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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES01

9809-SUPERIORITY OF THE HUMAN (TAFDHIIL AL INSAN)

Lecture to 1st year medical students at the Kulliyah of Medicine, Kuantan 19th September 1998 by Prof Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.

OUTLINE

CRITERION OF SUPERIORITY (MI’IYAAR AL AFDHALIYYAT)

17:70

17:61-62

49:13

95:5

7:179

 

INTELLECT AND KNOWLEDGE (‘AQL AND ‘ILM)

2:30-34

2:164

22:46

 

FREE WILL (AL-IRADAT)

17:19

4:62

11:88

11:34

6:52

17:10

3:152

8:62

8:71)

17:103

4:150

22:25

75:5

28:83

21:70 

 

RESPONSIBILITY (AMANAT)

2:16

12:11

33:72

33:15

16:56

4:58

33:72

 

MORALITY (AKHLAQ)

 


CRITERION OF SUPERIORITY (MI’IYAAR AL AFDHALIYYAT)

This sub-unit discusses human superiority over all the rest of creation and does not deal with superiority of one human over another human. Human creation is special and is superior to all other creations of Allah. 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). Human history started with Allah honoring Adam by ordering angels to bow before him (17:61-62). This indicated human superiority above angels. All other creations whether living or non-living were placed at the service of humans and were made subservient to humans (taskhirr). 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.

 

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. A human achieves the superiority by fulfilling certain conditions. These conditions are all subsumed under the concept of consciousness of Allah (taqwah). The most honored among humans are those with most taqwah (49:13). Only humans of all Allah's creations can reach the highest levels of taqwah. Taqwah is a final common pathway for the 4 criteria of human superiority discussed in this sub-unit: (a) a superior intellect (b) a free will (c) responsibility (d) morality. The basic potentials are the intellect and the will. The sense of responsibility and morality determine the quality of the civilization that is developed; it could be good or bad depending on how well or badly the intellect and the will are used. Angels do not have the capacity or the will to disobey Allah at all and they always do what they are told to do. The taqwah of humans is superior to that of angels because humans have the capacity to disobey so when they choose to obey Allah they are undertaking a task much higher challenge. However the high position of humans is not for all humans. Humans can fall to be the lowest of the low (asfal safiliin 95:5) and could be worse off than animals (7:179) if they do not fulfill the criteria of superiority mentioned above.

 

INTELLECT AND KNOWLEDGE (‘AQL AND ‘ILM)

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 civilization that no other creations are capable of developing. Allah gave the human an intellect (‘aql) that other creations do not have. We learn from the story of Sulaiman (PBUH) that animals and insects have faculties of speech and thought that are sometimes thought to be the preserve of humans. Many animals like dogs, cats, dolphins, and apes have some intelligence and a limited ability to learn. They however can not use their intelligence in a creative and purposive way that humans use their intelligence.

 

The intellect enables humans analyze, 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 him was based on the extra knowledge that Allah gave him. His vicegerency on earth was based on this knowledge (2:30-34). 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.

 

Human control of the physical universe is made possible by their intellect. Human muscles were used at first but because of the intellectual ability to cumulate knowledge and experience over generations, humans made tools that enhanced and multiplied the work of muscles several-fold and eventually even replaced the muscles altogether. This process is paralleled in our generation by the development of the computer that taking over some of the mechanical functions of the human intellect just as machines took over from human and animal muscles. 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 neutralize or even overcome the superior physical strength of bigger and stronger living things. Human civilization is based on ability to manipulate the environment. They are the only living thing that can deliberately change their ecosystem in a drastic way to suit what they think are their interests. That is why humans are able to live in all types of climes.

 

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.

 

The human can use the intellect well by thinking and deliberating on Allah’s creation. Careful observation and analysis will reveal that the creation is perfect, majestic and that there are many signs of the creator’s power and majesty (2:164). 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. Human intellect can be used for social improvement of society.

 

A human can also misuse the intellect. Those who deny the creator (kufr) or associating others with Allah (shirk) are misusing their intellect. They are mis-guided and are misguiding others. The Qur'an describes kufr as failure to use the intellect ta'atiil al 'aql  (22:46).  The intellect can also be misused to cause harm to self, the society, and the eco-system. 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). Humans can commit crimes that animals with less intelligence can not do. For example deliberate genocide with no physiologic drive or need is a uniquely human attribute. No other creation of Allah can ever contemplate the evils and destruction that humans are capable of making.

 

FREE WILL (AL-IRADAT)

The human has a will that is defined and is limited. This will is subservient to Allah’s authority (9:32). 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 honored with a free will though it is limited. This can be likened to the development of the child who is allowed very little free will when young and inexperienced. With maturation more free will is given until the child turns into an adult who is free to take the full responsibility of independence.

 

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 honor as well as responsibility that humans have to bear.  

 

Human will can be used positively in working and preparing for the life hereafter, akhirat (17:19), intending good ihsan (4:62), reforming islah (11:88), giving nasihat (11:34), guidance hidayat (6:52), and effort sa'ay (17:10).

 

Human will can also be used negatively for pursuit of earthly pleasures duniyat (3:152), deception khid’at (8:62), treachery (khiyanat) (8:71), doing bad suu' (17:103), misguidance dhalal (4:150), transgression dhulm (22:25), corruption fujuur (75:5) & fasad (28:83) or just making tricks (kaid) (21:70).  

 

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.  Humans are however not held responsible for what happened in the past generations. The human unlike other creations of Allah has many responsibilities (mas’uliyyat) (2:16) and trust (amanat) (12:11). 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 (33:72).

 

Humans are responsible before Allah (mas’uliyyat amama Allah) (33:15). They will be asked on the responsibility in the hereafter on how well they discharged it (su’al al hisab). The responsibility and accountability before Allah comprises fulfilling responsibilities to the self, the self, the community, and the universe as a whole (16:56). Responsibility is meaningless without accountability.

 

Humans must fulfill their trusts (ada al amanat) (4:58) in order to claim their full humanity. Some humans succeed in carrying the trust with honesty (haml al amanat) (33:72). Some others fail in their trusts (khiyanat al amanat) (8:27). 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 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)

 

DISCUSSION

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 September 1998