Further Examples of Ignorant Character Types
The Character-type of the Rich Person
Social environment is a major influence in the development of character types in a society of ignorance. Each society offers a different social environment, and this environment develops traits in a character type that are life-long. A person’s personality may vary according to the city, or even the area of a city, which he lives in.
In discourse typical of the ignorant, a new acquaintance may be first asked his name, then where he was born and brought up, and then, which part of the city he lives in. The purpose of this interrogation is to find out under what circumstances he brought up under, and thereby to acquire a basic idea of what type of character he ought to be. Because, the ignorant are very aware of the influence a specific environment can have on a person’s character.
One type of character formed by specific social environments is that of a rich person. This character-type is that of one who has been brought up in wealthy surroundings. Compared with other members of the society, these individuals have benefited from much more favorable circumstances, not having experienced any difficulty or hardship. They have always had little problem getting what they want; everything is at their disposal. When they are hungry, food is put before them; if they make a mess, it is cleaned up for them; they get what they want immediately; their cars are bought for them and money is put into their wallets. And, they do not have to put forth the slightest effort to get any of these things. However, there are many “behind the scenes” who are required to expend much physical and spiritual effort to provide them these things. There are those who work to earn the money, determine their needs, provide what is required, prepare it and offer it to them. But, a great majority of the people living by the morality of ignorance do not recognize these efforts, and therefore show no gratitude for them.
A fundamental characteristic that attends this ingratitude is a lack of sympathy. Because majority of these people have nothing to worry about, and experience no difficulties, they have no appreciation for those who live in lesser circumstances.
Another prominent characteristic of some of the people living by the morality of ignorance is their lack of faithfulness. They do not appreciate the virtues of others, and therefore see no reason to be loyal towards them. Such individuals can never establish sincere relationships; they rely too heavily on their material wealth, and think that, even if they were to lose one friend, through it they could find others. What they regard as important in another person is not his good character, or the fact that he practices the moral teachings of the Qur’an; that which is important to them is what material gain he may be. They do not value friendships on the basis of love and good morality, and so can never establish real ones. They keep company with others whose money they want to take advantage of, or with other inconsiderate and wealthy people like themselves, who also do not know the real meaning of friendship.
Indeed, it is because of all these vices that they are unable to find happiness easily. Majority of them are used to getting everything easily, and so take the advantages of their material wealth for granted. And, they fail to derive due pleasure from good that is spiritual because they cannot recognize it. Compared to other character-types, their deviance is more blatant. One who is not accustomed to recognizing such subtleties, will not appreciate an act of kindness done towards him, and will soon forget it. For this reason, he becomes one who is hard to satisfy.
Because they are not able to appreciate the good in others, they cannot experience love or respect for them. It does not enter their minds that others appreciate that the good in them and love they are ready to show to be recognized.
Evidently, these people have developed for themselves a type of character contrary to the values otherwise considered acceptable. But, it must be pointed out that, even though they were to be exiled from the social milieu, or lose their wealth, they would continue in their debased morality. Therefore, this character type does not refer merely who are wealthy. Merely the fact that they have been brought in such a milieu and under specific circumstances, is sometimes enough for them to acquire such character traits.
However, being brought up in a wealthy environment is no reason not to have a good moral character. On the contrary, wealth is a blessing from Allah. The important thing is to thank Him for these blessings, and to use them in a way that will please Him. We can see examples of this morality in the lives of the prophets. We are told in the Qur’an that the Prophet Sulayman (as) asked for wealth from Allah so that he could worship Him, and show gratitude for His blessings:
He (Sulayman) said, “Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord until the Sun disappeared behind its veil.” (Surah Sâd, 32)
Moreover, one who appreciates the blessings that Allah has conferred upon him will have the breadth of insight to enable him to acknowledge the good in the others around him. Therefore, such a person, even if he were to be the wealthiest person in the world, and have everything served to him on a silver platter, and even if he had never experienced any difficulties or troubles in his life, he will nonetheless be sympathetic and considerate, exercising a good conscience. He knows the emotional and material needs of those who are poor and troubled. He shows a deep sense of compassion and respect. He knows what friendship is. Because, he is a believer and, no matter how prosperous he may be, he will never act carelessly or against his better conscience. A believer is always looking toward what is good and just, and searches for ways to win Allah’s favor. For this reason, prosperity does not lead him into moral depravity.
