The Problem: –
Man has always been worried about the reality of his own self. He has been searching himself and asking himself “who am I”? And hence we come across three important schools of thoughts in history of Philosophy.
Firstly, it was contented that man is soul and soul alone. They denied any importance to body. The matter was told to be just a shadow, the whole world of material bodies as illusion. The ancient Indian philosophies can aptly be referred to. The concepts like “Nirwana” and the ways of life like “Rahbaniyyat” (there is no Monasticism in Islam) were understood to be all and end of all human life. About the existence of matter, it was conveniently said “what is matter, it does not matter”.
Another school of thoughts, entirely contrary to the first one, is Materialism. The matter was told to be the only reality. Who am I? I am body and body alone because body can alone be perceived and physically verified. Soul, spirit, ego, self, mind were all dubbed to be mere hypotheses. “What is mind? Do you mind”.
One more school of thought which has been found between the above two extremes is that of dualism of Mind and Body. Both the fathers if ancient and modern Philosophies, I mean, Plato and Descartes contributed to this school. This school of philosophy has been quite popular but the real crises of identity starts here.
Who am I?
If I am both soul and body, then how much of soul and how much of body? Where is the point of balance between the two? In fact, this issue could never be settled by human thought. I must add here, by the way, that it was prophetic revelation alone which resolved this issue by pinpointing the correct state of balance between the soul and body. This contention is well proved by the history of mankind.
In fact the crises of the modern world have been due to its titling towards the extreme materialism. The verifiability principle of the Vienna Circle might have done wonders in the field of scientific research. But it was unfortunate that it trespassed and like a steam roller it crushed the poor human individual and reduced it to a helpless tool of a machine. His individuality and hence creativity which could be generated only out of his concept of soul was denied to him. Hence the crises. This is how the human beings of the modern word lost their identity cards. The philosopher, poet, the writer and even the scientist are undergoing the same misery, our eminent Sufi-Lyricist Asghar Goundivi rightly says:-
In fact, it is high time to declare that verifiability principle is inapplicable to human life. Human being is something more than what can physically verify. Let us ponder over it for a while.
A railway train, say ‘Local Train OR Bullet Train’ runs daily from one city to another city in any country of the world. Every day, it comes but with different compartments, different driver, different staff and different passengers but still we say that it is “Bullet Train OR Local Train”- what is the mark of identification? Same as my own condition, who am I? If I am body and body alone, then like the compartments of a train, be sure that body is changing every moment. After the lapse of seven years, every organ of my body, yes every tissue and every cell of it is completely turned over. It is altogether a different body. But still that I am the same old chap whom you saw thirty years before. What is the mark of identification? Of course the body cannot be the mark of identification because it is no more there; it is different one. I will have to be convinced that I am surly something beyond my body structures. You may give it any name, you may call it soul, mind, self or ego, but it is there all right. In other words of Allama Iqbal (National Poet):-
“The ego is a simple, indivisible and immutable soul-substance, entirely different from the group of our mental states and unaffected by the passage of time. Our conscious experience it is unity because our mental states are related as so many qualifies to this simple substance which persists unchanged during the flux of its qualities. My recognition of you is possible only if I persist unchanged between the original perception and the present set of memory”.
The theories of parallelism and inter-action are also both unsatisfactory according to Iqbal. He says that mind and body become one in action.
Quranic view point:-
The Quran is very explicit on this “who am I” What am I to do in this world? What are my rights, responsibilities and duties viz-a-viz other around me? See how the questions are lucidly answered in the Quran. Man’s status is next to God alone. He is the chosen one, the only representative and vicegerent of Allah Almighty in this world. He is the co-worker, co-creator and co-commander of the Almighty.
He belongs to the realm of Command. Allah breathed in man a little from his own soul. Thus man is the Divine spark. His job is to conquer the whole universe and rule in the light of the Commandments of God. Like a governor of Allah, he has to carry the orders of his Really Real Boss.
This responsibility was chosen by man by his own free will. He is the trustee of a burden of a free personality which he accepted at his peril.
