Monday, February 23, 2009

Night and day, a sign for the mindful

The normal cycle of a human being is to sleep/rest at night and work in the day. Scientifically, the phenomenon of the body’s cycle is explained by a term called the circadian rhythm, which was made popular by scientists in the early 20th century. It means an approximate daily periodicity, a roughly-24-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of living beings, including human beings. In simple words, what our body is supposed to do (rest or be active) at a given time.

The main factor that affects the circadian rhythm is the light accepted by a region in the brain (hypothalamus). However, the light that affects the circadian rhythm is highly specific (in wave length, intensity, and other attributes), and to no surprise, the corresponding attributes are found in no other than our own sun.

Allah the Almighty has said about this in The Qur’an in Surah (chapter) Yunuus verse 67:

Which can be approximately translated (according to Tafseer Al Jalalayn) as
“He it is Who made for you the night that you should rest therein, and the day to see. Surely in those are signs, indications of His Oneness, exalted be He, for folk who are able to hear (those who think deeply).”

Allah the Almighty has made it clear for us to use the night to rest, and the day to “see”. The word “see” here shows Allah’s define knowledge (revealed to our beloved Prophet nearly 1400 years ago) that it is indeed “light” that affects our cycle, similar to what has only been recently discovered using modern science. Note the precise manner in which Allah addressed this matter. 

The amazing transition of night to day

In my laboratory here in Japan, everyone works on an average of more than 10 hours a day. Some from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., some work shorter but there aren’t a few who work even longer. However, the majority stay disciplined and use the night for resting. This normal cycle doesn’t apply for everyone though, as there are some who prefer to work at night and sleep in the day. This actually reminds me of what I used to do in my undergraduate years, where I participated in events that sometimes went on until morning. At those times, I’d sleep in the morning, and get up at noon. To me, it felt terrible. I’d feel unfit and would need to chase things the whole day to adjust myself to the normal cycle of people around me.

Straying away from what’s natural (of what Allah has commanded), can lead to serious disorders. In the case of disregarding the natural cycle of night and day, one can experience disorders such as the circadian sleep disorder (results in insomnia or excessive sleepiness during the day), the delayed sleep phase syndrome (could only sleep after 2am), and others. 

There are so many phenomena around us that we overlook (and consider casual) due to our ignorance. The alteration of night and day is one of them. How the earth precisely rotates, how the distance between the earth and the sun stays that way, our body’s the circadian rhythm, and everything we can think of, are all proofs of the perfection in His creations. If we ponder and think about the creations, it will further increase our faith and belief in the Almighty creator.

Approximate meaning (Yusuf Ali translation):
“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding (Ali Imran 190)”

May we all be given the awareness and wisdom to ponder on all the blessings that Allah has given to us, no matter how “small” or “casual” they may seem.

Keywords: circadian rhythm, science, scientific, Ali Imran 190, Yunuus 67, night, day, Qur'an

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rivalry in achieving false success

In our so called modern civilization, almost in all societies, success and happiness is measured with how secure someone is financially. Even school and education are directed towards being “financially secure”, where the end product is to be able to gain a good job with a high paid salary. This of course ruins the true purpose of why one should receive education in the first place. When someone has a large paycheck and trillions of currency in their bank, people will unanimously say that he/she is successful.

The quest to achieve this kind of success has become a rivalry among people. People compete with each other to be most “successful” disregarding all the consequences. People compete with each other to get the highest pleasure/joy this world has to offer by buying all the luxurious things that they can buy. Beautiful clothes, big houses, exotic cars, antique glassware, Rolex watches, the highest/most expensive education, and everything else that can make them look the most “successful”.

The traps seducing us to drag ourselves to adopt the same attitude (to reach for this kind of success) is empowered by almost everything around us. Everywhere we look, there are always temptations. We’re seduced by the soap operas on the TV, the ads and articles about these “successful people” in magazines, the billboards using these “successful people” as if they are heroes, etc. For Muslims, this is something we need to beware of, as it’s one of satan’s trick to misguide the majority of humanity.

Devine words from Allah in the Quran has stated the danger of getting carried away in the rivalry to gain this kind of false success, including the piling up of riches, in Suraah (chapter) At Takaathur.

This has approximate meaning (according to Yusuf Ali’s translation) as the following:
1. The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things/obedience to Allah),
2. Until you visit the graves.
3. But nay, you soon shall know (the reality).
4. Again, you soon shall know!
5. Nay, were you to know with certainty of mind, (you would beware!)
6. You shall certainly see Hell-Fire!
7. Again, you shall see it with certainty of sight!
8. Then, shall you be questioned that Day about the joy (you indulged in!).

For Muslims, the surah is a serious warning about being indulged in the competition and rivalry to enjoy the joys of this world. In this surah, Allah repeatedly reminds us (emphasizing) on the danger of striving to achieve the “false successes” that this world has to offer. This warning is not on things that are forbidden (haram), but rather on the halal things, which have the potency to make us forget about our real purpose (which is to worship Allah and do righteous deeds). If the basis of all that we work for is only to achieve this kind of false success, we will indeed be the losers in the end. Everyone, even the ones who have doubt will be certain about this matter at the time their dead bodies are taken to the graves, the moment where their short lives end.

True success cannot be achieved through collecting riches. It can never be achieved, as it is in human's nature to never be satisfied and always want better things than what he owns. True success can only be achieved when a human being bases his actions on what he/she is supposed to do, which is to do righteous deeds and prevent evil. This world is full of traps and tricks that attempt to corrupt our true nature (as noble beings), and that is why we all need to equip ourselves to protect our nobility.

May Allah protect us all from all the evil that this world has to offer.

Keywords: At takaathur, human nature, Satan, life, rich, poor, islam, happiness, success