Life, its sufferings and the Hereafter

Q332 :I feel very much depressed over what is happening in the world. It is hard to realize that nearly one billion people do not get enough to eat. Some enjoy too much luxury while others starve to death. What is the purpose of existence if so many of us are going to suffer for ever [in the hereafter]? Is there any hope for mankind.

A332 : People generally tend to think that the world they live in represents the whole existence. They imagine their period of life to be the whole life. If they expand their vision they may consider human history as the whole history of existence, or at best, the most important part of existence. But this represents a grave mistake. An enlightened look at life is sufficient to enable a person to conclude that this planet of ours is only a small corner of the universe and this life of ours is only a small fraction of life. We tend to attach too much importance to the present moment as opposed to what may happen in future. We also tend to think that death is still too far away. But a moment of reflection is sufficient to show how wrong we are. Let us think of the problems we went through and how grave they seemed at the time. As time passes and the problems begin to be solved, they appear to be much smaller than we thought. When we look at them with hindsight we feel that either we exaggerated their importance at the time or that we underestimated our ability to deal with them. Similarly, if we think about our moments of great pleasure, they appear to us as something much smaller than they were at the time. This is all a result of the fact that human beings tend to think of the present, of this moment, of now. Hence, they tend to consider their life on earth as the be-all and end-all. The great influence of the materialistic Western civilization affects the way we look at this life. In the West, people look at material wealth as a source of all happiness. Everything is geared toward the achievement of the dream of getting rich. When a person gets wealthy fast, they speak of him as an extremely successful person. The draw of easy and fast wealth is always dangled before people's eyes. Lotteries are organized by governments, bookmakers flourish in business and pools are offered to the young and old. They all offer the same prize of that elusive million. People buy their lottery tickets, send their pools coupons and frequent gambling shops all the time, thinking that they may hit the jackpot and land the prize which will ensure their permanent future happiness. Compare this to the happy and serene attitude of a believer. He knows that all the millions of the world cannot buy the happiness that he actually feels as a result of believing in God and trusting all his affairs to Him. In this connection, I have the following example to give. Toward the end of the Prophet's blessed life, delegations from all over Arabia visited Madinah to declare their belief in Islam and loyalty to the Prophet. One of these delegations represented the clan of Tujeeb, a branch of the Sakoon tribe which was in turn, a branch of Kindah, the predominant tribe in Yemen. In the delegation there was a young man who was left behind to guard their camels and luggage. When they had finished their business and wanted to leave Madinah, the Prophet asked them to send him over. When this young man came to the Prophet, he said: "Messenger of God, will you please grant my request." When the Prophet asked him what he wanted, the man said: "My request is unlike those of my friends, although they have come to you keen to be good Muslims and have brought their zakah with them. I, however, have come from my homeland only to request you to pray God, the Almighty, for me, to forgive me and have mercy on me and to make me rich at heart." The Prophet was pleased with the young man and turned to him attentively and prayed, "My Lord, forgive him and have mercy on him and make him rich at heart. He also ordered that the young man be given a gift similar to the gifts his fellow delegates received. He then left with his people. The same people met the Prophet a year later in Mina when he did his pilgrimage. They introduced themselves to him. The Prophet immediately asked them, "What has become of the boy who came to me with you?" They said: "Messenger of God, we have never seen anyone like him. Indeed, we have not been told of anyone who is more content than this boy with what God gives him. Should any group of people have the whole world at their disposal and divide it between them, he would not turn his face toward them." The Prophet said: "Praise be to God. I hope that he will die altogether." Amazed at this prayer by the Prophet, one of them said: "Messenger of God, does not everyone of us die altogether? The Prophet said: A person's concerns, desires and preoccupation wander about in all the values of his life. His time of death may come when he is in any one of these values. God, infinite as He is in His glory, does not care in which of them he perishes." That young man was a person who had the insight to discover that the riches of this world count for little. He hoped for what is certainly greater than this world. That is, to be content with whatever he has and to look to the hereafter, where those who are saved enjoy happiness which cannot be compared with anything in this world. In short, he had to be rich at heart. Since the Prophet prayed for him to be granted his desire, God answered that prayer and the man was a model of a person who cared nothing for the riches of this world. [It is reported that] some of his people remarked: "That boy continued to live among us as one of the best people. He was the most content of people and he cared nothing for any luxury of this world. When God's messenger passed away, certain groups of the people of Yemen deserted the faith of Islam and reverted to their erring ways. He addressed his people, reminding them of God and His faith, so that none of them reverted to unbelief." Abu Bakr, the first ruler of the Muslim state after the Prophet, remembered him. He kept inquiring about him until he learned of what he did. Abu Bakr wrote to his Governor of Yemen, Ziyad ibn Labeed, recommending the young man and instructing him to look after him. That was the case of a man whose name has been forgotten. It seems that one aspect of the richness at heart God has given this man is the fact that he is not mentioned by name. What he did is well recorded, because his actions serve as an example for all generations of Muslims. Fame is one aspect of the richness of this world. The man wanted nothing of that richness, hence his name is forgotten. When God answers, it is in the most perfect manner. Rich at heart the man certainly was. I have dwelt at length on the case of this person because it gives a practical example of the attitude to life based on faith. This life of ours may be full of pleasure or full of misery, but it is only a passing stage. The Prophet compares it to a moment a traveler in the desert spends underneath a tree where he refreshes himself before he commences his travel. He may stay for a few moments, or a few hours but compared to his journey, that is a short stay that counts for little. But this life of ours is a test. No matter what situation we are in, we are subject to this test which could be the test of poverty, or affluence or a mixture of both. What we have to prove is that we believe in God and trust Him completely. That belief should be translated into action so that what we do in life is governed by the values and standards acceptable to God. Such values are sufficient to make us fully aware that our worldly concerns are of little value in God's sight. When we do well in life we ensure our happiness in the life to come. When we realize that this future life is everlasting and our present life is only momentary in comparison, we realize that rich or poor, happy or miserable as we may be in this world, what really counts is what future we have in the life to come. My reader is worried that so many of our kind are going to suffer in the hereafter. What makes them suffer forever or makes them happy is their work. God administers absolute justice to all His servants. It is their actions which determine their future. If they do not care about the life to come, why should we worry too much about that? It is the choice they make, knowing they will bear its consequences.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )