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Table of Contents  

I. Introduction: Basic Information   

1. Islam: A Brief Introduction    

2. Three Levels of Faith: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan    

3. The Scientific Evidence That God Exists and the Holy Qur'an Is His Message to Humanity    

4. Creation and Evolution in the Holy Qur'an   

5. Humans, As God's Caliphs on Earth   

6. Adam's Contest With the Angels, and Getting Out of Paradise  

7. Worshippers By Choice Or Forced Slaves?    

8. The Relationship Between the Spiritual and the Physical Aspects of Islamic Teachings   

9. Mind, Self, Soul, Spirit, and Happiness from an Islamic Perspective  

10. Heart-Mind Relationship in the Holy Qur'an    

II. Islam: The Five Pillars of the Faith Structure  

1. Proclamation of Faith  

2. Performing Islamic Prayers  

3. Giving Zakah (Charity)  

4. Fasting the Month of Ramadhan  

5. Making the Haj (Pilgrimage) Journey  

III. Iman: Allah, His Angels, Messengers, Messages, Latter Day, and Qadar  

1. Allah, As He Described Himself in the Holy Quran    

2. Angels  

3. Noo'h, Noah, in the Holy Quran     

4. Ibrahim, Abraham, in the Holy Quran

5. Moussa, Moses, in the Holy Quran  

6. 'Eissa, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Quran    

7. Muhammed in the Holy Quran   

8. Prophet Muhammed's Night Journey and Ascent to Heavens, Al-Issra Wal Mi'raj  

9. Latter Day (Day of Resurrection)  

10. Qada and Qadar: God's Foreknowledge and His Decree  

IV. I'hsan: Watching Allah in What We Say and What We Do  

1. Introduction to Islamic Law, Shari'a, Part I, Prohibition, Don't Do, and Do Commands in the Holy Quran

2. The La (No) Commands  

3. The Imperative Commands  

***

Articles with Islamic Perspective:

Health Care Crisis in the US: An Islamic Perspective

"Terrorism" & "Islamo-Fascism" Propaganda Campaigns: An Interactive Lecture

Six Questions About Islam, Muslims and Jews

Five Islamic Issues: Predestination and choice, position toward other religions, angels, and the End of Days

Food Islamic Rules and Teachings
 

Are Muslim women second-class citizens  

The French Ban on Islamic Headscarf, an Interview with

Links to Islamic Topics 2007-2010

Links to Islamic Topics 2007

Links to Islamic topics 2006

Links to Islamic topics 2005

Links to Islamic topics 2004

Links to Islamic topics, 2003

2002 Links to Islamic topics

 

Islam:

God's Message of Guidance to Humanity

I. 5

Humans, As God's Caliphs on Earth

By Hassan Ali El-Najjar

4 Jumada Al-Thaniya, 1431, May 18, 2010

   :  

ۡ ٱ ٱٰۡ ٱ

I seek refuge with God from the stoned Shaitan (Satan)

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

 

Introduction

A necessary background for this article can be found in the authors article  Creation and Evolution in the Holy Qur'an [i]   which tells the Quran story of how God created life on Earth, let it evolve, and intervened to improve his creation. 

Thus, this article is a continuation of the topic of creation and evolution but with focus on human beings, as they represent the climax of the stages of creation, fashioning in the right proportions, walking upright on two, and imaging them in the best of images. As God felt that He taught Adam enough, He decided to make him His successor on Earth. He brought him to a contest with the angels to show them that human beings are worth His decision of making them His successors on Earth. The story of Adam is addressed in another article at the following link:

Adam's Contest With the Angels, and Getting Out of Paradise

The verses related to the topics of these three articles, like the rest of the verses of the Holy Quran, are very concise and each word has a specific meaning within a certain context but it may have other meanings in other contexts. That is why the translation from Arabic is not enough. It has to be complimented with facts from the sciences, particularly from Anthropology and Biology in this case, as well as with interpretations of prominent Islamic scholars, such as Al-Tabari (Died in 310 Hijria), Al-Qurtubi (Died in 671 Hijria), Bin Katheer (Died in 774 Hijria), and Al-Siyouti (849-911 Hijria, 1445-1505). [ii]

Though he consulted with various translations and interpretations, the translation of the meanings of the Quranic verses as well as the interpretations related to them in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.

***

A Brief Background 

The following five verses give a brief background about the first article, Creation and Evolution in the Holy Qur'an    which tells the Quran story of how God created life on Earth, let it evolve, and intervened to improve his creation.

