Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Man’s Vicegerency

The concept of man’s Khilafah (vicegerency/caliphate) provides the operational framework for the Islamic scheme of life. This vicegerency is declared before the creation of the first human being:

“Behold, your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth.’ They said: ‘Will place therein one who will make mischief therein 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 )
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)
The story of Adam and Eve is found in almost all religious and major cultural traditions. But in these narrations, fact and fancy are found intermingled. The way the Qur’an narrates this event is crucial to the understanding of the Islamic world-view.
The main outline of the Qur’anic narration is as follows. God declared His intention to send a vicegerent (khalifah) to the earth. He created Adam and Eve they were destined to play this role of vicegerency and were endowed with the ‘knowledge of the things’ to do the job well. Then they were put to a test and were asked not to approach a certain tree. They fell victim to the evil persuasions of Satan and committed sin. But immediately after sinning they repented their mistakes, sought God’s forgiveness and were forgiven. It was after they were forgiven and redeemed that they were sent down to the earth to play their role as vicegerents of God. They were promised Divine Guidance and were assured that those who followed that guidance would be successful. Adam was the first man to receive this guidance and convey it to his progeny.
“ We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation.” (Qur’an 17:70)
Some very important inferences follow from this: Islam does not contribute to any theory of the ‘fall of Adam’ symbolizing the fall of man. There was no ‘fall’ at all in that sense. Man was created for the purpose of acting as vicegerent on the earth and he came to the world to fulfill this mission. It represents the rise of man to a new assignment, his tryst with destiny, and not a fall.
The role and status of vicegerency is conferred upon the human being as such, and it is shared by man and woman alike. This lays the foundations of their essential equality as human beings, as vicegerents of God on the earth, whatever their different roles in society may be. Islam does not subscribe to the view that woman led man (Eve leading Adam) to sin and disobedience.
According to the Qur’an “Satan caused them both to deflect therefrom”. Both were held responsible for the act, both repented their transgression and both were forgiven. They entered the world without any stigma of original sin on their soul. Human nature is pure and good. Man has been created in the best of all forms. Man and woman are made from the same substance. Every one is born in a state of purity and innocence. Success or failure depends entirely on one’s own beliefs and behavior.
We have indeed created man in the best of moulds” (Qur’an 95:4)
For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect.” (Qur’an 13:11)
No one is to be responsible for the shortcomings of others. Man has been given freedom of choice. He is free to accept or deny Reality. He is responsible for his actions, but is not to be deprived of this freedom, even if he makes mistakes and abuses it. The uniqueness of the human situation lies in the man’s psychosocial volition. This is the mainspring of human potential - this is what enables him to rise to the highest pinnacle or to fall into the deepest abyss.
The dangers of misuse of freedom continue to confront man throughout his life on the earth. The challenge from Satan is unceasing. To safeguard man against this, Divine Guidance is provided. The trial of Adam and Eve reveals, on the one hand, the essential goodness of their nature and on the other, their susceptibility to error. This demonstrates man’s need for Divine Guidance.
Man has not been totally protected against error. This would involve negation of the freedom of choice. He may commit errors; his redemption lies in his realization of those errors, in seeking repentance and in turning back to the Right Path. The theory of vicegerency affirms that God’s Creation is deliberate and not fortuitous. Man has been created with a purpose. Everything else in Creation has been harnessed to his service. His life on the earth begins with the consciousness of a mission, not through groupings in darkness. The ideal was set before him through Divine Revelation. The criterion for success has been laid down in clear terms. The signposts of the Right Path have been made manifest. Man’s life on earth is in the nature of a trial. It is timebound.
This life will be followed by an eternal life wherein man shall reap the rewards of his actions in this life. And in this lifelong trial, men and women are equal participants and will be judged as such. Neither is a mere shadow of the other, but both are active co-partners. The Qur’an explicitly states that man and woman will get what they strive for and that the same standard is set for them both as the ultimate criterion for their success.
"And the believers, the men and the women, are friends protecting each other; they command what is proper and forbid what is improper, keep up prayer and pay the Zakat (welfare due); and they obey God and His Messenger. It is these on whom God will have mercy. Surely, God is All-Mighty, All-Wise. God has promised to the believers, men and women, Gardens beneath which rivers flow, forever therein to dwell, and goodly dwelling-places in the Gardens of Eden, and greater than anything else, God’s good pleasure (and acceptance from Him). That is the supreme triumph." (Q 9:71-72)
"And whosoever does a righteous deed, be they male or female, and is a believer, We shall assuredly given them a goodly life to live; and We shall certainly reward them according to the best of what they did." (Q 16:97)
"Men who surrender to God and women who surrender to God, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give aims and women who gives aims, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard their modesty, and men who remember God much and women who remember-God has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward." (Q 33:35)
The Qur’an describes the ideal and the model for men and women and the criterion for the Day of Judgement. This defines what is expected of them as Allah’s vicegerents on earth.
credit for Diana Rizal for the article :)


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