While listening to the news,
I heard of the attempted assassination of playwright Najeeb Mahfooz, a Nobel
laureate in literature. As I was listening to the report, my thoughts returned
to those books of his that I read, and I asked myself this question: In spite
of his obvious cleverness, how did he remain ignorant of the truth --- the
truth that reality transcends imagination, that everlastingness is greater than
this transient life, and that divine principles are more important and higher
than human ones?
(Is then He, Who gives
guidance to the truth, more worthy to be followed, or he who finds not guidance
[himself] unless he is guided?) (Quran I0: 35)
He wrote his plays from his
imagination, using his prodigious ability to visualize, present, and inspire.
In the end, however, he produced nothing but stories that have no basis in
After reading his biography,
I grasped an important principle:
One cannot succeed by making
others happy at the expense of one’s own happiness. It cannot be considered
correct, never mind sane, to make others pleased with you whilst you yourself
are sad and miserable. Some writers have praised men of genius, not because they
realized happiness and peace, but because they allowed themselves to burn on
the inside in order to bring illumination to others. The true genius, however,
is illuminated on the inside first, and then he shows others the way. He will
build a foundation of guidance and goodness first of all for himself, and then
The Hereafter and the world
of the unseen --- you will not find these themes in Najeeb Mahfooz’s writings.
What you will find, though, is a world of imagination, dreams, and emotion; his
works are alluring and so they became popular and successful. But where are the
higher aims and noble messages one finds in great works? Truth be told, you
will not find these themes discussed in his books.
(To each-these as well as
those --- We bestow from the Bounties of your Lord. And the Bounties of your
Lord can never be forbidden.) (Qur’an 17: 20)
I concede that Najeeb
Mahfooz realized what he had set out to do, but it is not enough for one to
realize what one always wanted: what is required is that one fulfils what Allah
(Allah wishes to make clear (what
is lawful and what is unlawful) to you, and to show you the ways of those
before you, and accept your repentance, and Allah is All-Knower; All-Wise.
Allah wishes to accept your repentance, but those who follow their lusts, wish
that you [believers] should deviate tremendously away from the Right Path)
(Qur’an 4: 26-27)
I cannot say for certain who
will enter Paradise and who will enter the Fire, except a person who has been
identified through revelation as heading towards one or the other. That being
the case, I can only judge people by their sayings and deeds.
(But surely, you will know
them by the tone of their speech!)
(Qur’an 47: 30)
As an afterthought on the
subject, what will one benefit if one becomes a king while his heart is
perverse and full of falsehood? If talent and success do not lead one to salvation,
what then are they good for?