The Pleasures Of This Life Lost By The Unbelievers
This life has been created with blessings that are deeply appealing to people, for:
He has given you everything you have asked Him for. If you tried to number Allah’s blessings, you could never count them. Humanity is indeed wrongdoing, ungrateful. (Surah Ibrahim: 34)
Moreover, Allah allows us to enjoy these blessings as we wish and informs us that if we thank Him, our blessings will increase even more. However, these wonderful blessings will be a cause of misery to those who are ungrateful. This is one of the Qur’an’s deepest secrets, a manifestation of Allah’s justice, and an important indication of the wisdom of His creation. For those who see the true Way and believe, He continually creates new opportunities and shows them the beauty of belief and the darkness of the unbelievers’ lives. So, whatever blessings people may have cannot give them a sense of real security and contentment. This, in fact, is Allah’s mercy toward His servants, for by this means they can understand that only believers who submit themselves to Allah can find true happiness and contentment, and thus submit themselves to Him.
By understanding the dangers of unbelief and the beauty of faith, those who can see the wisdom in Allah’s creation will be delivered from deprivation in this life as well as from the unimaginable misery that they would have had in the life to come. Therefore, readers must understand what is meant by “the spiritual and material blessings that the unbelievers consume in this life.” This will be examined in the following chapters. People who read the introduction and look at the chapter titles may think that this book is not meant for them for various reasons: They may think that they can take pleasure in life, other people, nature, and this world’s beautiful things, or that they are somehow immune to the anxiety and depression described herein. However, we would like to remind such people that even a cursory consideration of this matter could be of benefit to them. If you carefully consider these pages, you will see that in what they relate, there is a lesson for everyone to learn.
Some people may become inured to their situation over time and think of it as normal, not realizing that they may be leading a life bereft of many pleasures and beautiful blessings that Allah has created for them. The reason why most people have never enjoyed these blessings is because they are satisfied by this life’s ordinary and basic pleasures and may believe that there is nothing more. However, it is possible to derive a deeper pleasure from every blessing, for the pleasure derived varies with the person. In addition, people may think that they have already experienced enough pleasure from this life’s blessings and good things, or that they have taken more than their fair share. In other words, they believe they do not need to be reminded. Others may never have experienced this greater, deeper joy within themselves or in others because no one has told them that such things exist. But now that they are reading these pages, Allah will make them aware of the possibility of losing their blessings in both worlds and show them how to avoid this loss. Up to this point, you may well have been unaware of this issue. But now, after having acquired this knowledge, you will be responsible for thinking about it seriously and making a sincere effort to overcome any deficiency in your thinking.
People may not be in this spiritual state all the time. But they must not let this mislead them. If they are only occasionally wearied by life’s routine aspects, grow bored with life; and think that life has no meaning, such discontent should be enough to make them seriously consider what is being said here. Remember that consuming and losing pleasures in this world is only the beginning of an eternal darkness in the world to come. In the next world, this misery will not be limited only to being unable to properly enjoy the blessings. Being unbelievers, such people will experience a much deeper misery. But for believers, the world to come will be transformed into an eternal blessing.
By understanding the unbelievers’ situation, believers can see the nightmare of unbelief and learn from it. As a result, they will be very grateful to Allah for granting them faith. The following pages will consider the loss of blessings that turn one’s life into a true misery, as well as mention the material and spiritual pleasures lost, and thereby reveal the life of deprivation that unbelievers are forced to endure.
Lost Material Pleasures
They cannot enjoy their environment
Those who do not practice the Qur’an’s morality appear to be overcome with anxiety about their environment and situation. It takes only a moment for you to grasp what kind of spiritual state they are in. Do you think that when they say everything is going well that they are contented, or that everything is as they want it to be? Do they say that they are happy and excited by their daily routine and their monotonous, humdrum lives? Every morning they wake up in the same house and the same room, make the same bed, put on the same clothes, walk down the same hall, get on the same bus, drive through the same streets, go to the same job, and sit in the same room in the same chair. All day long they speak to the same people about the same things. Do they say they are happy with their stereotyped conversations?
Do they say they are happy with seeing the same house, the same walls, the same office environment, the same décor, the same furniture in the same arrangement? Or do they tell how bored they are walking in the same streets and meeting the same people? Do they complain how this monotony takes away meaning in their lives? The answer to these questions is obvious. Those who do not follow the Qur’an’s morality complain about their unchanging environment, lament that what once excited them now has no meaning and attraction, and express their boredom with life’s monotony, for they can no longer see the surrounding beauty or enjoy their possessions and environment. This anxiety is so all-encompassing that they want to abandon their city and even their country.
