Faiez Hassan Seyal | Presented at “Character, Family and Public Service: Building a Culture of Peace” organized by Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace at Lahore, Pakistan from November 24-26, 2000.
No matter where you live, every morning newspapers bring several incidences showing the unrest and lack of peace in the society. Incidences of suicides, homicides, fighting, aggression, rapes, street aggression, violation of human rights, snatching, stealing, frauds, theft, cheating, lying, etc. have become the norm of the day. And with all this there is a lot of talk on building peace in the society, nations and even at the global level. In every gathering, conference, symposium, no matter what the original subject matter is, the discussion takes a turn towards the lack of peace in the society and the efforts required to regain the lost peace. One also notices an ever-increasing growth of various voluntary organizations striving for maintaining national and international peace. From all this, one thing could be concluded that the world is becoming more aware of the importance of peace. One interesting fact here is that all those nations, which were earlier responsible for the destruction of world peace, are now, not only striving for the world peace but are leading various efforts made for the global peace. Challenging the sincerity of their efforts and indulging in the politics of the global peace is out of the scope of this writing. However, if these nations have now realized the need of the global peace as reflected by a considerable amount of resources they are committing for its restoration, there must be some value attached with it. I believe that all of us have realized that we all are citizens of a global village, known as world. And no economic development in any part of the village will sustain itself in the longer run, unless there is peace in the whole. This brief writing is attempted to explore a few reasons for ever-increasing lack of peace in our homes, our societies, our nations, and explores time-tested principles, without which the dream of building a peaceful society will be nothing more that just a “dream”.
Every one is dissatisfied with the status quo and is desirous of peace in the society. No matter, you visit an organization, host a party at your home, go to a wedding of a close relative, visit a restaurant with your friends, go to your car workshop or the service station of your choice, pickup the morning newspaper, or may be just turn the TV on, the discussion would lead towards lack of peace in the society. Different people will have different things and people to blame for this lack of peace. People will blame the education system, government, police and judiciary, TV and media, and what not for this lack of peace in homes and the society. Interestingly, hardly you will hear a person admitting that he/she needs to change or do something differently. Their comments show that people believe it to be someone else’s responsibility to build peace at their homes and society Unfortunately, that is not true and building peace in our homes and in our society is as much of our own responsibility as of someone’s else. I always advocate a simple and straight approach that sometimes does not seem either simple or straight to many. Instead of trying of building the peace from outside, how about if we first facilitated a personal change within ourselves and accepted the personal responsibility of creating inner peace. You see the point here is that we cannot have outer peace, i.e. peace in our homes, societies, and nations without having the inner peace. That is what I call “Peace from the Inside Out”. In fact this is not only the best way but I believe, the only way of doing it. I don’t see any other way for “real and sustained” peace. The Holy Qur’an reinforced this fact, many a times: “…..Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their souls) ……”. (13: 11).
It is so clear in this verse that there will be no change unless there is a change inside us, meaning unless we change our beliefs and perspective about life, our world will never change. That is not just a theoretical guideline for change. If you have read the history of mankind as well as the Islamic history, you would appreciate that these guidelines have successfully caused the world largest change, the dawn of Islam, globally acknowledged as the best-managed macro change initiative ever. This change could never have been possible without the “advocates of change” following on these guidelines first, before expecting others to change. Our major problem is that each and everyone of us is so busy in changing things and people around us that we are left with no time to change ourselves. But if every one of us just starts focusing on ourselves, I am sure, our world will also change.
We must realize that homes, organizations, societies; nations are all human systems made of people. There can be no peace in the sum (i.e. human system) without having a peace in the parts (people). Take an example of your own body. If one part of the body is not well, the whole body will be affected by it. The same way, the cancer does not start from the whole body, it starts from only one part of the body and then it spreads out in the whole body. No matter what we did with the whole body or how good we treated it, unless we first treated that part of the body that has caused the cancer, the body will never recover. It is that one part that has to recover first and then comes the body, not the other way around. The same is true in terms of peace. If people, the society is made of, are not at peace, how would the society be at peace? However, if each and every individual accepted the responsibility of its own inner peace, the outer peace will follow. No matter how difficult it seems, that is the only way for a sustained outer peace. Look how peacefully, Islam brought a major change to the world. It happened because the members of that “peace” movement were at peace from the inside. That group of people, although very limited in number, accepted the responsibility of their own actions. Instead of leaving the choice of their own actions at the mercy of others, they made a conscious choice of building peace in their own lives and finally others surrendered to their peaceful efforts. That is the only way of achieving and restoring peace, i.e. first reviving our inner selves and then bringing it out.
Understanding Peace and its Components
Generally speaking, it is considered that peace only means security and safety. And if in any society, the security and safety of lives was guaranteed, there would be peace. I believe that the life security and safety is only one of the elements of the peace, there are a number of other important human needs without which, there will be no peace. Just imagine, if there was security and safety in the society, but the people of the society had nothing to eat or no place to live. Would there be peace in the society if there was a lot of discrimination and disparity in terms of economic and social status of people? Would there by any peace in the society if cheating, lying, dishonesty, etc. was the norm of the society? Would there be peace, if injustice, violence, human rights violations, etc. was the order of the day in the society? Definitely, not. And that is the point that worth comprehensive deliberation. The first truth that we must know is that we humans have four dimensions of us, i.e. a body, a mind, a heart and a soul. These four dimensions of us form the total us. From these four dimensions of us, there emerge four different sets of needs, i.e. physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Physical needs include life security, food, clothing, housing, health, etc. Mental needs include opportunities for learning and development, a challenging work requiring the use of intellect, etc. Emotional needs are respect, appreciation, recognition for the work, a need to be heard, someone to love and loved by, family, friends, etc. Whereas spiritual needs include knowing self, a fulfilling life purpose, living with character, association with some specific religious beliefs and practices, opportunities to talk about God (i.e. divine power).
In the past about ten years of my coaching, training, speaking and consulting career in Pakistan, I have met hundreds of thousands of people and this even continues, today. On average, I meet, come across and observe several hundreds of people on a monthly basis and as a habit, either talk to them personally or observe them. During these years, all those people who were disturbed, upset, unhappy, dissatisfied and unpeaceful in their lives, I observed a common “childish” attitude, in all of them. Notice that I am calling attitude of grown-ups as “childish” because these people were physically grown up but were still a “child” in each of the other three dimensions, i.e. emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Let me make it easy for you. Physical growth of all living beings is natural; meaning we grow regardless of any effort made to this end. The same way as animals, plants and other creatures would grow naturally. And also like animals, we also know of our physical needs and how to cater to them. However, humans are also blessed with three other dimensions, i.e. mental, emotional and spiritual and we are responsible for our growth in these three dimensions, meaning the growth of our mind, heart and soul. Humans have to make a conscious effort to this end. It means that unless we made a conscious and a sincere effort to grow in these three areas, we will remain “un-developed” like a child; regardless of the fact that how ‘big” we have grown physically i.e., in terms of our body.
On the other hand, what I discovered in those people, though a very limited number, who were generally happy and at peace in their lives, that they know and were fulfilling all of their four sets of differing needs. You see there could never be any inner peace, unless all of our four dimensions were in harmony and that was only possible if needs of all these dimensions were fulfilled. Unfortunately, most of us were neither taught about these needs, nor we did strive ourselves to discover them. The dilemma hence is that whether we realize it or not, all of us have these needs, no matter if we like it or not, believe it or not. That’s how it is, and that is how our Creator has made us. The truth is that we can never be happy and an ultimate peace, without all of our personal needs being catered for. With the exception of our physical needs, majority of people are unaware of other three sets of needs; therefore, they make no conscious effort to cater to these needs. What happens is that people start the journey of life, by first realizing their physical needs, for which no conscious effort is required, and later on start serving thoe needs. Once the first level needs, i.e. the physical needs were catered for, then automatically the second level of needs emerged and then they started catering to them. Once and if they were met, and the life was not fulfilled yet, then we would realize our third-level needs, i.e. emotional needs, and hence started serving them and so one for the fourth-level needs. By the time, they discovered about all of their needs, most of the life had gone.
Different people at different times within their lives are at different levels of their growth, meaning fulfilling different levels of their need. It is due to the fact, that unless one level of needs is fulfilled, the next level needs either don’t emerge or may be are not considered important enough. The fact is unless our physical needs (that keep on changing depending upon a number of things), e.g. food, clothes, shelter, security is met, we will either not realize or if we do, we will not consider the possibility of going to school, or enrolling ourselves for an evening degree program or may be learning some trade or occupation. Once our physical and mental needs are reasonably met within the available resources, then emotional needs automatically becomes stronger. It is only then that we feel an urge, a strong desire to love someone and to be loved (I consider sexual needs as a part of physical needs, not emotional needs). It is then that we want to associate with friends, or belong to a group of people. And even then, when the life is empty and we are not truly at peace, we start pondering about what is missing. It is only then that we finally realize our spiritual needs, and by the time, it happens, a major portion of our life has already passed without reaching our full potential and being at an ultimate peace. The people who try to address these needs as and when they emerge are “reactive” people. On the other hand, there are people who discover this truth of life at an early stage. They instead of waiting for their higher level of needs to emerge, and then responding to them, try to cater to their higher level of needs simultaneously with their basic physical needs, they are proactive people. These people, although in a very limited number, are often the ones who at any given point in time in their life span, are generally more happy, satisfied, fulfilled and at peace in their lives.
