What is man? How can a human being be described?

Details of the Question

- What is the true nature of man? How is he different from other beings?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

It is known that it is not very easy to make a full definition of something including all of its aspects and excluding what does not exist in it. The definition of man by some philosophers as “Man is a being that has mind” is very simple when the wisdoms behind his creation are considered. For, he is like the summary of the book of the universe. He is a work of Allah that He granted the most things and elevated; he is Allah’s beloved. Yes, man is a distinguished being that includes oceans though he was a drop of liquid first. 

From this viewpoint, it is very difficult to describe man truly. Allah Almighty made man superior to all creatures by giving him endless talents and abilities. He is such a great ornament of Allah that he became the decoration of the world and flower of Paradise. Allah loved him and made His angels love him; He also ordered His angels to prostrate before him.

For, Allah created the world and the hereafter for man and He created man for himself. He made man a mirror for the manifestation of His attributes; He addressed him and talked to him; He honored him by talking to him. Can anyone think of a better and higher attitude, rank and honor than that one for man?

The boons Allah granted man are astonishingly great. Allah Almighty appointed him as the sultan of the realm and vicegerent on earth; He arranged the criteria and delicate balance of the world and the hereafter, which are between pre-eternity and post-eternity. Yes, Allah created human beings in order to grant them His material and spiritual boons in the world so that they will worship Him, mention His names and thank Him.   

Man attains the happiness of the world and the hereafter by fulfilling those duties. What Allah Almighty wants for man is to live with this happiness and peace. Man, who is presented those boons in the world and the hereafter, has to thank and worship the Being that gives him those boons.    

Yes, it is understood from the verse “We have indeed created man in the best of molds” (at-Tin, 95/4) that man has been created in the best form in many aspects, materially and spiritually. For instance, the spirit of man, which is the source of his spiritual gems, is beautiful; his body, which is the garment of that spirit is beautiful; his mind, which is a torch of knowledge, is beautiful; his conscience, which is the witness of Allah’s existence is beautiful. His brain is beautiful because the gleam of the brilliant called intelligence is there. His speech and expression, his thought and imagination are also beautiful.

How can man not appreciate those valuable gems given to him, acts heedlessly toward Allah, lose them and fall down to the lowest of the low?

Then, the reason why man was sent to the world is not for pleasure and safety, or for eating and drinking. He was sent to the world to believe in Allah first, to know Him with His names and attributes, to love Him and to worship Him. The greatest pleasure for man is to fulfill those duties. Besides, they are the purpose of life as well as the source and the spring of virtues. If a person wants to spend his life with happiness and joy, he must fulfill these duties fully. Those who seek pleasure and enjoyment in haram things fall to the lowest rank. Some people become the flower of Paradise with the blessing of Allah while others become the wood (fuel) of Hell with His justice.

Man thinks both of himself and of the whole world of the beings carefully. He looks at himself and the realm in which he lives, and sees that there are various kinds of changes, transformations and an activity that never stops in both realms. All this takes place based on a law and criterion that never errs. There is no living or non-living being in the world and in the sky that does not obey this law and the criteria determined by Allah.

A sane man who sees that everything moves in accordance with the order and law sees the greatness and power of Allah Almighty in these activities; thus, he confirms the great creator of those creatures with full faith; he becomes conscious that he has to worship and obey Allah by thinking of His grace and grant. Thus, he begins to progress step by step on the endless steps of belief by attaining the true belief; he travels in the levels called ilm al-yaqin (knowledge of certainty), ayn al-yaqin (vision of certainty) and haqq al-yaqin (absolute certainty) one after the other.

A thinking person reaches the summit of believing in Allah Almighty and knowing Him as he watches the universe that witnesses His existence and oneness with the eyes that take lessons. A subtle and enjoyable attraction toward Allah occur in him. He feels a spiritual pleasure and peace from the flavor and taste that originate from meditating on the Creator's greatness and power. Thus, his belief and knowledge gleam and his heart becomes a perfect mirror of knowing and loving Allah.

