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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES01

9710-SUPERIORITY OF THE HUMAN (TAFDHIL AL INSAN)

Lecture delivered to 1st year medical students at Kuantan, Pahang on October 4th 1997 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. Deputy Dean for Research and Post-graduate Affairs, Kulliyah of Medicine IIUM

OUTLINE

CRITERIA OF SUPERIORITY (MI’IYAAR AL AFDHALIYYAT)

INTELLECT & KNOWLEDGE (‘AQL AND ‘ILM)

FREE WILL (IRAADAT)

RESPONSIBILITY & TRUST (AMANAT)

MORALITY (AKHLAQ)

 

CRITERIA OF SUPERIORITY (MA ‘AYIIR AL AFDHALIYYAT)

Human creation is special from that of other creations: The human is superior to every other living and non-living thing that Allah created. Allah honored the human above all other creation (karamat al insan, tafdhil al insan) 17:70, p. 257 36:27…89:15).

Human superiority is not a right. It is a potential that can be developed or can be neglected. Not every single human individual can claim this superiority. The superiority is achieved by a human by fulfiling certain conditions. Humans can fall to be the lowest of the low (asfal safiliin) and could be worse off than animals if they do not fulfil those conditions.

 

Human history started with Allah honoring Adam by ordering angels to bow before him. (p 161 2:34…38:71-72). This indicated human superiority above angels. The superiority has continued all through human history because of special attributes and capacities that Allah endowed the human with.

 

Human superiority is not based on body size or physical strength because there are other living things bigger in size and with stronger muscles. Neither is it any special anatomical or physiological function because there are many animals that are superior to humans in smelling, seeing, running, resistance to infection and other diseases.

 

The superiority of the human is based on 4 attributes: (a) a superior intellect (b) a free will responsibility (d) morality. Intellect is the most important criterion of human superiority and the other criteria depend on it either directly or indirectly. In the absence of the intellect, the rest of the criteria of superiority lose their significance.

 

The superior human intellect is due to a better developed and sophisticated cerebral cortex. The human cerebral surface area or mass is proportionately the biggest for the body size. The limited free will enables the human to choose to do good or to do bad. The intellect and the will in a context of responsibility, accountability and morality enable the human to build a social order and a civilisation that no other creations are capable of developing. The basic potentials are the intellect and the will. The sense of responsibility and morality determine the quality of the civilisation that is developed; it could be good or bad depending on how well or badly the intellect and the will are used.

 

INTELLECT AND KNOWLEDGE (‘AQL AND ‘ILM)

Allah gave the human an intellect (‘aql) that other creations do not have. The intellect enables humans to analyse, understand and learn; knowledge is the basis for human action. Transmission and growth of knowledge from one generation to the next is the essence of human civilisational growth. 

 

Intellect (‘Aql) can enable the human to get knowledge. Adam’s claim to superiority such that angels submitted to was the based on the extra knowledge that Allah gave him. His vicegerancy on earth was based on this knowledge ( 161 2:30-34….35:38).

 

The human can use the intellect well by thinking and deliberating on Allah’s creation. Careful observation and analysis will reveal to him that the creation is perfect, majestic and that there are many signs of the creator’s power and majesty (2:164, 3:190-191, 6:99, 7:54, 10:67, 10:101, 13:2-4, 16:10-16, 16:65-70, 21:30-33, 23:80-89, 26:24-28, 27:59-64, 28:71-73, 29:19-20, 30:20-25, 31:10-11, 41:53, 42:28-29, 45:3-5, 51:20-21, 79:27-33, 80:24-32, 86:5-7, 88:17-20). Good use of the intellect also includes study of the physical laws (sunan Allah) to establish causal relations that are the basis for exploitation and  use of the resources of the universe.

 

The intellect can also be misused by a human who becomes misguided and misguides others. Those who deny the creator (kufr) or associating others with Allah (shirk) are misusing their intellect. The intellect can also be misused to cause harm to self, the society, and the eco-system.

 

Humans are able to extend their intellect in many ways by invention of machines that carry out intellectual functions sometimes better and faster than humans. The new field of artificial intelligence is a very exciting adventure.

 

Humans are on top of the food chain mainly because of their superior intellect. The human can use the more sophisticated brain to manufacture weapons and tools that neutralise or even overcome the superior physical strength of bigger and stronger living things.

 

Humans are able to manipulate the environment for their own benefit. They are the only living thing that can deliberately change their ecosystem in a drastic way to suit their interests. That is why humans are able to live in all types of climes.

 

Humans can misuse their abilities to an extent that no other creation can. Humans are for example the only living thing that can undertake deliberate and consistent destruction of its own kind (genocide).