The verses tell us that Allah, praise to Him, began the creation of life, including humans out of clay, but He kept improving his creation, fashioning it with the right proportions, leading humans to walk uprightly (on two), and imaging them in the best image.

Verse 11 of Surat Al-Araf (Chapter 7) clearly states that Allah, praise to Him, created humans (in plural), fashioned them in the image He wanted, then He said to the angels to prostrate to Adam, the top of His human creation.

Verse 59 of Surat Al-Imarn (Chapter 3), states that both of Jesus Christ and Adam (peace be upon them) were alike in that they were created of the Earth soil. We know for sure that Jesus Christ was created in his mothers womb, which means that the verse is referring to the first creation of life on Earth, out of clay (which is water and soil together). The verse tells us that this also applies to the creation of Adam. 

  ( 32: 7).

(Allah is He) who has made everything He created better, and He began the creation of the human (being) out of clay  (Al-Sajda, 32: 7).

   ( 82: 7).

It is He Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and made you with the right proportions (straightened you up), to walk in an upright position  (Al-Infitar, 82: 7).

  ( 82: 8).

In whatever form (image) He willed, He put you together (assembled you)  (Al-Infitar, 82: 8).

  ( 7: 11).

And We created you (humans, in plural form), then fashioned you (made you in the image you are, also addressing humans in plural form), then said to the angels: Prostrate to Adam! And they prostrated, all except Iblis (another name for Satan), who was not of those who made prostration  (Al-A'araf, 7: 11).

ٰ ۖ ( 3: 69).

The example of Eissa (Jesus) for Allah is as that of Adam. He created him from the earth soil, then said to him: "Be". And he was  (Al-'Imran, 3: 69).

***

Meaning of Human Caliphate on Earth

The starting point in this article is the word khalifa, or caliph, which is mentioned in Verse 30 of Surat Al-Baqara (Chapter 2 of the Holy Quran). The root of the word is the Arabic verb khalafa, which means came after or succeeded. However, several derivatives of the verb are used in many other verses, as listed below.

The caliph (Al-Khalifa) is the ruler who comes after, or succeeds another. The main meaning is that Allah, praise to Him, has chosen humans to be His successors, or caliphs, on Earth, ruling it according to His Law )Sharia), and on His behalf.

Muslims used the word to describe the second head of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, referring to him as the Caliph of the Prophet, or his successor, as the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was the first head of the Islamic State. Then, Muslims continued describing their rulers as such until the end of World War I, at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Ottoman Caliphate was defeated by Western empires and was replaced by the Turkish secular state.

Another related meaning to the word Khalifa or caliph is that Allah, praise to Him, has willed that humans shall succeed each other in ruling the Earth, century after century, until He inherits this planet and all that is on it.

Honor, But Responsibility 

Gods decision, or mandate, to make humans His successors, caliphs, on Earth is a great honor to them, but it is a grave responsibility at the same time. It is true that they lived up to Gods expectations in many centuries and stages of their history. However, they failed in many other occasions and times. They did injustice to themselves and to the planet they have been entrusted to care about.

The very characteristics of success that humans possess could be used in bad ways, as a result of following Satan and his wicked ways, which took humans away from the right path of God. 

Verse 72 of Surat Al-Ahzab (Chapter 33 of the Holy Quran) tells us that the Heavens, the Earth, and the Mountains (as solid and strong as they are) could not carry Gods mandate and the responsibility associated with it. However, humans were happy to carry it, or accept it, out of ignorance about the burdens of the responsibility associated with Gods mandate for them to become His successors on Earth.

 



ۖ   ( 33:  72).

We offered the trust (of succession, caliphate) to the heavens and the Earth and the mountains, but they refused to undertake it, and were afraid of it. And (but) the human (being) undertook it (because) he was unjust (to himself) and ignorant (of the consequences of his undertaking)  (Al-A'hzab, 33: 72).

Gods Mandate: Verse 30 of Surat Al-Baqara

 

ۡ ٰۡٓٮٕ ۬ ٱۡۡ ۬ۖ ٓ ۡ ۡ ۡ ٱٓ ۡ ۡ ۖ ٓ ۡ ۡ ( 2: 30).

And when your Lord said to the angels: I am making a caliph on the Earth. They said: Are You making therein one who corrupts it and sheds blood, while we hymn Your praise and sanctify You? He said: Surely I know that which you do not know  (Al-Baqara, 2: 30).

