Praise be to the One who originates creation,
Who nourishes and sustains, who repeats and returns;
At the end of time, to Him all return
All shall be shown to each and every one
Of what he proclaimed and what was hidden
Glory to God, the merciful Lord.
Blessings and peace be upon Muhammad,
His guidance and light, the Prophet of God.
United Nations definition of human development is defined by education, life expectancy and income. This definition is from a material perspective, a consumerist point of view without proper regards to any a priori measure or justification. The three terms above are problematic, subjective and somewhat rooted in the oriental legacy, imperialism and the western concept of modernity which is now outdated in the west and being replaced by ‘post modernity’, an ambiguous concept to say the least.
Education too is ambiguous, as in the current philosophy there are no truths or universal values according to the educators; voids in values are increasing being filled with ‘political correctness’ which are defined and fixed in ‘time periods’; history tells us that these values become obsolete with time as the ‘time period’ capsules expire. ‘Schooling’, however, is much more useful in the practical sense as it prepares for social competence, workplace and functioning in the society.
According to Plato, the great philosopher Socrates stated that the unexamined life is not worth living. Humans tend to distinguish between themselves and other intelligent animals through the virtues of intellect, empathy and moral agency. Not through the sole criterion of pleasure. In all human societies throughout the ages humans have abstained from physical and carnal pleasures in certain situations due to modesty, shame and morality which are completely missing in other animal species. A life expectancy devoid of the qualities is beneath the station of humanity. This appears manifestly as a universal value tested and upheld over time.
Income, too, is problematic when is defined by currencies. The same skill and labour of the same person is valued very differently depending on whether the work is carried out a developing country or in the developed countries. Also, the demand for a thing does not indicate its value; it only indicates its demand. The demand changes over time and location, however, the intrinsic value of a thing remains the same without regards to its demand. Income, however, is dependent on the supply of goods and services and its price is set by the demand and other market factors. Markets can be rigged and manipulated in order to set and control people’s income. In free global markets there is nothing to protect the weak and the vulnerable from unfair competition, price rigging and domination.
We shall call this a priori yardstick the haqiqah. Any definition of human development that does not resort to haqiqah, to say the least, is arbitrary. This is will become evident when we examine these 3 measures of the UN definition below.
Although life expectancy had increased in the recent times, there is suggestion that it is coming to a halt. Some animals live longer that other, just by the virtue of living longer does not make one species superior to the other. Neither does the enjoyment of physical comforts make one species superior to the other.
Life expectancy is a good indicator of health and wellbeing; however, it is not sufficient enough to indicate either fulfilment or happiness of a person. Although the opposite is more correct, that happiness depends on a greater extent to the physical wellbeing, physical wellbeing does not necessarily indicate happiness. So, everything based on life expectancy and physical health does not indicate the true extent of human development or fulfilment.
Qualitative aspects of Life
Quality of life depends on personal fulfilment. Personal fulfilment, in turn, depends on actualizing of the human potentials. These potentials can be classed into different groups:
Under this aspect of existence, it is the instinct of survival without paying regards to anyone else. It is the only self-indulgence, self-gratification and pleasure. There is no real or true consideration to others. The self, at times, can deceive itself for self-gratifying behavior as altruism and charity. This is manifested in forms of service or charity to the self, however, on closer examination, it can be seen that it falls into one of these following innate animalistic categories:
These categories are intrinsic part of the animal psyche; it is absolutely a requirement as part of innate disposition of both the survival of the species as well as the survival of the individual. The animalistic nature is content with self-gratification and indulgence. It does not have much interest beyond this.
In the animalistic nature, the purpose of the function of envy is designed for the betterment of the species. It fights against laziness and complacency, aspects of creature comforts which the self eagerly seeks. In the devilish nature, envy seeks to attain its object even to the destruction of its own pleasure and self! It is a fire which increases and grows as it finds more fuel, embarking on a descending spiral. Its only goal and pleasure is to stop others benefitting from comforts and gains. It is the stinginess of the heart, malevolence of the mind. It seeks to put things out of order from its rightful place, cause chaos and mayhem. Haqiqah is placing each thing in its rightful place, with due respect to its standing, proportionality and order. Devilish nature stands in contrast and conflict to the haqiqah.
The angelic nature is made up of light. Light is a wonderful and intriguing substance; it cannot be seen by itself, however, thorough light all visible things are made apparent. The properties of light is unique, it has no weight or mass, and its speed is comparable no none other.
Intelligence, which is a form of light, cannot be seen directly, but is made apparent through others in terms of cognition, understanding, effect and impact. This intelligence gives meaning and value to the universe. It is the measure of truth, justice and values. As a dynamic living and changing universe its affairs are being constantly executed and carried out without any opposition, delay or difficulties but in perfect harmony. Those who are in process of carrying out these operations are known as the angels. They have no hesitation, desire or weaknesses to do anything other than what their functions require them to do. They do not flinch but obey. As a result, the whole universe is running exactly and accordingly to its design. Otherwise, there would have been disorder and chaos. Humans too share in this realm. Humans are a mixture, encompassing all the realms and realities, both good and bad.
Humans being the centerpiece of all possibilities; they contain, reflect and encompass all creations and potentials. As it is mentioned in the prophetic traditions, “neither the heavens nor the earth contained me but the heart of the believing servant contained me”. The heart is compared with the throne of God which extends over the 7 heavens. The manifestations of the attributes and divine lights take place within the mirror of the heart. This is the station of Adam ﷺwho taught all the names and made God’s khalifa on earth. The superiority of Adam ﷺ was demonstrated in the highest assembly when Adam ﷸ ﷷ was objected by Iblis and questioned by the angels. Iblis objected out of his jealousy, pride and anger, while the angels questioned due to their being unable to comprehend this this new addition to His creation. So they asked, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood?” God ﷻreplied that they did not know what He knew and demonstrated Adam’s ﷸ ﷷ superiority to the angels by asking him to inform the names of all things. The angels submitted to Adam ﷸ ﷷ and prostrated to him as mark of honour and obedience to God ﷻ.
Things are made known through their opposites. Adam ﷸ ﷷ contains all the primal elements – material, ethereal, emotional and intellectual as well as the beastly and the devilish. Human development should not be measure horizontally through material comforts and consumptions. More appropriately, it should be measured vertically through the development of physical, emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual maturity and achievements. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs points to the right direction of human development which is more objective rather than an economic model which is rather dictated by transient factors such as economics and powers that be at work. Being rich, educated physically well does not necessarily equate to being happy or fulfilled.
May be it is time to explore and seek a model that accommodates more than materialistic pursuits as we are fast reaching and exceeding the planets sustainability on this model of education, income and consumption.