Such people are truly racing towards good things, and they are the first to reach them. (Surat al-Muminun, 61)
The Character-type of the “Nouveau Riche”
Those called “nouveau riche” in a society of ignorance are usually people in the middle income bracket, who have become suddenly rich, either as the result of an inheritance or some other fortuitous cause. Among them are those who are divorced from religion, and who want to appear superior in the eyes of others; nor do they give thanks to Allah for the blessings they have received. When speaking they continually make reference to how rich they are, how they spend money without keeping track of it, what they have bought and where they have been on vacation. If they buy clothing, it will be from a designer label. They will have their pictures taken in all the prestigious locations they have visited, and display them conspicuously in the house. Whether they enjoy it or not, they do what rich people are known for, trying in all cases to imitate their way of life. For example, to give the impression that they know a foreign language, or that they have just come from abroad, they will use foreign words in their conversations, even though they do not know what they mean. Rather, they tend to show their ignorance by using words out of place. They want to appear to be cultivated but only embarrass themselves. They wear clothing that does not suit them, just to have the image of a person wearing latest styles.
They are unable to be critical of themselves. That is, they cannot see themselves through the eyes of others. They cannot see how ridiculous they look, or what suits them or is more becoming for them. They go out of their way to imitate what the wealthy are known to do.
It is clear that it is Allah Who has provided their new-found wealth. Perhaps, until that time, they had often prayed that Allah would increase them in wealth and possessions. But, when their prayers are answered, they immediately forget their former circumstances, and the prayers they have made. Allah describes in the Qur’an those who show bad morality after they have already been conferred with blessings:
When We grant blessing to a man, he turns away and draws aside but when any evil touches him, he is full of endless prayers! (Surah Fussilat, 51)
They resort to various methods to ingratiate themselves to the wealthy, but this just makes them despised. Actually, their attempts have only sunk them into a trap. Instead of seeking to win Allah’s favor, they try to make others like them. But, for this, Allah has prepared for them a dire reward. They will lose not only the love of Allah, but also the estimation of other people.
The Character-type of the Intellectual
That which is recognized in society as “intellectualism” is a non-religious character type, and it influences a significant segment of a society of ignorance. Before proceeding with the attributes of this morality of ignorance one point deserves mention: the character of an intellectual dealt with here does not include intellectuals who deserve respect. It is of utmost importance and value to be an intellectual, to enjoy free thought and to develop ideas for the community of which an individual is a member. The character-type of an intellectual related here, however, is the one that bases its philosophy upon faithless lifestyle and rationale and makes it his goal to make it dominant in all spheres of life, and struggles to show himself as someone of great intellectual capacity despite not being a person of such caliber. But, most, especially the young, are unaware of this agenda; they want to become “intellectuals” because they think it will bring them prestige.
This milieu is usually located in the university setting. However, there is also a common notion that those lovers of the “fine arts” also fall into this category. For this reason, one who behaved quite otherwise in high school, changes as soon as he enters a university program such as Fine Arts in university. He begins to dress differently, changes his hairstyle, and assumes the air of an intellectual in his habits and tastes. The ignorant society he lives has instilled in him the idea that all successful artists act this way.
