We see medicines accompanied by leaflets explaining what illnesses they are designed to cure, how they should be used and what their basic formulae are. But the tragedy is that man is born into the world in such a condition that he knows neither what he is nor why he has been put here. No convenient handbook accompanies him; neither are there any signboards fixed to the summits of the mountains to give him directions or to provide him with answers to his questions. Man has, in consequence, formed strange opinions about himself, the earth and the sky, being ignorant of the essential reality of life.
When he examines his own being, it appears to him as an amazing accumulation of intellectual and physical powers. Yet, he did not will himself into being, nor did he play any part in the making of himself. Then he looks at the world outside himself and a universe of such extreme vastness, that he can neither encompass nor traverse it, nor can he count the innumerable treasures it contains. What is all this, and why is it there? Where did this world start from and where will it all end? What is the purpose of all this existence? He finds himself completely in the dark on these subjects.
Man has, of course, been given eyes, but all his eyes can do is see the outside of things. He has intelligence, but the trouble with human intelligence is that it does not even know about itself. Up till now, man has been unable to find out how thoughts enter the human mind or how the mind functions. With such inadequate faculties, he is neither able to arrive at any sound conclusion concerning himself, nor he is able to understand the Universe.
This riddle is solved by the Book of God. Today, the Qur'an is the only scripture beneath the heavens about which we can say with complete conviction that it gives us definite knowledge concerning all the realities of life.
Those who have tried to understand the Universe without recourse to the Book of God are just like those blind people who try to find out what an elephant is by touching different parts of its body. One will touch its leg, and think he has found a pillar. Another will feel its ear, and think it is a winnowing basket. Its back will be proclaimed a platform, its tail a snake and its trunk a hosepipe. But where in all this is the elephant? No matter how these blind people put together their findings, they cannot arrive at the correct answer. This is the eternal predicament of all atheist philosophers and thinkers. In their attempt to fathom the nature of reality in the universe, they have failed to be guided by true knowledge. As a result, their conclusions have been like those of a man, fumbling in the dark, and just hazarding wild guesses as to the nature of his surroundings, without ever truly understanding it.
There have been people in this world who have devoted their entire lives to the quest for Truth, but who, in their desperation at being unable to find it, have even taken the extreme step of putting an end to their lives. And then there have been others who sought the Truth but who, having failed to find it, settled for a concocted philosophy based on pure conjecture. While the latter, mistaking conjecture for reason, compiled their conclusions and presented them to the world as Truth, the former saw speculation for what it was, rejected it, then – anguished at their own ultimate helplessness – opted out of this mysterious world.
Both groups were denied True Knowledge, for, in reality, no one can understand the secret of life without the help of the original Keeper of the Secret – God. True, man has been given the capacity to think and understand. But this capacity is little better than an eye, which can see only so long as there is some external source of light. In pitch darkness, this self-same eye cannot see anything whatsoever. Only when a light is switched on, does everything become clearly visible. The human intellect, like the eye, needs the light – the light of God's revelation – if it is not forever to grope in the dark. Without God's revelation, we can never arrive at the truth of things.
The Quran not only tells us that God exists, but also paints an incredibly vivid picture of the Being who sustains and directs the Universe. Not only does it tell us about the Hereafter, but describes the Day of Judgment so graphically that its horrors become deeply etched on our consciousness. There is a well, known story of a Greek artist who painted such a realistic picture of a bunch of grapes that birds would come and peck at it. Just think that if a painting executed by an ordinary mortal could have such an extraordinary effect, what heights of consummate artistry could not be reached by the Lord of the Worlds in His creation of the Qur'an? Could any mere mortal truly appreciate the perfection of such art?
The Qur'an bears verbal witness to the sovereignty of God. It describes, with great force and clarity, the great, hidden, determinative force at work throughout the entire world, and gives us definitive information on those metaphysical realities, which elude the hand and the eye. Not only does it spell out the facts of existence, but it also builds up an astonishing gallery of word-pictures, which bring a hitherto unseen world before our very eyes.
The Qur'an shows us where strength in this world really lies, giving us a handhold on a rope that never breaks. Without this, we have no real support in life. Moreover, it is only through our attachment to God that human beings can retain their hold on the cord that binds each to each.
The Qur'an explains that it is this One God alone who sustains us throughout our lives here on this earth. Through Him our hearts are set at ease, for it is He who provides true warmth in life. He rescues us in times of peril, assists us in the hour of need. All power rests in His hands: honour and glory will be the rewards of any nation who looks to Him for support, while only disgrace and humiliation will be the lot of those who abandon Him. To know this is to hold the key to all the treasures in life. He who possesses this key gains all; he who loses it, loses all.
The Qur'an, first and foremost, is the Proclamation of God. Just as every enlightened sovereign has a Constitution, so is the Qur'an the 'Constitution' of the Almighty, Master of Man, King of kings. To put it very simply, the Qur'an is a book of directions, showing man the right path to tread. It is a Light, which guides his faltering steps, giving him timely reminders of God’s will, awakening his sleeping nature and conveying the Lord's admonition. It is a book that, in giving him the moral sense to distinguish right from wrong, cures him; and his society, of all ills. In that sense, it is a book of wisdom, full of every expression of correct understanding. More, it is a book of laws, laying down for us the very foundations on which to build and organize society. In short, it provides everything that man-as an individual and as member of society – can ever need. Without¬ this, man can never be the gainer, no matter how hard he tries.
How can a man gauge whether he has actually developed a relationship with God or not? There is only one answer to this question: by turning his eyes inward, and judging how his inner self stands related to the Qur'an. For how one relates to the Qur'an is a true reflection of one's relationship with God. The degree to which a man adheres to the tenets of the Qur'an will be a sure indication of his attachment to his Maker. If the Qur'an is the book he values most, it goes without saying that God is dearer to him than any other. But if some other book is held in greater esteem by him, then the most important person in his life will be its author, and not his Maker. Just as it is impossible to find the true God anywhere but in the Qur'an, so is it impossible that, after finding God, any book other than the Qur'an should be more precious to him. For the Qur'an is the book of God. It is the means through which the Almighty converses with His servants, His living representative on this earth. It is a scale on which man's devotion to his Creator may be measured.
When man fears to stand alone, without support, in an unfathomable universe, the Qur'an sets his mind at rest by making his destination clear to him, and directing him towards it. In the Qur'an man thus meets his Lord, beholds His promises and rejoices in His good tidings. In this way, the Qur'an fills a man with sufficient conviction to define his place in the world. Giving concrete form to the instinctive feelings which swirl in man's subconscious about his Lord and Master, the Qur'an sets his feet well and truly on the path of submission to Him – the path of Islam and brings him closer to God. This is when man has found his true purpose in life.