The Character Of Members Of The Societies Of Ignorance
The lives led by members of the societies of ignorance which are far removed from the Qur’an cause them all to be in difficulty and error throughout all stages of their lives. The greatest of these difficulties, however, is suffered within themselves. Because of their corrupted understanding, the character they develop causes them discontent and anxiety.
During their childhood, these ignorant persons chose others to model themselves after. And, as they grew up, they try to be like them. The role-models they choose may be a parent, a sister or brother, a close friend, a neighbor or someone they have seen on television. The identity they want to emulate may lead a very different life and under different circumstances; the quality of the environment the role-model lives and his level of cultivation may also be different. While some may believe that the best life is attained by being rebellious and irresponsible, others, influenced by trends of his environment, may believe that the best attitude is to be aloof and arrogant.
Though, when they finally meet their role model, they realize that their personality is not as they had originally considered. From then on, they spend their lives in search of another way of life to satisfy their expectations — but, without any results. As they become older, and their circumstances and their environment change, so do the personalities they wish to emulate also change. They are influenced by every fashion and novelty; they hope to find the fulfillment they are seeking by imitating these people, trying them one after the other. This search for identity lasts throughout their lives, but they can never find the attitude and contentment that they were created for. That is because, everything they try is always merely a product of their ignorance.
After a certain time, some will settle into a particular identity. But, this is not because they have found their ideal role-model and attained happiness. On the contrary, they realize that their problem cannot be solved within the web of ignorance in which they live, and accept defeat.
In the coming pages, we will present the features of the types of character that pervade the societies of ignorance; we will try to define them, and show the difficulties they suffer. By investigating this important condition, we will come to recognize the tremendous difference that exists between the character of a believer and that of one mired in ignorance. Therefore, however ardently they may try to find a way out, those who live in ignorance are already lost. Their only salvation is, we repeat, to live the moral life of a believer.
But, before we continue, we must recall an important point: The types of character we will describe here represent the members of the societies of ignorance in general. Of course, there will be some exceptions that, for some reason, do not conform to the norm. Such individuals, under particular conditions, may not display any of the qualities predicated by these conditions. Therefore, we cannot say that all individuals in a society of ignorance acquire the character we will describe. We are not referring to these individuals, but only those who reflect the endemic corruption that plagues the societies of ignorance.
The Character of the Female in the Societies of Ignorance
In a society of ignorance, there is a silent, unnamed power that directs all the people. From the moment he is born, a member of such societies submits himself to this power, and orders his entire life according to its edicts. This power dominates this member of the society of ignorance, to such an extent that he does not depart from its laws, even though they go against his own desires and expectations; and, come what may, he remains loyal to it.
What is this power, then, to which the ignorant are so attached, and which commands them so absolutely?
As we have said, it does not have a name; it is the totality of the false laws that the ignorant refer to as “tradition.” It is not known who formulated these laws and determined whether or not they were valid. No one, however, would dare to question or alter them. Anyone who attempts to question these traditions is despised, and attempts are made to prevent any who are thought to be violating these laws or disrupting the established order.
Members of this society are firmly devoted to the rules they have adopted; if one wanted to tell them that these rules may be wrong, they would reply that they came down to them from previous generations and, therefore, cannot be abandoned. They do not dare to examine what they do, or why they do it, because their forebears did the same. In the Qur’an Allah describes this distorted point of view characteristic of a society of ignorance:
When they are told, “Follow what Allah has sent down to you,” They say, “We are following what we found our fathers doing.” What, even though their fathers did not understand a thing and were not guided! (Surat al-Baqara, 170)
The character and way of life required of a member of a society of ignorance has been predetermined according to the false and formalistic nature of tradition. Take, for example, a child: No matter how mature he may be, he must act like a child. There are specific expectations as to his behavior, mode of conversation, and other every day matters. Any type of behavior that does not conform to these expectations is regarded as strange.
So, in the same way, the “female character” is defined by the characteristics regarded as acceptable for women in the society. The society of ignorance has accepted a mode of behavior for women, and they are not permitted to venture beyond these parameters, and must develop their own personalities within it. However, the kind of behavior prescribed for women by an ignorant society is rife with corruptions.
Surely, the worst form of corruption is the belief that, because women are physically weaker than men, they must also be weak of character. Girls are brought up from a very early age with this idea instilled in their minds. Women in a society of ignorance accept, without question, this notion imposed on them and, as a result, develop a feeble sense of identity. They believe that they cannot match the power and endurance of a man. Great majority of women never think of themselves as one who can protect and care for others; since their childhood, they have always been the ones who were protected and looked after. They think it normal for themselves to be emotional, to cry and become angry as they are “weak“ in character. This character type has been accepted as extremely natural in the societies of ignorance. Some women have accepted this model, without considering its validity, and the detriment it causes them, and, thereby, do not recognize the need to reform themselves.
