Man has always been worried about the reality
of his own self. He has been searching himself and asking himself “who am I”?
Hence, we come across three important schools of thought in the history of

Firstly, it was contended that man is soul and
soul alone. They denied any importance to the body. The matter was told to be
just a shadow, the whole world of material bodies as an illusion. The ancient
Indian philosophies can aptly be referred to. The concepts like “Nirwana” and
the ways of life like the one “Rahbaniyyat” (there is no Monasticism in Islam)
were understood to be all and end of all human life. About the existence of
matter, it was conveniently said, “what is a matter, it does not matter”.

Another school of thought, entirely contrary
to the first one, is Materialism. The matter was told to be the only reality.
Who am I? I am body and body alone because the body can alone be perceived and
physically verified. Soul, spirit, ego, self, mind were all dubbed to be mere
hypotheses. “What is mind? Do you mind”.

One more school of thought which has been
found between the above two extremes is that of the dualism of Mind and Body.
Both the fathers of ancient and modern Philosophies, I mean, Plato and Descartes
contributed to this school. This school of philosophy has been quite popular
but the real crises of identity start here.



If I am both soul and body, then how much of
soul and how much of body? Where is the point of balance between the two? In
fact, this issue could never be settled by human thought. I must add here, by
the way, that it was prophetic revelation alone, which resolved this issue by
pinpointing the correct state of balance between the soul and body. This contention
is well proved by the history of humankind.

The crises of the modern world have been due
to its tilting towards extreme materialism. The verifiability principle of the
Vienna Circle might have done wonders in the field of scientific research.
However, it was unfortunate that it trespassed and like a steamroller, it
crushed the poor human individual and reduced it to a helpless tool of a

His individuality and hence creativity which
could be generated only out of his concept of soul was denied to him. Hence the
crises. This is how the human beings of the modern world lost their identity
cards. The philosopher, poet, the writer, and even the scientist are undergoing
the same misery, our eminent Sufi-Lyricist Asghar Goundivi rightly says:

It is high time to declare that the
verifiability principle is inapplicable to human life. A human being is
something more than what can physically verify. Let us ponder over it for a


A railway train, say ‘Local Train OR Bullet
Train’ runs daily from one city to another city in any country in the world.
Every day, it comes but with different compartments, different drivers,
different staff, and different passengers but still, we say that it is “Bullet
Train OR Local Train”- what is the mark of identification? Same as my
condition, who am I?

If I am body and body alone, then like the
compartments of a train, be sure that the body is changing every moment. After
the lapse of seven years, every organ of my body, yes every tissue and every
cell of it is completely turned over. It is altogether a different body. But
still that I am the same old chap whom you saw thirty years before.

What is the mark of identification? Of course,
the body cannot be the mark of identification because it is no more there; it is
a different one. I will have to be convinced that I am sure something beyond my
body structures. You may give it any name, you may call it soul, mind, self, or
ego, but it is there all right. In other words of Allama Iqbal (National Poet):

“The ego is a simple, indivisible, and
immutable soul-substance, entirely different from the group of our mental
states and unaffected by the passage of time. Our conscious experience is unity
because our mental states are related as so many qualifies to this simple substance,
which persists unchanged during the flux of its qualities. My recognition of
you is possible only if I persist unchanged between the original perception and
the present set of memory”.

The theories of parallelism and interaction
are also both unsatisfactory according to Iqbal. He says that the mind and body
become one in action.


The Quran is very explicit on this “who am I”
What am I to do in this world? What are my rights, responsibilities, and duties
viz a viz others around me? See how the questions are lucidly answered in the
Quran. Man’s status is next to God alone. He is the chosen one, the only
representative and vicegerent of Allah Almighty in this world. He is the
co-worker, co-creator, and co-commander of the Almighty.

He belongs to the realm of Command. Allah
breathed in man a little from his soul. Thus, man is the Divine spark. His job
is to conquer the whole universe and rule in light of the Commandments of God.
Like a governor of Allah, he has to carry the orders of his Real Boss.

Man chose this responsibility of his own free
will. He is the trustee of a burden of a free personality, which he accepted at
his peril.

Thus, he is finally accountable to Allah
whether he made good use of his freedom of choice or otherwise. In case he
realized his status and responsibility of free personality and vicegerency of
God, he will be rewarded to the maximum; otherwise, he will be taken to task
and punished in the most insulting manner.

