THE BEAUTIES OF THIS WORLD ARE IMPERFECT AND FLAWED


This world is dream-like. In the same way that the taste and feeling of satisfaction imparted by the apple one eats in a dream are nothing compared to those of the apple one eats when one is awake, so the pleasure one receives from this world's actions is a poor man's version of its equivalent in the Hereafter. In the Qur'an, Allah warns people against the deceptive nature of the life of this world:


... Allah's promise is true. So do not let the life of this world delude you and do not let the Deluder delude you concerning Allah. (Surah Luqman, 33)


Allah created man from clay and breathed His own soul into him; in other words, He created man from "nothing." Allah knows all of the characteristics of human beings and He is fully aware of their earthly desires. He knows of their weaknesses, wishes, the things they enjoy or need, their doubts and fears, in short everything, better than they do themselves. Allah reveals how close He is to us in another verse:
We created man and We know what his own self whispers to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. (Surah Qaf, 16)


Human beings always feel a deep longing for perfection in their souls. As a requirement of the testing they undergo, Allah, Who knows all their desires and passions, has created the life of this world with flaws and imperfections alongside its countless blessings. People, if they wish to be spiritually successful, must strive to overcome these imperfections and rid themselves of flaws in order to pass the test erected in front of them by the Lord. However, one must always bear in mind the fact that it is still impossible for them to achieve the desired level of perfection. Allah has made this perfection unique to Paradise and to those of His servants deserving of bliss.


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In the life of this world, a struggle with a great many more imperfections is necessary just in order to survive; human beings, without exception, need to eat every day, sleep, protect themselves from illness, wash and take care of themselves. In exactly the same way, they need to use their reason and conscience at all times in order to protect themselves from the evils of earthly desires and to exhibit proper moral values.


As revealed in the Qur'an, "He is Allah-the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and Earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise." (Surat al-Hashr, 24), Allah's creation is flawless. Our Lord has the power to accomplish all and to create everything He so desires. Yet He encourages human beings to think by creating flaws and imperfections in the life of this world.


When considered in its components and compared to the perfection of the life of Paradise, the wisdom in the imperfections in the life of this world can be more easily comprehended. To give an example, no matter what, an individual can go no longer than two or three days-if that-without sleeping.

There then follows a gradual loss of consciousness and that person loses all touch with reality. Similarly, a person who goes several days without washing becomes dirty and will feel an immense physical discomfort. A person also needs to feed and look after him or herself on a regular basis in order to survive. Falling ill is another serious imperfection. That is because human beings are so helpless that even a germ or virus, so small as to be invisible to the naked eye, can result in sickness and oblige the individual to do nothing but rest for weeks on end. In such an event, the person becomes weak and takes little pleasure from most things. The individual concerned will no doubt become highly dependant on the help and care of other people.
On account of His infinite compassion, our Lord has also created the means by which people can overcome the imperfections they encounter in the life of this world; foodstuffs which confer strength and power, materials which can be used for cleaning and bodily maintenance, and medicines capable of curing illness are all manifestations of Allah's compassion for and protection of His creatures.


Alongside such physical imperfections in the life of this world, there are also spiritual ones: the way a person's heart may be troubled, and feeling of doubt or fear are examples of this. Moreover, earthly passions are never satisfied for long; an activity embarked on with enormous enthusiasm soon becomes wearisome. These are all just some of the imperfections specially created by Allah in this world.


However, let us also note that although the spiritual difficulties in the life of this world turn into great suffering for those without faith, believers live far distant from them. Human beings are created with a great many negative features in their desires; yet faith and a fear of Allah will shelter them from these evils and the weaknesses of their own passions, their own worldliness. Binding oneself to Allah with sincere faith and submission prevents a person from suffering such spiritual troubles as fatigue, despair and sorrow. On the other hand, the above-mentioned spiritual difficulties result in horrible crises for non-believers.