Compared to this convoluted understanding of the society of ignorance, the way revealed by the Qur’an is simpler and far more straightforward. A Muslim does not make any distinction between the character of a man and that of a woman. Therefore, a woman is first of all a Muslim, and then a woman. Her identity is not determined by her sex, but according to the morality proclaimed in the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, Allah describes only a one type of character. Man or woman, all are held responsible for aspiring to this character. Accordingly, a female believer, who is aware of this, develops fortitude, balance and superior character.
When the character of a Muslim woman and that of a woman which has developed under the sway of ignorance are compared, the superiority of the character molded in the light of the morality described in the Qur’an becomes apparent.
Indeed, the Qur’an is the unique source that all people, regardless of their gender, should refer to, as our Prophet (saas) also indicated in his following tradition:
“The Qur’an is a strong rope of Allah, meaning that it is a reliable means of linking with Allah and a firm charter of guidance. It is the straight path. The Qur’an is the clear truth that keep thoughts from straying.” (Tirmidhi)
The Housewife in an Ignorant Society
Among the most prominent types of identities inherited by the society of ignorance from their ancestors is that of the housewife. This identity is known by almost all the members of the society, and, no matter what the culture, it is found among the majority of women throughout the world.
This identity is cultivated in almost every girl, from her childhood on, with the expectation that she will one day certainly have to conform to that model. It is usually their mothers, the person usually closest to them, who provides them with that example. They observe their mothers and other women in the community, and little by little, they begin to adopt the identity in their own minds. The role-model is that of a woman who marries well, who is a good housekeeper, and gives birth to healthy children; she receives visits from relatives and friends, and meets with other women to have tea; she brings up her children, does the shopping, cleans the house, and other similar domestic duties.
Surely it is a beauty and blessing for someone to make a good marriage and have a good family life. Believers also desire to have such a blessing. However what is flawed here is the desire to possess them with a worldly greed, without adopting the morality and attitude proclaimed by Allah.
These young girls know nothing about the world, and believe this occupation to be the ideal for a woman. And, in the future, without questioning, that is the life they will choose.
Certainly, it is not a blameworthy thing for a person to be interested in their home. But it is erroneous to confine one’s entire world only within four walls, and to forget her real purpose of life which is revealed in the Qur’an. Indeed, these people limit their thoughts to the location in which they reside and start to live in this small world. They have small targets, small aims, small expectations and small calculations. They possess a kind of character far removed from that of believers described in the Qur’an who fulfill their duties as servants to Allah in the best form possible, aim to display best of the attitudes and conduct hoping to earn Allah’s good pleasure, constantly turn to Allah and remember the abode of the Hereafter.
In the society of ignorance, however, the most important issues occupying the mind of a typical housewife are herself, her family, kids and future plans. In a middle-income family these plans include owning a flat and thus ceasing to be a tenant, covering monthly electricity and water bills or kids’ school payments, being able to possess a car one day or renewing furniture. The goals of a housewife with better living conditions are no better than the ones cited above. Her plans are likewise made upon her home, family and kids. What makes her life meaningful is to be able to boast about the beauty of her house, the quality of education her kids get or the new car her husband has purchased.
It deserves mention here to say that all the deeds cited above are surely requisite, but the error of ignorant women here is not setting ideals for themselves beyond these few ordinary pleasures. If their lives were established on higher spiritual ideals, even if they lived in the same conditions, they would not be content to be confined to such an identity. The best example of this can be the pious woman.
A person who believes in Allah, whether man or a woman, has high ideals and broad horizons. A woman with a believer’s character takes responsibility, not only for her house, family and relatives, but for the whole world. When necessary, she may live within four walls doing her housework, and organize meetings with her friends, but her thoughts, goals and responsibilities are never limited to that. She would never let herself be an insignificant person concerning herself with minor issues. From where she is, she seeks solutions to the world’s problems, develops ideas, and bridges impasses.
