Dr Farida Khanam | | The Times of India | June 12, 2021
Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) famously said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Keller was blind and deaf from early childhood, but she did not let this become an impediment in the way of her development and went on to become a renowned American author and educator.
The example set by Keller and those like her serves as a great inspiration. It confirms the belief that life is a gift of God. According to Islamic tradition, God created life so that man fulfills a purpose. The starting point of this purpose is that man has been granted freedom in this world for a temporary period. Those who shall rightfully use this freedom in the pre-death world shall pass this test and become eligible for being inhabited in the eternal and perfect world of paradise.
The question is why did God decide to put man through such a trial? This is because God has created man with extraordinary qualities but, this was at a potential level. If actualized, these special qualities are enough to make man surpass all obstacles and become the best version of himself. But when can this happen? It is possible only when man is ready to give up all distractions and fully dedicate himself to pursue his intellectual development.
To enable the actualization of his potential, God inherently bestowed man with logical thinking and rationality. Man can not only think critically, can express his emotions, and even communicate through words. He is driven by reason and logic and, can engage in intellectual activities. Animals, on the other hand, are completely driven by instincts.
Now, it is up to man to face the trials and tribulations of life and awaken his conceptual thinking to reach the purpose of his creation. As man navigates through life, he shall firstly discover himself. Then he shall be able to realize the endless possibilities and opportunities that his Creator has kept in this world. This realization shall dawn upon him the discovery of the Greatness and Beneficence of his Creator and shall make him bow down in thanksgiving. Such a realization or Marefat is the essence of faith and the true purpose of man’s life. According to the Quran, Marefat can be defined as the process of discovery of God, where God becomes the center of the emotions of a believer (2:165).
Paradise is eternal and ideal in every respect but entry into paradise shall be on a selective basis. According to the records of their deeds, the individuals chosen to inhabit the perfect world of paradise, shall live in a joyous environment forever. For this to happen, man has to reflect upon God’s creations in this world and develop the vision to see beyond the apparent to find unlimited possibilities. It is this realization, which might enable man’s entry into the unparalleled world of paradise.