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Life is larger than anything else, except death, which is bigger than life. Life has many aspects, facets, colors, ages, modes and stages. We spend our lifespan in various engagements. The big chunks are education, work, and family for most people. Some few people take up some hobby or mission and spend an unusually large portion of their lives in its pursuit.
Allah grants different faculties to different people so that they can add value in certain spheres of life. I am referring to all kind of creative work, including but not limited to all sciences, and all forms of arts. When we see the development that has taken place in the world, we see how certain spikes, surges, and off-tangent thinking led to revolutionary changes. Someone shared an excerpt attributed to Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin. Sir Fleming said God has made sacs of knowledge and hung them to various posts. When He sees fit, he grants one sac of knowledge to a person and that knowledge revolutionizes our lives in some way. To the next question, he said it was not random; God granted knowledge to one of those who were toiling day and night to seek knowledge. He quoted his own discovery of Penicillin as example.
In our schoolbook of Chemistry, we used to read a story about the scientist Kekule, who discovered the structure of Benzene. Kekule was constantly working to understand the structure of Benzene, which is C6H6, six carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms. He made several models of fixed structure, but the experiments did not qualify any of these. He was busy for many days and did not even go out of his lab. One day, he fell asleep in the lab due to sheer exhaustion. He had a dream; six black balls were fixed, and six white balls were moving inside them. He woke up and understood the structure of Benzene. It actually revolutionized a major area. Benzene is the core of hydrocarbons which form a huge number of things including fossil fuel which we use in vehicles, a huge number of chemicals, plastics, additives and so on. It may be correct to say that hydrocarbons are the single largest group of substances in the world. This is also a case of getting a sac of knowledge.
Knowledge comes to those who seek. It has no preference for religion, race, social status or any other differentiating parameter. Allah Asks us repeatedly to think, contemplate, research and understand His Signs and their relevance.
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” [2:164]
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” [3:190]
“The example of [this] worldly life is but like rain which We have sent down from the sky that the plants of the earth absorb – [those] from which men and livestock eat – until, when the earth has taken on its adornment and is beautified and its people suppose that they have capability over it, there comes to it Our command by night or by day, and We make it as a harvest, as if it had not flourished yesterday. Thus do We explain in detail the signs for a people who give thought.” [10:24]
“And it is He who spread the earth and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers; and from all of the fruits He made therein two mates; He causes the night to cover the day. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [13:3]
“And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.” [16:12]
These are just a few of the numerous such commandments. Muslims were leading the knowledge world when they worked for real knowledge. They lost the leadership long time back and have been sliding into the abyss ever since because they actively obstructed pursuit of real knowledge. What is being doled out in the name of knowledge from the religious institutions is so far away from the knowledge Allah ordained, it has no relevance actually.
Jalaleddin Rumi (1207-1273) became the source of knowledge from which those who seek knowledge still partake. He became a source of inspiration for Allama Iqbal who in turn brought a wealth of knowledge for so many. More about Rumi later; for now contemplate on one of his poems, translated by Coleman Barks.
Unfold Your Own Myth
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, liked atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty, and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age, smells the shirt of his lost son, and can see again?
Who lets his bucket down and brings up a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire, and finds what burns inside the sun?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens door to the other world.
Solomon cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring.
Omar storms into kill the Prophet
and leaves with his blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop
Now there is a pearl!
A vagrant, wanders empty ruins,
Suddenly he’s wealthy.
But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others
Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
‘We have opened you.’
Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy and tired.
Then comes a moment
Of feeling the wings you’ve grown,