DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN PERSONALITY
I. The Law of
In the course of ages, the idea slowly dawned on
man's mind and gradually crystallised that the world is not merely changing, but
is developing towards perfection. The changes are not haphazard; nor erratic.
They show a direction. In changing, the world is unfolding its real nature: in
the process, what is implicit in it becomes explicit and what is hidden is
brought to light. Purpose runs like a golden thread—a binding cord—throughout
the universe. The progressive aspect of changes in the world did not escape the
notice of some early Greek thinkers. The Greeks were an unusually gifted people
and their fertile imagination, unhampered by tradition and custom, explored the
realms of mind and matter. Their restless minds were ever shaping new theories
and advancing new viewpoints. They anticipated the evolutionary theory, as they
anticipated many scientific theories of this age. It is to the credit of modern
science that by adducing palpable evidence it has raised what was a nebulous
hypothesis, to the plane of a scientific theory, or almost a law of nature.
Physics shows a picture of a developing and expanding universe. Biologists
describe in minute, ornate detail the evolution of life from the protozoa and
protophyta to Homo Sapiens. It is true that biologists, with the exception of
Lamarck, reject the concept of purpose as alien to science. It is because
purpose does not fit into their conceptual frame-work of natural science.
But for the man who looks at the world with an
untainted mind, purpose is a fact of observation: it is blinkers of science that
may prevent us from noticing the purpose. Nevertheless, it is writ large on the
face of nature. We understand a thing when we know its end. Nothing around us
stays as it is at one particular moment, it is always changing and becoming
something different to what it is. As a rule, we are much less interested in a
thing as it is that in what it is tending to become. Suppose while taking a
walk, we meet a man who is running fast. It is not by determining his exact
location at a particular moment that we understand his activity, but by learning
about his purpose and the goal he is heading for. The physical world as it
develops, is accomplishing a purpose. Although the physical world is not
conscious of the purpose, nevertheless it is, in a sense, its purpose which
enhances its value and enriches it with new attributes. The purpose is positive,
constructive and operates objectively. We may say that the world is destined to
move towards and attain the goal ,which God, in His wisdom, has set for it.
This holds for the outer universe. With man the
case is quite different. Possessing a free self, he can develop and attain his
own end only by free choice and personal effort. Man cannot be forced to
develop; he must develop himself. Because man grows, he is compared with a plant
in the Quran. The seed germinates and puts forth a young shoot. The tiny stalk
grows in bulk and height. It becomes the full-grown tree which bears fruit. It
has fulfilled its purpose by reproducing its kind. Man takes his origin in the
fertilised ovum. After birth, he grows in size and strength, till he reaches
maturity and is ready for procreation. The analogy cannot be carried beyond this
point. Man, when he has begotten children, has not fulfilled his purpose. His
destiny is far different from that of the plant. He is not a mere instrument for
the preservation of his race. His body, no doubt, has fulfilled its purpose when
he has begotten children, but he possesses a self and the self does not beget
its like. It does not procreate. Says the Quran of the Divine Self that He
"neither begetteth nor is He begotten (112: 3). This is also true of the human
self which thoughinfinitely lower than the Divine Self, has more in common with
it than with physical objects or animals. The self's. activity is creative, not
It creates values and the values enrich and expand
its nature and raise it in the scale of existence. While the evolution of nature
proceeds under the direct control and supervision of God., man is an active
participant in his own evolution. Man develops as a result of his own free
choice and deliberate voluntary efforts. The evolution of his self, therefore,
is governed by laws distinct from those that obtain for nature. He too cannot
dispense with Divine help and guidance, but these are offered to him in a form
which does not impair the integrity of his self, nor imperil his freedom. He is
left free to accept or reject Divine guidance. Din comprises the
principles of conduct which can lead him to his goal, but they would do so only
when they are freely adopted and acted upon.
