Who is meant by ‘man’ mentioned in the following verses: Truly Man is, to his Lord, ungrateful; (Al-Adiyat,6), man is given up to injustice and ingratitude (Ibrahim, 34), He was indeed unjust and foolish (Al-Ahzab, 72) ?
Submitted by on Mon, 16/05/2011 - 11:02
Dear Brother / Sister,
The notion of “al-insan” (Arabic: human) shows the kind of mankind rather than a definite individual. Principally, the characteristics mentioned in the verses are present in the nature of man. These characteristics which were given to man as a necessity of the test are expected to be controlled by his/her own free will and this is closely related with winning or losing. The ones who control these characteristics will be regarded successful; on the other hand, the ones who cannot will be regarded unsuccessful.
As true losers are unbelievers, these expressions are directly addressed to them; however, Allah also (SWT) warns other people to be careful.
The Notion of “kanud” in the Surah of al-Adiyat has a meaning of ungratefulness. Hassan al-Basri understood the related verse as follows; “Truly human is ungrateful to his Lord” and explained it as follows: “Man is so ungrateful that he/she forgets all about benefactions that were given to him/her as a result of a calamity.” (See; Tabari, the related interpretation of the verse).
According to what is reported from Abu Umama, the Prophet reported that verse as follows: “Kanud is such a stingy person that he prefers eating alone; he is so cruel that he beats his slave; he is so merciless that he does not visit his relatives; he does not do any favor to anybody (ibid). In this hadith, some aspects of ingratitude are put forward and people are guided.
In the verse, “…verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude”(Ibrahim, 34), it is pointed out that human beings have the characteristics of cruelty and ingratitude. Those natural characteristics are emphasized and people are warned against them. We can compare the other verses to this one.
As it is stated above, in all of the verses mentioned in the question, the species of human beings is mentioned in general. However, the balance of belief-unbelief is considered in the Quran. Sinning believers are not mentioned much. Therefore, good qualities are in question for believers and bad qualities for unbelievers. In the verses that mention bad end and bad characteristics, the first group to be addressed are unbelievers. That is those who are really ungrateful, cruel, ignorant, those who look for refuge on the Day of Judgment, who haste (who prefer the immediate bounties of the world to the ones in the hereafter), who are stingy (do not give zakah and other kinds of sadaqah because they do not believe in the rewards in the hereafter) are those who are unbelievers. Those characteristics fit them. If a believer assumes those characteristics, he will have some characteristics of unbelief and hypocrisy.
As it is known, an unbeliever does not always show ugly characteristics that are the qualities of unbelievers; similarly, a believer does not always show nice characteristics that are the qualities of believers. As a matter of fact, an unbeliever sometimes tells the truth and a believer sometimes tells lies. However, all of the nice qualities are the necessities of belief and all of the bad qualities are the products of unbelief. Thus, the bad qualities that belong to unbelievers are criticized; unbelievers are threatened and believers are guided in the Quran.
To sum up, man has both good qualities and bad qualities due to the necessity of testing. Belief takes man out of the darkness of the bad characteristics that are present in his nature and leads him to the light of high ethics. Unbelief drives man out of the brightness of the nice characteristics that are present in his nature and drowns him in the darkness of the bad characteristics.
This balance is presented in those verses.
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