Being Sincerely Religious without Deceiving Yourself
In the previous chapter we began by looking at what is around us, at all the living and non-living things on the face of the Earth and in the universe and as a result of these reflections we arrived at the truth that the purpose of a person's creation is to serve Allah. Let us begin this chapter by pointing out a very important matter.
How old are you now? Let's say you are 30 years old and that we go back in time 30 years and 10 months. You did not yet exist on the face of the Earth and neither was there any sign that you ever would. Later, a sperm came together with an ovary and after a 9-month period of growth you arrived in the world as a baby. That is, you came into existence from nothing. First you were a single cell. Then the cell divided and became two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two… Finally, you came to be a living being made up of millions of cells with hands, limbs, eyes, ears, a nose, blood circulation, a respiratory system, and others. Although you were once a single cell, you turned into a thinking, intelligent, seeing and feeling being with information, knowledge and the capacity for pleasure. When you think about it, you can easily understand what an extraordinary process this is.
How, then, did this miracle happen? How was an intelligent creature produced by the combining of two parts, invisible to the naked eye, and how did this creature come into the world as a baby complete in all its parts? The answer to this is given in the following verses:
It is He Who created you from earth, then from a drop of sperm, then from a clot of blood, then He brings you out as infants, then so you may achieve full strength, then so you may become old men – though some of you may die before that time – so that you may reach a predetermined age and so that hopefully you will use your intellect. It is He Who gives life and causes to die. When He decides on something, He just says to it, "Be!" and it is. (Surah Ghafir: 67-68)
In these verses we are reminded that the Creator of all people (including ourselves) and all living creatures is Allah, and when faced with this truth people need to use their intelligence. A person who uses his intelligence will arrive at the real purpose of creation and give himself over to the religion of Allah. He will devote his life to gaining His approval and mercy. In the Qur'an, Allah tells people to stay away from delusions by reflecting on how they were created:
O man! What has deluded you in respect of your Noble Lord? He Who created you and formed you and proportioned you and assembled you in whatever way He willed. Yes indeed! But still you deny the Judgment. Standing over you are guardians, noble, recording, who know what you do. (Surat al-Infitar: 6-12)
However, despite all these truths, man is prone to deluding himself and straying from the true path by means of self-deception, and of wasting his efforts on worthless things. Although every detail of the world is miraculous in the extreme, he is inclined to fail to see and feel this or, by ignoring the voice of his conscience, feign ignorance about what he sees and feels. If a person does not think about the existence and greatness of Allah, and does not use his intelligence, he will be plunged into eternal regret because of his experiences in the world. Because of this, people need to stop deceiving themselves and bear in mind the fact that everything in the world was created for a purpose, that all the good things they possess are given them as a blessing and that they will be called to account for everything they have done on the Day of Judgment.
People with a true and sincere faith neither deceive themselves nor evade the truth on any subject because they have a powerful fear and respect of Allah, and so they strenuously avoid jeopardizing the chances of His approval and neglecting their duties to Him. However, those defined in the Qur'an as "people who have sickness in their hearts" are reluctant in their worship of Allah. Allah points these people out in Surat an-Nisa': 72 by saying: "Among you there are people who hang back." These people know the lifestyle and morality that conform to the Qur'an but they show reluctance in this matter because they are not sincere. They always find excuses for failing to perform their worship. Because they are involved in this constant search for excuses, they come up with false realities which will deceive them or divert them from the truth whatever the situation or circumstances. As Allah tells us in another verse, they "worship Allah right on the edge" and do not devote themselves to Allah as they should. The truth is that they only deceive themselves with their insincere concept of worship. Allah explains this in the Qur'an:
Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and Allah has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. (Surat al-Baqara: 8-10)
Sincerity is fundamental to the religion of Allah. If a person carries out certain forms of worship reluctantly just out of habit or so as not to attract criticism from others around him, he is deceiving only himself, as we are told in the above verses. He cannot expect what he does to have any value in the sight of Allah. In the Qur'an, Allah warns us that acts of worship which are carried out reluctantly will not be accepted:
Nothing prevents what they give from being accepted from them but the fact that they have rejected Allah and His messenger, and that they only come to prayer lethargically, and that they only give reluctantly. (Surat at-Tawba: 54)
Insincere people have endless, inexhaustible excuses for avoiding their responsibilities to Allah and wasting their lives on worldly ambitions. In childhood, during their school years, when they enter working life, while they are enjoying themselves, when they are happy, when they are sad, the whole year round… Under all circumstances they can come up with manufactured reasons for not worshipping and for failing to follow Allah's instructions. In the chapters to come we will illustrate the excuses people put forward with examples from everyday life. What is important is that it should be realized that people are insincere when they make these excuses because there can be no reason whatsoever for people not to carry out Allah's instructions while they are in this life. If a person tries to put forward such an excuse, this just demonstrates his insincerity or lack of conviction.
