Islam’s Account of Man: A Short Sketch

أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَـٰكُمْ عَبَثًۭا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ

Deemed ye then that We had created you for naught, and that ye would not be returned unto Us?

[Surah Al-Mu’minun: 115] Translation: Muhammad William Marmaduke Pickthall

The Noble Qur’an uses the terms In-saan [انسان] and bash’ar [بشر] to refer to a human being [man and woman].

They are often used interchangeably but they, nevertheless, have differences.

Bash’ar is a more empirical description. It is concerned with the outward appearance. It is the superficial and material account of a human being.

Now, as far as In-saan is concerned, it signifies a more profound and higher state.

The word shares its roots with the word Nisyaan [نسيان] which means forgetfulness and amnesia.

It is said that In-saan is a being who is in a state of forgetfulness with regards to its purpose.

So, when a Bash’ar is aware of his/her lack of knowledge and forgetfulness and strives to overcome it, he/she attains the rank of In-saan.

The Self is called Nafs (نفس).

It has three categories:

Nafs Ammarrah [نفس أمارة] : The part of self that entices Man to follow his lust and baser instincts.

Nafs Luvammah [نفس  اللوامة] : The part of self that admonishes Man to review, repent, and mend his ways.

Nafs Mutma’innah [نفس المطمئنة] : The highest level of self whose bearer finds satisfaction and bliss in absolute submission to the Ultimate Reality [الحق].

The primordial condition on which every human being is born is called Fitrah [فطرة]. It is a kind of operating system, a software which in its uncorrupted and undefiled form helps Man to establish a connection with Allah Almighty.

As Rumi says,

Or (suppose that) a mother cries to her suckling babe, “Come, I am mother: hark, my child!”—

Will the babe say?—“O mother, bring the proof (of it), so that I may take comfort in thy milk.”

When in the heart of any community there is savour (spiritual perception) from God, the face and voice of the prophet are (as) an evidentiary miracle.

When the prophet utters a cry from without, the soul of the community falls to worship within,

Because never in the world will the soul’s ear have heard from any one a cry of the same kind as his.

That stranger (the soul), by immediate perception of the strange (wondrous) voice, has heard from God’s tongue (the words), “Verily I am near.

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