Home

ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-03

0102-MISSION OF HUMANS ON EARTH, (RISALAT AL INSAN FI AL ARDH)

Lecture for 1st year medical students on 3rd February 2001 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

A. DEFINITION OF THE MISSION, mafhuum risaalat al insaan

Allah (SWT) could not have created humans and given them all the bounties that make them a special creation without a purpose. That purpose must be a great one since the human is a great creation. It also must be comprehensive to explain the wide range of human potential and actions. The purpose must also have pre-dated human creation such that human nature and faculties must conform to it. The purpose in turn defines the mission of humans on earth. A human unaided can not identify and define the purpose of creation. The Qur’an has informed us that the purpose of human creation was worship of Allah (‘ibadat). The mission of the human is therefore to undertake ‘ibadat. A human who establishes ‘ibadat is successful in the mission; the one who fails is not successful. The concept of ‘ibadat in Islam is very wide. It includes virtually all  human endeavor and all human activities as explained in a previous chapter.  Closely related to ‘ibadat are the concepts of istikhlaf and isti’mar that have been explained before. Istikhlaf is vicegerancy of the human on earth. Isti’imar is the building of a material civilization on earth. Both istikhlaf and isti’mar are part of the mission of humans on earth.

 

B. SCOPE OF THE MISSION, huduud al risaalat

The scope of the human mission is as wide as the scope of ‘ibadat. Human responsibility is wide-ranging. As individuals, humans are obliged to worship Allah while at the same time undertaking those functions needed to maintain life like working to earn a living. They have roles in building and maintaining families and communities. This involves putting group interests before individual interests. They have responsibilities to the eco-system to leave the earth a better place or at least not worse that what they found it. ‘Ibadat is the purpose of creation (51:56). ‘Ibadat in Islam is a comprehensive concept that embraces all human endeavors. Whatever humans do in sincerity and without disobeying any of Allah’s commands is a form of worship and they will be rewarded for it. ‘ibadat is the practical expression of taqwa. ‘Ibadat can be structured or non-structured. Structured ‘ibadat can be obligatory or non-obligatory. ‘Ibadat must be constant and in all circumstances and is not confined to certain places, times, or occasions. Only Allah is worthy of worship (4:36. P 776 19:93…44:18). Ibadat must be for Allah only, ikhlas al ibadat lillah (p. 773 15:40, 37:40, 37:40, 37:74, 37:128, 37:160, 37:169, 39:2, 39:11, 90:5).  ‘Ibadat is Allah’s right and He punishes those who do not fulfill it. Humans were given a free will to choose what to do and not what not to do within the limited human capacity. Life is therefore a test for them whether they will choose the right path of ‘ibadat or they will choose the path of rebellion, ma'asiyat. All human activities can be ‘ibadat. There must be a balance between these various activities for a harmonious life. No one act should be done to excess to the detriment of others. For example prayer at night is ‘ibadat. It should not be done to such an excess that the ‘ibadat of looking for a livelihood the next morning is not possible. Although every human endeavor can be ‘ibadat, only those undertaken with the correct intention, niyyat,are rewarded as ‘ibadat. An act of ‘ibadat can therefore not be accidental. It must be a consequence of a deliberate choice and intention.

 

C. DURATION OF THE MISSION

MISSION: PRESENT AND FUTURE

The duration of human responsibility covers the present and the future. It does not include the past, no human can be held accountable for actions that thry  were not a party to. While humans undertake work to build and maintain a civilisation today they must have a sense of responsibility for generations to come. The benefits of today must be balanced against the harm of tomorrow. The continuity of the mission requires that a human is engaged in a continuous way in fulfilling the mission (15:99). Since the mission is of finite duration, humans must be aware that there is accountability (hisaab) at the end with rewards and punishments. The human mission of ibadat was required of all previous generations and civilizations (16:36, 21:25) for example the children of Israel (2:83, 5:72,  2:132), people of Nuh (7:59, 11:25-26, 23:23, 71:1-3), people of Hud (7:65, 11:50, 46:21), Thamud (7:73, 11:61, 27:45), people of Shuaib (7:85, 11:84, 29:36), and people of Ibrahim (29:16).