A person who knows that Allah is with him at every moment, that He sees and hears everything and knows and brings to light all that people try to keep secret, will never attempt any insincerity in serving Him. Such a person knows very well that if he tries to put forward an excuse, Allah is aware of it before it even crosses his lips and that He is aware, too, of the reluctance within a person who is hesitant in his service to Him. He understands that such insincere behavior will not go unpunished, so he also knows that self-deception is no escape but will, on the contrary, cause him great harm. A person like this never strays from seeking Allah's approval under any circumstances because he has no weakness thanks to his firm faith in Allah. He is unconditionally sincere at all times.
People who have sickness in their hearts do have a weakness in their faith even if they do not deny Allah openly. That is to say, their faith is dependent on certain conditions. They do not hesitate to deviate from their religion the moment it comes into conflict with their own comfort or their own advantage. At other times they try to ease their consciences by carrying out whatever worship comes easily to them.
These people very obviously deceive themselves but they can in no way arrive at an awareness of this. If you do not want to fall into the state of insincerity these people exhibit in the sight of Allah, be careful not to deceive yourself. If your knowledge is not enough, you can get to know our Lord best by reading the Qur'an because in this Book, Allah introduces Himself to His servants. In this way, you will be able to understand Allah's might and become a believer with a complete and sincere faith. However, if you evaluate Allah and His religion from a position of ignorance of the religion, you will fall into errors from which there is no recovery. Do not forget that you will only find salvation when you believe in Allah with a firm faith and serve Him sincerely. This truth is also stated by our Prophet (saas) thus:
Whoever meets Allah, without associating partners with Him, will enter Paradise. (Sahih Muslim)
Faith in the Hereafter
As we have pointed out in previous chapters, a person who spends his life pursuing his own desires and passions, doing worthless deeds and failing to recognize the instructions and prohibitions of Allah does not want to consider that in the Hereafter he will be resurrected, called to account for everything he has done and treated accordingly. Because of this, no matter how much his conscience is aware of the existence of the Hereafter, he prefers to suppress his conscience and deceives himself. This is, for example, one of the reasons people adopt the belief in reincarnation which has become widespread in recent times and according to which people return to the world after death many times, in different places, at different times and with different identities. This is because people who know that in the Hereafter the punishment of Hell awaits them for what they have done, or who at least grant the possibility of this, are made uncomfortable by the fact that on dying they will enter the Hereafter. As a result they joyfully accept such perverted beliefs or ideas, which are completely outside of the truth, even though they are not supported by the slightest evidence.
