Conclusion: Being able to say: "We hear and obey."
The kind of questions we have tackled above are just some of the questions that may occur to new Muslims who are still, to a degree, under the influence of the morality practiced by their unbelieving societies. Rather than blaming them for asking such questions or considering their thoughts unusual, we should do our best to answer them.
Of course, Allah answers of all these questions in the Qur'an and the life of our Prophet (pbuh) is the best example for believers. In compliance with the judgment: "Every time they come to you with an argument, We bring you the truth and the best of explanations," (Surat al-Furqan, 33) all of the answers provided by the Qur'an are definite and explicit so that no room is left for questions and hesitation.
Those who ask these and other questions out of a sincere desire to receive answers will be satisfied with these answers and obey Allah's commands, and their pursuit of the truth will lead them to find the true answer in the Qur'an, which is the source of guidance for humanity. When they find the answer they will accept it sincerely and do their best to adhere to it. In the Qur'an, this sincerity is related, as follows:
Yet, if those who are told about these truths from the Qur'an acknowledge them to be true by their consciences but still insist upon disobeying Allah and His judgments, this attitude proves that they are insincere. Their behavior shows that they deny a truth that they have acknowledged to be right and insist upon following one that they know to be wrong. One must not forget the consequences of such a wrongful insistence and must avoid it:
The end of such an obstinate attitude is Hell, an everlasting abode. However, what is expected from people of understanding and conscience is for them to say "We hear and obey" as the verse relates.
This being the case, people of wisdom must be very cautious against those factors that hinder them from saying: "I hear and obey." The most important of these factors is, as the verse maintains, one's whims and desires, which stem from one's lower self. As indicated in the Qur'an: "the self indeed commands to evil acts" (Surah Yusuf, 53). And because the self commands to evil acts, people have to be vigilant against its wrong inculcations.
New Muslims will surely be more inclined to listen to the commands from their lower selves that will lead them to evil. This lower self draws one towards obeying personal whims and desires and draws one away from religious morality. Against all of the rights communicated by Muslims and the ones related in the Qur'an, the lower self will try to infect each new Muslim with many unfounded concerns and doubts. While their conscience and intelligence will command them to be with believers, their lower self will encourage them to remain with their former acquaintances.
For this reason, new Muslims who are seeking to learn the religion have to control their attitudes and examine their wishes to see whether their acts and attitudes are commanded by personal whims or conscience.
Pretexts of the Lower Self
Adopting some basic criteria as to "whether certain acts and attitudes stem from one's lower self or conscience" will enable us to distinguish these two sources more clearly. One verse provides us with some important criteria, as follows:
This verse informs believers about those acts that comply with Allah's good pleasure and those that stem from one's lower self. "Restraining oneself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and evening" complies with Allah's good pleasure. On the contrary, turning one's attention to the one who "follows his own whims and desires," and "whose heart Allah has made neglectful of His remembrance" is an attitude that emanates from one's self. And, moreover, it is disobedience to Allah.
This is a very important criterion, and one of the issues to which a person who has already embraced Islam must pay the utmost attention.
Meanwhile, those who are bereft of this sincerity or remain under the influence of the lower self do not make any effort to be with believers. They find some excuses and try to keep away from believers in an attempt to deceive them. However, these excuses have no validity in either Allah's sight or in the eyes of believers.
In daily life, people encounter many examples of such excuses, some of which are listed below:
"Family matters" is among the foremost excuses put forward by the lower self to hinder people from fulfilling their acts of worship, observing religious requirements, and being together with believers. Those who listen to the whisperings of the lower self and are not so careful about obeying Allah often make up such excuses as: "My family takes all of my time" or "I cannot observe my religious duties, for my parents do not allow me to do so." Such excuses may have no validity in Allah's sight, for although people need time to deal with their families, such a duty does not impede them from observing the Qur'an's commands. Consequently, such excuses are not sincere.
Such people may well be deceiving themselves with these useless excuses, but they surely cannot deceive Allah and believers. Indeed, Allah calls our attention to this matter and makes it clear that this pretext is completely invalid. The Qur'an mentions that a group of people in the time of our Prophet (pbuh) who stayed behind while struggling in Allah's cause came to the Prophet (pbuh) and excused themselves, saying: "Our wealth and families kept us occupied" . But Allah revealed that "they say with their tongues what is not in their hearts." (Surat al-Fath, 11) Yet in another verse, Allah gives the example of those who, in our Prophet's (pbuh) time, tried to avoid fighting by saying:
Another excuse put forward by the lower self is that matters related to business or school hinder one from observing Allah's commands. According to them, business or school take so much time that there is no time left for performing the regular prayers, fasting, enjoining the good, living by the Qur'an's morality, and being with believers.
In fact, those who put forward this excuse have an important misconception: They think that their school or profession is the most important thing in life, and so prefer to reserve the rest of their time for religion. But it is not possible for a believer to make such a distinction. Of course the believers also have good education, consider their schools important, have professions; but none of these hinder them from living their lives according to religious morality. According to the verse, "Say: 'My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds,'" (Surat al-An'am, 162) believers lead their lives in a way designed to pursue Allah's approval. Setting apart some time for mundane matters and the remaining for religion is not compatible with the morality in the Qur'an.
