The Unhappiness of the Society of the Ignorant
The Life of This World Deceives Them
To provide a basis for their lack of faith, unbelievers use errant logic, saying, "Only this world exists—there is no Hereafter." In the light of this idea of theirs, they think they can do as they like in this world. However, Allah has told us that He will subject everybody to an inquiry into what they have done during their lives in this world on the Day of Judgment:
They say, "There is nothing but this life and we will not be raised again." If only you could see when they are standing before their Lord. He will say, "Is this not the Truth?" They will say, "Yes indeed, by our Lord!" He will say, "Then taste the punishment for your disbelief." (Surat al-An'am, 29-30)
But as Allah has pointed out, disbelievers ignore this truth and base their lives solely on what they can obtain for themselves in this world. Since they believe that in this world the advantage is always with the strong, they also think that for a happy and peaceful life they must definitely be strong in material terms. They believe this material strength can bring them everything they want. In fact, Allah created the life of this world as a testing ground for people. So in the life of this world everything may not come about as people wish, as Allah has pointed out in the verse, "Shall man then have whatever he covets?" (Surat an-Najm: 24) People may at times fail to achieve something they want very much or something may happen suddenly which costs them everything they have gained.
Now consider a society in which all the people think in this way. In such an atmosphere, people can give one another nothing but unhappiness and trouble. Since everybody is just pursuing his own advantage, they cannot display moral excellence to one another or live together in harmony. They continually struggle against one another because they work for their own advantage at every opportunity. Allah says in the Qur'an: … You consider them united but their hearts are scattered wide. That is because they are people who do not use their intellect. (Surat al-Hashr: 14) Allah makes us aware that there can be no friendship amongst these people and, "their hearts are scattered wide" due to their clashes over individual advantage. As Allah tells us in the verse, the reason for this is that such people do not use their intellect. What is it then that these people fail to apply their intellect to? Allah answers that question in this verse:
The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-An'am, 32)
Allah has told us that the life of this world is a diversion and that true life will be lived in the next world. This is what unbelievers do not exercise their intellect about. These people do not even come close to accepting that their true abode is in the Hereafter. As a consequence, they enter into a struggle for gain in the life of this world, which they believe to be the true life, and because of this rivalry they constantly harm one another and make one another unhappy.
Allah has told us that the life of this world is "a game and a diversion." The fact that the unbelievers pursue every undertaking according to the dictates of their personal priorities instead of striving to earn the approval of Allah, makes all their efforts meaningless and valueless, just like a game. What they do and what they earn are very important for such people, but in reality what they do has no meaning whatsoever in the real sense because they do not do it with Allah's approval in mind. As a result, all of the energy they expend amounts to no more than a useless waste of time. In Allah's sight, however, only actions carried out with the sincere desire to gain His approval have value. What makes something valuable is not the effort made to obtain it or the power or money used in doing so, it is only the consideration throughout of Allah's approval. For example, if a businessman has achieved great successes during his career, has made important investments and has even made himself world famous, there can be no question of what he has done having any value in the real sense if he did not do it to earn Allah's approval. The value of anything is bound up with whether or not it is pleasing to Allah and whether or not it is used in order to gain His approval. In other words, what a person does is not important. What is important is his motive for doing it. How much he spends is not important. What is important is his motive for spending it. Allah informs us that the important thing in worship is the intention of the worshipper:
...Their [the sacrificial animals'] flesh and blood does not reach Allah but your heedfulness does reach Him… (Surat al-Hajj, 37)
Only the task which is performed for His approval has validity and value in Allah's sight. No matter how important the tasks in question, because ignorant people do not take Allah's pleasure as their main aim, all the effort they make is to no avail. Allah describes this situation in a verse of the Qur'an:
People whose efforts in the life of this world are misguided while they suppose that they are doing good. (Surat al-Kahf, 104)
They waste the opportunities given to them by Allah on empty and harmful things, since they are not motivated by the desire to earn Allah's good pleasure. People who are bound to their worldly goods live in constant fear of losing what they possess. Knowing that at any moment a completely unexpected occurrence may make them suffer loss and deprive them of what they possess makes them extremely uncomfortable. Consequently, no matter what good things they do or what benefits they gain for themselves, the fear of loss within them makes them continually unhappy and troubled.
Unbelievers are not aware of the real value of what they own or of the purpose for which it has been given to them. So, instead of using their opportunities for good works which will earn Allah's approval, they simply waste themselves thoughtlessly by taking the life of this world as their yardstick. For instance, by gambling they may in a single instant lose all their property, even their honor. Or, they may try to enrich themselves further by immoral means. However, they should not forget that the result of every mistaken or immoral act will ultimately be disappointment. By such means as these Allah shows people that those who do not meet with His approval will suffer harm and that for them everything in the life of this world may be a source of trouble and sorrow. The reason people who do not believe in the Hereafter experience such trouble and stress is that they set their faces against the religion of Allah and attach themselves passionately to the life of this world.
Everything They Do Is the Result of a Passion for "Diversion"
As is explained in the previous section, anybody who lives without taking Allah's approval as his aim makes life nothing but a deception. Thus, instead of making the eternal Hereafter their basic target and working towards it, such people stick to the short term passions and pleasures of the world.
In the life of this world, people who are heedless of reality involve themselves in various things which prevent them from earning Allah's approval and make them forgetful of Allah. In fact, all these things are blessings sent by Allah for the purpose of testing people, but these people turn them into pursuits in which to waste their time and to which they are passionately attached. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us which of His blessings have become a passion for people:
To mankind the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colors: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of this world. The best homecoming is in the presence of Allah. (Surah Al 'Imran, 14)
Since some people have adopted as their main aim not the approval of Allah but various worldly objectives, they become passionately attached to their earthly privileges. With every passing day, these drive them further from Allah and bind them even more tightly to the life of this world. They waste their time on vain things without considering the short span of life Allah has granted them on earth, for they are not engaged in striving for Allah's approval and do not imagine that they will have to give an accounting in the Hereafter. For example, a person with nothing to do looks out of his window all day and watches people passing by, thumbs through magazines he has already read over and over again, gossips about the neighbors, watches trivial television programs or wastes his time with internet or computer games, or occupies his mind with his own insignificant issues or those of other people. Instead of using his precious time to gain the approval of Allah, he wastes it on meaningless things which are of no use to himself or those around him. When asked, he may say that he has nothing to do and that he does these things to pass the time or that he enjoys them but at bottom he knows that his life has already become nothing more than an endless diversion.
What should not be forgotten is that all the pastimes of worldly life are tests created for people by Allah. The situation of people who cannot see things from this point of view is, however, quite different. For such a person, the blessings of the world become preoccupations which prevent him from the pursuit of Allah's pleasure, increase his devotion to seeking earthly satisfactions, resulting in a waste of time which jeopardizes his chances of success in the eternal Hereafter. For this reason people should behave very carefully and moderately with regard to these matters. We are told in the verses of the Qur'an about the blessings which Allah created as tests for people in the life of this world and that we should be wary of them:
Wealth and sons are the embellishment of the life of this world. But, in your Lord's sight, right actions which are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope. (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
The metaphor of the life of this world is that of water which We send down from the sky, and which then mingles with the plants of the earth to provide food for both people and animals. Then, when the earth is at its loveliest and takes on its fairest guise and its people think they have it under their control, Our command comes upon it by night or day and We reduce it to dried-out stubble, as though it had not been flourishing just the day before! In this way We make Our Signs clear for people who reflect. (Surah Yunus, 24)
Every self will taste death. You will be paid your wages in full on the Day of Rising. Anyone who is distanced from the Fire and admitted to the Garden has triumphed. The life of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion. (Surah Al 'Imran, 185)
As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have made their actions appear good to them and they wander about blindly. Such people will receive an evil punishment and will be the greatest losers in the Hereafter. (Surat an-Naml, 4-5)
The ability of people to be happy and at peace depends upon their being able to make correct decisions during their experiences throughout their lives. For this a clear mind and the power of intelligence are necessary. The intelligence which can direct people to what is "correct" can be acquired only through faith in Allah and living according to the guidance of the Qur'an. In contrast, the actions described above, which become for people a matter of passion and addiction, prevent them from perceiving the truth for what it is. As a result, people such as these who throughout their lives do not submit to the guidance of the Qur'an are incapable of making correct and logical decisions on anything which happens to them. This causes them continually to make mistakes and to live in unhappiness and trouble.
The truth is that the life people live in this world is the only chance they have of earning the approval of Allah. This opportunity they have been given may at any unexpected moment be taken from them. There is no making up for the life we live, no further chance of gaining the approval of Allah after we die. People who ignore these truths will be plunged into great sorrow on the Day of Judgment and will want to be sent back to the world again to act rightly for the purpose of winning Allah's approval. That on the Day of Judgment people want this opportunity over again is a very clear indication of the insignificance of everything in the life of this world. However, their wish will not be granted. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us of the regret and sorrow which those who see this truth only on the Day of Judgment will experience:
If only you could see the evildoers hanging their heads in shame before their Lord: "Our Lord, we have seen and we have heard, so send us back again and we will act rightly. Truly we now have certainty." (Surat as-Sajda, 12)
In these terms, life is a very valuable asset which Allah has granted to people. Such heedless people waste this valuable time on empty and meaningless occupations which will bring them no benefit on the Day of Judgment because they are passionately attached to the worldly advantages which have been given to them as a test. Without even noticing, they waste this life which will never be given back to them. Since their efforts, their desires and their deeds are not directed towards Allah's approval and the Hereafter, they simply waste their time on earth with useless distractions. Allah describes their situation in a verse of the Qur'an:
Leave them to eat and enjoy themselves. Let false hope divert them. They will soon know. (Surat al-Hijr, 3)
What will save people in the afterlife are good deeds done to earn Allah's approval. In a verse of the Qur'an, Allah warns us that these are the only actions which will be rewarded:
But as for those who believe and do right actions, We will not let the wage of good-doers go to waste. (Surat al-Kahf, 30)
Allah will make everything people do come to nothing, if they do not act with the intention of gaining His approval; in other words, these people will toil away but their efforts will be of no avail. (Surat al-Ghashiyya: 3) Those who throughout their lives aim to gain Allah's approval and do not deviate from the guidance of the Qur'an will be happy. Allah makes this promise in the Qur'an as follows:
Those who believe and do right actions, happiness will be theirs and a wonderful Homecoming. (Surat ar-Ra'd, 29)
Everything on the Face of the Earth is "Adornment"
Before explaining that everything on the face of the earth is an adornment, let us make a comparison in order for the matter to be more easily understood.
Imagine two houses. In one there is no furniture at all, doors and windows have not been fitted, the walls have not been painted and no necessary repair or maintenance whatsoever has been carried out. In the other house there are fine armchairs and carpets and other furnishings. The walls have been painted in the most beautiful colors, repair and maintenance have been carried out fully, there is a wonderful view from the balcony and the house has every kind of comfort and luxury.
People who do not have more detailed information about the two houses may find the second more attractive at first sight. The decorations inside may momentarily fool people but if they are aware that the decorations have been specially placed in this house to test people and that in reality they will harm them, they will make a more intelligent decision and will not exercise their preference in favor of this more attractive looking house. In the same way, if they know that with a little effort on their part the other house can be made more attractive to them and in time will take on a more permanent beauty, they will choose the first house.
