God certainly knows how we act and live in this world, whether we obey his
commands or not. So, why has he created us and sent us to this world?
First of all, it is a reality that we have come to the world and live here.
We are born through a father and mother at any time in any place. We have a
physical composition, certain color. We belong to a nation or race. After we
live for some time, we die. We feel hungry, thirsty, cold and warm and we sleep.
We have certain essential needs. We are surrounded by certain ‘natural’
conditions, live in a natural environment. There is an essential relation
between us and this environment. In order for a single fruit, an apple for
example, to grow, almost all parts of the universe – the seed of the apple,
earth, water, air, and the sun each of which if all the people in the world came
together to produce, they would not be able to do that – cooperate, which means
a single apple really costs the whole universe. All of these are the realities
of our life in which we do not have the least part. It is our belief in a
Supreme Being Who creates all these realities and us or our attributing them to
‘nature’ or ‘natural laws’ which make us direct our lives. If we believe in the
Supreme Being, then it is of no use to question Him why He does all these.
Because He is evidently able to do anything He wills. If we attribute them to so
called ‘natural’ laws or matter or to something else, then again we have no
alternative other than submitting to our ‘fate’, as neither of such so called
powers has either eyes to see us or ears to hear us or the power to help us.
However, what we should do is to try to know why we are brought or sent to
the world; how we should govern our lives; what He Who sends us to the world ask
of us? We should ponder over our responsibility in life.
Consider the difference between the ways in which human beings and animals
come into existence. Almost from the very moment an animal is born, it seems to
have been sent to this world after having been trained in another and perfected
in all its faculties. Within a few hours or days or months, it comes into full
possession of its natural capacity to lead its life according to its particular
rules and conditions. A sparrow or a bee, for example, acquires in less than a
month or, rather, is inspired with, the skill and ability to integrate into its
environment in a matter of twenty days, to do which a man would require twenty
years. This means that the basic obligation upon animals, their essential role
does not include seeking perfection through learning, or progress through
scientific knowledge; nor does it include prayer and the petitioning for help by
displaying their impotence. Their obligation or role in creation is to act
within the bounds of their innate faculties, which is the mode of worship
specified for them.
Man, by contrast, is born with no knowledge of life and his environment and
with a need to learn everything. Unable to know entirely the conditions of life
even after twenty years, he needs to continue his learning until the end of his
life. He appears to have been sent to the world with so much weakness and
inability that it may take him as much as two years only to learn how to walk.
Only after fifteen years can he distinguish between good and evil, and by virtue
of living in a society, attain to a point where he can choose between what is
beneficial and what is harmful to him.
Thus, the essential duty of man, the one intrinsic to his existence, must be
to seek perfection through learning and to proclaim his worship of Him Who sends
him to the world. He should look for the answer to such questions— Through
whose compassion is my life so wisely administered? Through whose generosity am
I being so affectionately trained? Through whose favor and benevolence am I
being so solicitously nourished? Then he should pray and petition The
Provider of Needs in humble awareness of his needs, even one in a thousand of
which he is unable to satisfy.
This means that man has come to this life to seek perfection through
knowledge and prayer. Everything by its nature is essentially dependent on
knowledge. And the basis, source, light and spirit of all true knowledge are
knowledge of God, and belief is the very foundation of this knowledge.
After these preliminary explanations, we can proceed with the answer:
To exist is absolutely good, while non-existence is evil. So our coming or
being sent to the world is good. The overwhelming majority of people have always
loved living. The undesirable aspects of life are usually the outcome of our own
choices and deeds.
Second, it is certainly the case that God knows how we act and live in this
world. He sends us to be tested by Him, so that we can improve our abilities and
skills through the responsibilities He ordains for us. Undoubtedly, God creates
us just as He creates minerals such as coal, copper, iron, silver and gold: He
is the Lord, the Cherisher, the Owner and Maker of all.
