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The truth about the reality of life is fabricated in a delicate web of suffering and happiness, with elements from finite and infinite world. From the time a child gains consciousness till his death, the question that his mind keeps on asking is: How can one live a better life? Throughout the life of an individual, this question reappears in different forms, starting from the basic question: Who am I? With the passage of time it becomes more and more complex, giving rise to further questions, which demands to be answered. In my essay, I will try to highlight the works of Tolstoy and Shariati about attaching a meaning to life. A conclusion would be reached whether the work of these two authors is relevant in answering the questions about Absolute Truth, Good, and Beautiful.
            Leo Tolstoy is regarded as one of the greatest writers and novelists in Russian history. In his work “A Confession”, he explains, how the true reality of life revealed itself to him. He raises certain questions that he thinks need to be answered for actually living a life. The simplest of the life’s questions is: What is good and what is evil? (Tolstoy 122).
 With passage of time, a man starts to doubt each and every deed that he performs. He begins to ask:What is this all for and why I am doing it(Tolstoy 126). And then he himself gives arguments to justify his deeds, which gives him temporary satisfaction. The doubt increases and man starts to question himself about the meaning of life. Is my life a stupid and spiteful joke someone has played on me?(Tolstoy 128)
 Temporarily, a man diverts his attention from these questions due to his love for family and worldly aims, just like the drops of honey mentioned in the eastern fable. But when the honey stops tasting sweet, the condition of perplexity again surrounds him. He asks: Why should he love them (his family), guard them, bring them up and watch them?  
(Tolstoy 130). When a man sees his death approaching him and he is unable to attach a meaning to it all his life becomes meaningless to him. He thinks the efforts that he puts in his life to achieve success, fame and fortune is of no use. All of them will vanish with his death and nothing will last for ever. Thus through his experience he asks: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does no destroy? (Tolstoy 132) Even at this stage, a man still clings to the hope of finding the true meaning of his life. The curiosity that derives him, is the question that a man asks to himself: If life is senseless, evil, that is certain so then why I lived and am still living and all the people lived and continue to live?(Tolstoy 144)
            We see a similar view of life described by Dr Ali Shariati in “Hajj”. Shariati quotes from the Quran about the life of a man. “By the declining day, Lo! man is in a state of loss”Sharaiti asks: what have we gained in all those years? Life today is meaningless with no goal or direction. Our aim is only to live, just like a dead spirit in the living body. Man is busy in his life and watching the black and white “rats” chewing the string of life.
When Tolstoy found himself in situation of dejection and hopelessness and was certain that he can no longer ignore the crucial questions about life, he started to find the answer of such questions in “other” fields of knowledge. He consulted hard sciences, Literary Arts, reason and real faith. He studied them and pointed out the discrepancies in their answers to the question of life. It was then among the poor and illiterate people where he found the real faith and the true meaning of life. 
First he consulted the experimental science, a branch of which is mathematics. It responded to the question of life’s existence in this world as follow.
“In infinite space, in infinite time, infinitely small particles change their forms in infinite complexity, and when you have understood the laws of those mutations of form you will understand why you live on earth”                                                                                                   (Tolstoy 134)

The reply of the experimental science to the question regarding the existence of life is mainly based on the theory of evolution. Experimental science claims that once a man comes to know the law ofevolution and about the “whole”, then he will understand his place in this world as everything develops and becomes more complex in this finite world. According to Tolstoy, there was no such law of endless development. He came to this conclusion by closely observing the growth of his own body. Initially his muscles grew stronger, his memory was increasing and his thinking power was developing but a stage came when this growth stopped and started to reverse. Tolstoy concluded that the explanation of experimental science was in no relation to the question of life existence.
On the question of attaching a meaning to man’s life, experimental science replied as:
“You are what you call your “life”: you are a transitory, casual cohesion of particles. The mutual interactions and changes of these particles produce in you what you call your “life”. That cohesion will last some time; afterwards the interaction of these particles will cease and what you call “life” will cease, and so will all your questions” (Tolstoy 137)

