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Man as an Image of God, Part I

By S M Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)


Man as an Image of God:

A brief exposition in light of the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Geeta


By S M Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)

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The Bible says that Man was created in God’s own image and with God’s own Spirit.

The traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also says the same thing.

When the first Man (Adam) was created, he was allowed to wander around in the Garden of Eden.

As we can see, our Father was given freedom so he could enjoy whatever enjoyment he chose to have. However, he felt lonely. He was alone. That is why he could not have the opportunity to explore himself. God Saw His loneliness was painful. So, He decided to create a companion out of his own flesh and blood.

It is important to note that the arrangement of the Garden (be it a part of Paradise or a garden on earth) could not give our father any solacing peace. And God saw that Adam needed a companion – a friend – and created Eve from him.

Now the pair – the demand of the nature of Man – was completed. One was split into two. Duality and Unity got merged. Man not only remained on output, a creation, but also became a possibility a potential.

However, they felt each other through the Being of the Lord. In other words, they had existence, but their existence did not belong to them. They did not need to think about anything because they could see everything and feel everything within them.

Although the world was external, their feeling of the world was not external. They did not need to think because nothing was hidden from them.

The Man and Woman were allowed to go anywhere in the Garden and eat from any tree. This permission was an honor they enjoyed, just as a guest received honor at the home of a lordly host. As guests – we said.

However, for reasons not easily explained, there was a tree from which they were forbidden to eat. That means that they were given freedom with limitations. In other words, they were guests, and not owners. According to the Lord’s Purpose behind the creation of Man, Man’s mind was supposed to be free. It was supposed to have freedom of thought, and possibly of choice.

And they really did use this freedom, not directly by willpower, but by being in the trap of temptation and forgetfulness. They ate from the forbidden tree.

They used their freedom of choice to cross a boundary that defined the freedom. They did what was forbidden. Thus, they no longer remained guests. Rather, they became the owners – owners of their own choice – of the consequences of their choice, the predefined ‘freedom’.

They took the responsibility of Freedom. They owned actions together with consequences. Their Union with nature was broken. They became individuals, needing to be physically united to go back to Nature in consciousness.

They became originators of actions and observers of Nature. A subtle wall was raised between them and Nature – the wall of feelings, of experiencing of judgment. And thus, they took upon them the burden of learning and knowledge-building.

They were ‘born’ by being torn away from Nature. They woke up in a promising sleep.

They felt asleep in the fate of actions and consequences.

They began to have feelings that flow toward the Future, so that their children could have a Past. They started the Voyage of expectations and actions in the Sea of Time.

Earlier, they did not need any knowledge of God because they were with God – they could see God with their Hearts. But now they needed to learn about God because the physical eyes became limited in value to their perception and their hearts were filled with the necessity of fear, which gave the Brain the responsibility of judgment – judgment of the consequences of actions.

If what you do may go against what you want and need, then you need to think about what you should do and should not do. If you own your actions, you will also have to own the consequences. The burden of ownership was thus at the center of Creation.

Let us have a look at the verses of the Bible again.

A close look at the verses will be rewarding. Adam says to God: I heard your voice in the Garden. I have done something wrong, so I am hiding.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [Genesis]

Why did he say that he heard God’s Voice in the Garden? When, then, did he use to hear His Voice earlier – within his own heart?

And where was he hiding? Could he have possibly hidden from God at all? Was it possible? Why did he consider a distance from some trees or a specific place an act of hiding? What did hiding mean to him?

We may infer that there appeared a cloud in the Sky of Adam’s consciousness. An indirectness of reference started to be the way of reference started to be the way of reference.

God asked him: Where are you? Why? Did God not know where he was? What does ‘where’ mean here? Was he supposed to be at any specific place then?

God’s ‘where’ was a self-reference to Adam. Because he lost his natural ‘state’, he lost his ‘place’ in the Unified Consciousness. Because he lost the ‘here’, the indirectness referred to itself as ‘where’.

A Question was born.

The First Question is the History of Humankind is: Where are you?

Every human being has a place – a state of consciousness which is not separate from Super–consciousness. But this state is soiled when there arises the local moon of self-consciousness.