That thinking person sees that the boons of Allah Almighty are endless and says, “Allah has not deprived any creatures of His boons. He pleased and satisfied every being based on their talents. Even the denial of the irreligious people, the disobedience of the sinners and the oppression of the oppressors did not prevent Him from giving them His boons."

Man is a very strange creature. Although he digs mountains and stones, goes to stars and dominates seas thanks to his mind, he is defeated by microbes and mosquitoes, and he cannot defend himself against their harms. He cannot be saved from grief and sorrow throughout his life. He is born by crying; he grows up in complaints; he lives in regrets...

In that case, such a weak creature will be comforted, consoled and be saved from misfortunes and troubles only by reliance on Allah, who has infinite power and might.

Allah Almighty created man based on two characteristics called spirit and body. He created a vast and rich universe that contains countless boons for the body to live. He prepared the mountains and seas, the vineyards and gardens so that man will make use of them; He pleased his stomach and tongue with countless boons. Those delicacies and pleasures are halal but they are temporary and ephemeral. Therefore, the countless pleasures in this world do not satisfy the spirit because man’s purpose is neither a material taste nor a material interest. He will be satisfied with belief and knowledge. His purpose is to be a slave with whom Allah is pleased. His maturity and peace depend on it. He wants pleasure and flavor that will not leave him and that will be eternal with him. He wants to live in a universe whose harmony and order will not be broken by anything.

His pleasure and happiness lie in knowledge, virtue and attaining Allah’s consent. Only then will the lights of happiness gleam for him. A spirit that is deprived of it will remain in deep darkness and will not get rid of grief and sorrow.

That spirit is equipped with many faculties and feelings and that it has a width that can surround the universe show that this honorable being becomes satisfied only by knowing, loving and remembering the Being that is pre-eternal and post-eternal as it is stated in the following verse: 

“Without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (Rad, 13/28)

Answer 2:

Man was created with a skill and ability that knows what he is, where he comes from, where he will go and why he came to this world, and to discover the secrets of the universe. A creature that has such talents and abilities is definitely distinguished and honorable.

To have this honor, it is necessary to have some characteristics and virtues. Everything has a reality; the reality of mankind is faith and knowledge. Anyone who possesses such virtues becomes a perfect man. A person who is deprived of those virtues cannot attain such honor.

It is a mistake to seek man's honor and virtue only in his figure, that is, in physical beauty. It is necessary to look for its value in his spirituality and soul. The beauty and value of the body and the organs that form it become manifest as they serve the perfection of the spirit. The Prophet (pbuh) expresses this reality by saying,

“Allah does not look at your appearance, but at your hearts and deeds.” (Muslim, Iman, 62)

Yes, the fact that man is a living being with a mind can be regarded as a distinguishing attribute that discriminates him from other creatures, but a mind that is deprived of knowledge and reason can sometimes make him lower than the degree of animals.

Man and universe are separate realms. The universe is the "big realm", and man is the "small realm", that is, the summary of the universe and its minimized form. The same laws are valid in both of them. In both worlds, there are innumerable evidences showing the existence and oneness of Allah Almighty, and His greatness and power.

Since the real purpose of creation of the universe is man, Allah Almighty educated and arranged everything in the universe in accordance with man's benefit. That is, Allah Almighty created the needs of human nature. For example, He arranged air according to man's lungs, the sun to man’s eye, the food to his stomach, the tastes to his tongue and the smells to his nose so that man will benefit from them and meditate on the existence and oneness of Allah Almighty, and His greatness and power with these feelings given to him. For, man is the cause of the creation of the universe and its last and perfect fruit.