In explaining the meaning of this verse, Al-Siyouti mentioned that Allah decided to make Adam as His caliph, successor, on Earth, to succeed Him in implementing His rules.

Al-Tabari used the same explanation, mentioning a narration by the Companions Ibn Massaaud and Ibn Abbas. However, he added, as Ibn Katheer did, saying that the meaning of caliphate is the succession of a century of people by another.

Al-Qurtubi was clear in that the caliphate, or succession, is that of Adam succeeding God, praise to Him, on Earth. He cited Ibn Massaaud and Ibn Abbas in saying that Adam, peace to him, was Gods caliph in implementing His rules and commands, because he was a Messenger of God, as the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, told the Companion Abi Dher, may Allah be pleased with him.

Thus, the word caliph can also be interpreted as representative, meaning that God, praise to Him, entrusted human beings to be his representatives on Planet Earth, implementing His rules and observing His commands.

Gods trust in his human creation to be His representatives on Earth was based on His knowledge of them as capable to receive His trust. Among the characteristics that made humans trustworthy of Gods mandate for them to be His caliphs were their ability to learn, to choose, and to build.

Human Ability to Learn

Allah, praise to Him, made humans His caliphs on Earth, after they proved to Him their ability to learn, to accumulate knowledge, to process that knowledge, to make rules and laws on the basis of their knowledge, and to make use of what they have learned.

Allah, praise to Him, facilitated for humans to learn by making Earth abundant in food and resources and protected it from harmful cosmic effects. He surrounded it with several layers of atmospheres as protection and made its distance from the Sun ideal for life to flourish and progress. Thus, humans have enjoyed  peaceful and comfortable conditions in most regions of Earth, which freed them to learn.

The Compassionate never left His creation alone or lonely to despair. He would intervene to improve His creation with fashioning in the right proportions and best imaging. He also instructed them to learn, use their knowledge for their benefit, and guided them to how they can achieve that.

Gods first word to humans was: Read. This was the first word, the Senior Angel, Jibril (Gabriel), peace to him, told to the Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings of God be upon him. He actually repeated it three times to confirm its importance to humanity, as stated in the first five verses of Surat Al-Alaq.

﴿١﴾ ﴿٢﴾ ﴿٣﴾ ﴿٤﴾ ﴿٥﴾  ( 96: 1-5).  

Read! In the name of your Lord, Who created, (1) Created the human (being), out of an alaqa (leech-like embryo), (2) Read! And your Lord is the Most Bountiful, (3) He Who taught with the pen, (4) taught the human (being) that which he did not know (Al-Alaq, 96: 1-5).

There are many verses, which deal with learning, knowledge, and science in the Holy Quran. These are cited in about twelve pages in the Quran Index. [iii]      

Here are some examples of these verses. When we look at them, we find that Allah, praise to Him, states that He and His senior angel, Jibril, peace to him, are involved in teaching humans. The teaching happens directly, as in the case of Jibril and the Messengers of God, and indirectly by facilitating learning to the average person, as in the case of the scribe (See verse 2: 282 below).

 

ٰ ﴿١﴾ ﴿٢﴾ ﴿٣﴾ ﴿٤﴾  (ٰ 55: 1-4). 

The Most Merciful, (1) has taught the Qur'an, (2) created the human (being), (3) taught him speech  (Al-Rahman, 55: 1-4)

  ( 2: 239).

Remember Allah, as He has taught you that which you did not know  (Al-Baqara, 2: 239).

ٰ ﴿٤﴾ ٰ ﴿٥﴾  - ( 53: 4-5). 

It is an inspiration sent down (to him),(4) taught by one mighty in power (Jibril)  (Al-Najm, 53: 4-5).

  ( 2: 282).

A scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him  (Al-Baqara, 2: 282).

 

Human Freedom of Choice

Gods trust in His human creation to be His representatives on Earth was also based on His knowledge of them as being capable to choose between right and wrong. Unlike angels, who are obedient to their Creator by creation (Al-Tahreem, 66: 6), humans have the characteristic of choice between obedience or disobedience, making their own decisions.

 ( 66: 6).

They (angels) do not disobey Allah in what He commands them, but do what they are commanded  (Al-Tahreem, 66: 6).

Allah, praise to Him, wanted to enjoy seeing his human creation obey Him and observe His commands by choice. When He told His angels that He would make human His caliphs on Earth, they were surprised because of their knowledge of human corruption and violence (blood-shedding). But Allah, praise to Him, answered them saying He knew what they did not know, as stated in 2:30.