With all these flaws and imperfections He has created, Allah reveals to us the false face of this world which He has created solely to test us in our faith. The individual thus longs for a life in which there is no imperfection, in which everything is flawless and complete-for Paradise. In Paradise, people will live forever with no troubles of any kind, never becoming weary and never become bored of that which they are given by Allah. As He reveals in the Qur'an:


They will say, "Praise be to Allah Who has removed all sadness from us. Truly our Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Thankful: He Who has lodged us, out of His favor, in the Abode of Permanence where no weariness or fatigue affects us." (Surat al-Fatir, 34-35)


In another verse, Allah has revealed that in Paradise believers will find everything their hearts desire:


The angels descend on those who say, "Our Lord is Allah," and then go straight: "Do not fear and do not grieve but rejoice in the Garden you have been promised. We are your protectors in the life of this world and the Hereafter. You will have there all that your selves could wish for. You will have there everything you demand." (Surah Fussilat, 30-31)


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Since unbelievers do not believe in the existence of the Hereafter, they vainly try to fulfill this aspect of their desires from the life of this world. They wrongly think that the more blessings of this world they can acquire, the happier they will be. Therefore, as revealed in the verse, "Leave the person I created on his own to Me alone, him to whom I have given great wealth, and sons who stay with him, and whose way I have smoothed. Then he wants Me to add yet more!" (Surat al-Muddaththir, 11-15), they chase after the offerings of this world with great passion and cupidity.


However, the fact is that no number of material items will bring a person the happiness he or she seeks. That is because the emptiness in the hearts of unbelievers which they seek to fill with material values actually stem from the fact that they lead their lives far distant from Allah. Allah has created human beings in such a way that they can only find peace by remembering Him. Someone who fails to remember Allah wastes his or her life. Such people erroneously imagine that goods, property, rank or fame guarantee great happiness.


Only in the Hereafter will they realize the ultimate hollowness of the efforts they expended in this world. In return for their rejection of Allah in this world, they will encounter bitter suffering in the next. This is such a horrendous torment that they will happily give up all that was dear to them in this world to be freed from it: their families, their friends, the goods they were so deeply attached to and which they sought to add to by working day and night. Allah has revealed the situation of the unbelievers in the Hereafter:


If every self that did wrong possessed everything on Earth, it would offer it as a ransom. They will show remorse when they see the punishment.

Everything will be decided between them justly. They will not be wronged. (Surah Yunus, 54)


If those who did wrong owned everything on Earth, and the same again with it, they would offer it as a ransom to save themselves from the evil of the punishment on the Day of Resurrection. What confronts them from Allah will be something they did not reckon with. (Surat az-Zumar, 47)


... [T]hey can see each other. An evildoer will wish he could ransom himself from the punishment of that Day, by means of his sons, or his wife or his brother or his family who sheltered him or everyone else on Earth, if that only meant that he could save himself. But no! It is a Raging Blaze... (Surat Al-Ma'arij, 11-15)


It is those who have faith and who live for the good pleasure of Allah who will be saved both from the troubles of this world and the eternal suffering in the Afterlife. In the Qur'an, Allah gives those who demonstrate that morality the news of a pleasing life in both this world and the next:


Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Surat an-Nahl, 97)


The great Islamic scholar Abdul-Qadir Gilani has also reminded people not to be led astray by the distractions of this world but to work to gain our Lord's approval and the Afterlife, and that in the event he has exhibited such moral values, a person will find the most auspicious of everything in the Hereafter:


Let not your main endeavors be such simple things as eating, drinking, dressing up and getting married. (That is because these are not ends in themselves, but means to achieve ends. Do not confuse the means with the ends.) Where is the endeavor of the heart and the secret? That is what one must know and find. Have no doubt but that this is nothing other than a desire for Allah. This must be your labor and your most important concern. In that event let your most sincere and serious endeavor be the Lord and the things in His sight…


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The Hereafter is the opposite of this world. The Creator is the opposite of the people. Know how to turn from this world to the Hereafter, from people to the Creator…


Everything you abandon in this world you will find in a more auspicious form in the Hereafter. Be as ready as if you had but one more day to live…" (Abdul-Qadir Gilani, Gonul Incileri Ikazlar (Warnings of the Pearls of the Heart), translated into Turkish by Celal Yildirim, Bahar Yayinlari, pp. 27-29)


PASSION AND DESIRE ARE OBSTACLES TO HAPPINESS


Allah reveals in the Qur'an that people's earthly desires contain two distinct elements. One of these is the "conscience," which commands what is good and prohibits what is evil; the other is fujoor, which commands what is evil. The word fujoor means engaging in sin and rebellion: telling lies, turning one's back on what is right, disobeying just laws, moral collapse and that which is an affront to godliness. In other words, the concept referred to here as fujoor includes all the negative features of the human ego. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals that He has inspired both fujoor and conscience, which impels human beings to avoid the former:


And [I swear by] the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with fujoor [depravity] or taqwa [sense of duty], he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams, 7-10)


