This is a problem in itself, as this is a relationship of two strangers with one another, and, may include, the relation of a prisoner with jail, or, a bird with its cage, and Joseph with the well?
Someone may say that being born is being put in a prison, a cage, or, a well. If so, this relationship is one of two opposites, and the man’s endeavour must be only to set himself free from this prison and cage.
But in Islam, the relation of man with nature resembles that of a farmer with the farm, of a merchant with the market, and of a devotee with the temple. For a farmer, land is not the goal but the means. His home is elsewhere but he uses the land to secure livelihood, and the means of comfort, and happiness. He ploughs it, scatters seeds, weeds it, harvests it, etc. The world is the farm of the hereafter, and this land should not be taken by a farmer for his permanent home. For a merchant, a market is a place of work in which he uses his capital, and efforts to gain profit. This is how man should view the world.
Someone came to Imam ‘Ali and began blaming the world since he had heard that the Imam did the same. He did not know that ‘Ali (as) reproached the worship of the world, which is contrary to the worship of God and truth, and in itself a negation of all human values. ‘Ali was angry at this, and said: “O the reproaching man, O you who are deceived, the world has not deceived you, but you have deceived yourself.”1
As an example, I may say that an old woman deceives a young man with her make-up, and her false teeth, and hair. The youth realizes suddenly that he has been deceived. Or, maybe the old woman comes forward, and admitting her deficiencies makes an offer for marriage. In that case, the woman has not deceived him; rather the young man has deceived himself,
Imam ‘Ali (as) said: “The world has not hidden anything from you to deceive you. Did the world deceive you on the day you buried your father? The world said: “I am what you see, and I have no stability, discern me the way as I am. Why do you suppose me to be what you wish, not what I really am?” So, the world deceives no one. Let us see whether the world has betrayed you, or, vice versa. It is you who follow your carnal desires.” Then, ‘Ali added: “The world is the trade market of saints, and the mosque of God’s friends.”
The idea that the world is a prison, or, a cage, is based on a psychological view that has been prevalent in India, and in pre-Islamic Greece, but, it is unacceptable to Islam. It says that human spirit has been created in a perfect form in another world, and introduced, in a cage, to this world, in which case he has no alternative but to break the cage. But, the Holy Qur’an says:
“And certainly We created man of an extract of clay; then We made him a small life-germ in a firm resting place; then We made the life-germ a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation” (Sura al-Mu’minun,23:12-14).
The last sentence shows that man was made into something else, which is the spirit, and this spirit is produced from matter. Therefore, it has not been perfected elsewhere in order to be put in a cage here. Man lives in nature, like his mother’s lap, and it is here that he undergoes evolution, and perfection. Islam says; if you do not rise higher from this natural position, you will remain here in the lowest of the low, and in the hell hereafter. The Holy Qur’an says:
“What is the terrible calamity! And what will make you comprehend what the terrible calamity is? The day on which men shall be as scattered moths, and the mountains shall be as loosened wool, then as for him whose measure of good deeds is heavy, he shall live a pleasant life. And as for him whose measure of good deeds is light, his abode shall be the abyss. And what will make you know what it is? A burning fire!’ (Sura al-Qari’ah, 101:1-11).
Therefore, in the anthropology on Islam, and in the knowledge of the world, man has not been a ready-made bird which has flown in a holy space, and put in a cage, to make it necessary for him to break the cage. If you admit that the world of spirit has priority over the world of matter, and it is a beam illuminating this world from another world, you cannot believe that spirit has been elsewhere in a perfect form, and brought here to be imprisoned. Such an idea is historically Indian, and Platonic.
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