Complying With The Good Word
It is a Book sent down to you—so let there be no constriction in your breast because of it—so that you can give warning by it and as a reminder to the believers. (Surat al-A`raf, 2)
Those who, if We establish them firmly on the earth, will perform prayers and pay alms, and command what is right and forbid what is wrong. The end result of all affairs is with Allah. (Surat al-Hajj, 41)
Being aware of the significance of these verses, believers warn one another, merely to earn Allah's good pleasure. And, towards those believers who offer them advice, thereby summoning them to the truth, they respond in the best way.
When they are summoned by the good word to Allah, His just Book, and the path of messengers, disbelievers do not obey it. As is stated in the following verse, "If you call them to guidance they will not follow you. It makes no difference if you call them or stay silent." (Surat al-A`raf, 193), they react negatively. Behind every word said to them, they are suspicious of some crooked intention. They often assume that the one giving counsel is doing so for some personal motive, and found their denial on such suspicions.
The fact is, however, as we mentioned earlier, Muslims who call through the good word do not do so for personal gain; their only aim is to fulfill Allah's command. Reacting negatively to such a sincere call is a type of response that results only in harm to one's self. Yet, the disbelievers fail to grasp this fact; they fail to realize that the matter concerns the outcome of that life they will live in eternity. Furthermore, they falsely feel relieved, wrongly assuming that ignoring such advice will be of benefit to them. In one verse, the end of those who oppose to the reminders made to them is declared as follows:
But if anyone opposes the Messenger after the guidance has become clear to him, and follows other than the path of the believers, We will hand him over to whatever he has turned to, and We will roast him in Hell. What an evil destination! (Surat an-Nisa´, 115)
Then, why do people not comply with the words that will save them from spiritual darkness, purify them of their faults, and help them to attain good, beauty, and most importantly, Allah's approval? We can cite several reasons to explain this; the absence of the fear of Allah, and concern for the Hereafter, their thinking themselves self-sufficient, assuming themselves to be infallible. As the verse maintains, "…What you call the idolaters to follow is very hard for them…." (Surat ash-Shura, 13)
In the following pages, we will explore the reasons for which the disbelievers do not act in accordance with these reminders.
If you were to ask anyone around you, "Do you heed Allah?," they most probably will answer, "Yes." Yet, mere words do not suffice to prove one's awareness of Allah. Only Allah knows whether one truly heeds Him that is, what he harbors in his heart. However, believers may also ascertain this from both the speech and behavior of a person. A person's actions must not contradict his words. If a person fails to fully comply with his responsibilities towards our Lord, has no qualms about trangressing His limits, or has no will to adhere to Allah's verses when he is reminded of them, then there is no reason to believe that such a person heeds Allah's commands.
In the Qur'an, Allah recounts the condition of those who turn their faces when they are reminded:
What is the matter with them that they run from the Reminder like panicked donkeys fleeing from a lion? In fact each one of them wants to be given an unfurled scroll. No indeed! The truth is they do not fear the Hereafter. No indeed! It is truly a reminder to which anyone who wills may pay heed. (Surat al-Muddaththir, 49-55)
As the above verses also reveal, the reason why disbelievers turn their faces away when they receive a reminder, or even flee from it, is their having no fear of Allah or concern for the Hereafter. Yet, they ought to be aware that, on the Day of Judgment, they will be called to give an account of every time they had received a reminder, to which they had turned their faces, and every good word about which they feigned ignorance, and will be rewarded with a terrible punishment. Every time they pretend to not understand the facts conveyed to them, and reject lessons they ought to take from the many reminders offered to them, they take further step towards the fire of Hell. Allah has granted them a certain period of respite, and sends them messengers so as "they would hopefully pay heed." (Surat al-A`raf, 130) The time that has been granted to them often deceives those who do not heed Allah, nor believe in the Hereafter. Wrongly assuming that they have still many years ahead of them, they do not listen to the reminders, and see nothing wrong in their obstinacy. Furthermore, in a manner that is extremely disrespectful and rebellious, they maintain, "Why does Allah not punish us for what we say?" (Surat al-Mujadala, 8) One would not expect such people, who are so far from any awareness of Allah, and thought of the Hereafter, to heed the call of believers.