Building a Culture of Peace
One thing is so far, established that outer peace is not possible without inner peace. In this section we will explore on “how”. There are tools that each of us can use to help ourselves. This is of crucial importance, because it is not only until all of us are at peace that any one of us will be truly at peace, in the longer run. That is the law of God and that is how He has created this world, i.e., on the principle of “interdependence”. Whatever we do, our actions always influence our lives as well as the society and the nation, either positively or negatively. When we accept the responsibility of personal peace, we are also contributing to the overall peace of the world in which we live. To this end, we will have to live with the four key elements of peace (i.e., character, public service, family and God), every single moment of the day. These key elements form the very foundation of inner peace and ultimately lead to peace within our homes, societies and nations.
Character and Conscience
People are lacking “character” more than ever before is acknowledged universally, at home and abroad, in business and government circles, and in every sphere of administrative and social activities. Lack of character produces social imbalance, lack of peace, and leads ultimately to societal decline and disintegration. The outward signs of a weak character are commonly believed to be bribery, corruption and exploitation but they do not bring out the true significance of the word. It belongs to the realm of ethics, which defines character in terms not easily understandable to a common man. There are many definitions of character, but generally speaking, it is agreed that: “morality is character”, “character is the manifestation of truth”, “character is doing the right, and right is based on universal truths and principles”. The Oxford dictionary defines it:
- collective qualities or characteristics that distinguish a person
- a moral strength
- good reputation
I believe that character is your true self, what you are in the dark. At midnight, when there is no one around, would you stop at the red light? That is character. When we do not have a choice or the cost of doing bad or evil is too high, many would stop. But the one who stopped at the red light when there was neither the traffic nor the police cop around, he had something different from those who did not stop. That was character, his distinguishing quality or trait. It might be sounding very philosophical but let me make it clear to you. What we truly are, is only known to self. What people think of us is their perception of what we are? And that can be wrong. Our body is only one percent of who we are; it is just like a packing. Ninety-nine percent of what we truly are, is our inner self. Would you buy something because it had great packing? Definitely not. Even if you did, once you found out the true worth of the thing inside, either you would return it or throw it. Why? Because even if you liked the packing, it was not the reason of buying that thing. The real objective was to buy the thing inside, not the packing. Packing comes with it and could be a major influencing factor to buy, but not the only factor.
The same is true for us. Our bodies are only packing; the real thing is inside, i.e., our character. Unless we have a real moral strength, sooner or later, people would find it out and then this lack of character would ultimately cost us our reputation, i.e. our honor, and that we cannot afford to lose. You see preservation of life is an animal instinct; not so is the preservation of honor. The concept of honor is unknown to the animal world. In fact it constitutes a major difference between the animal and the man. Honor is a specific human value. Preservation of human values elevates the level of life, from the animal to the human. That is why that character is also sometimes defined as “preserving human values against animal instincts.” As human values differ from society to society and individual to individual, it raises a valid concern. If serving of human values is “character” then how could we blame all those people who would always have a valid justification of doing whatever wrong and evil they did by saying that they were serving their basic values? Well, I think let’s not confuse personal values with higher level human values called principles. There is a big difference in both and let me clarify it with a few real stories.
The Dilemma: Values becoming Our Principles
A civil servant who married late was blessed with his first child ten years after the marriage. He loved his only child to the extent that he started doing everything possible in order to give his son anything he asked for. He went to extremes and started accepting bribery. His son left for the USA for higher education. Again, he did anything to meet his demands. When his son came back to Pakistan after completing his education, his father was quiet ill and wanted his son to spend some time with him. The son, on the other hand, did not enjoy the company of his father and decided to move out with his newly wed bride. When the mother reminded his son of all the sacrifices his father made to educate him and to meet all of his expenses, he replied, “He did not do it for me, he did it for himself. He wanted to be rich, not me. He never asked me what I wanted. He wanted to fulfill his dreams through me. But I am me and would like to be myself. And by the way, tell him that I am ashamed that he was my father. People have told me how corrupt he was.” And he left. His father could not take it and died within six months.
One businessman wanted to be rich over night. The money was so important to him that all the decisions of his life were based on pure financial gains. He had no respect for anything but money. He would do anything for money. He married three times for money. He left his old friends for lack of money and made new friends because of money. He would lie, cheat and do anything for money. Money was driving him. It was his value number one. By the age of 55, all three wives left him one by one. His children never met him afterwards. He was left alone to enjoy his riches. At the time of his death at the age of 67, he was alone. He lost everyone because of his craze for money. At that time, he confessed he is the biggest loser of all times, but it was too late, then.
You see if we let our values become our guiding principles, what happens? Well, I am not suggesting that you should not work to serve your values; all I am suggesting is serving your values is good as long as they do not make you depart from your core principles. If you did one thing for someone and the other for someone else, at the cost of your character, principles or your morals then who were you? You see the problem with us is that we have stopped differentiating between “good and bad” versus “right and wrong”. Most of us usually do things that we like and don’t do those things that we don’t like. Meaning we do those things which we consider good for us and avoid doing those which we consider bad for us. But my dear, the life should not be based on our likes and dislikes; rather it should be spent considering what is right and wrong. Remember my “likes” and “goods” come from my personal values, whereas the “right” comes from the universal principles of all-times and they establish the basis of superiority. In the words of Qur’an, “To all are degrees (or ranks) according to their deeds….” (6: 132).
We always hire people based on their abilities and skills, or whatever we value meaning their personality traits, what we value. And when we fire them, we do it because of their unethical practices, e.g. dishonesty, fraud, etc, i.e., their character traits. The same thing I observed in all the marriage counseling cases. People marry, because someone was good, handsome, tall, educated, pretty rich, etc. but if it gets to divorce, it is always because of dishonesty, lying, corruption, cheating, etc. If you compare both cases, you would discover that the relations are developed on the basis of personality traits, i.e. our values or the packing. Whereas relationships always break due to character traits, i.e. universal principles, the thing inside, our character. The question is if character traits are so important then why do we ignore them?
Guidelines to Living with Character
Our personal ethics are grounded in actions. What we actually do, rather than what we say. As some one has rightly said, “Actions speaks louder than words”. It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.” People really will not show much faith in the claims you make about your personal standards. But they pay close attention to what you do specially, when your moral standards come under heavy fire. Anyone can do right when it is easy. But people with character hang in there when it is hard. When the heat is on, we show our true character.
Choose to live with principles: We must carefully weigh the appeal of today’s temptations against the punishment they could cause later. If you sell out your principles in order to get immediate benefits, you will end up in deep emotional depression. Look at the big picture. If you live for the moment, you will mortgage your future? What happens if you put your reputation at risk? Whereas, you are willing to defer pleasure or endure some “pain” for now, you are likely to end up in a deep pleasure. Remember, eventually, we have to pay the price for our ethical violations just remember the old line that says, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”. You can buy some time, but when you pay later you will probably have to pay more. The words of the Holy Qur’an says it all: “No equal are things that are bad and things that are good even though the abundance of the bad may dazzle thee; so fear God O ye that understand! That (so) ye may prosper” (5:100).
How would this world of ours look like if there were no standard measures for weight, mass, time, height, length, etc? What would happen if we all had our personal measures instead of having a universal system? Yes, the world would become chaos. Now tell me what is the measure to determine the superiority of one person over the other? Is it height, richness, beauty, family background, education, or something else? You see that instead of using the universal standard, we are using our personal value system to evaluate one person over others. Few strive for fame, finances and fans where others prefer, respect, service and love. Few would value education over physical appearance and others would value family background over education, few would like to go for beauty over education and others would compromise respect for money, and so on. We value different things. Therefore, whatever we value has become our yardstick to measure others. That is why the life is becoming a mess, and we are always struggling between what looks good and what seems right. The true yardstick, however exists only in the form of universal principles, laws of nature or laws of God, whatever you may call them.
Always Prefer Right Over Good: People look at things differently. We don’t all see things the same way, so we will never agree on what the good thing is your good is different than mine. What’s seems superior to you may be average or even bad for others. So let’s not get confused with it. However, it is much easier to determine the “right”. What’s good in some respects can be bad in others. Sometimes the situation is so complicated that we have trouble just figuring out what the right thing is. And even the right thing can be done wrong. Circumstances often corner us. We must not give ourselves any question but to settle for the “right.” Not matter how bad it seems to feel at that moment. Not picking the best from a bunch of bad alternatives. When we can make it this simple, just do the right thing. Even if we could get away with less. Even when other people are doing all the so-called good things. Even though the wrong thing seems like no big deal. What’s good or bad gets to be highly controversial, sometimes. We need to accept the fact that our job is not to keep everybody happy by doing good to them, but doing the “right-thing” the “right way”.
Redefine Character: With the changing times, every thing has changed. But the question is that have the laws of nature changed as well? I am sure that laws of nature have not changed and neither will they ever change. They are as solid today as they were ever. You see laws of nature were not designed for a specific period of time. The only thing that has changed is our understanding and interpretations of these laws. Or may be, our faith on these laws have changed. Take centuries old principles of honesty, integrity, patience, morals, tolerance, truth, hard work, etc., they have not changed. Honesty is as important today, as it used to be centuries ago. However what has changed is our understanding about these morals. What used to be vulgar, only ten years ago, now is well accepted by our society. What used to be dishonesty, now that is called “being smart”. But remember, only our understanding has changed, it has become corrupt and impure. We have turned ourselves to accept them as a part and parcel of life. But it does not mean that morals have changed. Dishonesty is still dishonesty, no matter what we call it. These are universal truths, no matter what you believe or do, they are still as pure as they are and will stay like this forever.
