It’s part of my routine personal prayer to thank God for making me human, the highest form of His creation. Those are the exact words that I use. The reasoning behind this is simply that I could have been created as anything, and subject to different ecological and biological laws, but I was made human, and that’s a privilege.
A couple of days ago, I chose my words differently, and thanked God for making me His ‘vicegerent on earth’. That is how God refers to humanity in the Qur’an (2:31; 38:26; 6:165 also refers to them as ‘agents, inheritors of the earth’), so I thought I would acknowledge God’s own words in describing His creation.
And boom. As I said it, I got present to what it means to be His ‘vicegerent’ (and there is lots written on this). The power. The responsibility. A gift with a huge requirement for an equally huge benefit.
As is typically human, we are often tempted by the power without the responsibility. Sometimes, we think the power absolves us from responsibility: corrupt despots and politicians exemplify this in a very real caricature of human greed and ignorance. God is clear about the implication of the status He has given to man: ‘We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof; but man undertook it – he was indeed unjust and foolish.’ (33:72). We have unrivalled power as God’s ‘vicegerents’: to exercise free will in our earthly lives; to learn, unlearn, and learn again; to grow in knowledge and understand the universe around us; to build and destroy; to master our own desires and our own selves; to choose who we are and how we want to live; to conquer fear; to live independently, needing nobody else; to tame God’s other creatures and dominate this earth; to submit to no-one but God. But without owning the responsibility that being human brings – to deal fairly with others, to honour God and His Messengers, to help the orphans, the needy, travellers, to be the reflection of God in our dealings with each other and the rest of creation, then we have tried to take the power and run. And that just doesn’t work.
When I said those words, with my body in prostration, I was connected to the power that I have been given by God to reach my potential; to be the very highest expression of myself so that I can fulfil His purpose. That was simultaneously accompanied with the gravity of the duty that I have to honour that power, which is a little scary sometimes. But what I was left with overall was the scope and freedom I’ve been given by Him to be so much, in contrast to how I often limit myself, thinking myself small. Saying that one word in my prayer was a precious and potent reminder of this.