Books and Documents

Books and Documents (24 Sep 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why Is There So Much Suffering In This World? Why Does God Permit It? Is There Any Greater Purpose To Such Suffering?

By Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

24 September 2015

Name of the Book: Reclaim Your Heart—Personal Insights on Breaking Free of Life’s Shackles

Author: Yasmin Mogahed

Publisher: FB Publishing, San Clemente (USA)

Year: 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9903876-8-8

Pages: 194


The issue of human suffering is something that has been widely written about, including from a wide range of spiritual and religious perspectives. Why is there so much suffering in this world? Why does God permit it? Is there any greater purpose to such suffering? These are questions that just about every person asks and searches for answers to, for suffering, the Buddha noted, is a fundamental reality of human existence as long as we are driven and controlled by worldly desires and attachments.

Related to these questions are questions about the very meaning of life. Since we are all going to die one day—our own death being one of the very few things (or perhaps even the only thing) about our future that we can be utterly sure of—what is the purpose of living in this world which is racked with all sorts of suffering?

This book is a personal narrative of a Muslim American woman who reflects on the purpose of human life and the issues of evil and human suffering from an Islamic perspective. This life, she explains, is a testing-ground for eternal life in the Hereafter. The purpose of our life is to worship God. Remembrance of God is something that Islam greatly stresses. Attachment to created things, she notes, is a source of suffering, such attachment taking us away from remembrance of God. We all have innate need to connect to our Creator, but the mistake most of us make is to seek to fulfil that need by getting attached to some or the other thing—our jobs, our relatives, our friends, name, fame, power or endless consumption and entertainment, and so on. Ultimately, however, these things fail to give us what we truly need. It is only in connecting with God and spending our lives according to His will that we can attain true happiness—in this world and the next.

Attachment to the notion that we can have an ideal world here, on earth, and that our lives in this world can be totally problem-free is a major source of suffering, Mogahed says. A truly perfect world exists only in Heaven. In the meanwhile, here on earth we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we will continue to face various challenges. The only way we can meaningfully respond to them, she explains, is through faith in God. Changing our ways of looking at challenges can help us deal with them. We need to exercise patience in the face of odds and to forgive others for wronging us. The difficulties we face in life can be a mechanism for our own inner growth. If we realize that they are a means for us to turn to God, to seek His help and to humble ourselves, we may be able to respond to them in the way God wants to. In this way, Mogahed says, they can play a valuable role in our spiritual progress, in growing closer to God. Mogahed stresses that a God-oriented life alone is a truly meaningful one—something that believers in all theistic religions would easily accept.

Many of the things that the Mogahed says here resonate with what spiritually-oriented writers from other spiritual or religious traditions also tell us.  This indicates that various spiritual traditions, despite the different scriptural sources they may be rooted in, have much in common. At a time when conflicts in the name of religion are such an enormous challenge to global peace, highlighting this point is useful and welcome. Identifying commonalities between the different religions and spiritualities is something that is today of pressing necessity.

Communal exclusivism and supremacist religiosity can easily slip into conflict, and probably nothing is more threatening to global peace today than conflict in the name of religion. Meaningful spiritualities can hardly afford to neglect these major issues that have global implications. Sadly, though, Mogahed says almost nothing about the subject.  While she is critical of American ‘neo-conservatives’ and their attitude towards Muslims and critiques Western feminism for its excesses, she does not address the issue of terror being fomented in the name of Islam, the gross misuse of Islam to fan sectarian hatred and large-scale killing of people in some parts of the world, the persecution of non-Muslim minorities in some Muslim-majority countries, and the marginalization of women based on what many Muslim women would insist are wrong interpretations of Islam. And so on.

Surely, the negative attitudes towards Muslims and Islam among a significant number of non-Muslims are a result, at least in part, of the actions and attitudes of a not insignificant number of Muslims (including some people who claim to speak for Islam), but this is something that Mogahed ignores.  Mogahed is pained by the troubles that many Muslims today face, but her book displays no similar concern for the troubles faced by many others because of the actions of some Muslims, including victims of the terror and violence engaged in by some Muslims groups in the name of Islam. Her critique, then, appears very one-sided.