From this vantage point it is clear to us that
development is the rule in the world. In the language of the Quran it is the Law
of Rabubiyyat. This Law states that God carries forward the universe and
everything in it from one stage to a higher one. God keeps everything moving
forward, actualising its latent capabilities. It is a dynamic universe and the
most dynamic being in it is man. In such a universe, there will obviously be
different stages of existence. The Law of Rabubiyyat is tuned to each
stage of existence but its purpose and aim remain unaffected throughout. The Law
is the sheet-anchor of the universe, the guarantee that everything in it will
develop to the full extent of its capacity: the only possible exception is man
who, through his own volition, may set himself against it and misapply his
freedom by choosing to descend instead of ascending, to creep on earth instead
of soaring in the sky (7: 176).
II. Course of
The evolutionary process, in evidence in the
outer world, takes within man the form of self-development. What are the
conditions under which self-development proceeds smoothly without let or
hindrance? Some conditions are common for each stage of development in general,
others apply only to self-development—the most exciting form of development. Let
us consider the common ones first. Nothing exists by itself in isolation.
Everything is related to many other things and the relationship between them is
not merely of co-existence, but of co-operation. The development, therefore,
depends on the presence and co-operation of several factors. To take a concrete
example, a seed is capable of growing into a tree. However, for its growth it
depends on soil, water, minerals, air and sunlight. All these must not only be
present, but they must also bear proper relations to each other and to the seed.
If the seed is placed in one pot, soil in another and water in a third pot,
nothing will happen. But if the seed is related to these things in such a way
that they interact on each other, the seed will soon sprout and burgeon. The
human body too develops through intimate interaction with environmental forces
and objects. All things in the world are inter-dependent; they need each other
and help each other. This is still more true of the self of man. The self can
develop only in a social environment, through interaction with other free
selves. It needs a society in which there is internal harmony and concord. It
burgeons in the context of friendly relations with kindred beings.
Their sympathy and co-operation are essential to
its growth. The sense of participation in social activities directed to a noble
end adds a new dimension to the self. Self-realisation is possible for man only
in society, a society which is based on justice and respect for human
personality, a society which is dedicated to the acquisition of higher values.
The society which favours the growth of the self, is that in which every man
gladly helps others and gratefully receives help from them. In a society torn by
dissension, the demands of the physical self become imperative. In such a
society, every man will be thinking of himself and his personal interests. His
mind will be engrossed with the problem of protecting his life, property and
children from other men.
Biological motives will dominate the mind and the
urge for a higher life will be relegated to the background. In a society of this
kind the pursuit of the good is not possible. Man needs a society in which all
the members are bound to each other by ties of friendship and animated by the
spirit of comradeship. Belief in these values is the first commitment of belief
in God. The Quran exhorts man to build up a society in which men are united by
such an in God for the purpose of collating a society which is not wrought-up by
And hold fast by the cord of God, all of you,
and be not divided but remember the favour of God towards you, when you were
enemies and He united your hearts so that you became, by His favour, as brothers
(3 : 102).
The society so cultivated and congenial is the
Ummah of the Quran. "This is how He has raised an Ummah —community—from
among you" (2 : 143). This is the reason for the Quran’s emphasis on corporate
life and for its disapproval of monasticism. Goethe once remarked that character
is formed not in solitude, but in the hurly-burly of life. The self shrinks and
contracts in solitude, while it grows and expands through active and continuous
participation in group activities.
A harmonious, well-knit and integrated personality
can take shape only in a balanced and concordant society. The human mind is the
arena of conflicting desires. Society too carries the seed of discord as it is
composed of individuals with different and often opposed tastes, interests and
aims. In society the resulting conflicts should not be resolved by suppressing
one party and giving free rein to the other. The true solution lies in mutual
adjustment, in reconciling one to the other and in discovering an activity or a
way of life which affords reasonable satisfaction to rivals. Balance and
proportion should characterise personality as well as society. How can human
personality acquire proportion? The answer is that it can do so only by taking
as its model the Divine Attributes, Asma-ul-Husna (Beautiful Names).
