The Weaknesses of Man
Allah created man in a most complete state and equipped
him with superior characteristics. His superiority over all creatures
as shown by his distinctive intellectual skills of thought and
comprehension, and his readiness to learn and develop cultures
Have you ever thought why it is that despite all these
superior features man has such a fragile body, which is always vulnerable
to external and internal threat? Why is it exposed to the attacks
of microbes or bacteria, which are so tiny they are invisible
to the naked eye? Why does he have to spend a certain part of each
day keeping himself clean? Why does he need bodily care? And why
does he age in the course of time?
People assume that these needs are natural phenomena.
Yet, being in need of care as a human serves a special purpose.
Every detail of the needs of man is specially created. The verse
"man was created weak" (Surat an-Nisa: 28) is the manifest
statement of this fact.
Man's infinite needs are created on purpose: to make
him understand that he is a servant of Allah and that this world
is a temporary residence for him.
Man has no influence whatsoever on the date and place
of his birth. Likewise, he never knows where or how he will die.
Moreover, all his efforts to eliminate the factors negatively affecting
his life are vain and hopeless.
Man has indeed a fragile nature requiring a lot of care
to survive. He is intrinsically unprotected against, and feeble
in the face of, abrupt and unforeseeable incidents that occur in
the world. Equally, he is exposed to unpredictable health risks,
no matter whether he is a resident of a high civilisation or of
a remote, undeveloped mountain village. It is quite likely that
at any moment man can develop an incurable or fatal disease. At
any time, an accident may happen dealing unrecoverable harm to one's
bodily strength or one's most enviable charms.
Furthermore, this applies to all people: status, rank and race,
etc., know of no exception to such an end. Both the life of a celebrity
with millions of fans and that of a common shepherd may well be
completely altered one day by an unexpected incident.
The human body is a weak organism of bones and flesh
averaging 70-80 kilograms in weight. Only a frail skin protects
it. No doubt, this sensitive skin can easily be hurt and bruised.
It becomes cracked and dry when exposed to too much sunlight or
wind. In order not to surrender to natural causes man always has
to be on guard against the effects of the environment.
Although man is equipped with marvellous bodily systems,
the "materials" the flesh, muscles, bones, nervous tissue, cardiovascular
system and fat are prone to decay. If man were of a different
material, rather than flesh and fat, a material that gave no access
to external intruders such as microbes or bacteria, there would
be no chance of becoming sick. However, flesh is the frailest substance':
it becomes rotten and even worm-eaten when left at room temperature
for some time.
As a constant reminder of Allah, man often feels the
fundamental needs of his body. Exposed to cold weather, for instance,
he runs health risks; his immune system gradually "collapses". On
such an occasion, his body may fail to maintain the constant body
temperature (370C) that is fundamental to good health.1
His heart rate slows, the blood vessels contract, and arterial pressure
increases. The body starts to shiver as a means of regaining heat.
A lowered body temperature of 350C accompanied by a depressed
pulse and contracted blood-vessels in arms, legs and fingers signals
a life-threatening condition.2 A person with a body temperature
of 350C suffers severely from disorientation and constantly
falls asleep. Mental functions slow. A slight decrease in body temperature
can cause such consequences, but even more exposure to cold weather,
bringing body temperature below 330C, causes loss of
consciousness. At 240C, the respiratory system fails
to function. The brain is damaged at 200C and finally
the heart stops at 190C bringing on the unavoidable end:
This is only one of the examples upon which will be further expanded
in the remaining pages of this book. The purpose in providing these
examples is to emphasise that, due to the inexorable factors endangering
his being, man will always fail to find profound satisfaction in
his way of living. The aim is to remind the reader that man should
avoid blind attachment to life and stop spending all his life running
after dreams and, instead, always remember Allah and the real life,
There is an eternal Paradise promised to man. As readers
will have the opportunity to see from the pages that follow, paradise
is a place of perfection. In paradise, man will be entirely insulated
from all the physical weaknesses and imperfections that surround
him on earth. Everything he desires will be within easy reach. Furthermore,
fatigue, thirst, exhaustion, hunger, and injury do not exist in
Helping people reflect on their real nature and consequently
have a deeper understanding of the infinite superiority of the Creator
is another purpose of this book. In addition, comprehending that
man is in need of the guidance of Allah is surely of great relevance
to everyone. Allah states this in the following verse:
O mankind! You are the poor in
your relation to Allah. And Allah! He is the Absolute, the Owner
of Praise. (Surah al-Fatir: 15)
Man is exposed to many physical risks. Keeping one's
body and environment clean and taking painstaking care of them are
life-long burdens with which one has always to be occupied in order
to minimise health risks. What is even more striking is that the
amount of time spent on such tasks is considerable. We have often
come across surveys that have been conducted to find out how much
time is spent shaving, bathing, hair-care, skin-care, manicuring
etc. The results of such surveys are astounding, and reveal how
much precious time such daily tasks consume.
