Idealism has become something of an endangered species on our planet. Ideals have been replaced by idols, worshipped in every strata of society, from the lowest to the top. Wealth…, status…, power…. We as Muslims should know better, because the truth of the matter is, that all of these things are predestined by the divine providence, and all our endeavors to acquire aught of it must remain utterly futile, unless God has allotted it to us, and if HE has, it happened long before we knew about these things at all, before we came into this world. But despite of this, almost everyone is engaged in a maddening rat race in pursuit of them, looking up in awe-filled adoration, mixed with envy, to anyone who got more of it than themselves, and arrogantly despising everyone, who got less. Compassion, the all-enshrouding cloak of God that keeps the whole edifice of existence from falling apart scarcely finds a spot in the hearts of people to reflect from it. A person who foregoes a quick buck, because it is perhaps not quite clean is considered an idiot. Friendship, family ties, compassion, honor, honesty and faith, even self-respect are readily being sacrificed on the altar of the mammon.
Our value system has been perverted in a most curious manner. On the one hand everyone is complaining about stress; cases of drug addiction and suicide (both of which, desperate attempts to escape from the seemingly unbearably harsh reality of life) are universally on the rise, and psychiatric sessions have almost become a social norm (in the west you can omit the 'almost'). On the other hand do we set our priorities by our own free will in such a way that we become the very victims of stress and all its outgrowths. Globally, socially and individually, our lives have become utterly unbalanced.
God has informed us in HIS last revealed holy Book, that HE established 'the Balance', when HE brought HIS generous creation into existence, and HE also admonishes us, not to violate this balance (Qur'an 55:7 ff.). Now, one thing should be clearly understood: if the Almighty and All-knowing Creator of the universe HIMSELF has established something, then there is no power within the creation besides HIMSELF, that can undo HIS Act. One could argue then: Well, if the balance of everything is untouchably fixed, what are we talking about unbalanced life? How could we possibly be in a position to violate the balance?
Imagine a pair of scales in equilibrium. Both sides are filled with an equal quantity of some mysterious substance that can take on any quality that is required of it, usually opposite qualities on the opposite sides of the balance (e.g. 12 hours bright daylight on the right, and 12 hours pitch-black darkness on the left). If you take out some of that substance from the, let's say, right side, what do you expect will happen? The left side will be heavier and go down, and the right side, having become lighter will be pulled up.
The equilibrium is fixed once for all, remember? What will happen is, that some hidden, invisible hand will simultaneously have taken out from the left, the same amount, that you took from the right side - or, if it is in the higher interest of the universal balance, it will simultaneously have added an equal value to the side from which you took. The equilibrium won't be affected at all, and you won't even be aware, that some exchange has occurred. The same principle of course also applies if you were to add something to either side of the scales. This is exactly what happens in reality on every level and in every aspect of the creation. Let me give you an illustration.
Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali – may God have mercy on his soul - a great Islamic scholar and saint, who lived some 1000 years ago and enjoyed only a relatively short life of 53 years, is reported to have written some 400 books besides uncounted treatises. He started writing around the age of 20, and in the remaining 33 years of his life he wrote - of what can be ascertained - some 200 000 pages, a daily average of almost 20 pages!. Besides that did he undertake extensive travels all over the Muslim world. In his time a journey from, let's say Karachi to Lahore. would have taken about one month, or more. Since then man has made immense advances as regards adding amenities and comfort to life. On a computer you can compose a page in no time, and on a supersonic jet, you can travel around the entire globe in a day or two (if you allow for refueling), but where did all the time, that we saved with our inventions and progress, go? I know hardly anyone who has the time to only read 20 pages everyday. Time seems to have become the rarest of commodities altogether - isn't it amazing, it actually has become a commodity. 'Time is money'- sounds familiar, doesn't it? So what happened is: Man removed some 'hardships', 'discomforts' and 'inconveniences' from his apportioned lot - things which divine providence had not allotted in order to torture man, but rather to groom him in virtues like patience, steadfastness and gratitude (!) - and the divine balancing act removed a quality from time, which we just don't know anymore, but which obviously was there in the past.
Or another example: In the last few decades of this parting millenium, the 'advanced' western societies grew weary of the natural order of things as regards relationship between the sexes, so they removed homosexuality from their already shamelessly curtailed list of social taboos, and suddenly, to their great surprise and general indignation, there appears out of nowhere, an until then unknown, and still incurable killer disease called AIDS.
I could go on and on, recounting examples of balance violations by human shortsightedness, greed avarice and discontent, and their consequent balance adjustments through that divine decree, if I had the time and you had the patience..., but it would anyway be a kind of pathetic entertainment. The point is that, whenever we do anything - even say anything - that does not fall within the framework of the natural order of things, or that is not befitting the situation into which we have been placed, we effect a change in the composition of the divinely decreed balance, upon which the continuation of the entire universe depends.
The above quoted reference to the times of Imam Ghazali is not meant to condemn human endeavor for progress, which is a natural tendency, implanted in man by his Creator, but in our striving for betterment in the quality of our lives, we must be careful not to overstep the limits beyond which we infringe upon the freedom and living space of our fellow creatures. Countless ecological hazards are documentation enough of such infringements. In previous times, when the quest for progress was not so mercilessly and uncompromisingly pursued, when it was not turbo-boosted by insatiable commercial interests, as it is in our time, environmental hazards are not heard of at all.
The mercy of God covers everything, and for this reason, our ignorantly and unintentionally committed transgressions do not always unleash catastrophes. Our intentions however weigh heavily in the scales, and here we must be very careful. Actions do not always bear witness to the underlying intentions or motivations, but these are definitely witnessed by the guardians of the balance, and taken unscrupulously into account in the maintenance of it. Of course, as already indicated in the description of our scales, they do work just as accurately, as a matter of fact, with much greater generosity in the balancing act, if our intentions are charitable and our actions are truly constructive. In this manner the quality of the composition of the equilibrium is enhanced, and this invariably results in real progress and betterment in the quality of life on this planet, without any backdrops.
The Scales that Wouldn't Move (in PDF)
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Muhammad Harun Riedinger can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org