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Understanding Religion

Discover Islam

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GOD CERTAINLY KNOWS HOW WE ACT AND LIVE IN THIS WORLD, WHETHER WE OBEY HIS COMMANDS OR NOT. SO, WHY HAS HE CREATED US AND SENT US TO THIS WORLD?

First of all, it is a reality that we have come to the world and live here. We are born through a father and mother at any time in any place. We have a physical composition, certain color. We belong to a nation or race. After we live for some time, we die. We feel hungry, thirsty, cold and warm and we sleep. We have certain essential needs. We are surrounded by certain ‘natural’ conditions, live in a natural environment. There is an essential relation between us and this environment. In order for a single fruit, an apple for example, to grow, almost all parts of the universe - the seed of the apple, earth, water, air, and the sun each of which if all the people in the world came together to produce, they would not be able to do that - cooperate, which means a single apple really costs the whole universe. All of these are the realities of our life in which we do not have the least part. It is our belief in a Supreme Being Who creates all these realities and us or our attributing them to ‘nature’ or ‘natural laws’ which make us direct our lives. If we believe in the Supreme Being, then it is of no use to question Him why He does all these. Because He is evidently able to do anything He wills. If we attribute them to so called ‘natural’ laws or matter or to something else, then again we have no alternative other than submitting to our ‘fate’, as neither of such so called powers has either eyes to see us or ears to hear us or the power to help us.

However, what we should do is to try to know why we are brought or sent to the world; how we should govern our lives; what He Who sends us to the world ask of us? We should ponder over our responsibility in life.

Consider the difference between the ways in which human beings and animals come into existence. Almost from the very moment an animal is born, it seems to have been sent to this world after having been trained in another and perfected in all its faculties. Within a few hours or days or months, it comes into full possession of its natural capacity to lead its life according to its particular rules and conditions. A sparrow or a bee, for example, acquires in less than a month or, rather, is inspired with, the skill and ability to integrate into its environment in a matter of twenty days, to do which a man would require twenty years. This means that the basic obligation upon animals, their essential role does not include seeking perfection through learning, or progress through scientific knowledge; nor does it include prayer and the petitioning for help by displaying their impotence. Their obligation or role in creation is to act within the bounds of their innate faculties, which is the mode of worship specified for them.

Man, by contrast, is born with no knowledge of life and his environment and with a need to learn everything. Unable to know entirely the conditions of life even after twenty years, he needs to continue his learning until the end of his life. He appears to have been sent to the world with so much weakness and inability that it may take him as much as two years only to learn how to walk. Only after fifteen years can he distinguish between good and evil, and by virtue of living in a society, attain to a point where he can choose between what is beneficial and what is harmful to him.

Thus, the essential duty of man, the one intrinsic to his existence, must be to seek perfection through learning and to proclaim his worship of Him Who sends him to the world. He should look for the answer to such questions- Through whose compassion is my life so wisely administered? Through whose generosity am I being so affectionately trained? Through whose favor and benevolence am I being so solicitously nourished? Then he should pray and petition The Provider of Needs in humble awareness of his needs, even one in a thousand of which he is unable to satisfy.

This means that man has come to this life to seek perfection through knowledge and prayer. Everything by its nature is essentially dependent on knowledge. And the basis, source, light and spirit of all true knowledge are knowledge of God, and belief is the very foundation of this knowledge.

After these preliminary explanations, we can proceed with the answer:

To exist is absolutely good, while non-existence is evil. So our coming or being sent to the world is good. The overwhelming majority of people have always loved living. The undesirable aspects of life are usually the outcome of our own choices and deeds.

Second, it is certainly the case that God knows how we act and live in this world. He sends us to be tested by Him, so that we can improve our abilities and skills through the respon­sibilities He ordains for us. Undoubtedly, God creates us just as He creates minerals such as coal, cop­per, iron, silver and gold: He is the Lord, the Cherisher, the Owner and Maker of all.

