Extracted from Spiritual Discourses
I have been asked to discuss the question of the criteria for humanity. If we were to do so from the viewpoint of biology, this would be an easy matter since we would be dealing with the human body and the place of human beings in the animal world, in which case there is no difference between individuals. By the standard of anatomy, medicine, and, even to some extent, psychology, there are no major differences between two or more individuals.
But is humanity limited to the body? Is human per- fection and mobility confined to man's physical aspect? In humanistic sciences there is talk of perfect and imper- fect man, of the low and high kind. What type of human being is ethically and socially worthy of respect because of his or her perfection, or deserving of contempt because of his or her imperfections? This is a topic which has al- ways attracted attention not only in human knowledge, but also in various religions. For example, the Quran speaks of human beings who are higher than angels and worthy of homage by the latter. It also mentions human beings who are inferior to animals.
What is the criteria which measures the differences be- tween human beings? This question is not only related to religion. Materialistic philosophers, too, who do not believe in God and religion, discuss the question of man, humanity and superior and inferior beings.
What is the criteria according to these philosophers? Can we say that human beings are equal genetically, but that they differ in knowledge. That is, something which is acquired not inherited, so that a person with more know- ledge is higher than one with less? Is this related to acade- mic knowledge which gives superiority according to the level and stage of one's studies? Do we respect people only in proportion to their learning? Is Abudhar honoured be- cause he was more learned than his contemporaries? Is Mu'awiyyah blameworthy and disliked because he had inferior knowledge?