Fifteen years without 'consciousness'

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Everyone has to spend some of his daily time sleeping. No matter how much work he has or how he struggles to avoid it, it is inescapable that he will fall asleep and remain in bed for at least a quarter of the day. Hence, man is conscious only eighteen hours a day; he spends the remaining time – a minimum of six hours a day on average – in complete unconsciousness. When assessed from this standpoint, we come across a striking picture: one quarter of an average 60 years of life is spent in total unconsciousness.

Do we then have an alternative to sleep? What would happen to someone who said, "I do not want to sleep?"

First, one's eyes become red and one's skin colour pales. If the duration of sleeplessness extends, loss of consciousness results.

 Closing the eyes and the inability to focus attention are the initial phases of falling asleep. This is an inevitable process, and beautiful or ugly, wealthy or poor, everybody experiences the same process.

Similarly to death, just before sleep the body starts to become insensitive to the outer world and gives no response to any stimulus. Senses that were exceptionally keen a while ago start to fail. In the meantime, perceptions are altered. The body reduces all functions to a minimum, leading to disorientation in place and time and slower body movements. This state is, in a way, a different form of death, which is defined as the state in which the soul leaves the body. Indeed, while sleeping the body lies in bed where the spirit experiences totally different lives in completely different places. In one's dreams, one may well perceive oneself on a beach on a hot summer's day, unaware that one is sleeping in bed. Death, too, has the same outward appearance: it separates the soul from the body which the soul uses in this world and carries him away to another world in a new body. For this reason, Allah, in the Qur'an, the only remaining authentic revelation which guides humanity to the true path, repeatedly reminds us of the similarity of sleep to death.

It is He Who takes your souls by night, and has knowledge of all that you have done by day: by day He raises you up again; that a term appointed be fulfilled; In the end unto Him will be your return; then will He show you the truth of all that you did. (Surat al-An'am: 60)

It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back, but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect. (Surat az-Zumar: 42)



 


Totally deprived of all the functions of the senses, in other words, "in a dead faint", a person spends up to a fourth of his life in sleep. Yet, he little contemplates this fact, never realising that he leaves behind everything deemed important in this world. An important exam, huge sums of money lost on the stock exchange or a minor personal problem, in brief everything that appears to be of crucial importance during the day fades away as one falls asleep. This simply means having no relationship with the world at all.

All the examples that have been presented so far give a clear idea about the shortness of life and the huge amount of time spent on "compulsory" routine tasks. When the time spent on such "compulsory" tasks is subtracted, one realises the scarcity of moments left for the so-called joys of life. In retrospect, one feels astonished at the long time spent on nourishment, body-care, sleep, or working to attain better standards of living.

The calculations of the time spent on routine tasks necessary for survival are, undoubtedly, worth thinking about. As stated earlier, at least 15-20 years of a 60-year life are spent asleep. The initial 5-10 years of the remaining 40-45 years, however, are spent in childhood, another period that is also spent in an almost unconscious state. In other words, a sixty-year-old man will have spent perhaps half of his life without consciousness. Regarding the other half of life, many statistics are available. These figures, for instance, include the time spent preparing meals, eating, bathing or caught in traffic jams. This list can be further extended. In conclusion, what remains from a "long" life is only 3-5 years. What is the importance of such a short life in comparison to an eternal one?
It is right at this point that a huge gulf yawns between those who have faith and disbelievers. Disbelievers, believing the only life to be here on this earth, struggle to make the most of it. Yet these are useless endeavours: this world is both short and its life is beset with "weaknesses". Furthermore, since the disbeliever does not put his trust in Allah, he lives a troublesome life, one fraught with concerns and fears.

Those who have faith, on the other hand, spend their lives remembering Allah and in His presence at each instant, during all of the minor and troublesome occupations of bodily care, eating, drinking, standing, sitting, reclining to sleep, and seeking livelihoods, etc. They spend their lives only to attain the contentment of Allah and thus lead peaceful lives, isolated completely from all worldly sorrows and fears. In conclusion, they attain paradise, a place of eternal happiness. Similarly, the ultimate purpose of life is stated in the verse:

 

To the righteous (when) it is said, "What is it that your Lord has revealed?" they say, "All that is good." To those who do good, there is good in this world, and the home of the hereafter is even better and excellent indeed is the home of the righteous. (Surat an-Nahl: 30-31)
2009-05-20 15:20:25
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