According to verse 72 of the chapter of al-Ahzab, are cruelty and ignorance inherent in human nature?

The Details of the Question

- It probably does not have a meaning similar to the one in Christianity. Can you interpret the meaning of the verse?
- What does the word “innahu” mean?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

The qualities of ignorance and wisdom, cruelty and fairness are inherent in human nature.

Man, whom Allah has equipped with these two elements, good and bad, chooses one side of his own free will. Or, sometimes he prefers this way and sometimes that way.

Observing or betraying the “trust”, or sometimes observing and sometimes betraying, which consists of Allah’s orders and prohibitions according to an interpretation is possible for man and it occurs as a fact.

Accordingly, if the responsibility entrusted to man is fulfilled, he becomes wise, virtuous and just; otherwise, he will be cruel and ignorant.

That is to say, Allah has created man with an endless capacity for both good and evil. If man trains these talents with belief and worship, he will ascend to ala al-illiyyin (highest of the high), and if he distorts them with unbelief and sin, he will descend to asfal-as-safilin (lowest of the low).

What makes man cruel and selfish enough to worship himself is that man develops his potential for evil through unbelief and sins. Therefore, the Quran describes man as “ahsan at-taqwim (best of molds)” in one aspect, and as “cruel and ignorant” in another aspect.

This issue is expressed as follows in the verses of the Quran:

“We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish.” (al-Ahzab, 33/72)

“We have indeed created man in the best of molds. Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,- Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.” (at-Tin, 95/4-6)

Human nature is like a field. Allah has planted the seeds of good and evil together in this field for the realization of many instances of wisdom. Man has been created with the ability to do good and evil by nature. The development and perfection of these seeds of good and evil has been left to the individual’s own choice.

In other words, man can strengthen one of these seeds of good and evil that has been planted in his nature and can prosper it. Since the choice belongs to man, responsibility belongs to man too.

That is to say, there are two ways in front of man: Either, he will abandon the cause of existence and egoism with belief and worship and become a humble and altruistic servant, or he will follow the cause of existence and egoism with unbelief and heedlessness and become a cruel and selfish person.

Both are possible for man.

Answer 2:

The following explanations have been made about the phrase “He was indeed unjust and foolish” in the verse:

1) It is meant that Adam wronged himself by acting contrarily to the command and could not foresee that a punishment such as being expelled from Paradise would be imposed on him.

2) It is meant that a person wrongs himself by plunging into various sins and does not know the punishment to be given to him for what he has done.

3) This phrase means “what man does is cruelty (injustice) and ignorance (foolishness)”. As a matter of fact, the phrases “resisting horse”, “rampant animal” and “clean animal” are used in the same sense because what the animal does is cruelty and ignorance.

Consequently, when God Almighty gave that trust to man, some people remained as they were and some of them abandoned cruelty (injustice).

As a matter of fact, God Almighty says, “those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong (Enam, 6/82) “those who abandon ignorance”.

God Almighty also says, “He taught Adam the nature of all things” (al-Baqara, 2/31) about Adam, and “And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in the Book” (Al-i Imran, 3/7) and “Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge” about all believers (Fatir, 35/28).

4) According to the assumptions of the angels, man was “very cruel and very ignorant” because they said, “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?” (al-Baqara, 2/30) God Almighty explained and revealed what Adam’s knowledge was in the presence of those angels. For this purpose, He said, “... Tell me the nature of these...” (al-Baqara, 2/31). (See Razi, Mafatih, the interpretation of the verse in question)

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