The utmost gratefulness to the gift of life is to attain a level of understanding in which one would beseech continuously Allah (swt) with profound humility to allow him/her to remember and worship Him. This was the way of the Prophet (pbuh), who used to say upon waking: “AlHamdulillah (all praise is for Allah), Who returned my soul, restored to me my health and allowed me to remember Him.” The profound humility, immeasurable gratitude and complete submission one can sense in the Prophet’s (pbuh) invocation should guide the believer to devote his/her life to be longing to attain Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Had it not been for the gift of life that the human has been bestowed, people would never have had the opportunity to reach the ultimate honoring of the self, to be granted the utmost form of blissful existence, eternal inner joy and endless pleasure as a gift and accommodation from the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful: “'Enter it in peace. This is the Day of Eternity.' There they will have whatever they desire, and with Us is ˹even˺ more” (50:34-35).
Those unaware of such a reality regard life as a fact, not as a gift. They regard their free will as a free pass to do whatever they wish and to be whomever they desire, instead of regarding it as a trust, meant to be invested in safeguarding one’s honor by observing the purpose of life the way defined by the Divine. For such people, the gift of life is wasted in ignorance and wronging the self. At the moment of death, when the soul is being stripped out harshly and the dying person is certain that it is the time to depart, a terrible loneliness chokes the soul and a twisted, deep, indescribable fear entangles the being. Now able to see what was before unseen, he/she cries: “My Lord! Let me go back, so I may do good in what I left behind” (23:99-100). Alas, this cry is just a useless appeal, which would neither help nor benefit.
However, most people, headless of the approach of the inevitable death, keep enjoying their ingratitude toward the gift of life. They keep numbing their senses and darkening their hearts by justifying their choices with the denial of the existence of the Creator and convincing themselves that eternity is possible in this world.
The believer needs to take time to reflect on the vast contrast between a person invoking the Creator to allow him/her to remember Him, and the person who carelessly denies the existence of his/her Creator – between a person in prostration, begging in tears to be forgiven, and a person who is greedily amassing wealth and thinking that his/her wealth will make him/her immortal: “Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, 'Are those who know equal to those who do not know?' None will be mindful ˹of this˺ except people of reason” (39:9).
The reflection on this vast contrast between a sincere, believing servant and a greedy, ungrateful person should remind the believer of the importance of the choice and the serious and precarious management of the kingdom of the heart. Indeed, the key to either path (being a sincere believer or ungrateful greedy person) is in the way one manages his/her heart. The true believer cannot remain inactive and passive, waiting for death to startle him/her, and then cry for redemption when his/her term of the gifted life comes to an end. He/she must reform the kingdom of his/her heart, revive it and instill light in it to be able to be a grateful servant.
To do so, one needs to know first that there are two forces in the heart that need to be rightly guided in order to positively restructure the kingdom of the heart. The first one is the force of knowing, through which perception and beliefs are settled. The second one is the force of willing, which plays the role of a driving power, seeking the attainment of objectives designed by those beliefs. The believer must invest the force of knowing in learning about Allah (swt), His Messenger (pbuh) and the intent of the revelation to assure a perception capable of recognizing the truth without confusion or doubts and capable then of clearly differentiating between good and evil. As for the force of willing, he/she has to invest it in learning to love the truth and implement it – to love Allah (swt) and the Quran, love the Prophet (pbuh) and his legacy, and regard the covenant of Allah “I hear and obey” as an ultimate gift. However, no heart will be able to attain such a state, if the force of knowing is directed to the learning of the skills of amassing wealth and gaining fame and power. “They know the worldly affairs of this life, but are ˹totally˺ oblivious to the Hereafter” (30:7). How can a heart possibly see Allah (swt) if it is enchained by low desires? How can a heart see the light if it is empty from the remembrance of Allah (swt)? How can a heart be grateful, if it is not even eager to know who Allah (swt) is?