Yes, all the service done to the tree is for its fruit. The samples of all of the realms exist in man, who is the perfect fruit and summary of the universe. Allah Almighty has two great books about it. One is the Quran, which comes from his attribute of kalam (speech) and the other is the universe, which comes from His attribute of will and power. Both books are for the material and spiritual education and development of man. Man, who was created as the most comprehensive mirror for the names and attributes of Allah Almighty and with endless abilities, produced many wonders of civilization from this book of the universe.

Answer 3:

Man is the “minimized sample” of the universe. That is, man is a minimized form of this universe. Allah Almighty, who places a big tree in a small seed, placed so many realms in man.  

Man is a minimized model and sample of the universe. If the universe were minimized, it would become man and if man were maximized, he would become the universe. The realities of oneness written in big fonts in the universe are written in small fonts and legibly in man. In this regard, the man and the universe are equal. The difference is only in terms of quantity, that is, in dimension and volume.

What makes man as big as the universe is the abilities and emotions placed in his nature. There are organs and feelings in man that enable him to communicate with every realm. Every single organ and feeling of man is a window that opens to a realm. Man watches that realm and communicates with it through this window of feeling.

For example, the eye is a window that opens to the realm of images. The ear is a window that hears the realm of voices/sounds. The sense of touch is a window that opens to the material realms. Imagination is a window that communicates with the realm of similitude. The spirit is a vent that opens to the realm of spirits. The heart is a window that is the door to the realm of love. The mind is window that is a thinker of the realm of wise beings. Thousands of feelings and emotions like that exist in the broad nature of man, and each one is connected with a realm.

The second important reason for the broadness of the nature of man is that it has endless equipment in terms of abilities. Because there is no limit to many feelings and faculties of man, progress and regression in man are endless. Man can be great enough to be addressed by Allah and to enter His presence but he can also be a creature that is one hundred times lower than animals.

Man is the only creature among beings to have a nature that can weigh and measure all of the names and attributes of Allah. Man can weigh and measure all the names of Allah through the feelings and organs he has. For example, man can know and measure Allah’s name ar-Razzaq (the Sustainer) with the feeling of the hunger of his stomach, Allah's name Karam (the Generous) and Muhsin (the Good One) with the sense of taste, Allah’s attribute of universal will with his partial will and Allah's infinite knowledge with his partial knowledge.

The spirit, mind, heart, will, soul, conscience, outer and inner feelings, etc. are parts and important elements of human nature. What makes man perfect are the organs and feelings that he has.  

Answer 4:

Human nature can be summarized as outer (apparent) and inner (esoteric) feelings in general:

Outer feelings: They consist of five senses, namely, eye, ear, nose, tissue and tongue. Every one of those senses is like a window that opens to a realm. Man watches those realms through those windows.

He watches the realm of images with the window of his eye. He hears the realm of sounds with the window of his ear and makes use of that realm. He enters the realm of smells with his nose. 

Inner feelings: They consist of five inner senses, namely, the mind, heart, spirit, conscience and faculty. Those senses are like windows that open to spiritual and unknown realms just like outer feelings.

Spirit: Spirit is a command or law coming from the realm of the command dominated by the attribute of will. The attribute of will gave this command and law an outer body and made it concrete and visible.  This command and law also gave him a concrete and visible body by giving him an external body. Besides, it became a law that has an outer body and consciousness by adding consciousness to its head.

The essence of human nature is the spirit. The spirit is the master of all faculties and feelings and the source of life. The body continues its existence with the spirit and it is subject to the spirit. There cannot be a body without a spirit, but there can be a spirit without a body. The spirit is simple, indivisible, infrangible, durable, immortal, non-dispersible, non-aging; the body has the opposites of those attributes.

Heart: It is a faculty that is fed by channels like mind and conscience that is placed in the center of human nature and that makes decisions. The mind sends the data coming from the outer world to the heart. Conscience is the innate criterion of truth placed in the human nature.

Conscience is an inner channel that sends the scales of man’s inner realm to the heart. The data and information from these two channels are stored in the faculty called the heart, and the heart develops and is shaped according to these data. The heart chooses its path in life under the light of those data and lives accordingly. Therefore, the heart is the most important center of human nature, the most influential decision-making mechanism.

