Many people think that they can make a perfect life for themselves in this world. They think that if they can acquire enough material possessions, they will experience total personal satisfaction and happiness. According to the most widespread opinion, a person’s life will be perfect after he or she has attained material wealth, gotten married with this intention in mind, and is respected by society because of his or her influential and well-established career.
The Qur’an does not support this view, for it states that this present life will never be perfect and without problems, as it is designed like that.
The root of dunya (world) has a very important meaning in this sense: It is a derivative of the adjective “daniy”: low, unrefined, basic and worthless. “World” means a space characterized by these traits. So, the Qur’an often emphasizes this worldly life’s worthlessness and unimportance. It refers to such things as wealth, family, status, and success, which are thought to make for a good life, as nothing more than transitory and deceptive. In one verse, Allah says:
Know that the life of the world is merely a game and a diversion and ostentation, and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children, like the plant-growth after rain, which delights the cultivators. But then it withers, you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the hereafter there is terrible punishment, but also forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure. The life of the world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid, 20)
Another verse explains how people are blinded by illusion because of this earthly life:
Yet still you prefer the life of the world, when the hereafter is better and longer lasting. (Surat al-A’la, 16-17)
As this verse says, such people regard the life of this world as superior to the afterlife. Such a mistaken view causes them to turn away from faith in Allah and His Book. The Qur’an describes such people as “those who do not expect to meet Us and are content with the life of the world and at rest in it, and those who are heedless of Our Signs” (Surah Yunus, 7) and reveals that they will find themselves in Hell’s eternal agony. Surely, this imperfection does not mean that this world contains no beautiful things. On the contrary, Allah filled the world with beautiful things to remind us of Paradise. But mixed in with these beautiful things are the imperfection and ugliness of Hell.
The qualities of Paradise and Hell are mixed together here, for this world is really a place of testing. Thus believers can get an idea of those two places and, instead of getting caught up in this world’s short and transitory life, can direct themselves toward the real, perfect, and endless life of the hereafter. As a result, the Qur’an describes the afterlife as each person’s true and eternal land.
But despite this truth, many people think they can make a perfect life in this world. They view this life’s imperfections and deficiencies (e.g., getting sick, becoming tired, and suffering from pain and worry) as something totally natural. However, Allah has created all these imperfections with many hidden meanings, and people have to think seriously about these meanings and learn the appropriate lessons.
It could have been possible would never get sick or feel so tired that they would need to rest or sleep. They could have had so much stamina and energy that they would not feel fatigued. If Allah had willed, He could have created us without such flaws and deficiencies. But He created us with them so that we might understand that we are helpless and weak.
Each individual must come face to face with his or her helplessness and weakness at every moment of life. His body, upon which he lays so much value, constantly reminds him of his situation. When he wakes up every morning and starts his day, his face is swollen and distorted, his mouth has a bad taste, and there is an uncomfortable dirty feeling on his skin, hair, and body. If he does not clean himself carefully, he cannot leave this unpleasant state. This cleaning must be repeated several times during the day, because after a few hours have passed, the dirt returns. After not washing for a few days, his need to wash himself becomes all the more obvious, coming to a point where he makes those around him very uncomfortable.
The human body is not as strong or resilient as a stone or a piece of metal; rather, it is made of an extremely perishable material: flesh. The body is covered with a thin skin that could be torn at any moment by the slightest accident. Structurally speaking, flesh is very vulnerable. It can be wounded, bruised, and twisted by the slightest blow, and, with age, begins to lose its former youthfulness and becomes rough and wrinkled. After death, it starts to rot. A few weeks after burial, the body begins to disintegrate and be eaten by worms and bacteria, until finally it mixes with the soil and disappears.
As stated earlier, this shows us our frailty and reminds us that the imperfections in the world are specially created. Instead of flesh, human beings could have been created from much stronger and purer materials or could have been totally free of pain, illness, and vileness. However, all of these things were created to remind human beings of how poor and needy they are in relation to Allah, and to show them just how imperfect and deficient a place this world really is.
When we look at these imperfections, we can see our own frailty and understand the transitory nature of all people’s earthly strength and values. Meanwhile, we also can understand that the people who we adore, try to please, or earn their respect and praise are as weak and imperfect as anybody else.
But as most people cannot understand this or see this world’s great imperfection and flaws, they find satisfaction in this earthly life. Actually, this is the result of an extreme ignorance and lack of intelligence.
The morality of such people is described in the Qur’an as follows:
So turn away from him who turns away from Our remembrance and desires nothing but the life of the world. That is as far as their knowledge extends… (Surat an-Najm, 29-30)
Those who are unaware of this truth and bound by a passion for the life of this world are people without “knowledge,” as the verse says.
But what is this “knowledge” that we must have in this matter? In truth, it is nothing less than the knowledge of Paradise, which Allah has promised to us. The most important steps toward this are to be well-versed in the Qur’an and to think seriously about what it says.
In the Qur’an, Allah described the believers’ real homeland in these words:
The life of the world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The abode of the hereafter – that is truly Life, if they only knew. (Surah al-‘Ankabut, 64)
One hadith records our Prophet (saas) as saying that Paradise is humanity’s real abode, a place in which there will be no human imperfection:
A proclaimer will proclaim: “For you there is everlasting health, and you will never be sick. For you there is everlasting life, and you will never die. For you there is perpetual youth, and you will never get old. And for you there is everlasting bliss, and you will never be in want. (Muslim)