BY MEHWISH SHAKEEL
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornement and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children like the example of a ran whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.” -Qur’an, Surah Al-Hadid (57:20)
Each beginning has an end. This is an essential characteristic of everything around us, whether it is a flower in our backyard, a brand new car, the newest phone on the market, even our very own existence in this world. A seed blossoming into a flower soon becomes fodder for soil, a once brand new car is taken to the junkyard, and a loved one is buried six feet under the ground; everything starts fresh, fulfills its purpose for a given time, and ultimately turns into something that no longer has use. In this new “age of change,” we are constantly faced with drastic transformations; whether it’s the latest version of the iPhone, the newest tablet on the market, or even the way we interact with one another through the use of social media.
This continued temporality compels one to keep chasing after “the next big thing,” not only leaving us dissatisfied with our current state but obscuring our real purpose in life. In the midst of such changes, we are often left with a meaningless existence, one without thought, reflection, or intent-based action. Yet, God reminds us that essentially this life is but an amusement, an “enjoyment of delusion.” As Muslims, we are reminded that our primary purpose in this world is to worship God and seek His pleasure in everything we do. This understanding is meant to prevent one from ‘chasing’ after transient things and grounds an individual in what is actually important: Enjoining in good, living a life of meaning, and positively contributing to society.
Considering the transience of nature, we are reminded of the very grave fact that our life itself is momentary. Nothing remains constant but the next world, as God states, “And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval.” Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment, each individual will be judged based on how s/he spent the time in the world and for what purpose. Instead of clinging on to superficial desires and distractions, we are to utilize them to better achieve our true purpose in life. With this in mind, each and every one of us has the ability to surmount desires and internalize a greater purpose in life, one that compels us to take control of our minds and become productive, thoughtful individuals in society.
MEHWISH SHAKEEL is a third year International Studies major at the University of California, Irvine