Monday, June 7, 2010

The creation plan : why we are not perfect society or world

To see that why despite the fact that we human beings are smart still we are not living in a perfect harmonized society. Why every society is not possible to develop a civilized society to answer this first let us have a look at the Creation plan of God.

The famous historian, Edward Gibbon, observed: “Human history is little more than a register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.” Other historians have also arrived at similar conclusions, for the ideal existence envisioned by philosophers is nowhere reflected in human societies. Orientalists who have made an in-depth study of human history have remarked that, as regards the human failure to achieve the ideal society, Islamic history is no great exception.

Orientalists hold that, although the history of the first phase of Islam known as the golden age – no doubt presents a better picture than that of other periods, it too fails to measure up to the ideal. During the life of the prophet, owing to the antagonistic activities of the hypocrites internally and the jews and idolators externally, Madinah, the city of the Prophet, could never in any significant sense be converted into an area of peace. After the prophet’s demise, and shortly after the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, had been appointed to be the leader of the Muslims, most of the Arab tribes revolted. It was only when force was used that they were prevailed upon to re-enter the Islamic fold.

Subsequently, in almost every period, unfavourable developments repeatedly proved to be hindrances to the formation of the ideal society. During the times of Umar, the second Caliph, a secret lobby in Madinah, working towards the extirpation of Islam, finally succeeded in having the Caliph assassinated. Afterwards the age of open opposition set in. The third Caliph likewise, was publicly murdered. The reign of Ali, the fourth Caliph, was marked by civil war in which thousands of precious lives were lost and the Caliph himself was martyred.

Given the state of affairs, thinkers and philosophers have always expressed pessimistic views about human history, holding it to be an ongoing tragedy: events have shown that, in this world, the building of the ideal human society is well nigh impossible.

The reason for this pessimistic view of history does not lie in history itself, but in our flawed approach to the subject. Our criterion to study history is not the correct one, for it has been formulated by human beings. The only valid criterion, in the light of which we should study human history, is that laid down by our Creator. The right way to understand this matter is, therefore, to discover the creation plan of the creator and then attempt to study history within its framework.

From a study of the Quran, we learn that for a proper understanding of human society the central idea is not society, but it has human freedom. Man has been granted full freedom of speech and action in his life the reason being that he has been placed in this world by the Almighty for the purpose of being tested. As a prerequisite for this test, man is at liberty to deny God, to kill prophets and to oppose the da’is (messengers) of truth. Given such a state of affairs, human freedom would have to be withdrawn altogether in order to bring an ideal society into existence. And God, in accordance with His plan of creation, would never under any circumstances abrogate human freedom. The Particular nature of human existence on earth has been thus explained in the Quran:

We offered Our trust to the heavens, to the truth and to the mountains,but they refused to accept the burden. Man undertook to bear it, but he has proved foolish and unjust. God will surely punish the hypocrites, men and women, and the unbelievers, both men and women; but God pardons believing men and believing women. God is forgiving and Merciful. (33:72-73).

Trust in the above verses refers to the freedom of choice with which man has been entrusted. The earth and the heavens have neither such freedom nor any will-power of their own. They are compelled to adhere to the laws of nature laid down by God for all eternity. But man has no such compulsion. He is totally free in word and deed.

From other verses in the Quran, we learn that, according to the Creation plan of God, what is of actual importance in this world is the building not of an ideal society but of ideal individuals (67:2). The ideal society will, therefore, come into existence not in this world, but in the world Hereafter- referred to in Quran as Darus Salam (the home of peace). The actual obstacle to the building of the ideal society in this world is the presence everywhere of rebellious and insolent people. In the heavenly society of the Hereafter, all such evil doers will be separated from good people; the heavenly society will then be comprised only of virtous souls. Only in heaven then will it be possible to create an ideal society.

The error in the thinking of secular philosophers derives form their desire to construct in this present world the ideal society- the society which, according to god’s scheme of things, is going to become a reality only in the world of the hereafter. The most formidable obstacle to the emergence of an ideal society is human freedom, but thanks to the exigencies of God’s trial of humanity, human freedom is not going to be taken away. The ideal society will thus remain a distant dream.

According to the Quran the truth has been fully set forth in this world. Now it is up to man to put his faith in it or to deny it (18:29). At another point the Quran says:

It rests with God to show the right path. Some turn aside from it, but had he pleased, He would have given right guidance to you all. (16:9).

The Quran further observes; Had your Lord pleased, He would have made mankind a single nation. But only those to whom He has shown mercy will cease to differ. To this end He has created them. The world of your Lord shall be fulfilled: “I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together” (11:118-119).

This freedom granted to man by his Creator is the reason why a society with uniformity in all its aspects could never be produced n human history. If in a society there are virtuous people, there are wicked people as well. The unworthy have never ceased to create disturbance, even the societies founded by the prophet are no exception. That is why despite the existence of good individuals in this world, a good society could never become a possibility.

However, this is not a matter of evil, or even of deficiency. The truth is that the recurrence of disturbance and dissension in society is essential to the realization of the Creation Plan itself, for good people of the highest calibre are produced in unfavourable rather than in favourable situations.

We learn fro the Quran that man was born to an existence fraught with toil and strife (90:4). The Quran, addressing the human race, has this to say: “Go hence, and may your descendants be enemies to each other” (7:24). In this world, man has no choice but to lead a life which is marred by trial and tribulation, opposition and enmity till the coming of Doomsday.