 

LEVELS OF RESPONSIBILITY:

The nature and level of responsibility for the mission varies with time in two ways: (a) chronological age and (b) calendar time. Infants have very little responsibility. When they become children they take on increasing responsibilities until after puberty when, as legally adult persons, they take on full responsibility. This responsibility is decreased as people age and become weak with senility. Even among adults the level of responsibility varies for example leaders and scholars have more responsibility for the human mission than ordinary persons. Different epochs in human history have posed different challenges and hence different levels of responsibility. Those living in peaceful and stable conditions need only fulfill the obligations of personal ibadat. In situations in which the freedom of religious choice is threatened or when oppression becomes predominant, the scope of responsibility will expand to include jihad. Jihad in this sense will be a type of ibadat and perhaps the highest level of ibadat. There are responsibilities that are individual, fardh ‘ain,and others that are collective, fard kifayat. The dichotomy between the two is neither firm nor permanent; it varies with time and circumstances.

 

NEGLECT OF THE MISSION, al taghaaful ‘an al risaalat

With the passage of time, humans tend to forget the mission. This amnesia can be individual in which case reminding, nasiha, by religious or social leaders can bring back a person to the right path. The amnesia may be collective in which a major social change or reform is necessary for the society to return to the right path. The process may be revolutionary if carried out in a short time or could be evolutionary if done slowly over a long time. As humans and societies forget their mission they also forget their basic humanness because awareness of humanness is awareness of the human mission. The constant challenge before humans is to remain human and resist the forces of evil that want to drag them to the station of animals who have no moral responsibility. They also must  resist the forces that would turn them into angelic beings who are pure and clean but have no practical deliberate involvement in the daily struggles of life on earth. The most recent challenge to humanness are forces that are trying to turn humans into machines or cogs in the industrial system. All these must be resisted to be able to preserve humanness and the human mission on earth.

 

D. SUCCESS, falah

The Qur’an has provided a clear definition of the success of human endeavors. It has used the word falah to refer to the success of humans in their mission (p 906 4:73, 7:157, 9:88, 28:67, 58:22, 58:22). Success can be on earth or in the hereafter (p 906 73:185, 4:13, 5:119, 6:16, 7:8, 9:20, 9:72, 9:89, 9:10, 9:111, 10:64, 23:111, 24:52, 33:71, 37:60-61, 39:61, 40:9, 44:51-57, 4?:30, 48:5, 59:20, 61:12, 64:9, 78:31-35, 85:11).  Complete success must be both on earth and the hereafter. Success on earth is a pre-requisite for success in the hereafter. However it is possible to succeed on earth but commit mistakes towards the end of earthly life that lead to failure and regret in the hereafter. Falah can be achieved by having a strong iman (p 908 2:3-5, 23:1-10, 31:3-5), self-purification tazkiyat (p 908 2:189, 87:14, 91:9), consciousness of Allah taqwat (2:189, 3:130, 3:200, 5:100), obedience ta’at (p 908 24:51), remembrance of Allah dhikr Allah (7:69, 8:45, 62:10), avoiding shaitan (p 907 5:90), good deeds, amal salih (p 908 22:77), enjoining the good and forbidding the bad, amr bi ma'aruf & nahy 'an al munkar (p 907 3:104), giving infaq (p 907 30:38, 59:9, 64:16), seeking forgiveness, tawbat (p 908 24:31),  abd struggle in the path of Allah, jihad  fi sabilillahi  (5:35). Falah includes material success on earth and spiritual success in the hereafter. Both types of success depend on human effort on earth. It is a unique feature of Islam that all human endeavors that are good contribute to both types of success at the same time.

 

E. FAILURE, khaibat

Failure at the individual level is not worshipping Allah as was enjoined. A civilisation can fail if it does not follow and uphold the laws of Allah (sunan al Laah fi al kawn) that are needed to guide human action. The failure of the human in his mission manifests as transgression dhulm (p 907 6:21, 6:135, 12:23, 28:37), lying kadhb (p 907 10:69, 16:116), disbelief kufr (p 907 23:117, 28:82), crime (p 107 10:17), and disappointment of unbelievers khaibat (p 408 3:127, 14:15, 20:61, 20:111, 91:10). Humans can fail in their mission in 2 ways: (a) internal motivation (b) external motivation. Internal motivation is due to innate evil promptings in the person that predispose to sinning or neglect of duty. External motivation is due to shaitan who presenting in the form of a human or jinn misleads the human and leads him or her to err. Most cases of human failure are due to the work of shaitan.

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. February 2001