Does being a Muslim make us better humans than disbelievers?
First, note that the word “disbeliever” as it is used in Quran translations does not refer to all non-Muslims as explained here. It only refers to someone who believes in God but knowingly disobeys Him and denies His blessings and scriptures.
The attributes that make some humans better than others are mercy, compassion, submission to God and fear of Him, generosity and other attributes that God teaches us to try to have. Any human who has more of these attributes is superior to those who have less of them.
It is quite possible for a non-Muslim to be more kind than a particular Muslim. In that case they are superior to the Muslim when it comes to kindness, but they may be inferior when it comes to submission to God (maybe they believe in God but knowingly reject following Him).
Some people believe that merely entering the fold of Islam automatically makes one a superior species of human compared to everyone else. But the Quran seems to reject that view. The Quran says:
13. O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes, that you may know one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is All-Knowing, Well-Experienced.
14. The Desert-Arabs say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not believed; but say, ‘We have submitted,’ [i.e. we have entered Islam] for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. But if you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish any of your deeds. God is Forgiving and Merciful.”
15. The believers are those who believe in God and His Messenger, and then have not doubted, and strive for God’s cause with their wealth and their persons. These are the sincere.
16. Say, “Are you going to teach God about your religion, when God knows everything in the heavens and the earth, and God is aware of all things?”
17. They regarded it a favor to you that they have submitted. Say, “Do not consider your submission a favor to me; it is God who has done you a favor by guiding you to the faith, if you are sincere.” (The Quran, verses 49:14-17)
These verses criticize the Bedouins for claiming to have faith when they do not. They accepted Islam but they have only done so out of political and material considerations–they have not become believers yet. ﻹhe verses imply that their being merely “Muslim” has little value if they do not believe and strive in the way of God.
That teaches us that being Muslim is not automatically a ticket to being superior to others. A Christian who better embodies the attributes of submission, piety, fear of God and kindness seems to me a superior human in the Quranic view compared to a cruel and evil-doing Muslim. The Quran says:
146. Those to whom We have given the Book [Jews, Christians and followers of other Abrahamic religions] recognize it as they recognize their own children. But some of them conceal the truth while they know.
147. The truth is from your Lord, so do not be a skeptic.
148. To every community is a direction towards which it turns. Therefore, race towards goodness. Wherever you may be, God will bring you all together. God is capable of everything. (The Quran, verses 2:146-148)
Verse 148 above says “race towards goodness”. The call may be directed towards Muslims, telling them to race with one another in goodness, or it could be a call to Muslims, Jews and Christians to race each other. This second interpretation follows more logically from the context, since in 148 it says “Therefore, race towards goodness” right after it means “every community” (meaning Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc.). Now, if there is to be a race towards goodness between Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others, that means it is possible that some Jews and Christians may win the race and some Muslims may lose the race. If Muslims were supposed to always win just by the virtue of being Muslim, then there would be no point in a race. The race would be won by default every time before it even begins.
So the concept that Muslims, Jews and Christians can race one another in goodness suggests that it is goodness that matters, not the mere fact of being Muslim.
Of course, merely being Muslim comes with its own virtues, but it is only one attribute among other equally important attributes.
In summary, being Muslim does not necessarily make every Muslim automatically superior to every non-Muslim.