The second important feature of immoral desires drawn attention to in the Qur'an is "passion" and "greed." Someone who contents himself with the life of this world and fails to consider the Hereafter is devoted to all he possesses with "passion" and "greed." He or she starts to live as if death and the Afterlife were far away. In fact, in societies which live far removed from the moral values of the Qur'an, peoples' passions are praised and honored. The more people are attached to the life of this world and the more efforts they make to attain its benefits, the more they are esteemed by others who share the same twisted mindset. Yet this is a grave error. Of course, a person must strive to have a pleasant life and must always seek to do his or her best. Yet that determination and will must be directed at the kind of life approved of by Allah. Otherwise it would be a terrible mistake, in forgetting our Lord, Who gives them all they possess, for people to be caught up in worldly desires and to live a life far removed from the moral values of the Qur'an.


Attention is drawn to unbelievers' passionate attachment to the things of this world in the verse, "And you have an insatiable love of wealth" (Surat al-Fajr, 20). In another verse, "The enjoyment of this world is very brief. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil" (Surat an-Nisa', 77), Allah reminds us that the blessings people are so passionately fond of are the enjoyment of the life of this world. The word "enjoyment" in this context means worthless things, ultimately condemned to vanish. The blessings of this world which people so greedily desire are false and worthless compared to those of the Hereafter.


THOSE DECEIVED BY THE FALSE WORLD ARE ALWAYS TROUBLED


Every event people experience throughout their lives, every word they speak, every image they see: they are all created by Allah, the Lord of the Universe. Knowing this and living by the comfort this knowledge inspires is one of the greatest joys of life and faith. People who are aware of Allah's dominion over the entire universe, who know that He will always create what is best and most auspicious, behave in a submissive and accepting way. Their hearts are therefore always at ease. They know that Allah creates everything in the light of a specific destiny, with goodness and wisdom, and act in all they do with the confidence this knowledge brings with it. This submissive attitude of believers is revealed in another verse:


Say: "Nothing can happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Master. It is in Allah that the believers should put their trust." (Surat at-Tawba, 51)


No matter what may befall them, believers, who know that everything is under the control of Allah, never fall into despair in the face of any trouble or difficulty. They always try to see the positive aspect of everything.

Everything a person will think or say throughout his or her life is set out down in the minutest detail by Allah before he or she is even born. The individual encounters these events set out for him or her when the time is right. Since believers know that everything in their destiny has been created in such a way as to have an auspicious conclusion, they are always submissive to that destiny and feel secure and at ease. In the Qur'an, Allah has revealed:


Nothing occurs, either in the Earth or in yourselves, without its being in a Book before We make it happen. That is something easy for Allah. That is so that you will not be grieved about the things that pass you by or exult about the things that come to you. Allah does not love any vain or boastful man. (Surat al-Hadid, 22-23)


Those who are unable to comprehend these truths wrong themselves by being taken in by the enjoyment of this world. Since they make the mistake of thinking that events take place independently of Allah, they seek means of intervening in them. The way that events may appear to be going "badly" or "against them" is a source of constant sorrow and inescapable discontent for such people. On account of these erroneous beliefs, they are constantly stressed out; they lie awake at the slightest trouble, their nerves suffer and they undergo physical and spiritual harm. They resort to various means to rid themselves of these difficulties; they may seek relief by taking part in amusements of various sorts or by not thinking at all. Yet, it is impossible for such measures to bring them true peace and happiness. That is because, as revealed by Allah in the verse, "Those who believe and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah. Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace" (Surat ar-Ra'd, 28). A person can only find peace by turning to Allah, submitting to our Lord and living by the moral values He ordains.


Although Allah has shown people the way to free themselves from dissatisfaction and to experience true happiness, those who deliberately turn their backs on this merely "wrong themselves." Allah reveals the situation of such people in another verse:


Allah does not wrong people in any way; rather it is people who wrong themselves. (Surah Yunus, 44)


In the same way that unbelievers who look for comfort and peace-to escape the stress and problems they suffer and to restore their good spirits-fail to find what they seek in this world, they also suffer a loss in the Hereafter which cannot be revoked. As they turn from the path of Allah, the things such people seek are described in the Qur'an as serving no other purpose than "increasing their ruin" in the Afterlife:


We did not wrong them; rather they wronged themselves. The deities they called upon besides Allah did not help them at all when Allah's command came upon them. They did nothing but increase their ruin. (Surah Hud, 101)