He knew that as some humans may choose to corrupt and shed blood, others will choose to obey His commands and do good to themselves, to others, and to their Planet.

Humans are born with this characteristic of being able to identify whats right and whats wrong. They are also born with the ability to choose which of the two paths they are going to follow. This freedom of choice is inherent, not learned. Its part of the original DNA software inscribed by the Creator and blown into the fetus in its mothers womb, as the verses tell us, as well as we are told by a well-known and strong Hadith by Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings of God be upon him.[iv]

Verse 3: 76 states that the human being is guided to the path of choice, which will show if he or she will be grateful to the Creator who guided him or her, or a disbeliever who wont recognize this great blessing.

( 76: 3). 

We guided him (the human being) to the path (of choice, to see if he chooses to be) grateful or disbelieving  (Al-Insan, 76: 3).

Verse 89: 10 is bluntly direct in stating that Allah has guided the human being to identify the two paths of right and wrong or good and evil. Then, He left him or her there to choose with free will which path to follow.

﴿٨﴾ ﴿٩﴾ ﴿١٠﴾ - (  89: 8-10). 

Have We not made for him two eyes? (8) And a tongue, and two lips? (9) And guided him to the two paths (to choose from)?  (Al-Balad, 89: 8-10).


Verse 91: 8 states that Allah, praise to Him, has inspired the human self to know the paths of disobedience and piety. He praised those who keep the self pure and warn those who corrupt it. [v]

﴿٧﴾ ﴿٨﴾ ﴿٩﴾      

( 91: 7-10).

By the (human) self, and how He fashioned it, (7) by inspiring it to (to know the paths of) disobedience and piety. (8) Truly, whoever keeps it pure will succeed, (9) And whoever corrupts it will fail (10)  (Al-Shams, 91: 7-10).

Human Tendency to Construct

Gods trust in His creation of human beings to be His representatives on Earth was further based on His knowledge of them as being capable to build, or construct. He expected human beings to be creative in continuously improving their conditions on Earth, reaching the stage of civilization, as Ibn Khaldoun described it, using the Quranic meaning of Amarah (construction or civilization). [vi]

Verse 30: 9 is an invitation for humans to excavate the previous civilization to learn lessons from. Its a direct reference to the human tendency of construction.

There is no doubt that construction benefited from the other two human characteristics of learning and choice. The three qualities interacted with each other producing this wonderful human phenomenon, which has pleased God, Who did bet on to do so, and to be thus, in front of His angels.

Here are three verses in which the reference to human construction is used.

 

ٰ ۚ ٰ ۖ ( 11: 61). 

And to the Thamud People (We sent) their brother Saleh. He said: O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other god but Him. He produced you from the Earth and (enabled) you to construct therein
(Hood, 11: 61).

  ( 9: 18).

The mosques of Allah are constructed, visited, and maintained by whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and by whoever observes the prayer, and pays zakat (the poor-due) and fears none except Allah  (Al-Tawba, 9: 18 ).

ۚ ( 30: 9).

Have they not travelled on the land to see what was the sequel of those who were before them? They were much stronger than them, and they dug the earth and built upon it more than these have built   (Al-Room, 30: 9).

 ***

Meanings of Caliphate, and duties of Gods successors on Earth, as mentioned in the following 14 verses of the Holy Quran:

The following fourteen verses of the Holy Quran the human caliphate of God on Earth with the following characteristics and responsibilities:

Believing in Allah

Doing good deeds

Mentioning blessings of God

Not corrupting the Earth

Ruling people with justice and according to Gods commands

Patience

Piety.

Allah, praise to Him, mentions in the Holy Quran that the caliphate or succession of humans on Earth is a test for them, as He wants to see how they behave with the blessings He bestowed on them. 

He also mentions that oppressors and those who rule with injustice, away from Gods commands will be replaced by others, who are better than them.

 

ۖ ( 7: 69). 

And reflect (think about) that He made you successors (caliphs) after the people of Noah, and made you exceeding them in stature. Then, remember the favors of Allah, so that you may prosper  (Al-Araf, 7: 96).     

( 10: 73).

They rejected him, so We saved him and those with him in the ship, and made them successors (caliphs), and We drowned those who rejected Our revelations  (Younus, 10: 73).     .

ۖ ( 7: 74).

