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THE PURPOSE OF MAN’S TRIAL

According to the creation plan of God, a man was settled on this earth for the purpose of putting him to the test. This divine intention is clearly stated in the Qur’an at several different points. One example of how God’s scheme was to be carried out is alluded to in the chapter Yunus (Jonah): Then We made you their successors in the land, so that We might observe how you would conduct yourselves. (10:14)

This kind of test is basically of one’s sense of moral responsibility. When a person comes to understand that he is on trial and that angels are recording all of his actions, this automatically engenders in him the requisite sense of responsibility. Now he becomes cautious in every aspect of his activities—in thinking, speaking, dealing, and in all other activities. Indeed, this understanding of how he is being tested works like a self-correcting mechanism that promotes deep introspection. It is the crucial factor that makes him a good person and a good member of society.

But what is this test for? According to the Qur’an, the final destination of mankind is Paradise, but only good people will be permitted to cross its threshold. So this test is to determine those who are truly worthy of being selected for Paradise. Thus, the knowledge that one is being tested serves as a great incentive to live up to a high moral standard. Living a disciplined life then becomes every person’s self-interest. He feels that he must adhere to high principles, otherwise, he will lose the opportunity to gain entry into Paradise.

A very bad and risky alternative to such a life is to make one’s motto: ‘Eat, drink and be merry!’ Adherents of this formula know nothing beyond their own desires and will never rise to any sensible level in this world. Such a formula can turn our society into a jungle. But the above Qur’anic formula compels man to behave like a responsible member of his society. The whole of humanity becomes his concern and then he cannot afford to live like an irresponsible person. This is what gives us an honest society. This formula, based on belief in the Hereafter, is also fully applicable to our worldly life. When one becomes a responsible person with a disciplined character and does his best not to succumb to satanic temptations, he becomes a good man, not only in terms of the Hereafter but also in terms of the present world. All are under the watchful eye of God who will hold them accountable for their deeds. There are no exemptions to this rule. All are equally responsible before God.

Moral character requires incentive, for without that incentive no one is going to uphold moral values. The above Qur’anic formula provides a great incentive to do so. It applies not only to a community or nation but also to individuals, both men and women—all are equally required to demonstrate a sense of responsibility. All are under the watchful eye of God who will hold them accountable for their deeds. There are no exemptions to this rule. All are equally responsible before God. The above Qur’anic principle not only addresses those who were the contemporaries of the Prophet of Islam but is eternal teaching, applying to the whole of creation.

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