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Islam: God's Message of Guidance to Humanity

By Hassan Ali El-Najjar

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. Islamic Proclamation of Faith  

2. Performing Islamic Prayers  

3. Giving Zakat, Charity, The Third Islamic Duty  

4. Fasting and Ramadhan, Great Gifts from Allah to Muslims  

5. Haj, Pilgrimage, the Fifth Pillar of Islam  

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. .The Last Day: The Hour, Resurrection, Reckoning, and Judgment

10. .God's Precise Measurement and His Just Decree, Al-Qadar Wal Qadha

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

Revised During Rabi' Al-Thani 1438 - January, 2017

***

***

ۡ ٱ ٱٰۡ ٱ

 

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

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

 

*** 

Introduction

A necessary background for this Chapter can be found in the authors Chapter I.4, "Creation and Evolution in the Holy Quran," which tells the Quran story of how Allah (God), praise to Him, created life on Earth, let it evolve, and intervened to improve his creation. 

Thus, this Chapter 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. When Allah, praise to Him, felt that He taught Adam enough, He decided to make him His deputy on Earth. When the angels expressed their unpleasant surprise, Allah brought Adam into a contest with them, to show them that human beings are worth His decision of trusting them to rule Earth. That story is the subject of the next Chapter I.6, "Adam's Contest With the Angels, and Getting Out of Paradise."

The verses related to the topics of these three chapters, like the rest of the verses of the Holy Quran, are very concise and each word contained in them 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 explained further with facts from the sciences, particularly from Anthropology and Biology in this case, as well as with interpretations of the early prominent Islamic scholars, such as Al-Tabari (who died in 310 Hijriya), Al-Qurtubi (who died in 671 Hijriya), and Bin Katheer (who died in 774 Hijriya).  [1]

 

A Brief Background 

The following six verses of the Holy Quran give a brief background about the story of how Allah, praise to Him, created life on Earth, let it evolve, and intervened to improve his creation, as was presented in Chapter I.4.

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 (who was one of these humans).

 ( 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).

Verse 59 of Surat Al-Imarn (Chapter 3), states that both of 'Eissa (Jesus) and Adam, peace be upon them, were alike in that they were created of the Earth soil. We know for sure that Jesus 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. 

ٰ ۖ ( 3: 59).

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: 59).

The same meaning about the beginning of creation of life out of water and soil (clay) is also mentioned in Verse 32: 7. 

  ( 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).

Verses 82: 7-8 and 64: 3, mention the four stages of human creation, starting with the first creation, fashioning, straightening up, and making humans in the best of images.

  ( 82: 7).

  ( 82: 8).

 ۖ   ( 64: 3).

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). 

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

He created the heavens and Earth in truth and made you in best images, and to Him is the (final) destination (Al-Taghabun, 64: 3).

 

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.

ۡ ٰۡٓ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).

The caliph (Al-Khalifa) is the ruler who comes after, or succeeds another ruler. 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 Allah 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 and Arab secular states.

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

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 Massaud 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 Massaud and Ibn Abbas in saying that Adam, peace be 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.

 

Honor, But Responsibility 

Gods decision, or mandate, to make humans His successors (caliphs) on Earth, is a great honor to them. This honor was mentioned in several verses of the Holy Quran, such as in 2:30 (above) , 17: 70, and  17: 62.

ٰ   ( 17: 70).

And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference (Al-Issra, 17: 70).

ۡ ٰ ٱ ڪۡ ٮٕۡ ۡ ٰ ۡ ٱٰۡ ۡ  ۥۤ ۬ (ٕ  17: 62).

He said: Do You see this whom You have honored above me, if You reprieve me until the Day of Rising (Resurrection), I will seize his offspring, except a few (Al-'Issra, 17: 62).

Despite that the mandate has been a great honor to humans, it has been associated with 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 rule over and 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-A'hzab (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).  

Thus, Gods trust in his human creation to be His caliphs on Earth was based on His knowledge of them as capable of receiving His mandate of ruling Earth, and living up to the responsibilities associated with that mandate. In particular, Allah, praise to Him, tells about some of the characteristics that made humans trustworthy of His mandate. These are represented by their ability to learn, to build, and to choose.

 

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.

Allah, the Compassionate, praise to Him, never left His creation completely 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 and command to humans, delivered through the Senior Angel, Jibril (Gabriel), peace be to him, to the Messenger of Allah, Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him (pbbuh) was "Read" ().  He actually repeated it three times to confirm its importance to humanity, as stated in the first five verses of Surat Al-Alaq (Chapter 96) of the Holy Quran.

﴿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)

(He) taught the human (being) that which he did not know (Al-Alaq, 96: 1-5).

There are many verses in the Holy Quran, which deal with learning, knowledge, and science. [2]  When we look at some of them, we find that Allah, praise to Him, states that He and His senior angel, Jibril, peace to him, are involved in teaching humans, as mentioned in verses 55: 1-5, 2: 239, and 53: 45. The teaching happens directly, as in the case of Jibril teaching the Messengers of Allah, and indirectly by facilitating learning to the average person, as in the case of the scribe mentioned in Verse 2: 282.