In the course of our lives, we encounter many people.
At home, in the office, on the streets or in the shopping-mall,
we see many smartly dressed people in their best states. They are
people with shaved faces, clean hair and bodies, ironed shirts,
well-polished shoes. However, such careful grooming requires time
From the moment one wakes up in the morning until the
time one goes to sleep, one has to involve oneself in endless routines
to keep clean and fresh. Once we wake up, the first place we head
for is the bathroom; during the night, the proliferation of bacteria
causes a bad taste and unpleasant odour in the month, forcing us
to brush our teeth immediately. However, in order to get ready for
the new day, the essentials are not limited to brushing teeth. Neither
does washing just the face and hands suffice. During the day, hair
becomes greasy and the body becomes dirty. At night, in the midst
of a dream, it might not be possible to stop sweating. As the only
way to get rid of unpleasant body odours and sweat, one feels the
urgent need of a shower. Otherwise, it would not be pleasant to
go to work with greasy hair and a bad odour coming from the body.
The variety of materials used to make one's body clean
enough to face others is surprisingly wide. This is, surely, enough
evidence of the body's endless needs. Besides water and soap, we
need numerous essentials to clean the body: shampoo, conditioner,
toothpaste, tooth polish, dental tape, cotton buds, body powder,
face cream, lotions; the list goes on and on. Apart from these essentials,
there are hundreds of other products developed in laboratories to
enhance body care.
As well as bodily care, everyone must also spend a considerable
amount of time cleaning clothing, house, and surroundings. No doubt,
one cannot keep oneself clean unless one is in a clean environment.
In brief, a certain part of life is spent solely to provide
for the needs of the body. Moreover, we need many chemicals for
this end. Allah created man with many weaknesses, yet He also provides
the methods to temporarily conceal these weaknesses and hence remain
in good condition without making other people conscious of these
weaknesses. Besides, man is endowed with intelligence enough to
find the best ways to cover his "weaknesses". If we neglect to apply
these methods staying clean and fresh, we may in a very short time
begin to appear repulsive.
Furthermore, one cannot remain clean for a long time.
After a few hours, nothing remains from the refreshment a shower
gives: we can only stay clean for a relatively short time. We need
to take a shower at least once a day. Likewise, we need to brush
our teeth regularly: bacteria quickly turn the mouth into its former
state. A woman who spends hours in front of a mirror putting on
make-up wakes up next morning with no trace of that beautiful make-up
on her face. Moreover, if she does not remove it properly, her face
may look even worse due to the remains of cosmetics. A clean-shaven
man needs another shave the next morning.
It is important to understand that all these needs are
created for a specific purpose. An example makes this point explicit:
when body temperature rises, we sweat. The odour accompanying sweat
is disturbing. This is an unavoidable process for anyone living
in this world. However, this need not have been the case! For instance,
plants never sweat. A rose never stinks despite the fact that it
grows in soil, is fed with manure, and remains in an environment
of dust and dirt. Under all conditions, it has a delicate fragrance.
We need hardly mention that it needs no body-care! However, no matter
which cosmetics are applied to the skin, few human beings can achieve
such a permanent fragrance.
Besides all the needs of the body pertaining to hygiene,
nutrition is also essential for health. There is a delicate balance
of proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, vitamins and various minerals
essential for the body. Once this balance is impaired, serious damage
may arise in the functioning of bodily systems: the immune system
loses its protective abilities, leaving the body weak and exposed
to disease. Therefore, the same attention shown to body-care should
also be paid to nutrition.
An even more essential requisite for life is, of course,
water. A man can survive without food for a certain period, but
a few days without water will have fatal consequences. All the chemical
functions of the body take place with the aid of water; water is
vital for life.
The foregoing are the weaknesses that one can observe
in one's own body. Yet a question remains: are we all aware that
these are weaknesses? Alternatively, do we think that these are
'natural' since human beings all over the world have such weaknesses?
However, we should keep in mind that Allah could have created man
perfect without any of these weaknesses. Each human being could
have been as clean and as fragrant as a rose. Nevertheless, the
lessons drawn from such a state lead eventually to wisdom, summoning
us to clarity of mind and consciousness; man, seeing his weaknesses
in the presence of Allah, should understand why he is created and
try to lead an honourable life as a servant of Allah.
