Allah Almighty talks about man and how He has made him superior over all creation very much in the Quran. Man in the Quran is depicted as a creature whom God made Himself and breathed His spirit into him. Nevertheless, the majority of human beings have been said to defy God and show ingratitude toward Him.
In this article on Islam4u.pro, we will discuss the following topics:
Man in the Quran: Man’s High Status in the World
Originally, God created man with honor and glory and gave him a very high status. The very first human being, meaning Prophet Adam, became the viceroy of God on earth due to the talents and potentials that God had placed in him, to such an extent that God commands all the angels and a great jinn such as Satan to prostrate before Adam:
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِّن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُون ﴿28﴾
When your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed I am going to create a human out of a dry clay [drawn] from an aging mud.
فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ ﴿29﴾
So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him.’ 1
Therefore, man has great potentials. After all, God breathed of His own spirit to our ancestor Adam. Besides, man’s creation is such that he is superior to all other creations both in terms of his physique and spiritual aspects.
That is why God has said in the Quran:
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلً ﴿70﴾
Certainly We have honoured the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created. 2
Man in the Quran: Physical Superiority of Man Over Others
The following physical qualities make man superior over other creatures:
- Being able to speak
- Having an upright posture (Being able to stand on two feet)
- Man’s fingers are such that he can do many things with them
- Eating with using one’s hands
- Being able to write
- Beauty of face
- Dominance over many creatures
- Creation of the father of man (Adam) by God Himself
- Making Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny among the humans
Some of these qualities relates to one’s intellect such as (1) speaking, (2) writing, and (3) dominance over others. Therefore, the intellect is counted as the tenth quality of superiority.
Man in the Quran: Man Compared to Other Creatures
Man can be compared to the following creatures:
- The jinn
- Inanimate objects
Man is superior to the last three categories based on verses of the Quran, such that God says:
وَهُوَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ الْبَحْرَ لِتَأْكُلُوا مِنْهُ لَحْمًا طَرِيًّا وَتَسْتَخْرِجُوا مِنْهُ حِلْيَةً تَلْبَسُونَهَا وَتَرَى الْفُلْكَ مَوَاخِرَ فِيهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِن فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ ﴿14﴾
It is He who disposed the sea [for your benefit] that you may eat from it fresh meat, and obtain from it ornaments which you wear, and you see the ships plowing through it, that you may seek His bounty and that you may give thanks. 3
So God gave us control and power over the sea and made us superior to it, in such a way that we can make use of it such as by fishing or sailing a ship. God in another verse says:
أَلَمْ تَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ سَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَأَسْبَغَ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعَمَهُ ظَاهِرَةً وَبَاطِنَةً ۗ وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يُجَادِلُ فِي اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَلَا هُدًى وَلَا كِتَابٍ مُّنِيرٍ ﴿20﴾
Do you not see that Allah has disposed for you whatever there is in the heavens and whatever there is in the earth and He has showered upon you His blessings, the outward, and the inward? Yet among the people are those who dispute concerning Allah without any knowledge or guidance or an illuminating scripture. 4
God in this verse says that whatever that is in the heavens and earth has been put at the disposal of the human being. Therefore, everything is created for human beings including plants and animals. However, this does not mean that we are allowed to abuse them, but rather we must make correct use of them. For example, we use the milk, meat, wool, and skin of cattle, but we are not allowed to hunt down other animals in nature that are going extinct for fun. That would be an act of oppression.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Superiority Over Jinn
There are several ways one can prove the superiority of man over jinn. First of all, it was a human being who deserved to be prostrated toward and even a great jinn like Satan was commanded to do so. Second, in surah Jinn, we read that a group of jinn believed in Islam after listening to the Quran. In other words, only human beings can become prophets and it was only possible for a great human being such as the Noble Prophet of Islam to be given the Quran, and no jinn. Therefore, all jinn follow the prophets of human beings, specifically the final prophet. This means man is superior to jinn.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Superiority Over Angels
When God said that he wants to place a viceroy on earth from the human beings, the angels protested that they shed blood and cause corruption in the land. However, they were unaware of one of the hidden potentials of man, that is, his knowledge over the names which God taught Adam. When Adam learned the names of everything, God asked the angels to do the same if they were truthful, but they were unable to. Therefore, God showed to them why the first human being deserved to be His viceroy on earth.