Experimental science was again unable to respond exactly to the question of life’s meaning. It did not even recognize the question. According to Tolstoy, considering life as a small finite “part” of this infinite “whole” does not explain the meaning of life, but it completely destroys it. It only can reply exactly to the questions that lie in its own domain. The questions regarding life are beyond its competence.  
Secondly he moved to abstract science. The sciences that come under this domain are physiology,psychology, biology, sociology philosophy etc. Their response to the question of life’s existence is as follow:
“All humanity lives and develops on the basis of spiritual principles and ideals which guide it. Those ideals are expressed in religions, in sciences, in arts, in forms of government. Those ideals become more and more elevated, and humanity advances to its highest welfare. I am part of humanity, and therefore my vocation is to forward therecognition and the realization of the ideals of humanity” (Tolstoy 134)

Tolstoy mentions that the problem with abstract science was that it studied a small part of humanity and then considered their conclusions as general conclusions. In this way, the basic question of life’s existence that is: why do I live? remain unanswered. For a man to know himself, he must first know thewhole of humanity or the life as a “whole”, which is impossible due to the fact that humanity consist of a large no of different people, who do not understand each otherOne does not know the beginning or end of humanity. Understanding the whole of humanity just to understand self is nonsensical. The difference between experimental science and abstract science is that the former explains the development of “everything” while the later explains the development of “mankind” in infinite. Tolstoysays that the error is same in both the cases: “development and progress in infinity can have no aim or direction, and, as far as my question is concerned, no answer is given” (Tolstoy 137) 
The other extreme of abstract science is philosophy or metaphysics, which also does not answer the question of life. It only recognizes it and illustrates it in a well defined and complex way. To the questionwhat am I? or why does this universe exist? Philosophy replies as: the essence of life exists and that I am of that essence” (Tolstoy 135)  
If asked why, the philosopher has no answer. Tolstoy says that whether they call
 this essence of life as idea, spirit, or substance the fact remains the same that they are still
 unable to find any answer but they themselves are asking the same question. Therefore,
 Tolstoy considers himself and abstract science both in the darkness of ignorance.
 In short the inability of sciences (both the experimental and abstract) in answering the
 life’s question can be best understood in the words of Tolstoy.

“I sought in all the sciences, but far from finding what I wanted, became convinced that all who like myself had sought in knowledge for meaning of life had found nothing(Tolstoy 131)

            Tolstoy was also an artist. He believed that art is the reflection of life. Till the time when he believed that life had a meaning; it was very pleasant to him to look at the life in the mirror of art. It was for him an adornment and allurement of life, but he confesses that it was not his life. That art didn’t please him anymore when he seriously considered about living his own life. As he was desperate and knew very well that life is meaningless, art amused him no more. It was now painful for him to look into this mirror of art and see the false reflection of life.
After studying all the sciences and literary arts, Leo Tolstoy was certain that reasonable knowledge presented by the wise, logical and learned people of his class, was unable to provide meaning to man’s life. He started to believe that the meaning of man’s life could be found in so called pseudo or irrational knowledge and that irrational knowledge is “faith”. Tolstoy was convinced that he can find faith in those millions of poor, illiterate and simple people whom he always ignored. The ordinary laboring people around him were the Russians, who attributed meaning to their lives. They derived this meaning of life from the teaching of faith that was transmitted to them through their ancestors and from the tradition that was found among these poor people. The meaning they gave to life was as follow:
“Everyman has come into this world by the Will of God. And God has so made man that every man can destroy his soul or save it. The aim of man in his life is to save this soul, and to save his soul he must live “godly” and to live “godly” he must renounce all the pleasure of life , must labor humble himself, suffer, and be merciful” (Tolstoy 162)  

Tolstoy consulted faith because he understood his own question clearly. He was convinced that thesolution to his question lies in the relationship between “finite” and “infinite”. Faith was only the force thatcould establish a relationship between the two. By faith, Tolstoy was able to answer the followingquestions.
How am I to live? – According to the law of God
What real result will come of my life? - Eternal torment or eternal bliss
What meaning has life that death does not destroy?-Union with eternal God: Heaven(Tolstoy 150)

