THERE is one irrefutable truth when it comes to life: sooner or later it will be extinguished. It follows from this basic premise that life must be lived in a particular and the best possible manner — for it is short. As the days, weeks, months and years pass, we seldom give any thought to the fact that the moments gone by will never come back. The clock keeps on ticking, and that too at a fairly quick pace; but given that we are mere mortals, it is undeniable that one day it is going to stop altogether.
That eventful day — when we die — is a certainty, but for some unexplained reason we dismiss it. We imagine that death is for others and not for us. We offer our condolences to people when we hear about the demise of their loved one, but hardly reflect on the idea of our own departure from this world.
The ‘here’ and ‘now’ are so attractive to us that we revel in their glory and resist the doom and gloom that is associated with the end of life. Thus we never entertain the thought that one day we too — like everyone else — will leave this earth.
So no matter what our attitude is towards death, there is no denying that it is a certainty. It is an undeniable fact. It is a law. It is the truth. Whether or not we are comfortable thinking about it is immaterial. Each day and every minute takes us towards the certainty called the end of life.
For some unexplained reason we dismiss the inevitability of death.
We pretend as if we are here to live forever and even organise our lives around this lie. Our passions dictate our life’s purpose, making us forget that our present life is but a trial to prepare us for the next realm of existence. Wherever our desires and emotions lead us, it is that point to which we are drawn.
This is one view of life, in which the purpose of living is determined by one’s feelings and desires, and in which the idea of afterlife is rejected.
This mentality is paraphrased multiple times in the Quran, albeit with stern criticism: “And they say: ‘What! when we lie, hidden and lost, in the earth, shall we indeed be in a Creation renewed?’ Nay, they deny the Meeting with their Lord” (32:10).
To this materialistic purpose of life comes the Divine rejoinder: “Say: ‘The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord’” (32:11).
The intellect of ours when working under the rule of our passions deceives us into thinking that this world’s material life is all that there is, and that, apart from physical needs, we do not have any other level of existence; thus are we fixated on worldliness alone.
As we become slaves to our desires, to our wish for fame and fortune and the other usual suspects, we forget that the intellect alone cannot enlighten us when it comes to the ultimate purpose of life. Our passions and prejudices also lead to a clash of interest among individuals, for often one’s desires are at odds with the wants of the other. Thus, a life that is lived in this manner becomes a conflict zone.
Life’s true purpose can be conveyed to us uniquely and precisely by none other than our Creator, for as our Maker, He knows us best and is in the best position to inform us about our welfare. Let us not forget that all other warranties do not originate from the manufacturer.
He is the one who thus announces: “I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me” (51:56).
God’s messengers were sent to earth to convey the true purpose of life and to call on people to establish a connection with their Creator while advocating righteous behaviour towards His creation. They were also tasked to wake us up to the fact that we have short life spans, and that our actual home is in the Hereafter.
The purpose of creation and the inevitability of death was a constant theme in the ‘syllabus’ taught by Allah’s emissaries. They taught the people they were sent to that the world was not a place to be shunned but that one was to live life to the full while keeping the laws and commandments of Allah in front, for it is adherence to such law that develops the human soul and qualifies it for afterlife.
Allah says: “Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:38).
So here we are, living life to the full. The guidance of Allah is also with us but let us not forget that the clock is ticking. We owe it to ourselves to take up Divine guidance and apply it to our daily lives so that we fulfil life’s true purpose. Ignoring the truth of death will be sheer folly.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019