Just as in the example of the houses, Allah has created this world with decorations which will be pleasing to people. But the truth is, this is one of Allah's tests. These decorations should not deceive people; they are all temporary and illusory. Allah explains one of His Divine purposes in the Qur'an as to why He has created this world in such a way as to be attractive to people:
We made everything on the Earth adornment for it so that We could test them to see whose actions are the best. (Surat al-Kahf, 7)
Everything existing in this world is created to test people and everything is a blessing which provides an opportunity for earning Allah's pleasure. Nobody should forget that the reason for setting before him all the things he sees and what he possesses is only one of Allah's tests. With everything he owns or will own in the future he should engage in good deeds so as to gain Allah's approval. A person's true life is in the next world and what are truly permanent are the blessings which Allah will give His sincere servants there. In another verse, Allah advises us that everything pertaining to the world is finery and that people should use their intellect to understand the truth:
Anything you have been given is only the enjoyment of the life of this world and its finery. What is with Allah is better and longer lasting. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-Qasas, 60)
People who do not have the intellect to enable them to see the truth, because they do not use their consciences, are wrapped up in the material goods they see in the world and in their beauty. Their material goods and their children are at the head of the list of things whose attractiveness deceive such people. They think that when they achieve the wealth they desire or have healthy and beautiful children they will attain great peace and joy. However, when they achieve these aims what they experience is still unhappiness and trouble. Their lives become monotonous because they are performing the same tasks every day. The vicious circle they have fallen into makes them tired of life. They believe at the outset that everything will happen in a nice and enjoyable way but after a short time they begin to notice how much the things they wanted are tiring them out and taking up all their time. The weariness, trouble and sorrow they feel manifest themselves in all their speech and behavior. Their unhappiness can be seen in every aspect of their beings. Neither does acquiring wealth make any difference. A person uses the money and goods he owns in ways he believes will bring him pleasure and enjoyment. He unwisely wastes all his money for such purposes. While he expects that all this will also bring him peace, he continually suffers disappointment and his trouble and misery increase all the time. The reason people fall into such a position is that they are attracted by the deceptions of worldly life and because of this strive only to capture these illusions. All these troubles come of their living in ignorance of the truth of which Allah informs us in this verse:
Wealth and sons are the embellishment of the life of this world. But, in your Lord's sight, right actions which are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope. (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
People like these see only the attractive, that is, the deceptive side of the blessings Allah has granted and so they deceive themselves. As a result they have difficulty in seeing the truth. Because they do not think about the eternal Hereafter they only "desire the life of this world and its finery." (Surat al-Ahzab: 28) They wander about in blindness and confusion because they are ignorant of their true purposes in life. Allah describes this in the Qur'an:
As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have made their actions appear good to them and they wander about blindly. (Surat an-Naml, 4)
All the things people want during their lives and work for with great effort and determination are really life's ornaments. At first glance everything on earth may seem very beautiful and attractive to people and the truth is that everything is a blessing for them. However, it should not be forgotten that the life of this world is a test for people. The real purpose of life is to be a servant to our Lord Who provided all of these fine things and show gratitude to Him in the most sincere way. If, on the contrary, a person forgets this truth, chases after the world's ornaments and makes them the basic purpose of his life, he will be driven to great disappointment in this world and the next.
Everything They Own Is a Matter for Boasting
Allah has created the life of this world to test people to see whose actions are the best. With His manifold wisdom, Allah grants His mercy to those of His servants He chooses and withdraws it from those He chooses. People should be aware of this truth and know that in either case they should lose none of their attachment and devotion to Allah. For example, Allah tests some people with wealth. When a person who has been poor acquires wealth by some means, this can radically change his psychology and in connection with this his behavior towards others and his ideas about them. The first thing that changes in such people is that they push themselves forward at every opportunity and try to make others around them praise them because they think that due to the wealth they have acquired, they possess a quality which most others do not have. They make the blessings which Allah has given them a matter of superiority and distinction when they compare themselves with other people. Beneath this misguided behavior lies the drive of the self to bring about its own desires. A person who does not use what he owns to earn the approval of Allah uses it solely to satisfy his own lower self. The lower self wants to be admired and praised all the time. People who do not have the aim of pleasing Allah seek only the approval of others and because of this they boast and take pride in everything they acquire or own. People such as this who do not consider the Hereafter have no other course but to use what they have as best they can in the life of this world.
Boasting does not solely arise from the material wealth people possess. A person may make his appearance, his hair, his physique, his success, in short anything which makes him different to those around him and better off, a matter for boasting. For instance, when her child earns the right to enter a much sought after faculty of a top class university, this becomes a subject for bragging by the mother. She refers to this subject in every conversation and speaks with praise of the difficulties her child suffered and the great support she herself provided. She tries to make use of her child's success and grab a share of it for herself. Of course, she may have supported the child and provided help, but her reason for telling other people about it is usually to earn praise and admiration for herself. She derives great pleasure from this. In the community of the ignorant, this behavior, which is very widespread, goes by the name of "feeling proud." In this way people try to hide the unpleasantness of what they are doing for the real purpose of attracting praise. They try to present reasonable grounds for their incorrect behavior by sheltering behind phrases such as "I feel proud" or "I'm proud of him." In fact, all this behavior is driven by the motive of putting on a show for others.
Houses are another subject of boasting widespread amongst the community of the ignorant. A person who buys a new house and furnishes it beautifully invites his friends around because he has made his house suitable for display. By showing off the house to others, he creates a situation in which he will receive praise and attract admiration.
