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Complementarity between man and nature

By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Allah says in His Glorious Book: “It is We Who have placed you with authority on earth, and provided you therein with means for the fulfillment of your life: small are the thanks that ye give!” (07:10).

Allah wants man to keep his life, along with all the elements of strength and spring of blessings it embraces, under scrutiny, by linking it to Allah, the ultimate source of strength and blessings. This would actually make him sense the responsibility he ought to shoulder with regard to the positions in which he uses strength or blessings… This is the true concept of practical gratitude that Allah wants man to adopt in his general movement in life and to instill in his character and make it stand out. He can do so by employing all what Allah bestows upon him according to what He allows and forbids, for he is not the one in charge of all that, in the sense that he is not allowed to act according to his whims and desires, for if he does, it would be an act of rebellion and against Allah and ingratitude towards Him… This cannot be achieved except by being completely aware of the link between the elements of the very human existence and Allah, and by avoiding any intellectual and spiritual self-isolation; which suggests to him that the self-capabilities he enjoys are not bestowed by Allah.

Man should always show gratitude to Allah Who said “It is We Who have placed you with authority on earth”, referring to the elements of strength He bestowed upon man and to the creatures He made subservient to him, “and provided you therein with means for the fulfillment of your life:” pointing to what the people eat, drink, wear and enjoy… All this demands that you show gratitude towards Allah, thank Him for His graces and obey His commands. But Allah says: “Small are the thanks that ye give!” which is the natural result for disregarding the necessity of leading a responsible life and its linkage to Allah, for the issue of gratitude is an issue of awareness, openness and faith to realize that Allah neither created you or life without any purpose, nor did He leave man without any order [to govern his life]… With every creature there exists a purpose, behind every life there exists a goal and before every man there exists a responsibility; for strength is responsible of shouldering the burdens of life and the blessings are responsible of developing the potentials of life - both one’s life and the others’ - thus, there should be no room for negativity or selfishness… This drives us to ponder over Allah every time we come across a feeling of strength or a manifestation of blessings that calls on us to thank Allah for His bestowals and to render thankfulness a means for enriching the experience of the believer in life.

Perhaps, we can inspire from this Ayah what some interpreters, such as Sayyed Qotob, had inspired, which is that Allah created earth with its diverse potentials and He created man with all the mental and physical capabilities he possesses and He created a kind of relation between the two, in the sense that He made the earth with all its potentials subservient to the human ability, and He provided man with the great physical and mental potentials through which he can unravel its secrets, dominate over its positions and exploit all the potentials it enjoys. Thus, he would make use of it to enrich his life just as he would use his creative mindset to develop it [earth] and turn it into a dynamic productive element that is man’s friend and not foe. This is the concept on which the Islamic theory is based. It is a concept that talks about a complementary relation between man and nature, unlike the materialistic western theory which talks about an ongoing clash between the two, in the sense that the human who might take hold of some of nature’s secrets and potentials turns into its conqueror, and that nature turns into the human’s conqueror as he falls before it.

Islam, through its teachings about the Divine enabling (of man) and making other creatures subservient to him, confirms the theory of the diversity of existence in man and nature within an overall unity in which each of them acts in conformity with the laws Allah has set for the entire universe. As for the efforts man has to make and the complications he has to meet for reaching the actual state of complementarity, they are a prerequisite by the Divine law that rendered making much efforts and sacrifices necessary for man to reach what he wants, for Allah does not want anything to simply unravel its secrets or just give out its potentials, since He says: “O man! Surely you must strive (to attain) to your Lord, a hard striving until you meet Him.” (84:06).

[Source: (Interpretations) inspired from the Quran]