Being a Muslim sometimes brings a unique perspective to life. We live not for this world, but for the Next. That might sound a little scary because it seems to imply abandoning normal life, but that’s not how it works. Islam teaches us that we should live a life that glorifies God, that we should through our actions build our Hereafter because our thoughts and deeds literally translate into our Future.
The most wonderful thing is that it’s so easy to do this. We tend to make things difficult by restricting worship to acts like praying or supplicating, fasting and performing pilgrimages, but it’s so much more than that. With the right intention, hanging out with friends becomes worship as does indulging in a hobby or even simply waking up in the morning and going to work. With the right frame of mind, life becomes a continuous existence of being directly in touch with Him.
With the right frame of mind, when you get what you want you feel a deep gratitude that He has blessed you with so much, and when you miss something, you don’t feel a regret for it because well, it’s simply a temporary incident that has passed away. And if you really want it that bad, you’ll just ask for it in Heaven.
I do that a lot by the way. I have a whole list of things I’m ‘Saving for Heaven’ 🙂 When I tell people that, I sometimes get odd looks because for some reason, most of us today are really (REALLY) uncomfortable talking about Heaven and Hell. It forces us to think of the consequences of our actions and the accountability for those sneaky things we do that we don’t want anyone to know about. And who wants to think of responsibility when you’re having so much fun living, right?
For a long time, I wondered how to deal with justifying why God created Hell and Heaven and why we will be punished if He is such a Loving and Merciful God. But things are clearing up a little.
See, it’s not that we’re in this world like lab rats in a maze. Run the right course and you’ll get to the door with the cheese behind it; run the wrong course and you’ll get a nasty zap!
Some people believe that if your time runs out and you don’t make it to the right flap, that’s it. It’s all over. You’re doomed and done for. No more cheese for you. Some people believe that every time your clock runs out and you make a mess of it, you’re placed at the beginning and set to find your way again; over and over till you get it right. The only problem is that you don’t have any memory of the mistakes you made the first time round, so I’m guessing it gets a little difficult to see it as a learn-by-experience process.
People see God as some All-Powerful King ruling over his subjects with an iron fist. Do something wrong and bad karma will hit you through the Hand of God. Beliefs like that are abound in all faiths, including Islam.
But in actual fact, God is Absolutely Just. When He created this world, He did so basing it on that system of Justice, that is why we covet the trait and admire it as one of the most noble in the universe. According to that Justice, every cause has an effect. Thus when we do something good or bad, there should be a reaction to that. Sometimes the reaction is immediate, sometimes it is delayed and sometimes it happens only in the Unseen Dimension so we can’t see it until after the Veils are lifted from our eyes (i.e. we die.)
Take for example, if a person drinks poison. Regardless of whether they know they are drinking or not, the result will be death. Will we fault the poison for taking effect even if the person did not want to die or did not know it was dangerous? The point we will make is that poison has a dangerous effect and as such it has to be true to its nature.
When we indulge in sins, it is the sin that has a poisonous effect on our souls. Just because we cannot see our souls in the throes of pain or we silence the voice of our conscience until it speaks no more, does not mean the poison is not doing its work.
And what if the person who drinks poison does so because he/she couldn’t read the label on the bottle? We’d say it was ignorance that killed him/her and how good it would have been if he/she had learnt to read. So the responsibility shifts to the person too.
For that same reason, we need to constantly seek out what it is that God has taught is good and what is bad. We can’t see the spiritual effects of our actions so we need a reliable source that can. Otherwise, we’ll suffer the consequences of ignorance too. (You only need to look around at society to know the truth of that.)
The difference of course is that God is also All Merciful and as such, if you commit a sin out of ignorance, He is more than willing to forgive you for it and negate its effect in the Unseen spiritual realm. However, sometimes the consequences in the world are irreversible. If you do something that leads to loss of life, you may be forgiven for it, but you cannot bring back the dead. That’s not God being unfair, as we so often and easily blame Him for being, that’s us messing up the balance of our own lives.
If you fail a crucial exam because you didn’t study for it, no matter how much you regret it later, you can’t turn back the clock on the F you’ll get. We call that learning a hard lesson, don’t we? It’s funny. We follow the same system in our daily lives and yet fault God for doing so. In reality, the only reason these things seem unfair to us because we can’t see the Whole Picture.
Life is all about taking on the responsibility for your actions onto your own shoulders instead of sweeping it under the carpet and hoping things will work out on their own. I wonder why we can find it within ourselves to admire and even envy the artist who will stay awake at night trying to capture that elusive picture in his head, or the entrepreneur who will work 18 hours a day for seven days a week to build up his empire and yet we scorn the man or woman who will wake in the middle of night to prostrate before God, or who will shun the material culture and speak of long-forgotten virtues?
Why is one considered admirable and the other a freak?
Why does speaking of God or even thinking of Him make so many of us fidget and wish someone would change the subject?
Maybe it’s because the Truth forces us to face our own flaws and misconceptions. It forces us to be truly humble. Not just about our talents and possessions, but our very own worth as human beings. In Islam, Pride belongs exclusively to God. The word Muslim means “to submit” or “to surrender” to Him. To accept that you know nothing and He Knows Everything; that you are nothing and He is Everything. Accepting slavery to Him allows us to become free in the truest sense of the word because He Created everything in this universe to serve His slaves.
I am not free. I have gathered so many things that hold me back; so many regrets and so many farfetched hopes. I can flashback over all the years I’ve lived on this earth in the blink of an eye. Decades worth of experience and they are as insubstantial as a strand of will-o’- the-wisp. A few more decades and my time will be over. That is inevitable. And on nights like these, I wonder at what kind of Future I have created for myself to meet me after Death opens its door and I walk into Life…