Dust unto dust

In the present world, man is offered limited opportunities, man’s ambition knows no limits and he plans his life in the most incautious and unrestrained manner.
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Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) started his career as a military officer. By seizing opportunities to distinguish himself when they came his way, he succeeded in attaining the throne of France and had himself proclaimed emperor of France in 1804. Then, he set out to conquer the world. Soon he had conquered the whole of Europe except for England. He married a charming French lady, Josephine, but later divorced her, as she had failed to bear a successor for the emperor of Europe.

Afterwards, Napoleon married Marie-Louise, daughter of the king of Austria. She bore him a son in 1811 who was named Francis Joseph Charles. Napoleon was happy that he was to be succeeded by a crown prince, who would continue the monarchy. Before long, however, his excessive political greed had led him to clash with Russia. Although Russian armies failed to counter him, the Russian climate came to their rescue.

Napoleon’s armies, not accustomed to that severe winter cold in Russia, could not bear up when the snow started falling. Napoleon was compelled to retreat in such a state of disarray that the major part of his army perished on the way. This occurred in 1812. Later events saw him in greater trouble. With his greatly reduced army, he was defeated by Germany at Leipzig in 1813 and abdicated in 1814, when he was exiled to the island of Elba. He escaped and returned to power only to suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of the British at Waterloo in 1815. He was taken captive and was sent off to the island of Saint Helena, where he died in imprisonment in utter desperation in 1821.

Man dreams of glory and splendour not only for himself but also to pass on even to his children, blissfully unaware of the fact that before long he himself is to be divested of all his glory. Each day, in this world, one ‘Napoleon’ or the other disappears, but no one takes heed.

In the present world, man is offered limited opportunities, man’s ambition knows no limits and he plans his life in the most incautious and unrestrained manner. Yet, at the end of it all, personal glory is simply buried in the dust. Those who watch the demise of great men, do not learn any lesson from their passing. Everyone sets out to write the same story, blaze the same trails, and climb the same mountains as his predecessors. No one considers that it is all going to end in the same way and that no trace of glory can pass with one into the hereafter.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is an Islamic spiritual scholar who has authored over 200 books on Islam, spirituality, and peaceful coexistence in a multi-ethnic society.

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