15 Nov The Divine Wisdom in Creating People Differently.Part2
That means that we will hunger, thirst, tire, and encounter hardship in the world. This must be so, because in this world we sow the seeds that will be harvested in the Hereafter. Those seeking only to gratify their desires most probably are the ones God will address in the other world with the following words:
You dissipated your good things in your worldly life, and you took your enjoyment in them; therefore today you shall be recompensed with the chastisement of humiliation because you waxed proud on the Earth without right, and for your ungodliness. (46:20)
On the other hand, those who endure hunger, thirst, and other hardship here for the sake of God will be admitted to Paradise and addressed thusly by angels:
Peace be upon you. Well you have fared; enter in, to dwell forever (39:73); and Eat and drink with wholesome appetite for that you did long ago, in the days gone by (69:24).
More Blessings Mean More Responsibility. As God gives you more bounties and blessing, your responsibility grows. For example, alms-giving is compulsory for the wealthy, while the disabled, blind, or sick do not have to bear arms in the way of God. To express the utmost degree of piety, the Prophet Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said: “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)
So, we do not know if being rich or poor, or healthy or sick, is better for us. And, the Qur’an tells us that:
It may be that you dislike a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows but you know not (2:216).
Furthermore, many rich people cannot enjoy food and drink or the world’s beauty as much as poor people do, due to their lack of appetite or bad health. Although poverty is not something to be desired and indeed, as stated by the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, can even cause unbelief, it is difficult to claim that the rich are always happier than the poor. No one can assert that people in the Middle Ages, when living standards were relatively low, were less happy than today’s rich people. Happiness lies in spiritual satisfaction, not in having the material facilities to gratify bodily desires.
Another point to emphasize is that no one should complain about hardship. When compared with times of good health, comfort, and happiness, times of illness or hardship often are not worth mentioning. Also, we usually live unaware of the constant bounties we receive. For example, the sun rises every day and sends us its heat and light for free. We are never deprived of air, without which we would die instantly, although we pay nothing for it. All the natural events necessary for producing rain occur without our help. What we should do is thank God for these and all other bounties (none of which we can provide for ourselves), for the greatest part of our life (spent in health and comfort), and not to complain to God about illness, hardship, or the lack of some additional blessing.
Equality in material resources, as well as in intellectual and physical ability, should not be considered a desirable social objective, for it is incompatible with the requirements of social life. These differences, as well as those in individual temperament, disposition, and preference, sustain the variety of human occupations, a fundamental element of human social life. This variation causes people to need one another and to establish mutual good relations.
However, these relations should be based on justice and mutual love, respect, understanding, and care. They should not lead to oppression, usurpation, and cheating, or to class-based social hostility and contempt. According to Said Nursi (d. 1960), a Muslim scholar, thinker, and activist who started a major Islamic revival in Turkey in the first half of the twentieth century, two major reasons for all the revolutions and upheavals of the last few centuries are the attitudes: “I do not care if others die of hunger so long as I am full,” and “You work so that I may eat.”
Islam tackles the first attitude with zakat, the obligatory alms-tax on wealthy Muslims, principally for redistribution among the poor and needy. Islam tackles the second attitude by prohibiting all interest-based transactions. Further, Islam extols the virtue helping the poor and needy and commends moderate, disciplined living. The lives of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessing, and his four immediate political successors (known collectively as the Rightly Guided Caliphs) are good examples for the Muslim élites to follow.
The Purpose of Misfortune. Before closing, we should point out that however undesirable and even appalling in appearance, affliction and illness usually bear good results. Just as punishing our children to train them, amputating a gangrenous limb, or deriving medicine from a snake’s venom, most afflictions or illnesses usually produce good results.
A sparrow-hawk’s swooping contributes to a sparrow’s alertness and develops its ability to escape. People may be hurt by rain or electricity or fire, but no one actually curses them. Fasting may be difficult, but it provides the body with energy, activity, and resistance. A child’s immune system usually gains strength through illness. Exercise is not easy, but it is almost essential for the body’s health and strength. Our spirit is refined and acquires the state deserving Paradise through worship and meditation (tafakkur), as well as through illness, suffering, and hardship. God gives a large reward for a small sacrifice. Hardship and suffering promote us to higher spiritual degrees and will be rewarded in the other world with a generosity that we cannot even imagine. For this reason, Prophets suffer the most grievous hardship and difficulty, and they are followed by saintly people and other believers, each according to their degree of belief.
Hardship, illness, and calamity cause believers’ sins to be forgiven and remind them to be alert to sin and the attempted seductions coming from Satan and their carnal selves. They also help us appreciate God’s blessings, express our gratitude, and encourage the rich and healthy to help the poor and the sick. Those who never experience hunger cannot fully appreciate the conditions in which the hungry live. Nor can one who has never been sick be aware of what sick people live through. So, hardship, illness, and calamity may establish closer relations between different groups or classes of people.
Calamity and suffering increase our resistance to life’s hardships and train us to persevere and endure. They also separate the strong and sincere supporters of a cause from those who are supporters out of convenience or some other personal (and therefore inappropriate) reason.
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