Man and Islam, By Ali Shariati part(II)
Posted by Parsin on April 11, 2008
Another issue is the woman who is believed to have been created from Adam’s rib. This is the result of a wrong translation of the Arabic word ‘rib’ into Persian. In Arabic and Hebrew ‘rib’ has an additional meaning which is ‘nature.’ Thus, instead of “Eve was created from Adam’s nature,” it came to mean “Eve was created from Adam’s rib.”A great man like Nietzsche believed that man and woman were two different creatures. By and by they evolved and came to resemble each other. So they are thought of as two different races. Mind you that even those philosophers and scientists who believe that Adam and Eve are of the same race have always despised the female’s nature. However, the position of the Qur’an is that man and woman are of the same nature.
Another surprising point in man’s creation in the Qur’an is that God calls upon the whole creation-skies, seas, plants, mountains, animals and so forth-and informs them: “I have a trust to offer you.” But all of them refused to accept except man. This is indicative of the fact that man possesses another virtue; that is, his acceptance of a trust that everyone else refused. This means that man is a representative of God in the universe as well as His trustee. As to what the ‘trust’ is, everyone mentions something. Mawlavi believes that it is will and choice. So do I.
The only superiority that man has over all other beings in the universe is his will. He is the only being that can act contrary to his nature, while no animal or plant is capable of doing so. It is impossible to find an animal which can fast for two days. And no plant has ever committed suicide due to grief or has done a great service. Man is the only one who rebels against his physical, spiritual, and material needs, and turns his back against goodness and virtue. Further, he is free to behave irrationally, to be bad or good, to be mudlike or Divine. The point is that possession of “will” is the greatest characteristic of man and it throws light upon the kinship between man and God.
Is it not true that God breathed His spirit into man and appointed him as His trustee? Then man is a vicegerent and “relative” of God on earth and the spirit of both quench their thirst from the same fountain of virtue-possession of will. God, the only being in the universe who possesses an absolute will and can do whatever He wishes, even to work contrary to the laws of nature, breathed His spirit in man. And so, man is capable of working like God (not on par with Him, only resembling God), or acting against the physiological laws of his own nature. Therefore, what can be inferred from man’s nature and the philosophy of creation are as follows:
A. Not only are all men equal, they are brothers. The disparity between equality and brotherhood is quite obvious; equality is a legal term while brotherhood is an announcement of the identical nature of all men who have, despite their colors, emerged from a single source.
B. Contrary to all the past philosophies, male and female are of the same nature, and were created simultaneously by God. They are of the same race, they are brothers and sisters.
C. The superiority of man over angels and the whole universe is scientific, due to the fact that man has learned the names. And angels, despite their superiority in race and nature, bowed down to Adam.
Above all, man is located between mud and providence, he is free to choose either as his will dictates. Possession of will and freedom creates responsibility. And so, from the Islamic point of view, man is the only creature who is responsible not only for his own fate but also has a mission to fulfill the Divine Purpose in the world. Thus, he is a trustee in the universe. He (man) is the only one who knows the names whose meanings, I believe, stand for various scientific facts. Names are symbols for things; that is, the specific aspects of various concepts. Therefore, “having learned the names” is the potential and aptitude for understanding and comprehending the existing scientifie facts in the universe. Accordingly, through his primordial education from the Lord, man can grasp the totality of facts existing in the universe, this is the greatest responsibility. Man’s fate must be fashioned by himself.”
At this point I must refer to a great tragedy in history. Man has not been recognized as a two-dimensional being. Unlike other religions in which God and Satan are in a state of constant war in nature, in Islam there is only one power in nature-the Divine Power.
However, with man being the battlefield, God and Satan are at war with each other. Thus, unlike former religions, the duality in Islam consists of worshiping two deities which exist in the constitution of man rather than in nature. Nature has a single deity and is under the dominance of only one God. This is why in Islam Satan is not standing against God but against the divine-half of man. And since man is a two-dimensional creature who is kneaded of mud and God, he is in need of both. His ideology, religion, life, and civilization must all be capable of satisfying both of these dimensions. The tragedy is that history does not bear witness to this fact.
History shows that all societies in the past chose either asceticism or worldliness. Chinese civilization was worldly first. The lifestyle of her aristocracy gave primacy to pleasures, beauties, and the maxi- mum use of natural resources. In such an atmosphere Lao-Tzu emerged with an ascetic religion that called attention to the spiritual side of man and consequently society was driven towards monasticism, theosophy, and sufism. Later, Confucius appeared and China swung back towards worldliness. India, under the Vedic influence, was driven towards sufism and asceticism. The present Indian mortification of the flesh-lying on nails and living on a single date or almond for extended periods-is a tendency towards the other half and ignores the worldly aspect.
In Europe, Rome went towards committing crime, bloodshed, dominating the world, and accumulating the wealth of Asia and Europe. Later Jesus (PBUH) emerged and oriented Rome towards the hereafter, to such an extent that it led to the Middle Ages. In other words, Rome, the land of bloodshed, power, and militarism turned into the territory of monasticism and seclusion, until the Renaissance was born and the pendulum was then swung back to worldliness. And again today, the European civilization has become so world-minded (by occupying humanity with sensual gratifica- tions) that, as Professor Chandel states,
Today’s world has dedicated itself to producing only life’s amenities. This shows the asininity of man’s philosophy today. It signifies the aimless direction of technology and the ideal-less civilization. That is, humanity has deviated so drastically that it needs another Jesus.
As far as Islam is concerned, man is a two-dimensional creature who must possess a two-dimensional religion which can continually exert a force upon him in the opposite direction-upon his society as well as his soul-so that he can retain his equilibrium. This is what Islam is all about.
In order to understand a religion one must see and familiarize himself with its book, prophet, and its best products. Accordingly, the God of Islam is two-dimensional: 1) a profile of Jehovah, the Jewish God who is worldly, stern, political, a severe punisher, and despotic; and 2) the God of Jesus who is kind, forgiving, and merciful. All such characteristics for Allah, the God of Islam, can be inferred from the Qur’an.
As for the Qur’an, it is a book resembling the Torah (Old Testament) which contains social, political, and military precepts, including instructions for conducting a war and capturing as well as the freeing of captives. It is also a book which emphasizes the purification of nature, the piety of the soul, and the exalting ethics of the individual.
As to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he was also a man with two profiles (as we see in the history of celebrities) combined in one spirit. He was a man continuously at war, politically and militarily, with the enemies and the subversive elements of society. His aim was to build a modern society and civilization, while guiding humanity towards a distinct goal. But above all he was devout and virtuous.
Finally, the fruits of the prophet’s training are Ali, Abuzar, and Salman. These are among the very few two-dimensional human beings of the world. These were men of politics and war, who struggled for a better existence. They spent a lifetime in the battlefields, military training, scientific inquiry and discussion. They were also virtuous on par with the monks and theosophists of the East. Today, with the information available on his meditations on God, Abuzar is the best guide to knowing the Qur’an. A look at the prophet’s companions indicates that all were just, sensitive warriors, and constructive individuals who were concerned with building a better society and establishing justice.
In Islam man is not subjugated by God, since he is the Lord’s associate, friend, trustee, and kinsman on earth. God taught man and all the angels prostrated themselves before him. Thus, such a two-dimensional being needs a religion which can protect him from swinging to either asceticism or worldliness, and continually keep him at an equilibrium. Only a two-dimensional religion is able to give reality to man’s great responsibility.