Reflection No. 193 on Q 17:70 – The Status of the Human Being
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ
Walaqad karramnā banī Ādam
Surely We have honored the children of Adam
(Sūratul Isrā’, No.17, Āyat 70)
The human being has been given respect and dignity by the Almighty. Allah tells us in the above verse that He has honored the children of Adam. This statement reminds the human being of his elevated status. He should not stoop and trade his dignity for trivial and insignificant pleasures more suited to creatures lower than him in status.
The high status of the human being is due to:
1) Having the spirit of Allah in Him. Insān is not just a physical body made of clay. He has the spirit of God in him and is thus a manifestation of the Almighty. Allah says in the Quran: And when your Lord said to the angels: Surely I am going to create a mortal of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape. So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down in prostration to him (Q 15:28-29).
2) Being the representative of Allah on earth. The holy Quran says: And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalīfa (Q 2:30). Allah’s representative is sent on His earth to look after His creation and work on His behalf. This responsibility is a privileged and honorable position.
3) Having intelligence. Imam Ja’far al-Sādiq (a) says in famous Hadīth on the role of al-‘aql: Mā ‘ubida bihir-raHmān wak-tusiba bihil-jinān, i.e. The intelligence (aql) is that through which the All-Merciful worshipped and the Paradise (or the gardens) are acquired (al Kāfī, v.1, H.1.3). The distinguishing factor between Insān and other creatures is the faculty of intelligence which is superior to all else when used in the correct manner.
4) Potential for greatness. Allah, the Mighty and the Supreme, says that a virtuous human is Like a tillage that sends out its shoots and builds them up, and they grow stout and settle on their stalks delighting the sowers (Q 48:29). The human can rise to great heights, reaching newer levels of perfection each day. He is a like a tree that continues to grow and strengthen, pleasing the Creator and achieving success for himself in both the worlds.
Dr. Mohammed Ali Shomali says in his book Self Knowledge:
Man progresses on the ladders to supremacy according to his possibilities. These God-given possibilities are the natural or Divine gifts (talents) innate in every being. These talents are of two kinds: actualities and capacities (potentialities) for further perfection. Our corporeal body, being the first dimension, is, to some extent actualised at the time of our birth. But it is not the case with our soul which is the other dimension. Every individual is capable of reaching the highest level of perfection.
Āyatuallāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.); Tafsīre Namūne;
Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammmad al-Kulraynī; Al-Kāfi, Vol. 1;
Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali, Self Knowledge