A definition of humanity seems easy to think of yet difficult to propose, and there have been disputes about it among different schools of thought. Most pioneers in social thought and leaders of movements claim that the main feature of their activities is their humanism and humanitarian efforts.
To avoid having misconceptions about humanity or sinking in the whirlpool of literal interpretations and logical disputes, we need to first focus on the reality of the human being and his different aspects, and then discuss the derived infinitive word form humanity, its meaning, virtues, and functions.
- First, human beings are objective beings who are different from other objective beings with respect to freedom of choice, meaning that their actions and behaviours are a result of their reasoning and will, albeit relatively.
- Second, human beings are to a large extent affected by their surroundings, that is, the physical environment and other beings.
- Third, human beings are social beings who naturally interact with other human beings.
- Fourth, human beings are created by God, the Creator of the universe. This relation with God has different dimensions which affect them as persons and all of their relationships.
These four features are like four chapters of the book of humanity. Thus, human values are those basic elements in the nature of human beings which are to be developed by his own efforts. This development is an evolutionary movement in which no part of the human existence harms the others and none of these elements should stop the movement of the human being towards a better state.
These are the outlines for his comprehensive perfection which originate from his very nature. Man’s God-given nature and colour are like seeds and potentials which are hidden in him at the beginning of creation and will flourish when man follows the right path.
One theory is to deny the first aspect of a human being’s nature and assume that the human being is a phenomenon in the whole creation like other phenomena. His freedom and freedom of choice are natural and determined. This theory was commonly believed among the French existentialists and Greek peripatetics.
A second theory is to exclude him from other natural creatures and assume him to be different in soul and body from the material world he lives in, but at the same time, ‘subdued by his determined destiny’. This belief is widely held among determinists.
A third theory is to assume the human being as the one who is the base of the society and such a society is nothing but a collection of people. Some Jewish philosophers and radical delegators (Mufawwidah) have had ideas similar to this theory.
A fourth theory is to ignore the relation of God with the human being, disregard the human being’s dimensions from the beginning to eternity, and ignore his relation with all other creatures in his creation, his role, and his destiny. This idea is held among the materialists and western philosophers who rose up against scholasticism and religious thoughts. Most socialists and contemporary philosophers believe that nothing beyond matter and metaphysics should have any influence on objective
If we accept one of these four theories, we will find ourselves against another type of humanity.
Islam and humanity:
The holy Qur’an emphasizes on the full alignment of religion and humanity:
So set your heart on the religion as a people of
pure faith, the origination of Allah according to
which He originated mankind; There is no
altering Allah’s creation; that is the upright
religion… (Quran 30:30)
Also, the following hadith suggests that Islam is in harmony with the human’s nature: “All the born are born with the God-given nature.”
When it is said that Islam means to surrender to God, it means whenever something or someone is put in its or his real position in creation, it or he will be a Muslim. Thus, the position for which God has created human being is to achieve humanity and the human being’s humanity equals his Islam, i.e., his level of submission to God. A human being is related with God, his own kind, nature, and the whole creation from that natural position.
So, a human being’s Islam is his humanity. The holy Qur’an emphasizes on the full alignment of religion and humanity. The following verses demonstrate this truth:
So if they believe in the like of what you
believe in, then they are certainly guided; and if
they turn away, then they are only [steeped] in
defiance. Allah shall suffice you against them,and He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. The
baptism of Allah, and who baptizes better than
Allah? And Him do we worship. (Quran 2:137-138)
Who can define characteristics of man?
Defining man and his characteristics cannot be carried out by man himself. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which are listed below:
Firstly, people’s understanding of themselves and their feelings is influenced by their social and cultural standpoints, their unique situations, and their worldly interests.
Secondly, people are at various stages of continued development
and therefore, they never exactly understand existential dimensions of human beings as they progress and make efforts to reach them.
Thus, if a human being wants to define human dimensions, features and virtues, his definition will be limited or biased to some extent. This leads to a multiplicity of definitions of humanness which causes a human being’s goals and purposes to go into a halo of imaginations. But, Allah (swt), the Creator of the human being and the entire universe, is the only Able One to define the human being’s characteristics. These characteristics are, in fact, dimensions of one perfect humanity. This is the meaning of necessity of heavenliness, unseenness (ghaybi), and absoluteness of religion.
To emphasize on the truth of this issue, we need to refer to the opinions of Islamic scholars. We are also guided by principles such as ‘legislative obligations are graceful indicators of intellectual obligations’ and ‘whatever judgement is made by reason is made by religion and vice versa.’
Thus, we can conclude that Islam is identical with humanity and human values and vice versa.