Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I The Pioneer | June 6, 1999 | Page 5
Man is a pleasure seeking animal. He has an abundance of desires and thus seeks to create a world where he may fulfill all of them. Yet there is no one who can achieve that goal; everyone is destined to die with desires unfulfilled. This destiny, however, is special to man — no other creature shares this fate. As is known, the physical world, the mountains, the rivers, the stars, etc. have no desires at all, saving them from the problem of unfulfilled wants. Animals, as well, are not much different from the physical world in this regard. Their desires are very limited. For example, their desire for food is limited in scope to the immediate present.
Animals have no concern for tomorrow and do not desire to store food for tomorrow. They require food for the moment and that is achievable to them. So when they die there is not a single regret in their existence — they have no cause for lamenting : I have failed to achieve what I wanted to achieve. Then why is it exceptionally the case for man that even so-called super achievers feel at their moment of death, that their life was a case of missed opportunities; they wanted so much yet achieved so little.
What is worse, they are compelled to leave even those little achievements in this world and proceed to an unknown destination, completely alone. Why this tragic state-of-affairs? The reason according to Islam, is that man is born with a dual personality. Intellectually he is unlimited in capability but physically he is a limited being. This disparity in his inner nature causes the problem. After great labour, man acquires much wealth but he dies without completely enjoying it. He builds his dream house.
Yet sadly, upon entering it, he feels unable to fully enjoy it due to his limitations and disadvantages. Any conceivable thing that he obtains is inherently imperfect whereas man is intellectually a perfectionist. After experiencing each new goal that he has so long sought to achieve he desires it no more because after achieving it he realises that this latest goal too, is less than perfect. If man were to live according to his physical being then there would be no problem with this world. Man would live like an animal with some limited kind of immediate desires and would die without any feeling of failure for not achieving his desires.
Herein Islam provides the silver lining for man. If natures was capable of creating a world that satisfies man’s physical needs then logically it must be capable of creating a world that suits his intellectual needs. This world for the intellect exists but with only one different — the world according to his physical nature was given to him for his pre-death period of life and the world according to his intellectual needs will be given to him for his post-death period of life. So, according to Islam, man’s life is like an iceberg. This worldly life is only the tip of the iceberg and the otherworldly life will be like the hidden majority of the iceberg. Thus there is no need for man to fall prey to frustration. Adopt a two-fold plan for your life.
One based on your needs of the present world and the other according to your needs of the future world. So a successful life in this world is one based on the following concept : that the present life is where we can only sow and we shall harvest in the next world. If we were to plant a seed in the morning with the hope of enjoying the fruit by dinner-time, we are sure to be frustrated. Had we planned to reap the fruit a hundred years from now, however, then we would not meet any frustration for frustration is but the name of misplaced hope.
The problem for man thus lies not in the nature of life but in his concept of life. Is there any proof of the existence of a world, as envisaged by Islam, other than this world? Yes, there is a clear proof. The Quran says that the present world itself is sufficient proof of the future world. If God was capable of creating the present world in all its complexity then there is no room left to doubt his capability of creating the next world. The Quranic call in brief is that man should take the present world as an opportunity to develop in himself such a divine personality that is deserving of permanent residency in the eternal world of paradise. A world that the Quran praises as a house that lies neighbour to none other than God Alimighty Himself! If man were to live according to his physical being then there would be no problem with this world. Man would live like an animal with some limited kind of immediate desires and would die without any feeling of failure for not achieving his desires.