These people will only come to understand the loss they are to suffer, because of their rebellion against the good word, at that moment when they meet their demise. Only then will they feel the fear of Allah in their hearts, as they ought to have. At that time, though, they will taste the severity of the punishment of Hell as they are made to enter into it. In the Qur'an, Allah informs us of what they will encounter in Hell:
On the Day when disbelievers are exposed to the Fire, they will be asked, "Is this not the truth?" They will say, "Yes, by our Lord." He will say, "Then taste the punishment for having been disbelivers." (Surat al-Ahkaf, 34)
When disbelievers are summoned to the path of Allah, one of the reasons why they do not heed this call is their inclination towards their lower-selves, rather than to their conscience. When faced with a trying situation, or when one of them needs to make an important decision, or choose between right and wrong, one hears specific inner suggestions. While one of these voices guides him to the truth and to the good, the other one leads him to that which is wrong and wicked. Every soul knows this voice. When a helping hand ought to be extended to another in need, for instance, one of these voices will suggest that he should do the best he can for him. The other voice, however, whispers to him that if he were ever to extend such a helping hand, then he will place himself in detriment, or diminish his own means, and that there are others better disposed to provide such assistance, etc. The voice that whispers the truth and the more honourable option is the conscience, while the lower soul whispers that which is evil, and is actually the voice of Satan. In Surat ash-Shams, Allah commands to avoid the wicked tendencies of the lower-soul.
And the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity or heedfulness, he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams, 7-10)
As these verses also maintain, Allah inclined the human soul to both depravity and to the ways to avoid it. Conscience is that which inspires avoidance of evil, and consistently leads the soul to that which will please Allah. Compliance to this voice brings about a life of good and contentment, which can lead to earning Allah's approval. The conscience inspires adherence to the good word, to submission to Allah, and being more meticulously observant of His limits, whereas the lower-self commands evil, disbelief and disregarding the reminders. If a person does not follow his conscience, then he will conform instead to the inclinations of his lower-self, which can lead only to great loss. In a verse of the Qur'an, Allah explains the tendency of the lower-self to command evil as follows:
[Yusuf said,] "I do not say my self was free from blame. The self indeed commands to evil acts–except for those my Lord has mercy on. My Lord, He is Forgiving, Merciful." (Surah Yusuf, 53)
Conscience is one of the greatest blessings granted by Allah to man, that he may avoid the evil of his lower-self, for Allah puts man to various tests throughout his life. When confronted with certain events in his life, or instances when he is admonished or given certain reminders, he must be able to distinguish between right and wrong. It is his responses to these situations that will determine his state in the Hereafter. No matter what a man is doing, or whereever he may be, his conscience commands him to act in the most honourable way. Whether one wishes it or not, or even if he were to strive to supress the voice of his conscience, he could never silence it; it persistently insists on what is just. What is incumbent upon him is to follow this voice, and submit to Allah, and answer the call of those who summon to the truth, enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.
Every person, through his conscience, recognizes the sincerity of the advice he receives when he is called to Allah's guidance, moral excellence, compliance with the true religion, worship, to prepare himself for the next life and purify himself of mundane ambitions. Yet, the disbelievers ignore the voice of their conscience, being led astray by the evil of their lower-selves.
Let us consider the example of an atheist who denies Allah's existence. This person is one who has turned a deaf ear to the voice of his conscience, and who has been overcome by his lower-self. For each person is endowed with a conscience and understanding to enable him to recognize the signs of Allah's creation around him, and the existence of the Creator Who has created everything with a superior wisdom. If this person were asked to believe that spilled paint had formed itself into a work of art by pure accident, that it was not the result of some intelligent effort, he would certainly not believe it. Ironically, the same person, neglecting the use of his logicical abilities, his conscience or his wisdom, would claim that a tree came into being accidentally, and that it was not created. This is truly a clear example of rejecting one's conscience, and insisting instead on denial by obeying one's lower-self.