All the above are behavioral aberrations which occur because people do not think about how and for what purpose they should use what they own. In the Qur'an, Allah cites a person called Qarun from the tribe of Prophet Musa (as) as an example of the end which will be met by people who make worldly decorations the subject of boasting about themselves. Allah tells us that he gave Qarun great wealth but that in response, he gloated:
Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him treasures, the keys alone to which were a heavy weight for a party of strong men. When his people said to him, "Do not gloat. Allah does not love people who gloat" (Surat al-Qasas, 76)
Qarun ignored the people's warnings and claimed that his wealth had been given him because of "knowledge" he has, (Surat al-Qasas: 78) and made this a subject of boasting about his superiority over his fellow people. The people coveted Qarun's wealth:
He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the life of this world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses." (Surat al-Qasas, 79)
Qarun's end provides a warning which is extremely important with regard to how the boasting of people who think like him or who desire to be like him, who are ungrateful for the blessings which Allah has given them, are treated by Allah. Allah tells us of Qarun's end in this verse:
We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not someone who is helped. (Surat al-Qasas, 81)
A group of people who saw what happened to Qarun fully realized that it is Allah Who provides sustenance and takes it away and understood what outcome is caused by behaving ungratefully towards Allah. We are told how these people reacted:
Those who had longed to take his place the day before woke up saying, "Allah expands the provision of any of His servants He wills or restricts it. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the disbelievers are not successful." (Surat al-Qasas, 82)
As we can clearly see from the story of Qarun, if people make the blessings given them by Allah a matter for boasting and an object for the admiration of others, their end will be no different from Qarun's. People who behave ungratefully towards Allah may have His blessings withdrawn from them at any moment. For example, a child a person has boasted about may start getting bad marks at school or he may suddenly lose his beautiful house to an earthquake or have all his valuable property sequestered. However, at such times people evaluate what has happened to them from different points of view. People who do not think correctly put everything that happens to them down to luck. According to the twisted logic they put forward, people suffering disasters have been affected by bad luck and have lost everything because of it. The pain they suffer and the discomfort they feel intensifies this superstitious belief. In fact, the truth is that there is no such thing as bad luck. The loss they have suffered may be Allah's warning to them that what they have done is wrong. In one verse Allah warns as follows:
Do they not see that they are tried once or twice in every year? But still they do not turn back. They do not pay heed. (Surat at-Tawba, 126)
However, because they are not aware of this truth, the troubles which befall them recur again and again. This causes them to live in a world of unhappiness. The fact that they stubbornly continue with the same behavior when they suffer loss reveals the magnitude of the desire to be praised and admired which persists within them. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that the desire to boast about what they own is so powerful as to drive them out of their senses:
Fierce competition for this world distracted you until you went down to the graves. (Surat at-Takathur, 1-2)
This boastful psychology is so strong that in order to obtain admiration and praise people may tell lies about things they claim to have done but have not really done at all. Allah has warned these people by telling them that the return for such behavior is torment:
Those who exult in what they have done and love to be praised for what they have not done should not suppose that they have escaped the punishment. They will have a painful punishment. (Surah Al 'Imran, 188)
This misbehavior affects their relationships with others around them as much as it affects themselves. In the main people are uncomfortable around those who continually sing their own praises and assert their own worth. In time this can cause a cooling of relations between a person and those around him or even cause him to become isolated. Because of this everybody should think twice about such behavior and never forget that everything they experience in this world comes from Allah. They should try to see the effects boasting has on them and on those around them and should thank Allah for the blessings He has granted and purify themselves of the kind of behavior which contradicts spirit of the Qur'an.
Everything Is Bound up in a Desire for More
It is possible for ignorant people to live a happy life, profit from their lives to the maximum and gain the greatest possible benefits. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that ignorant people "try to outdo one another in wealth and children." (Surat al-Hadid: 20) This desire for increase springs from people's ambition that their advantages should continually grow both in quantity and in quality. They hope that they will be happy to the extent that they acquire more and more beautiful possessions. For example, a person starts driving a fine car with the greatest of pleasure and satisfaction. However, within a short time his pleasure and happiness give way to concern because he sees a more showy and more luxurious car and because of this ceases to be satisfied with his own. In time his sole aim will be to possess this new car. This pattern is valid not only for cars but for everything which gives people pleasure. In the community of the ignorant, people feel the urge to possess as much as possible of what they like and derive pleasure from. They can never be satisfied with less, believing that owning the most of everything can make them happy.
In fact, as we explained in the previous section, everything in the world is merely an allurement. However, if a person believes these decorations to be real and competes to acquire them, he will depart by a great distance from the main purpose of his creation. At this point his main purpose will be solely to satisfy the desires of his lower self. Everything in the world is limited and defective so it is always possible to find something better, more beautiful or of higher quality. For this reason the desires of the lower self have no end and the person will never be happy with what he owns. Consequently, instead of making such a person happy, acting in this way will drive him into even greater unhappiness.
This unhappiness prevents ignorant people from being grateful to Allah because they behave ungratefully for the blessings given by Allah due to their ambition and passion. To them it is not important who gave them these blessings or for what purpose; they do not even consider this. What is important is to acquire everything they like as quickly as possible and continually to increase the number of their possessions. The situation of these people resembles a bucket with a hole in it which can never be filled. When water is poured in it escapes through the hole in the bottom. So long as the hole is not plugged, it is impossible to fill the bucket. So long as people are not grateful for what they own and do not know how to be satisfied with it, no matter what blessings are given them, there will be no change in their state. Even if they own the best of everything they will not notice the beauty of what they possess and will not appreciate it because they are still greedy for more. Allah points out the state of such people in the Qur'an:
Leave the person I created on his own to Me alone, him to whom I have given great wealth, and sons who stay with him, and whose way I have smoothed. Then he wants Me to add yet more! (Surat al-Muddaththir, 11-15)
As we are told in another verse: He has given you everything you have asked Him for. If you tried to number Allah's blessings, you could never count them. Man is indeed wrongdoing, ungrateful. (Surah Ibrahim: 34) Allah has given people everything, but the feeling of ingratitude within people prevents them from thanking Allah as they should. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that He will only increase the blessings of His grateful followers and will repay the ungrateful with torment:
[Musa said to his people,] "And when your Lord announced: 'If you are grateful, I will certainly give you increase, but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe.'" (Surah Ibrahim, 7)
The desire of many people to possess the blessings of the world does great harm both to themselves and to the societies in which they live. Since they cannot satisfy their constant desire for newer and better, the trouble and sorrow felt by such people is very deep. Due to their attachment to this world, these people develop, "an insatiable love of wealth." (Surat al-Fajr: 20) When they are asked for material help or asked to share what they possess people like this display very selfish and cruel behavior due to their excessive attachment to their possessions, as Allah points out in this verse: "Truly he is fierce in his love of wealth." (Surat al-Adiyat: 8) Mostly they give something unimportant just for show while clinging on tightly to the rest of what they own. In connection with this, the rich in a community get richer and the poor get poorer. This constitutes a great obstacle to the achievement of peace and justice in society.
