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A WORLD OF COMPETITION

Human society is marked by the inequality of the individuals who make up its basic fabric. Some people are born with silver spoons in their mouths, while others are born with problems and afflictions. This is not evil. This state of affairs persists as a result of the wise planning of the Creator. A Qur’anic verse in the chapter Al-An‘am (The Cattle) explains the rationale behind this situation: It is He who has made you successors [of others] on the earth and has exalted some of you over the others in degrees of rank, so that He may test you by that which He has given you. Your Lord is swift in punishment; yet surely He is forgiving and merciful. (6:165)

This means that inequality between people is not accidental. It has been intentionally planned. This demonstrates great wisdom: God wanted life to offer challenges and so He created competition between individuals and groups. It is challenge and competition that are mainly responsible for the development and not equality. And they certainly ensure that human existence will never be dull.

Psychological studies show that situations always being propitious only kill the spirit of struggle and that incentives necessarily play the most important role in development. The history of progress tells us that no individual or nation has ever made progress in favorable conditions. The fact is that every man or woman is born with great potential. But this potential is in terms of innate capacity and not in terms of actuality. It is challenging circumstances that awaken people’s minds and enable them to turn their potential into reality. This is the natural way of progress and development.

In this world of competition, any success story is a story of struggle. Everywhere there are examples of individuals born into poor families who took their poverty as a great incentive, and jumping into the world of struggle and hard labor produced miraculous results. There are many instances of people who were born in poverty, who inherited nothing themselves, but who made their respective fortunes and left great wealth for their progeny and relatives. It is a matter of dignity that man has freedom of choice and by exercising his freedom, he can achieve all kinds of success. Our world is a world of activity. The whole universe is active day and night, and such activity is likewise required of man. Other entities of the universe are compelled by the law of nature to be active, but man has been given the freedom to be active or to remain idle as he pleases. So whenever a man is active, it is as a result of his own volition; man is free and able to plan his life on his own.

This is a great honor conferred upon man by God and is referred to this in the Qur’an: “We have honored the children of Adam.” (17:70) What people generally call suffering in human life is not so much suffering as being beset by some kind of problem, but the majority of problems in human life are temporary because man has the capacity to overcome them; he can turn his minus points into plus points; extract success from failure, and start a new beginning from what appears to be an end.

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