The View of Islam
Islam to begin with, does not regard the past with total pessimism. Secondly, it is not so cynical of human nature. It says: This testimony that man of today gives against human nature, to the effect that it is based on wickedness and mischief, is similar to the ignorant verdict that the angels gave about man before he was created, and God rejected it.
See how the Quran relates the secret truths of events that preceded man's creation:
And when your Lord declared to the angels: 'I will make a deputy on the earth '... (2:30)
In these words God declared His decision to create a being upon the earth who would be God's deputy and viceroy on this planet. The angels, for some reason or another, seemed to be aware of only the animal side of man, and no more. So they said to God, as the man of the nineteenth or twentieth century would say: "Do You wish to make a being Your deputy whose very nature is mischief and bloodshed?
Create a being, who like us, shall be free of bestial desires, and one which is wholly spiritual."8 How did God answer them? He said to them:
Certainly, I know what you do not know. (2:30)
God says to the angels, "You paid attention only to one aspect of man: his natural and animal side, and are unaware of his spiritual and Divine aspect. I have placed something in his nature which makes him intrinsically free of any ideology. I have planted in him an inclination for exaltation. I have granted him an ideology, one of whose pillars is this natural and rational inclination. I have planted in his nature the seeds of love of truth, love of justice, and love of freedom. His essence is not totally selfishness, animality and class interests, or tyranny. He is a creature made of both light and darkness and this combination of qualities has lifted him above every other creature, above you who are angels and others besides you."
Can an ideology, which reduces all problem to that of classes and class interests, provide guidance for mankind? Can an ideology, which is totally rational or exclusively philosophical, heedless of any spiritual inclinations and unaware of the reality of man, serve as a guide for man? or teach and develop exalted values in mn? Or, can the other view which makes the absurd claim that man is essentially devoid of a nature, and is merely an earthly and material being, and that he 'creates' or hallucinates values for himself,
help man to know himself? O man, know yourself! O man, teach yourself properly! O man, train yourself! O man, know your goal! O man, recognize the path of your evolution!
It is an insult to the station of humanity to consider all man's efforts in the past to be motivated by the selfish interests of individuals, groups or nations. As man has two natures, an exalted one and a base one, within him, this internal conflict has raged within every individual human being. Those who have been able to subdue their lower urges to the higher powers, thus attaining a sublime balance, stand in the ranks of the supporters of truth and justice.
Those who have failed in this combat, have formed the group of means, bestial and degenerate beings. As the Quran says, the most magnificent struggle of man has been the combined between the supporters of Truth and the followers of falsehood. Who are these two groups? Supporters of Truth are those who have been liberated from the captivity of external nature and of other human beings and from the clutches of their own inner beast. They are those who have attained belief, faith and ideal, and rely on them. They are different from those human beings who seek material gains and are mean and corrupt.
The Quran speaks of the first clash and contradiction in the human world, which may either be interpreted historically or taken as an allegory:
And relate to them truly the story of the two sons of Adam [Abel and Cain]-when they offered an offering, and it was accepted of one of them, and not accepted of the other. 'I will surely slay thee, 'said one. 'God accepts only of the God-fearing,' said the other. 'Yet if thou stretches out thy hand against me, to slay me, I will not stretch out my hand against thee, to slay thee; I fear God, the Lord of all beings. I desire that thou shouldest be laden with my sin and thy sin, and so become an inhabitant of the Fire; that is the recompense of the evildoers.' Then his self prompted him to slay his brother, and he slew him, and became one of the losers. (5:27-30)