man, a single species, functions would be performed to the number of the different levels of all the animal species. For this reason, He placed no innate limit on man’s powers and senses, no natural restriction, and left them free. Those of the other animals are limited and naturally restricted. Whereas each of man’s powers may roam free over an endless distance towards infinity. For since he is a mirror to the infinite manifestations of the names of the universe’s Creator, his powers have been given an infinite capacity.
For example, even if the whole world were given to man, due to his greed, he would say: “Are there any more?”(50:30) And due to his selfishness, he finds it acceptable that a thousand people should suffer harm for his own sake. And so on. He may advance endlessly in bad morality and reach the degree of the Nimrods and Pharaohs; as is shown by the use of the intensive form in the verse above (33:72), he is given to great wrongdoing. Similarly, he may manifest endless progress in good morality, and rise to the level of the prophets and veracious ones.
Moreover, contrary to the animals, man is ignorant about all the things necessary for life and is compelled to learn everything. He is in need of innumerable things, and therefore in accordance with the intensive form in the same verse, is “most ignorant.” But when animals come into the world, they need few things, and what they do need, everything necessary for their lives, they may learn in a couple of months, or even a couple of days, or in some cases, in a couple of hours. It is as if they have been perfected in another world and come thus. But man can only rise to his feet in one or two years, and only in fifteen can distinguish between what is beneficial and what is harmful. The intensive form of “most ignorant” indicates this too.
You ask concerning the wisdom contained in [the Hadith]: “Renew your belief by means of ‘There is no god but God.’”1 The wisdom in it has been mentioned in many of the Words and one aspect of it is as follows:
Since man himself and the world in which he lives are being continuously renewed, he needs constantly to renew his faith. For in reality each individual human being consists of many individuals. He may be considered a different individual to the number of the years of his life, or to the
Musnad, ii, 359; al-Mundhiri, al-Targhib wa’l-Tarhib, ii, 415; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, iv, 256; al-Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, i, 52.