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.

What is the Western Conception of Man?

How does the West define Man?

Is there really a Western conception of Man?


Are there multiple Western conceptions of Man?

Which is the correct one?

What are the criteria to judge a pronouncement correct or false in this regard?

Should we go to the psychological realm to quench our thirst or does philosophy contain all that we require to deal with this issue?









What does it say about a tradition/school of thought that is yet to provide a solid answer to the aforementioned problem?

What is the worth of the rest of the corpus if it has been failing to address this absolutely fundamental issue?


‘O, Allah! Cause us to see things as they really are!’

Two men were wandering when they came across a strange signboard which said, ‘We Teach the Learned How to Learn’.

The men were puzzled. Anyhow, they followed the directions and reached the spot where they saw an old man surrounded by his young students. The men calculated that that old man must be the one they were concerned with. They uttered the greetings and shared their amazement and curiosity. In order to quench their thirst, the old man decided to conduct a little demonstration. He inquired one of them if he could identify the thing standing just across from where they were all sitting. The man replied emphatically that that was a tree.

The old man said, “Did it itself give you this introduction of itself?”

Perplexed, the man said, “How can it be possible? It is a description I bestowed on it.”

The old man said, “When each and every element of its account emanates from the name you confer on it then how can you say that whatever you know is what the object truly is? It means that you had a certain conception of this thing and upon encountering it you enshrouded it with that conception. How can you claim to know it?

Remember, our being also gets mingled with our sense data and abstractions which cripple our claims of knowledge. Our being blocks our perception. And, therefore, we need illumination to overcome this darkness.

So, what is knowledge?

Knowledge is the cognizance we attain when we discern things under the divine light of the All-Knowing (Al-Alim, one of the attributes of Allah Almighty).

A misalignment between ontology and epistemology will not generate awareness but vacuous conceptual impositions on things.


Note: This is NOT a literal translation. The original expressions may lose their core if they are subjected to word to word translation.

When Metaphysics Becomes the Handmaiden of Physics

Some standard definitions of ‘dreaming’ are as follows:

“something which one seems to see or experience during asleep”

“a dream is an imaginary series of events that you experience in your mind while your are asleep.”

Likewise, some standard definitions of ‘sleep’ are as follows:

“rest in a state of natural unconsciousness.”

“sleep is the natural state of rest in which your mind and body are inactive and unconscious.”

Now, compare the two set of definitions.

If the mind [which is consciousness] is ‘inactive’ and ‘unconscious’ when I am asleep, how does ‘experience’ take place in an entity which is by definition is in a state of unconsciousness?

Since experience and seeing imply consciousness, what is this unconscious seeing that occurs in dreaming?

Who dreams when I am asleep?

What is this realm?

What is this ‘I’?

How many I’s are there?

The meltdown will continue…unless there is a recognition that it was a mistake to apply the vocabulary of physics to matters that are and will remain metaphysical.

Heidegger’s Being and Time

My take:

Heidegger was trying to revive the meditative mind in the Western tradition which had become disoriented in the glitter of the calculative mind. The vocabulary he deployed to communicate his thesis was bound to put off his readers because, perhaps, his receivers were and are largely metaphysically ill-prepared to appreciate the context. Now, interestingly, when I read his work in Persian or Arabic I instantly understand what he is up to, which, unfortunately, I can’t describe in English since it would again be a transference from a highly metaphysically alive tradition to a calculative, mechanized and technologically driven one.