Man’s Social Evolution
Social relations and structure of society have gradually evolved from simplicity to complexity, in the same way that technical matters and tools have become complicated reaching up to space-ships.
As in natural evolution, the structure of a creature with a single cell is simple in comparison with the body of an animal or human being. With one form gradually evolving into another, the form of human society has undergone a similar process of change. The structure of primitive and tribal societies is very simple. A man is a chief and the few tasks are probably divided by him among the members. But with the progress of science and technology, society, too, has had a greater division of labour and the tasks are much more numerous.
Compare to-day's jobs, tasks and professional classes with those of a society of a hundred years ago, and consider administrative and scientific branches of both eras. In the past, it was possible for a man to become a teacher of all the knowledge of his own time and become an Aristotle, an Avicenna. But now the system of education has become so elaborate that even if there were hundreds of Aristotles and Avicennas as specialists in each branch of knowledge, they would still be ignorant of many other branches which exist in the world.
The consequence of this is to remove the similarity between individuals and create distinctive traits and differences, for, as man creates work, work, too, builds man, (except that man creates kinds of work and work affects the number of men). Human beings in a society have different natures since each one deals with a task different from those of others and this causes a differentiation. You may feel that in this lies the danger of threaten ing human unity, where human beings are similar in appearance, but with wide differences in mental, emotional and spiritual structures. That is why it is said that technical progress has made man a stranger to himself that is a man is built according to the nature of a task or a job, and has lost his unity with others.
Beside power and domination over nature and beside the structure and formation of human society, there are other matters related to human nature, and that is the relations of human beings with one another.
Has man, parallel with his progress in technology and social structure, been able to advance in connection with human relationships? If he has, then it means true evolution and advancement. If human beings have progressed in their cooperation in comparison with those of the past, and feel a greater responsibility towards other beings, then they have evolved. Now let us see if human sentiments have made a proportionate advance has human exploitation of other beings disappeared or taken a different form and increased? Has human injury and violation to other beings been augmented? Has human transgression over the rights of others decreased with progress in technology and social structure? Some deny this progress, and claim that if the criterion of progress is welfare and happiness, then technical evolution can hardly be counted as progress.
Two examples may be given in this connection:
1. One of the things in which great progress has been made is speed, in such things ac telephone, telegraph, airplane etc. But can this be considered progress by a human standard? In one way, speed has brought some facilities to man, and in another way it has deprived him of tranquility, for, as it quickly takes a person to the destination, it also provides a quick facility for attaining a sinister design. If a man who is sound and benevolent has benefitted from speed, a wicked criminal, too, can equally employ speed for an evil purpose. That is why some people doubt whether this may be called progress.
2. Does medical advance depict a true progress? Apparently it does, for we and our children are more secure against various diseases. But writers like Alexis Karl think that judged by a human standard, human generation has been weakened by medical progress, for, in the past, physically weak people who could not combat diseases perished and the strong remained to produce strong offspring, and at the same time the congestion of population was checked in the world. But now that medicine artificially preserves weak individuals who are condemned to death by nature, the next generation will be even weaker.
A baby which is born after seven months is doomed by nature, but medicine uses all its tools and efforts to save it. To what purpose? What will the next generation be like?
Then, there arises the problem of overpopulation, as a result of which individuals who have more merit for survival and for the betterment of human species may die out and those who lack the necessary qualifications survive. This, too, makes medical progress subject to doubt.
Still another example may be given: Looking at news agencies and mass media may give a fine impression that it is very pleasant to sit at home and become easily aware of what is happening in the whole world. But as learned men of the East and West say, one should remember how much worry and anxiety is caused by the same mass media. For, it is often advisable for human beings not to know of some matters, especially of disasters, about which they can do nothing.
Thus we cannot claim that evolutionary growth has taken place in the relations of human beings with one another, or even if it has, it is not proportionate to the development of tools and social organization.
Another problem is man's relation with himself, which is called ethics. If we do not wish to exaggerate by saying that man's happiness as a w hole lies in establishing good relationship with himself, yet we compare the factors of this happiness, obviously the main part of it is related to his relation with his human or animal side, for, many human values are inherent in him. He is an animal which has become human, and the question is whether his humanity is subordinate to his animalism or vice versa. Or as the Qur'an says in Chapter Shams (the Sun) Verses 9-10:
“He will indeed be successful who purifies it. and he will indeed fail who corrupts it."
The question of purification is to cleanse oneself from all the low animal characteristics, without which it is not possible to have good a relationship with others, so as not to enslave them or not to be enslaved by them.
So far, then, four points have been discussed:
1. Man’s relation with nature, and his progress.
2. Man's relation with society and its progress.
3. Man's relation with other human beings showing whether he has advanced in spirituality or not.
4. Man's relation with himself or his morality. Has man of today or of yesterday put some space between himself and animality, and secured human values? Is his human evolution greater than that in the past? What part have the prophets played in historical evolution, and what will it be in future? What role has religion had and will have in future?
We can estimate this role by scientific and social evidence, and realize whether man needs religion in future for his evolution or not, for, the survival of everything is subject to its need. The Qur'an says in Chapter Ra’ed (thunder) Verse17:
"Then as for the scum, it passes away as a worthless thing; and as for that which profits the people, it tarries in the earth."
There is a simile about torrent and foam, and the Qur'an says that the foam disappears and water remains, the foam being false and water true. The question whether religion will continue to survive depends on its role in the evolution of human nature and his spirituality and humanity. It is only religion that can safeguard good relationship among human beings and nothing else can take its place, as proved by the past history.
The question is, then, that in future either human society will become extinct and man will attain its true destiny which is an overall evolution, namely evolution in its relation with nature, in awareness, in power, in freedom, in sentiments, in humanism etc. We believe this to happen and the source of this belief comes from our· religious teachings. (I have in another lecture entitled "Occult aids in human life" explained that we have this optimism with regard to the future, and man's true evolution, and in avoiding a blind alley, whereas other schools of thought are already in that blind alley). No other factor but religion can safeguard the greater part of human evolution in connection to his own nature.