From then on, they are prepared to do everything to meet up to these expectations. They spend their days in cafes where “intellectuals” meet, in dark and dingy places filled with cigarette smoke, or in bars having “intellectual” conversations. They believe themselves to represent the enlightened and progressive segment of society, and dream up schemes to “save the world.” But, most of their pretense is nothing but irrational, futile and incessant prattle. For these people, the important thing is to be “radical,” and lead a life accordingly, in order that they can stand out from others. They aim to express a certain “mood” in their paintings, sculptures, books and music, however, when you look at the work they produce, you can see that, under the guise of “intellectualism,” most of them express the same shallowness. They have no real understanding of high art, or of the depth of beauty and truth it can express; usually their art reveals their somber, melancholic and confused state of mind.
The films they watch, and the books they read, all must reflect this “intellectualism”; or they can’t enjoy them. To look like “intellectuals,” they will wander around with a book in their hands, that they have supposedly read. Though, they have not really read it; nevertheless, they try to gain prestige by repeating a few sentences that they have memorized from it.
They memorize certain phrases they have gleaned from the philosophers, using them as often as they can in their cafés. If you ask them, they will say that they have studied all philosophical movements, and even pretend to be experts on their subjects. However, they usually do not have any in-depth knowledge in any such field.
Their obsession with being “non-conformists” is the reason for which they develop strange ideas with regard to morality. They insist that family and marriage are unnecessary, and that a life lived without respect for bounds of decency is a sign of modernity and civilization.
Their confused state of mind dominates their whole lives. They enjoy dark and dingy places and disorder. Their own dwelling also reflect their errant notions; fast-food containers are scattered everywhere, books are piled on top of another, living amid filth.
But, generally speaking, they do not fully enjoy their lives. Unbelief is a delusion permitted by Allah from which man can derive no pleasure and joy. They aspire to a society where there are no rules, where all can infringe upon the rights of others, in which there is no order or limits, and in which there is an absence of the humane and moral qualities that religion brings. They only harm themselves in the end by that which they promote. Even just a brief experience of that which they desire would ultimately cause them harm.
The only thing that can bring honor and edify human beings is the true religion that Allah revealed for them to live by. It is only by living according to this religion that human beings can achieve contentment.
Concerning All the Character-types of Ignorance
Since the beginning of this book, we have examined the character types, moral qualities, personalities, worldviews and habits that dominate a society of ignorance. Keep in mind that among them we found nothing that was positive or well-balanced, and nothing that could contribute to real contentment. Because, all of these character types derive from a system devoid of religion. Allah has created human beings who are able to attain happiness only by living a life of faith based on religious morality. If thousands more character types were to be developed, as long as they were to be apart from religion, the result would be the same—distress, conflicts and confusion. In the Qur’an, Allah provides examples of the condition of human beings who are apart from the morality of religion:
Those are the people who have sold guidance for misguidance. Their trade has brought no profit; they are not guided. Their likeness is that of people who light a fire, and then when it has lit up all around them, Allah removes their light and leaves them in darkness, unable to see. Deaf, dumb, blind. They will not return. Or that of a storm-cloud in the sky, full of darkness, thunder and lightning. They put their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps, fearful of death. Allah encompasses the disbelievers. The lightning all but takes away their sight. Whenever they have light, they walk in it but whenever darkness covers them, they halt. If Allah wished, He could take away their hearing and their sight. Allah has power over all things. Humanity! Worship your Lord, Who created you and those before you, so that hopefully you will fear Allah. (Surat al-Baqara, 16-21)
In these examples, Allah provides an important account of why the ignorant will be at loss. They were given the opportunity to follow the right path, but they chose another way, disbelief. They made their choice based on certain worldly expectations, but they have been unable to find the true happiness, peace and any other thing that they have been looking for by the means they have chosen.
On the contrary, their choices have rendered them spiritually deaf, blind and dumb. For this reason, although they are lost, they cannot turn away from what they have chosen.
Allah uses the example of lightning to explain their state; every time lightening flashes it illuminates the surroundings. The travelers move on but immediately the surroundings become buried again in darkness, and they are confounded. So, the ignorant are deceived by thinking that they can manage alone this brief journey they have set out on. However, as stated in the Qur’an, salvation comes only by turning to Allah, serving Him and living by that which He wills.