in their encyclopaedias of works on Tauhid, and that is never to take these things literally but rather as a means for us to comprehend and understand.

The bottom line is that no human being can claim that Allah’s hand is like my hand or your hand or the hand of anything for that matter. So when Allah mentions his hands, it is to be understood in the following way…

‘By hands, it is meant for us as human beings to realise that Allah has the power to doing anything and everything. He has the power and is in control and if Allah says that He ‘sat on His throne’ then we are to take this as meaning that Allah has taken his position of authority and Kingship over the heavens and the earth.

We are not to take it literally by interpreting it as meaning that Allah has a back like you and me and that He (Glorious is He, Free Is He from any and every defect) does not need to sit like me and you.

So, hands above refer to Allah’s power to do whatever he wishes. Allah’s hands shows power and ability to do anything and it should not be taken literally. This is the classical understanding extracted from numerous authorities and Allah knows best.

In the verse quoted, Allah states that he has created the human being from his two hands, meaning he created the human being himself and by stating ‘My two hands ‘Allah is drawing our attention as to how much honour he has attributed to the human being by showing our closeness to Allah, how near we are to Him, and ’My two hands’ here, is used for emphasis.

Allah is emphasising just how honoured we as human beings are, as we have been created by Allah, and then the Angels were commanded to bow down to us, to our father Adam (Peace be upon Him).

Imam al-Razi explaining this ayah says, ‘The great King does not perform an action by His own hands unless He has His utmost attention directed to that action."

If we take a closer look at various ayat within the Quran, we find that Allah says ‘Be’ and something is created or Allah commands the Angels to carry out his orders, but here, we see that He (Mighty and Glorious is He) created us by ‘His own two hands’, which is a special honour.

To any person of understanding, this should set off a point of departure, which is free from doubt that Allah has honoured the human being and that human beings should honour human beings, regardless of their differences.

Further on, Allah ordered his purest slaves, the angels to prostrate to the Human being out of respect and to show the angels the honour, which He has bestowed upon us.

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَـئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لاًّدَمَ فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ أَبَى وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَـفِرِينَ

And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam.'' And they prostrated except Iblis (Shaytan), he refused and was proud and he was of those who reject Faith. (2:34)

“Iblis, the enemy of Allah, envied Adam because Allah honoured Adam. He said, `I was created from fire, and he was created from clay.' Therefore, the first error ever committed was arrogance, for the enemy of Allah was too arrogant to prostrate before Adam.''

Ibn Kathir – sites the following hadith in his Tafsir of Surah Baqarah, which is also recorded in the Sahih,

لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ مِنْ كِبْر

No person who has the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance in his heart shall enter Paradise.

Hafidh ibn Kathir said, ‘He (Shaytan) committed this error, due to his false comparison. His claim that the fire is more honoured than mud was also false, because mud has the qualities of wisdom, forbearance, patience and assurance, mud is where plants grow, flourish, increase, and provide good. To the contrary, fire has the qualities of burning, recklessness and hastiness. Therefore, the origin of creation directed Shaytan to failure, while the origin of Adam led him to return to Allah with repentance, humbleness, obedience and submission to His command, admitting his error and seeking Allah's forgiveness and pardon for it’.

Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said, ‘Before he (Shaytan) undertook the path of sin, Iblis was with the angels and was called `Azazil.' He was among the residents of the earth and was one of the most active worshippers and knowledgeable persons among the angels. This fact caused him to be arrogant. Iblis was from amongst the Jinn.’

What we learn from the above is that the root cause, which resulted in Iblis falling, loosing everything, being disgraced and banished, was arrogance. He became arrogant even after meeting Allah and the angels. How strange it seems that we as human beings who have not even met the angels and have not even met with our Lord, Allah, how strange it is that we can be arrogant and ever think that we are greater or better than another human being.

In the following verse, Allah addresses mankind; reminding us that we are in fact one and we all come from one father, making us brothers and sisters with different beliefs:

يأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَـكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَـكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَـرَفُواْ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عَندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَـكُمْ

O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has Taqwa (those who are conscious of Allah) 49:13

Ibn ‘Abbas commented on this verse saying, ‘(O mankind!) This was revealed about Thabit Ibn Qays Ibn Shammas who said to a man: “You are the son of so-and-so” in reference to his mother; and it is also said that it was revealed about Bilal the mu’adhin (one who gives the call for prayer) of the Prophet (saw).

When Bilal gave the call to prayer in Mecca after its conquest, a group of men from Quraysh, among whom were Sahl Ibn 'Amr, al-Harth Ibn Hisham and Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb, said: “Did Allah and His Messenger not find anyone to call to prayer except this raven”. In response, Allah revealed: (Lo! We have created you male and female) from Adam and Eve, (and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you) in the Hereafter, (in the sight of Allah) on the Day of Judgement, (is the best in conduct) in the life of the world; which in this case is Bilal. (Lo! Allah is Knower) of your status and lineage, (Aware) of your works and standing in His sight.