But believers, however, never face such a situation. Even if they live in the same house all their lives, have the same furniture and belongings, and do the same job, they are content with everything, for only their belief in Allah and hope for Paradise make them happy. Despite this, however, it is not wrong for people to desire change. On the contrary, this desirable feature shows the richness of the human spirit. But this is totally different from the unbelievers’ desire to find some way to relieve their boredom. This difference will soon become clear.
Certainly, the principal environment is one’s house. When they are outside, some people cannot wait to go home, imagining spending an enjoyable evening there. Of course, people should feel content, secure, and happy at home, for they are among the people they love and trust, and away from the chaotic, insecure, and unpredictable world outside. Moreover, many people have designed their homes to be as comfortable as possible and have decorated them to suit themselves. But in spite of this positive environment, those who do not follow the Qur’an’s morality are anxious even there.
When they move into their house, they think that they will enjoy every nook and corner in it. But gradually, all the furniture and accessories that they selected so carefully begin to lose their meaning and their appeal. Soon, they no longer feel comfortable there and want to go somewhere else to escape their feelings of anxiety and discontent. Even if the house is spacious, they find it confining, gloomy, dark, and small. They start to feel bored and anxious, saying: “This house oppresses me,” “These things weigh me down,” or “I’m tired of seeing the same things every day.” Now they no longer enjoy their house and are no longer excited to be in it.
One of the main reasons for this is that their lives have become one long routine based upon their unbelieving society’s preconceived standards. Everything is automatic: all of their daily activities, from the food they eat to the television programs they watch. Far from giving enjoyment, nearly all of these things have become compulsions. Another reason is their insatiable appetite for this life. When they compare other people’s blessings with their own, they become jealous and miserable. Realizing that someone else owns something nice that they do not makes every attractive possession they see a new source of misery for them. For example, they may grow upset if their house is not luxurious with a sea view, a rose garden and swimming pool, or if it does not have the latest décor.
Their anxiety does not cease even if they do finally obtain what they covet, and they do not want to share them with others. If a friend or relative asks for money, they worry that their fortune will diminish. Sometimes they fear that they will lose something, because they know that a disaster could strike them at any time. Divorced from the Qur’an’s morality, they do not consider Allah’s power and that whatever happens to them comes from Him to test them.
But believers never suffer from such anxiety, for they are always aware that they are with Allah and that this world is a testing place designed to show their trust in, and faithfulness and submission to Him. For this reason, they are content with whatever happens and with every situation and condition that He has created for them, and take pleasure in them. They demonstrate the same spiritual state in their environment, whether they live in a small cottage, a mansion, or a palace. They are not concerned about the structure’s architecture, materials, colors, size, style, or how long they have lived in it.
All of these things are blessings for everyone. However, believers place importance on something beyond these, and it is this that makes them happy and content: living according to the Qur’an’s morality. Of course they want their houses to be as beautiful, modern, and esthetically pleasing as possible, because they look at their surroundings with the eyes of belief. In addition, since their ability to see beauty and appreciate detail is greater than that of most people, their sense of beauty, esthetics, and variety is more refined. But even if there are deficiencies in what they have, they still value and enjoy them. In return for their fine moral character, Allah shows His mercy and love by promising believers the best of everything and enabling them to derive a deep enjoyment from what they have:
Their inability to enjoy their work
Due to their anxiety-ridden spiritual condition and the ”vicious circle” in which they live, those unbelievers whose main goal is to have a good life and make the most of their blessings consider working as a great nuisance. Not only does it make them tired and therefore unable to live the good life all the time, it also reminds them just how hard it is to live the good life. Their ideal is to work less and to use their extra time to live a better life. But this is impossible, for they must always work harder to attain their desires, which takes away their time for enjoying them.
Looking carefully at the professional lives of those who do not follow the Qur’an’s morality, we can see that, for them, working has become a trouble and a vicious circle. To reach their jobs on time, they have to get up early, which means that they must sleep early. And then there is all the time that they have to spend to get to work, bathing, eating, cleaning, running errands, and meeting all of the countless needs of daily life. Seeing that they have at most maybe a couple of hours each day to really enjoy themselves, they become angry and depressed.
