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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-03

0102-SUPERIORITY OF HUMANS, (AFDHALIYYAT AL INSAAN)

By Professor Omar Hasan Kasule February 2001

A. CRITERION OF SUPERIORITY, mi’iyaar al afdhaliyyat

SUPERIORITY OF HUMANS and MEDICAL PRACTICE, mafhuum afdhaliyat al insaan fi al tibaabat

Discussion of human superiority is very vital in medicine because humans who are aware of their superiority and distinction from other creations like wild animals will have the self-confidence and self-esteem needed to adopt and maintain healthy life-styles. High self-esteem strengthens human will to adopt healthy behaviors and avoid unhealthy ones. Present medical technology and knowledge are sufficient to eradicate over 90% of human physical diseases. It is true to say that medicine has one last frontier to conquer and that is change of human behavior to healthy life-styles. Judging from the experience of the last quarter century the battle to change human sexual behavior, dietary habits, and addiction to drugs has yet to be won. Many believe that it is being lost. Humans who are not aware of their superior position to animals will not have the strength to resist the temptations of a hedonistic animal-like life-style. It will be easy for them to sink to the behavior of animals that hardly ever consider the long-term consequences of their actions. They will not have the will to make tough choices involving giving up life-style behaviors that bring temporary pleasure for the long-term health benefit. They will not have a high sense of responsibility both for their health and the well being of the eco-system.

 

HUMAN SUPERIORITY AS AN ENDOWMENT, afdhaliyat al insaan mawhibat

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, (p. 257 36:27, 89:15, 17:62, 17:70). Human history started with Allah honoring Adam by ordering angels to bow before him. (p 161 2:34, 7:11, 15:28-29, 17:61-62, 17:70, 18:50, 38:71-72). This indicated human superiority above angels. It also indicated the primacy of knowledge because the angels were ordered to prostrate to Adam after he was given knowledge. 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 PHYSICAL, afdhaliyat al insaan laisat jasadiyyat

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 diseases.

 

GRADATION OF SUPERIORITY AMONG HUMANS, al tafaadhul bayn al bashar

Human superiority is generic and not specific for any individual human. We are discussing human superiority over all the rest of creation and do not deal with superiority of one human over another human. The attributes that make humans superior to other creations are also the attributes that explain the gradations among humans. Only Allah knows for certain the gradations among humans.

HUMAN SUPERIORITY A POTENTIAL AND NOT AN AUTOMATIC RIGHT, afdaliyyat al insaan imkaaniyyat wa laisat haqq mutlaq

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. It is only those who fulfill specific criteria that can claim superiority. The individual's position can change with time depending on behavior. Good and responsible behavior leads to the higher levels of superiority while bad behavior leads to inferiority.

 

TAQWA AS THE BASIC CRITERION OF HUMAN SUPERIORITY, al taqwah mi’iyaar al afdhaliyyat

A human achieves 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 taqwa (49:13). Only humans of all Allah's creations can reach the highest levels of taqwa. Taqwah is a final common pathway for the 4 criteria of human superiority discussed below: (a) a superior intellect, ‘aql (b) a free will, iraadat (c) responsibility, amaanat (d) moral guidance, hidayat. The basic potentials are the intellect and the will. They determine and shape responsibility and moral guidance. 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 taqwa 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 and succeeding in a higher challenge.

 

THE HIGHEST AND THE LOWEST, a’ala ‘iliyyiin wa asfala saafiliin

Humans can rise to the summits of excellence, a’ala ‘iliyyiin (   ). Humans can also fall to be the lowest of the low, asfala safiliin (95:5) and could be worse off than animals (7:179, 25:44) if they do not fulfill the criteria of superiority mentioned above. Humans usually fall to the lowest rungs when make wrong choices and lose self-control. They lose their free will when they allow themselves to be controlled by shaitan. Shaitan then leads them to various forms of rebellion, ma’asiyat; transgression, dhulm, and addiction. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, power, glory, fame, and all otherworldly pursuits is the usual manifestation of human failure. An addict has in essence given up the human ability to make a choice and becomes a slave to the object of addiction. It is a paradox of human behavior that apparently intelligent persons can choose to enslave themselves to evil and refuse to take measures to escape from enslavement.

