Concept of Human Responsibility – Representative (Vicegerent)
In our world today we have war, murder, rape, corruption, robbery, illegal drug sale and use, violence of all kinds, sexual immorality, addictions to various harmful substances and many other social problems. Not only do these wrong things exist in our world, but these combined wrongs appear millions and millions of times every day. Who would not want a world without these horrors both great and small?
Is There a Solution?
Some, actually many, people believe that these problems cannot be solved and that we will never have a right world. It is only ignorance influenced by evil thoughts that results in this false belief. Over 1400 years ago Allah Almighty told us through the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
“On this day I have perfected your way of life for you, I have chosen Islam as your way of life”. – (Holy Qur’an 5:4)
Allah has provided answers to every challenge.
The SOLUTION to the world’s moral and social problems is based on the hypothesis that if only two (now available) things, two bodies of knowledge, are given to any individual or social group of any size (up to and including all human society), there will result a natural and inevitable movement of that individual or social group toward all things good and right.
These two bodies of knowledge which must be provided to initiate that positive social change process are:
1. A positive, accurate and motivational worldview (which is Islam understood scientifically and objectively in combination with traditional interpretation), and
2. A good and broad understanding of the laws of learning by which all human development takes place.
1. CREATION OF THE ROLE OF VICEGERENT
The most direct statement Allah has made concerning His purpose in creating a race of human beings, through Adam (pbuh), was that He wanted us to act as His vicegerent on earth.
“Behold, your Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said:” Will you place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? While we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?” He said: “I know what you know not.” (Qur’an – 2:30)
This is the very specific, most well-defined purpose for the creation of man. The role of vicegerency was declared before the creation of the first human being, Adam (pbuh). Allah had created all other creations – the angels, the heavens, the earth and all between them before the creation of Adam (pbuh).
A logical implication is that Allah has a Grand Plan for all His creation and that Mankind is the focus of this Grand Plan.
The Meaning of Vicegerency
Vicegerent means one who acts in the place of a leader or king. Included in the meaning of vicegerent is the assumption that the person will act in every instance as the leader or king would want them to act, using not their own power but using only the power granted them by the leader or king.
Hence, to be Allah’s vicegerent means
a. to act in His place, and
b. to carry out His Will, not our own, and
c. to use the power He has given us to use, not by any power of our own.
This then is what man as representative (vicegerent) of Allah on earth was created by Allah to do. The goal of every person’s life is to perform the duties of vicegerent as best as he/she can.
The initial step in successfully carrying out the grand role as representative of Allah is for man to understand his place in Allah’s Grand Plan of Creation.
2. THE UNIVERSE CREATED FOR MAN
Allah created the heavens, the angels, the universe, the earth and all other creations before He created man, His vicegerent. Everything in the heavens and on the earth has been created for man.
“Do you not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and the earth, and He has made His bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, both seen and unseen?” (Qur’an – 31:20)
“It is Allah Who has made for you the earth as the resting place and the sky as a canopy, and has given you shape – and made your shapes beautiful – and has provided for you sustenance, of things pure and good,…” (Qur’an – 40:64)
3. THE CREATION OF ADAM (PEACE BE UPON HIM)
Finally, Allah created ADAM (peace be upon him). As with all creations before Adam, Allah created Adam to be His servant, to submit to Him, to worship, praise, and glorify Allah and to do all that He commands. “I have only created Jinn and men, that they may (know and) serve Me” (Qur’an – 51:56)
However in addition to this general purpose in creating Adam to submit to His Will, Allah created Adam with a specific purpose. Allah created Adam (and all human beings after Adam) to be His vicegerent on earth.
Indeed it is through this relationship between man, the vicegerent of Allah and Allah, his Creator and Lord, that the whole basis of human existence is established.
4. APPOINTMENT OF MAN AS REPRESENTATIVE (VICEGERENT) OF ALLAH ON EARTH
Man’s appointment by Allah, the Supreme Authority, to be His representative is truly the greatest of honours. Allah places the human being at the apex of all creation, even above the angels who were commanded to submit to Adam (peace be upon him).
“And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam.” And they bowed down…” (Qur’an – 2:34)
5. MAN IS EMPOWERED TO BE ALLAH’S VICEGERENT
Allah would not honour Adam (and through him the entire human race) with any role without bestowing on him the qualities necessary with which to successfully fulfil the responsibilities of that role.
