THE mind of a person, worn out with age, is occupied with many questions. These are actually important questions to consider and answering them truthfully is essential to understanding all aspects of life: “What is the purpose of this life that passes so quickly? Why should I remain positive with all the age-related problems I have? What will the future bring?”
The possible answers to these questions fall into two major categories: those given by people who trust Allah and those given by disbelievers who do not trust Him.
Someone who does not trust Allah would say, “I spent my life chasing vain pursuits. I have put 70 years behind me, but to tell the truth, I still have not been able to grasp what I lived for. When I was a child, my parents were the centers of my life. I found all happiness and joy in their love. Later in life, as a young woman, I devoted myself to my husband and children. During that time, I set many goals for myself. Yet by the time they were achieved, each of them proved to have been a passing whim. When I rejoiced in my success, I headed toward other goals and they occupied me so that I did not think about the real meaning of life. Now at 70, in the tranquility of old age, I try to find out what was the purpose of my past days. Is it that I lived for people of whom I have only dim memories now? For my parents? For my husband whom I lost years ago? Or my children whom I see rarely now that they have their own families? I am confused. The only truth is that I feel close to death. Soon I will die and I will become a faint memory in people’s minds. What will happen afterwards? I really have no idea. Even the thought of it is frightening!”
There is surely a reason for why a person falls into such hopelessness. That is simply because he or she cannot comprehend that the universe, all living things and human beings have purposes to fulfill in life.
These purposes owe their existence to the fact that everything has been created. An intelligent person notices that plan, design and wisdom exist in every detail of the infinitely varied world. This draws him to recognition of the Creator. He further concludes that since all living things are not the consequences of a random or mindless process they all serve important purposes.
In the Qur’an, the last surviving revealed guide to the true path for humanity, Allah repeatedly reminds us of the purpose of our life, which we tend to forget, and thereby summons us to clarity of mind and consciousness. “And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days and His Throne was on the waters, that He might try you, which of you is best in deeds….” (11: 7)
This verse provides a full understanding of the purpose of life for believers. They know that this life is a place where they are tried and tested by their Creator. Therefore, they hope to succeed in this test and attain the good pleasure of Allah and hence the Paradise.
However, for the sake of clarity, there is an important point to consider: those who believe in the ‘existence’ of Allah do not necessarily have true faith; they do not put their trust in Allah. Today, many people accept that the universe is the creation of Allah; yet, they little comprehend the impact of this fact upon their lives.
Therefore, they do not lead their lives as they should. What these people generally regard as the truth is that Allah initially created the universe but then, they believe, He left it on its own.
Allah, in the Qur’an, addresses this misapprehension in the following verse: “If you (Muhammad, peace be upon him) ask them: “Who has created the heavens and the earth,” they will certainly say: “Allah”. Say: “All praise and thanks are Allah’s!” But most of them understand not. (31:25)
“And if you ask them who created them, they will surely say, “Allah.” How then are they turned away (from the worship of Allah Who created them)? (43:87)
Due to this misapprehension, people cannot relate their daily lives to the fact that they have a Creator. That is the basic reason why each individual develops his or her personal principles and moral values, shaped within a particular culture, community and family. These principles actually serve as “life-guides” until death comes. People who adhere to their own values always find comfort in the wishful thinking that any wrong actions will be punished temporarily in Hell. The same rationale suggests that eternal life in paradise will follow this period of torment. Such a mentality unwittingly eases fears of the grievous penalty at the end of life. Some, on the other hand, do not even contemplate this issue. They merely remain heedless of the next world and “make the most of their lives”.
However, the above is false and the truth is contrary to what they think. Those who pretend not to be aware of the existence of Allah will fall into deep desperation. In the Qur’an, those people are characterized as follows:
They know only but the outside appearance of the life of this world ( i.e. the matter of their livelihood, like irrigating or sowing or reaping), and they are heedless of the Hereafter. (30:7)
Surely, little do these people grasp the real face and purpose of this world, and they never think that life in this world is not perpetual.
There are some phrases commonly used by people regarding the shortness of this life: “Make the most of your life while it lasts “, “life is short”, “one does not live forever” are phrases always referred to in definition of the nature of this world. Yet, these phrases contain an implicit attachment to this life rather than the next.
They reflect the general attitude of people to life and death. Having such a strong affection for life, conversations about death are always interrupted with jokes or by raising other subjects thus attempting to minimize the seriousness of the matter. These interruptions are always on purpose, a deliberate effort to reduce such an important subject to insignificance.
Mortality is surely a grave topic to ponder. Until this moment in his life, it may well be that the person is unaware of the significance of this reality. Yet, now that he has the chance to grasp its importance, he must reconsider his life and his expectations. It is never too late to repent to Allah, and to reorient all one’s deeds and the conduct of one’s life in submission to the will of Allah. Life is short; the human soul is eternal.
During this short period, one should not allow temporary passions to control one. A person should resist temptation and keep himself away from everything that will strengthen his bonds to this world. It is surely unwise to neglect the next world just for the sake of the temporary joys of this one.
Nevertheless, disbelievers who cannot comprehend this fact spend their lives in vain being forgetful of Allah. Moreover, they know that it is impossible to attain these desires. Such people always feel a deep dissatisfaction and want even more of what they currently possess. They have endless wishes and desires. Yet, the world is not an appropriate arena in which to satisfy these desires.
Nothing in this world is perpetual. Time works against both what is good and what is new. No sooner does a brand-new car go out of fashion than another model is designed, manufactured and marketed. Similarly, someone may crave others’ stately mansions or opulent houses with more rooms than occupants and with gold-plated fixtures, which once he has seen, he loses interest in his own house and cannot avoid regarding them with envy.
An endless search for the new and better, attaching no value to something once it has been achieved, deprecation of the old and placing all hopes in something new: these are the vicious circles that people have everywhere experienced throughout history. Yet an intelligent person should stop and ask himself/herself for a moment: why is he or she chasing temporary ambitions and has he ever gained any benefit from such pursuit? Finally, he should draw the conclusion that “there is a radical problem with this viewpoint.” Yet people, lacking this kind of reasoning, continue to chase dreams they are unlikely to achieve.
Nobody, however, knows what will happen even in the next few hours: at any time one may have an accident, be severely injured, or become disabled. Furthermore, time flies in the countdown to one’s own death. Every day brings that predestined day closer. Death surely eradicates all ambitions, greed and desires for this world. Under the soil, neither possessions nor status prevail.
Every possession with which we are being stingy, including the body, will also vanish and decay in the earth. Whether one is poor or wealthy, beautiful or ugly, one will be wrapped in a simple shroud one day.
Allah enjoins on believers to warn others about these facts, and calls upon them to live only to fulfill His will, as He says in the following verse:
“… Verily, the Promise of Allah is true, let not then this (worldly) present life deceive you.” (31:33)