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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

9908-NATURE OF THE HUMAN (TABIAT AL INSAAN)

Presented at the 11th Regional Leadership Training Program held in Hungary 21 July - 21 August by Prof Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. e-mail omarkasule@yahoo.com

OUTLINES

THE NATURAL STATE, fitrat

Fitrat is the basic and ideal

Fitrat can be degraded

Nature vs nurture

Knowledge of good and bad

Innate human weaknesses

Changing of fitrat

 

THE ESSENCE: NAFS

Definition of nafs

One origin

Levels and types of nafs

Signs of Allah in the nafs

Secrets of the nafs

Positive attributes of the nafs

Negative attributes of the nafs

Changes of the nafs

 

THE ESSENCE: QALB

Location of qalb

Qalb and iman:

Qalb and human emotions

Qalb and sensation

Qalb and intellect

Qalb and responsibility

Qalb and guidance

Positive attributes of the qalb

Negative attributes of the qalb

Diseases of the qalb

Changes of the qalb

 

THE ESSENCE: RUH

Ruh in the Qur'an

           

DUALITY

Nafs or ruh is the permanent essence of a human

Temporary physical form

Duality

Human behavior and duality

 

RELATION WITH THE UNSEEN, ‘alaqat al insan bi ‘aalam al ghaib

Empirical basis of human civilization

Belief and awareness of the unseen:

Angels and jinn

Prophets

Astrologers

Scientific prediction of the future

Scientific reconstruction of the past

Allahs' omnipresence

 

ATTRIBUTES of the HUMAN, sifaat al insan

The positive and the negative

Limitations of the human, ajz al insan

Positive human attributes

Negative human attributes

Human intelligence

Human aggression


THE NATURAL STATE, fitrat

Fitrat is the basic and ideal: Allah the creator created humans in the state of fitra. This is the best state both biologically, morally, socially, and psychologically. Iman is the state of fitra (30:30). Humans believe in the oneness of Allah as part of fitrat (p 699 6:63, 7:172-173, 10;22, 16:53, 29:65, 31:32, 39:8, 41:51). Unbelief, kufr, is a denial of fitrat. If humans keep to this state of fitrat, they will be happy and prosperous.

 

Fitrat can be degraded by human behavior. Humans unlike other living things were given an intellect and a free-will that enables them to change their environment and themselves to a certain extent. They sometimes make major mistakes that end up distorting the fitrat biologically, morally, and in terms of aqidat.

 

Nature vs nurture: the debate about the relative impact of nature and nurture on humans has been long and no generation has been able to resolve the issue conclusively. The nearest to the truth is to assert that both play a role in human action and behavior. The relative role of each varies according to what parameters are being measured or discussed.

 

Knowledge of good and bad: The basic human fitrat enables humans to know bad from good in most cases without the need for revelation, wahy. Revelation and human experience only reinforce what is known innately.

 

Innate human weaknesses: Humans have innate weaknesses in the fitrat. It is one of the secrets of Allah (SWT) that although humans are the best creation, they have innate weaknesses in them. These weaknesses exist alongside the potential and strength to overcome them. It is therefore a challenge to the human to use the limited free-will they have to make the right choices such that the strengths and the good predominate over the weaknesses and the bad.

 

Changing of fitrat: There is controversy whether fitrat should always be preserved as is or can be changed. In terms of biology there are many changes that occur in humans as a result of therapeutic medical procedures. There are also changes in the basic anatomy and physiology that humans, thanks to modern bio-technology, can make for cosmetic or other reasons. These issues are still being discussed by scholars and no easy answer is available. In terms of basic psychology, drives, and emotions, the natural state of fitrat is always the ideal. Any changes tend to be to the bad.

 

THE ESSENCE: NAFS, QALB, RUH

NAFS

Definition of nafs: The essence of the human is the nafs. The words qalb and ruh are also used to mean nafs. The exact nature of the nafs, ruh, or qalb is in Allah’s knowledge. Humans were given limited knowledge and understanding which is all in the holy Qur’an.

 

One origin: All humans were created from one single origin, khalq al bashar min nafs wahida (p 1255 4:1, 6:98, 7:189, 39:6). This means that there are shared characteristics among all humans.