Thus, believers practice their professions or go to school only to earn Allah's good pleasure; they spend what they earn in Allah's way and place their knowledge at the service of His religion. Since observing one of His commands does not hinder one from observing another command, the excuse of "not finding time to practice one's religion," and others like it, are completely unacceptable.
Otherwise, this would mean that such people fear what might happen in the future and thus are concerned about some mundane issues. The Qur'an calls this "preferring the life of this world to Allah's good pleasure and the Hereafter." But next to the Hereafter, the life of this world is extremely worthless, as the Qur'an tells us:
The end of those who are enslaved to the lower self will be as follows:
Another excuse is the "reactions of other people." Some people worry that their commitment to the Qur'an's morality will cause other people to treat them in a negative manner.
We need to make it clear that people who are committed to following Allah's religion and rejecting any other guidance have to face up some tests which look like difficulties in the beginning. Those who claim to have faith should not be surprised to receive negative reactions from the people surrounding them. Furthermore, those who do not face such reactions should consider this an amazing situation. Since new Muslims come from a society that is divorced from the values of the true religion, people who have until then surrounded them, as well as all their society in general, has been following the wrong path, as the verse below maintains:
Another verse reads:
A lack of faith, as the above verse maintains, stems from the weakness of one's ability to think and understand. They only know the outward aspect of the life of the world, and so fail to grasp what is hidden. Meanwhile, they are entirely heedless of the Hereafter. And so expecting the majority of the people to be on the true path is a great mistake. In compliance with the verse "But most people, for all your eagerness, are not believers," (Surah Yusuf, 103) the majority of the people would insist on following the wrong path.
In this case, believer must never adopt the thoughts of the majority as a criteria. Indeed, Allah draws our attention to this fact in the Qur'an, saying:
The people surrounding a person, as well as the majority of people in the world, are not entitled to a believer's obedience. Once people start to believe and comply with the Qur'an's commands, they may go against this majority and their former unbelieving circle. This stems from the fact that these people do not understand the beauty, generosity, loyalty and faithfulness which comes with the religious morality. However, believers are never afraid of countering these people, or of being frowned upon or condemned by them. That believers do not fear condemnation is especially stressed in the Qur'an:
Believers seek Allah's good pleasure; whether people are pleased with them or not is of no importance. Indeed, if they please Allah, this will, if necessary and if Allah wills, also earn them other people's admiration.
Consequently, such thoughts as "my family keeps me busy," "my school or my job consumes all my time," or "this will attract the negative reaction of other people" are nothing but excuses. People who offer them in order to avoid believers and not to perform acts of worship are not sincere.
In this case, if people make no serious effort to be with believers, to keep themselves occupied with the remembrance of Allah, and to perform the appropriate acts of worship, and yet still try to be accepted by them, for such behavior might mean the following:They are seeking some personal interests from believers. Some of the opportunities that such behavior opens to them may seem attractive, and they may want to benefit from them. While doing this, however, they refrain from any physical or spiritual difficulty.
However, believers understand such people's real intentions very well. Yet they often do not mention it, for such insincere people may realize their mistake later on and turn to Allah in repentance for it. Indeed, believers can never be deceived by insincere people.
Unbelievers and hypocrites have some attributes in common. The most salient one is their reluctance to remember Allah. The Qur'an refers to unbelievers, as follows:
When Allah is mentioned on His own, the hearts of those who do not believe in the afterlife shrink back shuddering; but when others apart from Him are mentioned, they jump for joy. (Surat az-Zumar, 45)
This is exactly the attitude of those who strive to be with believers in order to derive some benefit. They do not like to be reminded of Allah's remembrance and His commands, but rejoice at anything that furthers their personal interests.
Believers are very compassionate and merciful people; they never treat people unkindly. However, insincere people can never grasp this attitude. Being used to conflicts and quarrels in their own unbelieving societies, they attempt to abuse this leniency and behave arrogantly toward them. In fact, this attitude only causes them to humiliate themselves.
Insincere people soon realize that they cannot gain any benefits from believers and start distancing themselves from them and return to their former life. They find a new pretext that allows them to revert to the ignorant life that they really never left. The verse below relates what will happen to them in the Hereafter:
In fact, separating such insincere people from believers is a great mercy for believers, for by doing so Allah purifies believers and makes them into a society whose members "worship Him, not associating anything with Him." (Surat an-Nur, 55)
Allah does not let believers and hypocrites remain together. In compliance with the verse "We will test you until We know those who strive among you and those who are steadfast and test what is reported of you," (Surah Muhammad, 31) those who have real faith will be tested and made known by Allah. In return, insincere hypocrites will also be made known. Allah gives the good news that He will sort out the bad from the good, as follows:
If believers remain sincere, Allah opens their hearts to Islam. Saying "I hear and obey" is the greatest pleasure a sincere believer can have in life. Obedience to Allah, the Creator, guides humanity to the right path and promises Paradise. This is the greatest source of peace, happiness, and joy. As the verse "[Have We not] shown him the two highways?" (Surat al-Balad, 10) indicates, each person is faced with a choice: the way of faith, which leads to Allah's good pleasure, mercy, and Paradise, and which is based upon obedience to Allah; and the other way, which is based upon taking one's personal whims and desires as idols, and which may lead the person to abasement and disgrace in this world and to Hell in the Hereafter.
The choice rests with each person, for as the Qur'an tells us, "This truly is a reminder, so let anyone who wills take the Way toward his Lord." (Surat al-Muzzammil, 19)