ٰ ﴿١﴾ ﴿٢﴾ ﴿٣﴾ ﴿٤﴾  (ٰ 55: 1-4). 

  ( 2: 239).

ٰ ﴿٤﴾ ٰ ﴿٥﴾  ( 53: 4-5). 

  ( 2: 282).

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

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

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

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

 

Human Tendency to Construct

Gods trust in His creation of human beings to be His caliphs on Earth was further based on His knowledge of them as being capable of building, or construction. He expected humans to be creative, in continuously improving their conditions on Earth, reaching the stage of civilization, as Ibn Khaldoun described it, using the Quran term of Amarah, which means construction or civilization. [3]

Verse 30: 9 is an invitation for humans to excavate the previous civilizations, to learn lessons from them. While this is a command for humans to study historical and pre-historical sites to learn about previous human civilizations, it's also a direct reference to the human tendency of construction.

ۚ ( 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).

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.

Verses 11: 61 and 9: 18 include references to the human construction, as follows:

ٰ ۚ ٰ ۖ ( 11: 61). 

( 9: 18).

And to the Thamud People (We sent) their brother Salih. 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).

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 ).

 

Human Freedom of Choice

Gods trust in His human creation to be His caliphs on Earth was also based on His knowledge of them as being capable to choose, unlike angels who are obedient to their Creator by creation and design, as we learn from Verse 66: 6. 

 ( 66: 6).

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

Humans have been created to be capable to choose between right and wrong as well as obedience and disobedience to their Creator, as we learn from Verses 76: 3, 89: 8-10, and 91: 7-10.  

( 76: 3). 

﴿٨﴾ ﴿٩﴾ ﴿١٠﴾  (  89: 8-10). 

﴿٧﴾ ﴿٨﴾ ﴿٩﴾   ( 91: 7-10).

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).

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).

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). [4]

Allah, praise to Him, wanted to enjoy seeing his human creation obey Him and observe His commands by choice. Thus, when He told His angels that He would make humans 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 that He knew what they did not know, as stated in 2:30, mentioned above. He knew that as some humans may choose to corrupt and shed blood, others will choose to obey His commands and do good deeds to themselves, to others, and to their Planet..  

As the above verses tell us that humans are born with the ability to identify whats right and whats wrong as well as the ability to choose which of the two paths they are going to follow, a well-known 'Hadith by Prophet Muhammed, pbbuh, also mentions that an angel blows part of God's spirit into the fetus in its mother's womb. This means that the human freedom of choice is not learned. Rather, it's a gift from the Creator, praise to Him. [5]   

 

Meanings of Caliphate, and duties of Gods caliphs on Earth

The following fourteen verses of the Holy Quran associate the human caliphate of God on Earth with heavy responsibilities. 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, as in Verses 6: 165 and 10: 14. 

ۗ  ( 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: 165).        

 ( 10: 14).

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

Allah, praise to Him, also mentions that oppressors and those who rule with injustice, away from Gods commands will be replaced by others, who are better than them, as we read in Verses 6: 133 and 11: 57.

ۚ  ( 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 said): 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).

The following verses of the Holy Quran associate the human caliphate of God on Earth with believing in Allah, mentioning His blessings, doing good deeds, not corrupting the Earth, ruling people with justice and according to Gods commands, patience, and piety. 

ۖ ( 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).      

 ( 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).

ٰ ۖ ۖ  ( 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).   


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Notes

[1] This author consulted with several translations of the Holy Quran verses, particularly those of Saheeh International and Yusuf Ali, published at www.tanzil.net. However, the translation of meaning of verses in this Chapter, as well as in the book as a whole, is his sole responsibility.

 

The complete works of these three great Islamic scholars, who interpreted the Holy Quran in different centuries are published on paper, as well as online, such as on the official website of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, at: http://quran.al-islam.com/ 

 

[2] 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, Pages 469-480. In particular, there are about 26 verses, on pages 474-475, which are directly related to human learning and Gods influence in that process.

 

The Holy Quran search, at www.tanzil.net, yields 49 pages of verses including the Arabic root verb "to know" () and its derivatives.

 

[3] 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 and statues. This construction was not possible without writing languages and developing various sciences, hence civilization.

 

[4] For a discussion about the human self, see Chapter I.9, "Mind, Self, Soul, Spirit, and Happiness from an Islamic Perspective."

 

 

[5] This 'Hadith is agreed upon by various Sunna books and numbered 396 in Riyadh Al-Sali'heen by Imam , as follows:

 

: :

 

" :

 

.

 

ѡ

 

." ( 396 ).

http://www.hadithportal.com/index.php

 

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* Dr. Hassan Ali El-Najjar has a Ph.D. in Sociology and a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology. He is also a native speaker of Arabic.

 

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