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Does the Quran say that man is Ashraf ul Makhluqat (i.e. the noblest of all creatures)?

Does the Quran say that man is ashraf-ul-makhluqat (i.e. the noblest of all creatures)? If not, then where has this misperception originated from?


Quran doesn’t say it anywhere that man is the noblest of all creatures (ashraful makhluqat). I think the confusion has stemmed from four reasons:

i) Man’s arrogance in general and that of Muslims in particular;

ii) the understanding of Muslims that since prophet Muhammad, alaihissalaam, was superior to rest of the entire creation and since he was a human, human beings must be the best of all creations;

iii) an incorrect understanding of a Quranic verse; and

iv) an incorrect inference drawn from Quranic story of Adam and Iblis.

The fact of the matter is that Quran states positively that man has been made superior to a vast number of creations, which by inference gives an understanding that he is not superior to all. It is stated in Surah Bani Isra’il thus: “We have honoured the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea, given them for sustenance things good and pure, and made them superior to a great number of Our creations.” (Quran; 17: 70) This clear mention should be enough for us to know that we humans are not superior to all creatures.
The verse of Quran that says that We created humans ‘ahsane taqvim’ (Quran; 95:4) only means that God created man in the most beautiful mould. It doesn’t mean that He created man as the best creature. Also, the repeated mention in Quran that angels were asked to bow down before Adam was not meant to demonstrate that man was superior to angels; it was meant only to show that angels were asked at some stage to show respect to man because they were being sent to a difficult trial where angels will not be allowed to interfere in their affairs even when humans were clearly going against God’s verdicts.
I have a feeling, and I can be wrong, that the angels have been held by the Almighty in an esteem which is higher than us humans. The following few passages are an indirect evidence of it. While describing Jibrael, alaihissalaam, and some other angels, Quran says this:

“Surely this is the word of most honourable messenger, endued with power, held in honour by the Lord of the throne; with authority and yet faithful.” (Quran; 81:19-21)

“(Quran has been written by) the hands of scribes (who are) honourable and just.” (Quran; 80:15-16)

While mentioning the process of revelation of Wahy to the prophet, alaihissalaam, Quran mentions Jibrael, alaihissalaam, thus:

“He (the prophet) was taught by one mighty in power, endued in wisdom; he appeared (in stately form).” (Quran; 53:5-6)

Quran also clarifies that angels are the creatures who “do not desist from following Allah’s commands and they do (exactly) what they are commanded.” (Quran; 66:6)