In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Indeed, We have created the human being in the most excellent of patterns, * Then sent him down to the lowest of the low, * Except those who believe and do good deeds.
Quran, 95: 4-6.
This verse presents belief as marking the distinction between the highest and lowest stations of human existence, between the most excellent pattern and the lowest of the low. Let us explore how the above Qur’anic verse is not an exaggeration but a truthful exposition of how belief elevates human being and how disbelief disgraces him.
With the light of belief, the human being ascends to the highest of the high and acquires a value that makes him worthy of Paradise. In contrast, with the darkness of unbelief, he falls down to the lowest of the low, to a Hell-like state. For, belief is connection: belief connects the human being to his Glorious Maker. Indeed, the human being is a work of art that is full of inscriptions of the Beautiful Names of God. Through belief, all this divine artistry on him becomes visible. As a result, human being acquires great value in relation to that great art.
In contrast, disbelief severs such a connection to the Glorious Maker, and the Divine artistry in the human being becomes hidden. As a result, the value of the human being is reduced to the value of his physical being or flesh. As is well-known, in regards to physicality, it consists merely of animal life, which is passing, vanishing and temporary. Hence, the value of the human being is reduced to nothing of lasting value.
Let us clarify this subtle point, i.e. how belief contributes to the worth of a human being, with a metaphor from everyday life. Let us take the case of a work of art, say a painting, and think about the value of the material used for the art and how much the art itself is worth. Sometimes they are of the same value, sometimes the material used in the art is more valuable than the artistry itself, and sometimes a very cheap material worth five cents carries incredible art worth thousands of dollars. Indeed, it happens that sometimes an antique work that is worth a million dollars is made from a material that is not even worth five cents. Now think of such an antique work of art: if it is taken to a high antique market and its relationship to a wonderful famous classical artist is disclosed, the item will be appraised for a very high price. On the other hand, if you took the very same antique work to scrap-dealers, it would be sold only for couple of cents for the material it is made from.
Now, the human being is such an antique work of art of Almighty God. Indeed, the human being is a subtle and fine miracle of Divine power because he or she has been created as a recipient of all of the manifestations of God’s various Beautiful Names. Indeed, the human being has been adorned with all the inscriptions pointing to God’s beautiful attributes; he has been created as a micro sample of the entire universe.
When the light of belief enters into the human being, then all the meaningful inscriptions of the Beautiful Names inscribed on him become eligible with that light. As a believer, he will read them himself consciously, and through the connection of belief, he will allow others to read these inscriptions on him pointing to the Beautiful Names of God. That is, for instance, he shall convey meanings such as “I am the art and creature of the Glorious Artist…I am showered with His mercy and generosity…” Thus, all the artistic touches on him will become revealed through the connection of belief. Given such art of the Sustainer and given that he is a mirror to the One Besought [Samad], the value of the human being will be extremely high. Thus, with this connection, an insignificant human being acquires a value above all creatures, and becomes an honored addressee of God and a guest of the Sustainer on earth. He attains a Paradise-like state.
On the other hand, if disbelief, which disconnects and cuts off such relation, enters into human being, then all the meaningful inscriptions and adornments of the Beautiful Names of God fall into darkness and become invisible. For, if you forget the Artist, then the spiritual aspects disclosing the Artist become incomprehensible. Most of the elevated artistry and meaningful fine artwork becomes hidden. The remaining artistry that is less subtle and that pertains to the flesh also dissipates because it is explained away by referring to lowly apparent causes, to nature, and blind chance. While each adornment is like a diamond, each becomes reduced to dull pieces of glass. The value of the human being is thus reduced to his animal “material”, i.e. flesh. This yields only a limited and passing life of the most wretched, most vulnerable and most miserable animal, after which human being passes away and decays . See how disbelief destroys human nature and transforms it from diamonds into coal. See how the above Qur’anic verse is not an exaggeration but a truthful exposition of how belief elevates human being and how disbelief disgraces him.
[Excerpted from Said Nursi on Belief and Human Nature, from Words, “23rd Word.”]