 

Levels and types of nafs: The nafs has three levels (maratib al nafs): nafs ammara, (12:53),  nafs lawamat (75:2), and nafs mutmainnat (89:27). Other types of nafs described by the Qur'an are: nafs radhiyat (89:27-28), nafs mardhiyyat (89:27-28). The nafs has also been described as having a choice having been guided to the two highways, al najdayn, the good and the bad (90:10).   

 

Signs of Allah in the nafs: There are many signs of Allah in the nafs, ayat Allah fi al nafs).

 

Secrets of the nafs: Allah put a lot of secrets in the nafs, asrar al nafs ; the Qur’an has told us about some of them and many are not known. Ther nafs is also the seat of human secrets (p 1250 2:235, 2:284, 3:154, 5:57, 12:77, 33:37, 58:8). 

 

Positive attributes of the nafs: The Qur’an has described positive attributes of the nafs: ithaar al nafs (p 1250 59:9), iman al nafs (p 1250 6:158, 10:100),, taqwa al nafs (p 1253 91:7-8), khauf al nafs, surrender for the sake of Allah, istislam al nafs li al llaah  (p 1252-3 2:207, 9:111), sabr al nafs (p 1255 18:28).

 

Negative attributes of the nafs: The Qur’an has also described the negative attributes of the nafs: israaf al nafs (39:53),, tafriit al nafs (p 1253 39:56),  jidaal al nafs (p 1253 16:111), hasad al nafs (p 1254 2:109), shuhhu al nafs (p 1255 4:128, 59:5, 64:16), shahwat al nafs (p1255 21:102, 41:31, 43:71), dhiiq al nafs (p 1255 9:118, 18:6, 26:3, 35:8), dhulm al nafs (p 1256 2:54, 2:57, 2:231,  3:117, 3:135, 4:64, 4:97, 4:110, 7:23, 7:160, 7:177, 9:36, 9:70, 10:44, 10:54, 11:101, 14:45, 16:28, 16:33, 16:118, 18:35, 27:44, 28:16, 29:40, 30:9, 34:19, 35:32, 37:11, 65:1), ‘ujb al nafs (p 1256 4:49),  fitnat al nafs (p 1257 57:14),  fujuur al nafs (p 1257 91:7-8).

 

Changes of the nafs: The nafs can undergo changes, taghyiir ma bi al nafs (p 1253 8:53, 13:11). The nafs can be deceived, khidau al nafs (p 1254 2:9), it can be a victim of treachery, khiyanat al nafs (p 1255 2:187, 4:107). It also can have positive influences on it such as hidayat. The nafs can undertake actions to improve or strengthen itself: bai’u al nafs li llah (p 1252-3 2:207, 9:111), tazkiyat al nafs (p 233-4 2:151,  2:129, 2:151, 2:232, 3:164, 4:49, 9:103, 18:74, 19:19, 20:75-76, 24:21, 24:28, 24:30, 35:18, 62:2, 79:18, 80:3, 80:7, 87:14, 91:7-9,  92:18), takliif al nafs (p 1253 2:233, 2:276, 4:84, 6:152, 7:42, 23:62, 65:7, 85:7),, tawbat al nafs (p 1252 2:54, 4:64), and  hifdh al nafs (p 1254 86:4),

 

QALB

Location of qalb: The Qur’an has used the word qalb in various ways. Most of the time it is synonymous with nafs but there are situations when it is not. It is wrong to translate qalb to mean the anatomical heart that is in the thorax. The qalb is situated in the thorax,  al qalb fi al sadr  (p 962 22:46, 33:4) but its exact nature is not fully known to humans and perhaps they do not need to know.

 

Qalb and iman: Qalb is the seat of iman, al qalb markaz al iman  (p 961 5:41, 16:22, 16:106, 22:54, 39:45, 49:7, 49:14, 58:22 &  p 962 2:93 .. 48:26). In the absence of iman the qalb is the seat of kufr, al qalb markaz al kufr (p 962 2:93, 16:106, 48:26).