If, as the subtitle of the book says, this book is about ‘breaking free of life’s shackles’, it fails to confront one  major such shackle—narrow, bigoted and hate-driven misinterpretations of Islam that are causing havoc for vast numbers of people, including Muslims themselves, today. Along with this, Mogahed ignores the immense potential of other understandings of Islam, such as some Sufi perspectives, for breaking these shackles and for offering us hope for a truly meaningful spirituality that can resonate with not just Muslims alone but with others, too, transcending communal divides.

In its very first chapter, the Quran tells us that God is Rabb ul Alameen, Sustainer of the worlds. Since the God is the Sustainer of us all, irrespective of religious and other differences, faith in God demands  that it is all of us—all creatures, and not just one faith community of humans among them—that we should be concerned about and care for. And that is something very basic that this book really ought to have stressed.

URL: http://newageislam.com/books-and-documents/yoginder-sikand,-new-age-islam/why-is-there-so-much-suffering-in-this-world?-why-does-god-permit-it?-is-there-any-greater-purpose-to-such-suffering?/d/104694

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  • Mr Yoginder 
    Understanding is very simple of suffering if see whole picture.

    Most powerful living creature in the world is Humans but they always mess the life of other creatures for their benefit, they have never work like honeybees who never hurt the flowers just take honey and go away.

    But with humans they killed this creatures on name of God(especially abrahmic believers), even other relegions are not behind the only thing they do not use God.

    Now Mother Nature balance it self by other way, as they do not speak we can infer only results.

    Humans have always given hard time to the very being that narture them. You do not even need to take universal approach.

    I give analogy here? When I was kid I have seen poultry farming(actually it Should be " cunning breeding") was coming in India, blindly adopted from western culture. Now you can see westerners are coming in Gujarat to for IVF kids, so this how the weak feminism is exploited but, I think Mother Nature balance this way only, no one was feeling pain of hens at the time but now this is human female species turn, again this women's are scan for boy and girl and if girl child is their than fetus is thrown.

    It looks like God made make mistake by giving reproductive organ to Female, but can God make this mistake "no certainly not" may be Abrahmic God is still thriving on killing and exploiting of other creatures.

    So suffering to human can be done by humans only as their is no other powerful creatures in world.
    So what about earthquakes, tsunami, drought and so on... It's because human population has grown all over the world and started to live all places. Earthquake were coming and tusnami was also coming, but humans were not living around this places in the past, home structure was also simple, so their is nothing like "gods act" 

    "Gods act" was ideology found in all relegions but abhrahmic relegions still blame the God, very smart.

    By Aayina - 9/28/2015 4:49:43 PM

  • Another  masterpiece review of a good book by yogi. Myself, chintu samchoori also read this book and fully agree with yogi that the author has forgotten to say how Muslims need to stop playing blame game and stop  living in victimhood mentality.
    chintu samchoori

    By chintusamchoori - 9/26/2015 3:33:48 AM

  • While reviewing this wonderful book Mr. Sikand has raised some very pertinent philosophical issues. Spiritual preachers of all stripes have repeatedly exhorted man to remain unattached. Non-attachment and equanimity do not mean the abnegation of will, but the transcendence of all private desires, so that the individual self can totally become an instrument of divine will. As St. John of the Cross explains, “The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, it will not arrive at the liberty of the divine union. For whether it is a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds fast; for until the cord is broken, the bird cannot fly. So the soul, held by the bonds of human affections, however slight they may be cannot while they last, make its way to God.”

    The greatest philosophy of life is the philosophy of non-attachment – not be attached to life, and all that pertains to life. When the end comes, the wrench is not too great. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that we must do our duty regardless of the outcome. If something is worth striving for, the exertion in its pursuit is its own reward.

    When a man acts without any attachment to earthly bonds, the motivation comes not from the heart’s passions, but from the soul’s clear perception of the indivisible oneness of reality. In this perception, there is no dualism between the perceiver and the perceived and the beholder and the beholden, you cannot tell the dancer from the dance, as W.B. Yeats described it. “The goods of God,” said St John of the Cross “can only be contained in an empty and solitary heart.” You have to empty yourself of all personal greed and lust so that you may be imbued with a selfless and divine purpose .
    By Moin Qazi - 9/25/2015 7:26:24 AM

  • This world is God's Leela (Drama).  It is upto Him to send Prophets, Saints, Scientists, etc. for reducing the suffering in this world.
    By Satbir Singh Bedi - 9/25/2015 12:39:31 AM

  • Our task in this world is to reduce suffering. Expecting God to do it is like cheating in exams.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 9/24/2015 2:36:42 PM

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