Live with The Spirit of the Law: We must live by the laws of nature, not only with the law of land. Trouble with laws of land is, of course, that there are not always laws for everything. And sometimes people hide behind laws to do their dirty deeds. You could get away with a lot of ugly stuff without ever being fined or sent to jail. Even if you go beyond the letter of the law, and live by its spirit and intent, the individual and societies, can fall far short of excellence. The legal system doesn’t always serve as a good guide for our conscience. We can step way over the ethical line and still be inside the law. We can “go by the book” and still behave unethically. Instead quality of lives comes through our character, integrity, and honesty and that is of course, universal in nature. You see we can get away from laws of land but cannot escape laws of nature. If we choose to go against the laws of nature, then we have to pay the fine and believe me no matter if you realize it or not, it does not worth as much as it costs. Remember your character is your responsibility and only you are answerable for that, no one else, as highlighted in the Holy Qur’an, “Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds. (74: 38).
Do not Ignore Small Things: How can we be trusted with big things if we are not trustworthy with things that are small? In the times of change, everything we do, counts. The most minor violations weaken our reputation for righteousness. Let our character be revealed in the small things. Small things like stopping on the red light, don’t throwing trash on the street, coming on time, filling our reports, truly and timely, not smoking in the “no smoking” zone or paying parking tickets, etc. do matter. Small violation of honesty and integrity like these, however small, dilutes our ethical strength, leaving us weaker for the big challenges we are bound to face sooner or later. You see those who were convicted of major crimes; they also started with small tiny violations. A person, who cannot afford to stop at the red light at midnight when there is neither the cop nor the traffic, will never indulge in major things. People who do not even use office stationery for personal use; they will never involve in major frauds. You see small things lead to big, so make sure you never ignore them.
Listen to Your Inner self, Your conscience, Your Heart: We must pay attention to the voice within us but we must differentiate between our feelings and emotions. Feelings are always true. We have no control over our feelings that’s why God does not even hold us accountable for our feelings. Sometimes we confuse our emotions with feelings. Emotions are our reactions to our feelings. You want to steal something, you inner voice will always tell you that it is wrong. That is another issue if we don’t want to listen to it or may be give a shut-up call to what our heart is telling us. You may call it conscience, or sixth sense or voice of God; it is in each and every one of us. And it always speaks truth. Certainly some people feel guilt far more than others do. One person can be cruel, wicked, and dishonest, without feeling bad. The next person can suffer with heavy guilt for committing trivial wrongs. Sometimes the voice of our conscience gets drowned out by peer pressure and our mind may justify or realize bad things. When we run into conflicts between “right” and our selfish “goods” always prefer to be right, and remember the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “He whose good work pleases him and whose evil work seems evil to him, that is the Mumin” And that is only possible if you have kept your conscience clear and clean by listening and surrendering to it.
Talk with People, but Choose them, Carefully: If you are not sure about the voice of your heart, get a second opinion. Find someone else to serve as a mentor. But choose him or her carefully. Some people are lousy advisors. Their free advice may be worth nothing. And someone speaking gently with solid advice may not be heard over another person who is a lousy listener. The best bet is to discuss the matter with people whose ethics you admire, those you respect for their honesty, fairness, and integrity. Avoid talking things over with people who hold an opposing point of view, or who looks at the situation form a different angle. Don’t just rely on whoever is handy or some “yes man” who would never challenge your thinking.
Be Willing to Pay to Price: When we hold on for high standards, people are impressed, but they don’t always like us for it. Not everybody will be on our side in our struggle to do what’s right and ethical. In fact, sometimes even we won’t be on our side. Even “the system” won’t always be on our side. We will fight with our inner conflict, divided between “good” and “right”. We must not try to make ourselves popular with everyone. Remember! People do not always reward the right things. There is a big difference between our reputation and character. Most of the times, reputation is built on what seems good, not necessarily on what is right. He is very good, why, because he lets me do my dirty deeds. What is that? You see if you were right, then people might not like you too much. But remember you are not here for becoming popular; you are here for doing the right. Your own family might not even like you for your principles. Your spouse and children might not be too comfortable with you because of your principles. But remember there are no free lunches. There is a price for every thing. And if this is the price for living with character, I bet it worth’s it. So let’s not confuse reputation with character. Good reputation does not necessarily mean good character and remember the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “The better people among you are those who are best in their moral character.” So just strive for character even if it costs you your reputation in the short run. Believe me it is not a bad deal.
Peaceful societies are not built by accident. We have to build them consciously with hard work. And our character matters every bit as much as results. Peace like change is a process, a continuous struggle to do what is right. For this to happen, we will have to hold ourselves for high standards in everything we do. Peace calls for character, integrity, fairness, honesty and a determination to do what’s right. Remember that there is a price for each of our actions that we must pay. You would like to pay it now or pay later in some other way; you have to take the decision, right now. It is a choice. But learning from the experiences of others, it is better to choose and live your way, and do not let others control you. Remember your character and your deeds are your only asset in that 7×4 dark room called a “grave”.
For more than a decade, I’ve had an honor of working with all sorts of people: people of both the privileged as well as the under privileged class, of all ages from ten to eighty years, from all walks of life from housewives to working women, businessmen, professionals, servicemen, students, employed and unemployed, working and retired, both men and women. I must have personally met over 10,000 people. And finally I got convinced that regardless of their age, their social status, their chosen field, only those are living a happy, satisfied, fulfilled and peaceful who are involved in some sort of sincere and selfless contribution in the lives of those who could not have made without it. In the words of Qur’an, “By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love…….. (3: 92), and I have personally experienced it. In those days, when I was at the rock bottom in my whole professional career, with all the financial worries, the only thing that helped me survive was my selfless contribution to the society. People all around me were too much concerned about us whereas my wife and me both were least concerned with the finances, busy doing our welfare work as much as we could do in the available times. We both agree that we were at the peak of personal serenity and peace in those days. Isn’t it surprising? Yes, it is, but it is true and I call it the power of public service.
Let me narrate a story to elaborate it further. A few years ago, a very poor family whose seven years old daughter was terribly ill, came to see me. The girl had a cancer, and they did not have money for her treatment. They went everywhere they could have gone for help. Few people helped them but most of them were not fortunate enough to do so. When they narrated the story to me, at that time they had almost lost hope, and they were literally crying for help. I put them at ease and requested them to give me some time. The money they required was a little too much for me to handle alone. The moment they left, I started calling all those people, I knew could help. I called hundreds of people and out of those a few committed. Among those I called, there was a well-known businessman. When I narrated the whole story to him, he told me that he recently had a major loss in his business losing about 10 million in a week’s time and was currently not in the condition to donate anything. I felt sorry for him and then told him that may be it was an opportunity for him to try to have something in return. He did not get it. Then I explained him the whole philosophy. There was no way that he could have spend this much time for listening to all this, but because of the crisis (most of us come close to God during crisis), he heard with patience. I told him that we are interdependent on each other, that is how our Creator wants it.
I further told him that this might be an opportunity for him by God who wanted him to learn something from his experience and if he did help in saving that little girl, he might get some rewards in return. He was not too sure and looked confused and lost and asked a day or two to think about. Two days later, I called him back to check. He donated Rs. 25,000. Finally I was able to collect the money that was required and the girl was put under treatment. Within a couple of weeks, the family called back to tell that the girl was quickly recovering. I was very pleased to listen that and the chapter was closed from my side. Two weeks later, early morning I received a call from the same businessman on my cellular. It was a surprise for me to have a call from him because he never ever called me before this. He was sounding very excited, when I asked him the reason, he told me that his company had won a major contract in far east and was expecting to earn about Rs. 25 million in profits on an annual basis from this contract alone for the next three years. The same evening he personally visited me in the office to narrate the whole story and to offer his thanks for providing him with this opportunity. What would you call that, a miracle, a chance, or a mere luck. I think it is neither of it, it is our reward from our Lord, “He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit…”. (6: 160)
Giving or Having
One interesting thing that I found in all those people, who were peaceful and spending a happy and satisfied life was that they believed in service, in charity, in contributing their time and resources in a worthwhile cause. And in return they were blessed with the peace and fulfillment in their lives. That is why God has made zakat (i.e., obligatory 2.5 percent charity), mandatory for Muslims. With this, He actually provided us with an opportunity to have more for us, by giving it to others. I have seen so many people complaining about all those mandatory prayers and obligations forced on us by our Creator. But you know why they complain? They complain because they think that they are doing it for others. You see God helps others through us. It is not the case that He requires us, but He wants us to have this privilege of helping others. Because that is the only way of enriching our own lives.
