And fear the Day when ye shall be brought back to Allah. Then shall every soul be paid what it earned, and none shall be dealt with unjustly.
- Quran 2:281
In every individual’s life there comes a point when he needs to do a self-audit of his deeds and actions. Life is really short, and it is only when you are at peace with yourself and the world that you can find the tranquility needed to contemplate about God and evaluate your own life.
Every religion has the same common denominator: do your work sincerely, gracefully and gratefully. Our time-tested values of hard work, honesty, courage and fair play, humility, modesty, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism, sobriety and dignity are as relevant today as they were when during the early civilization.
There is one lesson from the Qur’an that has held me in good stead throughout my life. We are all fallible beings with finite intelligence and insights of limited prescience but if we hitch our wagon to our conscience – which for Muslims is shaped by the guidance of the Qur’an-divine help alights in every crisis.
There is nothing I have valued more than intellectual integrity, the right to dream my own dreams, to sing my own songs, to call my soul my own. There is no sin worse than sinning against the light – whatever your light might be. Whatever you call it—your light, or your conscience—it is the only beacon by which you can steer your ship through the rough and stormy sea of life. In my case the bark that has helped me sail through the turbulent sea of life is the Qur’an.
Through all my successes and failures, I have learned to rely more and more upon the one true thing in life – the voice that speaks in a tongue above that of mortal man. In one of the poems of the poet to whom I keep going back for guidance, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, there is an exhortation to a praying person that even though his prayers might not change his destiny, it can change his spiritual attitude by bringing him into touch with the Absolute Reality:
“Your prayer is that your destiny be changed
My prayer is that you yourself be changed”
One of the favourite vertices of my father was again Allama Iqbal’s:
“Be-khatar kood pada aatish-e-Namrood mein ishq
Aql abhi hai mahv-e-tamasha-e-lab-e-baam abhi”
(Love jumped fearlessly into the fire of Nimrood
The mind is still absorbed in contemplating the spectacle from the sidelines)
If one verse signifies the Prophet Abraham, it is this. The word Islam itself means submission [to the will of God] and nothing personifies it more than Abraham, the only Prophet to get the title of Khalilullah or Friend of Allah. It is t a reminder to the faithful, to submit to the will of Allah, and above all sacrifice our ego, pride and greed in the path of God and remain faithful.
We must keep examining what we are, what we offer and also where we went wrong. We must have the courage to acknowledge our mistakes and redeem ourselves through corrective action—or else we may be too late in life and we will have to suffer a deep wrench in our heart.
How do we develop a spiritual life? How do we change ourselves so that we can live by the universal spiritual values of Islam? Based on the teachings of classical scholars including Imam Ghazali , practitioners have distilled seven steps to spiritual intelligence that guide us how we can come closer to God : through genuine seeking of God, discipleship of a spiritual director, learning and understanding spiritual intelligence, simplicity and contentment, striving to practise, remembering God and praying to Him, and self-inspection and self-control.
With age comes wisdom. In the autumn of one’s life, one increasingly realizes that reason must prevail over emotions. People may give advice to the effect that positive thinking and nurturing big dreams can help us accomplish great tasks. But finally, one has to bow down before the altar of destiny and realize that one has to navigate one’s ambition within the realm of Divine will. Each of us has a moral compass that shows us the limits of our talents and abilities. That is a more authentic guide than the barometer of public advice. The words of the brave and courageous, Steve Jobs keep resonating in my daily world and provides me sustenance and courage in the face of the daily strife that we have to encounter in a world slowly growing insane:
"The Quran enjoins us to view the whole of nature as "signs for a people who hear" (1Q0:67; 16:65; 30:23), "signs for a people who reflect" (Q13:3; 30:21), and "signs for a people who understand" (Q2:164; 13:4; 16:12, 67; 30:24; 45:5).
Yet, in our rapacious approach to nature, we have failed to reflect and thus become like those of whom the Quran says, "they have hearts with which they understand not; they have eyes with which they see not; and they have ears with which they hear not" (Q7:179).
Unable to see, listen and understand, we have become like one of whom the Quran warns, "when he turns away [from God's signs], he endeavors to work corruption upon the earth, and to destroy tillage and offspring" (Q2:205).
We must heed the wisdom of the Qur’an. Think of the rewards awaiting you in the Hereafter. God says:”Whatever things you have been given for the life of this world are merely [temporary] gratification and vanity: that which is with Allah is better and more lasting– will you not use your reason?” (Q28:60)
I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe are your convictions. And the only way to do is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and invoking God’s mercy and guidance. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. “Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him…?” (Q 27:62)
The struggle between good and evil is a continuous war with victory and defeat taking place each moment. We are often torn between truth and falsehood, greed and generosity, happiness and regret. It is struggle between good and evil is as old as Adam and Eve. Their son Abel represents the forces of good, while the other son, Cain, represents evil. Both sought to worship God, and both were commanded by God to render a sacrifice. Under the influence of Satan, Cain, chose as his gift the worst, diseased sheep in his flock. Abel offered his best sheep to God. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while Cain’s was rejected.
”And convey unto them, setting forth the truth, the story of the two sons of Adam - how each offered a sacrifice, and it was accepted from one of them whereas it was not accepted from the other. [And Cain] said: "I will surely slay thee!" [Abel] replied: "Behold, God accepts only from those who are conscious of Him. “(Q5:27)
Cain became arrogant and his faith turned weak. Although he fulfilled God’s command of a sacrifice, his intention lacked purity of heart. Through his story we learn that merely performing outer acts of worship as required by religion, is simply not good enough.
In a society where fortune favors the strong, modesty is often seen as a weakness. Climbing to the top of a corporate ladder is our modern version of “survival of the fittest” -- and for that reason, meekness is often under-appreciated. But turns out, the secret to success and fulfillment may very well lie in the ability to express humility. The Prophet himself emphasized: “Every religion has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty “(Al-Muwatta Hadith 47.9)
It is in the autumn or the sunset of life that one realizes the true mission of one’s life .it is then that he starts counting the regrets for his errancy. He feels if he is given a new life he will organize it around the lessons he has learned .The wrench is too great I almost ever heart .But then there is no way he can make amends. The Sufi saint Bayazid says this about himself: “I was all revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was ‘Lord, give me the energy to change the world’.
As I approached middle age and realised that half of my life was gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me, just my family and friends and I shall be content.’ Now, that I am an old man and my days are numbered, my one prayer is, ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start I should not have wasted my life”.
With the wisdom I have gleaned from the books on my shelves, I keep mulling over the words of my favourite poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz as I continue deriving solace in a world driven by strife:
“My heart may have lost but it is not without hope
Long is the evening of sorrow but it is only an evening”
This hope comes from Qur’an’s famous commandment:
“And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of [labour's] fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity “(Q 2:155)
[Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker. He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades. He can be reached at email@example.com.]