Man cannot lead his life successfully without proper direction and a definite purpose. Every one of us acts either out of compulsion of basic desires like thirst, appetite, and other physical and bodily wants, or we act according to the directs and dictates of our intellect. In both cases we are prone to make mistakes. Working wholly as per the physical needs goads a young student to pass his time in merrymaking and pleasurable physical activities, wasting his precious time required for studies, and as a result may lead to failure in exams and hence life. So if we fully rely on the impulses of our physical needs for the direction of our life and determining the course of our actions, we are always at danger to go astray and ruin our life.
On the other hand, we can also follow the dictates of our intellect, which asks us, for instance, to avoid indulgence and merrymaking during student life and concentrate on studies so that our future is not badly affected. But our intellectual capabilities are pruned as per our knowledge and experience, and both these factors are always very limited in an individual's life. We cannot afford to make big mistakes by taking wrong decisions and then understanding that they were wrong after facing their bad consequences. History is a witness to the facts that many a men have ruined communities by their seemingly well-calculated decisions and well-orchestrated policies. And if we add questions concerning human life like happiness, eternity, social welfare, etc., the entire picture becomes far too complex to be solved and understood easily. An action of man could be beneficial for himself but could be harmful for the society. Something may be good for his physical health and may harm his soul. In the same way, there are many things which we need to take into account before committing an act.
Now here comes the need for a framework or an ideology which could determine the entire course and direction of life and could set the limits for action and inaction for benefit of man in particular and society to which he belongs to in general.
Ayatollah Mutahhari defines ideology as "a general theory or a comprehensive and harmonious system whose fundamental aim is the human perfection and the happiness of all. This system should specify the fundamental principles, methods, do's and don'ts, good actions and bad actions, aims and means, requirements and their solutions, responsibilities and obligations. It should be the source of the inspiration of duties for all individuals."
On the importance of ideology in human life, this great scholar of Islam says: "From the very beginning, or at least from the time the developed social life has led to so many dissensions, man has been in need of an ideology, or in the Qur'anic terminology, Shari'ah. As time passed and man became more developed, this need also became more intense. In the past, racial, national and tribal tendencies ruled over human societies like a collective spirit. This spirit in its turn brought into existence a series of ambitions (though inhuman) which united each society and gave it a particular orientation. Now, scientific and intellectual progress has weakened these bonds. It is a characteristic of science that it tends towards individualism, weakens sentiments, and dulls the bonds based on sentiments. It is only a consciously selected rational philosophy of life, or in other words, a comprehensive and perfect ideology which may unite the humanity of today or rather of tomorrow, and give it an orientation, a common ideal, and a common standard to judge what is right and what is wrong.
"Today more than ever, man requires such a philosophy of life, a philosophy capable of attracting him to the realities beyond the individual and individual interests. There is no longer any doubt about the fact that a school or an ideology is one of the necessities of social life."
Now the question arises as to who will determine this framework? Will man himself determine his ideology as the proponents of liberalism assert, or it would be resolved and set by the state for him as the socialists and communists argue? Or it will be determined by the One Who is the All-Knowing, Wise, Almighty Creator of man and universe?
Martyr Mutahhari explains: "Now the question is: who can lay down such an ideology? Undoubtedly the intellect of any single individual cannot do so. Can the collective intellect do that? Can man with the help of his total experience and his past and present information lay down such an ideology? If we admit that man does not know himself, then how can we expect him to know human society and social weal? Then what to do? If our basic concept of the universe is correct, and we believe that the world is a balanced system and there is nothing wrong or absurd in it, we must admit that the great creative machinery has not left this big question unattended and has already specified the fundamental outlines of an ideology from a horizon above the horizon of human intellect – that is, from the horizon of revelation (the principle of Prophethood). The job of intellect and knowledge is to move along these outlines.
How nicely has Avicenna put this question when, while describing the need of mankind to the Divine law (Shari'ah) revealed through a man, he said in his book, Najat: 'The need of a Prophet and exponent of the Divine law and human ideology for the continuity of human race and man's attaining perfection of his human existence is far greater than the growth of hair on his eyebrows, the concavity of his soles or other such things, which are at the most useful for the continuity of human race, but not essential.'"
In other words, how can the great creative machinery which has not left small and superfluous needs unattended leave the most essential need uncared for?
We would like to conclude the discussion on ideology by quoting Ayatollah Mutahhari, where he explains the Islamic conception of the world:
"The Islamic conception of the world is monotheistic. Islam has presented monotheism in its purest form. The Creator of man says about Islam: 'Be devoted to the upright religion. It is harmonious with the nature which God has designed for people. The design of God cannot be altered. Thus is the upright religion, but many people do not know.' (30:30) The following different verses discusses monotheism at various places in the Holy Qur'an. From the stand point of monotheistic and Islamic conception of the world, the universe is a creation and is looked after by Divine will and attention. If Divine attention were withheld for a moment, the whole universe would be annihilated in no time.
"This world has not been created in vain or in jest. There are many advantages implied in the creation of man and the world. Nothing has been created unbecoming and futile. The existing system of the universe is the best and the most perfect. It manifests justice and truth and is based on a sequence of causes and effects. Every result is a logical consequence of a cause, and every cause produces a specific effect. Divine destiny brings a thing into existence through its specific causes only, and it is a chain of causes which constitutes the Divine destiny of a thing.
"Divine Will always operates in the world in the form of a law or a general principle. Divine laws do not change. Whatever changes take place, they are always in accordance with some law. Good and evil in the world are related to man's own conduct and his own deeds. Good deeds and bad deeds, besides being recompensed in the next world, have their reaction in this world also. Gradual evolution is a Divine law. This world is a nursery for the development of man.
"Divine destiny is supreme in the whole world. Man has been destined by it to be free and responsible. He is the master of his own destiny. Man has his special dignity. He is fit to be the vicegerent of Allah. This world and the Hereafter are but two interconnected stages like those of sowing and harvest, for one reaps what one sows. They may also be compared to the two periods of childhood and old age, for the latter period is the outcome of the former."