The Divine Attributes, severally, represent the
highest degree of each intrinsically valuable quality and they collectively
reflect proportion of the highest order. If we bear in mind that proportion is
an essential condition of beauty, and some might go so far as to say that
proportion itself is beauty, it will be clear to us why the term Husna is
applied to these attributes. These are beautiful because each bears the right
proportion to others, so as to form a well-balanced whole. Husn, however,
must be taken in a wider sense. It denotes not only physical beauty but moral
beauty as well. Proportion is the only antidote to the poison of discord and
conflict in the self as well as in society.
There is at least one marked distinction in the
way of development of the self from that of the body. The body grows by taking
and assimilating nutrient substances from the environment. The more nourishment
it gets, the better is its growth. Paradoxically, the self grows not by
receiving but by giving. Generosity promotes its growth and meanness
checks it. The more the self gives of its riches, the richer it grows. If this
basic truth is clearly perceived, men will rush to the help of those in need.
Pride in possession will give place to joy in munificence. They will think more
of what they can give than of what they can keep for themselves. The acquisitive
instinct will be weakened and the impulse to give will gain strength. The Quran
extols men who put the interests of others above their own :
They prefer others before themselves although
there be indigence among them; and whosoever is preserved from the covetousness
of his own soul, these shall prosper (59 : 9).
The tendency directly opposed to generosity that
we have been considering is covetousness, termed shuh-un-nafs in the
Quran (59: 9). It is acquisitive, possessive and egoistic. The covetous man
wants to appropriate all the good things within his reach and is callously
indifferent to the needs of others. Suppose a number of men are gathered at a
water tap. They know that the flow of water will cease in an hour or so. Each is
eager to fill his pitcher.
The covetous man elbows his way through the crowd,
rudely pushes the pitcher of another from underneath the tap and places his own
in its place. He does not care if others have to go without water. All he cares
for is to have a plentiful supply of water for himself. Covetousness deadens the
human self and the Quran admonishes us to be on our guard against this insidious
disease of the self. It exhorts us to help all men, and not only our kith and
kin. The Quran is objective and universal in its outlook. It seeks the welfare
of all humanity and not only of a particular sect or community. According to the
Quran, only that endures which benefits "man whoever he may be and to whatever
country, nation or group he may belong. We would do well to reflect on the verse
quoted below :
He sends down water from heaven, and the brooks
flow according to their (respective) measure, and the flood bears along a
swelling foam. And from the metals which they smelt in fire seeking to cast
ornaments and necessaries, arises a scum like it. Thus Allah coineth the
similitude of the true and the false. As to the foam, it goes off as refuse, and
as to what is profitable to mankind, it remains on the earth. Thus God strikes
out parables (13: 17).
The proposition, "Only that survives which is for
the benefit of all mankind together with its corollary, "only those survive who
benefit all mankind are the fundamental principles of self-development. The law
is not "the survival of the fittest," but "the survival of the most munificent.
" In other words, according to the standard laid down by the Quran, only the
most munificent is the fittest to survive. Those who have imbibed the true
spirit of the Quran, will eschew selfishness and will dedicate themselves to the
service of humanity. They are the real Muslims.
Nationalism and colonialism have been dominant
forces in the West during the last two or three centuries. Both generate
narrow-mindedness and a parochial attitude. The European thought only of his own
nation or empire. Even in the West, however, some thinkers have exhorted their
compatriots to work for the good of all mankind. We quote an eloquent passage
from Rashdall's book on ethics:
It may be urged that the ideal is that I should
be producing something for another and find my good in doing so; while he is
working in turn for my good, and finds his good in doing so.1
An eloquent defence of this view is to be found in
Robert Briffault's Making of Humanity:
The peculiar means and conditions of human
development necessitate that development shall take place not by way of
individuals, but by way of the entire human race; that the grade of development
of each individual is the resultant of that ecumenical development (p. 260).