What are these qualities?
a. Man is given ‘gifts’
“It is We who have placed you with authority on earth, and provided you therein with means for the fulfilment of your life…” (Qur’an – 7:10)
Man has been given all the material things which are necessary to sustain, beautify, and refine life, as well as all those attributes, powers, faculties, and opportunities which are instrumental in bringing all life to a higher plane and preparing human beings for their destined greatness.
b. Man is given ‘fitrah’
“And so, set thy face steadfastly towards the (one ever-true) faith, turning away from all that is false, in accordance with the natural disposition (fitrah) which Allah has instilled into man: (for) not to allow any change to corrupt what Allah has thus created – this is (the purpose of the one) ever-true faith; but most people know it not.” (Qur’an – 30:30)
Allah has imbued man with fitrah, which means a natural disposition toward goodness. Mankind is created with the inborn intuitive ability to discern between right and wrong, true and false, good and evil and thus to sense Allah’s existence and oneness. Also, fitrah means man’s instinctive recognition of Allah as his creator, and the need to surrender to Him, and is an integral part of our human nature.
c. Man is given God-like attributes
“And He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him of His Spirit. And He gave you (the faculties) of hearing and sight and understanding…” (Qur’an – 32:9)
When Allah breathed into Adam of His Spirit, He imparted to him some small number of His infinite divine attributes in some small portion, but sufficient to successfully fulfil his role as vicegerent of Allah — the divine attributes of life, con-sciousness, free will, knowledge, love, mercy, power, etc.
d. Man is given free-will
It is the inner speech that Allah has given man that allows him to exercise free-will (albeit only in a limited sense). Free-will is the ability man has to choose whether or not to act in accordance with the Will of Allah.
6. THE THREE RESPONSIBILITIES AS VICEGERENT OF ALLAH
In being the vicegerent of Allah we have received the greatest honour ever bestowed by Allah on His physical creation. As Allah’s vicegerent we are to act as his vicegerent in the physical world.
To be Allah’s vicegerent means to act in His place, carrying out His Will not our own and to carry out His Will by the power he has given us to use, not by any power of our own. It is like being blessed with the opportunity to experience some small knowledge of Godhood in our lives.
Islamic scholars have from the beginning concluded the responsibilities of vicegerent of Allah are principally three:
a. To perfect ourselves, according to the will of Allah
b. To perfect all human society, according to the will of Allah
c. And, to perfect the physical world, of space and time according to the Will of Allah.
To Perfect Ourselves
a. Man is created with two levels of existence; the spiritual, which comprises the soul; and the physical which comprises the body and the brain, the most complex form of life on earth.
b. Man also has been endowed with a mind, which is the link between the soul and the physical body. The mind is the centre of consciousness and is closely linked to the brain.
c. While in its mothers’ womb, Allah connects the developing child to a soul and breathes His Spirit into the unborn child. The developing child is connected to a soul which is pure but unperfected.
d. This new human being (insan) is then born into the world in the state of fitrah and has to go through various stages of earthly life from infancy, puberty, adulthood, and old age with the ultimate goal of returning to the spiritual world as a perfected, fully purified soul. The perfected soul by Allah’s Mercy is rewarded with a new existence in Paradise (al-Jannah).
e. Man is given only one chance (temporary period) in this worldly life to attain the ultimate goal of Paradise. Allah’s Plan is that man must choose by the limited free-will he is endowed with, and all abilities, capabilities, and resources bestowed on him to fulfil his role on this earth as Allah’s vicegerent.
As mankind learns by example, Allah further guided us by sending the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a perfect model to demonstrate how Muslims should live in Islam.
To Perfect all of Human Society
a. Collective Duty
To perfect human society, it is our duty to transform all of human society into an Islamic Society living in true submission to the Will of Allah.
Every individual in a Muslim Community has a duty to strive to make it “the best community – commanding the good, forbidding evil, and believing in Allah,” as described in the Quran.
“You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind,
enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong,
and believing in Allah”. (Qur’an – 3:110)
b. Therapeutic Work
“Cooperate with one another on the basis of righteousness and God consciousness (Taqwa), and do not co-operate with one another on the basis of sin and transgression (‘udwaan- exceeding the limits of permissible behaviour set by Allah.)” (Qur’an – 5:2)
The basis of interaction and cooperation in a Society has been laid down in the Quran itself as shown in the verse above.
To Perfect the Physical World of Space and Time
a. Man as Custodian of the Earth
As trustee of the earth, we act as our planet’s custodian by looking after everything in it according to Allah’s command as He looks after His Creation. Allah’s Creation, including inanimate matter, animals, and plants, has been made subject to our power for us to use, but we must do so only within the limits set by Allah.