A few years ago, I was referred to a paralysis patient who was 55 plus. For the last many years, he was paralyzed from his waste down and consulted everyone he could have, but things became worst and worst. In my first meeting, I discovered that he was a senior bureaucrat and was pretty wealthy, but I was surprised to discover that he lived alone with two nurses in his big house. On probing, he told me that his three sons were born handicapped and later died. He married thrice: two wives died and the third one left him, ten years ago. After listening to this sad story, I asked him if he would like to share his inner life with me because I sensed that there was definitely something in his life that has caused all this. I strongly subscribe to the verse of the Holy Qur’an, “And whatever of misfortune befalls at you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” (42: 30)
Like anyone’s immediate response, he replied with a solid “no”. I told him that as a faith healer, my job is not to treat him but help him in treating himself. I also told him that God who claims to loves us seventy times more than our mothers do, He can’t do all this to anyone. But, unfortunately, he persisted that there was nothing of this sort. Months passed and after six month, he once again summoned me, as his condition further deteriorated. The moment I arrived there, he started crying and then finally narrated the whole story of his life. Cutting it short, what I gathered was that he was a corrupt man. He betrayed his brother, who was denied his due share of his inheritance after the death of the father, whereas he being the elder was entrusted with this responsibility. He was also known as a corrupt bureaucrat who taking advantage of his senior positions made a lot of money. He also told me that throughout his life he never spent a dime in charity and public service attitude was something he was totally unaware of. He further told me that he lied to me, as he was so guilty and ashamed of him. I told him that God had been giving him so many wake-up calls in terms of doing all those thing what He did to him, just wanting him to learn and change. But he never listened to those wake-up calls. I further told him that I was not sure that if I could be of any help to him. However I told him to seek forgiveness from the Lord as well as from all those, whom he had cheated and that he must try to undo all the damages that he had done to his soul. You must be wondering that what sort of a prescription was this and what this all has to do with paralysis. It even sounded me strange in the beginning of my learning but now, my faith has become too strong on these things. The proof is the saying of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, “………..and nothing increases the life (of man) except goodness; and man is only denied the provisions (of life) because of sins upon which he falls.
Further, I also told him to make a deal with Lord, that if he got recovered, he would devote his life for the service to the needy. He promised. In the next few months, we have a few more meetings. Cutting it short, the man did what he was supposed to be doing. He apologized with his brother and returned his money to him. In addition, he sold his house and donated money to a few charity organizations. He himself devoted his time teaching disadvantaged kids. Suffice it to say, he got fully involved in public service and you know what. Within the first year, he got fully recovered. He did not only recover physically, but his happiness, satisfaction, and peace also came back. He also recovered his lost respect and people started loving him. The medical science has no answer to this. But I think the only answer to this, I have, is that he made himself important in the lives of several thousands people who had no other source of assistance, and God could not afford to lose him, at least for the time being.
You see our Creator has made us interdependent. We depend on others for few things and others may depend on us for few other things. Helping others, giving what we have to those who don’t have ultimately helps us. If there was nobody around to be helped, we could have missed so many opportunities of having all those things that we would get as a result, thereof. You see the life is a balance between giving and taking. This tradition of service is not new. It is as old as the civilization itself. The only thing that has changed is that now we have become more aware of its benefits. There was a time when it was only a personal act. But not any more. Even different organizations including business corporations have realized its benefits. Instead of spending millions and millions on advertising and promoting their services and products, successful organizations have discovered this unique way of promotions by serving the communities, in which they operate. That is the best way of showing to the community that they really care. The more they give to the community, the more, thus comes back to them from the community.
Lack of Service Attitude – The Root Cause for Social Issues
I am a believer that all the global issues, our world is facing today is due to man’s inability to follow laws of God. Otherwise the life was not supposed to be as difficult as it became. Take the environmental issue. You see our Creator sent us on this earth as custodians of this planet, not the owners. Like good custodians, we were supposed to take care of this planet. We should have protected its non-renewable resources and should have renewed the renewable resources for the next generations. But what we did? We became “owners” instead, and started misusing these resources without renewing them for further generations. “Oh, it is my land I can cut as many trees as I want?”, “Oh it is my land; I will dump in it whatever I want?” These are just a few of the comments people would give to justify their doings. You see we are always concerned about the comfort of our children in the future and therefore strive for good inheritance for them. But just imagine that what sort of world are you going to leave behind for them. Ask yourself:
- Would they have clean water to drink?
- Would they have clean and fresh air to breathe?
- Would they have enough of trees left to keep the ground intact and keep the air clean and safe to breathe?
- Would they have enough of fuel left to keep their transport running?
- Would they have enough of coal and natural gas left to burn and keep their home heated?
- Would they have enough of uncontaminated land left to grow their food?
You see whatever happened in the past, it is over. Now we need to take it seriously, if we want to stay out of trouble. If we want our kids to enjoy all the luxuries of life as we did, then we need to get out of box and think differently. If we want them to protect the environment and its resources, we need to show them, that we also care. We need to lead by example. Each and everyone could do a number of things at its own. To protect the environment, we could plant some trees, we could conserve energy resources, we could save in fuel, in power, we could keep our environment, our neighborhood clean.
Contribute in the Public Service, Anyway!
There are so many ways of helping others and many don’t cost you much. You need to serve people with everything or anything you have. Serve them with time, with money, with your knowledge or anything you have, but you must serve. Don’t do it for others, do it for you. The research suggests that all those who spend 4-6 hours per week in various voluntary activities live 6-8 years longer on overage compared with those, who do not. I don’t understand what went wrong with us? What happened to all of our goodness? Why the followers of the greatest Prophet in the history of mankind who taught us a lesson of selfless contribution, are lagging behind in service. Just imagine if each and every one of us in the population of about 140 million spare 4 hours a week for voluntary work, it would give us 560 million hours a week of voluntary work. Now just imagine what this nation could become if we did that much of voluntary work on a weekly basis.
This society, this community, this country, this world of ours has given us a lot if we acknowledge it. We are always concerned about what our family, our society or our nation has given to us. Have we ever thought what we have given to our community or country? Most of us don’t even know who lives next door? You see our belief system has changed? We have become different than what we were supposed to be? Instead of helping others, most of us are causing nuisance to others, communities, society and the country as a whole. On one hand there is a public service attitude, doing good, something extra for others, going an extra mile to help someone, but majority of people in actual cause disservice and nuisance to their neighbors, society and nation.
If you want true peace, commit to spend a small percentage of whatever you have for the service of others. If you can’t give money at least try to educate the ones who cannot go to school. Helping others in anyway, that is service. Look at the housewives and retired people sitting at home. They don’t have anything to do. Even they can do something. They can teach someone. They can write. They can become active in their communities. They can contribute in the environment or work with mentally retarded or cancer patient. They could help a child in going to school. Do anything, but please do something that will be remembered. That will make a difference in someone’s life and what you get out of this. The Prophet Muhammad, PBUH said: “Whoso relieves a Mumin from a distress in this world, God will relieve him from his distress on the day of resurrection; and whoso makes it easy for a man in straitened circumstances to pay his debt, God will make (everything) easy for him in this world and the hereafter; ……. God is always ready to help his servant so long as the servant is ready to help his brother…..”
Live with the Law of Giving
This world has taught us that more we give of something the less we would have, the simple accounting. You had Rs. 100 and you gave 20, so you are left with Rs. 80, only. But my dear, luckily that is not how the life is, i.e., simple accounting. Life is a little more complex than that. One very important law of nature, called the law of giving suggests that the more we want of something, the more we must give away of that. The more and more you give away; the more and more you will be left with, because it comes back by many folds. Is not it interesting? Well, laws of this world are different than laws of nature, and that is where most of us go wrong. It is a fact that we all want love, respect, reward, recognition and smiles and all the good stuff for us. But we are not willing to give it to others. Unless we give it to others, we will not have it for us. You see if living with law, you are always appreciating, recognizing, respecting, sending blessings and positive comments, passing smiles, etc., to others more of all this will be coming back to you. Pass a smile to someone and immediately he will smile back to you. Tell someone how good he is, and immediately you will hear it back for us. Say Assalam-o-Alaikam, and others will say Waalaikam. And if each and every one of us doing it, you can imagine that the whole culture will immediately change. You see our creator know that we need all this to live, but He also wants to keep the harmony of this global human system. That is why, He has kept the secret of having, in giving. Instead of being dependent on others for your basic needs and then becoming frustrated for not getting them served, accepting the responsibility of your needs, you could immediately get all your needs served by serving someone else’s needs. It is as simple and as difficult as it is. Just imagine that you want to hear your kids or spouse telling you that they love you. Instead of putting them in a trial and then getting depressed, if they don’t say what you want them to say, there is a better way to get this need fulfilled. Go to them and tell them that how much you love them, and immediately you will hear it back. That is the law of giving. Unlike the law of the universe, where if you give something out of what you have, you are always left with less, the law of giving promises that the more you will give, more you will be left with.
You see the problem is that we want all the goodness for ourselves but what we are giving to others is totally opposite. If we are sowing abuses, cheating, lies, curses, hatred, ugly gazes, disrespect, and distrust, then we can have nothing more than that. We must understand that we can never build ourselves at the cost of others. We can not even harm others, without harming ourselves. If we want to build ourselves up, the only way of doing is by building others. As the old saying, “we will reap what we sow” testified by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “Who curses……when it does not deserve makes the curse to return upon him”. Just imagine what would you have at the end of the day, if you gave a positive comment a word of appreciation, a word of recognition, or a simple smile to every single person you met. Let’s commit that from today we will live with the law and build ourselves up by building up each and every person we can.
The Family-Missing Link
Since the sixties, our morals and values are at decline. If you want to know the answer as to why, I believe it is due to the abandoning of our family system and family traditions. I still remember those days of my childhood when every night, before going to sleep, our mother used to narrate a story with a good moral lesson in it. In those days, sending a child to the school at the age of three was totally unheard of. The school going age was no earlier than five years as there was no concept of playgroup or kindergarten. It used to be mothers’ responsibility to prepare their children for the school-going age. Even before going to schools, children learnt basic truths of lives, alphabets and character recognition, even basic calculations. Moreover, they were taught Qur’an, and memorized many prayers. In addition, we as children heard a number of true-life stories of many heroes of the world that really shaped our morals. I believe it to be the best part of our home education, as the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH said, “No present or gift of a parent, out of all the gifts and presents to a child, is superior to a good liberal education”. One of the stories that I heard in my childhood and left a distinctive mark in my personality is about a Sufi saint.