Fifteen Years Without "Consciousness"
Everyone has to spend some of his daily time sleeping.
No matter how much work he has or how he struggles to avoid it,
it is inescapable that he will fall asleep and remain in bed for
at least a quarter of the day. Hence, man is conscious only eighteen
hours a day; he spends the remaining time a minimum of six hours
a day on average in complete unconsciousness. When assessed from
this standpoint, we come across a striking picture: one quarter
of an average 60 years of life is spent in total unconsciousness.
Do we then have an alternative to sleep? What would happen
to someone who said, "I do not want to sleep?"
First, one's eyes become red and one's skin colour pales. If the
duration of sleeplessness extends, loss of consciousness results.
Closing the eyes and the inability to focus attention
are the initial phases of falling asleep. This is an inevitable
process, and beautiful or ugly, wealthy or poor, everybody experiences
the same process.
Similarly to death, just before sleep the body starts
to become insensitive to the outer world and gives no response to
any stimulus. Senses that were exceptionally keen a while ago start
to fail. In the meantime, perceptions are altered. The body reduces
all functions to a minimum, leading to disorientation in place and
time and slower body movements. This state is, in a way, a different
form of death, which is defined as the state in which the soul leaves
the body. Indeed, while sleeping the body lies in bed where the
spirit experiences totally different lives in completely different
places. In one's dreams, one may well perceive oneself on a beach
on a hot summer's day, unaware that one is sleeping in bed. Death,
too, has the same outward appearance: it separates the soul from
the body which the soul uses in this world and carries him away
to another world in a new body. For this reason, Allah, in the Qur'an,
the only remaining authentic revelation which guides humanity to
the true path, repeatedly reminds us of the similarity of sleep
It is He who takes your souls by
night, and has knowledge of all that you have done by day: by day
He raises you up again; that a term appointed be fulfilled; In the
end unto Him will be your return; then will He show you the truth
of all that you did. (Surat al-An'am: 60)
It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death;
and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom
He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back, but the rest He
sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are
Signs for those who reflect. (Surat az-Zumar: 42)
Totally deprived of all the functions of the senses,
in other words, "in a dead faint", a person spends up to a third of
his life in sleep. Yet, he little contemplates this fact, never realising
that he leaves behind everything deemed important in this world. An
important exam, huge sums of money lost on the stock exchange or a
minor personal problem, in brief everything that appears to be of
crucial importance during the day fades away as one falls asleep.
This simply means having no relationship with the world at all.
All the examples that have been presented so far give
a clear idea about the shortness of life and the huge amount of
time spent on "compulsory" routine tasks. When the time spent on
such "compulsory" tasks is subtracted, one realises the scarcity
of moments left for the so-called joys of life. In retrospect, one
feels astonished at the long time spent on nourishment, body-care,
sleep, or working to attain better standards of living.
The calculations of the time spent on routine tasks necessary
for survival are, undoubtedly, worth thinking about. As stated earlier,
at least 15-20 years of a 60-year life are spent asleep. The initial
5-10 years of the remaining 40-45 years, however, are spent in childhood,
another period that is also spent in an almost unconscious state.
In other words, a sixty-year-old man will have spent perhaps half
of his life without consciousness. Regarding the other half of life,
many statistics are available. These figures, for instance, include
the time spent preparing meals, eating, bathing or caught in traffic
jams. This list can be further extended. In conclusion, what remains
from a "long" life is only 3-5 years. What is the importance of
such a short life in comparison to an eternal one?
It is right at this point that a huge gulf yawns between
those who have faith and disbelievers. Disbelievers, believing the
only life to be here on this earth, struggle to make the most of
it. Yet these are useless endeavours: this world is both short and
its life is beset with "weaknesses". Furthermore, since the disbeliever
does not put his trust in Allah, he lives a troublesome life, one
fraught with concerns and fears.
Those who have faith, on the other hand, spend their
lives remembering Allah and in His presence at each instant, during
all of the minor and troublesome occupations of bodily care, eating,
drinking, standing, sitting, reclining to sleep, and seeking livelihoods,
etc. They spend their lives only to attain the contentment of Allah
and thus lead peaceful lives, isolated completely from all worldly
sorrows and fears. In conclusion, they attain paradise, a place
of eternal happiness. Similarly, the ultimate purpose of life is
stated in the verse:
To the righteous (when) it is said,
"What is it that your Lord has revealed?" they say, "All that is
good." To those who do good, there is good in this world, and the
home of the hereafter is even better and excellent indeed is the
home of the righteous. (Surat an-Nahl: 30-31)
Disease and Accidents
Disease also reminds man how prone he is to weakness.
