Lowest of the Low
"We have indeed created man in the best of molds. Then do We abase him (to be) the
lowest of the low. Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: for they shall have a
reward unfailing." [At-Tin, 95]
Philosophers and thinkers have always been wondering and arguing about the nature of
man. Is man evil by nature? Is he a born sinner? Is he intrinsically good? Or, as the
post-modernists are now saying, is there even such a thing as good and evil. To them, just
like beauty, good and evil are in the eye of the beholder.
Inevitably for the secular minds, the point of reference is the animals. Biologically
man is also an animal, albeit a civilized animal. A social animal. A tool-using animal.
The most intelligent animal. One with a sense of morality. Similarly, when we see a person
doing some horrible violence the immediate word that comes to mind about the perpetrator
is animal. Those committing such heinous crimes cannot be human beings. They are animals.
Both characterizations miss the reality. When good, man is not just an animal with a
sense of morality. When bad, man is not just a beast.
Consider the butchery that is going on today under the media spotlight in Kosova, or
away from the attention of the media in Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, or a dozen other places
in the world. What animal is capable of committing such horrors? Animals kill for food or
territory but they do not commit massacres, plot massive starvation of their enemies,
invent tools and techniques of torture, or establish rape camps. There is no animal that
has ever committed the atrocities that the human-looking perpetrators in all these places
are committing today.
Similarly, consider the wickedness of another group of actors in the same drama. The
"Operation Allied Force," as has been obvious from the beginning, was actually
the "Operation Allied Farce." Its purpose has been to help destroy the Muslims
and bury once for all their desire --- as well as their legal and moral right--- to
liberation from Serb tyranny, while appearing to be helping them. Both in Bosnia and
Kosova, Muslims would have been in much better position had there been no NATO at all.
Again, such chicanery is only possible in the human world. While stories invented by human
beings tell of wickedness of animals, in reality animals do not hatch conspiracies, or
appear to be your friends when they are actually trying to hurt you. There are no spin
doctors or "media experts" in the animal kingdom. It is humans, not crocodiles,
that shed the proverbial "crocodile tears."
On the other hand, consider the cases of extreme sacrifice, perseverance, courage,
restraint, kindness, and altruism, shown by human beings during the darkest moments of
history. Even more, consider the near universal appreciation of these attributes. How can
a being capable of doing so much evil also show love for so much good? Simply because God
has endowed us with the potential for reaching the greatest heights or the lowest depths.
In the first case man becomes higher than the angels. In the second case, he becomes the
lowest of the low. Which of the two paths we follow is up to us as God has given us the
freedom to chose between the two.
As the Qur'an tells us, Allah has created man in the best mold. This refers to the
potential for goodness built into human nature. All the goodness we see in the world today
or find in the pages of history is a result of this innate goodness. It was because of
that potential that angels were asked to bow down to Adam, alayhi salam. By nature
angels never commit any sin. Human beings, who have been given the freedom of choice by
their Creator, have the potential of surpassing the angels in goodness when they follow
the path of obedience to Allah out of their free will. The best expression of that
goodness was in the Prophets of Allah, peace on all of them. The best of the prophets was
Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Thus we see that during his ascension to
heavens (Miraj) he went to the point where angel Jibreel was not even allowed.
The goodness of the rest of us can only be derived from the Prophetic goodness. For the
humanity now the path to goodness is through following the teachings and example of the
Last Messenger, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. To the extent that one follows him in
Beliefs and actions, one will attain his or her potential.
Of course, human beings have freedom to choose another path, rejecting Belief in One
True God and refusing to obey Him. Instead of worshiping God, they can worship and obey
their own lusts and desires. They can do whatever pleases them or feels good. In their
pursuit of power, wealth, or sensory pleasures, they can choose to ignore all moral values
or ethical principles. This road is wide open too. Those who follow it will become the
lowest of the low.
The same freedom of choice that has been given to the human beings also requires that
those who choose the second path be not punished right away. Thus, we see that people get
away with murder here. Crime and wrongs seem to pay. Little do the perpetrators realize
that their victories and gains are fleeting; they will be gone before they know it. Then
they will suffer the eternal doom that they had earned. And the never-ending reward will
only be for those who chose the first path.
This is the central teaching of Islam. "We showed him the Way, whether he be
grateful or ungrateful." [Ad-Dahr 76:3]. Man has been shown the Way through
Revelation brought to him by the Prophets. If he is grateful, he will accept the Guidance,
follow the path of Righteousness and be Successful both here and in the hereafter. If not,
he will face eternal doom and a never-ending Blazing Fire.
Today the affairs of this world are being controlled by the lowest of the low and the
daily news is a reminder of that tragic fact. This should not make us lose hope, but only
make us redouble our efforts to follow and promote the path of Belief and good deeds.