Al-wahidi al-Nisaburi comments in his work on (Reasons for revelations) and says that the reason for revelation of this verse was explained by Ibn 'Abbas who said, “This (verse 49:13) was revealed about Thabit ibn Qays when he made a remark about the man who did not make room for him to sit: 'What, the son of so-and-so [referring to his mother]'. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'Who mentioned that woman?' Thabit stood up and said: 'I did, O Messenger of Allah!' The Messenger said to him: 'Look at the faces of those present'. And when he looked, he asked him: 'What do you see?' He said: 'I see white, red and black people'. The Prophet said: 'Well, you are not better than any of them unless it be through [the good practice of] religion and God-fearingness'. Allah (Exalted is He), then revealed this verse”.

Wahidi also narrated: Muqatil said: “On the day Mecca was conquered, the Messenger of Allah (saw) ordered Bilal to climb on the roof of the Ka'bah and perform the call to prayer.’Attab ibn Asid commented on this: 'Praise be to Allah, that Allah has taken my father to Him and made that he did not see this day'. Al-Harith ibn Hisham said: 'Did Muhammad not find any other caller to prayer except this black raven?' Suhayl ibn 'Amr said: 'Allah willing, he will change him'. Abu Sufyan, on the other hand, said: 'I am not going to make any comment; I am afraid that the Lord of heaven will divulge what I say!' Gabriel, peace be upon him, went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him about what they said. The Prophet summoned them and asked them about what they said and they admitted it. Allah (Exalted is He), then revealed this verse warning them against boasting about their lineages and abundance of wealth and against looking down on the poor”.

Regarding the importance of knowing the reason why a particular verse was revealed, al-Wahidi said, ‘the knowledge about Tafsir (Arabic word for exegesis or commentary) of the ayah (verse) is not possible without occupying oneself with their stories and explanation of (the reasons) for their revelation.' Asbab al-nuzul, by al-Wahidi al-Nisaburi. Cairo, 1968, page 4

'Ali bin Ahmad al-Wahidi al-Naysaburi (d. 486/1076).An important author of tafsir including the Asbab al-Nuzul (Reasons for revelations). He produced two other commentaries, al-Wasit (The Middle Commentary) and al-Wajiz (The Short Commentary).

Imam Suyuti commentsO mankind! We have indeed created you from a male and a female, [from] Adam and Eve, and made you nations (shu‘ūb is the plural of sha‘b, which is the broadest category of lineage) and tribes (qabā’il, which are smaller than nations, and are followed by ‘amā’ir, ‘tribal districts’, then butūn, ‘tribal sub-districts’, then afkhādh, ‘sub-tribes’, and finally fasā’il, ‘clans’; for example Khuzayma is the sha‘b, while Kināna is the qabīla, Quraysh is the ‘imāra, Qusayy is the batn, Hāshim is the fakhdh, and ‘Abbās is the fasīla) that you may come to know one another (ta‘ārafū: one of the two tā’ letters [of tata‘ārafū] has been omitted), that you may acquire knowledge of [the customs of] one another and not to boast to one another of [whose is the more] noble lineage, for pride lies only in [the extent to which you have] fear of God. Truly the noblest of you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing among you. Truly God is Knower, of you, Aware, of your inner thoughts.

Jalal al-Din al-Misri al-Suyuti al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari (849-911AH), the mujtahid imam and renewer of the tenth Islamic century, the hadith master, jurist, Sufi, and historian, he authored works in almost every Islamic science.

Allah shows us the worth of a single life in Ma’idah, 32

مَن قَتَلَ نَفْساً بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِى الاٌّرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعاً وَمَنْ أَحْيَـهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعاً

if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.

The verse states, whoever kills a soul without justification, such as in retaliation for murder or for causing mischief on earth, then it will be as if he has killed all mankind, because there is no difference between one life and another. Every single human being is honoured by Allah just because he is alive and breathing. Life should be respected because life in itself is a gift, a gift from the Lord and King of those whom are able to give. And Allah knows best.

Imam Suyuti comments, ‘… We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever slays a soul for other than a soul, slain, or for, other than, corruption, committed, in the land, in the way of unbelief, fornication or waylaying and the like, it shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether; and whoever saves the life of one, by refraining from slaying, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind — Ibn ‘Abbās said [that the above is meant] in the sense of violating and protecting its [a soul’s] sanctity [respectively]. Our messengers have already come to them, that is, to the Children of Israel, with clear proofs, miracles, but after that many of them still commit excesses in the land, overstepping the bounds through disbelief, killing and the like.’

Human life is sacred. This is and has always been the point of departure for Muslims throughout the past one-thousand plus years.

In later chapters, we will see that Muhammad (saw) even prohibited the signs of those who worshiped other than Allah from being insulted and desecrated.

