Man's position among creation
The most revolutionary discoveries in history have been those which altered the way humans perceived themselves in the
universe. We discovered that the earth was not at the centre of the universe. We discovered that our Sun was a very ordinary star
located in an insignificant part of an ordinary galaxy, which was only one of millions of galaxies. These discoveries should have
humbled us. Yet, even today, many of us triumphantly proclaim ourselves as being the most supreme creation of God. It is common
to ascribe our cherished position among all living things to our higher intellectual abilities. If we were to find out that there are other
intelligent beings in the universe, and that some may be intellectually more superior to us, where would that leave us ?Would we
finally be dethroned?
Sura 17:70 informs us, "Verily We have honored the children of Adam...and preferred them above many of those whom We
created with a marked preferment." (56) Many translations fail to mention the "marked preferment" in the verse, although the verse
contains the Arabic "tafzelan" which conveys this, note that the verse mentions that there are other creatures besides humans, who
have also been given a position of distinction, and humans have been preferred above many, not all, of these creatures. Usmani
states in a comment on this verse, "Under this verse a debate is opened: Who is superior- Man or Angel? But logically this verse does
not decide the issue." (57) Another scholar has written, "From this (verse) it is evident that whatever superiority humans have got over
other creatures is not whole.
Allah's creatures contain such creatures upon which humans have got no superiority."It must be remembered here that while
so far we have been discussing material alien life forms, the debate of man's position in creation includes both material and spiritual
creatures of God. Some early authorities, such as Hasan, have not accepted the word "akser" mentioned in 17:70 as meaning "many".
Hasan maintains that the word "akser", as used in 17:70, should be understood as meaning "all", since the same word is used in
26:233 and 10:36,where it would be inappropriate to take its meaning as "many" but rather as "all". With such a substitution in verse
17:70,the meaning would be altered to mean that man is preferred by God over all creatures.
The debate on man's status continues among scholars and also among the public. Let us make an analogy to the debate of
whether man is superior to woman. Suppose for a moment that we hand the trophy to man and let him enjoy his "superior" position.
On the Day of Judgment, it will only be deeds that count and good women will go to Paradise and bad men will burn in Hell. Who
would have been more superior? As you can see, in the final analysis, any debate on the status of a race, or species is useless. From
earlier verses mentioned in this article, the reader will remember that, according to the Quran, God will judge humans as well as
aliens on the basis of their deeds and reward them accordingly. Many humans will be sent to Hell for their wrongdoings. At the same
time there will be aliens who will be rewarded for their good deeds. Who would be more superior- the unbelieving human or the
faithful alien? The answer is obvious. Therefore, what's the use of debating this point? Status of a creature is relative to its moral
conduct. Sura 95:4-5 states, "Surely We created man of the best stature, then We reduced him to the lowest of the low." (58)