A person with artistic talents wants to express those tal­ents and so is known through his works of art. In the same way, the majesty and splendor and artistry of the creation of God is a presentation and reflection of His sacred Names and Attributes. To show human beings His art (Might, Power, Knowledge, Wisdom, Beauty and Mercy) He created the universe and exhibited aspects of His mysterious, hidden treasures in it. He created the world and made it very beautiful and charming and put it under the service of man.

To show us how His Names, Attributes and Divine Art become manifest, He created the universe step by step. In different qualities and quantities, He grants us count­less opportunities to get to know Him better, endless ways to acquire sound knowledge about Him. He is the absolute Creator Who makes everything from one, and adds to whatever He wills thousands of additional bene­fits. Thus it is that, for example, carbon may be manifest as coal or diamond, and each further refined and adapted to a multitude of different uses.

Through whatever is created and exhibited in the uni­verse and is given to man, man himself is tested, purified and prepared as a candidate for eternal bliss in Paradise. That is, God’s creating man is certainly a blessing for him. His putting him in a warm, welcoming environment is another blessing. He has created diverse kinds of food and drink and, in turn, equipped man with appetite to need them and senses to taste them, which is another blessing. He has ordered him to know Him, believe in Him and adore Him. The spiritual pleasure coming from man’s knowledge of Him, belief in and adoration of Him is innumerable times greater than the pleasure man receives from eating, drinking and sexual relation. This is the greatest of blessings. Man’s being perfected and spiritually purified through belief, knowledge and worship is another great blessing. In addition to all these and many other blessings, God promises him to bestow eternal happiness in another, eternal life. So, it is evident that whatever God does for man is a hundred percent blessing.

In the same way, raw materials are refined, purified and proc­essed into silver, gold or diamonds. In one hadith, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, said: ‘Human beings are just like minerals. One who has a prominent place in jahiliyya (the time of pagan ignorance in Arabia be­fore Islam) can also enjoy a leading position in Islam’ (Bukhari, Iman, 10, Anbiya’, 8-14; Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 168, Mana-qib, 25; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3, 101). That is, one with great talents or inborn capacities can have leading positions whether he is on the wrong or right way. If he uses his capacities and talent for wrong, he can be a tyrant or trickster, and so on. If, by contrast, he believes, follows the right way and uses his capacities and talents for good, this time he can be one of the best of people. It is the God-revealed religion which guides man to the right way. So, this religion is another great blessing for man.

Before Islam, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab enjoyed dignity, glory and honor in the polytheist society of Makka, but when he became a Muslim he gained a calmer dignity, tender-heartedness and the grandeur of belief. Before Islam, he might be tough, quick-tempered, haughty, as one who thought he had everything; after becoming Muslim, he was one of the most modest and humble of men in his bearing towards the believers. Through Islam, he improved his qualities and attributes. Therefore, when we see well-mannered, dynamic, energetic, audacious and spirited people, we wish them to be Muslim, for one who was good, great, glorious and esteemed before Islam will be far more so in Islam.

Islam deals with the most precious and invaluable of minerals - man. It takes man, kneads, improves and ma­tures him, refining him as gold is refined pure. The Com­panions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, became so, 24 carat pure.

We are tested in this world so that we may become clari­fied, purified and attain virtue and perfection. Even though God knows how well or otherwise we perform in the test, He tests us all the same. It is not because He does not know and wants to learn what He does not know through us, rather He knows and accordingly tests a man against himself, and man against others. When we make strenuous efforts to refine ourselves, to find out and prove what we are, what we have, and whether we are worthless and valueless like iron or great like gold, we are only acting as a means to make happen what God already knows from eternity. We are tested in what we strive for, and in what we exert ourselves to do. In this way, we shall enter the presence of God and give account of ourselves to Him: ...But their hands will speak to us, and their feet bear witness, to all that they did (al-Fussilat, 41.65). ‘Hands and feet’ symbolically represent all our instruments for ac­tion, all the members of our bodies, including our faculties and opportunities. In other verses, ‘eyes, ears and skins’ are all mentioned as bearing witness against us if we have misused them.


Recommended Readings:
They say religion is a means contrived by mankind to cover up problems that man could not solve but which. with further advances in civilization, will one day be solved and so, they ask, will religion no longer be needed?

Last Updated on July 22, 2000

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