This situation is a great source of discontent for them, as are the usual difficulties and worries in professional life. Such negativity starts during their university years, for all of us have heard media reports about new graduates giving way to despair because they cannot realize their goals or dreams. Not realizing that everything comes from Allah and is for their own good, they become anxious and worry about whether they will find a job, earn lots of money, advance in their career, and other such matters. These people do not realize that everything happens under Allah’s control and so, they find it very tiring and depressing to go from door to door looking for a job and being rejected. And after all these wearying efforts, often they wind up accepting a job they do not want. They are unable to find the kind of employment they dreamed of in their university days. And instead of securing the kind of position they want, they are forced to accept a job that has no appeal for them. Because they cannot do the tasks they hoped and planned to, their second-choice work becomes an inconvenient drudgery for them. No matter how tired they are, they must go to their job (even if they do not like it, they need to earn money), where they will be unhappy. In addition, they must often travel through rain, snow and mud puddles to catch the bus to work. They have to wait in line for it to come, sweating in the heat during summers and feeling chilled in the winter cold. The situation is not much different for those who drive to work in cars. Now they must wait for hours tied up in traffic and often begin arguing with other drivers out of sheer impatience. Upon arriving, their work environment is another source of stress for them. But they, like everyone else, begin their new jobs with high hopes of earning a good salary and moving into a better neighborhood.
But the comfortable, secure, and happy working life they had hoped for quickly becomes ridden with anxiety. As in all situations where the Qur’an’s morality is not practiced, they see an environment of vexation, quarrelling, jealousy, and general unhappiness. And so they begin to seek out pretexts to argue with their coworkers, become jealous of those who have a higher position, and humiliate those who are in a lesser position. Secretaries, managers, and directors compete with each other, and so cannot become friends. If someone else is appointed to a job they wanted, they become frustrated and think that they have been treated unfairly. Their resentment increases toward their coworkers, especially the managers and directors, and they soon become fed up with their work, are discontent, and bored. They do not like always being in the same position, and seeing the same people and having to work hard in an environment they despise gradually wears them down. As a result, their level of tiredness, stress, and unhappiness increases.
But the situation in which these people find themselves totally results from the false ideas on which they’ve based their lives. Of course, people must work at some job that will allow them to earn enough to survive. And it is quite natural that they will experience a number of difficulties that their work brings with it. The point, however, is that the difficulties that any job and working environment present will become sources of frustration for ignorant people, simply because of their state of mind.
Because both they and those around them live divorced from the moral teachings of the Qur’an, and because they view their lives and events from their own particular point of view, everything seems more difficult and frustrating for them.
The same is true for those who do not work hard to find a good and rewarding job, perform the kind of work they like to do, and secure a good position in their chosen career. Even if they achieve a good standard of living, no amount of material wealth can relieve the emptiness in their hearts. They experience the same anxious spiritual state. They live a life of discontentment because they are so passionately attached to this world, they remain ambitious for wealth and possessions, and they regard everything and everyone around them as simply another opportunity for personal profit.
In fact, their main source of anxiety comes from looking at the problems without considering the Qur’an’s morality. Their frustration is Allah’s “reward” for their stubborn unbelief. They ignore His blessings and do not thank Him for them, so He sends anxiety their way. If they were not consumed with a passion for this world, if they appreciated what they have and thanked Him for them, they would be able to enjoy their possessions:
People do not feel anxious or weary when they follow the Qur’an’s morality. However, the enjoyment derived from doing something with worldly aims in mind is very limited and of short duration. When the benefits gained run out, their eagerness to continue subsides and the aim becomes regarded as a bother. But those who seek Allah’s favor are rewarded with pleasure, for they know that they will be rewarded for their intention and not for the nature of the act. Therefore, they will never get bored with doing it:
Their [the sacrificial animals’] flesh and blood does not reach Allah, but your heedfulness does. In this way He has subjected them to you so that you might proclaim Allah’s greatness for the way that He has guided you. Give good news to those who do good. (Surat al-Hajj: 37)
And so, no matter what they do, if they perform it in the hope of winning Allah’s pleasure, and if they keep on doing so until the end of their lives, they will never get bored or lose their enjoyment in doing it again and again.
No matter how long they do that deed, their love and desire for earning Allah’s favor will cause them to constantly create new and beautiful things on their horizon. Having rooted their morality in fear of Him, they form close relationships and friendships with those around them; have no desire for rank, position, or money; and are never jealous or anxious.
They cannot enjoy entertainment centers
Some people who are attached to this world know that life is short and so want to make the most of what time they have. There is nothing wrong with this, for Allah has endowed this life with so many good things so that we can enjoy them and thank Him. However, unbelievers think that they can obtain these good things through non-Qur’anic means and then enjoy them. By using methods of their own, or the techniques used in society in general, they assume that they can enjoy the best pleasures this Earthly life has to offer. One of these methods is “entertainment.” But since they define entertainment according to their lifestyle and moral character, they cannot enjoy it properly, for “Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace” (Surat ar-Ra‘d: 28).
Apart from this, it cannot matter what a person does. Even if he discovers the best and most colorful entertainments on Earth, he will never be able to take pleasure from any of them.