Indeed, we encounter many such people today, who continue to exemplify this warped way of thinking. Every effort to counsel them proves futile. They insist on not believing in the signs presented to them, do not follow the good word, for they do not adhere to their conscience. Yet, they ought to remember that, on the Day of Judgment, they will regret not having complied with the reminders, and failed to appreciate Allah's infinite might.
One of the causes that hinders a disbeliever from complying with the good word, and following the path set out by the believers is his arrogance and pride. As Allah also informs us in the following verse, "And they repudiated them wrongly and haughtily, in spite of their own certainty about them…" (Surat an-Naml, 14), arrogance is one of the primary causes of unbelief. A surge of arrogance and pride must immediately put one on guard against Satan. In fact, it was for this very reason that Satan was expelled from Allah's sight. The Qur'an relates the incident as follows:
We created you and then formed you and then We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam," and they prostrated–except for Iblis. He was not among those who prostrated.
He [Allah] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?" He [Iblis] replied, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay."
He [Allah] said, "Descend from Heaven. It is not for you to be arrogant in it. So get out! You are one of the abased." (Surat al-A`raf, 11-13)
As is described in these verses, for Satan, who claimed himself superior to the Prophet Adam (as), it was a matter of pride to not prostrate himself. It was for this reason that he was expelled from Allah's sight. Indeed, the state of those who follow in Satan's footsteps share much with him; they also do not follow the good word, because they are vulnerable to Satan's insinuations, and respond to reminders arrogantly. For instance, if such a person is warned against some mistaken way of thinking, and called to that outlined in the Qur'an, his pride would hinder him from obeying. Consequently, he would not heed the reminder, nor ever correct his mistake. In another verse, Allah relates how arrogance misleads a person into sin:
When he is told to have fear of Allah, he is seized by pride which drives him to wrongdoing. Hell will be enough for him! What an evil resting-place! (Surat al-Baqara, 206)
In another verse, Allah states that what the believers call the idolaters to is hard for them. It is again arrogance that is behind this obstinacy:
… What you call the idolaters to follow is very hard for them. Allah chooses for Himself anyone He wills and guides to Himself those who turn to Him. (Surat ash-Shura, 13)
The Qur'an relates that another excuse put forward by the disbelievers for not following the right path they are summoned by those who enjoin them what is right and forbid what is wrong is their being merely human beings of flesh and bones like themselves. Disbelievers of all ages have put forward this excuse. Allah recounts the instances of this deviant ploy of disbelievers in several verses:
They said, "You are nothing but human beings like ourselves. The All-Merciful has not sent down anything. You are simply lying." (Surah Yasin, 15)
The ruling circle of those of his [Nuh's] people who were disbelievers said, "We do not see you as anything but a human being like ourselves. We do not see anyone following you but the lowest of us, unthinkingly. We do not see you as superior to us. On the contrary, we consider you to be liars." (Surah Hud, 27)
The ruling circle of those of his [Nuh's] people who were disbelievers said, "This is nothing but a human being like yourselves who simply wants to gain ascendancy over you. If Allah had wanted He would have sent angels down. We never heard of anything like this among our ancestors, the earlier peoples." (Surat al-Muminun, 24)
According to this errant logic, as mentioned in these verses, for one to summon another to faith, he ought to be endowed with certain superior qualities, far beyond any human frailties or flaws. Messengers responded to these excuses offered by the disbelievers as follows:
Their Messengers said to them, "We are nothing but human beings like yourselves. But Allah shows favor to any of His servants He wills. It is not for us to bring you an authority except by Allah's permission. So let the believers put their trust in Allah." (Surah Ibrahim, 11)
Another consequence of arrogance is failure to accept that the other may be more intelligent, and better able to make appropriate decisions. Still though, such people consider themselves more intelligent than all others. However, those who possess this evil trait, which we may define as, "adoring their own minds," are obviously steeped in ingorance. They resist every opinion, even though they may be beneficial. They cannot even bear some minor criticism. Because they adore their own way of thinking, they remain deaf and blind to every reminder. However, as Allah says, "… We raise the rank of anyone We will. Over everyone with knowledge is one more knowing." (Surah Yusuf, 76)
