Man is an intellectual being. Being endowed with a mind – his greatest faculty – which is what differentiates him from inanimate things, plants and animals; true spirituality has to be able to address his mind. So, spirituality has to be based on contemplation or reflection or pondering – tafakkur and tadabbur as mentioned in the Quran – which has all to do with intellectual activity. Any kinds of spirituality attained at a level lesser than that of our minds is a reduced form of spirituality.
The existence of man is such a unique phenomenon that no other such example can be found throughout the vastness of the cosmos. Man is rightly called the ‘best of all creations’, which means the best and most meaningful ‘being’ among all the things created. Such a ‘meaningful being’ cannot have been created without a purpose.
We can say that the journey of spirituality begins with man’s urge to discover his purpose. Such spirituality is produced when man gives serious thought to questions pertaining to the ideology of life, such as, ‘Who am I?’, What is the purpose of my life?, What is this world around me?, Is my life governed by destiny or free will?, Why do I undergo negative experiences?, etc. In finding rational answers to his questions, a seeker receives spirituality at the mind or thinking level by obtaining a reason-based understanding of the plan that God has created man within.
The fact of the matter is that God – the Creator of man, has created man according to His plan. To become acquainted with this plan is necessary for a man to have a thorough understanding of himself – just as the workings of a machine can only be understood when we study the drawings of the engineer who made it. Besides the mind of the engineer, there is no other thing that can clarify what the machine is meant for. The case of man is the same.
The Creator of man has, therefore, created him according to a special Plan. His intention being that man must spend a period of trial in this present, imperfect world and subsequent to this, according to his deeds, he will earn the right to inhabit the perfect and eternal world, another name for which is Paradise.
The Creator of the world has created this world, as one half of a pair — the present limited world, in which we pass our lives after birth, is the first half; and the next eternal world where we live after death is the other half. The Creator of man has thus created him as an eternal creature and has divided his life into two stages — the pre-death period or the limited life in this world and the post death period or the eternal life after death. The limited period before death is meant to be a test for man, while the eternal period after his death will be the period for his reward or punishment, based on his performance in the test in this life. For the purpose of the test, God has given man freedom to do as he likes, as if there was no ‘free will’, the situation for the test could not have prevailed. God is getting all of man’s thoughts, speech and action recorded; and based on this record, which will be opened on the Day of Judgment; he will earn the right to either inhabit the perfect and eternal world, another name for which is Paradise or the eternal world of Hell. This is the scheme of existence for this world as devised by its Creator. The real aim of creation is to select those who are fit to inhabit the world of Paradise.
Those men and women who qualify in this test will be given a place in Paradise – where all their desires will be fulfilled. For those who fail in this test, they shall spend their lives in a state of eternal deprivation.