An ignorant housewife, who conforms to the model determined for her by society, never desiring to venture beyond it, leads her life within the parameters drawn for her. One of the main reasons being that she assumes there is only one place for her to be in this world, and neglects to consider the fact that the day is coming when she will be called to account before Allah. Indeed, one who does not think about what happens beyond death spends his life struggling to maximize the benefits that it has to offer. Our Prophet (saas) has indicated the importance of thinking about death:
“Speak a lot about death. Because this removes a man from the world. And makes him free of sin.” (Ahmad Diya’al-Din al-Kamushkhanawi, Ramuz al-Ahadith, Vol 1, 80/16)
One who fails to keep himself occupied with the remembrance of death strives only to live without overstepping the limits set by those around him. They seek not the favor of Allah, but the approval of others. The result is a backward and ignorant way of life. The basic principles on which this way of life is founded are clear.
Why Do They Yearn to Be Housewives?
When the word “housewife” is mentioned, everyone immediately brings a specific picture to mind. They think of a person who wakes up early in the morning and sends her husband and children off, cleans and tidies up the house, does the laundry, thinks about what to have for supper, and spends most of her day in the kitchen preparing meals… This is the stereotypical image of a woman.
Surely there is no harm for a woman to engage in these actions. Many devout women may also do these works as a part of their daily routines. However what distinguishes a faithful woman engaging in these deeds from the one abiding by the morality of ignorance is her morality, thoughts and intentions. For a devout woman preparing food for her family or cleaning her house, is a way to earn Allah’s good pleasure and His mercy. Her thoughts, the way she interprets incidents is, in no way, confined to a realm comprised of this routine alone.
Indeed, for many, such daily work expected from a housewife is considered boring and tiresome. But, in spite of this, a great many ignorant women aspire to one day living such a life.
So, what renders this lifestyle which will bring no benefits in the Hereafter so attractive for some people? Do people yearn for it only because it is tradition? Or, is it because, according to them, they make life more fulfilling?
All the above reasons may be true. However they are not the only reasons. These reasons depend on the person and their circumstances. But, generally speaking, most of these women can be categorized according to several traits they share in common.
One of the most important reasons they aspire to be housewives is that most young girls believe that they will be freer when they are married. After having lived for years under their family’s control, and according to the rules imposed upon them, they think that marriage is the easiest and the shortest way for change. For this reason, they often marry the first suitable man that comes along. Nevertheless, while ignorant women want to marry, they are also aware of the difficulties that come with marriage. But they are willing to ignore these difficulties with the hope that they will be able to live by their own rules.
In marriage, women enter into a situation where they are often burdened with more material and personal responsibilities than they had to deal with before. Besides, they cannot be always free to live according to their own rules, because, based on the norms that govern ignorant societies, the master of the house is the man, and he commands the woman according to his rules and beliefs. So, nothing changes; the husband takes on the role her family once did.
There is another important reason for some women’s desire to become housewives: the assumed material means that marriage provide. Especially for some girls from families with scarce means, marriage is considered the primary opportunity to improve their circumstances. For this reason, young women are often advised by their families to marry accordingly. And so, often the only criterion a young girl considers in marriage is wealth. Rather than marrying one she admires for his standards of morality and character, she chooses a man who will offer her a prosperous future, or a better life than she had known with her family. In return, she is prepared, if necessary, to get up early every morning for the rest of her life, cook meals, do the laundry and housekeep.
We can see that it is because of that which they expect to gain from being a housewife that so many ignorant women choose this lot. Women with such mentality think they can escape family pressures, raise their standard of living, and secure their future; in addition, they believe they will also help their families and relatives to benefit from their improved circumstances. At first, being a housewife may appear attractive, because of the many benefits it would appear to offer, but later in life it becomes monotonous, until they are finally filled with regret.
The Personality of the Housewife in the Ignorant Society
Although they may vary in level of education or quality of moral characters; and although where they live and their means may be different, the identity of all housewives in a society of ignorance is much the same.
The women in the societies of ignorance are influenced from the outset by the expectations placed upon them by the society. From the time of their childhood, they may have observed thousands of housewives and, whether they know it or not, have recorded their observations subconsciously. And, when they find themselves in similar circumstances, they conduct themselves unaware of the influence they have acquired and which, in a sense, they allow to determine their identity. For this reason, the character of the average housewife is composed of the same basic aspects. They all lead their lives according to their early observations and experiences. Even the ideal of a young woman, who has studied at university, and though she has a network of friends, may become an entirely different personality after she marries. The week before her marriage she may have been a lively and outgoing person but, suddenly, when she takes on the role of housewife, she may assume an identity that her former friends not longer recognize.
It is the corrupted notion of marriage in a society of ignorance that makes them adopt such a personality. This is important to keep in mind as we examine the personality of the housewife. In the formation of this identity, which we will explore in detail in the following pages, the fact that marriage is “ignorant marriage,” that is, that it is a component of the society of ignorance, is of important significance.
