There is no doubt that the world has changed tremendously over the past couple of decades. If we were to compare our daily lifestyles with that of our parents’ generation, there would be so few similarities. We now live in a world where everything is instantaneous - food, communication or information.
Socially, the landscape is also changing. In the past few decades, society has become more liberal, and the erosion of values have crept into our homes. Modesty has been redefined, and many of the prohibitions which applied in the past have now been lifted in the spirit of "liberalization" and "free choice".
We were trained from young that success is defined by material wealth and status - today, the primary purpose of a good education to get a good job and be wealthy, not because of the love of knowledge. Materialistic and superficial values have been instilled in us from young – a typical fairy tale involves a wealthy prince and a beautiful girl, the story usually culminating in a lavish wedding before the couple lives happily ever after to rule their kingdom. Our upbringing has indoctrinated us with love of the superficial and desire for the material, where a woman’s only virtue is her beauty and her only criteria is a handsome man who owns a palace. We perpetuate these false values by re-telling the same fantasies of pots of gold and caves of treasures to our children.
We were brought up to believe that success in this life is judged by beauty, status and money. These are the main benchmarks in assessing whether our lives have been worthwhile. We have been conditioned to believe that with wealth comes everlasting security and that anything can be bought, even our happiness. Material wealth and luxuries are the lifeblood of our existence, and we pursue these relentlessly.
In the process, we sideline our spiritual needs. We feed our physical and material desires, but we leave our souls starved and diseased.
Human beings have spiritual demands which also need to be fed. In the chaos of today’s lifestyles, under the immense pressure of instant delivery and gratification, many feel that Islam is not just irrelevant, but also incompatible with our daily lives.
We may have made significant technological advancements from when Islam was first revealed. The world is now a different place, unrecognizable from the days and lifestyles of our grandparents’ generations, much less those of the times of the Prophets. We might as well be living on a different planet.
So is Islam now an alien concept which just does not fit into our landscape today?
Who are we?
Let’s subtract the gleaming skyscrapers, the demanding careers, the difficult exams and the important assignments from our lives.
Stripped to its bare basics, all human beings are wired the same way. We have the same universal physical and emotional needs, and we all function the same way. We laugh, cry, experience the feelings of joy and sadness, taste the same hunger, have the same desires, and will all die. It doesn’t matter whether we were born in the desert or in the city, whether we were born twenty years ago or two hundred years ago – humanity comes the same set of basic values.
Whenever we were born, wherever we live, whatever our lifestyles, humankind was created for a single purpose – to worship Allah.
Pause and examine human history and the nations before us, and we will realize that mankind has not changed throughout the ages. Societies then were just as keen in pursuing material successes as they are today. Vice and promiscuity have existed since the dawn of time. By and large, with some notable exceptions, past civilisations mocked the righteous and failed to make religion relevant to their lives.
The buildings may be different, but mankind has not changed. We face the same challenges and corruptions as our ancestors, and they gave the same excuses as we do now. Society is filled with the same personality types as existed then, and they faced the same pressures and obstacles in adhering to their faiths as we do now. The only difference is the combination and proportion of all these different elements in society today. Technology may have progressed, but at the core, mankind is still the same! There is nothing about being born in this day and age that makes us any more unique than them, or any more exempt from God’s laws than they were.
If so, then another understanding should be apparent. If we were created for a specific purpose, then it is only logical that if we live out that purpose and do what we were meant to do, we will function better and find fulfillment in this life and in the hereafter. If we disregard that purpose and try to do something that we were not created to do, we would only damage ourselves in the long run.
If we make the objective of our lives the pursuit of material life, while disregarding the more important and overriding purpose of worshipping our Lord, we are forcing ourselves into an environment for which our natural selves are not designed to handle. This incompatibility leads us to short circuit and burn out.