 

Qalb and human emotions: The qalb is the seat of many positive human emotions like: ulfat (p 959 3:10, 8:63, 9:60), ra'afat (p. 959 57:27), rahmat (p. 959 3:159, 57:27). It is also the seat of negative human emotions like: fear, khawf (p 959 3:151, 8:2, 8:12, 23:60, 28:100, 33:10, 33:26, 40:18, 59:2, 59:13), riibat (p. 959 9:45, 9:110),  zaigh (p. 959 3:7), ghaldhat (p. 959 3;159), tanafur (p 959 59:14), hasrat (p 959 3:156).

 

Qalb and sensation: Qalb has been described related to human physiological sensation, al qalb wa al hawaas p 962 2:7, 6:46, 6:110, 7:10, 16:78, 16:108, 17:36, 17:46, 18:57, 23:78, 45:2, 46:26, 50:37). Thus sight (    ) and hearing (     ) are related directly to the qalb.

 

Qalb and intellect: Qalb is also related to higher functions like knowledge, al qalb wa al ilm (p 962 2:97, 2:118, 9:93, 16:78, 26:192-195, 29:49, 30:59, 47:24), intellect, al qalb wa al ‘aql (p 962 22:6), understanding, al qalb wa al fiqh  (p 963 7:179, 9:87, 9:127, 17:46, 18:57, 63:3).

 

Qalb and responsibility: Human responsibility and accountability are in the heart, al qalb qa al mas’uliyyat (p 963 2:225, 2:283, 17:36, 33:5).

 

Qalb and guidance: The qalb can be rightly guided, hidayat al qalb (p 962 64:11) or otherwise.

 

Positive attributes of the qalb: The qalb has been associated with positive attributes: ru’yat al qalb (p 960 53:11-12), shafau al qalb (p 960 10:57), salamat al qalb (p 960 26:89, 83:41), qalb muniib (P 960 50:33), taharat al qalb(P 961 5:41, 33:53), taqwa al qalb (p 957 22:32, 49:3), khushu al qalb (p 957 57:16), tama’ininat al qalb (p 957 2:260, 8:10-11, 11:120, 13:28, 18:14, 2:32, 28:10, 48:4, 48:18), liin al qalb (p 958 3:159, 39:23), inshiraah al qalb  (p 957 6:125, 6:125, 20:25, 39:22-23, 94:1).  

 

Negative attributes of the qalb: The qalb has also been associated with negative attributes: dhann al qalb bi al asayi (p 960 48:12), lahwat al qalb (21:3), tanafur al qulub (p 959 59:14), hasrat al qulub (p 959 3:156), riibat al qalb (p 259 9:45, 9:110), zaygh al qalb (p 959  3:7), ghaltat al qalb (p 959 3:159), dhiq al qalb (p 957 4:90, 39:45), qaswat al qalb (p. ? 2:74, 5:13, 6:43, 22:53, 39:22, 57:16), waswasat al qalb (p 958 44:5).

 

Diseases of the qalb: The qalb has been described as the seat of diseases of a moral nature, amradh al qalb p 958 2:10, 5:52, 8:49, 22:53, 24:50, 33:12, 33:60, 47:20, 74:31 such as lahw (p 958 21:3), ghaflah (p 958 18:28), ghill ( p 958 7:43, 15:47, 59:10) , ghaidh (p 958 3:118-119), ma’siyat (   ), kibr (p 958 40:35, 40:56), nifaq,(p 958 2:8-10, 2:204, 3:167, 5:41, 9:8, 9:64, 9:75-77, 48:11).

 

Changes of the qalb: The qalb can be influenced or changed. This can be from human action or sometimes divine intervention from Allah (SWT). Such as hijaab al qalb (p 960 6:25, 17:46, 18:57, 41:5), al tabau ala al qalb (p 960 2:7, 2:88, 4:155, 6:46, 7:100-101, 9:87, 9:93, 10:74, 16:108, 17:46, 18:57, 23:63, 30:59, 40:35, 42:24, 4:23, 47:16, 47:24, 63:3, 83:41), al kitabat fi al qalb, (    ) , ghilaaq al qalb (    ).