Under the influence of all such factors, this specific identity is formed according to all the corrupting influences of the ignorant system. We must also add that a society of ignorance does not regard these distortions as unusual, nor does it regard the identities it produce as undesirable. On the contrary, they consider them normal and legitimate. It is the society in which they live that determines the character of individuals, and so it is to be expected that they would tolerate and accept the expectations placed upon them and that they should comply by them.
Display of Emotion
A trait considered natural among ignorant women is their emotionality, though such behavior is totally at odds with the moral teachings of the Qur’an. And, according to the expectations of a culture of ignorance, a woman must be meek and needs to be protected and looked after by a man.
For this reason, whenever a housewife is confronted by some difficulty, she immediately becomes overly emotional. And, she does not regard such a response as weakness, but makes an exhibition of her emotions, thinking that it will make others feel sorry for her. This mode of behavior is encouraged by the community. In an ignorant system, people behave as if they feel sympathy for one overcome by emotion, and the person exhibiting her feelings usually attracts the attention she wants.
In addition, there is a more powerful emotion that some ignorant women tend to display which takes hold of her whole character. It is a kind of emotionalism that pervades every aspect of the lives of the women in question; it derives from unhappiness and not submitting to Allah or her fate. So, because of this emotionalism, she becomes irrational, unable to arrive at intelligent decisions or to act prudently. She sees everything in negatively, considers herself sufferer of some injustice; and, therefore, deludes herself with false scenarios, sinking further into an unhealthy spiritual quagmire. What she expected from marriage did not materialize; the initial exhilaration, love and respect disappeared. Such disappointment led to her despondence. Her behavior becomes an external manifestation of her condition; her eyes are constantly brimming with tears, she is melancholic and sorrowful. If she does not receive a compliment on a meal she has carefully prepared, or no one notices her new outfit, or if she does not immediately get she is after, she becomes overly emotional. A misspoken word, a joking remark, or sometimes, just the wrong word will fix in her mind, and lead her to become emotional. She will remember the offense throughout the day, and let it become something in her mind that was never intended of it. But, the guilty person was probably not even aware of what he had done. Nevertheless, an ignorant woman who has let emotionalism become a part of her character loses the ability of judgment to recognize the fact.
As a result, another dominant feature among ignorant women is their tendency to weep. Everything that happens in their home may be an occasion for sorrow and weeping. Financial difficulties in the family, difficulties in raising the children, soap operas, or many other factors, may provide the excuse for them to yield to this side of their character. This sort of woman is so mired in her emotionalism that she will find any excuse to cry and be miserable, even if there isn’t one. For example, if one of the characters on a television series dies she will cry afterwards for several minutes. Or, if she hears a song she had enjoyed with a friend many years ago, she will suddenly become emotional and begin to cry. Examples like these are many.
Women who harbor these ignorant tendencies may experience both spiritual and physical breakdowns. This is one of the consequences of the distress they experience for choosing life of ignorance over the moral teachings of the Qur’an. Allah has said in the Qur’an that only those who remember Him, submit to Him and prepare themselves for the Afterlife, will lead a good life in this world and find peace in their hearts. But, characters such as those we have described here have forgotten Allah, by Whose eternal power they were created, and, for this reason, have fallen into melancholy.
They Are Easily Offended
One of the most definite features of a housewife’s character is the ease with which she takes offense. These women harbor many subconscious fears, and are afraid of being neglected, abandoned or deceived. Recognizing that members of the society of ignorance are not trustworthy, they are in constant fear of betrayal. So, they interpret every thing that happens, and every word they hear, in this perspective.
If her husband or her children forget a wedding anniversary, birthday or another special occasion, it provides an opportunity for them to become overly sensitive and emotional. They will try to find a hidden meaning behind the slightest oversight, and feel a deep fear of being unappreciated or neglected. This psychological condition creates tension and often leads heated arguments.
However, a woman who is a believer does not have this defect in her character. Above all, in compliance with Allah’s command, she is not suspicious about others or that which happens. If someone says something or acts in a way she does not understand, she will try to sort it out in her mind; she will try to understand that person’s intention and act accordingly. But, she never takes offense because of something she does not understand, or suppose the meaning of a word spoken. She knows that being touchy is not in compliance with the morality of the Qur’an. Moreover, because a female believer’s marriage and friendships are within the community of other Muslims, confusion does not arise to such eruptions. Because, it is the responsibility of believers to speak the truth clearly and correctly. Allah forbids believers from using in their conversation the off-color innuendo and tasteless humor that is characteristic of the wicked morality of a society of ignorance. We can see that a woman who is a believer makes her life conform to the Qur’an, and so is content and secure, and untouched by moral defects.