 

B. INTELLECT AND KNOWLEDGE, ‘aql and ‘ilm

CREATIVE INTELLECT, ‘aql mubdi’u

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. It is very organized, highly specialized, and very sophisticated. 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 cannot use their intelligence in a creative and purposive way that humans use their intelligence.

 

INTELLECT IS THE BASIS FOR KNOWLEDGE, al ‘aql asaas al ‘ilm

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 civilizational growth. Adam’s claim to superiority such that angels submitted to him was based on the extra knowledge that Allah gave him. His vicegerancy on earth was based on this knowledge (p. 161 2:30-34, 6:165, 10:14, 10:73, 27:62, 33:72, 35:39). 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. Unlike other creations of Allah humans can enlarge their corpus of knowledge through research. The new field of artificial intelligence is a very exciting adventure that will reveal more about the bounties that Allah gave humans.

 

INTELLECT AND THE EXPLOITATION OF THE UNIVERSE, al ‘aql wa taskhiir al kawn

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 is 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 intellect 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. Humans are the only living thing that can deliberately change their ecosystem in a drastic way to suit what they think are their interests. This enables humans live in all types of climes.

 

INTELLECT, SPEECH AND COMMUNICATION, al ‘aql, al kalaam, wa al ittisaal

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.

 

GOOD AND BAD USES OF THE INTELLECT, istikhdaam al ‘aql al hasan wa al sayyi

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, 3:190-191, 6:99, 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 al llaah fi al kaun,  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, islah. 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  (p.1006 2:7, 2:18, 2:170, 6:36, 6:39, 6:50, 6:104, 6:122, 7:179, 8:22-23, 8:55, 10:42-43, 11:24, 13:16, 13:19, 17:72, 17:57, 21:45, 22:46, 25:44, 27:80-81, 30:52-53, 31:7, 35:19-22, 36:9-10, 40:58, 41:44, 43:40, 47:23-24).  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, with no physiologic drive or need. Humans can commit crimes that animals with less intelligence cannot do. No other creation of Allah can ever contemplate the evils and destruction that humans are capable of doing.

 

C. FREE WILL, al-iraadat

LIMITATION OF HUMAN WILL, mahduudiyat al iraadat al insaaniyyat

The human has a will that is defined and is limited. This will is subservient to Allah’s authority (p 86 5:37, 9:32, 21:70, 22:22, 32:20, 37:98, 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 for their actions.

 

HUMAN WILL AN INDICATOR OF MATURITY, al iraadat ‘alaamat al nudhuj al insaani

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 freedom is given until the child turns into an adult who is free to take the full responsibility of independence.

 

FREE WILL AND TESTING HUMANS, al iraadat al insaan wa ibtilaa al insaan

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. Many humans including prophets and the righteous, salihiin, have passed this test. Many ordinary humans make mistakes in using their free will to make wrong choices but Allah in His mercy always is ready to forgive if they turn to him in repentance, taubat, and are determined to pass the test when given a new chance. Allah never tires of forgiving humans who fail and fail again and again but turn to him for forgiveness. Angels despite their high position in the order of creation were not given a free will. The fact that angels cannot 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.  

 

 

POSITIVE USES OF THE FREE WILL, al istikhdaamu al iijaabi li al iraadat

Human will can be used positively in working and preparing for the life hereafter, akhirat (p 86 3:145,  3:152, 17:19, 33:29, 42:20),; doing good, ihsan (p 86 4:62, 9:107);  reforming, islah (p 86-87 4:35, 11:88); giving nasihat (p 88 11:34); guidance, hidayat (p 88 4:88, 6:52, 18:28, 25:62, 30:38-39,  35:10); and good effort, sa'ay (p 87 17:19).

 

NEGATIVE USES OF THE FREE WILL, al istikhdaam al salbi li iraadat al insaan

Human will can also be used negatively for pursuit of pleasures of the earth, duniyat (p 86 3:145, 3:152, 4:134, 8:67, 11:15, 17:18, 18:28, 28:79, 33:28, 42:20, 53:29); deception, khid’at (p 87 8:62); treachery, khiyanat (p 87 8:71); doing bad, suu' (p 87 11:79, 12:25, 17:103, 20:86); misguidance, dhalal (p 87-88 4:27, 4:44, 4:60, 4:150, 37:86, 48:15); transgression, dhulm (p 88 22:25); corruption, fujuur (p 88 75:5) & fasad (p 88 28:83); or trickery, kaid (p 88 21:70, 37:98, 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. However evil human communities become, there will always be a few individuals upholding the high and superior human ideals until the last day, yawm al qiyamat. It is those few who protect the whole community from the wrath and instant punishment by Allah as happened to previous generations.

