The Human Reality


What is the human reality in islam?

Allah the Almighty created everything in this world and in the skies for the use of human beings,[1] but He has also expressed that He did not leave humanity uncontrolled without a purpose.[2] He has taken the course of life under His command by issuing Divine rules and regulations for the people and for the universe. Thus, He has established a nice balance between freedom and responsibility. Human beings are ordered to get united with the harmony of the universe in the following verse:

“And the heaven, He raised it high, and He made the balance; that you exceed not the balance.” (Rahman 55; 7-8) However, those who are unaware why they came into this world and to where they are going by submitting themselves to mortal desires and temporary pleasures in this world could not form a harmony with the Divine balance in this universe. Unfortunately such people waste their lives in deep heedlessness and whirls of loss.

The wisdom behind this is hidden in the human being. When we look into the human being, we can see that humans have been created with two opposing inclinations, i.e. to do right and wrong, for the purpose of a Divine test. Being subjected to a Divine trial requires having the ability to do both right and wrong and being able to make a choice between them. It is impossible to claim that some natural capabilities, such as reason, perception, will-power, and understanding, are enough to make the positive abilities dominant in human life. If they were enough, Allah the Almighty would not bless Adam (pbuh) with prophethood and convey His messages to humanity through His messengers.

As a matter of fact human’s natural faculties and capabilities can be employed from both positive and negative directions. For instance one of these capabilities, or human intellect, is like a double edged knife. It has the capability to direct a person both to terrorize others and to perform good deeds. Without the help of intellect, human cannot reach the level of Ahsan-i Taqwim[3] or the best make. On the other hand, it is again the human intellect which reduces his/her level to “bal hum aḍal”[4] or in respect to comprehension it makes some humans more misguided than animals. Therefore, human reason must be disciplined by revelation or the prophetic guidance. When intellect is guided by revelation, it takes people to salvation; however if it lacks this guidance, it causes great calamities. This is why reason must be guided in the direction of Divine contentment.

In fact throughout the history of humanity, many intelligent oppressors did not feel any remorse for their heinous actions, because they thought that their actions were the clever ones. Hulagu Khan, who entered Baghdad and killed four hundred thousand innocent people in the Tigris River, felt no regret for his actions. Fathers in Mecca before Islam used to bury their crying daughters alive, and they felt no regret. For them, cutting a piece of wood or a person had no difference. They even thought that this was their natural and lawful rights.

They were intelligent humans and they had feelings, too; but they acted contrary to what they were supposed to do. Therefore, humans are creatures of Allah which need to be guided into the direction of his/her positive capabilities. If this guidance is not in the direction of prophetic teachings and Divine revelation, human beings’ natural capabilities will take them outside human dignity; lead them to commit many crimes, and show them, unfortunately, these evil acts as natural actions. An intellect which lacks proper guidance blinds its owner’s eyes and kills his/her feeling of mercy.

Allah Almighty’s one of the greatest blessings to humanity, i.e. sending guiding prophets, proves that how much human beings need guidance, warning, advice, and exemplary personalities. As a matter of fact, barbaric people of the age of ignorance, who could bury their daughters alive, turned into monuments of mercy after receiving Divine discipline through the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

Allah the Most Glorious has made human beings as His viceroy on the earth because of the exceptional attributes bestowed upon them. As we have already mentioned the reason for bestowing upon human beings opposite faculties, which continuously compete with each other, such as soul and inner self, is to test them in this world. Since people have the ability to employ their free-will in both good and evil actions, they have the choice to place themselves somewhere between “lower than the animals” and “superior than the angels.” The outcome of the fight between the positive and negative attributes of the human nature will determine where a person’s exact place is going to be. This is why only human beings among creation need guidance, discipline, and purification. Allah the Most High states in the following verse that living only by the desires of the inner self without divine guidance is similar to, even worse than, the lives of the animals:

“And certainly We have created for hell many of the jinn and the men; they have hearts with which they do not understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear; they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors; these are the heedless ones.” (A’raf 7; 179)

