Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Thus, life means looking, searching, working for answers. So is Islam. That is why looking for answers – to both the practical problems of life as well as to the theoretical problems of this world – is lesson number one in Islam.
That is why also Islam and life, Islam and knowledge, and Islam and science – when both parts of these equations are understood and done right – provide the most perfect and harmonious realisation of all-round existence on earth.
They provide the perfect state of equilibrium on earth. Together, they give us a perfect combination of Ta’leem and Tazkiyah – the best in education and character.
The result is an earthly paradise of perfect living: for Muslims as well as non-Muslims; for humans as well as nonhumans.
SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE
Keeping the above backdrop in mind, below are some answers, and some advice, I have given from time to time to some of the questions people keep asking me – my students, friends, those in my Qur’an programs, those in various Islamic and other more general and broader camps, projects, meetings, conferences and activities.
Their questions can all be summed up into one broad problem area: What should I do to make my life better and more successful in this world?
My first response: Why just this world? Why not also take in the next world while you are at it?
So, here is a bit more detailed approach to success and happy living gleaned from the Qur’an, the Hadith and available knowledge in various relevant fields such as psychology, sociology, management and the rest.
No one modeled or exemplified any of these things more fully in his or her life than Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
That is why Islam spread as rapidly and vastly throughout the world as it did: because Islam taught the world how to live a most perfect life in this world. Not because people went around chopping off people’s heads forcing them to be Muslims.
CULTIVATE PHYSICAL TOUGHNESS
Don’t be your body’s slave. Don’t work for your body. Instead, make your body for you.
Eat, sleep and drink only as much as your body needs. Don’t overeat or oversleep. That will make you tired, lazy and possibly even unwell.
As much as possible, do all your work by yourself. Ask for help only when needed.
CULTIVATE MENTAL TOUGHNESS
Be an active user of your brain. Don’t be a mental jellyfish. Learn to make the tough decisions. For, living is about making decisions and choosing among alternatives, often imperfect ones.
But always think things through carefully and vigorously. Be logical and rigorous in your thinking. Don’t be a mental slob.
Put your mind to work. Don’t depend on others to do your thinking or to make up your mind for you.
Don’t always lean on others for psychological and emotional support. Try to be the tree on which others can lean.
CULTIVATE MORAL TOUGHNESS
Morality is what elevates humans above animals. Try to know the difference between right and wrong and take clear moral stands wherever and whenever you can.
But do so not so much to judge, insult, attack or condemn others, but to hold yourself to a higher standard and to do the right thing as much as you can.
Without the right moral compass, you would seriously compromise your humanity.
CULTIVATE SPIRITUAL TOUGHNESS
Beyond the complex processes of the mind, there is the even higher and more complex world of the spirit or the soul. It is nothing less than a divine spark inside a corporal human body fashioned out of dingy, smelly clay or a set of highly purified metals and elements.
Put your soul to work. Exercise it regularly and put some muscle on it. Continually fan the flame of the divine spirit in you. Otherwise ashes will cover the embers and light will be engulfed by darkness.
CULTIVATE SOCIAL TOUGHNESS
People need people. So, learn to live and work with people. And learn to put up with the challenges, discomfort and pain they may cause.
Make social challenges a source of making good things happen in this world – for yourself; for others; and for the entire world. Don’t turn them into an excuse for avoiding your fellow human beings and for running and hiding from this world.
Socially tough people are those who can afford to be tough and demanding of themselves and soft, nice, gracious, loving and caring of their fellow human beings. And to God Almighty’s creation in general.
They are people who can easily forgive others and overlook other people’s faults and flaws. And yet they continually hold themselves to higher standards.
For, to love and fear God above is to love and serve God’s creation below.
PULLING AN ALL-NIGHTER
You may ask, how do you demonstrate – and how do you build? – physical, mental, moral, spiritual and social toughness?
Once we pulled an all-nighter. One of many we had done. Its purpose was to demonstrate in practice some of the things we talked about in earlier paragraphs: physical, mental, moral, spiritual and social toughness.
An intense Qur’an Program of several days of night-and-day work had come to a close. It was time for all of us to go our separate ways. But not yet. We needed to do a nightlong session of intense debate and discussion – of all the important things that were on our mind.
The night-long session began with Maghrib Salaah – or was it Asr? – and continued right through Fajr. Yes, there was food and tea and Namaaz. But there was also the staying awake and active and focused and alert throughout the night, talking, sharing, discussing, thinking, planning – and having fun.
Call it a Muslim’s nightlife if you will. Or call it Qiyaamullail. Qumillaila illaa qaleela, as the Qur’an says. Or simply call it Islam Lesson One.