At a first glance, man seems to be a creation of contrasts.
Almighty Allah created him as a weak, hasty and needy being, inclined to prejudice and foolishness.
At the same time, Allah made him His vicegerent on earth, endowing him with great spiritual and even cognitive abilities.
Allah also created the earth for man, placing him with authority on it and providing him with means for the fulfilment of his life therein.
Consequently, man has the capacity to rise to the highest, or sink to the lowest, point of existence. His spiritual destiny is in his own hands.
The Quran sums up this condition of man in this manner:
O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy (Fatir, 15).
We have indeed created man in the best of moulds, then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low (Al-Tin, 4-5).
And We have certainly honoured 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-Isra’, 70).
A Match Made in Heaven
Life is a stage set for man to embark on a journey of learning and discovery. It is also an opportunity for self-cognition and self-actualization, which signify a gateway to ultimate truth-realization.
Life is such a fascinating and inviting phenomenon; and man has what it takes to rise to the challenge. In addition, his own being lies at the heart of the whole thing.
Life and Man Are a Match Made in Heaven
However, for man to succeed in his existential mission, he must be heedful and sensible. He must be awake at all times and must be in control and accountable.
In other words, man must be a productive and creative force on earth. He should give and take while discharging his duties and enjoying his rights, and while building a legacy.
Man additionally ought to be life’s asset. Turning himself into a liability is not an option. Such is an unnatural thing, which breeds unnatural and proportionally detrimental outcomes.
Man needs to be comprehensively keen and dynamic as well. He needs to work tirelessly in order to compensate for his inborn weaknesses, to satisfy his numerous needs, and to justify his heavenly purpose as well as fulfil his handed potentials.
Man, Society and Civilization
Man is a social being. It is only when large groups of people live and function in like manner that robust societies can be built and civilizations created.
Society is a network of individuals with their diverse positions and functions. Civilization nonetheless is a composition and fine alignment of people’s various roles and outputs.
The former is about quantity, the latter about quality.
If a person becomes idle and lethargic, that signals his imminent end. He quickly becomes easy prey for Satan, and for all other secondary forces of evil.
And if a nation becomes uncreative and barren, that spells the instantaneous end of its cultural and civilizational proficiency. As a consequence, it becomes weak and susceptible to subjugation, physical or otherwise.
People’s cultural and civilizational legacies are unmistaken testimonies whether they have succeeded or failed in their earthy vicegerency assignments.
The Quran condenses the whole idea into these words:
On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood – for a time (Al-A’raf, 24).
The Old Testament does so in a dramatic fashion:
The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labour all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust (Genesis, 3:17-19).
Life as a Serious Business
Life is a serious business and the only opportunity. Under no circumstances can it be subjected to the interests of mere pleasure and amusement. Man’s eternal destiny in the hereafter depends on what transpires right now and right here.
Needless to say that hard work and efficiency in this world lead to handsome returns in the afterlife, while pleasure-seeking and entertainment guarantee nothing but everlasting hangovers and painful pangs of conscience.
Man is made of body and soul. His life likewise contains physical and metaphysical dimensions, involving the expanses of both worlds.
Hence, man’s work and productivity must cater to the requirements of all of his and life’s aspects.
Matter is a means, spirit the end. This world is a framework for the accomplishment of the spiritual purpose. It is also a prelude, or a precursor, to the condition of the hereafter.
Man’s productivity is expected to target each and every dimension of life, giving all of them their due shares.
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