The body, highly protected against all types of external threats,
is seriously affected by mere viruses, disease-producing agents
invisible to the naked eye. This process seems unreasonable, since
Allah equipped the body with very complete systems, especially the
immune system that could be described as a "victorious army" over
its enemies. However, despite the body's strengths and defences,
people often fall ill. They little ponder the fact that having been
equipped with such excellent systems, Allah might never have allowed
disease-producing agents to cause suffering. Viruses, microbes or
bacteria might never have affected the body, or these tiny "enemies"
might never have existed. However, still today, anyone may well
become the target of serious disease arising from insignificant
causes. For instance, a single virus entering the body through a
slight cut on the skin may in a short while spread to the whole
body, taking control of vital organs. Despite advanced technology,
a simple influenza virus may become a life-threatening factor for
huge numbers of people. History has frequently been witness to influenza
cases that changed even the demographic structures of countries.
For instance, in 1918, twenty-five million people died of influenza.
Similarly, in 1995, an epidemic claimed thirty thousand lives, the
worst losses concentrated in Germany.
Today the danger persists: a virus may strike at any
time and easily become life-threatening for anyone, or a rare disease
may reappear after lying dormant for nearly twenty years. Accepting
all these incidents as natural happenings and not reflecting on
them would be a serious mistake. Allah gives mankind diseases for
a special purpose. This way, those who are arrogant may well find
an opportunity to grasp the truly limited extent of their power.
Besides, this is a good way of understanding the true nature of
Apart from diseases, accidents pose serious threats to
man. Every day newspapers run headlines about traffic accidents.
Accidents also constitute a considerable part of radio and television
news. Yet, despite such familiarity with accidents, we never think
we might face an accident at any moment. There are thousands of
factors around us that may suddenly divert the flow of our lives.
One may lose one's balance and fall in the middle of the street,
for instance. A haemorrhage in the brain or a broken leg may well
be traced back to such an ordinary accident, or while eating supper,
one may choke to death on a fish-bone. The causes may sound simple,
but every day thousands of people around the world face incidents
such as these which are difficult to imagine.
These facts should make us understand the futility of
devotion to this world and conclude that everything that has been
given us is but a temporary favour to test us in this world. It
is unfathomable how a human being, still unable to combat an invisible
virus, dares to display arrogance towards his Almighty Creator.
No doubt, it is Allah who created man and He is the One
who protects him against all dangers. In this respect, accidents
and disease show us who we are. No matter how potent one assumes
oneself to be, except by the will of Allah, one cannot prevent any
disaster from befalling. Allah creates all disease and other situations
to remind man of his weaknesses.
This world is a place to test man. Everyone is held responsible
for trying to attain His good pleasure. At the end of this test,
those who have a clear unitary knowledge of Allah without ascribing
partners to Him and obey His prohibitions and orders will reside
in paradise for all eternity. Those who do not change their arrogance
and prefer this world and their desires will thus lose an eternal
life of bliss and ease in exchange for eternal suffering and will
never be free of troubles, weakness and sorrow either in this world
or in the Hereafter.
The Consequences of Diseases
As stated earlier, disease and accidents are the events
by which Allah tests man. Facing such an incident, a faithful person
immediately turns to Allah, praying and seeking refuge in Him. He
is well aware that nothing and no-one except Allah can save him
from grief. He is also aware that his patience, devotion and trust
in Allah are being tested. In the Qur'an, the prophet Ibrahim is
praised for his exemplary attitude. His sincere prayer is one that
should be repeated by all believers. It is related in the Qur'an
Who gives me food and drink,
and when I am ill, it is He who cures me; Who will cause me
to die, and give me life (again)." (Surat ash-Shu'ara: 79-81)
The prophet Ayub, on the other hand, set a good example
for all believers as he sought patience only from Allah when faced
with a bitter illness:
Commemorate Our slave Ayyub. Behold he cried to
his Lord: "The Evil One has afflicted me with distress and suffering!"
(Surah Sad: 41)
Such distress strengthens the loyalty of believers
towards their Creator and establishes them in maturity. That is why
each suffering is a "fortune". Disbelievers, on the other hand, perceive
all types of accident and disease as "misfortune". Not realising that
everything is created for a specific purpose and that patience shown
during troubles will be awarded in the Hereafter, disbelievers fall
into great grief. Indeed, since in a system based upon the denial
of the existence of Allah, people adopt a materialistic standpoint,
disease and accidents bring other sorrows to those who have no faith.
The moral values and point of view of materialist society dictates
that after accident or disease what they generally experience is the
sudden disappearance of close friends' even if they have not died.
