5 Reflections On The Journey of Life

The worldly life is a journey and not a destination. May we be granted with the strength to endure life’s challenges, with brightness to see hope from every corner, and with wisdom to walk the journey with ease.
by Ustaz Muhammad Abdul Mateen Bin Hisham 2020-01-31 • 13 min read
Upon graduating from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Ustaz Mateen pursued his studies at Al-Azhar University completing his degree in Islamic Theology, specialising in Creed and Philosophy.
2020-01-31 • 13 min read

life is a journey keep going ahead

Praise be to Allah.

A number of significant events have already taken place at the start of this year. Some were blessed with joyful events while others experienced life events that concluded with more questions than answers.

Global events, such as the threat of climate change, the ongoing political conflicts, terrorism, and other events that happened have shaped our world and influenced our perspectives. There is just a lot for us to reflect on. Let us pray for ease and good outcomes, Amin.

As we embark on this uncharted year ahead, it is apt to equip ourselves with some points of reflection. Here are some key points to primarily council myself and to benefit others along their respective life journeys.

Understanding the journey 

Life is journey from Allah to Allah.

We often associate the term journey to our travels and occasional trips. These are long-distance travels which only cover one aspect of the wider meaning of a journey.

These are the other meanings of the word ‘journey’:

Progress: For as long as there is progress, there is a journey from a preceding point to another. A journey is then a movement or an act of travel by itself.

Purpose: There is always a destination or a target.

Discovery: A journey is also the act of exploring or moving into the unknown. 

If we were to reflect on all these definitions, we would see that life is a journey. Every second is a moment to pass. There is a beginning and an end. At every corner, we discover life and its purposes. It is the greatest journey we have embarked on. The question is, which point of our life is the beginning and which point marks the end?

It's the end where we begin

Every day that passes by marks progress. There is always an end to a day or to a certain phase before another day begins. This means that after every ending is always a new beginning. In truth then, life is not just a single journey. Life is, in fact, a compilation of multiple journeys.

This is the hopeful attitude of a believer. The Prophet s.a.w. mentioned in a hadith:  

إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمْ الْقِيَامَةُ وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسْلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا

If The Day of Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a seedling, then let him plant it.

(Musnad Imam Ahmad)

Be productive in this journey of life

Dr Amru Al-Wirdani, a renowned scholar from Al-Azhar University in Egypt, commented on this hadith, saying that it is as though our Prophet s.a.w taught us to never look for life to end but to always look for a new beginning. Judgement day is a clear end to this life. Even so, we were taught to plant a seedling should the opportunity to do so arises. Journeying or moving forward is then an essential part of life. 

Looking over at the cliff

life is a journey of self discovery

 There are times when we’re surrounded by obstacles and when the challenges start to squeeze the life out of us. This often feels like we’re standing over at the cliff with nowhere else to proceed to. We try to make our way across with patience and more often with the help of others. The question is, why then do we often feel like raising the white flag and call it quits?

Al-Wirdani explains that the reason behind that is because we tend to lose sight of our purpose or our objectives. If a person lives without a purpose, it is as if he or she is lifeless even while still breathing. This is particularly true. 

A person tends to have more patience when he has a clearer view of the end or objective. He starts to lose patience if the vision of the end becomes cloudier for him to see. Therefore, in order to move forward, there needs to be a destination. Well, then what if it becomes hard to find our objective or purpose in life?

Taking baby steps forward

Start small, think big in the journey of life

Life’s challenges tend to blur our vision of reality and drag us into deeper pit holes as we start to lose sight of our purpose in life. A local religious teacher that I am personally inspired by, Ustaz Nasrullah Refa’i, once shared with me that in the state of searching for a purpose or for a stronger conviction to our purpose, we should wander into the incredible creations of nature and do random Sadaqah (charity to receive Allah’s pleasure). Insya’Allah, we will start to see the next path to move forward. 

In a hadith, it is reported that the Prophet s.a.w. mentioned that 

Whoever acts upon what he knows, Allah will bestow upon him knowledge of what he has yet to know.

مَنْ عَمِلَ بِما عَلِمَ أَوْرَثَهُ الله عِلْم ما لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

 (Hadith by Imam ِAbu Nu’aim)

This is also in accordance with the Quranic verse:

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا

As for those who strive in Our cause, We will surely guide them along Our Way. And Allah is certainly with the doers of good.

(Surah Al-’Ankabut, 29:69)

In other words, we should start small. Smaller and achievable goals will help pave the way forward and gradually open more insights to see the bigger picture. 

Thus, let’s start with a simpler but meaningful task. It’s easier for us to see through smaller goals in this long journey.

Hence, to live is to continue the journey, and to set our vision for our objectives and purpose in life. The question is if our objective is to return to Allah s.w.t in a pure state, why are we investing for this world?

Mapping out the journey

life is a journey and you hold the map

Life, according to Islamic belief, is both this worldly life and the life of the Hereafter. It is the whole journey from our creation to the point of return to The Creator, which clearly consists of life here in this world as well. It is a minor journey compared to the bigger journey. 

وَمَا هَٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَهْوٌ وَلَعِبٌ ۚ وَإِنَّ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ لَهِيَ الْحَيَوَانُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ

This worldly life is no more than play and amusement. But the Hereafter is indeed the real life, if only they knew.

(Surah Al-’Ankabut, 29:64)

This verse shows that this worldly life is the temporal life that will lead us to the everlasting life in the Hereafter.

There are those however who see such verses as an excuse to forsake their life here in this world and as such, causes us to loathe or hate for this world. It is as though this worldly life is not just temporary, it is excluded from the definition of ‘life’ itself. On the contrary, what is to be forsaken is looking at this world as the definite end to our life.

The inability to understand what life is may lead to two confusions.

First, they see the worldly life as having a more inferior status in comparison to the afterlife. This led them to view it negatively and negating their worldly responsibility as servants of Allah s.w.t. They defy reality and move towards confused ideals. This erroneous perception of life has even led some radicals and extremists to justify their motives through undignified means. In the Quran, Allah s.w.t. says,

وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنْسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا

“Seek the life to come (the Hereafter) by means of what God has granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world.”

(Surah Al-Qasas, 28:77)

According to Dr Syeikh Ali Gomaa in his book 'Fiqhu Hub Al-Haya (Understanding The Concept of Loving Life)', these people choose “to hate life because they hated this world and therefore, hope for death”. This is due to their erroneous belief that it is imperative for Muslims to hate the world and exclusively aspire for the hereafter. 

He continued, "In truth, we have been commanded to savour the worldly life appropriately instead of refraining from its delights and to turn it into a place to establish our footings in the hereafter."

The second confusion is to see that life is only limited to this worldly life, which will lead to forsaking the life of the Hereafter. This is another calamity that will avert a person from his ultimate purpose, the pleasure of our Creator, Allah s.w.t.

In essence, the life in this world, if seen as an opportunity to do righteous and good deeds that leads to a good outcome in the Hereafter, is part of the definition of the true life. It is a form of respecting what is ordained by Allah s.w.t upon us.

A Muslim understands the concept of life and upholds the responsibilities of this world. For example, working with the intention to sustain a good and healthy life for ourselves and family members in gratitude for Allah’s favour upon us and as a mean to receive His pleasure, are not blameworthy but are in fact praiseworthy.

The definition of ‘Dunya’ according to Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Al-Bajuri in his book 'Hasyiyatul-Bajuri ‘Ala Ummil-Barahin (Imam Al-Bajuri’s commentary on the Sanusi Creed)' refers to worldly manifestations that were based on worldly purposes. Conversely, it refers to whichever distracts one from Allah s.w.t. However, worldly manifestations that were intended for the pleasures of Allah s.w.t are not considered as ‘Dunya’ per se. 

Loving life is praiseworthy. It is loving the journey of life set by Allah, for Allah and by the guidance of Allah s.w.t. May we be granted with the strength to endure life’s challenges, with brightness to see hope from every corner, and with wisdom to walk the journey with ease.

And Allah knows best.

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