Life (hay) in the sense of living out one’s corporeal existence is, however, paradoxically fraught with danger, illusion and deception. The Koran exhibits an almost platonic rejection of the life of this world (al-hayat al-dunya), characterizing it as nothing but “play and amusement (la’ib wa-lahw) and contrasting it with the reward of the righteous in the hereafter (6:32). There is a virtual repetition of the same words in 57:20 where this leitmotiv of al-hayat al-dunya as la’ib wa-lahw is further amplified by its being powerfully designated as “goods and chattels of deception” (mata al-ghurur). In the emphasis placed by the text on a physical world of transitory illusion and deception, and the explicit contrast in 6:32 of this world and the next, there are obvious echoes of the lament in Ecclesiastes 1:2-3.
The first paradigm flows directly from God’s Koranic designation as “the living” (al-hayy), vide 2:255, 3:2, 20:111, 25:58, 40:65. God is the central focus of life (al-hayat) in the Koran. From Him all else that is alive takes its being; by Him everything is created. To use Ibn Sina’s famous phrase, the production of all other life means that God is the necessitating force behind existence.”
The fabric of the Koran is that of life as a journey from terrestrial to celestial life. Man’s life involves much exertion and a hard toiling (kadih) towards his Lord, but the final encounter is assured after a journey from stage to stage (tabaqan an tabaqin), 84:19. During the life journey the human is tested (2:155, 3:186, 47:31, 57:25) and perhaps the archetypical “questing and testing” encounter in the Koran, one which graphically illustrates that in such testing God’s ways are not human ways, is the famous encounter between Moses and Khidr.
Life, then, in the Koran has both a macro and micro dimension, if it is viewed in terms of a journey (rihla). From the global or macro viewpoint, all living beings, originating in, and created by God, are journeying in multifarious form towards the final cataclysm of the last day. From a micro perspective, each human life has an individual path to tread and an individual salvation to achieve; the wicked will be in eternal torment.
In short, the material life on earth is like a mirage or a play that does not last. It is not durable nor is it built upon a firm foundation. The life is God’s school within which man is enrolled as a student in order to grow and learn. If he can reflect on his life he will find unending lessons. In sum, this life is but a tillage for the next. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said, “Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and a grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.”
“It is only the spiritual life” said the Present Imam, “which is eternal, not the material life. And for those of you who are young and who tend to say,