The following is stated in verse 28 of the chapter an-Nisa: "Man was created weak (in flesh)." How should we understand this verse?

The Details of the Question
The following is stated in verse 28 of the chapter an-Nisa: "Man was created weak (in flesh)." How should we understand this verse?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Author: Alaaddin Başar (Prof.Dr.)

Man is a being that has weaknesses. The Quran states it as follows in a verse: “Man was created weak (in flesh).” (an-Nisa, 28) This weakness becomes manifest even when he is born. The babies of other animals start to stand on their own feet and live on their own after a short while. However, the baby of a human being learns to stand in one or two years. He learns some benefits and harms in 15-20 years. He needs to learn the laws of life during his life. 

Besides, man is a very sensitive being. He cannot put up with much heat or cold. He cannot bear hunger or thirst. A microbe can easily make him ill. A comet frightens him. He thinks about the past and becomes sad. He thinks about the future and becomes worried. His wishes extend to eternity.  

We also have humanly weakness. Those weaknesses are some of our habits and characteristics. We can deal with some of them as follows: 

1. Forgetfulness
Man has the disease of forgetfulness. There many examples of forgetfulness in the life of every person. Hazrat Adam, the first man, experienced forgetfulness, too. It is stated as follows in the verse:

We had already beforehand, taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot... (Taha, 115)

Hazrat Adam was ordered not to approach the forbidden tree. He approached the tree due to the delusion of Satan and ate the fruit of that tree. Consequently, he was sent to the world. (al-Baqara, 35-37)

This characteristic of Hazrat Adam is present in the sons of Adam. The worst form of forgetfulness is forgetting oneself and the reason of creation. It is called heedlessness. God Almighty awakens man from the sleep of heedlessness through some misfortunes, and turns him toward the purpose of his creation. However, most people forget it again. The Quran mentions this issue as follows:

When trouble toucheth a man, he crieth unto Us (in all postures)― lying down on his side, or sitting or standing. But when We have solved his trouble, he passeth on his way as if he had never cried to Us for a trouble that touched him!... (Yunus, 12.)

2- Stinginess
One of our humanly weaknesses is love of goods. The Quran mentions this issue as follows:

Truly man was created, very impatient― Fretful when evil touches him; And niggardly when good reaches him...
(al-Maarij, 19-21)

The hadith, “If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want one more...” (Muslim, Zakah, 117) draws attention to that humanly weakness. It is possible to see the same characteristic in babies, too. It is very difficult to take something from the hands of a baby; however, he will readily take what you give him.

3- Haste
Man is a hasty being. He wants to obtain things at once. He tries to taste the happiness of the hereafter in this world: “…Our Lord! Give us (Thy bounties) in this world!" but they will have no portion in the hereafter” (al-Baqara, 200)

As a matter of fact, this world necessitates patience and perseverance. What is essential is bliss in the hereafter not in this world. It is no use exchanging the diamonds of the hereafter with the glass pieces of this world. This short life is like a moment compared to eternal life. However, man works only for this world because he does not know the hereafter. He tries to take pleasure from life by saying, “Life is only this life.” As it is stated in the Quran, “man is given to hasty (deeds).” (al-Isra, 11.)

4- Being praised
Almost everybody likes being praised. He likes what he does. However, his share in what he takes pride in is very little. For instance, he takes pride in the beauty of his voice. However, if Allah did not give him such a voice, he would not be able to do anything.

The Quran reminds us the following regarding the issue:

Think not that those who exult in what they have brought about, and love to be praised for what they have not done,― think not that they can escape the penalty! (Aal-i Imran, 188)

There are two issues that are rejected in the verse:
1. To take pride in what one does.
2. To love being praise for what one has not done.
As a matter of fact, man was created to praise Allah not to boast of himself.

5- Neglecting serving
Man avoids serving but desires earning something due to his nature. When there is a task to do, nobody wants to be around. However, when it is time for reward, everybody demands it. The following event mentioned in the Quran is a good example regarding the issue:
The Prophet set off to go to Makkah for umrah with 1400 Companions. At that time, Makkah was under the rule of the polytheists. Some Bedouins did not take part in the expedition because they feared that a war would break out. They stayed behind due to lame excuses. However, the same people wanted to join the army when the army set off to take the Khaybar booty. This time, God Almighty prohibited them from taking part in this expedition. (al-Fath, 11-15 )

6- Making up excuses
People who cannot do useful things console themselves with some excuses. They do not want to see their mistakes. For instance, let us have a look at the excuses of some Bedouins who did not take part in Hudaybiyah expedition: “’We were engaged in (looking after) our flocks and herds, and our families; do thou then ask forgiveness for us.’ They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts...” (al-Fath, 11)

There is a saying: ”The crime is ownerless.” However, “Not to see one’s faults is a greater fault than the first fault.” (Nursi, Lem’alar, 84) A person who sees his fault tries to get rid of that fault.

There are so many weaknesses like that in the nature of man. In fact, those weaknesses are important essentials in the spiritual development of man. Angels have no weaknesses like that; so, they do not have any struggles. When there is no struggle, there is no development.   

An important secret of the superiority of man over angels is hidden in his weaknesses. It is not easy for a naturally stingy person to act generously by overcoming his soul. It is not something to be despised for a person who is inclined to praise himself to say, “All praise and love belong to Allah. All good deeds and beauties come from Him.”

Those weaknesses are not weaknesses that cannot be overcome because Allah states the following in the Quran: “On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear” (al-Baqara, 286)

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