By Shahid Memon

May the New Year 2023 come in our individual and collective lives with Peace, Health and Happiness.

The advent of New Year comes with many challenges in our personal lives but when challenges are turned into opportunities and are dealt with determination, courage, morality, ethics and trust in God, life flowers and blossoms, leading to peace, contentment and joy in our lives.

The greatest challenge that humanity is facing today is that of Global Warming and Climate Change. In fact, we are all passing through an existential crisis. Can man survive on this planet Earth is the question that has arisen in the international fora. It is predicted that the concept of Nation States and even the Sovereignty of States will be in peril, ultimately sooner or later mankind will have to think in terms of One World One Humanity.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or The world is one family. (Maha Upanishad)

God says in the Qur’ān “O’ mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”—(the Qur’ān, 49:13)

“Climate change the problem, the cause and the solution”

11,000 scientists from 153 countries warn of untold human suffering if action on climate change is not taken.

God says in the Qur’ān: “Disorderliness, disruption and chaos has appeared on land and sea because of (the deeds) that the hands of people have earned, that God may give them a taste of some of their deeds, in order that they may turn back (from evil).” (The Qur’ān 30:41)

OXFAM International reports that the world’s 50% poorest contribute only 7% of global greenhouse emissions. It is the wealthy, the rich and the well to do who are the major polluters and are culpable of poisoning the atmosphere. We are all a part of the problem and hence have the moral responsibility to be a part of the solution.

While we need science to effectively deal with the problem of climate change and its consequences, we cannot hope to overcome them without questioning the cause. The origin of most of the problems lies in our ignorance about the core essentials of our relationship with our Creator and his creation. Unsurprisingly these questions lie outside the jurisdiction of science and it is these fundamental questions that every religion on the face of this earth tries to answer, each one in its own distinct way but with an unmissable and astounding connecting thread running across.

The new year begins with prayers on our lips and hope in our hearts for a better world and a better future for us and for our children. It is also the time to reflect to ponder to introspect and to change.

Materialism, consumerism and the philosophy of “Eat, Drink and be Merry you live only once” has landed us in problems. Is there a solution to these problems?

In this New Year’s Message, a humble attempt has been made to find a panacea by focusing on the common values considered as good across the history of human civilization, the common yearnings of mankind across time and the role of religion and spirituality in attaining those yearnings.

Religious and Spiritual Teachings: a Food for Thought

“If money helps a man to do good to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of evil and the Sooner it is got rid of the better.”

“If you do not spend from your wealth to mitigate the sufferings of your poor and needy countrymen then I shall call you traitors.” – Swami Vivekanand

“Sukhasya Molam Dharmam or Root of happiness lies in right action”(Upanishad)

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  (Bible, The Book of John)

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Bible, Luke 12:15)

“There is no enemy outside our soul, the real enemies live inside us, greed, anger, ego and hate.” – Gautam Buddha

“Aprigraha non-possession of material things is the fundamental teaching of Jainism.” – Vardhaman Mahavir

“The present life is nothing but sport and amusement. The true life is in the Abode (eternal peace and joy) of the Hereafter; if only they knew.”  (The Qur’ān, 29:64)

“But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts. Verily, Paradise will be his abode.” (The Qur’ān, 79:40-41)

“The desire for piling up of worldly things diverts you until you reach the graves.” (The Qur’ān 102:1,2 ).

“And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).” The Qur’ān, 29:67

“And those who give to the poor and the needy their rightful share of wealth.” (The Qur’ān, 70:24,25)

Sayings of Prophet Mohammad

“Wealth is in the heart and poverty is in the heart. Whoever is wealthy in his heart will not be harmed no matter what happens in the world. Whoever is impoverished in his heart will not be satisfied no matter how much he has in the world. Verily, he will only be harmed by the greed of his own soul.”

“If Adam’s son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys, for nothing fills his mouth except dust (of the grave)….”

 “The heart of an old person remains young with regards to two things: Love of life and Love of wealth.”

“A person cannot be called a Muslim if he eats his stomach full while his neighbour remains hungry.”

Accountability before our Creator in the life to come is a very strong catalyst and motivation to live as a responsible human being in this world.

“Even as trying to fold the space like the sheet of skin is a futile exercise, so is the effort to put an end to the misery of man without realising God.” (Upanishad)

Arjuna asks Shri Krishna: “How can we be united with you at the time of death?” Shri Krishna replies: “These two bright and dark paths always exist in this world. The way of light (God consciousness) leads to liberation and the way of darkness (sensual pursuits) leads to Suffering.” (Bhagwat Gita, 8:26)

“It is (God) who has made you the inheritors of the earth. He has raised you in ranks, some above the others, that He may test you. In the gifts He has given you. For your Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed oft forgiving most merciful.”(The Qur’ān, 6:165)

God speaks in the Qur’ān: “Every person shall have a taste of death and only on the day of judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved from the fire (Hell) and admitted to the garden (Paradise) will have succeeded, for the life of this world is but goods and pleasures of deception.” (The Qur’ān, 3:185)

Not understanding this reality and having failed to understand our exact position and status on this planet Earth as a trustee and not as an owner and hence accountable to the Master and Creator of this universe for everything that he has given us, has landed us into innumerable problems. The little coronavirus has made humanity to think deeply as to how and where the world has faltered and blundered. How man’s rebellion against his Master and Creator, and how man’s refusal to acknowledge and accept the authority of the Sovereign of the universe as the lawmaker and lawgiver and thus submit and surrender to His laws has brought untold miseries and sufferings in his life and further how man’s insatiable greed and unbridled exploitation of natural resources and purely materialistic thinking have brought viruses, drug resistant diseases, the Covid-19 crisis, ecological and environmental disasters and the looming threat of global warming and climate change, putting our very survival on this planet at risk.

It is religion alone which teaches man to integrate himself with God and his creation in such a way that man moves in cooperation with all that exists and begins to live in harmony with the entire cosmos.

Adversities and calamities (a time to introspect)

Adversities and calamities many a time come to make us introspect and realise our follies and mistakes, sometimes as a warning to prevent us and protect us from greater catastrophes in the near future.

Sometimes as a strong reminder to mend our ways and to change our attitude towards life and to focus our attention towards the Master and Creator of this universe, whom we have forgotten and got disconnected, resulting in the crisis humanity is facing today.

In the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, with frequent lockdowns and isolation in our homes, many of us realised the importance and the benefits of spending time with our families. We came to know first hand the true meaning of contentment and could clearly see the very thin line of distinction that separates ambition from greed. We got used to living a simple life even though for a short period of time. With suffering, pain and death all around us, we experienced the joy of giving, of sharing and caring. We helped each other as human beings, breaking the barriers of caste, community and religion. It also dawned on us that our unbridled craze for more and more material goods does not lead to happiness.

India is a sacred land of saints and sages; sufis and sants. All major religions of the world have contributed richly and influenced the tradition, the culture and the thought process of the people. In the present scenario we can contribute so much to humanity. Humanity that has lost its sense of direction and purpose and has become devoid of compassion, justice and forgiveness. Humanity that has made use of increase in knowledge to cater to the comforts of the body but left the soul impoverished. Humanity that has forsaken God and does not feel the necessity for any Divine Guidance. Humanity that is intoxicated with the power of science and technology and have become fake masters of the world, tragically leading the world towards self-destruction.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year full of Peace. Good Health and Happiness, Progress and Prosperity.

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