A person who heeds his conscience as commanded in the Qur’an behaves scrupulously in earning Allah’s approval. He always thinks in the way, “How can I earn Allah’s approval at the most?” He never seeks the approval of other people or thinks about his status in their sight. He completely turns to Allah.
On the other hand, some people live religion not by using their conscience, but as their forebears have advised by tradition and custom. They perform prayers, apply the things they memorized and content themselves to these. But it is impossible to live morality of religion without using one’s conscience. Such people have chosen a life style that seems to be “appropriate to religion” only because they are used to living like this, or because they don’t want to run counter to the community they live in. Therefore, such people have the logic of not “what I can do most for Allah”, but “what I can do more to make people believe that I’m religious.”
A person who heeds his conscience thinks how to perform his every prayer and action in the best way possible. He tries to find the most of everything as much as his strength and mind allows him, in order not to let any attitude or speech of his to pose a risk in the Judgment Day. Because he knows that he is going to get return for his actions in the Hereafter. Thus Allah warns people about this:
Perform prayer and give the alms. Any good you send ahead for yourselves, you will find with Allah. Certainly Allah sees what you do. (Surat Al-Baqara, 110)
An example of a person who seeks the best and the most in every task he does can be given from the Qur’an, as with the command “to tell the best of words” among believers:
Say to My servants that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between them. Satan is an outright enemy to man. (Surat Al-Isra’, 53)
Someone who is aware of this command of Allah would say the best by using his conscience. He does not tell the first thing that comes to his mind by not caring. On the contrary, he would perform the most impressive and influential speeches, and pay special attention not to hurt or offend other people. He chooses the words with which he thinks Allah will be pleased the most, and uses his conscience as a key to doing that.
In another verse Allah divides people into three groups with respect to their devotion to religion:
Then We made Our chosen servants inherit the Book. But some of them wrong themselves; some are ambivalent; and some outdo each other in good by Allah’s permission. That is the great favour. (Surah Fatir, 32)
As it is revealed in the verse, some people do not live the morality of religion. And some of them live in a middle way since they are not able to use their conscience to the fullest. So they don’t abide by all the things that their conscience tells them, but only by some of them. They may not follow their conscience when it contradicts their interests. For example, they use only some of their time for religion, when they have the means to use all of their time and means. They don’t put serious effort to spread religion and good morality among people. They see themselves as religiously sufficient, as they perform some of the prayers and abide by the rights and wrongs. However, the most conscientious way to live is to choose and perform the most righteous and beautiful behavior within the rightful set of attitudes. Allah also praises those who follow the best of the words in the Qur’an:
Those who listen well to what is said and follow the best of it, they are the ones whom Allah has guided, they are the people of intelligence. (Surat Az-Zumar, 18)
The third group is composed of those who compete to achieve a finer, better behavior, so such people follow the commands of their conscience to the most.
Further they compete to perform good deeds. They throw themselves into every service and charity work. They never wait for someone else to do the work. On the contrary they put themselves forward and demand the work. Their conscience does not accept to aim for less when they have the means to do better.
Another example of choosing the best alternative possible can be given from the Surat an-Nisa. In the Surah, Allah commands us to consign things to people who have the authority and ability about the subject:
Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what Allah exhorts you to do! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Surat An-Nisa’, 58)
The thing to be consigned can be a task, a responsibility or something of value that needs to be protected. For example, if the consignment in question is a piece of furniture, then to consign it to the most careful, honest and levelheaded person is the best implementation of the verse. When there is a task or responsibility to be given, the most knowledgeable, experienced person, shortly the person who can take this responsibility to the end in the best way possible must be chosen. Choosing a less talented or less knowledgeable person would mean that another interest might have been overseen. Closeness of a person in terms of blood line or gaining another interest in the future might have been considered instead of trustworthiness of the person. And this is the common course of actions in society. Relationships of interest are of priority. However, it is a command of the Qur’an to search for the best and the most right behavior in every subject.
As it is seen, conscience requires people not only to believe in Allah and to accept His existence, but also the engage in good deeds in order to earn His good pleasure and also to be very conscientious in performing these deeds. But a majority of people assume that it is sufficient to believe in the existence of Allah. Such people are revealed in some verses of the Qur’an as follows:
Say: ‘Who provides for you out of heaven and earth? Who controls hearing and sight? Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who directs the whole affair?’ They will say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘So will you not guard against evil?’ That is Allah, your Lord, the Truth, and what is there after truth except misguidance? So how have you been distracted? (Surah Yunus, 31-32)
As seen in the verses above, these people believe in the existence of Allah, and even accept that Allah is the One Who gives them their livelihood, Who creates and kills them and that He is the Creator and Owner of all things. They use their conscience for that much of understanding and find it sufficient for their devotion. However, someone who uses his conscience at most can appreciate the Mightiness of Allah and so fears Him with a feeling of respect. This is a different kind of fear than the other forms of fear commonly known by people; the fear of losing the pleasure of Allah. The whole life of a person who possesses such a fear passes with the effort to earn the pleasure of our Lord. He knows no limits to getting closer to Allah. As a matter of fact, Allah gives the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) as an example in the Qur’an:
Who could have a better deen than someone who submits himself completely to Allah and is a good-doer, and follows the religion of Ibrahim, a man of pure natural belief? Allah took Ibrahim as an intimate friend. (Surat An-Nisa’,125)
A person who acts only with the guidance of his conscience makes an effort to understand and appreciate the Almighty Allah as much as he can and to become a close friend of Allah. However, since he can never be sure that he ensured the highest level of devotion or closeness, his desire and effort to achieve that continues till he dies.
So we may think about how “closeness to Allah” and “being a friend of Allah” can be achieved. And the key to that is our conscience.