This passion inside people for increasing their possessions leads to miserliness, a behavioral aberration whose wrongness is described by Allah in a number of verses of the Qur'an. People such as these resort to miserliness because they have made the accumulation of property their principal aim in life. In spite of this unpleasant and selfish behavior they still regard everything they accumulate as a blessing for them. The truth is that in the life of this world Allah makes some people rich as a test so that by believing that their wealth is a gain, people who do not use it for good fall into a major error because on the Day of Judgment it will return to them as fire. Allah tells us of this truth in the Qur'an:
Those who are tight-fisted with the bounty Allah has given them should not suppose that that is better for them. No indeed, it is worse for them! What they were tight-fisted with will be hung around their necks on the Day of Rising. Allah is the inheritor of the Heavens and the earth and Allah is aware of what you do. (Surah Al 'Imran, 180)
As we are told by Allah in the verse, "those who are tight-fisted and direct others [to it]…" (Surat an-Nisa': 37), one characteristic of such people is that they encourage others to engage in the same unpleasant behavior. In addition to this, they hide what they own from those around them so that others will want nothing from them. Because their real desire is continually to increase their possessions and accumulate more, they do not want others to make use of them.
Their failure to understand the true nature of worldly life forces them into deviant misbehavior and constant preoccupation with their own advantage. They have convinced themselves that if they act according to this logic they will come out in profit. However, they gain nothing but trouble and anxiety. Despite this, they insist on such behavior with great determination and ambition. Because they are deceived by the life of this world, they expect to be happy and at peace with what they engage in, but what they obtain is just a life of unhappiness and trouble. In order for people to understand the real nature of this life, Allah has compared what people acquire in the life of this world to falling rain and has warned people as follows:
Know that the life of this world is merely a game and a diversion and ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children: like the plant-growth after rain which delights the cultivators, but then it withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the Hereafter there is terrible punishment but also forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid, 20)
They Have Adopted Gods other than Allah
One of the most significant reasons for people's unhappiness is their ascribing partners to Allah. Some people are not fully aware of the meaning attached to ascribing partners to Allah in the Qur'anic sense. Ascribing partners to Allah means regarding other objects and creatures as having the same godlike qualities as Allah, giving them the respect which should be given to Allah and showing towards them the same behavior which should be shown to Allah. This is great disrespect and ingratitude to Allah, Who is the sole deity. Likewise, it is a big mistake to think that the slandering of Allah and disrespect towards Him will go unanswered. Ascribing partners to Allah is the greatest heedlessness and error a person can commit. In the Qur'an, Allah describes it as "a terrible wrong" which will never be forgiven. For this reason, it is a form of behavior which should be very carefully and strenuously avoided:
Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that. Anyone who associates something with Allah has gone very far astray. (Surat an-Nisa', 116)
One of the returns people who ascribe partners to Allah receive for this behavior in this life is unhappiness. Then, how does ascribing partners to Allah make one unhappy, or what happens if one directs the emotions and thoughts which should be directed towards Allah towards other beings instead?
The answer is clear. In such a situation thousands of false gods intervene in a person's life. For instance, if a person is fearful of another, he has attributed to that other a power and a will independent of Allah. Since under such circumstances he believes that the other person can harm him, he obeys him and in turn tries to gain his approval and goodwill. As can be seen, feeling such emotions towards another individual instead of towards Allah means attributing creative powers to that other individual. This in turn means that the person is making a god equivalent to Allah out of somebody no different from himself. The fact is, however, it is Allah alone Who deserves fear and obedience. In a verse of the Qur'an, our Lord advises us as follows:
Is Allah not enough for His servant? Yet they try to scare you with others apart from Him. If Allah misguides someone, he has no guide. (Surat az-Zumar, 36)
So, a person should conform only to the instructions and prohibitions of our Lord and should try to earn His approval. Otherwise he will experience great discomfort and difficulty. The fear of Allah is a "benevolent" fear which brings a person closer to Allah, brings with it love of Allah and encourages the person to try harder to gain His approval. The fear produced by ascribing partners to Allah is a "malevolent" fear which discomforts a person and can send him to Hell. In the Qur'an, Allah states that He will spread fear in the hearts of these people who without authority from Him have associated others with Him:
We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve because they have associated others with Allah for which He has not sent down any authority. Their shelter will be the Fire. How evil is the abode of the wrongdoers! (Surah Al 'Imran, 151)
Another emotion which is wrongly directed in communities of the ignorant is love. Love is a splendid emotion which Allah has placed in people's hearts but if this emotion is not directed correctly it becomes nothing but a source of worry and pain. So much so that, because some people place their ambition for their own benefits above all moral values, they also make love a vehicle for their own advantage. They reach a point where they cannot love if their love is not requited. In such an atmosphere people love one another for the advantages they can obtain but because of this they suffer continual harm. So long as love is shown in an ignorant manner in the wrong places and to the wrong people, those who show it cannot be protected against disappointment. The One Who deserves love and is to be loved is Allah, Who possesses infinite might. It is Allah Who created people from nothing, Who gives them everything, Who feeds, clothes and protects them and gives them a variety of beautiful things. Real love is that which reflects Allah and His manifestations, the love of those who adhere to the path to which they have been summoned by Him.