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Now, there is a little barrier here, which needs to be removed rather than overcome. It is the issue of the Image of God. As the Muslims take it as the principle of utmost priority that God should not be imagined to have a likeness, they will hesitate to accept the concept of image unless in a metaphorical sense. Some sects of the Muslim believers will even deny the truth of the related prophetic saying. Therefore, this issue has to be explained adequately so as to be able to remove the local tangibility of the image possibly visualized by humans.

We started with saying that the Bible says that Man was created in God’s own image and with God’s own Spirit. And let us concentrate on the issue of the Spirit now.

Both the Bible and the Quran provide the same information. A reference to some Quranic verses will be informative:

|| And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My soul, then fall down to him in prostration. [Quran 15:29] ||

If the Body-Development part of the above description is referred to as the Image-setting task, then the above-mentioned controversy emerges. That is because the physical structure of Adam is considered an Image of God, the following issues are found to be contradictory:

--- that the children of Adam do not have the same physical properties and

--- that Adam’s children are not exactly like their father as all of them look different.

As for the physical structure of humans, the Quran says that God has created humans in the best of molds:

|| Indeed, we created humans in the best form. [ Quran 95:4] ||

However, being the best may not mean being like God’s image. Therefore, let us focus on the Spirit part of the metaphor for the time being.

The Quran says that God created Man with His Own Nature:

|| So, direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah [Nature] of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know. [Quran 30:30] ||

The same information has been provided in the Geeta: Krishna has said that the all selves are nothing but the manifestation of his own central Self.

Now, here is a very important point. God’s Nature is the combination of His Attributes, which are referred to by His Names, which we ‘recite’ in all religions. For example, as God is kind, humans are and should be kind too. Thus, it is clear that the ‘humanitarian’ nature that humans have is a replica of God’s Nature. And this combination of attributes does not have to do anything with sense-perceptions and emotions, it being the representation of the Totality.

God is Energy – and the Ultimate source of energy. And His attributes may be conceived of as streams of this energy as perceived by systems.

If what has been said so far makes sense, God’s Nature can be conceived as His Image!

Now it is probable that this explanation of God’s Image will not seem contradictory to the adherents of any sects of the Islamic belief system.

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At this stage of our exposition, can we view the body itself as a concept? We can explore the issue, at least.

God says in the Quran that He has created humans with difference – difference in color, language, cultures and so on, which is plainly observable. However, when we think about WHY He has done so as described in His own words we happen to halt to think twice. He says that He has let humans develop, or perhaps evolve, with in-built diversity only to provide them with the opportunity to ‘know’ themselves! Here is the verse:

|| Human beings, We created you all from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you.[28] Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.[29] [Quran 49:13] ||

A crucial question crops up here: What does it mean to know one another when one only observes diversity all around and is expected to observe something more, going beyond the apparent diversity? Why is not ‘knowing one another’ complete if only the diversity is felt?

In order to perceive the import of this question, the reader may do a thought-experiment. Suppose that one morning when you come out of your house into the street you see that all who are moving along in front of you look exactly like you. You get a shocking surprise. Then on your way to office or college or whatever, you see all others with the same look – all of them look exactly like you!

When all round you look exactly like you – in appearance or perhaps in some or all other respects – you definitely will have an identity crisis, unable to identify yourself as different from others. Identification presupposes difference.

In most of our dreams, we have direct – not indirect in any sense – experience, but we do not seem to have direct KNOWLEDGE. And this absence of knowledge indicates the inability to simultaneously explain the experience we have. This is also an instance of identity crisis. And not knowing who I am hampers my ability to explain what everything else is.

Therefore, when God urges us to KNOW one another through and beyond all the diversity, doe He imply the natural quest for a hidden identity, where you might sense the presence of a singularity, a unique Mind, in all the others? Just as external difference is essential to build and personalize experience, so the hidden and internal UNITY is essential to make the difference informative and meaningful.

It is as if the SAME Self were interacting with the others through the differences that are constructing the connotation of the word ‘others’. In other words, it is as if there were another ‘body’ inside each body, where the hidden body is unique, enabling the diversified bodies to perceive what we call the diversity. Without the presence of a hidden and transcendent unity, no meaning can be attached to the word ‘diversity’.

Our question is: Can Man as an IMAGE be identified with this invisible body? If it can then the word ‘image’ becomes intrinsically meaningful and extrinsically beautiful.

End of Part-1

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