Childhood Stories: True Stories with morals or today’s movies with violence and romance?
The story is about a child who was leaving his country for his education. His mother at the time of his departure stitched forty Dinars (Iraqi currency) in his jacket to avoid chances of losing it. That money was all; his mother had saved for his education. When about to leave, his mother called his son and said, “Son, I want you to make a promise to me.” The son asked what that was. She said, “You would never ever lie to anyone, does not matter what it cost you?” The young boy promised his mother that he would never lie and left. After a few weeks of travel, the whole caravan with whom the boy was traveling was stopped by a group of desert bandits. Bandits took away everything from everyone in the caravan but could not find any money or precious belongings with this boy. When about to leave, one bandit asked the boy why he did not have any money with him? The boy replied that he did have forty Dinars with him. He searched him but could not find any money. He checked with the boy again and the boy again replied that he had forty Dinars. The bandit searched him thoroughly, again could not find anything. Finally the bandit took him to his leader and told the leader that the boy claims to have forty Dinars with him and he had searched the boy thoroughly but could not find any money. This time, the leader asked the young boy about where the money was? The boy unstitched his jacket and gave him the money. The leader could not resist asking the boy why he told him about the money. Did not he need that money? The boy replied that he needed money badly, but on the other hand there was a promise with the mother, to keep. So he decided to keep the promise and give him the money. The leader was shocked with the answer and started crying with tears. That little boy was all times great Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. This is not the only story; I remember hundreds of other stories from my childhood about Tipu Sultan, Khalid bin Waleed, Hazrat Ali Hajveri, in addition to our four Caliphs and Prophet Muhammad, PBUH. I am sure that these stories must have helped in shaping our values and building morals.
Listening to these stories as we were growing, by the time, we got to school, we were absolutely sure of basic “rights” and “wrongs”. We had a clear-cut understanding of who our role models were and why? We were sure of basic principles and truths of life and the price we would pay if we decided not to adhere to these. Even after being admitted to the school, every evening, our mother used to ask us about our day in the school. We were asked about each and every incidence, no matter how small or big it was, while we were away of home. And then our mother would give us her ruling on if it was right or wrong, or how should we have reacted, alternatively. Even the choice of friends was limited to family friends only. Before us choosing our friends, our parents first used to meet with their parents and unless they okayed the family worthy of the friendship, we were never allowed to visit their homes. It may sound absurd to many, but I now, really cherish this effort of my family because of this very selective friendships, whole of our family is far way from many small and big social evils.
Living in the Joint Family System
In the joint family system, the things used to be even better as the responsibility of character and moral building and educating, development and training of the youth was shared by the whole family including grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts. Other members of the family overcame parent’s shortcomings in terms of their knowledge, education or experience. There used to be some healthy competition between cousins and a lot of peer pressure to do what was considered “right” and backed up by full determination to become a “hero” in the eyes of the whole family. The family dinner was another daily opportunity to hear each other’s views and provide feedback if and where required. This extensive communication within the family ensured that there was no undesirable aspect of the child’s personality that went overlooked. In addition, this living together with limited resources, taught the children the golden principles and skills of listening to others, sympathy, empathy, negotiations, persuasion, courtesy, etiquette, manners, patience, tolerance, understanding others, helping others, sharing, self-sacrifice, assertiveness, accountability, etc. This verse highlights the importance of the family system: “And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith, – to them shall We join their families…..” (52: 21)
Over the period of time, however, we abandoned the family system for reasons out of the scope of this paper. With this, families were divided into smaller units, and then even smaller, later on. Now the home life has become limited to bedroom, one’s own little empire, where everyone even a small child is his/her own boss. There is no one to answer his queries, his “innocent” questions regarding where he came from, what was the relationship of his parents with each other, why his parents were married and how was he born. He chooses as what to watch on the TV, when to sleep and what and when to eat. He is totally isolated in his small room and what goes on in his head, no one knows. For the answers to his questions, he is either self-reliant as to conclude whatever he feels and thinks is right or is dependent on his friends and others around for the interpretations of all those things that happens around him. Unfortunately, they don’t even know what exactly is right and the child grows with many wrong beliefs.
The Verdict of Children
Parents have now delegated the responsibility of education, training and development of their children to the teachers who themselves are no better than children, in many respects. Instead of making a conscious effort of educating our children on what is right and wrong, about morals and truths of lives, we have left it at the mercy of the environment to teach our children as to what they are. You see as a result, children have started believing it to be “right” what they see people practicing; instead of practicing what they believed was “right”.
People from the older generation complain that the new generation does not respect their elders as much as they used to when they were young. My dear, ask yourself, would you truly respect a person, who speaks a lie ten times a day, who is corrupt, steals electricity, is abusive, runs away without paying the parking fee of Rs. 5 only, has no respect for elderly people, women and children, throw his garbage and trash on the street, has no respect for national laws, parks where it clearly says “No Parking” cheats with everyone and thinks he is too smart. Well these are a few of the things that a sample survey of about 200 school-going kids told us about their teachers and parents. You see children notice all these things. Parents bring their children and complain that they don’t respect them, are abusive, cheat and lie, etc. And when you ask kids, they tell you that’s what their parents do. How can you stop someone of something, if you don’t do it yourself? The parents watch dirty movies and expect their kids not to watch those. They abuse in front of kids, they cheat, they lie and when the kids learn all of those, then they get worried and take them to a counselor who could help in fixing their habits. Isn’t it strange?
If there is something that is wrong, it is wrong for all. If cheating is wrong, it is wrong for father as well. If abuses are wrong, the same is true for everyone. There are no circumstances or exceptions here. The mere fact that we are elder does not entitle us for respect. We have to earn it. The children are quite observant and make their teachers and parents as role-models in their early years. When they grow and find contradiction in their role models, they look around and try to find another role model. Most of the time, they choose lousy role models because they find plenty of them around. When they see everyone doing something, that they were either told or read was not “right”, the practices (i.e. what they see people doing) become their rights. These wrong beliefs about what is right, then reshape their attitudes, their behaviors, their habits, and finally the character. That is how it is. Let me narrate a true story that I read somewhere, says it all.
A father took his son and son’s friend to a movie. At the window it read, “Kids under five years admit free”. He asked the man at the window for three tickets. The guy looked at the kids, and gave three tickets for US $ 9.00. After collecting his change and tickets, when the man was about to leave the window, the guy again looked at kids, and asked the man, “You mind if I ask the ages of these kids?” The man replied, “Oh, no. Not at all. This is my son and his age is five years and two months, and this (pointing at his son’s friend) is ……. and his age is about the same.” The man at the window replied, “Have you won a lottery?” The man asked, “Why do you say this?” He replied, “Well there was free admission for children under five, you could have easily saved six dollars, it was not a big deal and no one could have known the difference.” The man replied, “Thank you for your concern. I understand that no one else could have known the difference but my son would have seen the difference.” This is character and that is how the societies and the generations are built.
Where are the Role Models?
With more and more outdoors as well as inside entertainment around, parents and children are spending lesser time with each other. And children’s need of listening to stories is now served by watching violent, romantic and sexually aroused movies. And due to this, the younger generations’ heroes are not anyone from the real globally acknowledged heroes, (many don’t even know their names), but people from the show biz, because that’s all they have seen. Even the basis of the selection of these heroes is not their morals, character, capabilities, or contribution to the world, but their built, their ability to attract opposite gender, their aggression, their violence, etc. And there is no one else to be blamed for that, but parents. Remember the truth that we become, what we live in. We are what we see, say, watch, do and listen, everyday. And if that’s what our kids have been watching and listening to, that’s what they are going to become. A few years ago, I read a research carried in USA, somewhere that concluded that all those individuals who were convicted for violence and sexual crimes, they used to watch violent and sex-related movies, respectively in their childhood. Does it ring the bell?
Children have distinct notions of right and wrong, but only with respect to their own well-being. But, because they wish to be loved and protected by parents and family and enjoy the company of and attachment to others, they develop a broader sphere of behaviors, which includes fairness to others, sympathy, public service, compassion, sacrifice (sharing), etiquette, etc. Perhaps some of that evolves naturally, but I think that most of the knowledge and desire to care and sacrifice for others is taught and reinforced until it becomes a habit. You see a child needs to be taught about or shown the character, service to humanity, living for others, honesty, morals, etc. But if he had not seen all those things happening around him, because his family never practiced this, then how would he learn that? Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, said, “No one is born but upon the (right) constitution, the constitution of God whereon He has constituted men, but his parents make him a Jew, or a Christian, or a Magician……….”
You see the dilemma is that we expect adults to be role models for the children. We expect adults to teach value concepts by example and by explanation. But if they don’t know or practice it themselves, where do the children learn these lessons of conscience and courage to build character? I have been so discouraged with the fact that how many children have no idea as to why something is right or wrong. With respect to values, today’s kids are getting either no information or garbage information. I don’t consider being pointed towards the Internet, movies, technology, motorways, or cars, any direction towards morals. We must teach our children that the character and moral is not only about getting caught. It is about doing it for the feeling of personal pride that comes from doing things one knows to be right. I must admit, I’m disheartened by how many parents don’t seem to have a clue as to the meaning and importance of morals, and if they did not know it what would they teach to their kids?
