Mankind in Islam
Man is the highest creation of God. He is equipped with the highest of potentialities. He is left relatively free in his will, action and choice. God has shown him the right path, and the life of Prophet Muhammad provides a perfect example for him. Man's success and salvation lies in following both. Islam teaches the sanctity of the human personality and confers equal rights upon all without any distinction of race, sex or color.
Man is considered in Islam as the supreme creation of Allah who acts on earth as His vicegerent and is responsible for implementing the will of Allah on earth. He is not born sinful. He, according to Islam, is born innocent and is bestowed by Allah with a free will to follow Allah’s guidance or live a rebellious life. A man will be judged by Allah in the Afterlife on the basis of his faith and deeds. If he meets his Lord with the true faith and good deeds, the heaven will be his permanent abode. In case of his rejection of the true faith and adoption of vices, he will be condemned to the hellfire.
The law of God, enunciated in the Qur’an and exemplified in the life of the prophet, is supreme in all cases. It applies equally to the highest and the lowest, the prince and the peasant, the ruler and the ruled. No man has superiority over others on the basis of caste, color, nationality, material advantage, or gender. Man is not superior to woman in Islam: the two have different responsibilities to run the family life. Both man as well woman can develop a very close relationship with Allah.
Position of Mankind in Islam: Man Vicegerent of Allah
Man, according to the teachings of Islam, is the representative and vicegerent of Allah on earth. This world is a trust and man is its trustee. It is not a personal property of an individual or people which could be used or misused to satisfy personal desires. It is man's responsibility to manage the world according to Allah's instructions and promote divine guidance. This great world- - including animals, birds, trees, rivers, mountains, gold, silver, and all it contain - - has been given to the care of man because he is more familiar than any one else with the world (as he is himself made of dust) and has also a genuine interest in it. Thus, because he has knowledge of the world and interest in it - -two essential conditions for a successful trustee - - he can be a good caretaker of the world.6
Man Most Suitable for Managing the World
When Allah created Adam and made him His vicegerent on earth, the angels who are innocent and do not commit sins, submitted to Allah that as man was inclined to quarrel and shed blood on earth, the vicegerency might be granted to them as they glorified Him and remained engaged in worshipping Him all the time. Allah replied the angels that they did not know the matters of the world. He then tested Adam and the angels by asking them certain questions relating to the world. As Adam was made of dust and had a natural interest in the world, he answered Allah's questions correctly whereas the angels lacking this natural interest in the things of the world failed. Thus Allah established that in spite of all weaknesses man alone was most suitable for managing the world. In fact, his natural weaknesses themselves qualified him for this position. If the world were run by angels, most gifts of God put into it, which were discovered and developed by man due to his interest and need, would have remained unknown and unused.
But we have to remind ourselves that a vicegerent and representative has a duty to fully follow the instructions of his master. His personality and precept should reflect the values of his master. To act as a vicegerent of Allah on earth requires that man must inculcate in himself His qualities which should mould his manners. We have been taught that the qualities and attributes of Allah include knowledge, mercy, appreciativeness, administrative ability, forgiveness, benevolence, justice, love, grandeur, beauty, and power to protect- and punish. Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be on him, taught mankind to acquire Allah's attributes ("Adorn yourself with the qualities of Allah").
In spite of inherent limitations, man can, on the limited human scale, develop in himself attributes of Allah. He can never be God, but he can exhibit Allah's great attributes in his character as Allah's vicegerent. One can imagine that if man becomes mindful of his responsibility as Allah's vicegerent on earth and thus strives to inculcate in himself divine moral attributes, how high he can rise as a human being and how pleasant and prosperous the world can become under his vicegerency. Religion, as a matter of fact, provides man with the sublimest and most balanced concept of life. It grants him a position as Allah's vicegerent, responsible for administering things on earth as His representative and functioning as a caretaker of this great trust, which brings upon mankind an unprecedented honor.