If you carefully examine the kinds of entertainment that ignorant people seek out, you will see once again the disappointment in which their search culminates. Those who do not follow the Qur’an’s morality have a very limited idea of entertainment: They have based their lives on the expectations of others in an ignorant society, eager to gain a good position among them and earn their respect. As a result, in matters of entertainment, they strive to fit into some mould that society has already made and approved, rather than to seek enjoyments of their own. If left to their own choices, many people who seek out “popular” entertainment would much rather spend their time at home watching television, having a fine meal, looking at beautiful views, or talking with friends and other people. But no matter how much these private pastimes may please them, they do not allow themselves to enjoy them, in order to put on airs and gain respect. And so they go where everyone else goes for entertainment and opt for the same forms of entertainment. Therefore, unbelievers try to find enjoyment in going out to dinner with friends, going to the theater or the cinema, attending social activities organized by their school or professional colleagues, talking over coffee, or going to a club to dance and listen to music. Of course, some individuals may really enjoy these outings. But in order to enjoy them correctly, they must fear and respect Allah, believe in Him, and have a good moral character. Otherwise, all these good opportunities will simply make them anxious. They lead people into an environment where they will be swayed by the compulsions of an ignorant morality. So, when those whose spiritual state is far removed from religious morality assemble together, it becomes clear just how much they have disregarded this reality.
First off, as we saw above, ignorant people act according to the demands of their society rather than following their own tastes and inclinations. As to how they will entertain themselves, what films they will see and what restaurants, cafés or nightclubs they’ll go out to, they base their decisions on their society’s standards. They think that doing the chic and fashionable things that society approves of will earn them position, importance and respect in the eyes of others. For example, to be seen in a popular nightclub “where everyone goes” is very important for their self-respect. Even if they feel uncomfortable there, being able to tell colleagues or friends the next day that they had a good time at that popular place allows them to put on airs. When we look at these places of entertainment, we see that nothing in them appeals to the human spirit; rather, they make people weary and anxious. Most of these places are very crowded and full of stale air, due to the many people smoking. Given the noise, it is hard to hear what other people are saying. No matter how good the music is or how delicious the food is, the crowd and the noise make it impossible to enjoy them. Even if this place was invigorating, bright, clean, and well-appointed, the result would be the same, because the people who go there do not follow the Qur’an’s morality and therefore are not content. In an environment filled with envy and rivalry, people cannot really enjoy themselves. This can take place only in a natural, intimate, friendly, and secure environment. However, they can hardly be content if they are constantly looking for faults in others and humiliate other people by criticizing their shortcomings. It’s obvious that people who socialize with one another mainly to vent their envy and rivalry cannot enjoy any of their shared meals, their conversations, listening to music together or dancing. Instead, they will totally wear themselves out, both spiritually and physically. This is a fact that they themselves cannot deny.
Besides, the environment in which these ignorant people socialize is open to all sorts of dangers. No matter how carefully they make sure to select only entertainment of the highest quality, like it or not, they are forced to endure the company of people from segments of society quite different from their own. These people may have perverse attitudes, dark pasts and criminal personalities; they may be addicted to drugs and alcohol. This, of course, creates a tense atmosphere for those who only want to enjoy themselves. Therefore, being in the company of people they do not know – about whose past, lifestyle, moral character and personalities they know even less – makes it impossible for them to be comfortable enough to enjoy themselves.
People cannot feel safe in such an environment, because none of them fear and respect Allah. They do not worry that they will have to account to Him in the Hereafter, and so think, behave, and react according to their own ideas and principles; ignore all guidelines and limits except for their own opinions; and look for gain. For all these reasons, it is impossible to feel truly secure and comfortable wherever people with no faith in Allah meet together. How can anyone truly relax and enjoy themselves in such a dangerous and tense environment? Moreover, even though they know that they cannot enjoy themselves as they would like to, they do not want to understand that their problem comes from their lack of belief. They look for the solution in other forms of entertainment, but without success. Regardless of where they go, they encounter the same anxiety, tension, and boredom. Even if they seem to be enjoying themselves from an observer’s point of view, from what we have said, it’s clear that they can find no spiritual contentment or tranquility. Allah calls our attention to this fact:
Allah sends this misery to the unbelievers and does not allow them to enjoy themselves so that they will be consumed with disappointment. If believers find themselves in a similar environment, they remain content in the knowledge that they fear and respect Allah and that they follow the Qur’an’s morality.
They cannot enjoy vacations
Unbelievers think that they can escape their unpleasant lives by going on vacation. If they cannot afford to do so, people in almost every segment of society seek to create themselves a holiday environment, according to their tastes and material income. Some stay at home and relax; others take advantage of their time off to take short day trips. Even though their choices of where to go may be radically different, their common goal is to take a respite from the work they have had to do throughout the year and spend their time more enjoyably by doing something quite different.
And so they start to save money, dreaming about their upcoming vacation. They plan every detail in advance; they carefully select the clothes they will wear and ensure that wherever they stay will have all they need to keep them comfortable. And in order for their limited time to be even more enjoyable, often they make arrangements for their good friends to go with them. And yet many times such plans come to nothing, for the vacation does not turn out as expected. Sometimes, people come back even more physically and mentally worn out than they were before they left.
There are certain reasons for this. For example, Allah tests people by creating apparent adversities as well as some environments that appeal to their lower selves, “We test you with both good and evil as a trial. And you will be returned to Us” (Surat al-Anbiya’: 35). So, according to Allah’s wisdom, human beings encounter pleasant and unpleasant things in the course of their lives. If they demonstrate a good moral character in the face of adversities, Allah turns events that at first glance seemed to be negative, difficult or trying into the means to something good and positive. Therefore, anyone who acts from this point of view will be content in every moment of his life. He will appreciate the good things he has and be happy with them. But a person with an ignorant moral character, facing these trying situations that Allah has created, will not see anything good in these apparently negative occurrences. He will be far from content and, because of this peevish moral attitude, will not be able to enjoy the good things he does possess.
In environments where the high morality attained through the fear of Allah is absent, people cannot be content with themselves, nor can they enjoy all the good things that are offered to them. This is because where there is no trust in Allah, there is no ability to see the good in every occurrence, and none of the maturity needed to endure apparent adversities and wrong attitudes. And where people cannot solve their problems without getting overcome with anger, an ignorant attitude takes over, subjecting them to great anxiety. So this is why some people cannot derive the pleasure they expect from their holiday, despite all their best efforts. And so it is with other aspects of their lives. If a few short examples of the problems likely to be encountered in such holiday outings were given, it would be clear that these people feel unhappy only because of their own moral characters.
In any holiday environment, the disappointment encountered most frequently is that the place is different than people had expected it would be. The fact that their accommodations are smaller than they imagined is enough to dissipate their enjoyment from the beginning. Add to this that they may have had a difficult voyage getting there, making them particularly impatient. Their discontent at being in an unfamiliar place they do not like only adds to their inability to tolerate its lack of amenities or facilities, making them feel truly depressed. Adding to their unhappiness is their superstitious idea that anything that begins badly will likely continue in the same vein.
Sometimes they do find a situation totally to their liking. But should even one unexpected thing happen to them in the course of their holiday, all their enjoyment vanishes. For example, they go somewhere to sunbathe and it starts to rain, the availability of electricity or water is irregular, the swimming pool is crowded, or there are no good tables left in the restaurant. Believers who experience these same conditions, however, view them as sources of enjoyment through the eyes of belief. No matter how disagreeable a situation may be, they will see many things for which to thank Allah and will know how to be content with them. For example, the weather may not be sunny, but there are other interesting things to do when it rains. Or, the swimming pool may be crowded, but they can busy themselves in outdoor sports, hiking, or shopping. The table in the restaurant may not be the best, but there are friends to talk to sitting at the next table. They remain calm in all of the situations mentioned above, for reacting to them negatively only makes them miserable. Knowing this, they adopt a positive and mature attitude toward such circumstances.
In fact, unbelievers are unhappy even when they are in a perfect environment, for their spiritual corruption, inner discontent, and non-Qur’anic moral character prevents them from enjoying those blessings. If they do not know how to thank Him for what they have or how to look positively at everything that happens; if they are intolerant and unforgiving of other people’s mistakes; and if they are not self-giving and modest, they will never be able to enjoy any of His blessings. But if they have the fear and respect of Allah in their hearts, they will possess all of these good moral qualities and Allah will enable them to experience the joys of this life.
Being bored with their possessions
In the Qur’an, Allah tells us that His blessings do the unbelievers no good:
So leave them in their glut of ignorance for a while. Do they imagine that, in the wealth and children We extend to them, We are hastening to them with good things? No indeed, but they have no awareness. (Surat al-Mu’minun: 54-56)
Unbelievers may spend their lives surrounded by wealth, beauty, honor, fame, and respect. But none of these things does them any good or becomes a blessing for them, and they will only experience increased agony in both worlds. On the surface it seems that Allah gives them blessings, but He does not enable them to enjoy them. Therefore, even though the blessings are all around them, they are, nevertheless, deprived of them. A person can possess everything he wants, but it becomes a great misery for him not to be able to enjoy what he already has.