We are not supposed to cause corruption in any form on earth whether to our fellow human beings, to other living creatures, or to the environment.
b. Harmony in the physical world
To perfect the physical world of space and time is a very noble responsibility bearing in mind that Allah has put everything in the heavens and the earth at our disposal as a trust or amanah. This trust requires man to live in harmony with the Will of the Creator, in harmony with his own self and with the needs of the rest of Creation, surely including his fellow human beings.
This includes all animals, all plant life, and the entire environment, both built and natural. As representative of Allah, we fulfil this trust in various ways, some of which are listed below;
1. Maintaining wholesome cleanliness and promoting beautification of the environment
2. Protecting the ecological balance between human, animal, and plant life
3. Environmental preservation for sustainable development, particularly preventing deforestation, depletion of natural resources, and pollution of land, sea, or air;
4. Bringing about a safer world by promoting peace, preventing war, and eliminating threats to the survival of life and the physical world, such as supporting the prohibition on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
c. Failing in Our Duty
If we relinquish this responsibility and fail to fulfil our duty as vicegerent surely this Earth and its inhabitants will fall into chaos and disarray. When we human beings stop thinking about others and think only about ourselves the world will suffer greatly. This has been made clear when Allah says;
“Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of the hands of men. That (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their Deeds in order that they may turn back from evil.” (Qur’an – 30:41)
Let us never abdicate this third responsibility of ours as Allah’s representative on Earth, to perfect the physical world. If we were to do so the result would be disastrous
d. Social Transformation in Islam
The three responsibilities as vicegerent of Allah comprise everything good, right, just, and positive that there is to do to transform individuals, families, communities, and the whole world into a truly Just Society based on Allah’s Laws.
Islam, which Allah has perfected for us and given to us as our way of life, is the perfect plan of social engineering.
Commanding the Right and Forbidding the Wrong
As vicegerent of Allah, engaging in struggle to ensure that all that is good, right, and beneficial to the individual, the society, and the physical en-vironment prevails over all that is evil, wrong, and harmful, we must soon and widely begin the process of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong in every instance of human thought, word, and deed. Only then will we achieve the fullness of human destiny in accord with the Divine Will of Allah, as assured by the following verses in the Quran:
“…In this way God makes clear His messages into you, so that you might receive guidance; and that there might grow out of you a community (of people) who invite to all that is good, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong; and it is they, they who shall attain to a happy state (al-Falaah). (Qur’an 3:103-104)
Allah in His Mercy has provided man, His representative, with guidance through divine revelation sent to specially chosen prophets, whose main duty was to teach man how to be Allah’s representative on earth. The last prophet who Allah sent was our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the final revelation was the Holy Qur’an.
Beautiful Words and Wisdom
How do we command the right and forbid the wrong?
a. This must always be done in the most kind, loving, and tolerant way possible. We much each do this in our minds as we progress through our individual lives. We must do this in our families, in our workplaces, in our local communities, in our towns and cities, in our nations, and across the world.
b. We have to command the right and forbid the wrong in such a way that we will succeed in achieving our objective, in the most effective way, with all parties involved feeling good and pleased by the method and the result.
c. The Quran says:
“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching. And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.”(Qur’an – 16:125)
7. Accountability to Allah
The vicegerent is answerable for his/her actions, for the way in which he/she uses or abuses the trust of Allah.
“And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.” – (Qur’an 2:281)
Islam teaches us that we have been created by Allah, that we will return to Allah for Judgement, and that we are accountable for our deeds as well as our omissions.
8. Allah’s Reward and Punishment
Man’s life on earth as Allah’s representative entails great responsibilities. It is a test with accountability. It is followed by either reward or punishment. These meanings are mentioned in the Quran and the Prophetic teachings. Vicegerency as a test is found the following verse:
“It is He who has made you ( His) vicegerents, inheritors of the earth: He has raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He has given you: for your Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” (Qur’an – 6:165)
In his capacity as the vicegerent (representative) of Allah, man is answerable to Him for all his activities. It is man’s duty to use all the powers, which he has been given in accordance with the Divine Will.
9. Highest Honour
No honour could be higher than the role of representative (vicegerent) bestowed on us by Allah. No Human Being who truly loves his/her Creator in their heart could but fail to devote their energies to the successful fulfilment of their role as vicegerent of Allah. If we stay true to Allah – and do not let Devil seduce us with false doctrines, misleading knowledge, worldly desires, and impossible promises – a future world with good and right in every way cannot be denied to us – Godwilling.