The well-known American evangelist Billy Graham (born 1918) narrates one of his life’s experiences. Once, he received an urgent message from an American statesman who wanted to meet him at the earliest. On receiving this message, Billy Graham cancelled his appointments and immediately set out to meet this man. When he arrived at the statesman’s palatial home, he was immediately taken to a room, where Billy Graham and the statesman sat on chairs facing one another. Then, in a serious tone, the statesman said to Billy Graham:
“You see, I am an old man. Life has lost all meaning. I am ready to take a fateful leap into the unknown. Young man, can you give me a ray of hope?” (The Secret of Happiness, Billy Graham, 1955, p.2)
This is a common question. Every man and woman — consciously or unconsciously — has this question in his or her mind. This is the first concern of every human being. To find the real answer we have to try to understand the Creation Plan of God. God is the Creator of this world. And only by gaining an understanding of the Creator’s Plan can we get the right answer to the question.
Man and the present world: a mismatch?
The Quran, the preserved book of God, gives an answer to this question. According to the Quran, man is born as an eternal being, but his life span is divided into two parts: the pre-death period and the post-death period. The pre-death period is very short, and the post-death period is eternal.
Everyone feels that they have enormous desires, but they are not able to fulfil them. The reason is that the present world is a imperfect world with many kinds of limitations.
This means that there is a contradiction between man’s nature, which seeks fulfilment of his desires, and the world, which is incapable of fulfilling man’s desires. Man, by nature, wants a world where his personality can find total fulfilment, but the present world fails to provide such fulfilment.
Sir James Jeans in his book, The Mysterious Universe, has rightly pointed out this fact in these words:
'It appears that man has strayed into a world that was not made for him'.
According to the Quran, the present earth is not a habitat for man forever. Man’s eternal habitat lies in the world Hereafter. In accordance with this divine plan, man must develop his personality in the pre-death period, so that he is selected as a deserving candidate for this habitat, or Paradise in the post-death period.
In accordance with the divine plan, man must develop his personality in the pre-death period, so that he is selected as a deserving candidate for this habitat, or Paradise in the post-death period.
How can one gain entry into Paradise? Man is born with total freedom. The only requirement for finding entry into Paradise is that he should use his freedom responsibly and avoid any kind of misuse of this freedom. It is the divine criterion that will decide whose case was one of proper use of freedom and whose was that of misuse. As the Quran tells us:
We have indeed created man in the best of mould, then We cast him down as the lowest of the low, except for those who believe and do good deeds—theirs shall be an unending reward! What then after this, can make you deny the Last Judgement? Is not God the greatest of the judges? (95:4-8)
It means that while man is born as a complete personality, his present abode, planet Earth is incomplete. Because of this disparity, man’s condition on Earth becomes like that of a fish out of water. The disparity between man’s nature and the inability of the present-world to fulfil all his desires arouses the need in man for a real habitat. This habitat is Paradise. Only those men and women will find entry into Paradise who qualify as deserving candidates for it. Planet Earth is a selection-ground for this purpose. The Quran tells us about Paradise in these words:
Therein you shall have all that your souls desire, and therein you shall have all that you ask for. (41:31)
The Quran mentions all aspects of Paradise in detail and then guides man in these words
For the like of this, that all should strive. (37:61)