Complaining About Everything
Ignorant women often speak about the conditions they live in and their unhappiness brought about by their characters which are far removed from the morality of the Qur’an. This tendency though, is also reflected in the men around them. After all, women regard this kind of behavior as appropriate to a housewife. In their opinion, spending the whole day making meals, cleaning the house saps their energy, and, for them, it is to be expected that they should complain. They believe that complaining is their right, and that those around ought to tolerate it. They believe that they, more than others, know the monotony of their marriage. Some men think that complaining is the only way their wives can vent their tensions, and so they accept their behavior to a certain point. But, it must be noted that these women knowingly chose this life themselves. Nevertheless, they never cease in their incessant complaining.
This habit of often complaining, as is found among housewives, and which they regard as their right, manifests itself at every minute of the day. They become so accustomed to complaining about everything, great or small, that they even complain to themselves when they are alone in the house. Such a woman tidies up the house grudgingly and, if a member of the family contributes to the mess, she assaults him with words of reproach. She will even complain to the first person who comes along, even a complete stranger.
This habit of complaining makes one argumentative. The most insignificant matter is magnified and a quarrel ensues; even for minor issues, the women become contrary and stubbornly insistent. They take every word the wrong way, and respond with an opposite assertion. These women live with a lot of anxiety because of their tense irritability. Their most common complaints are of headaches, stomach aches, and insomnia; and, ultimately, they begin to show early signs of aging.
All this is the result of the corrupt society in which they live. There is only one way out of this disturbed spiritual state brought on by their lack of faith and trust in Allah: To submit to the moral teachings of the Qur’an, and to live a life pleasing to Allah. Other than that, there are no other options.
Most often, ignorant women who display such a base form of behavior look for a solution by visiting some type of specialist or another, trying every new medication, therapy, or may even try to escape by ending their marriage. But, none of these remedies is a real resolution to the miserable lives they lead. As long as they do not live by the morality of the Qur’an and become devoted to our Lord with a sincere heart, there will be no change to their way of life, even though in actuality they would have had nothing to complain about, no one to grumble at or another house to live in.
However, compared to all the base forms of behavior typical of the majority of the women of the ignorant societies, the comportment of a woman of faith is reflective of a character that is positive in outlook and well-balanced. For example, she realizes that complaining is a bad habit. She does not forget that, even if things appear to be going badly, there is a reason for it in the Sight of Allah. So, no matter what comes her way, she sees no reason to be discontent or anxious. Even in her most difficult moments, she shows to those around her a tolerant, forgiving and compassionate character. And, even if she must criticize someone, in accordance with the dictates of her conscience, and by observing the Prophet’s (saas) warning, “Whoever is not merciful towards people, will not be treated mercifully by Allah.” (Ibn Ahmad Hanbal), she does so with language that is appropriate. Also, as the Qur’an commands, she knows that in this way outcome will be more positive. This is the behavior required of believers, as revealed in the Qur’an:
Make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant. (Surat al-A‘raf, 199)
Do you do not see how Allah makes a metaphor of a good word: A good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in heaven? (Surah Ibrahim, 24)
Say to My servants that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between them. Satan is an outright enemy to man. (Surat al-Isra’, 53)
Jealousy and Mistrust
Jealousy exercises an important influence in an ignorant society, where it is not regarded as a negative trait. Such a society tries to present jealousy as a mark of love and devotion. If an individual is not jealous of the one he loves, he thinks it is not real love. According to this erroneous way of thinking, in order for an individual to be sure that his partner loves him, the partner must love him exclusively.
But this idea is completely wrong. Because, ultimately, love is a profound feeling and a superior moral trait. For an individual to be jealous in a loving relationship is contrary to the teaching of the Qur’an. A person shows his love to the one he loves through his faithfulness, devotion and tenderness, and by speaking and acting appropriately towards the object of his affection. This creates the idea in the mind of the other person that he or she is really loved. It is very selfish for an individual to want to be loved exclusively.
In societies of ignorance, jealousy, especially in married life, causes much anxiety. A woman of such a tendency, who hears of the love her husband has for his mother, father, sisters, friends and even his children, may become a cause of misery for her. Such women do not want their husbands to love anyone else more than, or even as much, as he loves them.
