Tools of human refinement in Islam

Allah declares in the Holy Quran the appointment of man as His vicegerent (Khalifa) on earth.

As a result, He has equipped man with inbuilt, transcendental and physical facilities and faculties to enable him to play his destined role on earth as the vicegerent.

Some of these are Fitra, Taqwa and Shariah, the tools for the refinement of man, to make him distinct from the rest of creation and animals.

Total surrender

Islam considers refinement of character and behaviour as fundamental to being a true Muslim and it leaves no stone unturned to make man a true vicegerent.

A vicegerent’s primary role is to make his or her life obey the commands of the Creator and to work towards bringing humanity to totally surrender to Allah.

Islam considers such surrender to the will of Allah as the only way to peace and tranquillity in this chaotic world.

Islam despises chaos and encourages order and stability in society, so that the stability and tranquillity found within creation is supplemented by peace and tranquillity within humanity through submission to the will of Allah.

The contemporary world is fraught with unbelievable threats emanating not from nature but from human actions. These social, political, economic or environmental, unrestrained human actions by their heedlessness undermine the survival of humanity and the Planet.

Dual Loss

This in the Islamic view is a dual loss: a loss in this world and in the afterlife.

Negative human actions and inactions are in those who discern the imperatives of solutions, but are intoxicated by materialism and hedonism, living in oblivion as a result.

Therefore, it is to give wakeup calls that Allah, out of His mercy, sent messengers from time to time warning humankind of the perils of their actions.

There will be no more Prophets and the onus to act is on Muslims and those who believe in a unitary God.

People imbued with a positive nature wish to lead a civilised life.

But their frailty to understand the nature of creation, their own nature and the changes brought by time keep life in a state of flux.

This is a challenge that people cannot address unless Allah intervenes.

The sufferers

The contemporary society suffers in spite of the marvels of science, technology and culture. People are leading a suspicious life with fears of threats from their own species. Responding to these, communities and governments enact rules and regulations, educate and train people to be civilised citizens. They also superimpose upon them expensive monitoring and surveillance systems and policies them.

Yet, recidivist human ingenuity breaches all bounds and the challenges are in geometric proportions.

Contemporary approaches to problem solving are effect-centric rather than cause-centric.

Therefore, their analogy of problems is more in terms of mitigation and managing effects than eliminating the causes.

Islam looks at this issue of the cause-and-effect paradigm like a firefighter, who is always concerned at the incipient fire rather than a conflagration.

An incipient fire can be contained whereas a conflagration cannot be contained and hence consumes everything that is on its way.

Islam reforms

Islam settles this by reforming the roots of these problems. It attacks the root causes and seals the opening of potential harm before it turns it into a cancerous radical beyond control. Its response to the question of controlling and directing human behaviour to protect from one another’s misdemeanour is not by external coercive means but by a combination of internal refinement of character, by creating an environment helpful for such behaviour and an external mechanism to prevent trespass, recalcitrance and recidivism.

Therefore, the fundamental roles of Fitra, Taqwa and Shariah should be seen in this light.

Fitra, the nature of man: When man becomes heedless to this inbuilt system of behaviour control, he trespasses and violates by doing harmful things, which are self-inflicting and harmful to others.

The Quran warns that because of the frailty and innocence of man, when Fitra restrains, his other inclinations overpower him.

Satan influences

Here Satan does the damage. “[Iblees said] ‘… and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah’” (Quran 4:119).

When Satan interferes in human affairs, one tends to misbehave and breach the nature of Fitra, which is the first level of human refinement.

But it is vulnerable to human frailty and interference by Satan.

“I created My servants in the right religion, but the devils made them go astray” (Sahih Muslim). When Allah says ‘in the right religion’, He means the nature of the creation of man which Satan attempts to mutilate. Therefore, because Satan is the avowed enemy of man and a threat, Fitra alone is not sufficient to protect against the impulsive forces of whims and machinations of Satan. With this innate vulnerability, no conscious man can guarantee his infallibility. Therefore, Allah, out of His mercy to prepare His servant for his destined mission of vicegerent, equips him with Taqwa, which functions as an insulator protecting him against his weaknesses of heedlessness and Satanic interferences.

Source: ‘Rocket Science,’ the monthly Newsletter of Mt Albert Islamic Trust

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