What is Zeal?
Zeal and excitement are, in fact, intensely experienced feelings with which everyone is familiar. However, the main purpose of dealing with the concept of zeal in this book is to reveal some obvious differences between zeal as experienced in society at large and the zeal the Qur’an communicates to man.
Zeal, in general terms, is used to express enthusiastic interest and devotion to a cause, and sincere diligence in accomplishing it. Whether important or insignificant, everyone has causes he eagerly embraces throughout his life. Enthusiasm often directed toward materialistic benefits, also surfaces when worldly passions are the issue. Some people exert efforts to be rich, to have a brilliant career or a prestigious position, while others try to appear superior or to earn prestige, respect and praise. For example, everyone is familiar with the determination a high school student shows to pass a college admission test, the enthusiasm of a person hired for a desired position in a company, or the ambition and effort exerted for a business deal which is expected to be profitable. There is one strikingly common feature to all these – enthusiasm produces a distinctive and strong character in a person which would be unlikely to appear in the absence of zeal. Risks one never dared to run under normal conditions may well be taken to realize a goal. An unprecedented self-sacrificing manner is adopted without hesitation. Indeed, a person may ultimately attain considerable power in both the material and spiritual sense by employing his knowledge and capabilities to the full extent.
However, the zeal of most people is not long-lived because it lacks strong grounds. Often there is no particular goal, which would sustain their zeal under all circumstances and give them strength. The only people who never lose the enthusiasm in their hearts throughout their lives are believers because the source of their zeal is faith in Allah and their major goal is earning the good pleasure of Allah, His mercy and His Paradise.
Before proceeding with this subject, it would be useful to define the concept of zeal prevailing in ignorant societies, where people do not know the Qur’an or live by it.