Islam teaches Muslims that man was created from dust and that God breathed into him his spirit, favouring him over the rest of creation (Surahs 23:12-14, 32:7-9). Hence humans are both material and spiritual beings. Muslims believe that a human being can follow his material desires and become worse than animals or realise his spiritual potential and become better than angels. Therefore, the struggle of the human being is to realise fully in himself his humanity as opposed to his animalistic side. In Islam, the self is a trust (amanah) from God which was faultless when given. We must strive to return this trust in the same condition. Hence, it must be nourished and protected from anything that might tarnish it.
The Prophet said: ‘Whoever knows his self, knows his Lord.’
Self-knowledge is very important in Islam as it leads to the discovery that the self is a divine entity upon which celestial virtues have been bestowed and which is far superior to its material and physical dimension.
The Qur’an teaches Muslims that the human being was created not only a material being as God says: “When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him” (Surah 15:29).
Islam not only asserts the existence of the soul but it emphasizes its superiority over the body. It is the soul that gives life to the body; without the soul, the body is just a corpse. It is through the purification and perfection of one’s self that one can reach salvation in the next life. At the end of time, all human beings will be resurrected for the Day of Judgment where every single person from the very beginning of creation will be brought to account for all their deeds during their worldly life. The Qur’an stresses on the primacy of the life Hereafter (Akhirah) as the earthly life is only temporary and the Hereafter is the eternal abode, the Qur’an says:
Day (behold), ye prefer the life of this world; But the Hereafter is better and more enduring. (Surah 87:16-17)
There are many descriptions in the Qur’an of the Day of Judgment and Heaven and hell. The human being is constantly advised to believe and to do good in order to be rewarded with heaven in the afterlife.
Islam views the human being as a social being and discourages one to isolate himself from society as it is working together that a society and its individuals can evolve and progress. Belonging to a community can strengthen a person’s faith by encouraging them or reminding them to carry out their religious duties and hence helping them progress in their spiritual journey.