  When Tolstoy observed closely the lives of these poor people, he was further convinced that they were the possessors of real faith. Their whole life was in accordance with their faith, which gave a meaning to their lives. Their whole lives passed in labor yet they were content and never blamed fate.They accepted sorrows and illness open heartedly and thought that they were for the better. They even gladly faced death, and that is why death didn’t appear terrible to them. They lived quietly, knew the meaning of life and death, and supported the burden of their lives and the lives of others. They happily faced sufferings and attached a good meaning them. They did as their Master (GOD) wished and didnot question Him, unlike the wise and rational people of Tolstoy’s circle. He illustrates it with the “Pump handle” example. Tolstoy himself proclaimed that he only lived when he really believed in God:
I live, really live when I feel Him and seek Him. ‘What more do you seek? exclaimed a voice within me. “This is He. He is that without which one cannot live. To know God and to live is one and the same thing. God is life” (Tolstoy 160)
  Dr Ali Shariati in “Hajj” also describes the meaning of life by giving the example of Hajjar. Hajjarwas the second wife of Hazrat Ibrahim (PBUH), and was an ‘Ethiopian Slave”, before Allahshowered His blessings on her. Allah ordered Hazrat Ibrahim (PBUH) to leave her in the valley ofMecca, which was a barren, mountainous area at that time. Nothing grew there. No water, no shelter, no one to take care of her or her child. Shariati tells how logic fails to explain her love for Allah.Hajjar didn’t care about anything, except to fulfill the command of Allah. Logic tells us that a man can’t live without companions, he needs food, water, the baby needs milk but when it comes to love of Allah,nothing comes in between. It is this blind trust on Allah that replaces all those necessities that are required by a man to live. Shariati says that Hajjar responded to the Will of Allah without asking the question that rational, and logical people ask in such situation: But why? This was a perfect example of total submission to Allah. Here we see a similarity between Shariatand Tolstoy. Tolstoy also stated that those poor Russian people never questioned the Will of God and did what He wished them to do. Shariati says: “This rationale is not comprehendible by our Wisdom nor does it appear logical”(Shariati 27)
Shariati goes on to explain that Hajjar didn’t sit quietly, losing hope and waiting for the death to come or a miracle to happen but she started running. She ran from one dry mountain to another in search of water. She struggled, put in her maximum effort to find water for her baby, and her self. Purely a materialistic need, and a way of making our worldly and after life better, like Tolstoy mentioned theRussian laborers, who passed their lives doing hard work to make their lives better. Hajjar gave humanity the example of how a man can fulfill his materialistic aims and needs by constant struggle andcomplete submission to God. Search for water was a need at that time and showed a relationship between man and nature. Through Hajjar’s example, Allah taught his creatures the golden principle, and the answer to the question regarding meaning of life. Live your life considering Materialism and idealism, Rationalism and enlightenment, relying on Allah and yourself. Shariati says: 
“This example from whom all the worldly philosophers, scientists and great thinkers who are searching for faith and facts are to learn the great lesson of Allah is again a woman, a black Ethiopian slave and a mother. It is Hajar” (Shariati 34)

For Shariati “Hajj” is a way of knowing the true meaning of life. He mentions different rituals in the Hajj which will reveal to Hajji the answer to all questions of life. Some of the rituals and their symbolic significance are as follow:
Niyyat: - This refers to the preparations of Hajji to travel to the Holy land of Mecca. It symbolizes death, journey and return to the Absolute. Shariati describes Niyyat as an exercise for preparation for death. Death is meaningful for people who believe in Allah and it will lead them to eternity. Niyyatmeans preparing yourself for the journey, away from all worldly desires, hate and greed that distracts you from AllahNiyyat means preparing yourself to return to Absolute, who will give you a particular direction that will eventually lead you to perfection, true knowledge, beauty and goodness which is the aim of man’s life. Quran I: 6 Show us the Straight Path - the path of truth, consciousness, fact,beauty, perfection, love, and goodness”
Miqat and Arafat: - Here the Hajji is reminded of his final goal in life. He experiences his death by wearing Kafan. The scene of the Day of Judgment here symbolizes the infinite world. Absolute facts of life are revealed to him and his connection with infinite in a finite world is restored. This helps the Hajjito attach a meaning to his life. His consciousness develops: Quran XXVIII: 88-“Everything will perish save His countenance”
At Arafat man finds answer to one of the basic questions of life. What am I? The journey to Arafatrepresents the creation of man. Knowledge was created simultaneously with man. It was here at Arafatwhere Adam and Eve met for the first time and understood each other. This is the first sign of knowledge. As Shariati says about the philosophy of man’s creation: from a philosophical point of view, man's existence was contemporaneous with the existence of knowledge; from a scientificpoint of view, man's history started with knowledge” (Shariati 41)
The journey to Allah has three stages and each stage has its own significance:

Arafat means: "Knowledge" and "science”, Mashar means: "Consciousness" and"understanding", Mina means: "love" and "faith" (Shariati 40)
Ka’aba:- The center of all actions of the hajji. These actions are love, prayers, life and death. The question that arises in mind is: Where am I? What is here? Ka’aba gives him the answers. It shows him the road, the direction of man’s life for those who have lost it. Over there is witnessed the “eternal” and “Absolute”. Allah is here and everywhere. Shariati says: Allah’s way is the way of the people. To approach Him, you must first approach the people. To achieve righteousness, one must devout himself fully to the problems of the people. One must practice generosity, justice and kindness. A man must bear hardships and sufferings. This approach helps you becoming a moral man.
Tawaf: - During tawaf the concept of “I” disappears and the concept of “We’ emerges. This gives birth to the feelings of generosity and kindness towards others. By practicing noble virtues a maneventually discovers himself and the reality of life is exposed to him. When one submits himself to the Will of Allah he attains the status of Shaheed, an everlasting eternal life, the meaning of which could not be destroyed by death. The aim of man is to become an Ideal man, which he gets during tawaf.
Allegiance and Black stone: - Here the hajji decides his future goal, aim and destination. By shaking hand with Allah he promises that from now onwards he/she will totally devout themselves to His Will.Allah will tell me the direction and I will obey Him. I will not bow my head in front of anyone except Him.
Sa’y:- As Shariati describes it, Sa’y is a search. It is a movement with an aim. The hajji is acting likeHajjar. An example of obedience, submission and reliance in Allah and He will take care of you. Sa’yis a physical work and a remembrance of struggle which symbolize the search of material life on this earth.  
 Shariati explains it beautifully:
Sa'y: “Wisdom, logic, needs, living, facts, objectives, earth, material, nature,privileges, thinking, science, industry, policy, benefit, joy, economy, civilization, body, freedom, will-power, mastery, in this world - for the self. And whatever the westernersstruggle for” (Shariati 34) 

This is the last stage in attaining Absolute freedom along with Absolute submission. You promise Allahthat you will sacrifice everything for Him. Whether it’s your fame, fortune, family, wealth, youth, beauty, desires, social class, honor, anything that distracts you from faith, love for Allah, and your responsibilities towards Him. The hajji’s perform this ritual in the remembrance of IsmailIsmail forHazrat Ibrahim was everything. Ismail was not only his son but a reward of many years of hardship that Hazrat Ibrahim had to face in order to spread the message of AllahAllah ordered Ibrahim to sacrifice his son. This is again a decision making situation indeed a hard one. What to choose? The will of Allah or your own will? To be a father or the prophet? To follow logic or to blindly follow the faith? And indeed Ibrahim chose the right path. This ritual again answers the most important question of life: why I am here? You are here because you have to obey Allah. Satan will stop you from doing this. He will appear in different forms. It can be your most beloved thing or logic, rationality, weakness,falsehood, your corrupted wisdom or anything that will stop you from obeying Him. The message is clear, don’t waste any time in following Allah’s orders and don’t question His authority just like the poor people with real faith do.
After studying both the authors, one thing is clear that search for Absolute Truth, Good and Beauty and the meaning of man’s life is useless in this finite World. They are something outside matter, time and space and belong to infinite world. So logic can’t connect the finite with infinite. Now after reading Shariati and Tolstoy I am sure I can experience that world. Their conclusions that faith is the only force that can help you search for life’s meaning in this world and experience the mysteries of that infinite world appeals to me very much and I think this is the only way of experiencing the Truth, Good and Beautiful. When you have real faith, you get a proper direction that will guide you in this world and will address the most important question of your life: How to Live? When one knows how to live, this means he is attaching a meaning to his life and is sure about it that this meaning will not be destroyed my death. Death, the ultimate reality of life will be meaningful to me if I follow faith and tradition. I will be sure that all my worldly deeds will not perish with me but I will be punished or rewarded for that. It will surely help me lead a good moral life that is the aim of a man’s life. Quran LXVII: 2 
“Who hath created life and death that He may try you, which of you is best in conduct; and he is the Mighty, the Forgiving”


About The Author: 
         Shahzad Mehboob is a student of Political Science. This essay was as assignment of his last semester philosophy course.

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