Secularism is a belief that denies the referential character of the world and of earthly life to a divine world in the afterlife. It must be distinguished from secularity in the sense of a separation of state and religion. In the Islamic view, all that is worldly – earthly life included – apart from its obvious reality, also serves as a mediator referring to a greater reality. Secularism, however, states that human beings are not able to grasp the true significance and the value of the world and of earthly life. Viewed from this standpoint, secularism is a phenomenon that results from a reversal of means and ends. In the view of Islam, the world was created through God’s will for a particular purpose, and it has a religious significance and a religious value. While earthly life is transitory and referential, it is not an illusion, and it is not unimportant. For just as nothing can exist independently of God’s will, nothing was created without meaning, either. Accordingly, we human beings should not turn our backs on the world but rather consider life on earth as the unique opportunity to earn the joys of a happier, continued life in the hereafter.
According to the Qur’an, this perspective on earthly life and the orientation towards a destination in the hereafter also help the human individual prefer the lasting over the transitory, for temporary, earthly life is a trial in the preparatory phase for life in the hereafter. Thus, the meaning and value of earthly life cannot be conceived in isolation from a life in the hereafter. Because the reality of earthly life is transitory, its meaning and its value are oriented towards eternal life in the hereafter. With its realistic stance, both towards the world and towards the afterlife, Islam sees a real relationship between the two: Transitory, earthly life, as a time of preparation and trial for life in the hereafter that represents eternal reality must be vested with living reality.
In the view of Islam, secularism cannot – to put it simply – grasp the non-transitory significance of transitory human life on earth; thus, it considers earthly life not as a time of preparation or trial for eternal life in the hereafter, and it is not in a position to view it as such. Transitory, earthly life thus takes the place of eternal life in the hereafter, and the human being must make do without a transcendent, existential significance that goes beyond earthly life. To understand and live earthly life in the absence of a transcendent meaning means that the human individual is in an epistemological and ethical daze. And this, in turn, means that the human individual grasps and lives earthly life without God, and without the destination charted through His wisdom, creating an estrangement from one’s own, innermost essence.
Mehmet Sait Reçber