The following (chapter of the Holy Quran) of the
Quran must be referred to

 By the fig, and the olive.

By Mount Sinai.

By this city of security (Makkah).

Verily, We created man in the best stature

Then We reduced him to the lowest of low.

Except those who believe (in Islamic
Monotheism) and do righteous deeds. Then they shall have a reward without end

Then what (or who) causes you (O disbelievers)
to deny the Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)?

Is not Allah the Best of judges? Chapter (95)
surah-At-Tin (The Fig).


Let us for a while come back to our old
example of ‘Bullet Train’. We were searching for its mark of identification in
the face of the reality that the whole of its body structure, its staff, and
passengers were changed every day.

What is it that compels us to designate it
Bullet Train? Of course, nothing else but a mere factor that it has been
designed ‘Bullet Train’ by the Railway authorities who have fixed its route,
its function, its status, and its timing and that is all. Therefore, in the
final analysis, you will see that the mark of identification of Bullet Train is
nowhere but in one simple command of the Railway authority.

The identity of the poor train also, in a way,
belongs to the realm of command. The same is my condition. I am not body and
body alone because the body is changing all the time. The tissues and the cells
breaking and building themselves every moment. What Heraclitus said about the
rapid change in the universe comes true of us. He said; “you cannot step twice
in the same river because the water is flowing”.

I say ‘you cannot see my body twice because
this is also rapidly changing like the compartments of a train. My body is just
like my dress, which I change daily. Then who am I? What is myself? Ego or

The Quran replies: (“And they ask you
(O Muhammad PBUH) concerning the Ruh (the Spirit) is one of the things, the
knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have
been given only a little”) ’. (Chapter (17:85) Surah Al-Isra (The Night

Yes, the same type of commandment which the
Railway authorities issued and determined the status, the route, and the
timings of a train. That commandment was the mark of its identification.
Exactly, in the same manner, the command of my Lord about my status, my
destination, and my rights and responsibilities is the mark of my

If I come up to the requirement of that
command, I am termed “the best of all the creations”; and if unfortunately, I
get obvious of that command of my Lord, then I lose my identity Card. I lose my
self; I am suspended from any status as I fail to seek my destination.

In that case, I am termed the lowest of
the “Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low”. (Chapter (95:5)
Surah- At-Tin (The Fig).

The Quran very clearly warns that if you
forget your own real life.


“And be not like those who forget Allah (i.e.
became disobedient to Allah) and He caused them to forget their own selves,
(let them forget to do righteous deeds). Those are the Fasiqun (rebellious,
disobedient to Allah). Chapter (59:19) surah-Al-Hashr (The Gathering)”,

This is, in fact, the real crisis of identity,
which the modern world is suffering from. The poor human being does not know
his status, his destination, his rights, and responsibilities. He is
purposeless and directionless. Time rather life is a burden on him.

He has to resort to stupid past times to get
rid of this burden. He does not find any meaning or purpose in the universe. He
feels that the universe, his own life, and everything around him is absurd.
Absurdity and absurdity alone becomes the only visible reality. Hence the

When man forgets himself, he loses sight of
the balanced concept of personality the balance between his body and soul, the
balance that could fulfill both the needs of his body and the requirements of
his soul. In that case, he clings to just one aspect of himself self and
normally that is his baser self and feels satisfied that he is doing wonders
for himself. He confines himself to one or a few instincts. Sometimes, sex
becomes the be-all and end-all his enjoyments. Sometimes, manipulating to get
hold of political power is his ideal, and so on.

This individual crisis, most of the time,
becomes a social crisis. Forgetfulness of one’s self causes an unrealistic
attitude towards life and man underestimates or overestimates him. In such
cases, the external world does not bear testimony to his misconceptions. The
realities of life and the facts around do not side with him and ultimately
cause immense frustration to him.

Now if he is a powerful man, he would like to
mould the realities of life and facts around him according to his
misconceptions. In that case, he will fill the whole earth with his frustration
and ultimate bloodshed, as Hitler did it.

However, in case the poor chap is a weak and
resourceless person and cannot mould the realities of life according to his
misconceptions, then it will be immensely painful for him to face the realities
and bitter unpleasant facts. He would like to avoid facing the bitter
realities, which do not side with him.