We must remember that they know the reason for this: their failure to abide by the Qur’an’s morality. They vehemently deny this, of course. And instead of seeking the solution in faith and taking refuge in Allah, they try to escape their boredom by changing their habits, attitudes, social circles, friends, and the places they frequent. They hope that then, everything will be all right again, and they will have saved their lives from emptiness and their hearts from uneasiness. We have all heard people around us say things like the following: “I want to start a new life,” “I’ll start from zero,” and “I’m going to wipe out the past and turn over a new page.” Even if they manage to start completely new lives, however, they cannot find the meaning, excitement, or happiness that they are seeking. For example, they take painting or sculpture art lessons, thinking that it will give them pleasure to create works of art that express their personality. But they soon discover that any such pleasure is not forthcoming. They try everything to boost their egos, find adulation among their peers, and earn a good reputation in their society. They attend meetings, accept a position in a charitable organization, go to exhibitions, concerts and the theatre; they go shopping, try different kinds of sports, and set up meetings with their friends. But after a short time they get bored with these things as well; they cannot find the excitement for which they are looking. Nothing has changed, because their spirit had not changed. Only if these members of ignorant society abandon their unseemly characters and adopt the high morality that Allah has commanded can they become happy and content.
Some think that money and what it can buy will make them happy and so concentrate on earning it. But acquiring a better car, a nicer house, a better position, or more comfort will never satisfy them, for they are filled with the desire to have more. For example, some people have a passion for cars. It is very important that their car is a good make and the latest model; it has to have good engineering and a quality music system. They grow very emotionally attached to their auto and do not want it to have the slightest dent or scratch. But their satisfaction from driving a nice car does not last long. Soon a new model comes out, and theirs becomes an outdated model. It pains them to read that a faster car with more accessories and more advanced engineering is now on the market, and in an instant moment they lose all the pleasure they had in their once-coveted possession. Also, their wardrobe becomes a major problem for ignorant people. Some people want to follow the latest clothing fashions, even though they may not have enough money to do so. They buy an outfit that they like and find attractive, but stop liking it when it goes out of style or they see it on someone they do not like or, even worse, a rival. The outfit abruptly loses its appeal and becomes a source of irritation. In much the same way, seeing someone wearing nicer clothing than theirs makes them quite miserable. No matter how nice their own outfits are, they are worried that they are no more than ordinary, which makes then unhappy. Their habits, social activities, material means, or possessions will not make them happy, and their constant search for more will make them even more miserable. When they realize that they have really consumed and wasted all of this life’s pleasures, they generally get “angry at life.” Unwilling to solve their problems through belief, they remain mired in confusion and unhappiness. Therefore, in spite of all their efforts, they remain confused and unhappy. However, if they practiced religious morality, they would have a joy deeper than they could imagine.
Believers see this very clearly in their lives. Having escaped from boredom and anxiety, they find their spirits deepening more every day and thus acquire an even better understanding of the value of the blessings that Allah bestows upon them. Their joy and contentment increase, for they understand that these blessings are manifestations of Allah’s mercy, love, and kindness toward them. Because they live their lives totally for Allah, use their every advantage to win His favor and do everything to please Him, they continually experience the same deep joy and excitement. In the Qur’an, Allah reveals the enduringly tranquil spiritual state of those who have faith in Him:
O self at rest and at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleasing and well-pleased. Enter among My servants. Enter My Garden. (Surat al-Fajr: 27-30)
They cannot take pleasure in natural beauty
The unbelievers’ materialistic way of thinking renders them incapable of sensing the beauty of nature. They look at almost everything around them in terms of how it can benefit them and how they can make more of this life. This searching for gain is so much a part of their character that they think that something nice has meaning only if it brings them adulation and respect. This limited vision prevents them from noticing all of the natural beauty bedecking every part of creation, and so their appreciation of it is only superficial.
But Allah has endowed the whole world with splendid natural beauty to please the human spirit and so that we can think about Him, see His great power, believe in Him, and thank Him. No matter where we live, all of us have some connection with much of this beauty. The rain, waves beating on the shore, a sunset, or the sight of a budding flower all give deep satisfaction to the human spirit. All parts of creation leave an impression on people and bring them blessings. Looking through the eyes of belief, believers know that Allah has created all of these beautiful things for them. And so they notice them down to their finest details and derive a deep enjoyment from them. Those who view the world with heedless eyes see it through a veil of heedlessness. For this reason, the majority of ignorant people do not notice the beautiful things around them; and what they do notice does not have much meaning for them. As far as they are concerned, there might as well be a shroud over the various wonderful blessings that surround them. In the Qur’an, our Lord describes the state of those who have eyes but cannot see:
In another verse, He reveals:
Clear insights have come to you from your Lord. Whoever sees clearly, does so to his own benefit. Whoever is blind, it is to his own detriment. I am not here as your keeper. (Surat al-An‘am: 104)
So those who look heedlessly at the beauty around them can see it only as if behind a curtain. Of course, people who live amid some natural beauty will look to take advantage of it when necessary. For example, they may enjoy going to the seaside to watch a sunset or look at flowers and trees, but their enjoyment is limited. They have no sense of delight deep in their hearts. They experience only an ordinary and fleeting sense of pleasure that quickly gives way to insensitivity, disinterest, and boredom. Within a short time they want something new, more interesting, and more original. This is a sign of the debasement and insensitivity of their spirits. There are unbelievers who say that they love nature and want to live in it; some of them even have spent a large part of their lives doing so. But, how do they measure the pleasure that they derive from natural beauty?