This human condition has not come about by accident. This is exactly in accordance with the divine scheme of things. God has created this world in order to select those individuals who are capable of inhabiting heaven. Those worthy inhabitants of paradise are invariably produced under abnormal rather than normal circumstances. Human beings should therefore will continue to face unfavourable circumstances in order that desirable people will go on being produced for such selection.

The Quran states: Do men think that once they say: ‘we are believers, they will be left alone and not be tried? We tested those who have gone before them. God knows those who are truthful and those who are lying (29:1-3). In a similar vein the Quran says: Did you suppose that you would go to Paradise untouched by the suffering which was endured by those before you? Affliction and adversity befell them; and so battered were they that each apostle, and those who shared his faith, cried out: ‘when will the help of God come?’ His help is ever near (2:214).

There is another verse to this effect: Did you suppose that you would enter Paradise before God has known the men who fought hard and the steadfast? (3:142). Yet again the Quran addresses Muslims in these words: did you imagine that you would be abandoned before God has time to know those of you who have fought valiantly and served non but Him and His Apostle and the faithful? God is cognizant of all you actions (9:14).

The truth is in this world what is desirable to God is not the Ideal Society but the Ideal man. And as we learn from the Quran, such an individual is produced in conditions of ‘severe affliction’ (33:11) and not in normal, peaceful circumstances.

God looks with favour upon those human beings who, finding themselves in the midst of a jungle of theories and ideologies, are able to discern the truth and then to preserve in their adherence to it. He gives His approval to those human beings whose faith remains unshaken even in the face of severe problems and dire adversity, whose hearts, even when they are subjected to all manner of persecution, are untainted by negative sentiments; who when threatened with calamity, do not lose heart, who even when faced with such untoward events as are likely to divert them from the Straight path, remain staunch in their faith in God; who feel the great tumult of the awakening of spirituality in their hearts, bringing them closer to God.

The man most desirable to God is one worthy of inhabiting the refined and ideal world of Paradise. Such a person, the rarest of rare phenomena, is greater than all that is great in the Universe. Such a human being takes a new birth. He is born, not in peaceful circumstances but in great strife and turmoil. He faces darkness in this world, so that he may life in the eternal light of the hereafter. He treads a thorny path in this life, so that he may enjoy a flower filled environment in the afterlife. Here he suffers loss, so that he may be blessed with the joys of recovery in the hereafter. He patiently bears the deprivation of the pleasures and comforts of this world, so that he may be entitled to a place in the eternal Paradise of heavenly bliss.

Such a precious soul can not come into being in a vacuum. Nor can he develop in the normal atmosphere of society – no matter how closely approaching the ideal that society may be. It is only in the jungle of adversity that such a soul can emerge; there is no other possible breeding ground.
What philosophers describe as social evil is a training ground devised by the Creator to produce human beings of great moral and spiritual character. That is why, in every period of human history, mankind has been faced wit all manner of conflict and dissension. The true believers, the virtuous and in particular, the prophets, have invariably found themselves in unpropitious situations. There is a hadith to this effect: ‘ when God loves a people, He puts them to the test.’

Unfavourable circumstances are not peculiar to non-Muslim societies, in one way or another, they have always been a part of Muslim societies too. In ancient times, the prophets were born among idolaters and deniers and were subjected to severe persecution by their contemporaries. We learn from the Quran that the Prophet Moses was likewise threatened with mental torture and physical agony, even although he had been sent to the people of the Book, that is to the Jews (3:69)

The Prophet Mohammad established a properly organised state in Arabia, later known as the Khilafat-e-Rashida and ruled successively by the four rightly guided Caliphs. But even during this ideal period of Islam, the state continued to suffer from a variety of severe problems. Indeed, there is no period of the Islamic State which can be pinpointed as one in which Muslims led their lives in a state of perfect peace and normalcy.

This is not due to any deficiency in the Islamic state, but rather to the exigencies of the “training course” estbablished by God Himself for the moral discipline of human beings. As mentioned above, it is not part of God’s plan that an ideal society should be formed in this world in which people will lead peaceful lives. According to God’s scheme of things, what is of actual importance is the preparation and formation of individuals. This unavoidably takes place in an atmosphere, not of peace and tranquillity, but of turbulence.

In the present world, neither at the national or communal level, do we possess the moral and physical a resource which are essential to the construction of a high standard society. However, we do have the means to build the ideal character in individuals, and this is an ongoing reality- as a requirement of God’s Creation plan, which is concerned not with the building of the heavenly individual who is fit to dwell in the ideal society of paradise.

Looked at in terms of the ideal society, the history of Islam would appear to have its darker, negative side. But if seen in terms of the development of individuals, this same history would appear to have a very positive, bright side. The ideal society or the ideal state may not have come into being but, through out Islamic history, there has never been any dearth of individuals of great moral and spiritual calibre. Indeed, the annals of history may have little to show in terms of ideal societies, but their pages have been made resplendent with the thoughts, words and deeds of ideal individuals.

In a hadith the Prophet Muhammad observed: my generation is the best one , then the second generation and then the third generation. (Sahih Muslim, 8/550)
This means that Islamic virtue was at its peak in the first generation , and there was a decline in righteousness through the second and the third generations. This stage is known in the history of Islam as the period of the Prophet’s companions and the period of Prophet’s companion’s companions.

There is nothing mysterious about it. Degeneration, a law of nature which applies to every group, set in after the first generation itself.