Al-A`mash and others said that Abu Salih said that Abu Hurayrah said, ‘I entered on `Uthman when he was under siege in his house and said, `I came to give you my support. Now, it is good to fight (defending you) O Leader of the Faithful!' He (Uthman) said, `O Abu Hurayrah! Does it please you that you kill all people, including me' I said, `No.' He said, `If you kill one man, it is as if you killed all people. Therefore, go back with my permission for you to leave. May you receive your reward and be saved from burden.' So I went back and did not fight.''

To understand this universal message, a message sent down to all of humanity, we need to understand this model of excellence, this model of mercy, this perfect example of tolerance and compassion who use to visit the sick people among the Jews as well as the Muslims; and when on one occasion the funeral procession of a Jew passed before him, he stood up as a sign of respect for the deceased. ‘Why did you stand up for a Jewish funeral?’ they asked. The Prophet replied, ‘Is it not a human soul?’ we need to study his life and follow his example, and may his example be a light and guidance for us…

The proof that the Prophet of Allah (saw) stood up for the corpse of the deceased Jew can be found in Sahih Bukhari and was narrated by 'Abd al-Rahman bin Abi Layla who said Sahl bin Hunayf and Qays bin Sa’d were sitting in the city of al-Qadisiya. A funeral procession passed in front of them and they stood up. They were told that funeral procession was of one of the inhabitants of the land (a Jew), under the protection of Muslims. They said, ‘A funeral procession passed in front of the Prophet and he stood up. When he was told that it was the coffin of a Jew, he (saw) said, "Is it not a living being (soul)?" Sahih Bukhari Vol 2, hadith no.399

Allah says,

وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِى ءَادَمَ وَحَمَلْنَـهُمْ فِى الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَـهُمْ مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَـتِ وَفَضَّلْنَـهُمْ عَلَى كَثِيرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلاً

And indeed We have honoured the Children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea, and have provided them with At-Tayyibat, and have preferred them above many of those whom We have created with a marked preferment. 17.70.

Tayyibat meaning agricultural produce, fruits, meat, and milk with all kinds of delicious and desirable flavours and colours and beautiful appearance, and fine clothes of all kinds of shapes colours and sizes, which they make for themselves or are brought to them by others from other regions and areas.

Ibn Abbas comments, ‘(Verily We have honoured the children of Adam) by giving them hands and feet. (We carry them on the land) on the backs of beasts (and the sea) aboard ships, (and have made provision of good things for them) We made their provision better and finer than the provision of beasts, (and have preferred them above many of those whom We created) of animals (with a marked preferment) in forms, feet and hands.’

Allah has preferred us (human beings) over all living beings and other kinds of creation. This Ayah, as most of the scholars agree, indicates that human beings are also more honoured in the ‘sight’ of Allah than even the angels.

Allah tells us how He has honored the sons of Adam and made them noble by creating them in the best and most perfect of forms, as He says,

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإِنسَـنَ فِى أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

Verily, We created man in the best stature (mould). (95:4)

He walks upright on his two feet and eats with his hand, whilst other living creatures walk on four feet and eat with their mouths, and He has given him hearing, sight and a heart with which to understand all of that, to benefit from it, and distinguish between things to know which are good for him and which are harmful, in both worldly and religious terms.

Allah Ta'ala has blessed the children of Adam with such multi dimensional attributes as are not found in many of those He has created.

cholars have also pointed out the gift of communication, speech, comprehension, understanding and explanation. This remains unmatched by other living forms. Using signs and symbols to communicate what lies in one's heart and telling others what one thinks and feels through letters and writings are all manifestations of the human distinction. Some scholars have said that eating with the fingers of the hand is also a particular human attribute. Other than man, all animals eat with their mouth.

The practice of compounding edibles with different things in order to make these delicious and beneficial is the way of human beings alone.

Selected from the commentary - Ma’rifa al-Quran

Allah has given this honour and dignity to all human beings. Says Imam Suyuti when commenting on verse 6 of this Surah,

إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّـلِحَـتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

‘except those who believe and perform righteous deeds, for they shall have an unfailing reward, one unending — in a hadīth [it is stated], ‘When a believer reaches that stage of old age which prevents him from performing [good] deeds, then what he used to do is recorded in his favour [instead]’. Meaning that because he is old and cannot perform good deeds, he continues to receive rewards for the deeds he would like to perform even though he cannot perform them.

Know that dignity is not earned by good behaviour, or social status. When talking about human dignity, we are not talking about the kind of honour that is attached to someone of a particular status, a king or minister, for instance. It is given to human beings regardless of their status, race, colour or religion. The greatest of Muslim scholars describe dignity as a natural right and blessings from the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth.

And Allah knows best.

1 comment:

nabeel almujalli said...

I enjoyed reading this article very much. Thank you for your efforts to summerize good books in such a limited space.I think I'll reread it once more.

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