Believers know that this measure depends upon their ability to feel Allah’s power and greatness, seeing their own littleness compared to His splendid creation, and sincerely submitting themselves to Him. Allah allows only those who see this truth and can live according to it to take genuine pleasure in these beautiful things. Even though they live amid all this loveliness, some people can never escape the emptiness in their hearts, their inner discontent and unhappiness. This only shows their inability to enjoy this beauty properly. As long as they do not have faith in Allah, beauty can give them only a fleeting sense of delight and hold their interest for only a short time.
But a person who knows that Allah has created all the beautiful things around him can better understand the meaning behind it. He will discover its deeper aspects and experience delight in each discovery. As a result, he can feel the deep pleasure that comes from having a sense of Allah’s supreme qualities, greatness, endless creative artistry, infinite knowledge and wisdom, and dominion over all of creation. This person would not need to visit all the countries of the world to see their natural beauty. The richness and depth of his own spirit would allow him to take pleasure in the countless small sights that he is accustomed to as he goes back and forth each day. This produces a great sense of delight in the depths of his being.
For example, Allah has created animals as a blessing for human beings. Countless kinds of birds glide gracefully through the air, their beautiful wings, bright colors, and symmetrical feathers give pleasure to all of those who look at them through the eyes of belief. The way a pretty little squirrel uses its teeth, moves its paws, and flicks its tail awakens a strong sense of compassion in each believer’s heart. This is also the case when they see a cute little rabbit using its paws to eat a carrot, the designs on a zebra’s body, the magnificence of a galloping horse, the beauty of a gazelle, and the countless features of all animals. The same applies to the bright greenness of a forest, the magnificence of a waterfall, the sight of mountain peaks piercing the clouds, and the countless types of trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Witnessing these manifestations of His supreme knowledge and creative artistry, they thank Him.
All believers have an unlimited capacity to take pleasure in natural beauty, a pleasure that grows due to the deepening of their spirit and belief. This is a pleasure that Allah gives only to those who approach Him in sincerity; He gives it only to believers in return for their ability to see everything through the eyes of faith. Those who deny Allah lose enjoyment of these beautiful things in this world and will not have them in the world to come. In the next world, they will have only misery. In the Qur’an, Allah calls our attention to this reality:
Abandon those who have turned their religion into a game and a diversion, and who have been deluded by the life of this world. Remind by it, lest a person is delivered up to destruction for what he has earned with no protector or intercessor besides Allah. Were he to offer every kind of compensation, it would not be accepted. Such people are delivered up to destruction for what they have earned. They will have scalding water to drink and a painful punishment because they did not believe. (Surat al-An‘am: 70)
hey are unable to take pleasure in cleanliness
Cleanliness reveals an individual’s personality, moral character, way of thinking, and intelligence. Allah mentions its importance in the Qur’an:
Purify your clothes. Shun all filth. (Surat al-Muddaththir: 4-5)
But cleanliness is a quality found only among those who have genuine faith. Like other moral qualities, cleanliness can be achieved only through the fear of Allah. This is because anyone who fears Allah knows that, even when he is alone by himself, Allah sees everything he does and that in the world to come, he will receive a reward for this act. He also knows that he will receive a recompense for everything he has contrary to the voice of his conscience. For this reason, he will avoid any action that displeases Allah and which is pronounced in the Qur’an to be wrong. In his daily life, he practices the kind of cleanliness that Allah describes in the Qur’an as a form of worship. It means taking pleasure from being in clean places, using clean things and associating with clean people. Of course, unbelievers have their own understanding of cleanliness. Some of them are known for their meticulous tidiness and cleanliness, but this does not come from their fear and respect of Allah or their desire to win His favor. Therefore, this cleanliness is due to what society expects from its members. These people miss a great deal by not leading their lives in conformity with the understanding of cleanliness revealed in the Qur’an, and from their inability to feel the need for it. In response to their rejection of faith, Allah has taken this pleasure from their spirits and obliged them to live in an unpleasing environment.
