By Jamal Badawi
A human being is regarded by Islam as the trustee of God. The Quran says:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” (Al-Baqarah 2:30)
Here the term khalifah, the trustee of God, was very specifically mentioned as the essence of the human being. In a very similar citation it says,
And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth… (Al-An`am 6:156)
This does not mean that God needs our help but rather it shows the dignity that God, the Almighty, has endowed on mankind. The essence of the khilafah starts with the notion that the human being is regarded as the crown of creation as shown in the Quran and even Angels were commanded to bow down in respect to mankind. The Quran also says:
And We have certainly honored the children of Adam… (Al-Israa’ 17:70)
The secret for the honoring of mankind is that only the human being has to integrate and harmonize the various components of his existence by utilizing his physical body, intellect and soul.
We find that the Quran describes the human as having been created from clay, the material part, in Surah Al-Baqarah it talks about God teaching mankind his intellect, and in Surah Al-Hijr (15:29) it talks about having the spirit of God within him and that God breathed into mankind of His spirit.
The reason why human beings are dignified is that they have free choice, and the potential for good and evil. In Surah Al-Balad the Quran states clearly that God has “shown him the two highways” of truth and falsehood. The Quran also states:
Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful. (Al-Insan 76:3)
And say, “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.” (Al-Kahf 18:29)
The fourth point of why a human is the trustee is the notion of responsibility. Responsibility goes side by side with freedom of choice. First of all, the Quran says:
Does man think that he will be left neglected? (Al-Qiyamah 75:36)
Thus, if there is responsibility and purpose on earth, it follows that one will be questioned about this responsibly. Another verse in the Quran says:
Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” (Al-Mu’minun 23:115)
As a response to some of the people who used to talk in pride about their ancestors (when people talked about their relation to Abraham and other Israelite prophets) the Quran says:
That is a nation which has passed on. It will have [the consequence of] what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do. (Al-Baqarah 2:141)
In the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) some of the Israelite used to boast that if they were going to go to the fire will only touch them for a few days. Almighty Allah says:
And they say, “Never will the Fire touch us, except for a few days.” Say, “Have you taken a covenant with Allah ? For Allah will never break His covenant. Or do you say about Allah that which you do not know?” (Al-Baqarah 2:80)
Addressing the Muslims themselves in order to avoid the attitude of spiritual arrogance the Quran says
Paradise is not [obtained] by your wishful thinking nor by that of the People of the Scripture. Whoever does a wrong will be recompensed for it, and he will not find besides Allah a protector or a helper. (Al-Nisa’ 4:123)
It is essential when we talk about the trusteeship of mankind on earth that we realize that it is a big job and we will be held responsible for our deeds.