Dr Billal Philips
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.
It is a part of man's nature to elevate some human beings over others. He likes to hold them in high esteem and prefers to follow them rather than make decisions on his own. This is a direct result of the fact that Allah has favored some people over others, in various ways.
1. Man has been placed over woman socially:
1.1. "Men are guardians of women by that which Allah favored some of them over others" [Surah An-Nisa 4:34].
1.2. "And men are one level over women." [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:228]
2. And some men have been placed over other men economically:
2.1. "Allah has favored some of you over others with sustenance." [Surah An-Nahl 16:81]
3. The tribe of Israel was favored over the rest of mankind by divine guidance:
3.1. "Remember, Oh Israel, the blessing which I bestowed on you by favoring you over all mankind." [Surah al-Baqarah 2:47]
4. The prophets were favored over all mankind by revelation and Allah favored some of the prophets over others:
4.1. "Those are the prophets of whom We favored some over others." [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:253]
5. Yet Allah has told us not to desire the things by which He has favored some of mankind over others:
5.1. "Do not wish for that with which We have favored some of you over others." [Surah An-Nisa 4:32]
Because these favors are tests which carry with them great responsibilities. They are not a result of man's strivings, and, as such, should not be a source of pride. Allah will not give us a reward for having them, although we will be held to account for how we used them. Thus, Allah's Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) advised us, "Look at those below you and not those above you. It is better for you, so that you do not deny Allah's blessings on you." 
Everyone has been placed above others in some way or another, and everyone has certain responsibilities for which he will be held accountable. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said, "Every one of you is a shepherd, and everyone is responsible for his flock."  These responsibilities are the basic components of the tests of this life. If we are thankful to Allah for His favors and apply them justly, we succeed; otherwise, we fail. But, perhaps the greatest test of responsibility is that of Allah's favoring man over all creation. This favor was confirmed by Allah's command to the angels to prostrate to Adam and the responsibility is twofold:
a. It carries a personal responsibility of accepting Islam: total submission to Allah.
b. It also carries a group commitment of establishing Allah's law throughout the earth.
Thus, believers are far superior to disbelievers in Allah's sight because of their acceptance of their responsibilities. Allah said:
"You [believers] are the best of nations brought forth for the benefit of mankind [because] you command the good, prohibit evil and believe in Allah." [Surah Ali-'Imran 3:110]
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
103. Collected by both Al-Bukhari and Muslim. See Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic - English). vol. 8, p.328. No.497. and Sahih Muslim (English Trans.). Vol.4. p. 1530. no.7070.
104. Collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. See Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic - English) vol. 3, p.438. No.730 and Sahih Muslim (English Trans.) vol.3, p. 1017. No. 4496.