Such an attitude is assumed simply because they perceive being friends
with, or taking care of a sufferer as trouble. No matter how much
love and care he gave in the "good old days", once somebody becomes
ill bedridden for instance or disabled, all affection felt for
him vanishes. Another reason which makes people change is the loss
of looks or of certain skills. That is also what is expected from
materialist society, since in such a society, people assess others
according to their physical traits. Consequently, when a physical
defect appears, the value attached to that person also diminishes.
For instance, the spouse or close relatives of a physically
handicapped person, immediately start complaining about the difficulties
of looking after a disabled person. They often lament about how
unfortunate they are. Most express that they are still very young
and that being faced with such a disaster is not something they
deserve. This is only self-justification for why he or she does
not pay proper care and attention to his or her disabled relative.
Some, on the other hand, assist the patient or disabled just because
they fear what others might think about them in the event that they
leave them. The rumours, which are likely to spread, simply prevent
them from such behaviour. In such times of trouble the promises
of loyalty given during happier days are suddenly replaced by egotistical,
Such incidents should not surprise us in a society where
some forms of behaviour, such as loyalty, are only shown when there
is benefit to be derived from them. No doubt, in a society where
materialistic criteria are well established and, more importantly,
where people have no fear of Allah, it is impossible to expect someone
to remain loyal to somebody else for no price. After all, we cannot
expect someone to be sincere and honest to others unless he believes
he will receive punishment in return for his failure to act so or
reward for doing so. Such behaviour is believed to be "idiotic"
in materialist society. That is because there is no sense in showing
loyalty to someone who will, when death befalls him possibly in
a few decades, cease to exist for all eternity. Considering the
situation in a system in which both parties are convinced they will
live for a short time then die, such a mentality seems reasonable.
Why, then, should they not prefer the comfortable and easy way of
Diseases, such as those that are illustrated
next, are often trials from Allah. Such incidents are rare
opportunities for believers to show their patience and devotion
to Allah. Yet, those who limit their understanding to this
world alone hardly comprehend this essential secret.
Yet, the facts are otherwise. Those who trust Allah,
who, in His presence, are aware of their weaknesses and fear Him,
assess other people in the way Allah wants them to. The most precious
feature of a person who is in the presence of Allah is his fear,
respect and, hence, the noble behaviour he displays arising from
these qualities. If the one who fears Allah displays moral perfection
in this world, he will attain physical and mental perfection for
all eternity. Knowing this fact, the physical defects of this world
lose all significance. This is the promise of Allah to the believers.
That is also the basic reason why believers show respect and affection
to each other and consideration for each other's physical handicaps,
and demonstrate lifelong devotion to one another.
This big gap in perception between believers and disbelievers
and the different states of mind they experience are quite important.
While grudges and anger are eliminated from the hearts of believers
and peace and security prevail instead, feelings of disappointment,
dissatisfaction and unhappiness create anguished states of mind
for disbelievers. This is as if it was a punishment from the materialist
society surrounding the disbelievers, but, it really is a misfortune
from Allah for those who do not believe. Those who assume that they
will not be judged for their misdeeds will be stunned on the
day of judgement when their misdeeds cruelty, disbelief, and disloyalty
will be judged:
Let not the disbelievers think
that Our respite to them is good for them: We grant them respite
that they may grow in their iniquity: But they will have a shameful
punishment. (Surat Ali-'Imran: 178)
The Later Years of Life
destructive effects of the passage of years are observable in one's
own body. As the years go by, the body, the most precious possession
a human being has, goes through an irreversible process of destruction.
The changes a human being experiences throughout his life are recounted
in the Qur'an as follows:
It is Allah Who created you in
a state of (helpless) weakness, then gave (you) strength after weakness,
then, after strength, gave (you) weakness and a hoary head: He creates
as He wills, and it is He who has all knowledge and power. (Surat
The later years of life are the times most neglected
in the future plans of an adult, except in the anxious process of
saving for old-age pensions. Indeed, being too close to death, people
usually develop a hesitant approach to this period. When someone tries
to talk about old age, others feel concerned and attempt to change
this "unpleasant" topic as soon as possible. The routine of daily
life is also a good way of escaping from the thought of these potentially
miserable years of life. So, it is postponed until the day one inevitably
meets it. No doubt, the main reason for such avoidance is the assumption
that one has endless time until death comes upon one. This common
misconception is described in the Qur'an:
Nay, We gave the good things of
this life to these men and their fathers until life grew long for
them. (Surat al-Anbiya: 44)
This mistaken idea often leads to great grief. That
is simply because, no matter how old one is, the only real possessions
remaining from one's past are dimly-recalled memories. One barely
remembers childhood. It is even hard to recall exactly what happened
during the last decade. The greatest ambitions of a young man, important
decisions, and the goals to which he is most committed, all lose their
significance once they are experienced and done. That is why to tell
a "long" life story is a vain endeavour.