People who seek to deceive themselves in this way by making themselves believe that there is no Hereafter have existed in every period of history. Indeed, in the Qur'an Allah warns us about the way these people avoid intelligent reasoning and common rationality, simply so as to evade accepting the existence of the Hereafter and coming face to face with its reality. These are some of the relevant verses:
They will say, "Are we to be restored to how we were when we have become perished, worm-eaten bones?" They say, "That will clearly be a losing restoration!" (Surat an-Nazi'at: 10-12)
As we can see from the verses above, people who reject the Hereafter and resurrection are actually aware that the fact that they will be resurrected will not be to their benefit, so as far as possible they try not to let it cross their minds and using sophisticated speech and twisted logic they attempt to cover it up and encourage others to do the same. The Qur'an gives us this example:
He makes likenesses of Us and forgets his own creation, saying, "Who will give life to bones when they are decayed?" Say, "He Who made them in the first place will bring them back to life. He has total knowledge of each created thing." (Surah Ya Sin: 78-79)
People who choose this method of deceiving themselves on the subject of the Hereafter reflect this rationale in all their thinking and behavior. There are no bounds to the excesses of a person who makes himself believe that there will be no Judgment Day after death and no eternal life in Paradise or Hell, because one of the reasons for people to fear and avoid excess is the knowledge that what they do will have its consequences in the Hereafter. By letting go of this belief, they begin to belittle and neglect their responsibilities towards Allah. Only people who believe in the Hereafter can be aware that its repayment for ignoring the truth through self-deception during the life of this world is great pain and suffering.
When you think a little, you can also easily see that everything around you is not the work of chance but exists because of Allah's boundless power, knowledge and control. In addition, as we are told in the verses above, creating the Hereafter is an easy matter for our Lord; and there can be no doubt whatsoever that it conforms to divine justice. Be careful, and do not under any circumstances ignore these truths and try to deceive yourself, because those who do so and avoid facing the truth of the Hereafter will be unable to compensate for their errors there and will live in eternal pain.
Obedience to Satan
The great majority of people do not know the true characteristics of Satan and picture him as an imaginary being according to what they have heard from other people and seen in the movies. So while some people believe Satan has an independent power of his own (surely Allah is beyond this) and grossly exaggerate him, others regard the existence of Satan with scepticism and are unable to accept it. Even if they grant the possibility that he may exist, they do not believe that Satan has any effect on them whatsoever. Neither of these positions are based on any information or evidence but result from ignorant superstition. On this subject, as on all others, we can obtain the most correct and reliable information from the true Book of Allah. As our Prophet (saas) states, "The best word is the word of Allah and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad." (Sunan Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 7)
As we are told in the Qur'an, first and foremost Satan possesses no independent power. He is a being created by Allah and wholly under His control. Everything which happens in the world does so only because Allah wills it. After being dismissed from Allah's presence, Satan asked Allah to grant him a period until the end of the world. We are told of his dismissal from Allah's presence and the pe riod he was granted as follows:
We created you and then formed you and then We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam," and they prostrated – except for Iblis. He was not among those who prostrated. He said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?" He replied, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay." He said, "Descend from Heaven. It is not for you to be arrogant in it. So get out! You are one of the abased." He said, "Grant me a reprieve until the day they are raised up." He said, "You are one of the reprieved." He said, "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." He said, "Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those of them who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you." (Surat al-A'raf: 11-18)
After being condemned to the eternal torment of dismissal from Allah's presence, Satan swore an oath to mislead people into his own perverted ways and began his cunning operations. Allah made Satan's activities a means of distinguishing between His faithful believers and those who did not serve Him. Thus Satan's crafty games, traps and schemes are aimed at every living person, that is, to everybody who is still undergoing the test of life in this world. Satan will attempt to deceive everybody, without exception. As a result, nobody should regard himself as being immune to Satan's influence. If a person is aware of this, he behaves with care and is able to detect even the smallest of Satan's traps. However, if he regards Satan's influence as something far away, he may very easily fall under this influence. Because of this, Satan cannot influence Allah's sincere servants because they never forget that he will try to divert them from the true path, and so guard themselves carefully against him.
