Old age is generally believed to be a burden, an unwanted situation. This view is put in perspective in a verse of the Qur’an, in the chapter Al-Nahl (Bees). The translation of this verse is as follows: God created you; then He shall cause you to die: and some shall have their lives prolonged to abject old age, ceasing to know anything after once having had knowledge. God is all-knowing and powerful. (16:70)
This Qur’anic statement gives the general picture of old age. Yet there can be an exception to this. One can overcome old age, provided one is serious about doing so. The Prophet of Islam once said that one who reads the Qur’an will never experience the problem of old age. He can prolong the period of his youth. In this saying of the Prophet, reading the Qur’an means studying it, reflecting upon its verses, finding out its hidden meanings, and plumbing the depths of its wisdom.
The Qur’an is a book of God, enshrining the wisdom of nature. A source of divine secrets, it has to be rediscovered every day. It is a fact that intellectual discovery is the most thrilling of experiences. A discovery (about the pressure of water on immersed solids) made by the Greek philosopher Archimedes while he was bathing gave him such a thrill that he leaped out of his bath, shouting: ‘Eureka! Eureka!’ (I have found it!) Such thrill is great food for the intellect. This process staves off intellectual starvation, thus making the discoverer permanently alive and young.
Why does old age turn into ‘abject’ old age for the common man? The reason is that he makes no thrilling discoveries. The Qur’an is a book of wisdom, but its wisdom is hidden between the lines. Only when one reflects upon its verses does one discover that hidden wisdom. This experience gives one the thrilling feeling of coming upon a treasure trove. Research has established that a person’s body is subject to degeneration, but the mind is not. The mind is free of decrepitude. If saved in time, the mind can be alive forever. But this capacity of the mind is potential. It is only those who can turn this potentiality into actuality who will enjoy a new lease of mental life. And this can be achieved only through reflection. But those who have no such habit and simply recite the Qur’an cannot benefit from this enormous potential of the mind.
By birth, everyone has this potential, but only those can avail of it who are ready to go beyond their own biases. What is a reflection upon the Qur’an? It is trying to go beyond its apparent meaning. It is endeavoring to find out the wisdom hidden between the lines. It is to retain its verses in your mind while trying to act according to its deeper meaning by means of serious study. The Qur’an covers all the subjects in nature. It refers to all the great wisdom hidden in creation, so one who ponders upon the verses of the Qur’an will certainly discover in them a more sublime meaning again and again. And on each occasion, this discovery will enliven his mind.