Unprecedented Scientific Progress but Pervasive Human Misery

Silhouettes of a large crowd of people trying to escape with military helicopter from conflict zone (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

Humanity’s knowledge has far advanced now than at any time in human history. Human issues have become far more complex and human demands are far different now. The Quran contains universal values that were practically implemented by the Prophet (PBUH). Therefore, Islam has the ability to keep up with the demands of time and provide solutions to life’s problems in every age. It divides humans into two groups. One group treads on the path pointed to by the divine revelation; and the other group follows its own self-interests, its own selfish objectives, and its own whims and wishes. The Quran says: أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ اجْتَرَحُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ أَن نَّجْعَلَهُمْ كَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَوَاءً مَّحْيَاهُمْ وَمَمَاتُهُمْ ۚ سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ (45:21) – Do people who are on the wrong path and create confusion, think that We would equate them to those who believe in the truthfulness of Our Laws and work on the constructive program for humanity established by Us? Would We make the life and death of both groups the same? What an erroneous thought they have in their mind!

In common everyday physical life we see that a person who follows an overall healthy life style and a person who does not – their physical life as well as their physical death are not the same. This is the case just at the physical level. The same is true at the human societal level: a group which is walking on the right and balanced path of life and a group which is walking on a wrong and unbalance path of life – how can these two groups be the same?

The Quran further says: وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ (3:139) – you shall surely gain ascendancy, provided you are true believers. If you follow Our guidance then you will have supremacy in the world. No one can dominate and subjugate you. وَلَن يَجْعَلَ اللَّـهُ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ سَبِيلًا (4:141) – Never will Allah allow the unbelievers an upper hand over the believers.

The Quranic guidance is based on clear evidence and logic for entire humanity: هَـٰذَا بَصَائِرُ لِلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى   (45:20) – This Divine Code is based on knowledge and wisdom, and is for entire humanity (لِلنَّاسِ). It guides those who have conviction that the universal principles and teachings of this دین (Deen) are 100% true; and they guide to the correct destination. The Quran says: وَخَلَقَ اللَّـهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ وَلِتُجْزَىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ (45:22) – Allah has created the Universe for a purpose. The purpose is that every human being is fully recompensed for what he has done; and no harm is done to anyone.

In the physical world the role that the Universe plays in producing results for our sustenance is easy to understand. A bumper harvest is the result of the work of the Universe. After a farmer sows the seeds, the soil, the rain, the sun, the wind and the changing of the season – all these natural phenomena work together to produce the harvest. Therefore, the role of the Universe in producing harvest for our sustenance and nourishment is easily understood. But so far human mind has not been able to comprehend the role that the Universe plays in producing results of human actions in human societies.

Despite so much knowledge, humanity-at-large finds itself standing at the pit of despair and misery. Intellectuals of the world are concerned that humankind might vanish from the face of the earth due to environmental disaster or nuclear war. So much abundance of knowledge and this is its result?! In fact, the more the knowledge is growing, it seems the more the possibility of large scale destruction is growing. Why is this? The Quran says that something else is needed beside knowledge. If it is an individual then he should not use knowledge just for his own benefit and self-interest by exploiting others. If it is a nation then it should not use the knowledge to advance its own goals and interests and to further its own ulterior motives by exploiting weaker nations.

The Quran’s standard for using knowledge is that it should be used for the benefit for entire humankind because: وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ (13:17) – that which is beneficial for the humanity endures. Only that idea, only that program, only that action will abide on earth which is beneficial to entire humankind. The Quran has given the idea that humanity is one indivisible unit. It should not be broken with artificial boundary lines. كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً (2:213) – All of humankind were once one single community. Then it divided itself: فَاخْتَلَفُوا (10:19). But it must come together for improving the overall human condition. Otherwise, nations will continue to follow Machiavellian path and humanity will suffer. This is the reason destruction and misery abound despite tremendous advancement in knowledge. This is the reason no nation feels secure.

