Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Understanding the world is key to successful living. Get your understanding either from the Qur’an or from the world. Best of all, get it from both sources. For, that is what makes most sense. And also because that is what God Almighty wants us to do: To use all our God-given resources and faculties to investigate, know and understand all aspects, facets and parts the world to the best of our abilities.
To get all our guidance in all matters pertaining to our life in this world from the Qur’an, which is God Almighty’s word in our hands – pure, preserved, protected, unadulterated and unmixed with falsehood or fabrication.
A TROUBLED WORLD
Here is some of what the Qur’an has to say about our world and about our place as human beings in that world:
1. Zaharal fasaadu fil barri wal bahri bimaa kasabat aydinnaas.
Paraphrase: Rot has begun to appear on land and in sea due to all that human hands have perpetrated.
2. Wal ‘Asr, innal insaana la-fee khusr.
Paraphrase: History is testimony that humanity is in peril.
This is what the Qur’an said 1400 years ago, as many of us are used to saying. But in reality that is what the Qur’an said before there ever was space or time.
Now take a good look at our world as we find it today.
In many ways, for many people, the world today is a troubled place. It is a place in which, all too frequently, for all too many people, trouble seems to follow trouble and calamity seems to come on the heels of calamity.
It is a calamity when large numbers of humans live in poverty – in our society and everywhere else – below what is so ignominiously called the poverty line.
It is an even greater calamity when a few of us accumulate inordinate amounts of wealth for ourselves, often at the expense of others, and flaunt and squander that wealth, oblivious of the plight of the deprived and disadvantaged many among us.
It is an absolute tragedy when crime rampages and ravages our society, and we as a people will not lift a finger to reduce it or put an end to it; when we absolve ourselves of all semblance of social conscience and responsibility; when we allow ourselves to be reduced to helpless human and social rubble, like so much foam and froth at the crest of a flash flood; and when we end up as petrified onlookers and helpless spectators of crime and cruelty on our streets, in our homes, in our markets and in our neighbourhoods.
It is a catastrophe beyond compare when our hungry cannot be fed; when our sick cannot be treated or cured; when our diseases and pestilences cannot be controlled; when our weak cannot be protected; when our strong cannot be curbed; when our ignorant cannot be educated; and when and our leaders resort to lies, fraud, deception, subterfuge, manipulation and intimidation to perpetuate their power and domination in society and on our lives.
It is a dark, dark day indeed when God is blasphemed in every way that catches everyone’s fancy; when the prophets of God are maligned however it pleases whomsoever to do so; when divine scriptures are vilified by those who have little fear of God or sense of shame before people; and when those with questionable characters and even more questionable motives attack the integrity of institutions dedicated to educating our future generations about God and his scripture and his prophets.
Indeed it is a troubled, tormented, mixed-up, confused, cruel, tragic, traumatic world in which we live today – no matter how we look it.
It is a world that has reduced us to a status of refugees in our own homes and streets; that has forced us to live perpetually in fear, confusion and anxiety in our own communities; that has foisted upon us falsehood upon falsehood, half-truth upon half-truth, to advance the cause of tyranny and injustice in the world and to enslave those whom their mothers gave birth to as free men and women.
Waladat-hum ummahaatu-hum ahraaraa, as Omar, the 7th Century ruler of the Islamic world put it – those to whom their mothers gave birth as free men and women.
A SUCCESSION OF DISASTERS
For quite some time now our ride through the roller-coaster of life has been a succession of disasters.
It is a disaster when in their mutual dealings, groups, organizations, nations, societies, cultures, civilizations – and peoples – try to replace truth, right, justice, fairness, honest persuasion, love of humanity and fear of God Almighty with blatant lies, injustice, greed, selfishness, intimidation, oppression and brute and barbaric force and might.
When the certainty of death as a common and inevitable human fate is ignored and belittled; when the notion of accountability before God is sought to be minimised and downplayed; and when human beings are educated, trained, acculturated, socialised and conditioned to treat this world as the be-all and end-all, as the alpha and the omega, of human existence.
It is a moment not just for reflection but also for great grief and mourning when our educational systems are geared to ground generations of humans at a base no higher than our lowest animality – their characters, personalities and values rooted in the quagmire of selfishness, corruption, greed and indifference for the fate of others including the very planet on which we live.
What kind of intelligence base do we require to understand that this is the planet, only one in fact, whose air we breathe; whose water we drink; and on which we make our abode and shelter. It is the planet that we presume to call home.
It is an occasion for serious concern and soul searching when the graduates of our educational institutions more resemble the robotic characters of R2D2 and C3PO from the movie Star Wars than Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, their human counterparts.
That is, when they are more like automatons than real human beings with clear values; with a robust sense of self; with a deep sense of connectedness with fellow humans, with God and with planet earth; and with an abiding sense of commitment and responsibility to those around them – including the very environment which envelops them from every side.
It is nothing but sheer barbarity and inhumanity, fig-leafed in cheap clichés and pricey public relations, when humans justify and rationalize enslavement of fellow humans on the flimsiest of grounds and the most transparent of pretexts; when they deprive their fellow humans of their most basic human rights, against all cannons of civilized conduct and painfully developed international norms and conventions; and when they plunder their wealth and resources and kill them in droves without offering them recourse to justice or opportunity for self-defence.
FRAGMENTATION OF LIFE
It is an ongoing disaster of the most horrendous kind when human life is shattered into a million little fragments, and when it is artificially cut up in a million water-tight little compartments, without any sense of the whole, and without any care or concern for an integrating or unifying principle that will pull those fragments together and give them meaning and cohesion.
When people become fixated on living a life most of which they shelter and protect from the natural radiance of divine guidance and grace – and from the sobering thought of ongoing and universal divine scrutiny and accountability.
And when they deign, thereafter, arrogantly and condescendingly, to donate one or two small shards and shreds of that life to God Almighty – the one who gave them life in the first place, and gave them all of it and every single aspect and facet of it – as a token of their self-professed love for him and in what they consider to be their vaunted acts of worshipping him.
Acts they carry out with great pomp and fanfare, but with little thought or understanding – on designated days, in designated ways, in designated places, using designated formulas and rituals, made available to them by designated individuals they so glibly proclaim to be “Holy” with designated titles, positions and appearances.