A second type of jealousy that such housewives experience comes from the fact that they are aware of the corrupted perception of marriage in ignorant society. There is no genuine love or faithfulness in any union that is not based on the love and fear of Allah, and on seeking His pleasure. It is because ignorant women are aware of this that they expect being deceived at any moment, and live in fear of being neglected. For this reason, they regard everything that happens with suspicion, becoming overwhelmed with tense feelings and jealousy.
Instead of improving the situation, their behavior makes things worse, and often makes even the problem itself worse. They try to send their partner a message with their erratic behavior, contrariety and irascibility. They tend to derive complicated insinuations from the most trivial circumstances, and then form definite conclusions on the basis of the scenarios they imagine. But, this behavior only makes their lives more miserable. Moreover, contrary to the desired results, they succeed only in driving their partner farther away from them. Because living with a person without knowing when the next outburst will occur, and what kind of false conclusion she will jump to, makes for a very unhappy co-existence. For this reason, the obsessive jealousy of housewives in the ignorant societies usually ends with the breakup of the marriage.
However, the solution is very simple. In the Qur’an Allah informs us that everyone has feelings of jealousy, but these feelings have to be eliminated:
… people are prone to selfish greed. If you do good and fear Allah, Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat an-Nisa’, 128)
For this reason, a believer, who dutifully practices the moral teachings of the Qur’an, does not harbor jealousy. The mutual faithfulness and trust that comes from the fear of Allah prevents any such tension from occurring.
The Habits of a Housewife
When the term “housewife” is mentioned in the societies of ignorance, a specific stereotype enters the minds. Because, the system that fosters this kind of character has, in a sense, become entrenched. Of course, there are some housewives who do not conform to the mould for one reason or another. But, in the sense of the morality of ignorance dealt with here, this is the model of a housewife that is widely recognized in society.
In ignorant societies, the life typical of a housewife is one filled every day with monotony. Usually, her days are taken up with basic duties, such as tidying up the rooms of other family members, doing the laundry, preparing meals, shopping and other chores that need to be done around the house. Of course, everyone must do such things. But, the mistake they make is disregarding the problems pervading this world, forgetting the Afterlife completely, one’s responsibilities towards Allah, and instead performing their duties in the expectation of some worldly gain. They base their whole lives, their thoughts, and plans, on the work they do and, instead of seeking the favor of Allah Who created them, they try to find satisfaction in trivial goals of their daily lives.
In addition, during all this daily activity, there are several habits, usually shared by all housewives who are members of the ignorant society, in which they tend persist. In their own eyes, they think these will improve their lives and alleviate their anxiety and thus they fill their spare time with them. However, when considered carefully, it becomes evident that all such habits only mire them in what is a very ordinary and mundane life.
The most common of these habits are:Gossiping
One of the most common traits of housewives in a society of ignorance is their love of gossiping. Even if they do not have the time or the occasion, they will surely find some bit of time for gossip. We can see them devoted to it in doorways with their neighbors, on the telephone for hours with their friends, and sometimes at tea and coffee parties. These people living by this morality derive a great deal of pleasure from gossiping, because they can humiliate a person who has criticized them, and make themselves look superior. For this reason, even if there is a more useful or pleasant topic to be discussed at a meeting of friends, they will insist on bringing the conversation around to gossiping. Anyone can become the fodder for their gossip: Their neighbors, friends, relatives, spouses, television stars or even a complete stranger passing in the street.
But, it is not right to say something behind someone’s back that he would not appreciate. If there is some matter a person should be criticized for, and if there is any benefit in it, the best thing to do is to inform the person in question. But if the matter is discussed by everyone, and the person being criticized is not informed, it cannot be said that there is any underlying good intention or intelligent purpose. Moreover, the individuals doing the gossiping are aware that the same thing would certainly happen to them because it is a common practice of ignorant societies. But they would certainly detest it. When they hear that other people have been talking about them, they are very upset by it. But, though fraught with such over-sensitivity, they will nevertheless behave terribly towards others without caring whether they are hurting anyone.
However, Allah has forbidden human beings from gossiping. He explains to us in the Qur’an that gossiping is not part of a good moral character, and if there is something wrong, He commands that the offending person be told by “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil”:
You who believe! Avoid most suspicion. Indeed some suspicion is a crime. And do not spy and do not backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat his brother’s dead flesh? No, you would hate it. And fear Allah. Allah is Ever-Returning, Most Merciful. (Surat al-Hujurat, 12)
So, according to this command of the Qur’an, believers never criticize another person behind their back. They know that one of the greatest signs of real love and friendship is to act in such a way as to be of benefit to another person both in this life and the next. If they see a person behaving incorrectly, they will immediately tell them, and urge them to make up for their mistake. This is the basis of real friendship and loyalty. But, in a society of ignorance, the dearest relationships, like marriage, are not based on sound foundations, and, because they do not rest on mutual love and respect, this negative tendency is then widespread.
