To Be Human

Before speaking of human responsibilities or rights, one must answer the basic religious and philosophical question, “What does it mean to be human?” In today’s world every.-one speaks of human rights and the sacred character of human life, and many secularists even claim that they are the true champion of human rights as against those who accept various religious world views. But strangely enough, often those same champions of humanity believe that human beings are nothing more than evolved apes, who in turn evolved form lower life forms and ultimately from various compounds of molecules. It the human being is nothing but the result of “blind forces” acting upon the original cosmic soup of molecules, then is not the very statement of the sacredness of human life intellectually meaningless and nothing but a hollow sentimental expression? Is not human dignity nothing more than a conveniently contrived notion without basis in reality? And if we are nothing but highly organized inanimate particles, what is the basis for claims to “human rights”? these basic questions who no geographic boundaries and are asked by thinking people every where. Christianity in the West has sought to answer them on the firm theological basis that “human being were aerated in the image of Allah” and it is the immortal soul and the spark of the Spirit within men and women that constitutes the basis for human dignity, the sacredness of human life, and ultimately human rights. In fact, many Christian thinkers, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as Jewish thinkers insist that human dignity is based on the Divine Imprint upon the human soul and that historically in the West the idea of human rights, even in its secularized version, is derived from the religious conception of the human state.

For Islam, likewise, human beings are defined in their relation to Allah, and both their responsibilities and rights derive from that relationship. Islam believe that Allah breathed His Spirit into Adam and according to the famous hadith, “Allah created Adam in His form,” “Form” meaning the reflection the Divine Attributes like a mirror, which reflect the light of the Sun. by virtue of being created as this central being in the terrestrial realm the human being was chosen by Allah as His vicegerent (khalifat Allah) as well as His servant (‘abdullah). As servant human being must remain in total obedience to Allah and in perfect receptivity before what their Creator wills for them. As vicegerents they must be active in the world to do Allah’s Will here on earth. The Islamic conception of insan, or man, as the anthropos encompassing both the male and female states, can be summed up as the wedding of these two qualities in him. But Allah has also given human beings free will; this means that they can rebel against their own primordial nature and become active against Heaven and passive to their own lower nature and the world of the senses, so that not all human beings remain Allah’s servants and vicegerents. In fact, the perfection of these passive and active modes belongs to the prophets and saints alone. Nevertheless, all human beings possess dignity, and their lives are sacred because of that primordial nature, which all the progeny of Adam and Eve carry deep within themselves.

Throughout Islamic history many philosophical, theological, and mystical discussions have taken place about this issue, but one basic element with which all schools of Islamic thought and in fact ordinary believers agree is the truth that Allah is our creator, or, philosophically speaking, the ontological cause of our existence. It is therefore we who owe everything to Him and our rights derive from our fulfilling our responsibilities toward Him and obeying His Will.

To understand our relation to Allah, we must first know that Allah wants of us, that there is no God safe Me. So worship Me and establish prayers for My remembrance” the word “worship” (ibadah) in Arabic also means “services.” To worship Allah also to serve Him. Many interpretations have been given of t he term ‘ibadah by commentators; its meaning ranges form ordinary acts of worship to living and knowing Allah. The purpose of human existence is considered by Islam to be the worship and service of Allah, and only in carrying out the aim and purpose of our existence are we fully human. Otherwise, although we carry the human reality within ourselves, we fall short of it and live beneath the fully human state.

By Mehar Nawaz


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