Satan's evil cunning can show itself anywhere. As a result of his wiles, a person may fall into error on any matter he encounters in his everyday life whether he is aware of this or not, and if he is not a sincere believer this influence can take over his entire life so that the outcome is that it drives him straight to Hell. That is exactly Satan's purpose. Satan wants people to rebel against Allah and suffer eternal torment. He never stops chasing them until they enter the Fire. The purpose of all his traps, whether big or small, of his watching and waiting for an opportunity, is to draw people to Hell with himself. In one verse, Allah warns people against the enmity of Satan:
Satan is your enemy so treat him as an enemy. He summons his party so they will be among the people of the searing blaze. (Surah Fatir: 6)
Obviously in this verse Allah informs us about a great danger. From the dawn of humanity to the present, Satan has achieved his purpose with countless people who do not believe in Allah. These verses of the Qur'an tell us so:
Iblis was correct in his assessment of them and they followed him, except for a group of the believers. He had no authority over them except to enable Us to know those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it. Your Lord is the Preserver of all things. (Surah Saba': 20-21)
However, let us note right away that Allah has also told us that Satan's power of deception is very weak (Surat an-Nisa': 76). As we can see from the above verse, it is out of the question for Satan to compel people. He does not have the power to do so. Satan merely speaks to people and those who do not have a sincere faith in Allah and reject the truth of the Hereafter heed his call and harm themselves. We are told in the following verse of the Qur'an that Satan himself will confess:
When the affair is decided Satan will say, "Allah made you a promise, a promise of truth, and I made you a promise but broke my promise. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. Do not, therefore, blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot come to your aid nor you to mine. I reject the way you associated me with Allah before." The wrongdoers will have a painful punishment. (Surah Ibrahim: 22)
Just as Satan's deception is weak, protection against the influence of his harmful wiles is very easy. Allah tells us the ways of escaping this influence:
If an evil impulse from Satan provokes you, seek refuge in Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. As for those who fear Allah, when they are bothered by visitors from Satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A'raf: 200-201)
As we can clearly see in these verses, it is impossible for Satan to have any influence on believers. The way to escape the negative influence of Satan is to take refuge in Allah, the Possessor of infinite power, and to reflect on what He has said in His Book. A person who can think with a clear mind and see the truth without falling into error is extremely careful in the face of Satan's deception and instead of falling into his trap he destroys it with his faith, determination and devotion to Allah.
However, most people do not think that such a danger to them exists. For this reason, they cannot think of taking refuge in Allah when faced with Satan's wiles. Satan approaches these misguided people with guile, and whispers his blandishments in their ears and into their hearts. One of the reasons why some people deceive themselves about the truth is that they listen to these deceptions and blandishments and follow the path to which Satan summons them.
So how can Satan persuade so many people who appear to be intelligent to such unintelligent behavior? In what ways can he cause them to deceive themselves and follow the path that leads to Hell?
In the coming pages, we will explain the situation of those people who succumb to the wiles of Satan and the reasoning they use to deceive themselves, and we will bring to light the shameful position into which these people fall. We will draw attention to the ways in which Satan deceives such people and drives them into Hell, and we will also make it clear to sincere people that they should be careful in the face of his cunning stratagems.
In order to divert people from the path of Allah, Satan uses many tactics to prevent them from worshipping Allah as He has instructed, and from living the life of moral excellence taught in the Qur'an. One of these tactics is to ensure that people put forward various excuses for not being able to worship. In other words, Satan hands a person excuses that make what he does seem reasonable. For example, to a young person who knows that he has to worship Allah, he whispers that he still has many years ahead of him in which to meet his responsibilities fully but that at the moment, time and circumstances are not suitable because he is away from home all day at work or at school and that his friends may view him with contempt.
If the person does not have a sincere and powerful faith, he is de ceived by these whisperings, but Satan is not easily satisfied with this and does not leave the person alone. As we said earlier, he will not leave him until he is in Hell. He persuades the person that what he is doing is reasonable and that he is right in acting this way until finally, the person ends up as one who no longer observes the duties imposed by Allah and who firmly believes he has good reasons for not doing so.