Living with God
The forth and the most critical element of peace is living with God. As I believe, it includes each and every thing, we have discussed earlier and without Him, we could never do it. It is clear that whatever we do in our life, we will always have some purpose for it, regardless of the fact if we are conscious of it or not. We go to office; we will have a purpose. We go to school, we have a purpose. We apply for a job; we will have a purpose for it. We travel; we will have a purpose for it. That purpose could be anything, in the case of travel, that could be of exploring the world, meeting with friends or relatives, going to school, relaxation, secure a job, or anything, but there will always be a purpose. If you undertook foreign travel for higher education and for some reasons it was not being fulfilled, you will never be satisfied. You would do anything that could be done to achieve the purpose. If whatever could be done had been done and still the purpose was not being fulfilled, then one would look at other options. In this case, every act would revolve around that purpose. One would be willing to do anything to get that purpose fulfilled and if nothing seemed to work then one might see no rationale in staying in an alien country and decide to come back. Because the purpose of the travel was higher education not merely a travel. Another very important fact is that the purpose behind any act always affects the ultimate outcome of that act. If we went to school because the purpose of going to schools was earning a degree to get a better job and to make money, this belief would determine what we would get out of school. However, if the purpose of going to school was not only getting a degree but to learn then the outcome would definitely be different. Because the purpose was learning, not getting the degree. Degree was something additional but not an end by itself.
I think that answers a concern that why people have become only interested in their own lives. Simply because they don’t know what exactly the purpose of their lives is and even if they know, they don’t have any slightest idea on how to achieve that purpose. Most of us believe that purpose of our lives is just to serve our own needs and that raises many questions. Because if that was the only purpose then as long as we are achieving it, we must be doing okay. And in this case, the question of character and public service does not even arise. Let’s see on what exactly is the purpose of life because unless we put the foundation right, nothing will work. I believe this to be of critical importance.
The Purpose of Life
Man is more powerful and beloved to God than angels are. Our job is to know it and strive to become what we were ought to be. The Holy Qur’an testifies this fact: “And lo! Thy Lord said unto angels: Behold, I am about to create mortal man out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted; and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before in prostration” (2: 28-29). Now the question comes as of why we are better creation and also more beloveds. Again the Holy Qur’an provides the answer: “Behold: thy Lord said to the angles; ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth. And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: ‘tell me the name of these ye are truthful’. “Of knowledge we have none, save what Thou hast taught us” (2: 30-32)
It is clear that our ability to “learn and change” not only differentiates us from other creations but also make us viceroys of God on this planet earth. Learning and then using this learning to change for good by improving the quality of personal as well as the life of people is the differentiating factor. God has gifted man with this ability. That is why than even in millions of years, we do not witness any change in the lives of animals. They still live the same way as they used to live. On the other hand, our lives are constantly changing. That created the superiority of human beings over others. God blessed us with this ability. Now the question comes, as to why. There must be some purpose of calling us His viceroys and God must be wanting us to do something as His viceroys. Yes there is definitely one purpose and God has mentioned it. The Bible reads: “where there is no vision, the people perish” and the Holy Qur’an reads: “Did ye then think that We had created you in jest (without purpose), and that ye would not be brought back to Us (for account)”. (23: 115) and at another place: “Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between” (38: 27). It means that there is a purpose and God wants us to discover that purpose. On the purpose of life, again, the answer comes directly from God: “I have only created jinns and men that they may serve Me (51: 56)
Now let’s explore as to what is the meaning of “serve Me”. Few believe that the meaning of “serve Me” is worshipping God. If the worship was the only purpose that there was no point in creating human beings. God already had so many creatures like angels, birds, animals and insects which were already doing this job pretty well. God knew what He wanted from us, and it was different than simple worshipping. And even it was worship then the question arises what exactly is the meaning of “worship”? If you put all the chunks together, you will reach the same place, where I reached. You see that humans are the only creatures that God has asked to serve each other, to help each other, to give charity to poor, to take care of your neighbors, relatives, parents, etc. There are preset rights and obligations for each segment of the society: e.g. children, parents, neighbors, husband and wife, poor, rich, learned, ignorant, leaders and led ones, etc. That means that “serve Me,” means not only worshipping God but also serving God through serving our fellow beings, by being His viceroys.
Well, I am not a scholar, neither claim to be an authority on Islam, but from all this what I understand the purpose of our existence is “Improving the quality of personal as well as the life of our fellow-beings (family, relatives, unprivileged, society as a whole, etc.). To make it easy for you, let me ask you a question? Every one of us needs money? But if I asked you a simple question as to why you need it, what will be your answer? Yes, 1 understand that our answers will be different. Someone will say to have a better house, someone might say to provide better education to my children, someone might say to provide better health facilities to my parents, etc. If you asked a social worker like Edhi, he might reply that he needs money to help the suffering humanity. These statements sounds different on the surface, but if you reflected on all these statements, you will agree that no matter what you say, at the end of the day, we need it to serve the “life purpose” statement above.
Now let’s explore that what this life purpose statement demands of us. Well, it is clear that if we have to improve the quality of life of others, first of all we will have to improve the quality of our own life. How can someone fix the life of others, if one’s own life is shattered? The same way one cannot improve the quality of other’s lives if one’s own life has nothing to give to others. Let’s take an example of a person who happens to be a doctor. No matter if he realizes it or not if he is a popular and a successful doctor then he must be good in his profession and using his knowledge, he must be recovering people from their illness, i.e., improving the quality of life. As a reward, he will be compensated of his services. The quality of his life is being improved because he is improving the quality of life of others; and so his purpose is achieved. If his services were not improving others life, then people would stop going to him.
Now think for a while, that what must has he done to achieve all this? First of all he must have committed his resources, including time, money, energy, etc. to learn the art of medicine. Then using his new learning, he must have discovered or revealed some hidden secrets of treating people from that particular disease and then he started using his newly discovered secrets to improve the quality of life of others. That means that to achieve the life purpose, there are two prerequisites:
- Develop one’s own personality in all the dimensions,’ (i.e. physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually by committing to leaning, and
- Using it to reveal the secrets of life and learning and mastering them, and, then finally using them to achieve the purpose of life
It is very clear from this entire debate that all of us have a common purpose of life as individuals. If we serve the purpose, we will be at peace, and satisfaction, and if we choose to or may be just ignore this, then we will pay the price in some way, as a recent research has highlighted that people who live a purposeless life have five times more chances to catch a terminal disease because living a purposeless life adversely affects our immune system. Remember the real happiness and inner peace comes from fulfilling the purpose of life.
The Book of God – A Life Manual
You must have observed that throughout the writing, I have been quoting references from the Holy Qur’an. Why, because, whatever I discovered through so much of hardships in my life were no different than what was already there in the Holy Qur’an. You name anything and everything what the modern world is finding, and if it is true, it will be documented in Qur’an. The problem here is that most of us take Islam as a religion. And because people consider it a religion, it is being treated like one. Left in bookshelves and libraries safe and sound until we will have time after our retirement to learn from it. You see if you read Qur’an with understanding you will find that there is no mentioning of word “religion” in Qur’an. Throughout the Qur’an, wherever there is a mention of Islam, it is called “ad din” and that mans “the way of life”.
We must understand that various sciences and disciplines of knowledge deals with any one aspect of our lives, whereas being a complete code of life, the Holy Qur’an provides final guidelines for all aspects of our personal and professional lives. The Holy Qur’an itself testifies this fact: “We have put forth for men, in this Qur’an every kind of parable in order that they may receive admonition.” (‘39: 27) and at another place, “We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide….” (16: 89). It is a complete code of life and therefore, addresses each and every aspect of our personal and professional lives. You well appreciate the fact that even a household can not run without having guidelines of acceptable behavior for its members. You will also have some policies and guidelines for your own household, at to what is right and what is wrong? What to do and what is not acceptable? What and when to eat? What to say and what not to say? If you did not have these guidelines, then you could imagine what would happen to the culture of your household. This is also true in the case of organizations. Just imagine that if the organization you work for, did not have any policy manual or guidelines listing down what to do and what not to do, when to come, how to apply for leave, what are the timings, how to apply for loan, what to say and what not to say, how to behave, what to wear, etc. what could have happened?
Yes, it would have become a mess. All day the management would waste time in resolving conflicts between people and dealing with all sorts of behavioral issues. But that is definitely not the main purpose for the existence of any organization. To achieve the organizational purpose, the organization provides its employees a comfortable and a uniform work environment. For the very reason, they will have developed and enforced various polices and listed them all in the policy manual. When we join the organization, this manual or guidelines are given to us and we take it in that spirit and abide by those. We never dare to challenge those values as we believe that the people who made the organization, they know better how to run the organization.
Take another example, you buy a TV or a VCR, a camera or may be a car. When you unpack the item, the very first thing you notice is a small booklet that reads “Instructions Manual”. It lists down various features of the product that you have bought and provides guidelines to get the most out of your purchase. It also lists down various precautions so your product runs successfully for its life. Like for car, when to change the oil, when to change the timing belt, and when to change various filters, etc. We read them carefully and decide to follow those guidelines believing that whoever has made the product, they know better how to get the most out of the product and, keep it running. However if we chose not to follow the guidelines or maybe invent our own guidelines, the warranty would become void. Do we then dare not to follow guidelines? No, never, because we can not afford to ruin the product.
Exactly the same way, you see God is our Creator. He is our engineer. He wanted us to get the most out of this experience of life. He wants us to be successful in achieving our life purpose in this world; because that is the only way we could be successful in this life and the life after. To make it easier for us, He has been providing us guidelines in the form of “life manuals” listing do’s and don’t of life and they are known as books of God. The latest version of these life manuals is called “The Holy Qur’an”. That is the whole story, so simple if we abide by the company policy manual what is wrong in abiding by the “life manual” for this world, the Holy Qur’an? The Holy Qur’an thus provides guidelines for our own benefits to assist us in avoiding all issues that we may encounter in our lives, if we do not know those guidelines. You see the Qur’an is called the fina1 book. And being the final and the latest of all the books of God, it incorporates everything in it. Ask yourself, if there was a latest edition or release of any book, would you rather buy the latest or still like to get the older ones. I bet you would go for the latest one. Now being the latest and the final book, it is complete and does not require any alteration i.e. either additions or deletions and we must commit to adhere to it in the same spirit.
The Psychology of Prayers
All of us require a mentor, a friend or a coach to guide us. A friend who is un-biased. A friend who is honest and trust-worthy. A friend who is informed enough and a friend who would always think and want good for us. In this material world of ours, how many friends with this profile could you find? Probably not a single one, “Right”? No, “wrong”. There is one who has all these traits and He is God. The problem is that we have turned our back towards Him. We think that we are good enough to take all the decisions ourselves. And because we don’t ask Him, most of the times, He would not tell us? He promises you that He will answer your prayers, if you pray, “….Call on me, I will answer your (prayer)”…. (40: 60). Let me give you an example to elaborate it further. Take an example of a child who goes to his father all the times for his guidance. He understands that his father knows better than he knows and is honest and trust-worthy. Whenever, he goes to his father for guidance, he will always have it. When he grows up he thinks that now he has become wise enough to take his own decision so he stops consulting his father. Father tries to assert himself in the beginning, but he does not listen, and slowly father withdraws himself and stops guiding. My dear the same is true with God. Our Creator loves us, but we have stopped going to Him for guidance. If we don’t seek his guidance, he would not give it to us. Qur’an itself testifies it: “Then do ye remember Me, I will remember you. Be grateful to me and reject not faith”. (2: 152)
No matter who and what we are, most of the times, we don’t have all the information required to take a wise decision. For that we need to have a friend, a coach or a mentor, who knows it all, who have all the information, who is unbiased and loves us. We need to have trust and faith in him that whatever he would tell, would be right for us. If we did not have some one like this then the life would become extremely difficult for us. Who else could take this role, but God? We need to trust Him that whatever he would choose for us or ask us to do, must be right for us even if it was not what we actually wanted. If you lived with a faith so strong, you would ultimately be at peace and would discover that all those decisions you took after His consultation ultimately proved to be right. That is a very personal secret of all those, who are successful and are at peace. Many things they did, they did because that was what God told them to do. If it was according to their wishes, they were happy and if it was not, again the faith was so strong that they did it and then the time proved that it was right. You see that is where the problem lies. As long as God tells us to do whatever we wish, we trust Him, the moment He tells us to do something against our wishes, we turn our back towards Him. It is the sign of a weak faith. People with strong faith are at peace both ways, because they believe: “….whosoever follows My guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery. (20: 123)
In this society of ours, due to weak faith we have made so many gods. Believe it or not, but I see it on a daily basis. We have god of love (our spouses), god of money (our employers), god of health, (doctors) god of support (friends), god of security and protection (security guards), god of promotion (bosses), god of education (teachers), god of hope (politicians), and many others. I see so many people spending so much time in meeting, greeting and pleasing their gods and they have been doing it for so many years without any break. We have so many gods to salute on a daily basis but unfortunately not the one, the real one, The God. Let me make it easier to digest. I asked many people that how would they feel if the most powerful person in this country was their close relative? They told me how secure, powerful and relaxed they would feel if it was true. The next question I asked was how about if he told them to call him ten times a day to remind him of their work. You bet they said, they would do it. They would call him and visit him many times to ensure that he does not forget them. Then they would pay visits and make courtesy calls to thank him for the support or the favors he has given to them. He will always be their top priority. Whenever there was a call from him, they would just close everything and would go to meet him. Why, because they believed him to be the most powerful man in the country who could help them. Now imagine that they later on discovered that he was not what they believed him to be. There was someone else who was the most powerful of all the beings. The Creator of this universe, without His order, nothing moves. No one could take away what He decided to give and no one could give anything that He did not want them to have. He is the God. He is not dependent on anyone, but we all are dependent on Him. Now imagine how powerful, relaxed and secure would one feel if he/she was a friend of God? Well, again a matter of perspective and faith. But He warned us of this: “…Take not two gods. For He is just one God: then fear Me (and Me alone)” (16: 51), “So call not on any other god with God…… (26: 213)’ Yet have they taken, besides Him, gods that can create nothing but are themselves created; that have no control of hurt or good to themselves; nor can they control death nor life…… (25: 3).
Unfortunately when He calls us we don’t have time for Him. Whereas we do have all the time of the world for other gods. If you really believe on what He is and whatever He has told was right then how could we do all those things that we do. How could we afford not to spare few minutes on a daily basis for Him? Why don’t we go to Him five times a day when He calls us? If we don’t have time for Him, He also does not have time for us. You see when it comes to saying our prayers; we take it as a burden on us. And the reason we take it as a burden is just due to the fact that we consider it doing something for someone else. In fact, God does not need our prayers. If He chose five times prayers for us, it was not Him who required it, He actually gave us an opportunity to go to Him, the true God and seek His guidance instead of choosing those who themselves are as powerless as we are. For all those difficult decisions of our lives where we lack wisdom and would like to have an advice of someone who knows it all, He is the only choice. He knew we would require his guidance if we wanted to live with peace that is why that He chose five mandatory prayers for us. The more we go to Him for advice and guidance, the more He would be happy to contribute in our lives. Otherwise we would end up in a frustration. I have seen so many people living with guilt, fear, worries and what not. Just because either they did something they should not have done or were afraid of doing something wrong resulting in lack of peace in their lives. A few clippings that I have been gathering from various sources, proves that how important prayers are in our lives?
- Faith and Prayer help fight Mental illness (British Health Education Authority)
- People who regularly pray tend to become ill five times less
- Prayers have a miraculous results in treating high blood pressure, stress, cardiovascular diseases, urinary tract infections, cancer, mental illness, migraine, back ache, arthritis, and recovery from surgery and slowing down of aging process, etc.
- Medicines keep on working as long as power to heal is there
- American Psychiatrist Association has recognized “V” code labeled “Religious and Spiritual Problems”
- In HIV infected people who were living normal even after 15 years, the study disclosed that they have common traits like personal responsibility, a sense of meaning and purpose, service attitude, prayers, etc.
Sounds surprising, but I am sure not to those who understood Qur’an, “….for without doubt in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction. (13: 28)”
God and Modern Findings
I always tell people that no matter what we like or what our individual biases towards life are, the fact is that the truth does and will prevail. We must understand that we are not independent. We are a part of a universal system created by God and there are prescribed and set rules and guidelines called “laws of nature” to run this universe. We are not powerful enough to change these “rules”. However, God has given us a choice either to conform to those laws of nature or discard them. If we choose not to conform to these prescribed laws, which most of us do, then on one hand we will never reach our full potential and on the other, we will pay the “fine” for our non-conformances. The fine can be anything (e.g. individual, organizational and societal sufferings and lack of peace, destruction, not reaching our potential, not fulfilling the life purpose, etc.). Therefore, it is matter of choice. It is not only I, everyday; people around the world in their chosen fields are revealing the basics truths of life and learning from those. An article published in “Business Week” of August 30, 1999, under the heading “‘21 Ideas for the 21st century”, highlighted some basic truths of 1ives:
- Why are we here? What does it all mean? Human being will ask these big questions and the religion will provide the context.
- Neither economics efficiency or nor scientific rationalism has diluted the e overwhelming force of religions beliefs, rituals, and myths.
- The pull of religion will intensify. Science and religion will find common grounds
- Today, faith fills as void that material comfort cannot.
- In the U.S., 9 in 10 people claim to engage regularly in prayer and 3 out of 4 do so on a daily basis.
- The narrow-bore scientific disciplines of the late 20th century will give way to interdisciplinary approaches asking the larger, over reaching questions about the complex patterns of life.
- The correlation between brainwave patterns and meditative states faith, prayer and healing will emerge.
And soon after another study revealed the fact that how quickly God is regaining entry in the corporate America. The “Business Week” of November 08, l999, under the heading “Religion in the Workplace” mentioned that:
- There are 10,000 Bible and prayer groups in workplace in the U.S., (which are retraining corporate America on the powers of the religion, character ad morality, etc.)
- Companies like Xerox, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Wal-Mart Stores regularly organize sessions for the spiritual uplift of their employee
- 48 % of American talk about religion in their workplaces everyday
- 51% of American wants to pray everyday
- Many CEOs regularly consult various spiritual leaders seeking help with important decisions
- 78 % feel the need of spiritual growth in their life as compared with 20 % in 1994
- 95 % of American have absolute trust on God
- Once words like “virtue”, “spirit” and “ethics” got through the corporate door, God wasn’t far behind.
- Body, emotion and brain. The only thing that was missing from the equation was spirit…….
Whatever the world is discovering today must not be new to those who understand Qur’anic teachings which revealed these basic realities 1400 years ago. The Qur’an testified this truth, “Soon will we show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth,), and in their souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth…… (41: 53)
Are Muslims still Superior?
You see Muslims were called a superior nation by God because of some virtues, “Ye are the best of peoples evolved for mankind enjoining what is right forbidding what is wrong and believing in God.” (3:110). What is referred as “right” in this verse is what these virtues are. The right is the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, and our job is understanding accepting, believing and acting upon them in totality. The Holy Qur’an warns us, “…….Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? And an the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty……” (2:85) Accepting it in totality is the key here unless we did that we will never become what we were ought to be. If we accepted it in totality, we will become a balanced nation, balanced in our obligations towards God as well as our obligations towards others. The Qur’an addresses this fact in (2:143) “Thus, have we made of you an Ummat justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations. On the basis of superiority, the Qur’an says, “Say: “Are those equal those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition.” (39:9) And at another place, “To all are degrees (ranks) according to their deeds. (6:132).
