Promotion of Talents
Islamic teachings show that the sacred school of Islam has paid equal attention to all dimensions of man, whether they are physical, spiritual, material, moral, intellectual or emotional. It has paid deep attention to all these dimensions, whether they are individual or collective, and has not overlooked any aspect of them. It has paid special attention to the promotion and development of all of them in accordance with certain well-laid down principles. Here we give a brief account of them one by one:
Development of Body
Islam is severely opposed to paying too much attention to body in the sense of indulgence in licentiousness and lewdness. But it considers it to be a duty of man to keep his body healthy and sound and regards every action that is injurious to body as unlawful. If on any occasion an obligatory act (such as fasting) is judged to be injurious to health, it not only loses its imperativeness, but may be prohibited.
Every unhealthy practice is unlawful in the eyes of Islam, and many rules of conduct have been prescribed for the sake of ensuring physical health from hygienic point of view.
Some people may not differentiate between looking after the body, which is a question of health, and indulgence in bodily pleasure, which is a moral question. They may think that as Islam is against bodily indulgence, it is also against looking after physical health. They may even hold that the actions injurious to health are moral actions from the viewpoint of Islam. This kind of thinking is generally wrong and dangerous. There is a vast difference between looking after health and sensual enjoyment.
Islam is against licentiousness and leading a sensual life. Sensual enjoyment hampers spiritual development. It is not only harmful to spiritual health, but is also injurious to the healthy development of body. It may ruin physical health, for it leads to excess which basically disturbs all bodily systems.
Development of Soul
Islam has paid great attention to the development of mental faculties and acquisition of independent thinking. It combats all that is opposed to the independence of reason, such as the blind imitation of the ancestors or some prominent people and following the majority heedlessly and without examination. The promotion of will-power, acquisition of self-control and freedom from the absolute control of impulses is the basis of many articles of Islamic worship and other Islamic teachings. Islam pays particular attention to the promotion of the sense of seeking truth, acquisition of knowledge and the development of aesthetic sense and a taste for worship.
Man's Effective Role in Building His Future
There are two kinds of things existing in the world: organic and inorganic. The inorganic things such as water, fire, stone and dust are lifeless and have no role in forming or perfecting themselves. They are formed purely under the impact of external factors and occasionally acquire perfection under the impact of the same factors. We do not find these things making any effort to build or develop themselves.
On the contrary we see that the living things like plants, animals and men make continuous efforts to protect themselves against any injury or mishap. They assimilate some other matter and to procreate the like. The plants have a number of natural faculties effective in the making of their future. They have power by means of which they absorb and assimilate matter from the earth or the air. They further have power which helps them from within to grow and develop. Similarly they have power which makes it possible for them to procreate.
In the animals all these natural powers exist in addition to a number of other conscious powers such as the senses of sight, learning and touch and the urges, impulses and inclinations mentioned earlier. An animal by means of these powers and faculties, on the one hand protects itself against any mishap and on the other takes the necessary measures to ensure its individual growth and the survival of its species.
In man there exist all the natural and conscious powers and faculties which exist in animals and plants. In addition, he has a number of additional impulses and drives as explained earlier. Further, he is equipped with reason and will which put his destiny to a great extent in his own hand and enable him to determine his future himself.
It is clear from what has been said that a certain part of the existing things, namely the inorganic matter, has no role in making its future. There are some other things which have a role in making their future, but their role is neither conscious nor free. Nature directs their inner powers in such a way that they unconsciously protect themselves and make their future. This is the case with the plants.
Still some other things have a greater role. Their role is conscious, though not free. They endeavor to ensure their survival with a sort of self-consciousness and some knowledge of their environment. That is the case with the animals.
But man has a more active, more effective and more extensive role in making his future. His role is conscious as well as free. He is conscious of himself as well as of his environment. By means of his will and power of reasoning he can choose his future as he likes. Incidentally man's role is far more extensive and vaster than that of an animal. The extensiveness of the sphere of man's role in regard to his future originates from three characteristics peculiar to him:
(i) Extensiveness of the range of his information:
Man by means of his knowledge extends the range of his information from the superficialities to the depth of nature. He knows the laws of nature and by using them can mould nature to be in a harmony with the requirements of his life.
(ii) Extensiveness of the range of his desires:
We have mentioned this characteristic of man earlier under the following two headings: Man and Animal, and man as a multidimensional being.
(iii) Man has a special self-making ability:
No other being can be compared to him in this respect. Though in certain other living organisms also like plants and animals certain changes can be brought about by means of special training factors, none of them can make these changes independently. It is man who introduces required changes in them. Moreover, as compared to man, their changeability is very limited.
In regard to his qualities and habits man is only a potential being that is he is born devoid of any qualities and faculties. In contrast, each animal is born with a number of its special qualities. As man lacks any sort of quality and habit and at the same time he is capable of acquiring a lot of them. Acquiring them gradually he secures for himself a number of 'secondary dimensions' in addition to his inborn dimensions.
Man is the only being to whom the law of creation has provided with a painting brush to paint his features as he likes. Contrary to the formation of his physical organs, which is completed while he is still in his mother's womb, the formation of his psychological organs known as his qualities, habits and moral character, is mostly completed after he has been born.
That is the reason why every being, including the animals, is only what it has been made. Only man can be whatever he wants to be. It is also for this reason that all the individual animals belonging to one species have the same psychological characteristics and qualities in the same way as they have the same physical limbs and organs. All cats have one set of habits; all dogs another; and all ants still another. If there is any difference between the individuals, that is insignificant. But the difference in the habits and moral character between individual human beings has no limit. As such man is the only being which himself can choose what he should be.
The Islamic traditions say that on the Day of Resurrection men will be raised in a form appropriate to their acquired spiritual qualities and not in the physical form of their body. In other words men will be raised in the shape of the animals nearest to them from the viewpoint of their acquired moral qualities. Only those individuals will be raised in the human shape whose moral qualities and secondary spiritual dimensions conform with the dignity and eminence of human beings; in other words, whose morals and manners are human.
By dint of his knowledge man subdues nature and employs it to meet his own needs. Having the power of self-making he makes himself as he likes and thus becomes the master of his future destiny.
All educational institutions, moral schools and religious teachings are meant to guide man as to how he should make his future. Straight path is the way that leads man to future prosperity, and devious way is that which leads him to future ruin and misery. In the Holy Qur'an Allah says: "We showed man (who is the free agent) the way so that he may choose, of his own accord either the way We showed him and be grateful or go the other way, that is the way of ingratitude and disbelief." (Surah ad-Dahr, 76:3)
From the foregoing discussion we have come to know that out of knowledge and faith each of them has a separate role in making the future of man. The role of knowledge is to show the way of making his future. Knowledge enables him to make his future as he likes. Faith tells him how to make it in such a way that it may be beneficial to him and society. Faith prevents man from making his future on a material and individualistic basis. It gives direction to his desires and makes them embrace spiritualities instead of being confined to what is materialistic.
Knowledge serves as a tool for the achievement of man's desires. It help him turn nature as he wants. But knowledge is not concerned how nature is molded and whether one uses it for the benefit of society or for advancing the interests of some particular individuals only that depends on what kind of men are those at whose disposal knowledge is. But faith works as a checking power.
It controls man's impulses and directs them to the course of truth and morality. Faith makes man, and man builds the world with the power of his knowledge. Where faith and knowledge are combined, both man and the world are brought to the desired state.