Whether a teenager or an adult, this should prompt man
to make an important decision about his life. For instance, if you
are forty and expect to live until your mid-sixties and of that
you have no guarantee those remaining twenty-five years will surely
pass as quickly as the preceding forty years. The same holds true
even if your life is prolonged a great deal, since the remaining
thirty or forty years will, likewise, pass before you even notice.
This is, surely, a perpetual reminder of the true nature of this
world. One day every living soul on this earth will leave this world
and there is no return.
Hence, man should set aside his prejudices and be more
realistic about his life. Time passes very quickly and each day
brings on further physical weakness and more impaired thinking rather
than fresher dynamism and a younger figure. In brief, growing old
is a manifestation of man's inability to control his own body, life
and destiny. Time's adverse effects on the body become visible during
this period. Allah informs us about this in the following verse:
It is Allah Who creates you and
takes your souls at death; and of you there are some who are sent
back to a feeble age, so that they know nothing after having known
(much): for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (Surat an-Nahl:
In medicine, advanced old age is also called "the
second childhood". Hence, during this latter stage of life, elderly
people just like children need care, since their bodily and mental
functions go through certain alterations.
As one grows older, physical and spiritual characteristics
pertaining to childhood become more apparent. Elderly people fail
to do many tasks requiring physical strength. Changes in judgement,
impaired thinking, difficulties in walking, maintaining balance
and speech, impediments, memory impairment and gradual memory loss,
and changes in mood or behaviour are only a few symptoms of diseases
commonly seen in old age.
In short, after a certain period, people often regress
to a state of childish dependency both physically and mentally.
Life both begins and ends in an infant-like state. This is evidently
not a random process. It is possible that man could remain young
until he dies. Yet Allah reminds man about the temporary nature
of this world by making the quality of his life deteriorate at certain
stages of life. This process serves as a clear reminder that life
is slipping away. Allah explains this matter in the verse below:
O mankind! If you have doubt about
the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then
out of a drop, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel
of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may
manifest (Our power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in
the wombs for an appointed term, then We bring you out as babes,
then (foster you) that you may reach your age of full strength;
and some of you are called to die, and some are sent back to the
feeblest old age, so that they know nothing after having known (much),
and (further), you see the earth barren and lifeless, but when We
pour rain down on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it
puts forth every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs). (Surat al-Hajj:
Age-related Physical Problems
No matter how much money you have or how good your health,
everyone eventually faces disabilities and other age-related complications,
some of which are described below:
Skin is truly an important factor determining how somebody
looks. It is an essential component of beauty. When tissue of a
few square millimetres is removed, one inevitably comes across a
picture which squeamish people find disturbing. This is solely because,
apart from offering protection from exterior threats to the body,
skin also provides a smooth and aesthetic appearance to the body.
This is, no doubt, quite an important function of skin. After all,
if someone assumes herself good looking, that is solely because
her skin, a piece of flesh weighing in total around four and a half
pounds, covers her body. Yet to one's astonishment, this is the
only organ that becomes visibly damaged when one gets old.
Jeanne Calment, the oldest French woman. There is a period
of a century between these two photographs.
Revuelta, in youth and old age.
the changes seen in these pictures. The process of ageing
is the clearest evidence that we are living in a temporary
world. Man comes into this world, grows to adulthood and
old age and then dies. Yet, only the body experiences this
irreversible process. The soul, on the other hand, lives
As one grows old, skin loses its elastic structure since structural
proteins making up the "skeleton" of its bottom layers become sensitive
and weak. That is also why wrinkles and lines, a nightmare for many
people, appear on the face. The functioning of the oil glands in
the top layer of the skin slows down, causing acute dryness. In
time, the body is exposed to external influences since the permeability
of skin increases. As a result of this process, elderly people suffer
seriously from sleeping disorders, superficial wounds, and an itch
called "the itch of old age". Likewise, damage occurs to the bottom
layers of the skin. Renewal of skin tissue and substance-exchange
mechanisms fail to function to a great extent, preparing and laying
the ground for tumours to develop.
Strength of bones is also of great importance to the
human body. Efforts to achieve an erect posture rarely meet with
success for old people, while it is much easier for the young. Walking
with a bent posture, one loses all one's loftiness and arrogance,
giving the message that one no longer has the ability to exercise
control even over one's own body. Therefore, this is also a loss
of one's "airs and graces".