Unbelievers are aware of two kinds of cleanliness: the visible and the invisible. They place the most importance on the first kind, such as physical cleanliness and clean clothing. However, outward cleanliness always has an unseen side, for unbelievers, when they are alone or think that no one else sees them, often behave quite differently than they do in public. It is impossible to guess what they do when they are alone, for others cannot discern what is (and what is not) important to them, because anyone who does not fear Allah decides what is right and wrong according to his own ideas.
Many such people look at their physical cleanliness and the cleanliness of their homes from the outside, and measure it according to whether or not they notice any dirt. They put off bathing, doing the laundry, ironing, changing sheets and towels, and tidying up because these chores bore them. They clean and organize their closets only when they have to. Some mix their dirty and clean clothes together and wear them again. Generally, if they can afford it, they pay someone to come in once a week to do the cleaning. Apart from this, they do not bother to clean the bathroom, the floors, and dust in the corners, or the mess in their bedrooms.
Some people are often physically dirty. They get tired of washing themselves and, especially when the weather is cold, wash only their hair. They do not care about their physical dirtiness, because no one can see it. Women have their hairdressers “do” their hair and do not feel the need to wash it until their perm comes out. These people try to cover up their dirty bodies by using heavy perfumes and deodorants, but this is far more off-putting. They think it is normal to smell cigarette smoke, food, or sweat. They may always seem outwardly clean, and their clothes may appear ironed and spotless. But they are not really clean, because they harbor a warped understanding of what real cleanliness is. For example, they may get some dust on their clothes or spill something on their sleeve, which might not cause a permanent stain, and they do not consider it unclean at all. They may get their hands dirty or greasy from eating, but do not wash them immediately afterward. They think that no one sees them preparing their meals and may easily use a ladle they have not washed or some morsel that has fallen on the dirty kitchen countertop or even on the floor. They may use unwashed utensils and dirty pots. In the same way, they do not trouble themselves about the cleanliness of their bathrooms and so endanger their own health and of those they live with.
We could say much more about what such people might do. If asked, they would say they had not noticed that their clothing, hair, hands or faces were dirty. This is because they regard that situation as entirely normal. Even if they make those around them uncomfortable or even endanger their health, they will refuse to admit as much. We must not forget that this is a recompense that Allah gives to the ignorant society. In a sense, those who refuse to come to faith receive payment for the harm they have done with their own distorted moral understanding.
Another widespread misconception is that not paying attention to cleanliness is an aspect of modernity. Such people think that anyone who interferes with their dirtying of the environment is old-fashioned. And, because they impel one another to think this way, they hesitate to criticize it, even though they know that such a lifestyle is wrong. For example, they enter their homes wearing dirty shoes and are content to leave their sofas and carpets covered with dust and dirt. And if someone else enters their house and dirties their carpets with their dirty shoes, they do not care; to protest would be embarrassing.
This distorted way of thinking can be seen among young people. They think it is alright to sleep in the same clothes they wore all day. It is normal for them to eat a greasy sandwich, not wash their hands, and then rub the grease over their hair and their clothing. If muddy water splashes on their clothes, they just wipe it off and continue on their way. They believe that the dirtier, more stained, and worn out their leather jacket is, the more “cool” it is. Their jeans become virtual breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. This same tendency is seen among those who equate intellectualism with modernism. They think that their shabby lifestyle and manner of dress gives them an air of being different and superior. You cannot go near them because their bodies and clothing exude cigarette smoke, and you cannot look them in the eye because of their long, dirty, and messy hair and unkempt beards. In fact, they are repulsive. They think that if they were clean and tidy, and if they were having a conversation in a bright, airy, and pleasant atmosphere, they would lose their aura of intellectualism and be just like everyone else.
Such an unhealthy lifestyle has both spiritual and physical effects. Since they live in a dirty environment, they often get sick; living in an airless, dusty, and filthy place destroys their lungs and ruins their skin. Sometimes it even turns yellow. In time, they lose their ability to appreciate beauty and good looks, their hearts harden and become unable to take pleasure in fine things, and their spirits become debased.
For believers, however, cleanliness is both an act of worship and a blessing that gives them great spiritual pleasure, contentment, refreshment, comfort, and confidence. Among believers, believers can have peace of mind, sit where they want, and use implements and utensils without hesitation or uneasiness. They know that every believer fears and respects Allah, that they do not violate the Qur’an’s morality, that they act the same way both in public and in private, and that they always behave with impeccable purity in every situation, just as Allah commands. They do their best to ensure that those around them enjoy the same level of comfort, health, and security that they do. Their conscience makes them accept this as a responsibility and avoid anything that might harm others. They take great pleasure in trying to create environments in this world that are reminiscent of Paradise.