It is usually during times of uncertainty and upheaval, like the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, that as human beings we take time to reflect on the nature of this world and the purpose of our life in it, write IBRAHIM OKSAS and NAZEEMA AHMED.
WE are aware that words and phrases abound to describe the nature of this world; words like transient, brief, temporary, ephemeral, a place of testing, a guest-house and hospice, the lower world. Notwithstanding this awareness, it does not seem to lessen our attraction and attachment to this world. However, in the All-Wise Quran, the authentic Sunnah and throughout the history of Islamic scholarship, we are continuously reminded about the true nature of this world.
In his contemporary Quranic tafsir, Risale-i Nur, Bediuzzaman addresses this matter at some length, and cites the following ayah in Surah Al-Kahf: ‘We made everything on the earth adornment for it so that We could test them to see whose actions are the best; We will certainly make everything on it a barren wasteland.’
In discussing the true nature of this world, and to remind us to correct our perspective about it, Bediuzzaman then invites us to consider the following question: Is it at all possible that Allah Almighty would allow transient beings to pass a temporary life in the hospice of this world and not create an eternal and everlasting sphere of splendour? He continues his exposition on the true nature of this world and likens it to a hospice, a testing ground and an exhibition. Bediuzzaman says that when we look at the hospice of the world, we will see that it is filled and emptied every day, and that this world itself changes almost every hour, which we clearly witness.
Furthermore, mankind, the most significant class of Allah Almighty’s creation by virtue of being endowed with the most comprehensive nature and abilities, stays in this world of trial for the purpose of being tested. The sobering reality is that whoever leaves this world, never returns, and whoever comes to this world will inevitably depart. This being the true state of this world, we can consider it reasonable that the following question may be asked: what is the purpose of this world if it is only a temporary place of residence?
Bediuzzaman’s response is that if we understand the transitory nature of this world and its purpose as a testing ground for mankind, of a certainty it shows that beyond this temporary world there must be permanent palaces, gardens and eternal abodes. He conveys that if we strive here in this world, it is for the sake of what awaits us in the hereafter, that happiness awaits those who have duly strived in this world, and that bliss will be in accordance with everyone’s capacity.
Bediuzzaman makes the following profound statement in his book, Words (one of the books in the Risale-i Nur Collection): ‘Those sent to this field of trial will not, then, be left to their own devices; palaces of bliss or dungeon await them.’ From this we can discern that this world is really a means to an eternal end, and should thus not be construed as being an end in itself. This perspective may serve to lessen our fascination with the seemingly alluring aspects of this world.
Bediuzzaman then enumerates some principles that will allow us to conceive of the true nature of this world, which is a display which Allah Almighty has created in order to awaken our desire for the generous gifts that he has prepared for us in the hereafter. He says that we should understand that the beings who enter this world are guests, and that the beautiful adornments of high value and brief duration in this world must be for the purpose of evoking gratitude for them and for instructing the guests in wisdom so that they may know where they are being invited by their Generous Creator.
The people of imaan will also understand that the adornments of the world must be considered as samples of the blessings stored up by Allah Almighty in Jannah. We should further understand that things that have been created in this world are created for eternity, and when we see death, this ‘apparent annihilation’ is simply the release from duty of created beings after having completed the duty for which they were created.
Bediuzzaman says that with regard to mankind, the rooh of the human being which is housed in a body, and which, as was mentioned earlier, has an extraordinarily comprehensive and exalted nature, is related to eternity, and earnestly longs for it. We should also know that our deeds are registered and recorded by Allah Almighty’s ‘noble scribes’ and that the results of our acts and deeds are thus preserved for the time when everyone will be called to account.
Bediuzzaman says that what we may observe as death and annihilation at the end of summer or in autumn, is a form of making space for the new creation that will emerge in the following spring, and that the ground is being prepared for the created beings to perform their assigned duties and functions.
Furthermore, this reality that we witness should rouse sentient and conscious beings from their heedless slumber and serve as a warning to them not to forget their obligation and duty of making shukr to their Compassionate Creator. We should also understand and unequivocally accept that the Maker and Creator of this transitory world has also created another, everlasting world, and that it is to this eternal world that, through all His commands and prohibitions in the All-Wise Quran, Allah Almighty urges His worshipful slaves.
In conclusion, Bediuzzaman conveys that we should understand and believe that Allah Almighty will bestow on His slaves with whom He is pleased, in the everlasting and eternal world, gifts that no eye has seen nor ear has ever heard. Insha Allah, may Allah Almighty include us among them. Ameen.
- Light From The Quran is a series published in the print edition of Muslim Views.