To a young person growing up in a materialistic society, it may seem so. To a person growing up in a world full of worldly attractions, it may seem so. To a person advancing a career in the corporate world where most—if not all—people are driven by greed, it may definitely seem so. On the surface, it may appear that there are too many rules and too many restrictions in the religion of Islam. In fact, such a statement may be made regarding all religions.
However, those who have tasted the beautiful, satisfying fulfillment of spiritual progress, would beg to differ. The restrictions help to create an environment through discipline that fosters and encourages spiritual development and a connection with God. Even in worldly pursuits, there are restrictions and rules created for worldly benefits. Some employers, for instance, require their workers to come to work sharp on time and leave only when the required time has been spent. To the casual observer, it may seem like an unnecessary restriction as there might be time spent on the office desk that is going to waste and no work is being done. But the employer may argue that it is those same rules that help drive the company forward and enable it to excel in its field.
Islam—as a religion—is seeking that excellence in spiritual matters. The daily prayer regimen for instance is not meant to be performed like a ritual with nothing much achieved. Instead, it is meant to eventually cause a person’s heart to melt at the threshold of God and become absolutely dissolved in the love of God. Worldly pursuits on the other hand make humans slaves to sexual desires, and greedy for wealth and power, without any comfort and peace in their lives.
There is no doubt that consuming alcohol, taking drugs, and going to dance parties, is very exciting and exhilarating. But, we ask: At what cost? According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in the years 2015-2016, there were about 77,000 hospitalizations caused by alcohol, which equates to 212 hospitalizations every single day.[i] To put it into perspective, this was more than the hospitalizations caused by heart attack. Out of these, 4,000 result in death every year.[ii] Similarly, regarding the pursuit of pleasure, Dr. Susan Krauss notes, “Researchers examining the mental health associations of hookup sex report that participants who were not depressed before showed more depressive symptoms and loneliness”.[iii] A lifestyle involving hookup sex, alcohol, dancing, taking drugs, and parties with free-mixing of the sexes is definitely “fun” in the moment. But, we ask: Is this fun really worth it despite the increase in depression, anxiety, hospitalizations, and even suicide?
The rules in Islam are meant to make life more pleasant and heaven-like. Islam sees the larger picture and a life lived to its fullest potential with the greatest possible happiness. The Promised Messiah(as) writes, “Does he who owns a treasure, weep, cry and become sorrowful unto death over the loss of a single coin? Had you been aware of this treasure and knew that at every time of need God is able to fulfil your requirements, why would you look to the world so restlessly? God is a precious treasure; appreciate Him accordingly, for He is your Helper at every step”.[iv] Similarly, he writes:
اس جائے پُر عذاب سے کیوں دِل لگاتے ہو
دوزخ ہے یہ مقام یہ بُستاں سَرا نہیں
Meaning, “Why do you attach yourself to this world which causes so much pain? This place is akin to hell. It is not a garden that is permanent or eternal”.[v]
[i]. https://www.cihi.ca/sites/default/files/document/report-alcohol-hospitalizations-en-web.pdf, Retrieved April 14, 2019
[ii]. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/nearly-80-per-cent-of-canadians-drink-alcohol-but-not-all-know-risks-report/article28535533/, Retrieved April 14, 2019
[iii]. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/comment/780151, Retrieved April 14, 2019
[iv]. Noah’s Ark, p. 36-37
[v]. Risala Tashhizul Azhan, December 1908