Humanity in the Quran
Dr. Maher Hathout, December 11, 2005

Definition of Human Being

O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. (Quran 4:1)

Firstly, Quran considers human beings as one family. Secondly, Quran acknowledges that within a family there is diversity.

In General, human is defined as biological, social and spiritual being but Quran considers human as a responsible being.

According to the Quran, human being is the one who restrains oneself, understands and ponders. This comes from the Arabic word 'akhl', which means 'tie'. Human being has the ability to know good and bad. This is comes from the Arabic word 'rusht'.

Other abilities of human beings include
- to remember, store and retrieve information,
- to learn from others experience,
- can be trained as a group whereas animals can be trained individually and
- awareness

Definition of Prophet

Prior to Muhammad's (PBUH) prophet hood, the term "Prophet" meant the one who prophesizes about the future and the one who shows miracles.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) proved to the contrary. he said, "I can not tell anything about the future. I am a person with good messages and warning".

Say: "I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith." (Quran 7:188)

Prophet never used any miracles and instead Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came to give choices.

Several more Quranic verses that address humanity in general are:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Quran 49:13)

It is He Who brings out the living from the dead, and brings out the dead from the living, and Who gives life to the earth after it is dead: and thus shall ye be brought out (from the dead). Among His Signs in this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, ye are men scattered (far and wide)! And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know. (Quran 30:19-22)

Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided." (Quran 7: 158) Islam is Universal. The more we claim exclusiveness that Islam is for us, Muslims alone, then we will become a cult.

O men! Certainly the promise of Allah is true. Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver deceive you about Allah. (Quran 35:5)

O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, Lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of the evil one, for he is to you an avowed enemy (Quran 2: 168)

1. The Scenario of Creation:

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not." And He taught Adam the nature of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the nature of these if ye are right." (Quran 2: 30-31)
Vicegerent i.e. Khilafah is an important issue because Vicegerent itself has certain value, mission of caliber. When Angels asked Allah about the vicegerent, He said they do not know about the majestic plan. The Arabic word 'Asma' in this verse means 'nature of all things'. Every human being is created with a basic knowledge with which he/she can develop. This innate knowledge put humanity above angels.

And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam" and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith. We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression." (Quran 2: 34-35) Allah ordered the angels to prostrate Adam. All the angels did except for the Iblis who became kaafir because he refused to prostrate Adam.

Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: "Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time." Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. (Quran 2: 36-37) Based on this verse, we learn that the human being was prepared and got ready for vicegerency. The Quran promoted gender equality because both Adam and Eve were responsible for disobeying Allah and Eve alone is not burdened.

2. Description & Character

We have indeed created man in the best of moulds, (Quran 95:4)
Allah is mentioning about human being in the most perfect sense.

And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favors of Allah, never will ye be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude. (Quran 14:34) Allah is mentioning about human as being injustice.

Say, but man doth transgress all bounds. In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient. (Quran 96:6-7)

Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful; (Quran 100: 6)
Allah is giving a negative description of human being.

In summary, Quran talks about human being in a positive as well as in a negative description because in reality human behavior fluctuates. Quran does not contradict but it describes the dynamism of human behavior. The human behavior can yield to weakness; the faith in a human being can increase as well as decrease.

We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation. (Quran 17:70) Human beings have the freedom of movement to get good things in life.

Seest thou not that Allah has made subject to you (men) all that is on the earth, and the ships that sail through the sea by His Command? He withholds the sky (rain) from failing on the earth except by His leave: for Allah is Most Kind and Most Merciful to man. (Quran 22:65)

Do ye not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made his bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, (both) seen and unseen? Yet there are among men those who dispute about Allah, without knowledge and without guidance, and without a Book to enlighten them! (Quran 31:20)
Allah is talking about human being in an honoring way and puts humanity in light. Human being is made aware about the things that are both seen and those that is beyond human perception. All the scientific inventions such as the use of satellites, cell phones etc. are due to the fact that human beings are made aware about these things.