Considering that there are others who may be more intelligent than he, a person ought to remain open to other opinions. However, such criticisms and warnings must be in full agreement with the Qur'an. Because, comments offered by those who are ignorant of the religion will necessarily be in accordance with their errant criteria, and their baser morality, and thus, far from true guidance. However, the call of those who abide by the Qur'an, the sole criterion that can lead to righteousness, sent down by Allah to mankind, is of benefit to the people. The believers are people of discernment, who are best able to assess matters in the light of the Qur'an. The way they perceive things that take place, the analyses they make, are always apt, for they are all founded on the fundamentals of the Qur'an. This also holds true for solutions they provide to problems. This being the case, that which would be most rational would be to submit to the advice, warnings and admonitions given by the believers.
However, those who are contented with their level of intelligence, and are pleased with their situation, feel no need to improve themselves. For this reason, they cannot find the truth and the good, and consent to live in their shallow lives, persisting in their many flaws and errors. They are those who are in great loss, as a result of their pride. Merely due to their arrogance, they deny that which will lead them to what is good and honorable, and what will help them attain happiness and peace of mind. Yet, once they will taste the punishment in Hell, their pride and arrogance will cease. Only then will they bow to Allah, and plead with Him, for all of eternity. Though, they will be addressed, "Taste that! You are the mighty one, the noble one!" (Surat ad-Dukhan, 49)
They said, "We see an evil omen in you. If you do not stop we will stone you and you will suffer a painful punishment at our hands." They said, "Your evil omen is in yourselves. Is it not just that you have been reminded? No, you are an unbridled people!" (Surah Yasin, 18-19)
The above verses tell of the reaction of the inhabitants of a city to which Allah sent messengers, with the mission of warning them against a painful punishment. As this example reveals, disbelievers openly threatened those believers who summoned them to the true religion through the good word. Ironically, the only reason behind their offering of this threat was the believers' invitation to Allah and His religion. Their call led them into great hatred and rage. Indeed, this rage and hatred become discernable in their eyes. In the Qur'an, Allah relates this fact as follows:
Those who disbelieve all but strike you down with their evil looks when they hear the Reminder and say, "He is quite mad." But it is nothing less than a Reminder to all the worlds. (Surat al-Qalam, 51-52)
As the above verses call our attention to, disbelievers feel such animosity towards Allah's messengers only because they call them to what is just, and remind them of the Day of Judgment and the Hereafter. However, theirs and similar reactions are signs of their desperation in the face of the religion of truth. Without any valid refutation against the true religion, they strive instead to silence the believers through these methods, and feign ignorance of the truth. However, the believers are not inhibited by such actions; they continue to communicate Allah's message with the same persistence.
In the Qur'an, the call made by Prophet Ibrahim (as) to his father, and his father's reaction to his message, reveals the opposition typical of these two camps:
Remember when he [Ibrahim] said to his father, "Father, why do you worship what can neither hear nor see and is not of any use to you at all? Father, knowledge which never reached you has come to me, so follow me and I will guide you to the right path. Father, do not worship Satan. Satan was disobedient to the All-Merciful. Father, I am afraid that a punishment from the All-Merciful will afflict you, and turn you into a comrade of Satan." He said, "Do you forsake my gods, Ibrahim? If you do not stop, I will stone you. Keep away from me for a good long time." He said, "Peace be upon you. I will ask my Lord to forgive you. He has always honored me. I will separate myself from you and all you call upon besides Allah and I will call upon my Lord. It may well be that, in calling on my Lord, I will not be disappointed." (Surah Maryam, 42-48)
There is only one reason why his father became so antagonistic towards Ibrahim, otherwise a prophet of great moral excellence, mentioned in the Qur'an as tender-hearted and forbearing: Prophet Ibrahim's (as) summoning him to become a servant of Allah, that is, his call through the good word... Prophet Ibrahim (as) addressed his father respectfully and in a beautiful manner, but his father nevertheless reacted against him with furious anger. Despite this, the Prophet Ibrahim (as) never altered his tone, and departed honorably from his father.