The misery of human beings, who have accepted the trust, which was not accepted by the mountains for its heavy burden, comes from their inextricable inner and outer contradictions; because both the most meritorious deeds and the most brutish disgraces can be found in humans together. An animal side is hidden in an undisciplined and unguided human soul. Some of them are as canny as foxes; some of them are as fierce as hyenas; some of them amass wealth like ants; and some of them are as poisonous as snakes. Some bite while caressing; some drink blood like leeches; and some smile at your face while digging up your grave behind you. These are all attributes of animals. Those who do not protect themselves from tyranny of their inner selves by getting spiritual guidance and training and who do not achieve a strong character are inside the circle of the above mentioned despicable attributes. In some people, one animal’s qualities are in control; and in some others, more than one animal’s attributes are in control. And interestingly since their appearances also begin to resemble to the appearances of the animals, it is not hard for the trained eyes to recognize them.

People, who have different and opposite attributes, live together in a society. This situation resembles the agony of a gazelle which is forced to live in a barn with a bunch of wild and vicious animals. Sometimes a generous person has to live side by side with a stingy one; a scholar with an ignorant; and a merciful with an oppressor. Stingy people are cruel and coward; and they stay away from helping others; while generous people are merciful, humble, and men of service. Ignorant people do not understand a scholar’s state of mind; an oppressor thinks that he is kind and uses force against the people around. In other words those who have the souls of angels have to live together with hyena like people in this world. One of them looks to be on the straight path; while the other thinks that living by the desires of his/her inner self is happiness. The latter thinks that the life is just eating, lust, rank, and similar worldly pleasures.

In fact living in a world where opposite characters exist is a very difficult test, which people have to pass in order to attain Divine unity. This is the main goal of the human beings. This goal can only be reached by purifying oneself from bad manners and establishing good manners and living in such a manner that fits human honor and dignity.

Human body was created from earth and it will return to earth. From this point, humans share similar attributes with other creation. It is obligatory for a human to control his/her selfish desires and purify his/her soul. Otherwise, he/she cannot save himself/herself from yielding the desires of the Devil and his/her self. Then his/her soul gets weakened as stated in the following verse:

“And by the soul and Him Who made it perfect, and inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it. He is indeed successful who purifies it. And he is indeed a failure who corrupts it.” (Shams 91; 7-10)

Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.) interprets the right and wrong mentioned in these verses with the following metaphor:

“O seeker of truth! If you would like to learn the truth, it is that Moses and Pharaoh are not dead. They live in your being and they continue their fight; therefore you must seek these two adversaries in yourself.”[5]٭

Again in this regard, Rumi (q.s.) states that:

“Do not feed your body excessively; for it is a sacrifice which will finally be buried into the earth. You should try to feed your soul; since it is the one which will be honored and elevated up to the Supremes.”

“Feed little to your body; because those who feed their body more than enough are beaten by the desires of their inner self and become despicable in the end.”

“The body that has defect in its spirit will never become sweet, (even) if you smear it with honey.”[6]

Similitude of a soul, which is not disciplined by prophetic guidance, is a tree whose roots are rotten. You can see the signs of its rottenness in its leaves, branches, and fruits. When there is an illness in a heart, its effects and damages can be seen in the motions of the body. The illnesses which badly affect the body are selfish attributes like pride, jealousy, envy, and grudge. These spiritual sicknesses must be treated and the first step in their treatment is to follow the path for the contentment of Allah the Most Glorious.

However, in this regard humans, who have different personalities, need exemplary characters to follow; because, “imitation” and “taking someone as an example” are two of the most important tendencies of human beings in establishing their personalities.

[1] See Qur’an Casiyah 45; 13[2] See Qur’an Qiyamah 75; 36[3] See Qur’an Tin 95: 4[5] Mathnawi, Vol. Iii, 1253 For The English Translation Of Mathnawi, I Have Benefited from The Mathnawí Of Jalálu’ddín Rúmí, Edited From The Oldest Manuscripts Available, With Critical Notes, Translation & Commentary, Ed. Reynold A. Nicholson, Konya Metropolitan Municipality, 2004[6] Mathnawi, Vol. V, 593

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications