Lately, I find myself struggling between striving to learn about the worldly knowledge, like keeping myself posted with the current political or economic events, reading newspaper, watching daily news, preparing and studying for a professional exam and then at the same time getting perplexed with the thought that my stay in this world is just a temporary one and that I should be more inclined towards learning about the religion and I should be devoting my time to gain more understanding and knowledge of my religion and its requirements, and that the measure of success of my after-life will be how much effort I put in fulfilling my religious obligations towards God.
I am quite unclear as how to strike the balance between these two notions. At the one end there are career demands that require me to update and upgrade myself in order to catch up with the ever-increasing global competitive pressures, which partly geared by the motive to gain monetary benefits, are also aimed at making my worth academically as well as socially as a knowledgeable person not only in my line of profession but also as an educated informed human being. All this effort is always supported by the belief that God helps only those who help themselves.
And then on the other end I find all this effort futile. I see no point in worldly accomplishments when I think about the uncertainty of life and the thought that all my efforts are just for these worldly benefits whether monetary or otherwise. So I should rather be working towards making my after-life better and more rewarding, after all this is why life was created.
And then comes another thought that God didn’t create us just to worship Him. He also as part of our test, wanted us to live and grow like civilized, educated societies. Especially when I see the state of affairs of Muslims of today, I in my opinion feel that one main reason for the current condition is the apathy of commitment by Muslims to gain knowledge of this so-called worldly modern education, that I find inevitably has led to this current deplorable situation.
And then the established reality that economics is the key to worldly success for any nation and an economic advantage can only be achieved through comprehension, understanding and application of modern research and work in all fields of science and technology. May I say that present day Muslims due to their stringent interpretation of religious beliefs and their absolute focus on deeds for gaining potential after-life rewards give lesser priority for working towards gaining worldly accomplishments?
I get more confused when I see that in the part of the world where I live in, the focus is more on praying 5 times daily without any apparent comprehension to the spirit of worship and with a indication of lack of realization for self-development through modern education. I am no judge of anyone’s prayers, however, I feel it is affecting me in the way that I have started feeling that present day interpreters have restricted the meaning of human life and mind’s success just to prayers and rituals only.
Whenever I sit among my elders and talk about education for betterment of Muslims, they always come up with all sorts of religious quotations and conspiracy theories, admonishing me that I should be more firm on my faith with a strong faith in God and that God knows and takes care of everything. I try to tell them that no one is refuting that as it is an inherent part of our beliefs, however, my mind doesn’t accept leaving everything to God alone. And all these thoughts sometimes give me a guilt that I in my ignorance might not cause God’s wrath or that I might have not started believing in something that could be implied as weakening of my faith.
I, though have firm belief that Islam no where prohibits from gaining knowledge. am sure that most of young and God-fearing, struggling Muslim professionals like myself go through this similar dilemmas as how to cope and maintain a balance between these worldly requirements, that when pursued will collectively result in an educated, tolerant, civilized and comparatively better Muslim nation, and our obligations and commitments towards God and the religion as embedded into our minds through our elders’ interpretations and perceptions.
Can you please advise.
I find the service done through your site incredible and a breath of fresh air. It has given me the strength and courage to ponder and explore about ideas and views that I earlier could not dare to question or even enquire.
My sincerest wishes for your further success.
God has not created this world in a vacuum. We do not live as beings confined to the limitation of cyclical existence. Had that been the case we would not be blessed with freewill, rendering us no more than animals whose entire life is outlined by pure instinct without deviation. It is true that one of the main reasons of our existence is the very fact of worship, however there is a grand reason behind this scheme. Worshipping the Almighty and observing His laws develops a sense of responsibility and oneness with the world we have been created in. This in turn allows us to respect nature, each other and guides us to all that is good in this life. Of course, this is a mere synopsis of the Grand Plan but it reveals the beauty in why it is important for humankind to have a relationship with the Creator. Muslims are required to follow the guidelines of Islam not become scholars of it. We are to excel in our piety, righteousness and to fulfill our duties as human beings and as Muslims. The scope of Islam pervades our entire lives but does not place a limit on our endeavors. It does not limit our goals or our curiosity to learn about our very existence, it actually urges us to learn. How can we come closer to God without recognizing the beauty that He has created?
Worldly accomplishments are an element of this life that we cannot ignore. Many of us need to work for self-sustenance or sustaining our families, yet there is no harm in getting better at a particular field. Trying to attain some sort of status does not run counter to Islam it actually coincides with its concept of self-betterment. Working is a good deed. Learning to develop our minds and establish a better future for the generations to come is encouraged according to Islamic values. Development does not only rest upon such technical elements, I could easily improve myself by reading a great novel with morals or just to exercise my mind. No one should claim these run counter to Islam as they do not.
You have rightfully pointed out the stagnation and almost “reversal” in thought or any form advancement that has become the trend for many. However, this is not an Islamic stance it is a personal one that many feel they should adhere to. Having ambitions is human. To suppress such an innate characteristic is to suppress our very nature. Therefore, the balance act we all need to perform is quite simple. While we observe all our Islamic duties, in beliefs and ritual, everything that we venture into must comply with Islamic doctrine. Let me simplify it by saying that if you pray, commit to your fasts, give to charity, basically fulfilling all your duties as a Muslim and dealing righteously as best as you can then there is nothing that prohibits you from achieving your goals. There is no Islamic rule that imposes scholarly knowledge of Islam. Besides a scholar is a person who is educated in a particular field. Because the person’s field happens to be Islam does not make him/her more pious than a person who knows less about the subject. God has created things in due measure and we should attempt to fulfill our duties in due measure. Our religion does not sequester us from the rest of the world. The world is a part of us and the only way to grow is to experience and learn it, all within the context of God’s Commandments.
I hope I have clarified the issue
God knows best