Man in the Quran: The Bad Qualities of Man
One of the things that differentiates human beings from other creatures is that God has given them free will. God has shown the right and wrong path to man and has let him himself decide which one he wants to follow. For this reason, it is said that if man follows his base desires, disobeys God, does not use his intellect, and commits sins he will be lowlier than animals even:
وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ ۖ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ ﴿179﴾
Certainly We have winnowed out for hell many of the jinn and humans: they have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, they have ears with which they do not hear. They are like cattle; indeed, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless. 5
On the other hand, if he uses his free will in the right way and chooses the right path, he will be higher than even the angels, because angels do not have free will like human beings and all of them must obey God.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Impatience and Hastiness
One of the qualities that is very common in most human beings is their impatience and hastiness:
وَيَدْعُ الْإِنسَانُ بِالشَّرِّ دُعَاءَهُ بِالْخَيْرِ ۖ وَكَانَ الْإِنسَانُ عَجُولًا ﴿11﴾
Man prays for ill as [avidly as] he prays for good, and man is overhasty. 6
Elsewhere God says:
خُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ مِنْ عَجَلٍ ۚ سَأُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِي فَلَا تَسْتَعْجِلُونِ ﴿37﴾
Man is a creature of haste. Soon I will show you My signs. So do not ask Me to hasten. 7
Many of us just cannot wait to get what we want. Little do we know that patience is a requirement for many rewards. However, we are hasty and expect results very soon. Therefore, we lose our hope too soon as well. For example, if we plant a tree, it takes a long time for the tree to grow and bear fruit.
If we are hasty and think to ourselves why this tree is not growing or giving fruit while not long has passed since it is planted, we may totally forget about the tree and stop taking care of it by watering it and so forth. This applies to many things. The ingredient to success and reward in this world and the next is patience which most people lack with varying degrees.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Unfairness and Ingratitude
God says in the Quran:
وَآتَاكُم مِّن كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّـهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ ﴿34﴾
And He gave you all that you had asked Him. If you enumerate Allah’s blessings, you will not be able to count them. Indeed man is most unfair and ungrateful! 8
God has given us so many blessings that we cannot count them; some of them we have asked for and some of them we have not. Yet we are negligent of these blessings and take them for granted. Even the air that we breathe is a great blessing of God, without which we would die. Therefore, the majority of human beings are ungrateful of their Lord.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Dispute Over the Truth
God says in the Quran:
وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِلنَّاسِ مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٍ ۚ وَكَانَ الْإِنسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلًا ﴿54﴾
We have certainly interspersed this Quran with every kind of parable for the people. But man is the most disputatious of creatures. 9
This verse shows that man disputes most about the truth, even though he knows what the truth is but does not follow it. In general, human beings dispute among themselves the most, especially if the person speaking to them guides them to the truth. We do not witness such disputes among other creatures.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Incapacity
God says in the Quran:
إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا ﴿19﴾
Indeed man has been created covetous:
إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا ﴿20﴾
anxious when an ill befalls him
وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا ﴿21﴾
and grudging [charity] when good comes his way 10
Man is a very restless and anxious creature. If the slightest trouble comes his way he starts complaining and shows ingratitude, and if the slightest blessing comes his way he prevents others from gaining access to it. This is the nature of the majority of human beings.
Man in the Quran: Man’s Ignorance and Injustice
God says in the Quran:
إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا ﴿72﴾
Indeed We presented the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to undertake it and were apprehensive of it; but man undertook it. Indeed he is most unjust and ignorant. 11
This Trust that God is talking about according to some exegetes is man’s intellect and free will to choose between right and wrong. It is so great and burdensome that the heavens, the earth, and the mountains refused to undertake it. However, man accepted it. Yet the majority of men do not take good care of this Divine trust and use it wrongfully. That is why God in this verse says man is unjust and ignorant, to show that the majority of human beings make bad decisions and do not use their intellect correctly.