The symptoms of ageing are not limited to these alone.
Elderly people are more likely to develop loss of sensation since
nerve cells cease to renew themselves after a particular age. Elderly
people suffer from spatial disorientation due to weakening eyes
in response to the intensity of light. This is quite important since
it means a limitation of eyesight: the vividness of colours, the
positions of objects, and their dimensions become blurred. These
are, no doubt, difficult situations for the elderly to adapt to.
Man might never have experienced the physical destruction
of ageing: he might simply have grown stronger and healthier as
he grew older. Though we are not familiar with such a model, living
longer might have offered unprecedented opportunities for personally
and socially fulfilling lives. Time might have improved the quality
of life, making it much more enjoyable than ever. Yet, the system
ordained as good for mankind is one based on a declining quality
of life as one grows older.
This is one more evidence of the temporary nature of this world.
Allah repeatedly reminds us of this fact in the Qur'an and commands
believers to think about it:
The likeness of the life of the
present is as the rain which We send down from the skies: by its
mingling arises the produce of the earth which provides food for
men and animals: (It grows) till the earth is clad with its golden
ornaments and is decked out (in beauty): the people to whom it belongs
think they have all powers of disposal over it: There reaches it
Our command by night or by day, and We make it like a harvest clean-mown,
as if it had not flourished only the day before! Thus do We explain
the Signs in detail for those who reflect. (Surah Yunus: 24)
After a certain period of life during which man
assumes himself to be physically and mentally strong and perceives
the whole world from his own viewpoint, he suddenly goes through a
period during which he loses many things he had previously enjoyed.
This process is inevitable and irreversible. That is only because
Allah created this world as a temporary place in which to live and
made it imperfect in order that it serve as a reminder for the Hereafter.
Lessons to be Drawn from the
Old Age of Celebrities
Growing old is unavoidable. Nobody, without exception,
can escape it. Yet seeing celebrities becoming older has a deeper
influence on us since their physical deterioration is openly observable.
Witnessing the ageing of people renowned for their fame, wealth
and beauty is surely a reminder of the shortness and insignificance
of this life.
Every day it is possible to observe this fact from hundreds
of examples around us. An intelligent, healthy and famous person,
once a symbol of beauty or success, one day appears in newspapers,
magazines and on television with a physical or mental disability.
This is the end that almost everybody will meet. Yet celebrities
hold a special place in our minds; the way they grow old and lose
their charms appeals to the emotions more deeply. In the pages that
follow, you will see photographs of some celebrities. Each one is
the clearest evidence that no matter how beautiful, successful or
young you are, the inevitable end for human beings is old age.
The Death of Man
Life slips away second by second. Are you aware that
every day brings you closer to death or that death is as close to
you as it is to other people?
As we are told in the verse "Every
soul shall taste death in the end; to Us shall you be brought back."
(Surat al-'Ankabut: 57) everyone who has ever appeared on
this earth was destined to die. Without exception they all died,
every one. Today, we hardly come across the traces of many of these
people who passed away. Those currently living and those who will
ever live will also face death on a predestined day. Despite this
fact, people tend to see death as an unlikely incident.
Think of a baby who has just opened its eyes to the world
and a man who is about to breathe his last. Both had no influence
on their individual birth or death whatsoever. Only Allah possesses
the power to inspire the breath of life or to take it away.
All human beings will live until a certain day and then
die; Allah in the Qur'an gives an account of the attitude commonly
shown towards death in the following verse:
Say: "The death from which you
flee will truly overtake you: then you will be sent back to the
Knower of things secret and open: and He will tell you (the truth
of) the things that you did!" (Surat al-Jumu'ah: 8)
The majority of people avoid thinking about death.
In the rapid flow of daily events, a person usually occupies himself
with totally different subjects: what college to enrol in, which company
to work for, what colour of clothing to wear next morning, what to
cook for supper; these are the kinds of major issues that we usually
consider. Life is perceived as a routine process of such minor matters.
Attempts to talk about death are always interrupted by those who do
not feel comfortable hearing about it. Assuming death will come only
when one grows older, one does not want to concern himself with such
an unpleasant subject. Yet it should be kept in mind that living for
even one further hour is never guaranteed. Everyday, man witnesses
the deaths of people around him but thinks little about the day when
others will witness his own death. He never supposes that such an
end is awaiting him!
Nevertheless, when death comes to man, all the "realities"
of life suddenly vanish. No reminder of the "good old days" endures
in this world. Think of everything that you are able to do right
now: you can blink your eyes, move your body, speak, laugh; all
these are functions of your body. Now think about the state and
shape your body will assume after your death.