A person with artistic talents wants to express those talents and so is known
through his works of art. In the same way, the majesty and splendor and artistry
of the creation of God is a presentation and reflection of His sacred Names and
Attributes. To show human beings His art (Might, Power, Knowledge, Wisdom,
Beauty and Mercy) He created the universe and exhibited aspects of His
mysterious, hidden treasures in it. He created the world and made it very
beautiful and charming and put it under the service of man.
To show us how His Names, Attributes and Divine Art become manifest, He
created the universe step by step. In different qualities and quantities, He
grants us countless opportunities to get to know Him better, endless ways to
acquire sound knowledge about Him. He is the absolute Creator Who makes
everything from one, and adds to whatever He wills thousands of additional
benefits. Thus it is that, for example, carbon may be manifest as coal or
diamond, and each further refined and adapted to a multitude of different uses.
Through whatever is created and exhibited in the universe and is given to
man, man himself is tested, purified and prepared as a candidate for eternal
bliss in Paradise. That is, God’s creating man is certainly a blessing for him.
His putting him in a warm, welcoming environment is another blessing. He has
created diverse kinds of food and drink and, in turn, equipped man with appetite
to need them and senses to taste them, which is another blessing. He has ordered
him to know Him, believe in Him and adore Him. The spiritual pleasure coming
from man’s knowledge of Him, belief in and adoration of Him is innumerable times
greater than the pleasure man receives from eating, drinking and sexual
relation. This is the greatest of blessings. Man’s being perfected and
spiritually purified through belief, knowledge and worship is another great
blessing. In addition to all these and many other blessings, God promises him to
bestow eternal happiness in another, eternal life. So, it is evident that
whatever God does for man is a hundred percent blessing.
In the same way, raw materials are refined, purified and processed into
silver, gold or diamonds. In one hadith, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him
be peace, said: ‘Human beings are just like minerals. One who has a prominent
place in jahiliyya (the time of pagan ignorance in Arabia before Islam)
can also enjoy a leading position in Islam’ (Bukhari, Iman, 10, Anbiya’,
8–14; Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 168, Mana-qib, 25; Ibn Hanbal,
Musnad, 3, 101). That is, one with great talents or inborn capacities can
have leading positions whether he is on the wrong or right way. If he uses his
capacities and talent for wrong, he can be a tyrant or trickster, and so on. If,
by contrast, he believes, follows the right way and uses his capacities and
talents for good, this time he can be one of the best of people. It is the
God-revealed religion which guides man to the right way. So, this religion is
another great blessing for man.
Before Islam, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab enjoyed dignity, glory and honor in the
polytheist society of Makka, but when he became a Muslim he gained a calmer
dignity, tender-heartedness and the grandeur of belief. Before Islam, he
might be tough, quick-tempered, haughty, as one who thought he had everything;
after becoming Muslim, he was one of the most modest and humble of men in his
bearing towards the believers. Through Islam, he improved his qualities and
attributes. Therefore, when we see well-mannered, dynamic, energetic, audacious
and spirited people, we wish them to be Muslim, for one who was good, great,
glorious and esteemed before Islam will be far more so in Islam.
Islam deals with the most precious and invaluable of minerals – man. It takes
man, kneads, improves and matures him, refining him as gold is refined pure. The
Companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, became so, 24 carat
We are tested in this world so that we may become clarified, purified and
attain virtue and perfection. Even though God knows how well or otherwise we
perform in the test, He tests us all the same. It is not because He does not
know and wants to learn what He does not know through us, rather He knows and
accordingly tests a man against himself, and man against others. When we make
strenuous efforts to refine ourselves, to find out and prove what we are, what
we have, and whether we are worthless and valueless like iron or great like
gold, we are only acting as a means to make happen what God already knows from
eternity. We are tested in what we strive for, and in what we exert ourselves to
do. In this way, we shall enter the presence of God and give account of
ourselves to Him: ...But their hands will speak to
us, and their feet bear witness, to all that they did (al-Fussilat,
41.65). ‘Hands and feet’ symbolically represent all our instruments for action,
all the members of our bodies, including our faculties and opportunities. In
other verses, ‘eyes, ears and skins’ are all mentioned as bearing witness
against us if we have misused them.