Man in the Quran: Man Is Addressed Twice in the Quran
God directly addresses man twice in the Noble Quran. The first instance is in surah Infitar:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ مَا غَرَّكَ بِرَبِّكَ الْكَرِيمِ ﴿6﴾
O man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord,
الَّذِي خَلَقَكَ فَسَوَّاكَ فَعَدَلَكَ ﴿7﴾
who created you and proportioned you, and gave you an upright nature,
فِي أَيِّ صُورَةٍ مَّا شَاءَ رَكَّبَكَ ﴿8﴾
and composed you in any form that He wished? 12
The word gharraka (غرك) can have two meanings. It can either mean what has deceived you or it can mean what has made you arrogant (concerning your Lord). In fact, a person who is arrogant has been deceived into thinking he is better than others. God is reminding man that He was the one who created you, proportioned you, and made you into any form that He wished. Why are you deceiving yourself and why are you arrogant concerning God? Why do you think that God owes you while you are the one who is indebted to Him?
Man in the Quran: The Second Instance
The second instance is in surah Inshiqaq:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ ﴿6﴾
O man! You are labouring toward your Lord laboriously, and you will encounter Him. 13
We are all moving toward our Lord in our lives. With every passing day, we get closer to our encounter with God. Along this way, we work very hard and are constantly laboring day and night. However, we either do good deeds or bad deeds, the result of which we would see during our encounter with God. The next three verses state:
فَأَمَّا مَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَابَهُ بِيَمِينِهِ ﴿7﴾
Then, as for him who is given his record [of deeds] in his right hand,
فَسَوْفَ يُحَاسَبُ حِسَابًا يَسِيرًا ﴿8﴾
he will receive an easy reckoning,
وَيَنقَلِبُ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِ مَسْرُورًا ﴿9﴾
and he will return to his folks joyfully. 14
Those who are righteous will be given their book of deeds in their right hand and will enter paradise. On the other hand:
وَأَمَّا مَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَابَهُ وَرَاءَ ظَهْرِهِ ﴿10﴾
But as for him who is given his record from behind his back,
فَسَوْفَ يَدْعُو ثُبُورًا ﴿11﴾
he will pray for annihilation
وَيَصْلَىٰ سَعِيرًا ﴿12﴾
and enter the Blaze. 15
Those who are disbelievers whose book of deeds is given to them from behind their backs will enter hell.
Man in the Quran: Surah Insan
There is a surah in the Quran that is called surah Insan (سورة الانسان) meaning man. It takes its name from its first few verses that talks about man and his creation. Moreover, perhaps this surah is called so because it was revealed in honor of the five infallibles living at the same time, namely: Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali, Lady Fatimah, Imam Hassan, and Imam Hussain.
One could easily say that they were perfect human beings and for this reason the surah that God revealed in their honor is called Insan, because they are like a model for all human beings. The following are a few verses from this surah about these perfect human beings of the Ahlul Bait (اهل البیت) or the household of the Prophet:
يُوفُونَ بِالنَّذْرِ وَيَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا كَانَ شَرُّهُ مُسْتَطِيرًا ﴿7﴾
They fulfill their vows and fear a day whose ill will be widespread.
وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا ﴿8﴾
For the love of Him, they feed the needy, the orphan and the prisoner,
إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّـهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا ﴿9﴾
[saying,] ‘We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We desire no reward from you, nor thanks.
إِنَّا نَخَافُ مِن رَّبِّنَا يَوْمًا عَبُوسًا قَمْطَرِيرًا ﴿10﴾
Indeed we fear a frowning and fateful day from our Lord.’ 16
Man is a special creation of God. He has made him superior to all of His other creations and put everything at his disposal. However, God has also given man free will, to choose to be good or bad. Unfortunately, most human beings choose the wrong path and end up becoming even more inferior than animals. Nevertheless, there do exist perfect human beings who purified themselves and thus God purified them. 17 They are the ones mentioned in surah Insan. God willing, they will intercede on our behalf on the Day of Judgment.
- Quran 15:28-29 (Qara’i).
- Quran 17:70 (Qara’i).
- Quran 16:14 (Qara’i).
- Quran 31:20 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:179 (Qara’i).
- Quran 17:11 (Qara’i).
- Quran 21:37 (Qara’i).
- Quran 14:34 (Qara’i).
- Quran 18:54 (Qara’i).
- Quran 70:19-21 (Qara’i).
- Quran 33:72 (Qara’i).
- Quran 82:6-8 (Qara’i).
- Quran 84:6 (Qara’i).
- Quran 84:7-9 (Qara’i).
- Quran 84 10-12 (Qara’i).
- Quran 76:7-10 (Qara’i).
- Cf. Quran 33:33.