However, for a person who ascribes partners to Allah, this is impossible. The unconsciousness in which he remains becomes a source of blind love for beings which do not deserve to be loved. The Qur'an tells us about this aspect of disbelievers as follows:
Some people set up equals to Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe have greater love for Allah. If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, and that truly all strength belongs to Allah, and that Allah is severe in punishment. (Surat al-Baqara, 165)
Another way of ascribing partners to Allah is a person's self love, his belief that he is the strongest, the most intelligent and the most handsome. Such a person claims that his own ideas are right and follows them. In short, he sees himself in a giant mirror. The deity of a person like this is his own self. He adopts himself as his own god. Allah informs us about the condition of such people in the following verse of the Qur'an:
Have you seen him who has taken his whims and desires to be his god? Will you then be his guardian? (Surat al-Furqan, 43)
Because people who ascribe partners to Allah adopt other people and beings as their gods they naturally shape their lives according to the wishes of these others because they believe that in this way they will be happy and at peace. In addition, it is very important for them to gain the admiration, approval and goodwill of these false gods. Since their happiness is bound up with the goodwill of these false gods they set aside a different part of themselves for each of them. They develop a different personality for each of them because they have adopted more than one false god. Just as this causes intolerable difficulties for a person, it also makes him do things he does not want to do. A person who, by contrast, accepts Allah as his only God conforms only to His Word and tries to gain only His approval and love. In the Qur'an, Allah gives a very wise example of the difference between these two types of person:
Allah has made a metaphor for them of a man owned by several partners in dispute with one another and another man wholly owned by a single man. Are they the same? Praise be to Allah! The fact is that most of them do not know. (Surat az-Zumar, 29)
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?" (Surah Maryam, 42)
As Allah tells us in the verse, a person who accepts other gods is compelled to live in psychological turmoil and will be unable to obtain the best result for anything he does or receive the attention and approval he expects. The reason for this is the desire of people to seek their own advantage and put themselves in first place in their relations with one another. People from whom a person expects help, whose every instruction he follows and whose goodwill he tries to obtain do not or cannot give him anything he wants because of their own interests and advantages. They may even change to the extent that when he visits them they become his enemies and want to do him harm. This is another factor which intensifies the trouble and lack of tranquility a person may feel. In order to protect ourselves against setting up false gods we need to think deeply about this behavior and direct ourselves towards Allah's approval in the knowledge that there is no power other than His.
Nothing and nobody a person adopts as a false god has any power, beauty, ability or intelligence; it is Allah alone Who possesses all these qualities. Because of this, when the person is in trouble and when he wants help, Allah is the only One Who can help him. When he says, "I am thinking," Allah is the One Who inspires his thoughts. When he acts in any way, it is Allah Who really makes him perform the action. When he eats a tasty meal, it is Allah Who creates the food and the flavor. Again it is Allah Who ensures that the meal is prepared for him. When he falls sick, it is not really the germ which makes him ill but Allah. It is Allah, not the doctor, Who cures him and makes him well. When he sets fire to a piece of paper with a lighter, it is not the flame of the lighter which burns the paper but Allah. When one wears beautiful clothing, it is Allah Who makes one seem beautiful. It is possible to multiply these examples a hundredfold. There is a point here which must not be misunderstood. Of course, when a person is ill he goes to the doctor, but he should understand very clearly that it is not the doctor who makes him well. It may be a person's mother who prepares a meal, but it is Allah Who causes the meal to be cooked and prepares the reasons for the person to be fed. There is a cause and effect relationship between events. However, Allah has created one by one the effects and the causes which give rise to the effect. People need to ponder over this fact and grasp it. Nobody has the power, ability or intelligence to do anything independently of Allah. Since Allah is the owner of everything, He is also the only One Who does everything and causes everything to be done. In a large number of verses, Allah warns us that in reality creatures set up as false gods have no power at all:
Do they make things into partner-gods which cannot create anything and are themselves created, which are not capable of helping them and cannot even help themselves?(Surat al-A'raf, 191-193)
Those you call on besides Allah are servants just like yourselves. Call on them and let them respond to you if you are telling the truth. Do they have legs they can walk with? Do they have hands they can grasp with? Do they have eyes they can see with? Do they have ears they can hear with? Say: "Call on your partner-gods and try all your wiles against me and grant me no reprieve." (Surat al-A'raf, 194-195)
In another verse, Allah tells us that on the Day of Judgment these people will admit the truth with their own voices:
Then they will be asked, "Where are those besides Allah you associated with Him?" and they will reply, "They have forsaken us. Or rather we were not calling to anything at all before." That is how Allah misguides the disbelievers. (Surah Ghafir, 73-74)
This is the greatest proof of the magnitude of the heedlessness and deception of a person who expects help from beings which have no power at all and gears his whole life to them by making an effort to meet their wishes and gain their approval and who is in reality setting up false gods. In that case, what are these people following and according to what do they behave? Allah gives us the answer to that question in the Qur'an:
Yes, indeed! Everyone in the Heavens and everyone on the earth belongs to Allah. Those who call on something other than Allah are not really following their partner-gods. They are only following conjecture. They are only guessing. (Surah Yunus, 66)
As we can see, such people conform not to reality but to their own guesses and estimations and act according to these. What brings forth all these false gods is their own conjecture and imagination. Not only do these conjectures and estimations produce nothing right, they further increase the losses of those who make them and, as Allah tells us in the verse, "It has been revealed to you and those before you: 'If you associate others with Allah, your actions will come to nothing and you will be among the losers.'"(Surat az-Zumar: 65), everything such people do and every effort they make is wasted. Our Prophet (saws) also informs us that their hopes of getting help from anyone and anything other than Allah will do them no good at all:
"… When you ask for anything ask it from Allah, and if you seek help, seek help in Allah. Know that if the people were to unite to do you some benefit they could benefit you only with what Allah had recorded for you, and that if they were to unite to do you some injury they could injure you only with what Allah had recorded for you..." (Tirmidhi Hadith)
But some people like this do not know what a great danger lies in setting up false gods and what a great deception it is. A person who throughout his life ascribes partners to Allah will realize on the Day of Judgment that the people or objects which he made his deities have abandoned him, and he will understand that they were nothing but a deception, possessing no power at all. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us of the regret and psychological collapse which these people will suffer in the Hereafter:
When those who were followed disown those who followed them, and they see the punishment, and the connection between them is cut, those who followed will say, "If only we could have another chance, we would disown them just as they have disowned us." In that way Allah will show them their actions as a cause of anguish and remorse for them. They will never emerge from the Fire. (Surat al-Baqara, 166-167)
People who ascribe partners to Allah as their guardians have no real hope of happiness throughout their lives. Because they do not make Allah their guardian and friend they cannot experience tranquility and happiness in the real sense during their lifetimes. In return for their ungratefulness, Allah gives them unhappiness. This is an unchanging truth. The reason for a person's falling into such a state is himself alone. A person should seek the reason for his unhappiness in himself and should reflect upon it. Allah points out in a verse of the Qur'an that people are unhappy because of what they have done with their own hands:
Allah does not wrong people in any way; rather it is people who wrong themselves. (Surah Yunus, 44)
