The following five verses give a brief background about the first article, Creation and Evolution in the Holy Qur'an which tells the Qur’an story of how God created life on Earth, let it evolve, and intervened to improve his creation.
The verses tell us that Allah, praise to Him, began the creation of life, including humans out of clay, but He kept improving his creation, fashioning it with the right proportions, leading humans to walk uprightly (on two), and imaging them in the best image.
Verse 11 of Surah Al-‘Araf (Chapter 7) clearly states that Allah, praise to Him, created humans (in plural), fashioned them in the image He wanted, then He said to the angels to prostrate to Adam, the top of His human creation.
Verse 59 of Surah Al-‘Imarn (Chapter 3), states that both of Jesus Christ and Adam (peace be upon them) were alike in that they were created of the Earth soil. We know for sure that Jesus Christ was created in his mother’s womb, which means that the verse is referring to the first creation of life on Earth, out of clay (which is water and soil together). The verse tells us that this also applies to the creation of Adam.
“(Allah is He) Who has made everything He created better, and He began the creation of the human (being) out of clay” (Surah Al-Sajda, 32: 7).
“It is He Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and made you with the right proportions (straightened you up), to walk in an upright position” (Surah Al-Infitar, 82: 7).
“In whatever form (image) He willed, He put you together (assembled you)” (Surah Al-Infitar, 82: 8)
“And We created you (humans, in plural form), then fashioned you (made you in the image you are, also addressing humans in plural form), then said to the angels: Prostrate to Adam! And they prostrated, all except Iblis (another name for Satan), who was not of those who made prostration” (Surah Al-A'araf, 7: 11).
“The example of ‘Eissa (Jesus) for Allah is as that of Adam. He created him from the earth soil, then said to him: "Be". And he was” (Surah Al-'Imran, 3: 59).
Meaning of Human Caliphate on Earth
The starting point in this article is the word “khalifa”, or caliph, which is mentioned in Verse 30 of Surah Al-Baqara (Chapter 2 of the Holy Qur’an). The root of the word is the Arabic verb “khalafa,” which means “came after or succeeded.” However, several derivatives of the verb are used in many other verses, as listed below.
The caliph (Al-Khalifa) is the ruler who comes after, or succeeds another. The main meaning is that Allah, praise to Him, has chosen humans to be His successors, or caliphs, on Earth, ruling it according to His Law (Shari’a), and on His behalf.
Muslims used the word to describe the second head of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, referring to him as the Caliph of the Prophet, or his successor, as the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was the first head of the Islamic State. Then, Muslims continued describing their rulers as such until the end of World War I, at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Ottoman Caliphate was defeated by Western empires and was replaced by the Turkish secular state.
Another related meaning to the word “Khalifa” or “caliph” is that Allah, praise to Him, has willed that humans shall succeed each other in ruling the Earth, century after century, until He inherits this planet and all that is on it.
Honor, But Responsibility
God’s decision, or mandate, to make humans His successors, caliphs, on Earth is a great honor to them, but it is a grave responsibility at the same time. It is true that they lived up to God’s expectations in many centuries and stages of their history. However, they failed in many other occasions and times. They did injustice to themselves and to the planet they have been entrusted to care about.
The very characteristics of success that humans possess could be used in bad ways, as a result of following Satan and his wicked ways, which took humans away from the right path of God.
Verse 72 of Surah Al-Ahzab (Chapter 33 of the Holy Qur’an) tells us that the Heavens, the Earth, and the Mountains (as solid and strong as they are) could not carry God’s mandate and the responsibility associated with it. However, humans were happy to carry it, or accept it, out of ignorance about the burdens of the responsibility associated with God’s mandate for them to become His successors on Earth.
“We offered the trust (of succession, caliphate) to the heavens and the Earth and the mountains, but they refused to undertake it, and were afraid of it. And (but) the human (being) undertook it (because) he was unjust (to himself) and ignorant (of the consequences of his undertaking)” (Surah Al-A'hzab, 33: 72).
God’s Mandate: Verse 30 of Surah Al-Baqara
“And when your Lord said to the angels: I am making a caliph on the Earth. They said: Are You making therein one who corrupts it and sheds blood, while we hymn Your praise and sanctify You? He said: Surely I know that which you do not know” (Surah Al-Baqara, 2: 30).
In explaining the meaning of this verse, Al-Siyouti mentioned that Allah decided to make Adam as His caliph, successor, on Earth, to succeed Him in implementing His rules.
Al-Tabari used the same explanation, mentioning a narration by the Companions Ibn Masa’aud and Ibn Abbas. However, he added, as Ibn Katheer did, saying that the meaning of caliphate is the succession of a century of people by another.
Al-Qurtubi was clear in that the caliphate, or succession, is that of Adam succeeding God, praise to Him, on Earth. He cited Ibn Masa’aud and Ibn Abbas in saying that Adam, peace to him, was God’s caliph in implementing His rules and commands, because he was a Messenger of God, as the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, told the Companion Abi Dher, may Allah be pleased with him.
Thus, the word “caliph” can also be interpreted as “representative,” meaning that God, praise to Him, entrusted human beings to be his representatives on Planet Earth, implementing His rules and observing His commands.
God’s trust in his human creation to be His representatives on Earth was based on His knowledge of them as capable to receive His trust. Among the characteristics that made humans trustworthy of God’s mandate for them to be His caliphs were their ability to learn, to choose, and to build.
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