Life and meaningful life!
By: Syed Mustafa Ahmad
Life has been defined in varied ways. Some take life as a journey from womb to tomb. Some say life is just life a gust of wind. For some it is the discovery of one’s self, others call it the discovery of nature. Some say it is a journey that can never be understood and still others say life’s meaning is all about coming and going. Some have an opinion that enjoying each and every moment on this beautiful Earth is life and certain others take it a trial ground for the hereafter.
Some holy scriptures say that the worldly life is a mirage; it’s never permanent; it’s temporary; and the best of the life is the life hereafter.
Notwithstanding varied beliefs about the life, there is certain degree of agreement about living it in a meaningful way. So, what is the difference between a life and a meaningful life?
Let’s take this example to try and understand what a meaningful life is.
A train is travelling at full speed towards its destination. For convenience, a man is metaphorically compared to a train. A continuous spectacle of lush green crops and brimming streams and brooks flashes by on either side. A person finds itself in the same position in this world. However, much the scene attracts attention towards itself, the train shows no interest in it. It passes through plains and mountains, over land and rivers, without reducing its speed. In its destination, many small stations come across but they don’t interrupt the motion of the train for a moment. It carries on, as it will stop nowhere.
It is much the same with a purposeful life. One who has adopted purpose in life will fix his or her attention upon it. He or she will not waste his time with peripheral issues. A purposeful person is like a traveller who seeks to spend every moment of his/her life steering himself or herself towards his or her destination. Alluring or enticing worldly attractions hover before this traveller but he/she closes his/her eyes to them. Luxurious shade invites him/her to be cooled from the blazing Sun. Lavish mansions or buildings call him or her to rest his/her feet from the long, hard road. But he/she has no time for these things; all he/she sees and knows is the goal he or she has set before himself or herself.
All kinds of different requirements confront him/her but he/she steers clear of them and continues on their way. This determination to reach the destination alternate with the ups and downs of life. The speed and direction of the journey remains constant through thick and thin.
A purposeful person is quite unlike a wayward traveller who, lacking his or her direction, sometimes sets off in one direction and sometimes in another. He/she knows where he is going. The road that he/she must tread or walk upon clearly stretches out before his/her eyes. There is no question of him/her interrupting the journey or diverting attention towards other things. He/she travels on and on until his/her purpose is fulfilled, destination reached.
Let me try to make it understand in another way. This is experienced by all the Muslims in particular. Some of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) attained great spiritual heights. They believed that in order to remain at such a spiritual level, they should always be serious, engaged in constant worship, turning their backs on all the enjoyments of life and the good things of the world; neither playing nor relaxing, but keeping their eyes and minds fixed on the Hereafter and their concerns away from common life and its amusements.
In this regard, let us have a look at one of the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) The great companion and scribe of the Prophet (PBUH), Hanzalah al Usaidi narrates an incident to Abu Bakr, which fits in our lives. “Abu Bakr met Hanzalah and asked, ‘How are you, Hanzalah?’ I replied, ‘Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.’ He said, ‘Subhanallah! What are you saying?’ I replied, ‘When we are with Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), he mentions the Fire and The Garden until it is as we can see them. But when we leave the Prophet’s (PBUH) company and play with our wives and children or busy ourselves with our properties, we forget much.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘ By Allah, I have experienced the same thing.’ He and I then went to visit the Messenger of Allah and I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.’ He asked, ‘And how is that?’ I replied, ‘O Messenger of Allah, when we are with you, you talk about the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. Then we go out and play with our wives and children and deal with our properties, and we forget much.’ The Messenger of Allah then said, ‘By Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were to continue at the same level at which you were when with me and in remembering Allah, the angels would shake hands with you when you are resting and when you walk about, but O Hanzalah, there is a time (for this) and (for that).’ He repeated this phrase three times.”
In this, we have a lesson that it is not bad to enjoy the worldly things but we should not lose ourselves in the worldly glories. Life is a moderate way in the light of the above tradition. No one is forced to opt seclusion. In a society of human beings, a person can attain the enlightenment. The priority is that he or she should have the pious goal and work accordingly. It is called a meaningful life.
For a life to be invested with meaning, it is essential that one should set a target for oneself. One should be certain of the worthwhile nature of one’s chosen target. In pursuit of it, one must have the total support of one’s conscience. It is by concentrating his/her mind and setting his/her heart on a certain target that a man becomes different from animals. So, life is a trial where every moment should be availed of. Extremism should be avoided. This world is not so bad as we think. A proper balance is necessary and our lives will be meaningful.