In order to be free from ascribing partners to Allah, people should turn towards Allah from the heart, listen to their conscience and praise Allah's power and omnipotence. The Prophet Ibrahim (as) was an example for all of humanity in obeying his conscience, turning towards Allah and understanding the power and omnipotence of Allah. In the Qur'an, Prophet Ibrahim's (as) behavior is described as follows:
Because of that We showed Ibrahim the dominions of the Heavens and the earth so that he might be one of the people of certainty. When night covered him he saw a star and said, "This is my Lord!" Then when it set he said, "I do not love what sets." Then when he saw the moon come up he said, "This is my Lord!" Then when it set he said, "If my Lord does not guide me, I will be one of the misguided people." Then when he saw the sun come up he said, "This is my Lord! This is greater!" Then when it set he said, "My people, I am free of what you associate with Allah!" "I have turned my face to Him Who brought the Heavens and earth into being, a pure natural believer. I am not one of the idolaters." (Surat al-An'am, 75-79)
If a person works throughout his life to earn Allah's good pleasure, carries out his responsibilities with sincerity, and asks anything from Him, he will see clearly that Allah always helps him and protects him against troubles of every sort. In the Qur'an Allah gives this good news to believers:
Say: "Allah rescues you from it, and from every plight. Then you associate others with Him." (Surat al-An'am, 64)
...Allah will certainly help those who help Him—Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj, 40)
Allah will certainly help those who help Him—Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj: 40) If Allah helps you, no one can vanquish you. If He forsakes you, who can help you after that? So the believers should put their trust in Allah. (Surah Al 'Imran, 160)
They Misunderstand the Concept of Fate
If you ask people nowadays what fate is, you will receive the correct answer from very few of them. This shows that people do not fully know what fate means. The fact that they do not learn the meaning of fate from the Qur'an, which guides to the truth in every matter, causes them to lose out on the comfort and peace which a proper understanding of fate can bring them.
Fate is Allah's knowledge down to the minutest detail and His control of what every living being He has created has done in the past and will do in the future; their every action, thought and word. Everything people see and experience in their lives has been planned by Allah before they are even born. We are told that Allah created everything in accordance with its fate in the verse, "We have created all things according to a fixed decree." (Surat al-Qamar: 49) Because throughout his life a person is confronted with the events which Allah wishes and desires for him, he lives his life entirely as Allah wishes. Allah reminds us of this in the Qur'an:
Everything they did is in the Books. Everything is recorded, big or small. (Surat al-Qamar, 52-53)
As Allah informs us in this verse, all people live their lives under His control and His command. In another verse, Allah uses these words to tell us that all people live according to the fate which He has determined for them:
You did not kill them; it was Allah Who killed them; and you did not throw, when you threw; it was Allah Who threw: so He might test the believers with this excellent trial from Him. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Anfal, 17)
So it is impossible for a person to do what he wants, change or escape from his fate. People's fates, which include everything they encounter and their every reaction to these things, are ordained by Allah. Allah informs us of this fact in the verse, "... Allah's command is a pre-ordained decree." (Surat al-Ahzab: 38) Because of this everybody is inescapably bound to their fate. All living beings, including mankind, live their lives according to the fate predetermined by Allah.
What we have explained plays a very important role in people's ability to be happy and in their achieving a balanced spiritual state in which they can behave comfortably and easily under all circumstances. In order to see more clearly the comfort and ease which submission to fate gives a person, let us compare the reactions to an important event of a person who believes in fate and submits to it and one who does not believe in it. Let us say that the important event is the university entrance examination, considered a turning point in the life of every young person. Let us assume that the two people referred to enter this examination. Because these two people differ greatly in their view of fate their psychological approach to the examination and its effect on them will also be very different. The person who submits to the fate created for him by Allah will not suffer the stress and tension an examination can cause because he knows that the mistakes he makes during it and their outcome are known in the sight of Allah before he enters the examination and have been created for him by Allah as a blessing because the examination has already taken place and ended within his fate. This person will simply wait to see the outcome of taking that examination. He is aware that there is no power other than Allah which can intervene in the result. The knowledge that his result has been created by Allah for his benefit, whether it is a pass or a failure, prevents him from succumbing to examination worries and stress. Because of his devotion and submission to Allah, he accepts any result, good or bad, because the result is what Allah wishes.
Because such a person does not become nervous or stressed, he avoids the damage and loss which this might cause him. A nervous, stressed person cannot be at ease, cannot collect his wits, cannot use what he knows and can easily make mistakes. It is obvious that being in such a mental state during an important examination will have a negative impact on a person's examination performance. Because of trust in fate, a person escapes from this negative burden which examination psychology imposes and increases his chance of success in the examination.
When we look at the other person, we see something very different. Because this person does not submit to fate and trust in it, he thinks everything he does is under his own control and has developed according to his own plan. The burden imposed by such thinking in an important examination is extremely heavy, and so the person is unable to escape from this pressure and is highly nervous and stressed. According to his belief, whether he passes the examination or not is entirely in his own hands. Since he spent months of his time working to pass the examination, the fear that if he fails all this effort will have been in vain is another source of worry for him. Having no belief in fate may cause stress and tension to have a negative effect on him. He may not be able to gather his thoughts and therefore fail to answer questions he understands very well or even if he can, he may accidentally select the wrong answer on the answer paper. He may fail an examination which has vital importance to him simply because of stress and tension. So long as a person who falls into this situation does not see events with the eyes of faith it is almost impossible for him not to be depressed and filled with apprehension. Indeed, such a person may even succumb to a serious clinical depression. Because he thinks that the reason everything happens is down to him, his worry and torment increase still further. Because he is not devoted to Allah, he is deprived of the comfort and security which Allah can give his heart. For this reason, as Allah tells us in the following verse, people who do not submit to His decree in the full sense can never experience a balanced and tranquil spiritual state:
That is so that you will not be grieved about the things that pass you by or exult about the things that come to you. Allah does not love any vain or boastful man. (Surat al-Hadid, 23)
Another error which people make is worry about failing to understand what is good and bad for themselves and suffering as a result. Since a person's intelligence and judgment are limited, so long as he does not depend on Allah's guidance he cannot fully understand what is good and what is bad for him. He may make the mistake of regarding an occurrence which appears negative as actually being negative. This is a mistake because Allah tests people with both good and evil. Allah tells believers this secret in the verse, "... We test you with both good and evil as a trial. And you will be returned to Us." (Surat al-Anbiya: 35) For a person who believes in this truth and acts in accordance with Allah's will, every event he meets with is an opportunity for a happy ending. In another verse, Allah points out to us that He has created every event with a great deal of wisdom whether people can see this or not:
...It may be that you hate something when it is good for you and it may be that you love something when it is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know. (Surat al-Baqara, 216)
As we see in this verse, everything, whether a person likes it or not or enjoys it or not, conceals at bottom a benefit for them because whatever happens to people it has been planned by Allah Who knows everything. Of course, our Lord Who created humanity knows what is good and bad for people. Thinking contrary to this means failure to accept Allah's decree and causes people nothing but loss and unhappiness. Because of this what a person needs to do is direct himself always towards good and submit to the fate Allah has determined for him.