 

D. THE TRUST, al amanat

DEFINITION OF AMANAT, mafhuum al amaanat

The companion Ibn Abbas defined the 'amanat' referred to in the verse 33:72 as obedience of Allah, ta'at. In another narration he defined it as the obligations of worship, faraidh. When the heavens, the earth, and the mountains, out of respect for the diin and fear of failure, refused to carry the amanat it was offered to Adam who accepted it.  Imaam Sarakshi defined amanat as dhimmat that in modern terminology means 'legal personality' that has rights as well as obligations.

 

SCOPE OF AMANAT, huduud al amaanat

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 covers the big and the small. It also extends in time to generations not yet seen. Humans are however not held responsible for what happened in the past generations

 

AMANAT AS BASIS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY, al amaanat asaas al masuliyyat

 

Responsibility: Humans, unlike other creations of Allah, bear responsibility, mas'uliyyat, for their actions (p 849 2:134, 2:139, 2:141, 2:234, 2:240, 2:281, 2:286, 3:25, 3:161, 4:66, 4:111, 6:164, 7:155, 7:173, 10:41, 14:51, 21:23, 24:11, 26:112, 36:168-169, 26:216, 34:25, 40:17, 42:15, 45:22, 52:21, 66:11, 74:38). This responsibility arises from the amanat (p 148 12:11, 12:64). These responsibilities and trusts are an obligation, takliif, and not  just an honor, takriim; 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 have varied success in carrying the amanat. Adam and Hawa were the first to fail. Other humans after them have failed. However Allah promised to help humans in carrying the amanat and when they fail He is ever willing to forgive and rehabilitate them.

 

Accountability: Humans are responsible before Allah, mas’uliyyat amama Allah (p 1117 17:24, 17:36, 33:15, 37:24). Fulfilling responsibilities to the self, the community, and the universe as a whole are part of responsibility and accountability to  Allah. Humans will be asked about the responsibility in the hereafter on how well they discharged it, su’al al hisab. (p. 608 2:119,  2:134, 2:141, 5:109, 5:116, 7:6, 15:92, 16:56, 17:34, 17:36, 21:13, 21:23, 25:16, 28:78, 29:13, 33:8, 33:15, 34:25, 37:24, 43:19, 43:44, 55:39, 102:8).. Responsibility is meaningless without accountability. An individual may see no reason for carrying the amanat if not questions will ever be asked and reward or punishment assigned on the basis of performance.

 

FULFILLING THE AMANAT, adaau al amaanat

Humans must fulfill their trusts, adau al amanat (p 148 2:283,  3:75, 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).

 

FAILING THE AMANAT, khaybat al amaanat

Some humans fail in their trusts, khiyanat al amanat (p 149 8:27, 12:11, 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 carrying the amanat responsibly.

 

D. MORAL GUIDANCE, hidayat

FREEDOM OF CHOICE, hurriyat al ikhtiyaar

Human will and guidance: 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. Allah gave humans a free choice to choose between two highways, najdayn (90:10) right and wrong, good and evil. 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 because of their  superior intellect that enables them to undertake a range of iniquities that no other creation can even dream of.

 

Allah’s will and guidance: Allah's will is involved in human guidance,  iradat al llaahi fi al hidayat (p. 1280 2:120, 2:159, 3:73, 6:125, 6:147, 7:30, 7:43, 7:178, 7:186, 10:25, 10:35, 13:33, 14:21, 16:31-37, 17:97, 18:17, 24:40, 33:4, 34:6, 39:23, 39:36-37, 39:57, 40:33, 42:44, 42:46, 45:23, 48:30, 92:12). Allah's involvement is not arbitrary. He guides only those who have already made the initial choice and taken steps towards guidance. Humans use their will in seeking guidance, iradat al insan fi al hidayat, (p. 1281 3:101, 4:175, 5:105, 10:9, 10:108, 13:27, 17:15, 19:86, 20:135, 27:92, 39:17-18, 39:41, 42:13, 47:17, 64:11). Allah guides those who seek guidance in the following ways. (a) Sending messengers with guidance, irsaal al rusl bi al hidayat (p 1281 3:3-4, 5:44, 5:46, 6:91, 6:154, 6:157, 7:154, 7:203, 9:33, 17:2, 17:94, 23:49, 28:27, 28:43, 28:85, 32:3, 32:23, 35:42, 42:52, 40:53-54, 48:28, 61:9, 64:6). (b) Allah's signs in the universe as a source of guidance for those who look with deliberation (p. 1284 16:15, 21:31, 43:10).

