The Nature of Human – Reminder by Aman Sibh

By Aman Sibh

The nature of humans is a topic that comes up a lot in conversation, whether or not we realise it. When we see stories on the news, come across articles or documentaries it is easy to question the world, especially seeing the atrocities committed by those we should consider our brothers and sisters. Do we all really have the same nature? Are humans all born the same?

There are many different ideas behind this in secular thought, but I want to reflect on the Islamic perspective. I believe it’s important to know how Allah created us and what our souls naturally gravitate towards. If it’s rooted in goodness, then we can use that to bring ourselves peace in life, if it’s the opposite then we know what it is that we need to control and work on within ourselves. Understanding human nature may also answer questions around our creation and purpose on this earth. This is a huge topic and so much can tie into this, so I’m going to try to give a brief overview!

To begin with understanding this concept, we should look at the creation of humans- the story of Adam(as). From the Quran we learn that Adam was created from clay, “Indeed, We created man from sounding clay moulded from black mud.” (15:26).

The mere fact humans are created from earth, soil and water mixed to form mud then later on clay is something which reveals a lot about humans. Our physical bodies are in tune with nature and created from all the minerals of earth, it doesn’t diminish science. We are part of the earth we are born on, inseparable from the laws of the universe.

As easily as Allah created us from soil, it’s just as easy that we will be turned back into soil – life is temporary

So, what make us stand out from the rest of creation? According to the Islamic concept, among all creations in the heaven and earth, only man stands on the highest pinnacle to be called the best creation of Allah. It’s said in the Qur’an that Allah made us in the most excellent manner: “Indeed, We created man in the best of moulds” (95:4).

Man is superior to angels and other creations like the sun, moon, stars, etc – when we reflect on this it should really make us feel all the more special. How beautiful and powerful is the nature around us that God created, yet He says we have been created to be better than that!

It is also said in a hadith that Allah created Adam in His image- this is also a Christian concept but it doesn’t necessarily mean we were created to look like Allah as He is unique and unlike anything imaginable, but we have been given some qualities Allah also has (though they cannot be compared). Qualities like love, mercy, free will are innate within us and are a part of who we are. Having this connection with Allah makes Him less of an impersonal being- He is involved in our lives, in our very being. Through this relation, we can understand our Creator better. If we didn’t understand love or mercy ourselves how could we understand the love that Allah gives us? It is also a way to grow ourselves and strive to understand Allah better, through knowing our creator we can know ourselves and vice versa. It’s a connection you can’t have with anything else!

Upon being created, it is said that Adam(as) sneezed and immediately said Alhamdullilah- all praise is due to God, and Allah responded by bestowing His mercy on Adam. Now although this is a hadith which is questioned in its authenticity, I still feel like there’s lessons to learn from this.

This is the first act a human did- a sneeze! It’s almost funny because it’s so incredibly human, you can’t control or stop a sneeze. Yet it is also beautiful because the first words humankind uttered was alhamdullilah- praising our creator. If you think about it, it’s almost reflective of how we should live our lives. Things may be out of our control (like a sneeze) but how we respond to them is what truly matters. Remembering our creator, being grateful will only ever result in mercy being bestowed on us.

This story shows it is innate within us to want to worship Allah, and also Allah wants to give us his blessings! Without learning anything else, it is human instinct to want to worship and praise Allah. Also, in the first seconds of our existence, humans are recognised as honoured, blessed creatures- with Allah’s infinite mercy given to us. We were created with this knowledge of Allah; it is something humans at our core need and turn towards- the worship of Allah! Unfortunately, it is in our nature to forget as well as I’ll cover later- which is why people turn to the worship of anything else- money, power, career, even other people. Humans inherently need something to worship and fixate on in life

Adam was then taught the names of all things including all the attributes of Allah (2:31-32). This makes humans the most knowledgeable of all creations and raises us in honour even more. It is in our nature to question things, to want to understand and reason with the world around us, and we shouldn’t be afraid of seeking knowledge and asking difficult questions. An interesting take was also that muslim scholars differ with what ‘names of all things’ are – people think this could include feelings, so we understand love and immeasurable concepts, not just names of physical things.

However, it is acknowledged that humans can cause trouble and pain. In the Quran there is a recount of the dialogue that took place between Allah and the angels after the creation of Adam in Surah Al-Baqarah: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a successive human authority on earth.’ They said: ‘Will Thou place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? -whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (names)?’ He said: ‘I know what ye know not’” (2:30).

This verse demonstrates that the angels foresaw some negatives of man due to our free will, while Allah saw the positive things that man is capable of performing on earth because of the gifts He has given us to enable us to carry out our duties.

We have authority, freedom of action, intelligence and so much more. Apart from being the best creation, man in the Holy Qur’an has been addressed as the Khalifa on earth – we have a God given duty to be caretakers of the earth.

People interpret this in many ways on how we should uphold our duty. People might see it arrogantly- the earth is created for us so we can abuse it of all its resources and abuse the rest of creation.

Yet the title Khalifah places man in an honoured position to be Allah’s deputy, administrator, representative on earth. Our position as Allah’s Khal?fah gives power and authority to rule, manage and preserve the earth. We are not the masters of the universe – that is Allah, but only as a deputy who is allowed to exercise the delegated powers given to us.

Life is a gift given to us by Allah, and this earth is part of the gift. It is our duty to look after it, we were literally created from it. The way we live now is destroying the earth and a lot of us don’t do anything to deal with it, but as Muslims it is our problem as well. Being environmentally conscious is part of our duty on earth! Looking after animals and other creation, everything ties into this.

In Islam, man is born with the fi?rah (primordial nature). Al-fi?rah in the Arabic language can have several different meanings. One meaning of al-fi?rah explains that man comes to this world without any stain of sin. This Islamic concept of al-fi?rah rejects the doctrine of the “Original Sin” in Christianity – as Christians believe all children of Adam carry the burden of the original sin- eating the apple, and so we are all inherently sinners at heart. Jesus came to save humans from that burden but in Islam, our sins are our own and nobody can carry that burden. Adam and eve made their mistake, repented and Allah forgave them. All humans are therefore born in a state of purity and innocence- our innate nature. Life and circumstances can change this, but it’s our duty to remain in this state of purity in every way we can and try to keep our hearts clean.

Finally, it is in our nature to be forgetful. Adam forgot the command from Allah- the command he heard directly from the creator himself not to approach the tree. Yet he was still influenced by shaitaan and his own nafs. This just shows how humans are prone to making mistakes and forgetting what Allah has told us. The Arabic word for insan is thought to be derived from the word ‘nisyah’ which means to forget- a characteristic identity of us as humans. Knowing this can help us understand ourselves better- because we are forgetful beings, we should make a conscious attempt to constantly be remembering Allah and our duty on this earth.

Just because we have achieved a noble position in the sight of Allah does not guarantee us to be in that position forever. As explained in Surah al-T?n: “man will fall from the honoured position given by Allah when he transgresses the limits set by Allah” (5). Achieving the honour or disgrace in the sight of Allah, is a choice left to man to decide. We are created and born with this honour- but whether it is maintained is up to us.

The story of creation has much to it which can be unpacked and reflected upon, and I have just briefly touched on some basics. As a whole, humans have been given the freedom to choose how we act in this life and whether we preserve the purity and honour we are born with. It is within us to want to turn to the worship of Allah so focusing and remembering that inherent need is what will truly bring us peace in our lives.