People who are incapable of grasping the fact that everything that happens to them is a test and that Allah has created everything for their benefit will suffer a great loss. Since these people do not evaluate events in accordance with Qur'anic criteria, they approach everything they encounter from a negative point of view and so have a hopeless and pessimistic mindset. The only way to protect oneself from this is to surrender to fate in the full sense and try to find the divine wisdom in every event. This is a way to happiness which ignorant people cannot possibly know.
When people who do not submit to Allah and fate are confronted with undesirable events they take on an irritable state of mind. This increases their distress and discomfort even further. It is troubling to such people to come across events whose source they do not know and whose cause they do not understand. This trouble represents the consequences in this world for those who resist Allah. It is clear therefore, that the torment of those who resist Allah and avoid serving Him has its beginnings here on Earth. Allah points to this reality in the Qur'an:
We will give them a taste of lesser punishment before the greater punishment, so that hopefully they will turn back. (Surat as-Sajda, 21)
The only things people who do not submit to fate as they should will meet in this world are unhappiness and problems. The comfort, tranquility and security a person feels are in direct proportion to the strength of his faith and trust in fate and his submission to Allah. By this means he will both achieve a balanced spiritual state and be able to see more clearly the good and divine purpose in the events he encounters.
They Have Adopted Insincerity as a Principle
To put it briefly, sincerity can be defined as behaving in a determined way according to what a person believes and feels. A person who is sincere in the true sense behaves comfortably and naturally in all surroundings because he feels no need to prove himself to others or make them accept him. For a person who lives like this, sincerity becomes a source of comfort and tranquility.
However, nowadays many people feel a lack of sincerity in their relations with others around them. Many people who live immoral and ignorant lives make a habit of lying, hypocrisy and cheating and base themselves wholly on these "principles." Everybody behaves insincerely towards everybody else because everybody is out for what they can get. No doubt, this is not a one-sided situation, it is mutual. One party uses the other and tries as far as possible to take advantage of them. In such an environment no concept of trust remains because there is no telling what anyone will do, how they will behave or what they are thinking. In fact, this insincerity is the reason for people's unhappiness in their relationships with one another, their depressions and the short duration of their love and devotion towards one another. Allah warns us that people who depart from the ways of belief will be unhappy in the verse, "Let them laugh little and weep much, in repayment for what they have earned." (Surat at-Tawba: 82)
Insincerity causes the development of other unpleasant forms of behavior in these people. One of these is behaving with ingratitude for help given them and kindnesses received. Because they live lives far removed from the guidance of the Qur'an, they invariably develop a character trait whereby they easily forget help and kindnesses but never forget the bad that is done to them. Upon the slightest difference or misunderstanding they immediately go for one another's weak spots and begin criticizing each other as much as possible. They do not see, or do not want to see, one another's good sides. In short, they cannot take as much notice as they should of the kindnesses, the help and the good turns which are done to them.
People who demonstrate such a confrontational attitude also approach Allah and religion insincerely. The faith of these people in Allah is extremely weak and they tend to forget Him at the slightest hint of trouble or difficulty. In the verse of the Qur'an below, Allah warns us that people whose worship is held by the thinnest of strands will suffer great loss in this world and the Hereafter:
Among the people there is one who worships Allah right on the edge. If good befalls him, he is content with it, but if a trial befalls him, he reverts to his former ways, losing both this world and the Hereafter. That is indeed sheer loss. (Surat al-Hajj, 11)
Another verse in which Allah draws our attention to these people's insincerity in their faith is as follows:
When harm touches man, he calls on Us, lying on his side or sitting down or standing up. Then when We remove the harm from him he carries on as if he had never called on Us when the harm first touched him. In that way We make what they have done appear good to the profligate. (Surah Yunus, 12)
Another indication of the insincerity of these people is that they put forward a number of reasons and excuses for making their doing just exactly what they want to do seem reasonable. When they are reminded of their responsibility to Allah, they have countless excuses for evading this responsibility and wasting their lives according to their own greedy desires. In every situation they invent false reasons for their failure to worship and their failure to adhere to Allah's instructions. These excuses differ according to people's desires and their plans for the future. Some say they have work which needs doing, some that they have no time and some that they will catch up with their worship when they get older.
Someone who knows that Allah surrounds everything, including himself, that He sees and hears everything and witnesses what is going through his mind when he makes an excuse never indulges in such behavior. He is aware of what torment awaits him if he acts in this way and that deception will bring him no advantage in this world or the next.
It is Allah's promise that people who are sincere towards Him and comply with His instructions and prohibitions to the letter will be brought together as his faithful servants and will live together in the finest possible way in the comfort, beauty and tranquility which their sincerity merits. This as a reward and a very special blessing for Allah's sincere followers in this world and the next. What a person needs to do is to show gratitude to Allah for the beautiful surroundings in which he finds himself.