He says further :
The making of humanity! That is the burden of
man's evolution ; and that is the solid, may, somewhat hard fact, of which the
'moral law' is the vaguely conscious expression. It is not throbbing impulse of
altruism, no inspiration of generosity for its own sake, but a heavy weight of
necessity laid upon man's development by the unbending conditions that govern it
On another place, he has elaborated the point:
In the natural scale, that action is good which
contributes to the process of human development, that act is evil which tends to
impede, retard, oppose that process: that individual life is well deserving
which is in the direct line of that evolution, that is futile which lies outside
the course of its advance; that is Condemned which endeavours to oppose the
current. That is the natural, the absolute and actual standard of moral values.
Nature does not value the most saintly and charitable life which brings no
contribution to human growth, as much as a single act which permanently promotes
the evolution of the race. The only measure of worth of which nature takes any
account– by perpetuating it–is the contribution offered towards the building tip
of a higher humanity (p. 352).
The real interests of the individual are not
detached from but are interwoven with those of mankind. They are not
antithetical to but are identical with each other. Man, therefore., realises
himself by furthering the interest of mankind. This is the truth which the Quran
proclaims. It regards all "mankind as one community"
(10 : 19). It does not recognize the distinctions of caste, race, creed or
colour. Mankind is one whole, a single, though complex, entity for it :
Your creation and your raising are but as those
of single self (31 : 28).
The Quran speaks of K’aba, the centre of
the Muslim world, as "an establishment for the entire mankind" (5: 97). It holds
that the well-being of the individual depends on the well-being of the society.
Muslims are enjoined to work not for the well-being of the Muslim community but
for that of all mankind. The Quran leaves no doubt on this point, and Prof.
Whitehead is in full agreement with it when he says that:
The perfection of life resides in aims beyond
the individual person in question.2
Man, in his individual capacity, self-develops
his personality as he satisfies his desires, and his self-conscious
interpretations of his subconscious knowledge of his origin in Pure Spirit may
influence his activities. But, racially, man ought to engage only in such
activities as tend to extend creative freedom to the utmost through the
self-creativeness of all personalities to their uttermost limits. Man may turn
from this second movement while holding to the first. Man, therefore, may be
moral individually and immoral racially. The highest personalities unite the two
The interdependence of man is the recurring theme
of the Quran. The Quranic programme for man has a twofold aim-the furtherance of
the best interests of the individual as well as of the society. In working for
the good of mankind, man achieves his own good as well. This view has been held
by some great thinkers in the West also. We quote from Kant:
Act in such a way as to treat thyself and every
other human being as of equal intrinsic value ; behave as a member of a society
in which each regards the good of the other as of equal value with his own, and
is so treated by the rest, in which each is both end and means, in which each
realises his own good in promoting that of others.4
The Quran goes a step further and declares that
"the believers prefer others to themselves although there is indigence among
them" (59 : 9). Julian Huxley, a great scientist who holds no brief for
religion, writes to the same effect :
I believe that the whole duty of man can be
summed up in the words: more life for your neighbour as for yourself. And I
believe that man, though not without perplexity, effort and pain, can fulfil
this duty and gradually achieve his destiny. A religion which takes this as its
central core and interprets it with wide vision, both of the possibilities open
to man and of the limitations in which he is confined will be a true religion,
because it is conterminous with life; it will encourage the growth of life, and
will itself grow with that growth. I believe in the religion of life.5
Julian Huxley, of course, does not believe that
man needs the help of Divine Revelation. He holds fast to the view that reason
alone can enable man to grasp the true relationship between himself and mankind.
Here, he is oversimplifying the problem. He fails to see that mere intellectual
apprehension of a truth is not enough, that it does not guarantee that we will
always follow the hard path he has suggested. Reason may lead us to the lofty
peak which gives a wider vision of life, but Revelation gives us the strength to
stay there and order our life in accordance with that vision. Ovid's famous line
is pertinent to the point, "Video metiora prohoque deteriora sequor !" (I see
the better course but follow the worse one !). Reason can point out the right
path but it lacks the power to compel us to follow it. Revelation supplements
reason. It confirms and expands the vision granted by reason and also sustains
and guides us in the arduous journey. to our goal. Revelation summons men to a
fuller and richer life and is meant only for those "who are living" (36 : 70).