He would like to resort to tranquilize
narcotics and even suicidal attempts. Hence the Hippi movements. That is why one-fourth of the population of America has to consult psychiatrists, and that explains why a
well-established welfare state like Sweden has the greatest number of suicides
every year.


“(Evil (sins and disobedience to Allah) has
appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by
oppressions and evil deeds), that He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that
which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah and
begging His Pardon)”. (Quran Chapter (30:41) surah l-rūm (The Romans). 

The modern man, despite his material
advancements, is suffering from this crisis more than the man is in the past,
the main cause being as follows:-

The real and main cause is the same as
explained above in the light of the Quran. The forgetfulness of the command of
the Lord. Thus has resulted in more factors:-

1: Man confined himself to the needs of his
body and worldly pleasures. He failed to hear the voice of his soul and do the
needful. This gave birth to the hedonistic concept of life. Now the worldly
pleasures are always short-lived sooner rather than later, the state of a hangover comes again gives way to frustration.

2: Modern man is in fact, an Organization. He
has lost his individuality in the machine world. The ego of man has the
important characteristics of being one organic unity, which has essential
privacy of its own. If this privacy and individuality are lost, much of his
real self is damaged.

3: The modern media of communication e.g.
Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, etc. are all talking so load that
man gets little time to talk silently with himself, By forgetting himself, he
was already deceiving himself, but these media of instruction is befooling him
day in day out and now he has got used to this foolery.

4: The modern man, under the grab of his
liberalism, has served all contacts with his past. He has torn himself off from
the continuous historical process of human development. Ultimately, he is
devoid of the five thousand years of human civilization. He has to start
everything from scratch and thus he sometimes behaves exactly in the same
manner as if he belongs to the Stone Age.

5: As a reaction to the extreme liberalism,
mentioned above, a group of stagnant and non-progressive people has cropped up
who are romantically looking to the past. They have no mind to think much about
the present or future. They cherish the traditions of their past even if they
are not acceptable to modern reasoning. They are another source of frustration
in humanity.

6: The above two extreme approaches have given
birth to the people who have ‘devil-may-care-spirit’. They are non-serious and
directionless people. Their attitude is mostly hedonistic and even selfish.
They are well represented by an eminent saying:-

But, drink and be marrying as there is no life

How these causes of the crisis can very well
be done away with but only through the Quranic approach. The Quran alone makes
us face the realities and gives us values, which are eternal, absolute, and
universal. The realization of one’s self will cause the recognition of God as
it is reportedly said by Hazrat Ali (He was the cousin and the son-in-law of
Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam):-

“One, who recognized himself, recognized his

The Quran also gives its interpretation of the
universe. The Quran’s concept of Allah read the concept of the human ego solves
the whole issue. Allama Iqbal has referred to the same fact in one of his

“Humanity needs three things today a spiritual
interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual, and
basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society
on a spiritual basis.

Modern Europe has, no doubt, built idealistic
systems on these lines, but experience shows that truth revealed through pure reason is incapable of bringing that fire of living conviction that personal
revelation alone can bring. This is the reason why pure thought has no little
influenced man, while religion has always elevated individuals, and transformed
whole societies.

The idealism of Europe never became a living
factor in her life and the result is a perverted ego seeking itself through
mutually intolerant democracies whose sole function is to exploit the poor in
the interest of the rich. Believe me. Europe today is the greatest hindrance in
the way of man’s ethical advancement.

The Muslims on the other hand have these
ultimate ideas based on a revelation, which internalizes its apparent
externality. With him the spiritual basis of life a matter of conviction for
which even the least enlightened man among us can easily lay down his life; and
because of the basic idea of Islam that there can be no further revelation
binding on man, we ought to be spiritual one of the most emancipated peoples on
earth. (Allama Iqbal Book-“Reconstruction of Religion Though in Islam
Page. 179”).

To conclude, I shall say that the answer to
this crisis is only in the commandments of God, the latest version of which is
there with us in the form of the Holy Quran. I may be allowed to mention here
that it is the same command which humanity has been receiving from time to time
indifferent regions of the world through different profits. There is no difference in their original message at all, as they all come from the same

(An Islamic Scholar)-By Dr. Ghulam Malik