Meeting with Friends
One habit that most housewives in the societies of ignorance could not live without is what they call their “day out,” when they meet together with friends for a meal. Surely it is a blessing for a person to come together with her friends and host them. However, it is very important that these gatherings become the times during which love and respect are expressed, friendships are solidified, and the name of Allah is remembered. However, they turn out to be meetings in which just a contrary morality is displayed. Usually at such gatherings, it is sufficient for women of the ignorant society to lift their spirits merely to receive a compliment about a cake they baked, but, if their husbands do not give them permission to attend one of these meetings, they would stay miserable for weeks. This demonstrates just how petty and narrow is the world of these people in question. The kind of conversation, and other things that happen during this kind of meeting, is far from being of any use to them for the Afterlife. In fact, such meetings usually draw them towards this world. Instead of reminding them about the world to come, the greatness of Allah Who created all things, and to live according to the moral standards commanded in the Qur’an, these meetings are full of idle chatter, arguments and banal criticisms. They do not judge what is good about each other according to the Qur’an; on the contrary, their praise for one another is usually insincere, far removed from their genuine convictions. They do not judge others according to how well they practice the moral teachings of the Qur’an.
Usually, among the more important topics talked in these gatherings is either gossip or what happened on the last episode of a television soap opera, or sharing recipes.
However, if the same meeting were composed of individuals that feared Allah, and were making their preparations for the Afterlife, then their conversation would instead be edifying and good for everyone. Believers are commanded in the Qur’an to refrain from idle talk, and non-productive activities, but to spend every moment towards doing something useful and thinking about how they may be helpful to others. This is emphasized in the following verses:
[T]hose who turn away from worthless talk. (Surat al-Muminun, 3)
[T]hose who do not bear false witness and who, when they pass by worthless talk, pass by with dignity. (Surat al-Furqan, 72)
When they hear worthless talk they turn away from it and say, “We have our actions and you have your actions. Peace be upon you. We do not desire the company of the ignorant.” (Surat al-Qasas, 55)
Idly Watching Television
A great part of a housewife’s life in a society of ignorance is spent in front of the television. But, it is not only they who enjoy this habit; their husbands and children also spend hours watching television, it being one of the favorite forms of entertainment of a society of ignorance. However, what they watch is most often of no value. The most important thing for them is to pass the time and, in their own way, enjoy some brief relief from the anxieties they suffer in their lives. Regardless of whatever else they might be doing, throughout the day, housewives leave the television on. Especially when the soap operas come on, then they are glued to the screen. The romance featured in these soap operas gives them particular enjoyment. For this reason, their daily schedule is organized around the times when these soap operas are broadcast, and if they have to go anywhere, they ensure that they record the episode on videocassette. If they can’t, then as soon as they finish what they are doing, they eagerly find out the latest developments that took place on the program from friends or neighbors.
Even if they were offered better quality programming and documentaries in which signs leading to faith are displayed, with more intelligent content so as to broaden their horizons, these women, being far removed from the morality of the true religion, would still not give up their soap operas. Because these programs reflect their aspirations, pleasures and their outlook on life so well.
Of course, there would be nothing wrong with watching television, if there were better programming; then people could learn Islamic values from it. But, it is wrong as it stands, because of its mindless content, leaving a person heedless of the existence of Allah and the Hereafter. Especially, it is wrong if the housewife cannot tear herself away from watching television to do something more important or useful. These women could do something positive, but never do, nor are they uncomfortable about it, because their lack of sense of purpose and their self-image as housewife is so ingrained.
Unnecessary Telephone Conversations
A woman in a society of ignorance spends most of her day on the telephone. She calls her friends, one after the other, to learn the latest news and gossip. She relates what has been going on in her family, the arguments she had with her husband, what she bought at the store, who came to visit, and what they talked about. These telephone conversations go on for hours but, generally, they accomplish nothing fruitful.
Believers, on the contrary, as we saw in previous sections, avoid all kind of idle talk and futile activities. They never allow themselves to debase their level of conversation. If they have to, they can spend much time on the telephone, but to discuss an important matter. If there were no such need, they would not talk on the phone just out of habit; they would instead engage in more useful and educational pursuits.