 

RUH

Ruh in the Qur'an: The term ruh has been mentioned in the Qur'an in various verses (p 515-516 4:171, 15:29, 16:2, 17:85, 21:91, 32:9, 38:72, 66:12, 97:4). The word ruh conveys all the meanings of nafs and qalb described above. The Qur’an specifically informed us that human knowledge or understanding of the ruh is limited. It is eternal having been created before appearance of the human in a physical form and will outlive the human phase of the human’s existence, khuluud al ruh (    ). It makes the difference between a human and a non-human. The Qur’an teaches that in the course of ermbryological development Allah inspires the ruh into the fetus, nafkh al ruh wa bidayat al hayat (    ), thus turning it morally and legally into a human being. End of the earthy life is signified by death of the body, nihayat al jasad (    ) but the ruh continues.

           

DUALITY

Nafs or ruh is the permanent essence of a human: The non-material part of the human is the nafs or the ruh. It is the essence and the most important. It is the source of identity for each individual human. It is permenent existing before and after the end of the physical part of the human.

 

Temporary physical form:The physical form of the human body is temporary in two ways. The cells of the body change every day thus the actual atoms and molecules that were in the body a month ago are not the same as those today because new cells are continuously being formed from the food eaten. In another sense when a human dies the material body becomes one of the elements of the earth when it is buried in the soil.

 

Duality: The uniqueness of the human lies in the duality of matter and ruh. Both are needed for a complete human to exist. The physical part of the human is from the elements of the earth, turab. The material part of the human is referred to by the Qur’an as the living body, jism al insan  (p 278 2:247, 63:4) or the dead body,  jasad al insan (p 278 7:148, 20:88, 21:8, 38:34). The nafs is not physical but exists in a physical body. Thus a human is both nafs and physical, ruh and matter.

Human behavior and duality: Human behavior is a reflection of the dual nature. The ruh and nafs have overriding control. If they are good the person is good. If they are bad, the person is bad. The physical part of the human through the hormonal system is also responsible for some types of behavior.

 

RELATION WITH THE UNSEEN, ‘alaqat al insan bi ‘aalam al ghaib

Emprical basis of human civilization: The human lives and functions in the empirical world of the seen, aalam al shahadat. All human actions are confined to what is empirical. The human must study and discover the laws of the empirical world, sunan al laahi fi al kawn, and manipulate them for the good of all humanity.

 

Belief and awareness of the unseen: The human must be aware that there is a world of the unseen, alam al ghaib, around. He must believe in power and phenomena beyond his empirical grasp. Good fitrat leads to belief in the unseen because there are so many phenomena in human life that can not be explained easily in the empirical sense. Humans have only one method of interacting with the unseen that are agreed on by all and that is through the revelations in the Qur’an. Apart from that the human has no contact or dealings with the unseen.

 

Angels and jinn: Angels, malaika, and jinns are part of the world of the unseen. There can be no active interaction initiated by humans with these creatures of the unseen world. The angels on the orders of Allah do interfere in many human affairs but there is no way for humans to know or even understand this interference. The jinn may also have lkimited interference in human affairs. Humans should know that the angels are around and are acting on humans in various ways but this is one-way from angels to humans and not vice versa.

 

Prophets: Prophets being human had the same relationship to the unseen world like other humans with a few exceptions that the Qur;an listed for all prophets. These were exceptions in space and time. Prophets could interact with angels in the process of revelation (    ). Some prophets spoke with Allah (    ). Some prophets had interactions with and control over the jinn (      ).

 

Astrologers: The prophet taught that astrologers and all those who pretend to know the unseen future are liars. Human knowledge and understanding are confined to the empirical present unless they get knowledge about the past and future from revelation.

 

Scientific prediction of the future: is not considered human intrusion into the world of the unseen. This is because any predictions are made with the full knowledge that they are not perfect and often they are imperfect. They are based on studying trends and patterns of the empirical present. They are thus part of empirical observation.

 

Scientific reconstruction of the past: The work of astrologers and other scientists is not considered an intrusion into the past which is part of the unseen world. This is because such reconstructions and interpretations depend on what humans can empirically observe today. There is no claim of possessing any extra knowledge or power.

 

Allahs' omnipresence: Allah the almighty is watching and knows all what the human is doing and nothing can be hidden from Him, ihatat llah bi al al iinsaan.

