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Is There an Islamic Humanism?

There is no humanism in Islam in the mould of either Greco-Roman or Renaissance traditions. Those moulds are blasphemous. Similarly, they are offensive to the religious sentiment of Islam, and are unreasonable.

Despite maintaining otherwise, Western humanism is unnatural and impractical. It is dehumanizing and exemplifies a manner of idealistic extremism. The whole thing backfired spectacularly.

Such humanism is anticlimactic as well, in that several centuries later most of its salient ideals proved to be mere illusions. They were fantasies that yielded very little, yet, in the long run, delivered more harm than benefit. As harsh as it may seem, humanism made of man an avaricious wolf, an immoral wretch, and a cultural as well as civilizational hypocrite.

Humanism engendered and actively encouraged a corpus of vices the most important of which were haughtiness, egocentricity, greed, pleasure-seeking, corruption and violence. It is not an understatement to say that most evils of the modern and post-modern world are attributable, by hook or by crook, to the dark sides of humanism as the lifeblood of modern West-dominant civilization.

And since the planet earth is the playground of the modern humanism-driven man, consequently the only home of the human race has been pushed to the brink of destruction.

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Islamic Humanism

However, there is a comprehensively unique Islamic philosophy of man that accounts for what could be described as the humanism of Islam. In any case, the term of Islamic humanism should be supported in order to provide an alternative to the former, functioning as its antithesis.

Based on that philosophy, man has been created as the vicegerent of Almighty Allah on earth. His creation is in the most beautiful form, consisting of body and soul. Yet, man has been created in the image of his Creator, as disclosed by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) (Sahih Muslim). Man stands for the culmination of the divine creativity act, with the other tiers of creation, somehow or other, being associated with the honourable status and role of man.

For example, everything in the heavens and on the earth has been subjected to man; angels have been asked to prostrate before Adam, the father and symbol of humankind; the movement of the jinn had been restricted and closely watched due to the revelation of the Holy Qur’an; and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has been sent as the final messenger of Allah both to mankind and the jinn.

In addition, man has been created free and innocent. Of his own accord, he is to surrender to and worship his Creator and Master: Allah. His is to be a life of conscious servitude and gratitude. His spiritual, physical and rational abilities notwithstanding, man is not to live his life solely according to his own will, but according to the will of the Creator of all life who at the same time is the Sustainer of man and existence taken as a whole.

Human Talents

Nobody denies that man is given enough talents to execute his vicegerency mission on earth. However, observing man against the background of the total existential reality, he all of a sudden comes into view as an insignificant, weak and vulnerable being. He is disadvantaged and needy.

Without the Creator and His revealed guidance on-board, man will be destined to wander from one gamble to another, and from one mirage to another, repeatedly mistaking error for guidance, and untruth for truth. His inherent shortcomings will fail him eventually, and his professed strengths turn into the causes of a downfall. On a civilizational scale, man’s life adventures will come to a standstill and prove suicidal.

Not a soul wants to take anything from man’s arsenal. However, he is admittedly mighty, but not almighty; his intellectual capacities are immense, but he can never become omniscient; he is ambitious, but still trapped in the confines of matter, time and space.

To understand his smallness and helplessness, man should not look far. He should only look around himself and inside himself. Both humanism and Islam agree that man is a microcosm, albeit cast in diametrically opposite moulds and serving diametrically opposite aims.

Life is a Prelude to the Hereafter

Hence, Islam teaches that man should be pragmatic. He should recognize both his fortes and weaknesses, optimizing the former and mitigating the latter. Whatever condition he may find himself in, man should neither get carried away, nor become crestfallen. The Creator and His divine teachings are there for him, helping him to genuinely enjoy success and happiness, and to overcome the snags of failure. Both characterize the inevitabilities of life.

Come rain or shine, man is to stay true to himself, without compromising any feature of his life calling. He is to live and die with honour and dignity. This life is nothing except a prelude to the hereafter. The terrestrial context is an estate to be cultivated for the benefit of the after-world.

Life is a serious business. It is the only opportunity for procuring salvation and eternal delight. For man to be thrust in the heart of everything just goes to show how serious life is and how serious man’s role in it is.

There is so much at stake. Life is too short to be wasted on baselessly suspecting and conjecturing things. The trial and error procedures are as unproductive as any other form of ideological mix-up. Almighty Allah’s is the only way.

All innate goodness ought to function as subsidiary to the heavenly goodness, leading to and establishing its legitimacy on it. Isma’il al-Faruqi thus concluded that Allah is the final end, i.e., the end at which all finalistic nexuses aim and come to rest. Allah is an end for all other ends. He is the ultimate object of all desire (Isma’il al-Faruqi, Al Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life).

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].