Closely related to intellect is the power of speech and communication that enables humans to carry out social intercourse and thus succeed in living in families and communities. The Qur’an and empirical observations tell us that other living things can communicate; some even have languages for the Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) could talk with animals. However their language and communication do not reach the sophistication of human language. A sophisticated language enhances the advantages of a superior intellect by enabling humans to pool, extend, and exchange ideas and experiences.

 

FREE WILL (AL-IRADAT)

The human has a will that is defined and is limited. This will is subservient to Allah’s authority (p 86 5:37…61:8). The human is personally accountable for actions done within this limited free will. Other creations of Allah have no will at all and are therefore not accountable.

 

Having a free will is an indicator of maturity. The human is the most developed in the order of creation and therefore is honoured with a free will though it is limited.

 

The secret behind Allah’s endowing humans with a free will was to test humans on how well they can use that will. Passing the test would vindicate the superiority of humans. Angels despite their high position in the order of creation were not given a free will. The fact that angels can not make a mistake and humans do yet humans were given the free will indicates the magnitude of honour as well as responsibility that humans have to bear.  

 

Human will can be used positively in working and preparing for the life hereafter (akhirat) (p 86 3:145…42:20), going good (ihsan) (p 86 4:62….9:107), reforming (islah) (p 86-87 4:35….1:88), giving nasihat (p 88 11:34), guidance (p 88 4:88…35:10), and effort (p 87 17:10).

 

Human will can also be used negatively for pursuit of earthly pleasures (duniyat) (p 86 3:145…53:29), deception (khid’at) (p 87 8:62), treachery (khiyanat) (p 87 8:71), doing bad (p 87 11:79….20:86), misguidance (dhalal) (p 87-88 4:27…48:15), transgression (dhulm) (p 88 22:25), corruption (fujuur) (p 88 75:5) & fasad (p 88 28:83) or just making tricks (kaid) (p 88 21:70…52:42).

 

In the experience of humans as individuals and as communities we see examples of good and bad use of human will. The bad alternates with the good such that there is never an extended time when the bad predominates all the time and at all places.

 

 

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY (AMANAT)

The human is entrusted with trust for which he is responsible. The term trust is comprehensive and covers ‘ibadat, iman, the self, the family, the society,  and the whole eco-system. It also extends in time to generations not yet seen.  

 

The human unlike other creations of Allah has many responsibilities (mas’uliyyat) (p 1116 2:16) and trust (amanat) (p 148 12:11…12:64). These responsibilities and trusts are not just honors; they are obligations that confer honor and dignity if carried out well. They lead to shame and failure if not discharged properly.

 

Other creations of Allah, living and non-living, refused the challenge of bearing the trust and only humans accepted it (    ).

 

Humans are responsible before Allah (mas’uliyyat amama Allah) (p 1117 17:24…37:24). They will be asked on the responsibility in the hereafter on how well they discharged it (su’al al hisab). ( p 608 2:119…102:8). Responsibility is meaningless without accountability.

 

Humans must fulfil their trusts (ada al amanat) (p 148 2:283…4:58) in order to claim their full humanity. Some humans succeed in carrying the trust with honesty (haml al amanat) ( p 149 33:72). Some others fail in their trusts (khiyanat al amanat) (p 149 8:27…12:64). It is part of Allah’s grace that failure does not affect all humans all the time and in all places. At any one time there is someone somewhere where someone is carrying one of the trusts responsibly.

 

MORALITY (AKHLAQ)

Humans are superior to many other creatures of Allah in that they are capable of choosing on their own free will to live a moral life. The human ability to choose what is moral and good confers even more honor and dignity when we consider that humans have a great potential for evil. Their superior intellect alone enables them to undertake a range of actions that no other creation can even dream of.

 

Only humans can live according to a consistent moral order. They can live in societies regulated by a moral code. The sense of right and wrong, good and bad, is innate in the human and is constantly reinforced by messages of prophets and revelations.

 

Other creations do not even have a concept of morality. Their concept of what is good and what is bad is governed by the simple instincts of the need to survive and self-gratification.

 

Humans have attributes that derive from their sense of morality and are not found in other creations: love, loyalty, kindness, and compassion. Human emotions unlike those of animals are moderated by the sense of morality that humans have.

Some individual humans have exemplified very high levels of morality by seeking to do good even in the most difficult conditions. They are able to put the interests of others before their own interests (ithaar). The highest level of this morality is to seek the ultimate pleasure of Allah (ridha al llaah)

 

KEY WORDS

ARABIC: FADHL: fadhl llah ala al insan - Karamat al insan

ENGLISH: Superiority of the Human

 

DISCUSSION

What do you understand by racism. What are its manifestations and causes

What is your opinion about tribal, ethnic, or national pride. Is it uniformly good or bad

In what ways does a human use his intellect correctly

In what ways does a human misuse his intellect

Explain how the limited free-will that humans have confers superiority over other creations

What is the great amanat that Allah gave humans

What is the moral responsibility of humans

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule October 1997