The following is excerpted from the book "Islam 2.0" by Dr. Maher Hathout in which he shares a conversation with the Muslim youth.
Your life is a very precious gift from God. Count back to one year before your first birthday, and then try to imagine your state – your state of nothingness. You can not. You may be able to contain and grasp “things,” not “nothing.” You were born and came to life, not because you wanted to, but because you became. Through a decision by an authority higher than you, and through a process that you did not participate in, you came to occupy a place in existence.
With the dramatic event of your birth, you came to life with three huge realities.
First, you are unique. Nobody else is identical to you, not even your identical twin or, in this age of cloning, even your clone, because your psychological, spiritual and energetic content is poured into your physical being in a unique way. When God blows a spirit into each individual, it manifests in a special way. You are one of a kind.
Second, you are immortal. Your biological structure, which is the product of the substance of earth, will degrade and recycle in the biological cycle on earth, but your energy, soul and spirit will always be. If you appreciate your uniqueness and your immortality, your individual values, responsibility and accountability will emerge. God reminds us in the Qur’an that;
“[And God shall say.’] “And now, indeed, you have come unto Us in a lonely state, even as We created you in the first instance,’ and you have left behind you, all that We bestowed on you [in your lifetime]. And we do not see with you those intercessors of yours whom you supposed to have a share in Gods divinity with regard to yourselves! Indeed, all the bonds between you [and your earthly life] are now severed, and all your former fancies have forsaken you!” (6:94)
“and every one of them will appear before Him on Resurrection Day in a lonely state. ” (19:95)
The third reality that comes with the happy event of your birth is a cobweb of expanding circles of relationships. These are different from the countless relationships you acquire throughout your life, such as your friends, neighbors, teammates, and spouses. The first package of relationships that come with your birth day are not subject to your choice; you do not choose your parents, siblings, kin, ancestors, race, gender, place of birth or even country of origin. This category of relationships is a gift form God, you accept, appreciate, and nurture. While the acquired relationships like spouse, friends, and career need prudence.
While you will inevitably gain and lose, everything you lose may be regained, except one thing, time.
It is interesting that you probably know the exact time, date and place of when and where your birth took place, but this is only because you were told about it. What is less clear is the elusive and mystical moment you truly became aware of your existence. This blurry time, when you became cognizant that you are you, and that you actually exist, just snuck up on you. From the moment of that realization, each individual experiences life in a unique way. While you may be exposed to the same circumstances as many others, how you feel, perceive, taste, understand and react to life circumstances is unique to you.
During the predetermined length of your life, you embark on new information, experiences, and habits in which you learn and perform as a human on this planet. While you will inevitably gain and lose, everything you lose may be regained, except one thing, time. If you lose time, it is gone. Any period of time is a chunk of life, both precious and irretrievable. Based on these simple realities, you will have some basic decisions to make: Are you going to waste your life or are you going to use it? Is your life going to center around you or will you reach wider spheres of involvement and concern? Wasting life partially or totally, i.e. in one lump or in installments, all can be considered a crime close to murder or suicide, even if the gradual waste does not seem that dramatic.
There are many forms and ways to waste a lifetime. With a careful look around you, you can recognize many of them: leading an aimless and purposeless life; abusing your own body, mind and soul; eroding the environment, being shallow and inefficient; all are ways to let the wonderful opportunity that we call life slip away. A life centered on your own self is selfish and never provides fulfillment. Since human beings are interdependent, you will not be happy if surrounded by unhappiness, envy, and animosity. A life that is not dedicated to a higher cause is an elusive quest for unattainable happiness.
There are three elements to what may be described as a happy life:
- a life that is fully utilized (i.e. a life of awareness and purposeful activism),
- a life that is dedicated to a higher cause,
- and a life that is lived in balance.
The concept of balance is very important because an imbalanced life is one that is not in harmony with the laws of nature or existence. Nature is in perfect balance and is all around us, from the orbits to the galaxies to the structure of molecules and atoms to the diversity of species to the physiology within any unit of these species. A simple example which demonstrates this point lies within your own body. Anatomically, you are a fusion of two halves in balance (eyes, ears, nostrils, limbs). The right and left brain are distinct but, through their connection, maintain balanced performance. Perfect balance further exists between the muscles of flexion and extension, the structure of your skeleton, and in the miraculous work of the endocrinal and hormonal system.
The balance that exists between the spiritual and moral, through the soul, body, and intellect, gives you the ability to see and recognize the fine lines in behavior, that if crossed, will lead to imbalance. The line that exists between courage and recklessness, caution and cowardice, saving and stinginess, honesty and rudeness, generosity and squandering, pride and arrogance.
Conversely, injustice, encroachment on the rights of others, bias and double standards all act to tilt the scale of balance and run contrary to the laws of existence and the nature of creation as manifested in the large and small creatures within the kingdom of God. God says in the Qur’an:
“And the skies.’ has He raised high and has devised [for all things] a measure so that you [too, 0 humanity,] might never transgress the measure [of what is right].’ weigh, therefore, [your deeds] with equity, and cut not the measure short!” (55:7-9)
Within this framework of understanding and appreciation of the simple unadulterated nature of life and creation lies the true understanding of Islam. Islam is the affirmation of these basics. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) described the religion as “Deen al Fitra,”” meaning the way of the unadulterated original nature and as the Qur’an described:
“And do, set thy face steadfastly towards the [one ever-true] faith, turning away from all that is false, in accordance with the natural disposition which God has instilled into humanity.’ [for] not to allow any change to corrupt what God has thus created – this is the [purpose of the one] ever-true faith,’ but most people know it not.”
Through integrating these basic realities of life with the message of God and His call to comply to His will – which is manifested in His natural laws of existence in its universality, global humanity and harmony as comprehensive, internal, and external peace – that you can become a Muslim, citizen of the world, mercy to all, guardian of justice, supporter and enjoiner of what is good, opposer of what is evil, and promoter of human dignity for all.
Only then can you cooperate with those who seek righteousness and awareness. Only then will Islam be your zone of comfort, will you come home to Islam, feel complete harmony and be liberated not shackled, lightened not burdened, natural not artificial. Only then will your life as a Muslim be to enjoy not endure, allowing you to be yourselves, not a facade.
So for the Human Race, We May Say: Happy Birthday!
Maher Hathout is a leading spokesperson for the American Muslim community, is a retired physician best known for his tireless commitment to public service. He is also the author of "In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam" and Jihad vs Terrorism. He serves as the senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)