From the moment you breathe for the last time, you will
become nothing but a "heap of flesh". Your body, silent and motionless,
will be carried to the morgue. There, it will be washed for the
last time. Wrapped in a shroud, your corpse will be carried in a
coffin to the graveyard. Once your remains are in the grave, soil
will cover you. This is the end of your story. From now on, you
are simply one of the names represented in the graveyard by a marble
During the first months or years, your grave will be
visited frequently. As time passes, fewer people will come. Decades
later, there will be no-one.
Meanwhile, your immediate family members will experience
a different aspect of your death. At home, your room and bed will
be empty. After the funeral, little of what belongs to you will
be kept at home: most of your clothes, shoes, etc, will be given
to those who need them. Your file at the public registration office
will be deleted or archived. During the first years, some will mourn
for you. Yet, time will work against the memories you left behind.
Four or five decades later, there will remain only a few who remember
you. Before long, new generations will come and none of your generation
will exist any longer on earth. Whether you are remembered or not
will be worthless to you.
While all this is taking place in the world, the corpse under the
soil will go through a rapid process of decay. Soon after you are
placed in the grave, the bacteria and insects proliferating in the
corpse due to the absence of oxygen will start to function. The
gasses released from these organisms will inflate the body, starting
from the abdomen, altering its shape and appearance. Bloody froth
will pop out the mouth and nose due to the pressure of gasses on
the diaphragm. As corruption proceeds, body hair, nails, soles,
and palms will fall off. Accompanying this outer alteration in the
body, internal organs such as lungs, heart and liver will also decay.
In the meantime, the most horrible scene takes place in the abdomen,
where the skin can no longer bear the pressure of gasses and suddenly
bursts, spreading an unendurably disgusting smell. Starting from
the skull, muscles will detach from their particular places. Skin
and soft tissues will completely disintegrate. The brain will decay
and start looking like clay. This process will go on until the whole
body is reduced to a skeleton.
There is no chance of going back to the old life again.
Gathering around the supper table with family members, socialising
or to having an honourable job will never again be possible.
In short, the "heap of flesh and bones" to which we assign
an identity faces a quite nasty end. On the other hand, you or
rather, your soul will leave this body as soon as you breathe
your last. The remainder of you your body will become part of
Yes, but what is the reason for all these things happening?
If Allah willed, the body would never have decayed in
such a way. That it does so actually carries a very important inner
message in itself.
The tremendous end awaiting man should make him acknowledge
that he is not a body himself, but a soul "encased" within a body.
In other words, man has to acknowledge that he has an existence
beyond his body. Furthermore, man should understand the death of
his body which he tries to possess as if he is to remain eternally
in this temporal world. However this body, which he deems so important,
will decay and become worm-eaten one day and finally be reduced
to a skeleton. That day might be very soon.
Despite all these facts, man's mental process is inclined
to disregard what he does not like or want. He is even inclined
to deny the existence of things he avoids confronting. This tendency
seems to be most apparent when death is the issue. Only a funeral
or the sudden death of an immediate family member brings this reality
to mind. Almost everybody sees death far from himself. The assumption
is that those who die while sleeping or in an accident are different
people and what they face will never befall us! Everybody thinks
it is too early to die and that there are always years ahead to
Yet most probably, people who die on the way to school
or hurrying to attend a business meeting shared the same thought.
They probably never thought that the next day's newspapers would
publish news of their deaths. It is entirely possible that, as you
read these lines, you still do not expect to die soon after you
have finished them or even entertain the possibility that it might
happen. Probably you feel that it is too early to die because there
are many things to accomplish. However, this is just an avoidance
of death and these are only vain endeavours to escape it:
Say: "Running away will not profit
you if you are running away from death or slaughter; and even if
(you do escape), no more than a brief (respite) will you be allowed
to enjoy!"(Surat al-Ahzab: 16)
Man who is created alone should be aware that he
will also die alone. Yet during his life, he lives almost addicted
to possessions. His sole purpose in life becomes to possess more.
Yet, no-one can take his goods with him to the grave. The body is
buried wrapped in a shroud made from the cheapest of fabrics. The
body comes into this world alone and departs from it in the same way.
The only asset one can take with him when one dies is one's belief
| It is Allah Who created you in a state of (helpless)
weakness, then gave (you) strength ofter weakness, then after
strength, gave (you) weakness, and a hoary head: He creates
as He wills, and it is He Who has all knowledge and power
(Surat ar-Rum, 54)