Qurānic Conceptions of Being Human

  • Nuraan Davids
  • Yusef Waghid


In the previous chapter, we argued that an ethical community should be held accountable through disruptive speech acts that can address the community’s ethical concerns. Implicit in such an argument is the profound responsibility afforded human beings in ensuring their conduct not only in relation to themselves, but also in relation to others, as constituted through communities. And yet, there is another responsibility, embodied in the conceptualisation of vicegerency; that is, as a trustee of Allah on earth (khalīfatullāh fī al-‘ard). Embedded in these two responsibilities—one to the social and the other to the Creator—is the duality of humankind. On the one hand, human beings are considered in relation to their corporeal existence. On the other hand, because of the responsibility as khalīfatullāh fī al-‘ard, humankind and their actions cannot be limited to the physical spheres of their world. Hence, the corporeal dimension of what it means to be human must be considered in relation to the incorporeal or metaphysical scope of what it means to act as a trustee of Allah on earth. In this chapter, we look at how the Qurān conceives of being human and what distinguishes humankind from other forms of existence. We explore what is commonly considered the duality of humankind, that is, as being simultaneously physical and spiritual, or secular and transcendent. And, while it is argued that even though humans, in terms of Qurānic exegeses, are both mortal (as a physical body) and immortal (as resurrection), the corporeality and transcendence of humankind can be realised through an ethical enactment of what it means to be human—that is, to be just to oneself and to others because of, and in response to, the enactment of khalīfatullāh fī al-‘ard. Such an argument considers that inasmuch as humankind needs Allah—in terms of surrendering to an innate state of surrendering to his will—humankind needs others to be human, so that the act of vicegerency or khalīfatullāh fī al-ard might be fulfilled.


Ethical Community Innate Capacity Corporeal Dimension Physical Sphere Transcendental Nature 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nuraan Davids
    • 1
  • Yusef Waghid
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Education Policy Studies Faculty of EducationStellenbosch UniversityCape TownSouth Africa

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