The heart has a physical and a spiritual face. Its physical face is related to the field of medicine; its spiritual face is related to the field of religion. The heart we describe here is the spiritual heart. There is a similar relationship between the brain and mind. The brain is a physical organ and the mind is an abstract and spiritual faculty. There can be a subtle relationship between them, which we have difficulty in understanding.

Conscience: Conscience is a criterion of the innate truths placed in human nature. Conscience is a mechanism that makes people feel the truths and realities and reminds people of them. Conscience is the position of being the essence and map of spiritual realms. It is a comprehensive mirror where the ends of the truth are concentrated. It is like the main base of both moral values ​​and honesty. Even if man is mistaken, unspoiled conscience is not mistaken.

Faculty: It is the general name of man’s spiritual and subtle feelings. It is like the opposite of the term organ. We can say that it is the common and general name of all of the spiritual feelings whose nature man knows and does not know like the heart, soul and conscience. The word faculty is a general expression of the feelings that humanity has experienced but has not fully discovered. It can be said that it means the feelings whose names and shapes are unknown.

The material body of man has a map; if we regard his spirituality as a body, it has a spiritual map. It is difficult to make an exact match between this material map and the spiritual map but some people match them in terms of importance.

For instance, in terms of importance and function, the heart in the material body is equal to the heart in the spiritual body. Likewise, in terms of importance, the place of the brain in the material body is equal to the mind in the spiritual body.

Therefore, spiritual devices such as the mind and the heart are compared to the brain and the heart that is a flesh of meat. The brain and heart are the most important organs and sultans of the material body; similarly, the mind and heart are the sultans of the spiritual body.

In terms of representation, the heart represents both the spiritual and material body. The mind represents the brain. There is a spiritual connection between them; perhaps there is also a subtle, material bond that we are incapable of understanding between them.

The faculties and feelings related to the heart are more than the organs of the body. They will either elevate man to peaks or lower him to pits. Let us start with love. With this feeling, man loves either his Lord or his own self and interests. The first state is the elevation and the second one is the downfall.

Another one is “the feeling of anxiety”. Either man occupies himself with material and worldly problems, and devastates his spirit, or the anxiety that this worldly life can end with Hell makes him work, make efforts and pray incessantly. The first one is the lowest of the low and the second is the highest of the high.

Our five senses should be measured by this criterion. Man can do righteous deeds or commit sins with them. The first ones prepares man to reach the highest ranks and the second to the most severe penalties. The following statement Risale-i Nur Collection teaches us this reality: “Unbelief destroys man’s nature; it transforms man’s nature from diamond into coal.” This means that man was created like a diamond expressed as the best mold in the Quran. If he takes himself out of the line of consent, he is punished by being thrown into the lowest of the low. This downfall is symbolized by transformation into “coal”.

According to the statements of our scientists, the cornerstones of the diamond and the coal are the same. Only the crystallization forms are different. Two opposite natures originate from this difference. Just as different words can be written with the same letters so too can opposite fruits originate from the same human nature: believer-unbeliever, righteous-sinner, just-cruel, humble-conceited

According to this example,

• Ahsen at-taqwim: “to be created in a consistency and ability that can write the most beautiful things”

• Ala al-illiyyin, “the high rank of those who can do it”

• Asfal as-safilin “the big downfall and collapse of those who write it wrong.”

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following “The world is the field of the hereafter” In that case, man needs to attain the honor “ala al-illiyyin” in this world even if it is in the form of a seed so that he will reach that high rank in the hereafter. Man will deserve “asfal as-safilin” with the sins he commits in the world so that he will be punished in the hereafter as a consequence.

To sum up, both the people of high ranks and low ranks deserve their ranks in this world. Everybody will attain happiness or will be punished in the hereafter based on their deeds.

Questions on Islam

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