Man is a creature of haste: soon (enough) will I show you My Signs; then ye will not ask Me to hasten them! (Quran 21:37) Allah describes human beings as always haste. They need everything instantly and can not wait.

When we give him a taste of some Mercy from Ourselves, after some adversity has touched him, he is sure to say, "This is due to my (merit): I think not that the Hour (of Judgment) will (ever) be established; but if I am brought back to my Lord, I have (much) good (stored) in His sight!" But We will show the Unbelievers the truth of all that they did, and We shall give them the taste of a severe Penalty. (Quran 41:50) People forget Allah when they accomplish and say that they have nothing to worry about and paradise is guaranteed for them because they think that they have much good stored in Allah’s sight.

3. General rules that control human behavior

By Allah's will they routed them; and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not Allah Check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: But Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds. (Quran 2: 251)
This verse discusses about the fact that nations go up and down, people go left and right, dynamic movement exerted by the people to the people.

He sends down water from the skies, and the channels flow, each according to its measure: But the torrent bears away to foam that mounts up to the surface. Even so, from that (ore) which they heat in the fire, to make ornaments or utensils therewith, there is a scum likewise. Thus doth Allah (by parables) show forth Truth and Vanity. For the scum disappears like forth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus doth Allah set forth parables. (Quran 13:17) Certain things in this world pass, certain things last & stay that are good for human civilization.

Say: "Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than Allah, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards Allah. He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed." (Quran 6: 164) No one will carry the credit/burden of the other one. It is individual's responsibility for being good/bad.

Of the bounties of thy Lord We bestow freely on all- These as well as those: The bounties of thy Lord are not closed (to anyone). (Quran 17:20) One will wonder how come people who are bad, do accomplish a lot while Muslims do not accomplish much. Everyone should put effort in order to accomplish whether a person is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. The right attitude is to do hard work and ask Allah for the good result.

That was a people that hath passed away. They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and ye of what ye do! Of their merits there is no question in your case! (Quran 2:134) We can keep boasting about the facts that the ancient Egyptians were great, the history of Islam was great and things like that. But what is more important is, to know our role in the injustice that happening during our time.

4. Expectations

To the Thamud People (We sent) Salih, one of their own brethren. He said: "O my people! Worship Allah. ye have no other god but Him. It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein: then ask forgiveness of Him, and turn to Him (in repentance): for my Lord is (always) near, ready to answer." (Quran 11:61)
The arabic word that is translated as 'settled' in this verse can be better translated as "make it flourish' i.e. to develop this earth. In other words, Quran expects people to develop this earth. And of course to be vicegerent as quoted in the earlier verse.

5. Three BIG Groups

A.L.M. This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah. Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter. They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper. As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur). Of the people there are some who say: "We believe in Allah and the Last Day;" but they do not (really) believe. Fain would they deceive Allah and those who believe, but they only deceive themselves, and realize (it) not! In their hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease: And grievous is the penalty they (incur), because they are false (to themselves). (Quran 2: 1-10)

Quran identifies three groups of people.
1. A group that believes in God, believes in things beyond human perception, prays, does good, believes in accountability and hereafter.
2. A group which denies God and the truth deliberately.
3. A group which deceives by claiming that they believe in God.
We all need to consider these three important questions:
How many Jews live up to their covenant?
How many Christians are kind to their neighbors as expected in the Bible?
And of course how many Muslims live up to the standard set by the Quran?

6. Inalienable Rights:

We have honored the sons of Adam. (Quran 17:70)
Every human being is entitled to dignity.

But if the thief repents after his crime, and amends his conduct, Allah turneth to him in forgiveness; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 5:39) Human being is entitled to mercy and forgiveness as in case of theft mentioned in this verse.

Let there be no compulsion in religion (Quran 2: 256) Right to freedom and liberty including religious choice.

Also, every human being is entitled to justice and right to live.

Excerpts from the sunday lectures addressed by Dr. Maher Hathout at the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles on December 4 & 11, 2005.