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Of Human Bondage

DR.PASHA | April 07, 2008 | Section: Articles | 991 reads

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Of Human Bondage

Dr. Pasha

 

A Book Called Of Human Bondage

Somerset Maugham, acclaimed novelist, medical doctor, playwright, traveler and a few other things, wrote a famous autobiographical novel – was it around 1915? – he called Of Human Bondage.

Among Maugham’s other works, some better known than some others, were: Liza of Lambeth, A Man of Honour, The Circle, Our Betters, The Constant Wife and the rest.

Among Maugham’s accomplishments was also the fact that in Russia, during the Russian Revolution of 1917, he disguised as a reporter and worked for British intelligence. His experiences as a spy are reflected in his book Ashenden: or the British Agent, which went on to become a style sourcebook of sorts for subsequent political and spy thrillers by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame and others.

Reporters as Spies

Does anyone ever wonder how many reporters may be doing that same thing today? I mean masquerading as journalists while actually engaged in spying for this or that government involved in a war effort against one country or another.

Maugham then seems to have tired of wars and intrigue and sought refuge and final spiritual solace in Indian philosophical systems such as Vedanta. It is said that at one time he even asked the famous logician-philosopher A. J. Ayer to visit him and assure him that there was no God.

If I had been around, and if I had access to him, I would have gone up to him and assured him that not only was there a God but that he was closer to him than his own jugular vein and that he was ready to extend his hand of forgiveness, love and compassion to anyone who would turn to him in genuine repentance and ask for it.

That is the business Muslims need to be in but, sadly and unfortunately, they are not. Muslims need to get organized with things like that at least for the future.

Indications are they will, maybe. Should that, however, be the will of Allah the Almighty God.

Turning to Islam for Spiritual Solace

I wonder if the reporters of our age, who may or may not be working as spies in war situations, ever pause to reflect on the mayhem, to the unleashing of which, on often defenseless civilian populations including women and children, their partisan and shady activities may have contributed.

It is also worth asking how many of these reporters-turned-spies ever reach a point of self-examination where they would want to go on a personal spiritual quest to soothe and mend their bruised and battered souls in the direction of Vedanta or Buddhism. Or Islam for that matter, for, it is mostly Muslim populations and Islamic societies and cultures that may have been the target of their mischief and machinations.

If Maugham could be looked upon as the father of the genre of modern spy stories, Ayer was in some ways the father of logical positivism, which put some teeth into abstract philosophical thought in Europe. His books Language, Truth and Logic and The Problem of Knowledge have played a key role in the advancement of more recent approaches to epistemology and human knowledge in the Western world.

What neither the West nor, for that matter, the East seems to understand fully is the fact that it was a belated awakening on the part of the Western thinkers and philosophers to the fundamental Islamic teaching that required all human beings to carefully observe and analyze their environment and draw conclusions based on the facts they had thus marshaled.

Human Bondage to God Almighty

I am, however, using the expression “Human Bondage” here to reflect the relationship of total, complete, utter, eternal and irrevocable bondage that human beings have to God Almighty, their maker, master and owner.

He designed, shaped and made them – out of nothing. He made the world in which they live and operate. He makes the food they eat; the water they drink; the oxygen they breathe; the ground on which they walk.

He controls and manages all aspects of their life on earth. And he brings them death when he thinks it is time for them to leave this world. There is no such thing as “premature” or “untimely” demise of a human being, or of any other living thing, in the meticulous divine calculus of life and death.

God Almighty, the one and only – Al-Ahad, As-Samad – who himself is without any kind of a dependence on anyone or anything. And on whom all things must depend for their coming into being; all through their existence; and for their departure from this world.

He is the one in whom all dependencies of all kind end. And in whom all beautiful attributes find their perfection and their highest point of fulfillment.

So, human beings are God Almighty’s slaves. What other words will you use to describe that very unique relationship of total and utter dependence of humans on God: for their origin; for the duration of their tenure on earth; and for their end and disappearance from this world?

But some people seem to balk and squirm at the use of the words “slave” and “slavery” to describe human relationship to God Almighty.

While I can understand why these words would make some people feel uncomfortable, especially given how human beings have treated their slaves over the centuries, I take the position that nothing else captures the relationship of utter and total dependence that humans have with God better than slave and slavery.

I base my reasoning and conclusion on some simple logic – and on Qur’an.

Qur’an on the Subject of Human Slavery to God

I found strong support in the Qur’an for the concept of human slavery to God.

Slave” seems to be the closest translation to the expression “‘Abd” that the Qur’an uses frequently to define the role of humans in relation to God Almighty. Both etymologically, which means analyzing the roots and origins of words, as well as contextually, by which I mean the specific context in which the Qur’an uses that expression, I am quite satisfied by that rendering. I mean the rendering of the Qur’anic expression “Abd” in English as “slave.”

God, on the other hand, is Rabb – Master. He is the maker. And everyone else is a fully owned “slave.”

 

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