The problem faced by human beings is that they are required to elevate themselves to the level of the highest society of the angels when they have been created of the clay of the earth. They are not required to be angels; that is beyond them since they are subject to the needs of their bodies. They are required to resist sinking into low depths by looking up to the sublime, to counter forgetfulness by God’s remembrance, and to overcome selfishness by human brotherhood. Having been granted life, they are required to dedicate their lives to God; they must not be preoccupied with their own needs. They should look up to the One who granted them life, directing all their life activity to the fulfillment of what He requires of them.
This needs more explanation. Angels do not eat, and as such, they do not need to grow their food and harvest their plants. Human beings need to do all that, but they become equal to the angels if they would only plant the earth, manage their harvests, and eat their food in God’s name. The time they spend in attending to all these activities is equal to the time the angels spend in glorifying and praising God if they will only reflect on God’s power and how He causes crops to grow and ripen, and appreciate His grace in providing them with sustenance, clothing, and shelter.
God has sent His messengers, from the beginning of human life, to guide people along this way. He has not sent angels as messengers, because angels have nothing to do with the tasks assigned to human beings. Unbelievers wondered at the fact that God has given His message to human messengers to deliver. They said: “Can it be that God has sent a human being as His messenger?” Say, “Had there been angels walking about on earth as their natural abode, We would have sent them an angel messenger from heaven.” Say, “Sufficient is God for a witness between me and you. He is indeed fully aware of His servants, and He sees all things.” (17: 94-96)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) provided the practical example of how people can live at the same level as the angels engaged in their glorification of God and thanksgiving. He has elevated mankind to a level in which we only see the rows of worshippers who praise and thank God or the ranks of those who dedicate themselves and their property to serving God’s cause. Muhammad certainly molded a human generation who were, in God’s measure, placed at the same level as the angels, because they abandoned all life temptations and followed the Prophet who dedicated his total existence to God, seeking only His pleasure, as the following words imply: “Say: My prayers, my worship, my living, and my dying are for God alone, the Lord of all worlds. He has no partner. Thus have I been commanded, and I shall be the first of those who surrender themselves to Him.” (6: 162-163.)
It is Muhammad’s clear knowledge of God, his continuous remembrance of Him, and His great share of the perfection that emanates from His attributes that mold his emotional and intellectual life. God has created man, giving him his form and qualities. He appointed him as His vicegerent on earth. He empowered him and assigned to him the task of exploiting the riches of the earth to build a life on it. He wants him to respect his own divine origin by not sinking into low desires. Man must be knowledgeable, noble, able, generous, compassionate, kind, and willing to give. He must fashion his life in line with the perfect qualities which God’s own attributes symbolize.
The world has never known, and will never know, a man who kept contemplating the sublime as Muhammad did. He walked on earth, but his heart was always looking up to heaven. He provided the model of perfect human life, both within himself as an individual and with his companions as a society. We see in his rational and emotional heritage all the elements man needs to fulfill the mission assigned to him in this life.
Consider the flow of powerful emotion in this heartfelt supplication the Prophet often said after obligatory prayers: “My Lord! You are our Lord and the Lord of all that exists. I bear witness that You alone are the Lord of all, without partners. My Lord! You are our Lord and the Lord of all that exists. I bear witness that Muhammad is Your servant and messenger. My Lord! You are our Lord and the Lord of all that exists. I bear witness that all mankind are brethren. My Lord! You are our Lord and the Lord of all that exists. Make me and my household sincere in our worship at every moment in this life and the life to come. You, the Lord of Supreme Majesty and unparalleled benevolence, answer our prayers. You, the Lord Supreme, Supreme! You are the light of the heavens and the earth. You, the Lord Supreme, Supreme! You are sufficient for me and I rely on You, the Lord Supreme, Supreme.”
When he feels that language cannot adequately express such a flow of feeling, the Prophet resorts to repeating the same words in order to express his love and veneration of God. It may be a repetition of words, but in effect, it airs a sense of greater love.
We note how Muhammad testifies to his being God’s messenger, and that this testimony comes in between asserting God’s oneness and the brotherhood of mankind. What does Muhammad’s assertion to his Lord that he is His servant and messenger signify? It is a kind of reconfirmation that he is willing to fulfill the task assigned to him and to complete his mission, delivering his message complete and intact to all mankind, regardless of how difficult they render his task by their rejection and false accusations.
– By SHEIKH MUHAMMAD AL-GHAZALI