Thus, he is finally accountable to Allah whether he made good use of hi freedom of choice or otherwise. In case he realized his status and responsibility of free personality and vicegerency of God, he will be rewarded to the maximum; otherwise he will be taken to task and punished in the most insulting manner.
The following (chapter of Holy Quran) of the Quran must be referred to:-
Certainly we created man in the best make.
Then we render him the lowest of the low.
Except those who believe and do good, so they shall have a reward never to be cut off. Then who can give you the Life after (This) about the judgment?
Is not Allah the best of the Judged?
Chapter (95) surah-tin (The Fig)
The causes of the crises:-
Let us for a while come back to our old example of ‘Bullet Train’. We were searching its mark of identification in the face of the reality that the whole of its body structure, its staff and passengers were changed every day. What is it that compels us to designate it Bullet Train? Of course nothing else but a mere factor that it has been designed ‘Bullet Train’ by the Railway authorities who has fixed its route, its function, its status and its timing and that is all. So in the final analysis, you will see that the mark of identification of Bullet Train is nowhere but in one simple command of the Railway authority. The identity of the poor train also, in a way, belongs to the realm of command. Exactly same to same is my condition. I am not body and body alone because body is changing all the time. The tissues and the cells breaking and building themselves every moment. What Heraclitus said about the rapid change in the universe comes true of us. He said; “you cannot step twice in the same river because the water is flowing”.
I say ‘you cannot see my body twice because this is also rapidly changing like the compartments of a train. My body is just like my dress which I change daily. Then who am I? What is myself? Ego or personality?
The Quran replies:-
“Say the soul belongs to the Realm of the Command of my Lord’.
(Chapter (17:85) surah l-isra (The Night Journey).
Yes, the same type of commandment which the Railway authorities issued and determined the status, the route and the timings of a train. That commandment was the mark of its identification. Exactly in the same manner, the command of my Lord about my status, my destination, and my rights and responsibilities is the mark of my identification.
If I come up to the requirement of that command, I am termed “the best of all the creations”; and if unfortunately I get obvious of that command of my Lord, then I lose my identity Card. I lose my self, I am suspended from any status as I fail to seek my destination.
In that case, I am termed the lowest of the “Then We render him the lowest of the low”. (Chapter (95:5) surah l-tin (The Fig).
The Quran very clearly warns that if you forget you own real life.
The Quran says:-
“Do not be like those who forget Allah. Then Allah made them forget themselves. They are the disobedient. Chapter (59:19) surah l-ḥashr (The Gathering),
This is, in fact, the real crises of identity which the modern world is suffering from.
The poor human being does not know his status, his destination, his rights and responsibilities. He is purposeless and directionless. Time rather life is a burden on him. He has to resort to stupid pass times to get rid of this burden. He does not find any meanings or purpose in the universe. He feels that the universe, his own life and everything around him is absurd. Absurdity and absurdity alone becomes the only visible reality. Hence the existentialism.
When man forgets himself, he loses sight of the balanced concept of personality the balance between his body and soul, the balance which could fulfill both the needs of his body and the requirements of his soul. In that case he clings to just one aspect of his self and normally that is his baser self and feels satisfied that he is doing wonders to himself. He confines himself to one or a few instincts. Sometimes, sex becomes the be all and end all his personal enjoyments. Sometimes, manipulating to get hold of political power is his ideal, and so on.
This individual crises, most of the times, becomes the social crises. Forgetfulness of one’s own self causes the unrealistic attitude towards life and man under estimates or overestimates him. In such cases the external world does not bear testimony to his misconceptions. The realities of the life and the facts around do not side with him and ultimately cause immense frustration to him.
Now if he is a powerful man, he would like to mould the realities of life and facts around him according to him own misconceptions. In that case, he will fill the whole earth with his own frustration and ultimate bloodshed, as it was done by Hitler.
But in case the poor chap is a weak and resourceless person and cannot mould the realities of life according to his misconceptions, then it will be immensely painful for him to face the realities and bitter facts of life. He would like to avoid facing the bitter realities which do not side with him.
