Recently, iERA Outreach Specialist Kyoichiro Sugimoto in Japan has had ample opportunities to speak with Buddhists extensively with regards to their perspective of life.
From his discussions, their perspective is that life equals suffering — in summary, life does not always go the way we would like it to go. Firstly, we are born into this plane of existence without choice, we age, become sick and then die. A time will come when we will depart from this world and be separated from our loved ones — a guarantee. Some have to endure each other’s presence in the workplace, while others have physical and mental disabilities — two varying degrees of suffering. Therefore, Buddha considered the purpose of life as emancipation from “continuous suffering” (a circle of reincarnation) by realising that nothing is permanent and everything will perish — we should release ourselves from excessive attachment to this world — which is called Gedatsu in Japanese.
In Islam, life in this world is a test. God tests our character, faith, obedience, love, integrity, and loyalty, words like fitnah (trials) occurs multiple times in the Qur’an. All prophets were tested by God, as human beings continuously receive tests throughout their lives. God watches our response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, and disappointment. He watches various simple actions such as when we smile at others, when we pick up a piece of rubbish from the street or when we are polite to strangers in the subway. We are tested by our family, relatives, friends, colleagues, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, unexpected changes and tragedies. Probably the most critical test of all is how we act when we cannot feel God’s presence in our life.
The good news is that God wants us to pass these tests of life, where He never inflicts such trials upon us which is beyond our capacity. The Qur’an says in 2:286: “God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear…” In both Al-Bukhari and Muslim, it is narrated: “Whosoever intended to perform a good deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended to perform it and they did perform it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as from 10 good deeds up to 700 times, up to many times multiplied. If he intended to perform an evil deed but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. If he intended it (the evil deed) and then performed it, Allah writes it down as one evil deed.” In essence, this life should be viewed in a positive light, where pessimism is discouraged: “Do not lose heart or despair — if you are true believers you have the upper hand” [Quran 3:139]
One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the ability to enjoy pleasure. He hardwired humans with five senses and emotions so we can experience it. God wants us to enjoy life — within limits that He set — not just focus on suffering. Islam teaches us that our existence in this world is temporary — therefore we should become too attached to it — as it’s a momentary pleasure — real and everlasting pleasure is in Paradise.
So, if Muslims can help non-Muslims to escape from their physical, intellectual, psychological and spiritual sufferings in this world, don’t you think this is the real invitation to Islam?
Want to get in touch with Kyoichiro? Email japan[@]iera.org