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Hameed Naseem: Qur'an says to to do good is purpose

Soul lives past flesh by Hameed Naseem | January 22, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

While researching on great polymaths of the Islamic Golden Age I came across Ibn Tufayl (1105-1185) from Medieval Iberia -- modern day Spain. He wrote a science fiction novel that presented its main character, Hayy ibn Yaqzan -- Living, son of Awake -- as the first man living on an island among animals. Ibn Tufayl describes that despite having no language skills, how Hayy gained knowledge of the physical world and of the self and the Divine through experience, experimentation, and contemplation all through his life. This Arabic novel was first translated into Latin in 1671 under the title "Philosophus Autodidactus," and soon thereafter into other European languages. This book was a best seller during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is known to have influenced many great Enlightenment philosophers and scientists.

In the introduction to the novel, Ibn Tufayl states that this novel is written to unfold the secrets of the Oriental philosophy as expounded by Ibn Sina (980-1037). Ibn Tufayl was also influenced by Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), the most famous theologian philosopher in Islam. Thus, this novel may be understood as representing the Islamic philosophy of creation of man and its development and evolution over the ages. It may be noted here that the meaning of the name Hayy is the same as that of the Hebrew name Eve in the Bible.

Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: O people, if you are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then consider that We have indeed created you from dust, then from a sperm drop, then from a clot, then from a lump of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may make Our power manifest to you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed term; then We bring you forth as babes; then We rear you that you may attain to your age of full strength. And there are some of you who are caused to die prematurely, and there are others among you who are driven to the worst part of life with the result that they know nothing after having had knowledge. And thou seest the earth lifeless, but when We send down water thereon, it stirs and swells, and grows every kind of beauteous vegetation. (Holy Qur'an 22:6)

Allah presents the evolution of human being as a proof that the soul of humans continues to live beyond this world. Next the verse talks about human creation in the womb and its continuing development and innate quest for knowledge.

Ibn Tufayl likewise talks about the first human in two allegorical stories in the novel: One, where life emerges from earth under the most ideal ambient conditions. The other, where the baby born to a mother is separated and lands on an island where a doe nourishes and brings it up.

The purpose of human life mentioned elsewhere in the Qur'an is to believe in God and do good works: Surely, We have created man in the best [mould]; then, if he acts unjustly, We degrade him as the lowest of the low, save those who believe and do good works; so, for them is an unfailing reward. (Holy Qur'an 95:5-7)

Print Headline: Qur'an: To do good is purpose

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