 

ATTRIBUTES of the HUMAN, sifaat al insan

The positive and the negative: It is one of the secrets of Allah’s creation that a human the highest creation has positive and honorable attributes, sifaat hamidat, associated with good, hasan & khair. The human at the same time has negative attributes, sifaat dhamimat, associated with bad,, sharr. This duality however does not contradict the fact that the human can reach the pinnacle of perfection, al insan al kamil, who has honor and dignity, karamat al insan. The weaknesses of the human are innate. They can be corrected, mitigated, or even turned round into strengths. Despite the potential for doing bad out of weaknesses,  Allah gave humans the responsibility of vicegerancy on earth, isikhlaf al insan. This is in recognition of the preponmderance of the good in them. Standing out and being good despite existence of the negative in the human makes human achievements all the more spectacular.     

 

Limitations of the human, ajz al insan: The human whatever strengths he may have has to realise that he has limits beyond which he can not perform

 

Positive human attributes: Humans have been described in a positive light by the Qur'an as: al insaan al shaakir (  ),  al isan murid al duniy wa al akhirat (   ), , an insan al mumin (   ).

 

Negative human attributes: The Qur’an has described the human as fakhuur (p 163 11:10), dhaluum (p 163 14:34), ‘ajuul (p 163 17:1), bakhiil (p 187 3:180,  4:36-37, 4:128, 17:29-30, 17:100, 25:67, 33:19, 47:36-38, 57:23-24, 59:9, 64:16),  jahil  (p 309 3:273,  4:17, 2:273, 6:54, 12:89, 16:119, 49:6 & p 309 2:67, 6:35, 7:199, 10:89, 11:46-47, 12:33, 25:63, 33:33, & 11:46-47), safih (p p 320 4:5), ghaafil (p 869-70 6:131, 6:156, 7:179, 12:3, 12:13, 16:108, 28:15, 36:6, 24:23, 51:11 & 24:23, 19:39, 21:97, 7:136, 10:92, 7:205, 107:5, 7:172),  fasiq (p 897 58:11, 5:59),  mufsid (p 895 2:30, 2:30, 2:220, 10:40), kafir &  kafuur (p. 163 17:67) &  p 163 22:66 & p 163 42:48, 43:15),  mushrik (   ), munafiq (    ),  qatura (p. 163 17:100), mujadil (p 163 21:37), mukhtal (p 163 31:32), khasiim (p 163 36:77),  ya’uus (p 163 41:49), haluu’a (p 163 70:19-21), jazuu’a (p 163 70:19-21), twaaghi (p 163 76:6-7), mustaghni (p 163 96:6-7), kanuud (p 163 100:6-8),  munkir al ni’mat (p 163-4 10:12, 10:21-23, 11:9-10, 16:53-54, 17:67, 17:83, 29:65-66, 3:33-34, 30:36, 31:32, 39:8, 39:49, 41:49-51, 42:48, 70:19-21),  muhibb al shahwaat (    ).

 

Human intelligence: The most important attribute of humans is intelligence. Humans have a more developed intellect than other creations. Their brain has a bigger surface area in relation to weight compared to all other living things. It is more sophisticated and more specialised. Humans differ in the way they use their intelligence. Some are able to undertake difficult tasks involving abstract thinking and problem-solving whereas others can not or can do so at varying degrees. The Qur'an has described 4 levels of understanding: qalb or fuad (  ), albaab (p 170 2:179, 2:197, 2:269, 3:7, 3:190-194, 5:100, 12:111, 13:19-24, 14:52, 38:29, 38:43, 39:9, 39:17-18, 39:21, 40:54, 65:10),  and jibala (p 269 26:183).

           

Human aggression: Human aggression is a constant characteristic and sometimes leads to destruction. Aggression can be against the self, other humans or the eco-system. Aggression is the final pathway for many of humans weaknesses mentioned above. The first recorded act of human aggression was homicide committed by one of Adam’s sons because of jealousy. Humans even when seeking recreation have a tendency to sports like boxing, wrestling and others that allow expression of the inner tension or aggression.

 

KEY WORDS: jasad, ruh, qalb, nafs, 

 

DISCUSSION

1. Describe in your own words what you understand by fitrat

2. Describe in your own words what you understand by nafs

3. Describe in your own words what you understand by qalb

4. Describe in your own words what you understand by ruh

5. Describe in your own words what you understand by duality in humans

6. Select 5 of the positive human attributes discussed above and give examples

7. Select 5 of the negative human attributes discussed above and give examples

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. August 1999