Reflect (think about) that He made you successors (caliphs) after (the people of) 'Ad, and settled you on the Earth so that you could construct on its plains palaces, and carve dwellings out of mountains. So remember the favors of Allah, and do not act on the Earth as corruptors  (Al-'Araf, 7:47).

ٰ  ( 38: 26). 

O Dawood (David)! We have made you as a successor on earth, so judge among people rightly, and do not follow desire, (which may) misguide away from the path of Allah  (Saad, 38: 26).

ۚ ۖ  ( 35: 39).

He is Who has made you successors (caliphs) on the Earth. So he who disbelieves, his disbelief will be on him (He will bear the consequences).  (Fater, 35: 39). 

ۗ ٰ ۚ  ( 27: 62).

Or, Who listens to the distressed when he calls on Him, and Who relieves the suffering, and makes you successors (caliphs) on the Earth? (Are you still taking) Another god with Allah? It is little that you reflect on  (Al-Naml, 27: 62).      

ۗ  ( 6: 165).

And it is He Who has made you successors (caliphs) of the Earth and raised some of you above others in ranks, so that He tests you of what He has given you; surely your Lord is quick in punishment, and surely He is Forgiving, (and)  Merciful  (Al-Ana'am, 6: 561).        

 ( 10: 14).

Then We made you successors (caliphs) on the Earth, after them, to see how you would act  (Younus, 10: 14).

 ( 57: 7).

Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend of that which He has made you (His) successors (caliphs) on  (Al-Hadeed, 57: 7).

. ( 24: 55).

Allah has promised those who believe among you to make them successors on Earth, as He made successors of those before them  (Al-Noor, 24: 55).

ۚ ( 6: 133).

Your Lord is Self-Sufficient, (the Lord) of Mercy. If He will, He can remove you and make successors (caliphs) after you whom He wills, as He made you from offspring of other people  (Al-Anaam, 6: 13).

ۚ ( 11: 57).

(Prophet Hood): If they turn away (from what you told them, tell them) I have conveyed the Message with which I was sent to you, and my Lord will make another people to succeed you, and you will not harm Him anything  (Hood, 11: 57).

ٰ ۖ ۖ  ( 7: 128).

Moussa (Moses) said to his people: Seek help from Allah and endure. The Earth is Allah's. He gives it as  inheritance to whom He wills of his worshippers, and the sequel is for the pious  (Al-Araf, 7: 128).

ۚ ٰ ( 7: 129).

They said: We had been hurt before and after you came to us. He said: May your Lord destroy your enemy and make you successors (caliphs) on the Earth, so He sees how you act  (Al-Araf, 7: 921).     


Notes

[ii] The complete works of these great Islamic scholars, who interpreted the Holy Quran in different centuries are published on the official website of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, at: http://quran.al-islam.com/  

 

[iii]  Pages 469-480 of the Holy Quran Index in Arabic by Muhammed Fuad Abdul Baqi. Cairo: Dar Al-Fikr. 1406 (1986). The Arabic Title of the index is: Al-Muajam Al-Mufahras Li Alfadh Al-Quran Al-Kareem. In particular, there are about 26 verses, on pages 474-475, which are directly related to human learning and Gods influence in that process.

 

[iv]  The fourth Hadith, selected by Imam Al-Nawawi, may Allah be pleased with him, in his famous anthology, titled, The Forty Correct Sayings of the Prophet, by Imam Yahya Sharafuddin Al-Nawawi, who died in 676 Hijriyah.

 

[vi] Abdul Rahman Bin Khaldoun was an Arab sociologist who lived in Andalusia, North Africa, and Egypt. He was born in Tunis, in 732 H (1332 AD) and died in Cairo in 808 H (1406 AD). He wrote his famous Introduction to Sociology, about five centuries before Auguste Compte started modern sociology in France in the 19th century.

 

Ibn Khaldoun was not alone in equating construction with civilization. Modern anthropologists have also acknowledged that fact, associating human civilization with intensive agriculture, which was also associated with construction of temples, palaces, theaters, dams, canals, roads, and huge monuments like pyramids, Sphinx, and statues. This construction was not possible without writing languages and developing various sciences, hence civilization.

 

====================================

* Dr. Hassan Ali El-Najjar has a Ph.D. in Sociology and a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Georgia, USA. He is also a native speaker of Arabic. He was born in Gaza, Palestine, in 1369 Hijriya, 1950 AD.

 

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.

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