 

Human efforts for guidance: Human guidance is not a passive process. It requires active human participation. Humans are called to guidance, al da'wat ila al hidayat (p 1287 7:159, 7:181, 7:193, 7:198, 18:57, 19:43, 21:73, 22:67, 28:56, 32:24, 40:38, 42:52, 43:24, 64:6, 79:19). Humans are enjoined to follow guidance, ittibau al hudah (p. 1280 2:38, 6:90, 10:35, 20:123, 28:49, 28:57, 36:21), to ask for guidance, talab al hidayat (p 1288 1:6, 38:22)., to be serious with guidance, al hirsi ala al hidayat (p.1286 2:272, 16:37, 26:3, 35:8), to follow the truth, ittibau al haqq (p. 1284 2:53, 2:135, 5:16, 7:158, 19:43, 40:38), to seek protection from Allah, al I'itisam bi al llaah (p. 1284 3:101, 4:175). Humans are directed to the following measures that lead to guidance: iman (p. 1284 2:137, 2:213, 4:175, 10:9, 18:13, 22:54), taubah (p. 1284-1285 20:82, 20:122), jihad (p. 1285 29:69), obedience of Allah, ta'at (p 1285 3:20, 4:66-68, 24:54), and good work, al 'amal (p 1285 47:4-5). Humans are directed to avoid the following that destroy hidayat: shaitan (p1285 7:30, 27:24, 47:25),  extravagance. Israaf (p 1285 40:28), treachery, khiyanat (p. 1285 12:52), doubt, riibat (p 1285 40:34), dhalaal (p. 1285 4:88, 6:56, 6:117, 6:140, 16:37, 16:125, 20:79, 22:4, 28:50, 30:29, 43:40, 53:30, 68:7), dhulm (p. 1286 2:258, 5:51, 6:144, 9:19, 9:109, 14:27, 28:50, 46:10, 61:7, 62:5), moral blindness, ‘amyu al quluub (p. 1286 10:43, 30:53, 43:40), fisq (p. 1286 2:26, 5;108, 9:34, 9:80, 61:5, 63:2); lying, kadhb (p 1286 39:3, 40:28), disbelief, kufr (p 1286 2:16, 2:170, 3:264, 3:86, 4:137, 4:168, 5:67, 5:104, 10:45, 16:104, 18:55, 45:11, 46:11). Some humans can prevent others from hidayat, al sadd 'an al hidayat (p 1287 34:32, 43:37, 96:9-11). Moral guidance is not static. Through effort a human can reach higher levels of guidance (p. 1287 18:13, 19:81, 47:17).

 

CONCEPTS OF GOOD AND BAD, mafhuum al hasan wa al qabiih

Humans, in the pure state of fitra, have an innate concept of what is good and what is bad. 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. The human intellect can guide a human to the good, hasan, and the bad, qabiih. The intellect is however not perfect and can make mistakes since in life nothing is absolutely bad or absolutely good. What we term good or what we term bad are the best equilibrium between several competing circumstances and considerations. Allah in His mercy revealed the comprehensive code of the shariat to help humans identify the good and do it as well as identify the bad and avoid it.

 

MORALITY AND SOCIETY, al akhlaaq wa al mujtama’

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. 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.

MORALITY AND BEHAVIOR, al akhlaaq wa al tasarruf al insaani

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. The Qur'an has described the attributes of the rightly guided, sifaat al muhtadiin (p 1287-12882:3-5,  2:135, 2:143, 2:155-157, 6:82, 6:90, 9:18, 31:3-5, 39:17-18). These attributes constitute what is called ideal behavior.

 

THE RIGHTEOUS, al saalihiin

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.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. February 2001