In fact, as we have pointed out before, everybody knows in his conscience that it is necessary to serve Allah, Who created him. However, for reasons presented by Satan as valid, he may at times convince himself that it is not necessary. To put it another way, although his conscience knows what should be done, he deceives himself for various reasons and convinces himself of what is not correct.
In the Qur'an, Allah gives a number of examples of such people who lose their sincerity as a result of Satan's blandishments. Amongst these, we are given examples of people who lived in the time of our Prophet (saas) and had weaknesses in their faith. Under the conditions of the time, a war was in prospect and our Prophet (saas) urged people to fight for what was right according to the instructions of the Qur'an, but those classified by Allah as "people who have sickness in their hearts" put forward all kinds of excuses for not going to war. This is related in the Qur'an as follows:
… They were told, "Come and fight in the way of Allah or at least help defend us." They said, "If we knew how to fight, we would certainly follow you." They were closer to disbelief that day than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah knows best what they are hiding. (Surah Al 'Imran: 167)
It is blatantly obvious that those people had come under Satan's influence, because in addition to being aware in their consciences of what needed to be done, they had heard the teaching of our Prophet (saas) and knew the religion of Allah well. However, in spite of knowing the truth and continuing to carry out every other act of worship that was incumbent on them, they still fell into Satan's trap. Even though they knew that Muslims needed to be protected, they tried to deceive themselves and other believers by claiming that they did not know.
Another group amongst these people tried to escape by telling our Prophet (saas): "Our wealth and families kept us occupied, so ask forgiveness for us" (Surat al-Fath: 11). This was a statement made under the influence of Satan. This is the only explanation for the complete lack of conscience shown by those who were more preoccupied with their own private concerns while all so many Muslims were in danger of losing their lives.
The people in question knew perfectly well what they needed to do to conform to Allah's instructions and earn His approval. In fact because they knew that they were insincere, they tried to salve their consciences with words by saying that they wanted our Prophet (saas) to ask forgiveness for them. Although they were acting contrary to their consciences, they managed to convince themselves of their own lies to such an extent that they ended up feeling quite at ease with their behavior. In the following verse of the Qur'an, Allah relates the situation of insincere people who feel justified in their avoidance of their religious obligations:
Those who were left behind were glad to stay behind the messenger of Allah. They did not want to strive with their wealth and themselves in the way of Allah. They said, "Do not go out to fight in the heat." Say: "The fire of Hell is much hotter, if they only understood." (Surat at-Tawba: 81)
Satan was able to seduce people with these excuses under the conditions and in the atmosphere of the time of the Prophet (saas), and there can be no doubt that he is trying to do the same thing to people today with different blandishments and different excuses because he is aware of everybody's weaknesses. He can make different plans according to any circumstances and conditions. The people he challenges may be scientists, professors, men of ideas, leaders, common people, artists, in short people of every level of culture and material wealth. Satan knows by which means he should approach all of these people.
The only people Satan cannot influence despite his trying every opportunity to do so are the sincere Muslims, as Allah mentions in the Qur'an. Since they fear Allah and do whatever they can to avoid the Fire, they take very deliberate precautions against Satan's trickery. In addition to this they make the best use of their intelligence, listen to their consciences and rely upon their faith in Allah.
The stratagems and tactics of Satan that we have described above are aimed at everybody. In other words, you, too, are a person in danger of coming under Satan's stealthy influence. This being the case, be sincere in your faith, and do not fall into Satan's trap. Do not forget that Satan is waiting for the opportunity to drag you into the Fire along with himself and is making plans for you. At the first opportunity he will cunningly go into action. Do not give Satan that opportunity. He will whisper every possible excuse in your ear to prevent you from following Allah's path and serving and worshipping Him. Moreover he will try to present his case as very sensible and reasonable. In this way he will try to persuade you by making you deceive yourself.
