Man As Khalifah of Allah
Man in comparison to the other creatures of Allah.
وتحسب أنك جـِرمٌ صغير ..وفيك انطوى العالم الاكبر
You thought of yourself as a tiny mass, and yet in you resides the great universe.
Over the last century, science has made a large progress in explaining the world around us. Space exploration becomes a trending competition among the first world countries, such as America and Russia. Human beings began to discover things we could never imagine of a few hundred years back. With the advancement in technology, human race is becoming bolder in developing and rationalizing their own theory of existence. “We don’t need God for this universe to have been created,” said Hawking in a BBC show, Curiosity. He explained that the Law of Nature is enough to replace God and explain our very existence.
Astronomical observatories are places where you can go jaw-drop seeing all these vast spaces and gigantic celestial objects in the universe. The scientist will show how insignificant is a human being, who is living on an insignificant planet in an insignificant solar system, in the midst of gazillions galaxies out there. They will try to reduce you to nothingness. In a way, it is true, but from a broader view, it’s not. Quoting Carl Sagan in his Pale Blue Dot, “the Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena,” but later on, he concluded, “to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known”
Islam teaches us that human beings are created by Allah as His dignified and significant creatures on Earth. The words at the beginning of this topic is a saying by Imam Ali r.a, explains beautifully the substantial meaning of a human being.
Behold, Thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man from clay: When I have fashioned Him (in due proportion) and breathed into Him of My spirit, fall ye down In obeisance unto Him.”
(Surah Saad: 71-72)
The breathing from Allah’s spirit into ‘man’ is unique for him, as this is not indicated in reference to the creation of other beings. This is what alleviates man, above other creatures and qualifies him for the noble position which Allah has assigned to man. It is, because of this uniqueness in man’s creation, that he is imbibed with intellect and will, the main requirements and vehicles of acquiring knowledge.
We may be seen as ‘nothing’ compared to the other creations of Allah such as the angels which are made from light or nūr, and the Iblīs which is from the ‘fire’, whereby the Father of human kind, Adam a.s was created merely from clay, as mentioned by the Prophet PBUH in an authentic hadith ;
خُلِقَتْ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ مِنْ نُورٍ وَخُلِقَ الْجَانُّ مِنْ مَارِجٍ مِنْ نَارٍ وَخُلِقَ آدَمُ مِمَّا وُصِفَ لَكُمْ
“The angels are created from light and the Jinns are created from a smokeless fire and Adam was created from that which has been described to you.”
This has been made as an excuse by the Iblīs to not bow to Adam a.s when Allah asked him to do so. As the verses in Surah Saad continue,
فَسَجَدَ ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةُ ڪُلُّهُمۡ أَجۡمَعُونَ (٧٣) إِلَّآ إِبۡلِيسَ ٱسۡتَكۡبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ (٧٤) قَالَ يَـٰٓإِبۡلِيسُ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَن تَسۡجُدَ لِمَا خَلَقۡتُ بِيَدَىَّۖ أَسۡتَكۡبَرۡتَ أَمۡ كُنتَ مِنَ ٱلۡعَالِينَ (٧٥) قَالَ أَنَا۟ خَيۡرٌ۬ مِّنۡهُۖ خَلَقۡتَنِى مِن نَّارٍ۬ وَخَلَقۡتَهُ ۥ مِن طِينٍ۬
So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely. Except Iblees; he was arrogant and became among the disbelievers. [Allah ] said, “O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you arrogant [then], or were you [already] among the haughty?”He said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.”
(Surah Saad: 73–76)
Allah then ordered Iblīs to get out from the heaven as a punishment for his disobedience.
The definition of the word vicegerent
The word ‘vicegerent’ was originated in the mid of 16th century from the Medieval Latin vicegerent- ‘(person) holding office’, from Latin vic- ‘office, place, turn’ and gerere ‘carry on, hold’.
Vicegerent means “one who acts on behalf of the leader or the king.” So, first the leader or the king tells somebody “I want you to act on my behalf”- you do not take it upon yourself to act on the behalf of the leader or the king. In other words, the vicegerent is appointed by the leader or the king.
On the other hand, the word khalīfah,( خليفة ) in Arabic language is derived from the word khalafa (خلف ) which means to follow or to come after. Khalīfah in Arabic language can also be translated to ‘caliph’ that depicts the Islamic ruler of a caliphate ( خلافة) or a successor of the Prophet PBUH.
A vicegerent of Allah denotes that a human being does not come to this world without purpose, and not even with his own will. Instead, a vicegerent should always refer to the authentic sources in order to find the correct way to live the life. Islam is a submissive religion, not to anyone, but to the One and Only God, Allah SWT. A vicegerent should not act blindly; following his own low desires and fulfilling his ego just because he has being granted a high position.
One of the most crucial issues in Christianity is regarding our ancestor, Adam and Eve who were said to have been thrown away from the Paradise for their wrongdoing. As a result, the whole humankind had to pay for their sin and face the sufferings on Earth. Jesus was then sent in order to cleanse the sins of the whole humanity.
This is a total absurd and diverting from the real truth. Firstly because Allah will not punish someone for the sins of others; it is sheer injustice. Moreover, it is illogical for a God who is attributed with Al-‘adl ( العدل ) to act in such a manner.
Secondly, it is very evident that man was created to serve his purposes on this dunyā, not in the Paradise. When Allah first told the angels that He was about to create a khalīfah on Earth, the angels were perplexed, “why would you create someone who would make mischief and shed blood?” Allah then replied “I know what you know not.”
Allah created the heavens, the angels, the universe, the Earth and all other creations before He created man, His vicegerent. Everything in the heavens and on Earth has been created for man, and has been made to be subjected and subservient to man for him to use in fulfilling the role as His vicegerent.
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!
Equipped with ‘aql, a gift that Allah did not give to any of his creatures, man will be able to lead himself and the rest of the other creatures, and will be able to choose between the angelic path and the evil path. As Professor Syed Naquib al-Attas once explained in one of his Saturday Night Lectures, “a rational man is not just someone who uses his reason in a superficial and limited sense. A rational man employs his intellect (‘aql) as a spiritual act. ”
- Shahibudin Laming, Man and community in the Qur’an. Kuala Lumpur: AS Noordeen, 1995.
- Muhammad al-Mahdi, On Being Khalifah of Allah. Selangor: The Khalifah Institute, 2004.
- Muhammad al-Mahdi, Understanding the concept of Khalifah. Selangor: The Khalifah Institute, 2004
- Does God exists? Accessed October 25, 2014. Available from: http://www.danwilt.com/does-god-exist-stephen-hawking-on-curiosity-discovery-channel/
- Syeikh Hamza Yusuf, Central purpose of life; Accessed October 26, 2014. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=yOUWe9AVGjQ
- Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot; Accessed November 11, 2014. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH7ZRF6zNoc
- On meanings and definition- Syed Naquib al- attas ; Accessed October 30, 2014. Available from: http://www.utm.my/casis/blog/2014/04/30/summary-of-saturday-night-lecture-4th-series-5th-april-2014/