Materialism: The road to misfortune

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Jazib Mehmood, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya Ghana

While reading Yuval Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, it struck me just how lucky the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is. While the rest of the world clasps at straws to find some meaning in life, our community effortlessly finds answers to life’s greatest questions and provides a deep sense of belonging and understanding of the world around us.

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We are blessed to have Khalifat. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa guides us through this world and helps make sense of what we ought to be doing when the world and all its infinite possibilities and enticing opportunities beckons us to embrace it wholeheartedly. Humans need meaning in life. We need to hold on to something which can anchor us during the storm of this world.

After all, what are we doing on earth? Are our lives purely materialistic? What’s the purpose of life? These questions might seem trivial to Ahmadis who have found solace in the guidance of the Imam of the Age, but one can only imagine just how cold and disheartened these questions might make the rest of the world.

For far too long, philosophers, historians, and the “great” thinkers of our age and those of the past have attempted to answer these poignant questions. Many admit that we might never know the answers. Those who come up with answers throw one into greater confusion. Some, guided by God, are able to find some answers, but sadly they are not heeded as they should be. The result is that our ideologies and ideas fixes have divided us. We are no closer to world peace and prosperity which liberalism promised than we are to curing cancer. The Holy Quran speaks of humanity’s current plight. It says:

قُلۡ ہَلۡ نُنَبِّئُکُمۡ بِالۡاَخۡسَرِیۡنَ اَعۡمَالًا 

اَلَّذِیۡنَ ضَلَّ سَعۡیُہُمۡ فِی الۡحَیٰوۃِ الدُّنۡیَا وَ ہُمۡ یَحۡسَبُوۡنَ اَنَّہُمۡ یُحۡسِنُوۡنَ صُنۡعًا

“Say, ‘Shall We tell you of those who are the greatest losers in respect of their works? — ‘Those whose labour is all lost in search after things pertaining to the life of this world, and they think that they are doing good works.’ (Surah al-Kahf, Ch.18: V. 104-105)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira commented on this verse. He said:

“Look at how many inventions are occurring … All their labours are spent on the life of this world. I advise you that you stop thinking of saving rupees because it will result in nothing but sorrow and suffering.” (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, Vol. 3, p. 53)

The following is also said regarding this verse:

“The verse means to say that these people look upon the acquisition of material comforts and worldly benefits and upon making new inventions and discoveries to add to those comforts as the sole aim and object of their life, they have no place for God in their hearts.” (The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary Vol. 3, p. 1913)

This is one of the reasons our Jamaat is more successful than any other community on earth. Our teachings (and practices) also revolve around the idea that pure materialism never leads to anything good. A case in point is naturally the world we have before us. It is proven to be self-destructive and socially destructive.

The Holy Prophetsa also elegantly described this life and effectively explained how a true believer ought to see this world. He said:

“I am like a traveller who lies down for a while to rest under a tree and then moves on.” (Tirmidhi, Kitab-ul-Zuhd)

Seemingly, for humanity, progress is a one-sided affair. We have failed to recognise a fundamental truth. If we are the creators of our world, who is our creator? While we find it irrational to believe that the new iPhone created itself by chance, we prefer to believe that we were created by chance.

While we supply instruction manuals to every piece of technology we create, we fail to realise that perhaps we too might have come with an instruction manual. Our reliance on science and human knowledge is alarming. Yes, research, science and discovery is integral to Islam, but to make it the new “god” is baffling. Our knowledge and discovery is flawed itself.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh makes an excellent point when he asks:

“If all human vantage points are actually placed on a moving platform, with constant change in the angle of vision, how can any knowledge or piece of information Materialism The road to misfortune we obtain be declared, with any certainty, to be the truth?” (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p. 8)

What this means is that while we are constantly discovering information that rejects previous hypotheses, how can we confidently say that this time we are right? The Holy Quran offers us the satisfaction in knowing that – unlike our knowledge – it is free from any “doubt”. (Surah al-Baqarah Ch.2: V.3)

The Promised Messiahas spoke of the human tendency to be blinded by the world and its narrow-minded thinking:

“… one ought to keep in view the law of nature and ask: have we made good use of that which has already been bestowed upon us? If having been blessed with reason, good sense, eyes, and ears, we have not gone astray and have not pursued ways of foolishness and ignorance, then you shall receive further divine grace through prayer, otherwise there are warning signs of destitution and misfortune.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 1, p. 128)

These signs of destitution and misfortune that the Promised Messiahas spoke of over a hundred years ago are more clearly manifested in today’s world than ever before. Humanity seems to have paid no heed to the words of the Promised Messiahas. We seem to have pursued the ways of foolishness and ignorance and so we are seeing the signs of destitution and misfortune.

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