By listening to your conscience you can easily detect what is happening and protect yourself from the influence of Satan by responding instead to the impulse which directs you to gain Allah's approval. In this world, nothing is more important or urgent than protecting yourself against the fire of Hell, so do not listen to the suggestive persuasions with which Satan encourages you to deceive yourself, because on the Day of Judgment no excuse will be acceptable. As Allah tells us in His Book, He will not accept the presentation of excuses.
This is the truth, so beware! Do not under any circumstances fool yourself by imagining you can offer excuses for not living according to the religion of Allah.
Diversions and Distractions
Another of Satan's tactics is to divert people into empty and purposeless tasks. He paints activities and tasks that have nothing to do with the approval of Allah in pretty colors and makes them appear in an attractive and positive light. A person who falls for this ends up devoting himself entirely to worldly plans, rewards and targets.
While he is diverted by these projects, it does not cross his mind that one day his life in the world will end and that he will be called to account in the presence of Allah. As we stated at the beginning of this book, he wastes his entire life on fleeting ideals such as a higher position, more money and investments and a brighter future. It is obvious what a great mistake it is for a person who does not know where and how he will die and has no guarantee that he will still be alive from one second to the next, to pursue such fruitless ambitions and calculations.
However, the great majority of people persuade themselves that it is necessary for them to live like this. To console themselves, they opt not to think about any of the things we have said in this book and would rather continue their lives of self-deception. In line with this, they regard every target they set for themselves as the most important thing in the world. For instance, the most important aim of a secretary is not to forget the boss's meetings; of a student, to earn the highest possible marks; of a shop assistant, to sell the most shoes on a given day; of a businessman, to win a major tender; of an athlete, to take the biggest prize in his event; of a singer, to have more people listen to his CDs; of a young girl, to wear the most beautiful dress at a party she is going to; of a high school student, to become the boyfriend of the school's most beautiful girl; of a translator, to find the perfect words; and of a writer, to write the most successful books and articles. Of course, in all these things it is natural for a person to want to do and be the best but as we said at the outset, they are not the most important tasks in a person's life. There is no more important task for a person than earning Allah's good pleasure and becoming a servant of Allah who deserves Paradise.
If a person deceives himself, ignores the truth and believes that his worldly desires are the sole purpose of life, he will suffer great regret when suddenly, he finds himself face to face with death. Up to that moment he has believed that the most important things were his house, business, wife, car, diplomas, friends, family and circle of business acquaintances; but at his first sight of the angel of death he realizes how fleeting they were and that they were just parts of his test in life. Immediately afterwards, with the boundless blessings of the Garden on one side and violent physical and mental torment of the Fire on the other, he suffers an insupportable helplessness and regret when he gives the account of his deeds to Allah.
At that moment all that is important is what he has done to earn Allah's approval; but this person has done nothing of the kind during his life. He has not attempted to gain the approval of Allah. Then he comes to understand with the greatest possible bitterness that all the effort he devoted to the goals for which he grew old and wasted his life, had neither meaning nor importance. The truth is that this is not something he did not know. He knew in his conscience exactly what would become of him but he chose to evade this by deceiving himself. Allah tells us about the position of people like this in the verse:
... Satan made their actions seem good to them and so debarred them from the way, even though they were intelligent people. (Surat al-'Ankabut: 38)
In other words, although they are capable of seeing the truth, these people fall prey to Satan's deceptions and waste their lives on empty tasks.
Allah tells us in these verses that accepting that they have done wrong will do these people no good in the Hereafter:
And your Lord arrives with the angels rank upon rank and that Day Hell is produced, that Day man will remember; but how will the remembrance help him? He will say, "Oh! If only I had prepared in advance for this life of mine!" That Day no one will punish as He punishes and no one will shackle as He shackles. (Surat al-Fajr: 22-26)
In order not to be one of those who says, "if only… " in the Hereafter, think right now about the real purpose of your life and consider to what extent what you are doing serves this purpose. Be careful! Do not deceive yourself into thinking that the empty and purposeless tasks you do are worthwhile. This applies to everything you do, every task you undertake throughout the day. Naturally, you are going to work hard for many different things but your basic purpose in doing all of them should be to earn Allah's approval and His Paradise. If, in any task, you see no likelihood of Allah's approving, and do not believe it will be to your advantage in the Hereafter, give it up. Devote yourself only to tasks that you can see are good and beneficial. Your conscience makes the distinction for you in the best way possible. Listen to your conscience and take heed. Do not let Satan divert you by making valueless and fleeting things seem attractive.
