Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Principles of Life | Al Risala, October 1988

When the U.S. launched its first manned spacecraft in 1969, the first stage rocket boosters produced a horrific noise of such intensity that the entire area within a hundred-mile radius was shaken up by it. But the astronauts inside the rocket blithely went on their space journey quite untrammelled by the ear-splitting din, for after an interval of just 10 seconds it had ceased to affect them.

If they were able to travel in peace and quiet, it was because they had simply left their own noise behind them. This is explainable in terms of their very great speed–25,000 miles per hour–as opposed to the relatively slow speed of sound, around 700 miles per hour. Once the rocket had crossed the sound barrier, the terrible noise which it generated no longer reached the astronauts’ control room.

Unlike the rocket, an aeroplane, unless of the supersonic type, is accompanied throughout its entire journey by the sound it produces. In a similar way, human beings, and even whole communities, are like that aeroplane, in that they are accompanied throughout their lives by certain sets of disturbing circumstances as they go on their way. As often as not they are extremely unpleasant, and whether generated by individuals themselves or by others, they are elements in human existence which many of us would like to be able to leave behind, just as the rocket leaves its own sound behind it. But what would enable us to outdistance what are apparently permanent features of our lives? There is a very simple solution to this problem: greater diligence, more strenuous efforts to attain worthwhile objectives. It is only such action which will protect us from the impact of adversity. Self-help is the only positive factor which will insulate us from the shocks of our environment and carry us on to a higher plane of tranquillity. Only by doing our utmost to overcome whatever is inimical to human progress will we become as protected as the astronauts were from the deafening noise of the rocket.