Among the disbelievers, who reject compliance to the advice of the believers, there are those who will have various reactions, become aggressive, turn their faces, or those who have more severe responses like rage and hatred. Other than these rather extreme reactions, however, there are also those who will pretend not to hear such admonitions at all, and remain unresponsive. In the Qur'an, Allah introduces us to these people . In the words of one verse, they are described as " … those whose hearts are hard..." (Surat al-Hajj, 53) The sincere and well thought-out explanations offered by the believers do not produce any effect on such people. In the Qur'an, Allah explains the reason for this indifference, as follows:
... They have hearts they do not understand with. They have eyes they do not see with. They have ears they do not hear with. Such people are like cattle. No, they are even further astray! They are the unaware. (Surat al-A`raf, 179)
Among them there are some who listen to you. But can you make the deaf hear even though they cannot understand? Among them there are some who look at you. But can you guide the blind, even though they cannot see? Allah does not wrong people in any way; rather it is people who wrong themselves. (Surah Yunus, 42-44)
Say: "I can only warn you through the Revelation." But the deaf cannot hear the call when they are warned. (Surat al-Anbiya´, 45)
These whose eyes would otherwise seem to be able to see, and whose ears can hear, are, in actuality, blind and deaf, in the Qur'anic senses of the terms. Specifically, with the verse, "It is not their eyes which are blind but the hearts in their breasts which are blind." (Surat al-Hajj, 46), Allah declares the spiritual blindness of their hearts. This is, however, a grave incapacity brought about by Allah in those who deny His religion. In return for their arrogance and disbelief, Allah has disabled their intelligence and taken away their ability to comprehend. For this reason, they can never understand the message, despite being able to hear it. In another verse, Allah relates this condition of the disbelievers as follows:
Some of them listen to you but We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. Though they see every Sign, they still have no faith…(Surat al-An`am, 25)
For this reason, Allah has announced that calling such people to moral excellence is little different from calling one who is dead:
You will not make dead men hear and you will not make deaf men hear the call when they turn their backs in flight. You will not guide blind men out of their error. You will not make anyone hear except for those who believe in Our Signs and so are Muslims. (Surat an-Naml, 80-81)
Being incapable of seeing what is in front of him, failing to hear and comprehend what he sees and listens to, in other words, being sealed of heart, is the ultimate recompense for disbelief. However, disbelievers persist in their aggressiveness, rebellion and insolence, without recognizing that such behavior will only be to their detriment. Their heedlessness is referred to in the Qur'an as follows:
They say, "Our hearts are covered up against what you call us to and there is a heaviness in our ears. There is a screen between us and you. So act—we are certainly acting." (Surah Fussilat, 5)
As their words also reveal, disbelievers are blind and heedless in real sense. Surely, all ought to fear becoming as those described in these verses. For, the one who falls into such a condition is doomed to lead his life in confusion. For not listening to the verses of Allah, nor even heeding them, he will not live by the morality of the Qur'an, and fail to observe Allah's commands and prohibitions. One day, he will meet death, while in disbelief, for he has turned his face from Allah's commands and admonitions. The punishment the disbelievers are to face once they meet with death is described in the Qur'an as follows:
If only you could see when the angels take back those who were disbelievers at their death, beating their faces and their backs: "Taste the punishment of the Burning! That is for what you did. Allah does not wrong His servants." (Surat al-Anfal, 50-51)
Before that day, all must remember that those excuses put forward on the Day of Judgment will not be able to save them. Their insistence on remaining in denial, in following in the footsteps of Satan, and disobedience of the good word, are all but their personal prerogative. As the above verse also highlights, Allah does not wrong His servants. This fact is related in other verses as follows:
We have never destroyed a city without giving it prior warning as a reminder. We were never unjust. (Surat al-Shuara, 208-209)
As we mentioned in the previous sections, in every period, Allah called people to the morality of the Qur'an, and being mindful of His good pleasure, through His faithful servants. Yet, except those who sincerely believed, the great majority failed to heed this call, but responded with evil, rebelliousness, denial and derision. We may discover several such examples in the stories related about the prophets in the Qur'an, and in the exchanges the believers had with those ignorant of the religion.