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It must not be forgotten that in many verses of the Qur'an, Allah has revealed that He forgives people and accepts their repentance. A person may make many mistakes until finally becoming aware of these truths. Yet the important thing is to understand that he or she is on the wrong path, repent and attempt to live by the moral values ordained by our Lord. It is revealed in the Qur'an, in an address to his people by Prophet Salih (as), what they needed to do to attain the good pleasure of Allah:


To Thamud We sent their brother Salih. He said: "My people, worship Allah! You have no deity apart from Him. He brought you into being from the earth and made you its inhabitants. So ask His forgiveness and then repent to Him. My Lord is close and quick to respond." (Surah Hud, 61)


Our Lord also reveals, in another verse, that He will respond immediately to any prayer:


If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Surat al-Baqara, 186)


UNBELIEVERS: THEY WEARY THEMSELVES AND LABOR IN VAIN


Nearly all people try to succeed in something in the life of this world. No matter how different the areas they interest themselves in may be, human beings all have one common aim: to be recompensed for their efforts and labors. Those who ignore the Hereafter believe that being rewarded for their labor in this world is worth all the problems involved.


However, the fact is that these people are ignoring one very important factor: the approval of Allah. What actually makes an action and its outcome valuable is Allah's approval of that individual and the action partaken in. Any effort expended or success achieved in an activity undertaken without aiming at His approval is only temporary, just like the life of this world. For that reason, Allah has described the efforts expended by unbelievers and such things as they do as "mirage." When these people proceed to the Afterlife they will see-unless Allah in His Mercy wishes otherwise-that all their labors and the efforts they took such joy in are all empty:


But the actions of those who do not believe are like a mirage in the desert. A thirsty man thinks it is water but when he reaches it, he finds it to be nothing at all, but he finds Allah there. He will pay him his account in full. Allah is swift at reckoning. (Surat an-Nur, 39)


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As we have seen, unless a person acts bearing the approval of Allah in mind, even if he does the most important thing in the world, this may still be of no worth in the Lord's sight. So long as a person fails to act in conformity with the approval of Allah, the esteem felt for him or her by all those around or his or her recognition as a performer of good deeds cannot prevent those actions proving empty. This is how Allah describes in the Qur'an the position in the Hereafter of those who imagine that they are doing good deeds:


People whose efforts in the life of this world are misguided while they suppose that they are doing good. (Surat al-Kahf, 104)


After death, the misguided soul will come to realize that all that he chased after with such enthusiasm is ultimately worthless in comparison to the blessings of the Hereafter. This will be a cause of immeasurable and eternal disappointment. Learning that a lifetime's efforts have all been for naught will make a general regret become an eternal regret. Allah describes the position of such people in the Hereafter in the following terms:


But such people will have nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. What they achieved here will come to nothing. What they did will prove to be null and void. (Surah Hud, 16)


There can be no doubt that nobody will wish their lifetime's endeavors come to nothing. The solution therefore is to strive not for a transitory world but for the true, eternal life of the Hereafter. If a person aims at attaining the approval of Allah in all that he or she does and expends all his or her endeavors in order to live by the moral values ordained by our Lord, then he or she may hope for full recompense for even the slightest good deed. In one verse Allah reveals the advice given by Prophet Luqman (as) to his son:
[Luqman said:] "My son, even if something weighs as little as a mustard-seed and is inside a rock or anywhere else in the heavens or Earth, Allah will bring it out. Allah is All-Pervading, All-Aware." (Surah Luqman, 16)
In another verse He reveals that He will increase from His favor to the right actions performed by believers:


As for those who believe and do right actions, He will pay them their wages in full and will give them increase from His favor. As for those who show disdain and grow arrogant, He will punish them with a painful punishment. They will not find any protector or helper for themselves besides Allah. (Surat an-Nisa', 173)


What a person on the wrong path therefore needs to do is to repent before it is too late and to turn to our Lord:


Respond to your Lord before a Day comes from Allah which cannot be turned back. On that Day you will have no hiding-place and no means of denial. (Surat ash-Shura, 47)


ALLAH PUNISHES THE UNBELIEVERS, BOTH IN THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT


By Allah's will, people caught up in the false face of the world are not just recompensed for their errors in the Hereafter but during the life of this world also. Even the wealthiest or seemingly most knowledgeable person in the world will generally find no happiness in these attributes if he or she fails to live by the moral values of the Qur'an. On account of their denial, Allah fills the hearts of such people with unease, spiritual discomfort and restlessness. Although they live surrounded by blessings which appeal to their earthly desires they still take no real pleasure in them. No matter how happy and content they may appear, this is generally deceptive.