The Character of the “Society” Woman
In the societies living by the morality of ignorance, the character of a woman brought up within the group called, “high society” is still no different from that of a housewife. Their characteristics and habits are similar. But the circumstance and possibilities in this environment, being better disposed of by financial means, are different from those of the middle-income housewife. This difference results in different habits among them.
These women are overwhelmed with anxiety about fitting in to their milieu. For this reason, they behave according to the expectations of those around them, rather than according to their own desires, disposition or inclinations. The expectations of the majority of the members of high society are usually based on money and pretense. Therefore, those women who adopt this lifestyle spend their days mainly in “high society” doing the “in-things,” trying their best to fit in to that way of life. The world of such women is one of pretence and putting on airs; to this end she will go to holiday resorts, wear clothes considered “high fashion,” gossip at a spa or high-class beauty salon, meet her friends for lunch in an expensive restaurant, or buy things imported from abroad.
Although they appear to have brightly colored lives from the outside, their lives are in fact at least as monotonous and dull as those of housewives. After sleeping until lunchtime every day, they then glance at the magazine gossip pages and begin drawing up their program for the day. Over the course of the day they prepare what to wear to wherever they are invited to that evening, go to the hairdressers and then attend these parties, remaining there until the early hours. The time they spend there is troubling and distressing, full of false show, artificial laughter and people showing off to one another. The following day, due to the tiredness and physical fatigue resulting from this night life, they wake from an uneasy sleep with a raging headache.
Preoccupations such as housework and looking after the children play much less of a role in their daily lives compared to housewives. They enjoy the irresponsibility of having handed such matters over to their assistants. But the fact that they assume no responsibilities leads to the development of an even more uncaring character. The fact that everything they want in life is laid out on a platter for them, that their children and homes are managed by others and the fact that they themselves hope for nothing apart from being part of “high society” soon leads them to dissatisfaction and a terrible emptiness.
All this eventually causes them to become dissatisfied and draws them into a moral abyss. As soon as they acquire something they want, they no longer desire it anymore. Instead, some other things attract their attention, which they then pursue. They are wealthy in material possessions, but they can never achieve spiritual happiness. They cannot attain trust, love or respect, either in their marriages or in their friendships.
Even though they have whatever they want, they are not content. The moral degeneration of a certain section of the high society is reflected in their own lives. Lying, fraud, deceit and all sorts of other moral deficiencies are usually regarded by them as normal. There will come a point, however, where this corruption will turn on these people living by this wicked morality. For instance, while they are themselves gossiping, others are talking about them. Every detail of their private lives, and even unfounded hearsay, becomes the subject of rumors. A secret they share with a friend becomes the headline in a magazine the next day. They approach others with feigned affection, and false friendship, and they are approached in the same way by others. They can never enjoy real genuine friendship. They rarely have intimate conversations, to share their sincere feelings. They never experience loyalty, either in their friendships or in their marriages; they do not trust even their husbands. This life they have chosen for themselves, as in other roles in a society of ignorance, is the product of an environment far removed from the morality of religion. For this reason, these women find themselves at a significant impasse. But, in spite of the fact that they have lived their entire lives in anxiety, they are unable to recognize the contentment the religion and a good moral life can provide. They seek the solution to their predicament in the corrupt social system they live in, but their efforts are futile; they are digging themselves deeper and deeper into a rut.
This is all because these people in question have turned their backs to the Qur’an. Because they do not live in the way that Allah, our All-Mighty Creator, has commanded, they will never be able to find peace of mind. As is stated in the Qur’an, “... Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace.” (Surat ar-Ra‘d, 28) their hearts will never find ease, and they will never escape from their anxiety and misery. They have fallen into this condition because they chose a lifestyle that does not suit the purpose of their creation. If they had lived a life pleasing to Allah, and kept to the moral precepts that He has commanded, they would certainly have enjoyed the reward that comes from living a good life. In the Qur’an, Allah has promised:
When those who fear Allah are asked, “What has your Lord sent down?” their reply is, “Good!” There is good in the world for those who do good, and the abode of the Hereafter is even better. How wonderful is the abode of those who guard against evil. (Surat an-Nahl, 30)
It is obvious that a person who lives by the morality Allah commands in the Qur’an and makes her friends among righteous believers would not have had to live with such insecurity. They would have been able to enjoy a society of individuals who are trustworthy, loyal, honest and sincere, and would not have experienced the insecurity and fears plaguing a society of ignorance. In a community where the moral teachings of the Qur’an are adhered to, every believer is eager to live a good moral life, and to receive the reward that comes from it.
Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Surat an-Nahl, 97)