Life, we should bear in mind, is much more than
physical existence. It is a steady and continuous progress towards a higher
stage in social, moral and intellectual development. Man approaches this stage
by helping his fellow-beings to do the same. If man pushes society forward,
society in turn pushes him on, and so both rise to the desired higher level.
Says the Quran:
O ye who believe! Respond to God and His
apostle, when he calls you to that which gives you life (8: 24).
To . sum up, man is organically related to all
His vital interests are bound up with the interest
of humanity. He can fulfil himself only by serving other men and by putting
their interest above his own. He realises his good only by working for the
general good. The Quran puts it clearly:
(The believers say) : We feed you for the sake
of Allah only. We wish for no reward or thanks from you (76: 9).
Man is really benefiting himself by serving other
men. So the question of reward does not arise. As the Quran says
Is the reward of Ihs’an aught
save Ihs’an ? (55 : 60).
Dedicated to the service of mankind, the believers
keep the doors of the Rabubiyyat Order open to all. They sincerely
rejoice at the progress of others:
Those who spend their wealth in accordance with
the Laws of Allah (for the benefit of mankind) and afterwards make not reproach
and injury to follow that which they have spent: their reward is with their Rabb
and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve (2 : 262).
They are happy in serving others, seeking neither
wealth nor fame:
O ye who believe! Render not vain what you
spend for the cause prescribed by Allah by reproach and injury, like him who
spends his wealth only to be seen of men and believe not in Allah and the last
day (2: 264).
So the Rasool (messenger of God), whose
mission it was to summon men to the Rabubiyyat Order, declared:
And I ask of you no reward for it ; my reward
is only with the Rabb of all the worlds (26 : 109).
We must now face the crucial question, whether it
is really possible for man to sacrifice his interests for the sake of the
general good. No doubt, man is endowed with altruistic as well as egoistic
impulses. But the egoistic impulse which impels man to appropriate all good
things for himself, is far more powerful than the social impulse. Moreover,
worldly wisdom too lends its support to the egoistic impulse. Few can resist the
powerful appeal of immediate personal gain. Mysticism seeks to strengthen the
altruistic motive by inculcating into man ideas such as that the body is utterly
worthless, that all sensual pleasures are sinful and that the world is shot
through with evil. It is believed that if man is fully convinced that the body
is an obstacle to his "spiritual" progress, he would cease to care for things
that minister to its needs. The Quran, however, does not approve of this kind of
other-worldliness. It treats the body and the world with the respect due to
them. It tells us that there is nothing sinful in possessing worldly goods and
in gratifying bodily needs. It fully recognises the fact that it is possible to
have value experience through the body:
Beautiful for mankind is love of the joys (that
come) from women and children, and stored up treasures of gold and silver,, and
horses branded (with their mark) and cattle and land. That is comfort of the
life of the world. Allah! with Him is a more excellent abode (3: 13).
The Quran encourages man to enjoy the good things
of the world:
Say : Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah
which He hath brought forth for His servants, and the good things of His
Mysticism pleads for the suppression of the
egoistic impulse which would leave the field open to the altruistic impulse. The
Quran is opposed to this view and asks us to do justice to the physical self as
well as the real self. How can the interests of these two selves be reconciled
and how can man have the best of both the worlds ? This question is discussed in
the next chapter.
1. H. Rashdall, The Theory of Good And Evil, Vol. II, p. 77.
2. A. N. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, p. 373.
3. J. W. T. Mason, Creative Freedom, p. 226.
4. Quoted by Rashdall, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 133.
5. Julian Huxley,
Religion without Revelation, p. 113.