If you did a detailed study of the Islam, you would discover that in addition to “taqwa”, there are only three other bases in the Qur’an, that establish the superiority of one over others (either individual or nations). These are knowledge, morals and deeds. The men of understanding are basically the men of knowledge. The main purpose of our lives as we discussed earlier is “service to God” through service to His people and that is the only way we could reach God. We cannot achieve this purpose without learning and constantly changing. The superiority of Muslims was developed on the basis of what they were ought to achieve through following the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. However if we chose not to do what made us superior, then the question of superiority does not arise.
Is Qur’an the Book of Muslims or the Book for the World?
One point that is worth pondering here is that who this Qur’an if for? Is it only for Muslims or for everyone? Most of the people believe that it is only for Muslims and therefore, its teachings are only practical for Muslims. Again let’s seek an answer from Qur’an itself, “This no less than a message to (all) the Worlds (38:87). So the fact is established that the Qur’an is not only for Muslims but provides time tested guidelines for everyone who would like to seek guidance from it. In the words of the Holy Qur’an, “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians, …any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness,… on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve…..(5:72). God is not only of Muslims. He is of everyone. All human beings are His creatures then why would He discriminate anyone? It is not possible. According to the verse above, whoever, 1) believes in God, 2) believes in the day of judgment and, 3) does the right, is superior from others, who don’t, no matter if they are Muslims.
The history tells that there was a time when Muslims were on top of everything, through their knowledge and character. But unfortunately now we have done away with those abilities and traits that made us superior to others. What we see now is, however totally opposite, Muslim stands nowhere in this world of knowledge. They have earned such a bad name for themselves that even being called a Muslim is how considered a liability. With every passing century, Muslim’s contributions to the world of knowledge are becoming fewer and the knowledge that was the heritage of Muslims is now owned by western nations. Even our education system has been taken over by westerners. Majority of the books taught at the lower levels and almost every single book taught at the college and university level is authored by westerners. We have become so dependent on western nations that we cannot even educate our youths without their assistance. Islam that laid down so much importance of obtaining knowledge that the pursuit of it was called a “jihad” meaning equivalent to the fighting in the cause of God”. In the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “Whoso goes forth in search of knowledge en gages himself in the cause of God until he returns (home)? At another place, the Prophet Muhammad (PHBH) said, “whose seeks after knowledge and attains it, shall have a double reward and, f attains not it (yet,) shall he have one reward”. The followers of that Islam are now considered illiterate people. Look at the literacy rate of Muslim countries and compare it with the western countries and you would be shocked. And with this we have lost our respect in the world. That is very unfortunate but we should have known it earlier as Qur’an testified it: “But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down” (20: 124) and in the words of Prophet, Muhammad, (PBUH) “A time will come over men’ When nothing will remain of Islam except its name, nor anything of the Qur’an except its formalities; the it’ places of worship will be well preserved and in use, while they will (really) he ruined because of their guidance; their learned men will be the worst of (all) who are under the heaven; from these will come forth mischief-making, and in them will it settle.”
The non-Muslim world, however, learning from their experiences have discovered that there is only one way to lead the world and that is through knowledge and therefore they are striving for it. In pursuit of their superiority, everyday there are learning the truths of lives and using them to improve the quality of lives at all the levels. God knew that this ummah will never be able to retain its leadership without knowledge that is why the pursuit of knowledge was made mandatory for all Muslims and the superiority of knowledge was declared better than superiority of worship. In the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “To acquire knowledge is binding upon all Muslims, men and women” and “…the superiority of knowledge is better than superiority in worship. You see because of our own ignorance, the credit of re-introducing “God” in our world is now going to westerners. And learning from them and following them, like always, by the time, we finally catch up, they will have established yet another benchmark for the world and that would be no different than “Qur’an” no matter what they with call it.
The question is when so many others cut corners, hide the truth, self-defeat, believe in the fast buck, and follow the crowd; can we even afford to travel the high road of ethical behavior and service attitude? We can’t afford anything else. Any other approach to achieve peace will not work. People, societies and nations with shaky ethics and shabby standards will be crippled as they try to compete in this changing world. We need timeless principles to steer by in running our human systems and building serenity and peace. And for this, we need high standards and timeless principles, the universal laws, the laws of God.
You see that people living in different countries and following different religions might follow different ways of life but, the laws of Qur’an are universal in nature and are the same anywhere and unchangeable too. Why, because God has not left it to human intellect to determine such laws knowing that human beings are selfish in nature and therefore they can seek self-preservation but do not care about others. Thus the God, to serve the well being of all the human beings and for preservation of mankind as a whole, He revealed those universal laws, Himself. These revealed universal laws are preserved in the Holy Qur’an, the code of life for mankind of all the ages. An important question that comes here is that why the life of comfort, luxury, riches, high office and status which is full of attraction must be given up for the service of others. Because of man’s selfish nature, he would not sacrifice self-interest unless and until he is convinced that in doing so he would gain more. Take an example of a person who is hungry for the last many days and finally, his favorite food is brought to him. When he is about to eat it, he is told that the food is very tasty but there is a little poison in it. What would he do? Would he eat it or throw the food. He will definitely throw it because the immediate gain in terms of filling up the belly is far less than the potential risk of death. You see no matter where you live, everyone knows that you die if you take poisonous food. That is a universal truth and people understand it, no matter where they come from and which religion they follow.
The same is true in terms of laws of God. If you get or eat something from the ill-gotten money; that may satisfy your material needs, but ultimately it leads to the spiritual death. Remember our physical being is a shell, holding our soul in it. The shell is useless if it could not protect our true self. The main purpose is not to protect the shell but to protect what is there inside. Our present actions affect our future. What we sow, that’s what will we reap. If we don’t see anything beyond our immediate gains, then we are seriously mistaken. It is only and only then that we will have peace in our lives, if we accepted laws of God as guiding principles and adhering to these laws took pride in postponing immediate material gains for the true rewards. But if we are so shortsighted or impatient, and worked only for immediate material gains, then the price we would pay later on might not be worth the bargain.
We must also realize that every one of us started with nothing. No ethics. Born innocent, “pure as the snow”. Very soon, though, people started teaching us right from wrong, good from bad. We were rewarded for being responsible and punished for being irresponsible. The world began to hold us accountable for our behavior. We started out empty-handed, without even a conscience. Then, to make matters worse, we had some poor teachers along the way. We all know about lousy role models. In some cases our teachers may be even taught okay, yet how many lessons of life did we misunderstand? How often did we draw the wrong conclusions?
As kids we often were rewarded for doing the wrong things. After all, the school life does not offer a curriculum on ethics and morality. We found ways to work the system, discovering that what works is not always what is right. In fact, life quickly taught us that behaving ethically and right could be painful. Who among us wasn’t punished by parents for telling the truth about our childhood crimes? Before we hit kindergarten we became master in the art of lying. Dealing with other kids in the family or down the street, we honed our selfish instincts, grabbing for the best toys and taking more than our share of cookies. By the age of three we knew how to shrewdly manipulate, playing both ends (mommy and daddy) against the middle.
We all faced painful ethical challenges before we even knew how to spell our names. There were tough choices and confusing signals regarding how to live one’s life. And here we are now, today, still struggling. Still trying to sort things out. Still trying to work our way through life effectively. Struggling hard to cope up with the change in our lives, without changing the foundation. The only thing that has changed is the scope of the problem, everything else remains unchanged. There’s more at stake now. And we are in a position, as grown-ups, to do a lot more good or bad for ourselves, our nation, our world and build a New World on the golden and timeless laws of God. And if we did that, we will give birth to a New World. A world where:
- Every individual will be respected equally as a person. The basis of superiority will not be colour, creed, ethnicity, social/economic status or background, etc., but the true character as portrayed during fulfilment of our obligations and one’s contributions and the service to the humanity will form the basis, instead.
- It will be a shared responsibility to provide security and safety of life, respect, honour, and belongings of every member of the society.
- Speedy and free justice will be everyone’s’ right. No one will be left at the mercy of others
- The provision of food, shelter and clothing to all the members of the global community will be the responsibility of the society, state or global community
- Every member of the global community will be provided quality education
- The members will contribute generously to the collective fund, which will then be responsible for distributing these funds to needy
Only then a true peaceful society and the world would emerge. At this time in the history, scarred by wars and darkened by oppression, the world looks around, for a new birth of peace. For the first time in the memory, the human family is trying to gather by removing hateful walls and abandoning brutal ideologies. If all of us, as I believe, play a missionary role, then peace will be our reward. To build this peace, we need leaders with character, conscience and service attitude. Only then our tomorrow will take shape, not in the battlefields but in living rooms, churches, mosques, research labs, in schools, in institutions, in teaching halls. For this age of dizzying technological advances, we need inner inspiration, character, and service attitude as much as information, and faith on God to match our facts. We must believe that peaceful men and women aim high, work hard, are more concerned with their obligations than their rights, look more for their character, than their reputation, and give back to the society, more than they take from it. With our feet on the ground and our eyes on the stars, we must become busy in reshaping the culture of peace around the conviction that peace is a gift from God, if we follow His guidelines, not governments. And now is the time to do it, before it is too late.