There must be something in your life that you have spent a lot of time and energy to get. Think of when you were in school, a time of frequent exams taken to prepare yourself for entrance into the university of your choice. Most young people regard such exams as turning points in their lives, because these exams will determine the shape of their future. They prepare for years for this event, give up their sleep and special activities, vacations, and other entertainment. Totally focused on entering their chosen university, they remain patient and determined to achieve this goal.
Now, consider the situation of those people whose most important aim is to own a nice house. In order to afford their dream home, they must first have the financial ability to buy it. Therefore, they will work day and night to get a good job and then move on to higher positions and larger salaries. After years of self-sacrifice, they will be able to buy or build their dream house.
As these examples show, people often have to work with great determination for years in order to overcome all of the obstacles standing between them and the object or goal to which they attach such value. Furthermore, if people pursue financial power, social respect, reputation, or a particular career, they will have to exert serious effort in the face of various setbacks and, as they say, "give something of themselves."
But here we must consider an important point: The above examples are about the transitory pleasures of this worldly life, all of which will disappear with the person's death or may be lost suddenly due to some unexpected mishap. For example, a young person who spends years working assiduously to pass an exam may be killed in an accident before taking that exam. Or, a person's effort and energy expended in the quest of buying a house may be disastrously undone in an instant through fire.
All of the pleasures sought after in this earthly life, no matter how hard we may work for them, are transitory. But there is also a real and genuine life of endless pleasure, one that will never be lost or consumed, one that human beings will enjoy for eternity: the life after death that believers work so hard in this life to attain. They regard this goal as being far more important than anything else and always keep it before their eyes.
So, this worldly life is a "testing ground" that human beings must go through to determine which type of eternal life they will experience in the Hereafter. While in this world, human beings take an exam to enter the Afterlife. In every case, the correct answer is to pursue Allah's good pleasure. In reality, life is no more than a transitory testing and training period created by Allah for each person. Throughout this period, human beings are responsible for pondering this reality in order to know our Lord, obey His commands, and seek His good pleasure. They are also responsible for showing grace, patience, and moral strength in the face of everything that happens to them while in this world. The great secret within this test is known only to believers: to be content in knowing that everything is a test from our Lord and to meet every eventuality with joyful enthusiasm.
Those who grasp this secret and live according to this hidden, but nevertheless clear, truth will gain an eternal and never-ending treasure.
This book announces these truths to those who do not know this secret and so live their lives without ever thinking about reality, and reminds them that they should set for themselves a much greater goal than the things of this world.