The unease experienced by unbelievers spreads into every area of their lives. Their failure to appreciate the might of Allah, to think about destiny and look on events with a positive eye, and to exhibit proper moral values all guarantee trouble for them. Moreover, since they are unable to understand how the moral values of the Qur'an offer the individual a perfect and peaceful life, they imagine that everyone in the world suffers just the same troubles as they do. Yet those troubles in fact stem entirely from their own imperfections. Allah has revealed in the Qur'an that on account of their denial, there is suffering for those who turn aside from the true path, in this world and the next:


... Anyone misguided by Allah has no guide. They will receive punishment in the life of this world and the punishment of the Hereafter is harsher still. They have no defender against Allah. (Surat ar-Ra'd, 33-34)


When we examine various aspects of the lives of unbelievers, the unhappiness which encompasses such people is clear to see. We can see how all-encompassing and influential this trouble is. Some peoples' greatest dream from childhood is to make a lot of money, become rich and spend that money howsoever they choose. This is so important to them that they will make any sacrifice to achieve that end. When their student years come to an end and they begin to find themselves undertaking serious responsibilities, they imagine that they are now in a position to deal with the difficulties life may confront them with.


Since they fail to consider that it is Allah Who gives human beings their daily bread and Who grants blessings and takes them away as He wishes, they wear themselves out in order to achieve such transitory benefits as wealth or position. They are essentially defeated by their own worldview. Much of the time, they are forced to give up things they love as they strive for this end which they believe will bring happiness and contentment. They may eventually attain the enjoyment of this world at the end of this chase for glory, through so much difficulty and trouble. Yet the outcome is again no different. In addition to all the trouble they experience in attaining their desires, they also begin to feel uneasy out of a fear of losing them. They have no idea how to be happy with what they have and make do with those blessings in their possession. They constantly complain about the situation they are in and lament over the things they do not possess. Even the sight of someone wealthier, more cultured, more talented or apparently better looking than themselves is sufficient to undermine their morale.


They make great efforts not to allow their state of mind to show. They seek distraction and amusement and to free their souls from trouble in a variety of activities. They may indeed sometimes achieve happiness on a temporary and superficial level. At such times, they are happy on the surface; yet this is not a permanent happiness. They feel massive doubt and fear yet they are so careful not to show this to the world. Indeed, even if they forget their woes for a time, they can at any moment fall victim once again to despair, pessimism and sorrow because they do not submit themselves to Allah. When a jovial businessman suddenly remembers his debts; or a student regrets his poor marks; or the elderly look back on their lost youth; or the bereaved recall happy times they spent with their deceased friends-these thoughts can give rise to sorrow and numbness. And it is similarly sobering for any of them when they realize that death, the inevitable end, is approaching.


Whether these people are rich or poor, old or young, attractive or ugly makes no difference. Someone obliged to labor under difficult conditions from morning to night is in exactly the same position as another person who enjoys total well-being and has no need to assume any responsibilities at all. They constantly experience the difficulty of being unable to enjoy true interest, concern, love and affection from those around them. Since they imagine that the tasks they perform regularly every day and the responsibilities they bear will never come to an end, they feel a great weariness in their bodies, minds and hearts. They are indeed aware of how monotonous and meaningless their lives are and their inability to find a solution is a cause of major restlessness.


So long as they fail to believe in Allah, people in that position can never escape their doubts and troubles. They unequivocally fail to seek shelter in Allah. They do not abide by the road He has set out. They seek to adapt themselves to the lives they lead and regard troubles and difficulties as normal parts of life.


In truth, Allah is punishing the unbelievers for their deeds with all these troubles they experience while they are still alive. Since they ignore the life of the Hereafter, their true life, and turn to the false things of this world, the sufferings of this world are never-ending for them.


As revealed in the Qur'an: "So Allah made them taste disgrace in the life of this world and the punishment of the Hereafter is far worse if they only knew." (Surat az-Zumar, 26)


Even greater suffering awaits them in the Afterlife. They will realize the truth of the Hereafter but having ignored it in this world, it will be of no use to them whatsoever. They will be recompensed with the curse and torment of Allah for their deeds:


The Companions of the Garden will call out to the Companions of the Fire: "We have found that what our Lord promised us is true. Have you found that what your Lord promised you is true?" They will say: "Yes, we have!" Between them a herald will proclaim: "May the curse of Allah be on the wrongdoers, those who bar access to the way of Allah, seeking in it something crooked, and reject the Hereafter." (Surat al-A'raf, 44-45)