He would like to resort to tranquilize parcotics and even the suicidal attempts. Hence the Hippi movements. That is why one fourth population of America has to consuit psychistristrist, and that explains why a well-established welfare state like Sweden has the greatest number of suicides every year.
That is what the Quran refers to here:
“Evil has spread over the land and the sea because of human deeds and through these God will cause some people to suffer so that perhaps they will return to Him”.
Quran Chapter (30:41) surah l-rūm (The Romans).
The modern man, despite his material advancements, is suffering from this crisis more than the man in the past, the main cause being as follows:-
The real and main cause is the same as explained above in the light of the Quran. The forgetfulness of the command of the Lord. In fact thus has resulted in a more factors:-
1: Man confined himself to the needs of his body and wordly pleasures. He failed to hear the voice of his soul and do the needful. This gave birth to hedonistic concept of life. Now the wordly pleasures are always short-lived sooner rather than later, the state of hang-over comes again gives way to frustration.
2: Modern man is in fact, an Organization. He has lost his individuality in the machine world. In fact, the ego of man has the important characteristics of being one organic unity which has essential privacy of its own. If this privacy and individuality are lost, much of his real-self is damaged.
3: The modern media of communication e.g. News-papers, magazines, radio, television etc. are all talking so load that man gets little time to talk silently with himself, By forgetting himself, he was already deceiving himself, but these media of instruction is befooling him day in day out and now he has got used to this foolery.
4: The modern man, under the grab of his liberalism, has served all contacts with his past. He has teared himself off from the continuous historical process of human development. Ultimately, he is devoid of the five thousand years of human civilization. He has to start everything scratch and thus he sometimes behaves exactly in the same manner as if he belongs to the Stone Age.
5: As a reaction to the extreme liberalism, mentioned above, a group of the stagnant and non-progressive people has cropped up who are romantically looking to the past. They have no mind to think much about the present or future. They cherish the traditions of their past even if they are not acceptable to the modern reasoning. They are another source of frustration in humanity.
6: The above two extreme approaches have given birth to the people who have ‘devil-may-care-spirit’. They are non-serious and directionless people. Their attitude is mostly hedonistic and even selfish. They are well represented by an eminent saying:-
But, drink and be marrying as there is no life hereafter.
How these causes of the crisis can very well be done away with but only through the Quranic approach. The Quran alone makes us face the realities and gives us values which are eternal, absolute and universal. The realization of one’s own self will cause the recognition of God as it is reportedly said by Hazrat Ali (He was the cousin and the son-in-law of Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam):-
“One, who recognized himself, recognized his Lord”.
The Quran also gives its own interpretation about the universe. The Quran’s concept of Allah read the concept of human ego solves the whole issue. Allama Iqbal has referred to the same fact in one of his lecture:-
“Humanity needs three things today a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis. Modern Europe has, no doubt, built idealistic systems on these lines, but experience shows that truth revealed through pure reason is incapable of bringing that fire of living conviction which personal revelation alone can bring. This is the reason why pure thought has no little influenced man, while religion has always elevated individuals, and transformed whole societies.
The idealism of Europe never became a living factor in her life and the result is a perverted ego seeking itself through mutually intolerant democracies whose sole function is to exploit the poor in the interest of the rich. Believe me. Europe today is the greatest hindrance in the way of man’s ethical advancement. The Muslims on the other hand, is in possession of these ultimate ideas on the basis of a revelation, internalizes its own apparent externality. With him the spiritual basis of life a matter of conviction for which even the last enlightened man among us can easily lay down his life; and in view of the basic idea of Islam that there can be no further revelation binding on man, we ought to be spiritual one of the most emancipated peoples on earth.
(Allama Iqbal Book-“Reconstruction of Religion Though in Islam Page. 179”).
To conclude, I shall say that the answer to this crisis is only in the commandments of God, the latest version of which is there with us in the form of the Holy Quran. I may be allowed to mention here that it is the same command which humanity has been receiving from time to time in different regions of the world through different profits. There is no difference in their original message at all, as they all come from one and the same source
(An Islamic Scholar)
By Dr Ghulam Malik Murtaza