What has been related in the Qur'an are examples of the negative reactions offered by the unbelievers of the time. However, it would be wrong to assume that such behavior was a thing only of the past. The same responses are discovered in our day, as in the past. For this reason, when reading of the accounts of past generations, all should learn a lesson from the punishment afflicted upon them, so as not to repeat their mistakes.
However, he who does not heed such warnings should not maintain that he did not say what others of previous generations had already said, as mentioned in the Qur'an, and, therefore, that he is not like them. Because, what really matters is the intention behind the words. Today, some may intend to offer exactly the same responses, as those communicated in the Qur'an, or harbor the same thoughts, but disguised as different language. For, disbelief, which is distinguishable by its non-adherence to the right path, its turning a deaf ear to reminders, and persistent arrogance, continue to remain the same although the time have changed. A time difference, extending to hundreds of years, does not alter the facts revealed in the Qur'an.
Indeed, many nations followed in the footsteps of the people of Prophet Nuh (as) who had denied the truth:
The people of Nuh denied the truth before them, and the Confederates after them. Every nation planned to seize its Messenger and used false arguments to rebut the truth. So I seized them, and how was My retribution! (Surah Ghafir, 5)
The messengers sent to these nations, and the Muslims who followed them, openly warned these people against the Fire, and made them aware of the punishment and disappointment to be faced by those who prefer their own man-made false religion over Allah's, for the way they were adhering to was not the path of Allah but of evil. Satan, on the other hand, calls people, not to salvation, but to the Fire. This fact is related in the Qur'an as follows:
Satan is your enemy so treat him as an enemy. He summons his party so they will be among the people of the Searing Blaze. (Surah Fatir, 6)
By turning their faces from the call of the believers, who summoned them to Allah's pleasure, mercy and the promised Garden, these people have, instead, answered Satan's call. Surely, none would readily admit that he does not abide by the Qur'an but follows Satan's call. Yet, whether they are willing to admit it or not, by not following the good word, they have essentially made their choice.
Those who renounce the call of the believers, and are deceived by Satan's incitements, will face utter disappointment in the Hereafter. Satan, whom they pursue, will abandon them. The condition of those who follow Satan is related in the Qur'an as follows:
When the affair is decided Satan will say, "Allah made you a promise, a promise of truth, and I made you a promise but broke my promise. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. Do not, therefore, blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot come to your aid nor you to mine. I reject the way you associated me with Allah before." The wrongdoers will have a painful punishment. (Surah Ibrahim, 22)
As part of the test of this world, every man was made vulnerable to whispers of Satan, while, on the other hand, he is also summoned to Allah's path by believers. In the end, the decision rests with the person himself. One has to remember that this decision will determine the way he will lead his life in the world to come. Those who follow Satan will be the people of Hell, whereas those who obey the good word will be rewarded with eternal Paradise. Giving due consideration and complying to the good word, is each person's individual responsibility:
… Such people call you to the Fire whereas Allah calls you, with His permission, to Paradise and forgiveness. He makes His Signs clear to people so that hopefully they will pay heed. (Surat al-Baqara, 221)