In his task of diverting people from the path of Allah, Satan does not stop at making useless tasks seem attractive. He also makes a variety of promises. Allah tells us about Satan's falsehood in this verse:
He [Satan] makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what Satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (Surat an-Nisa': 120)
People who come under the influence of Satan make themselves believe they have long years ahead of them and pursue long-term plans. Behaving as if they will live in this world forever, they lose Allah's approval by devoting themselves to worldly ambitions such as money, property, rank and position. In another verse, Allah relates that this is another deception of Satan's:
Those who have turned back in their tracks after the guidance became clear to them, it was Satan who talked them into it and filled them with false hopes. (Surah Muhammad: 25)
Every person has wide ranging plans and schemes for thousands of matters according to the situation and circumstances in which he finds himself. Even if the plans of people from different professions, age groups and social strata vary, they are all fundamentally worldly. For example, a businessman's greatest ambition for the future is to own a large factory. After he has achieved factory ownership, his greatest ambition is to be able to market his goods worldwide. Or an artist aims to be well known by everybody in his own country, loved and respected and recognized as a great talent. When he succeeds in this, his next target is to achieve the same thing on a world scale. We can give examples of this type that concern many different people. In the life of the world, these people work day and night to realize their ambitions. They make many sacrifices, suffer many difficulties and struggle to overcome problems and obstacles of all kinds.
But are their lives long enough to achieve what they want? Everybody needs to think about this as a priority because success in none of the plans outlined above is guaranteed. By contrast, it is certain that death comes to everybody. In spite of this, these people make no plans and preparations for the Hereafter. They devote the whole of their lives to the realization of their worldly ambitions. They never even consider that one day death will come and with it all their plans will be abandoned incomplete, because Satan has made them promises as described in the Qur'an, and they waste their lives by allowing themselves to be deceived by these promises.
Instead of chasing long-term targets, a person should live in the way Allah has shown us in the Qur'an, knowing that he is responsible to Allah and will be called to account in His presence on the Day of Judgment. If not, he may find himself excluded from the Garden because of failure to prepare for eternal life and missing the opportunities given to him. A person who wastes himself on worthless tasks during the period that Allah has granted him will suffer great regret in the Hereafter. We are warned of this:
… Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed? (Surah Fatir: 37)
As we are told in the verse above, everybody is granted a period in which to take advice and listen to the voice of his conscience. No matter how much Satan tries to drive him onto the wrong path, a person has the opportunity to ignore his call and follow the path of Allah. The only means of doing this is sincere faith and trust in Allah. In the Qur'an we are told that every effort Satan directs towards people with these characteristics and every promise he makes will prove futile:
[Allah said:] "Stir up any of them you can with your voice and rally against them your cavalry and your infantry and share with them in their children and their wealth and make them promises! The promise of Satan is nothing but delusion. But as for My servants, you will not have any authority over them." Your Lord suffices as a guardian. (Surat al-Isra': 64-65)
Be careful and do not let Satan make you forget the place for which you really need to prepare by having you pursue worldly ambitions and long term plans. Do not deceive yourself by adopting worldly ideals and fleeting ambitions and believing that you are doing something worthwhile. Apply the following instruction of Allah without ever letting it slip your mind at any moment of your life:
You who believe! Fear Allah and let each self look to what it has sent forward for tomorrow. Fear Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. Do not be like those who forgot Allah so He made them forget themselves. Such people are the deviators. (Surat al-Hashr: 18-19)