The Quran says: أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَـٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَىٰ بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَن يَهْدِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ اللَّـهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ (45:23) – People ask why human beings need guidance of Divine Revelation when they have been given intellect and ability to reason. But have you not come across a person who takes his own feelings and emotions as his God (Ilaha) and does whatever his emotions dictate? Have you not seen how, in spite of possessing knowledge and intellect, he treads the wrong path? His emotions overpower him, as if his hearing and heart have been sealed and his eyes covered with a veil. He can neither listen nor see anything and he does not comprehend anything. When a person is so overwhelmed by his emotions who else can provide him guidance, except Divine Revelation? The most valuable faculty a human being has is his intellect. When intellect is blinded by emotion it becomes enslaved and consequently finds ways to serve its ulterior motives, and invent arguments to justify them. Under such circumstances only a power that is higher than human intellect and emotion can provide guidance. And this power can be none other than the power of Divine Guidance, the Revelation.

When individuals follow their own self-interests, only their own ulterior motives – then conflicts are bound to occur between individuals. When nations do the same then clashes among nations are bound to occur. The only way to avoid these large scale conflicts and clashes is to become one universal brotherhood of humankind. Despite so much knowledge humans as well as nations tread on the wrong path. Knowledge alone is not sufficient. Knowledge is just a tool; it is just an equipment; it is just a means – for the life journey. But it is also important for the traveler to travel on the right path. But when individuals and nations start traveling on the wrong path drunk with the power of knowledge then their emotion take over and, as a consequence, they become blinded by it. They then lose their minds’ ears, eyes and hearts and cause large scale human misery, mayhem, and despair as we see today.

It is our common observation that a family, or a community, or a nation somehow gains power. It uses this power to oppress and subdue others because there is no one who can challenge it. It does whatever it wants. It openly challenges others and threatens them. It feels that there is no one who could hold it accountable. This happens at the individual level as well as at national level. Powerful individuals exploit weaker ones. Powerful nations exploit weaker nations. We see this in everyday life how powerful wealthy individuals and groups exploit poor and weak of society. The same thing happens at a much larger scale at the national and inter-national levels. There seems to be no end to those who enjoy the material life at the expense of others, and continue to multiply their wealth and power. The Quran calls them مترفین (Mutrafeen) (34:34; 56:45). These مترفین (Mutrafeen) enjoy all the luxuries of the world while all the while causing hunger, suffering, and extreme hardships to the honest and hardworking masses and their families. What can prevent them from this bad behavior? The Quran says that the only thing that can prevent them from this bad behavior is the belief in the Hereafter; that the only thing that can restrain them from exploiting others is the conviction that life is not only the life of this world but continues after the physical life of this world ends; and that they will be held accountable for everything that they did in the world (21:13).

The Quran says that those who say that life of humans is the life of only this world; that there is no afterlife after death in this life – are involved in guesswork.  It says: وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ مَّا كَانَ حُجَّتَهُمْ إِلَّا أَن قَالُوا ائْتُوا بِآبَائِنَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (45:25) – Whenever clear Laws based on Our Revelation are conveyed to them (i.e., those who limit life to this world only) they have no proper reason to oppose it. They are just being stubborn, and say, “If the dead can really be brought to life, then bring our ancestors back. Only then will we believe that your claim is true!” Then the Quran replies: قُلِ اللَّـهُ يُحْيِيكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يَجْمَعُكُمْ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (45:26) – O Prophet, tell them that life and death follow Divine Laws according to which human beings cannot come back to worldly life after death. They get another kind of life in the hereafter. This is an absolute reality and although there is no doubt about it, most people do not understand it.

Science has revealed now that matter can be transformed from one form to another form. So, Allah who has all the power of bringing everything into existence from non-existence, He can transform human life from one form (life of this world) into another form (life of Hereafter). He can do it because He is Almighty Creator: وَلِلَّـهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَخْسَرُ الْمُبْطِلُونَ (45:27) – All this happens according to Law of the Almighty, Who controls the universe. When that great Revolution occurs people treading the wrong path will suffer a great loss.

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