The State of Unawareness
Unawareness, as briefly defined in the introduction, is the condition of those people who are either unaware of Allah’s existence and the Hereafter, or, if they are aware, do not have the requisite sense of responsibility. As a result, they are unaware and careless. Sometimes, believers can become temporarily unaware due to a transient forgetfulness or distraction. In the case of unbelievers or those who ascribe equals to Allah, this can be a life-long condition that affects every aspect of life.
Many people do not wonder why they were created; rather, they dally in the desires of their egos and therefore lead empty and useless lives. Following the logic of “living for the moment,” they seek to attain only the best and to enjoy as many of the world’s pleasures as they can. For them, what counts is making the best of their time, imagining that “we only have one life.” Thus, they try to fill their allotted days with as much pleasure and enjoyment as possible. They know they are going to die, and yet they are unaware of the eternal punishment awaiting them in Hell. And because they cannot conceive of Allah’s supreme power, they underestimate just how severe this punishment will be. (For details, see Harun Yahya’s Death, Resurrection, Hell). Some of the related verses areas follows:
If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, that truly all strength belongs to Allah , and that He is severe in punishment. (Surat al-Baqara: 165)
That Day no one will punish as He punishes, and no one will shackle as He shackles. (Surat al-Fajr: 25-26)
When they are flung into it (Hell), they will hear it gasping harshly as it seethes. It all but bursts with rage. Each time a group is flung into it, its custodians will ask them: “Did no warner come to you?” (Surat al-Mulk: 7-8)
Hell will suffice as a Searing Blaze! As for those who reject Our Signs, We will roast them in a Fire. Every time their skins are burned off, We will replace them with new skins so that they can taste the punishment. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa’: 55-56)
Most unaware individuals know of Allah’s existence but do not have an accurate knowledge of Islam. Therefore, they do not submit to Him. As a result, their lack of absolute trust in Him causes them to experience deep pain and sorrow when confronted with difficult and distressing situations. The smallest anxiety is enough to upset their lives, and they are known for their pessimism, unhappiness, and depression.
They pass long periods doing useless and meaningless things, which they call “being busy.” But this “useless busyness,” which makes them feel so important and indispensable, is just an empty distraction that fans the flames of their unawareness. In the Qur’an, Allah describes these vain distractions:
It may be that those who are unbelievers will wish that they had been Muslims. Leave them to eat and enjoy themselves. Let false hope divert them. They will soon know. (Surat al-Hijr: 2-3)
Unawareness is like an insidious disease that engulfs those who have forgotten Allah and the Hereafter, that anesthetizes the mind and shrouds the intelligence. This drowsy unawareness prevents them from understanding the realities that assail and await them. Despite their power to see and hear, such people can no longer accurately interpret and judge what they see and hear. In fact, it shrouds their minds to such an extent that they spend all of their time trying to satisfy the endless desires of their egos. They can think of nothing else, for they have already transformed their desires and passions into deities:
Have you seen him who has taken his whims and desires to be his deity? Will you, then, be his guardian? Do you suppose that most of them hear or understand? They are just like cattle. Indeed, they are even further astray! (Surat al-Furqan: 43-44)
One important aspect of unawareness is its ability to alienate people from reality and cause them to live in a dream world. For example, young people always think of the future and may feel happy thinking that their dreams will come true. As they get older, their dreams become more restricted and they try to relive them through souvenirs and reminders. Older people can easily find many memories to share with their loved ones, and retelling their memories lets them relive the excitement or sorrow of that moment.
With their minds fully occupied by dreams and memories, they have no room for those realities that deserve their full attention: the Hereafter, the Garden, and Hell. They are not connected to Allah, either in what they think or feel, and conceive of reality as just an unwanted, indistinct, dark space between dreams and memories. When reality somehow finds its way into their minds, they immediately stop thinking about it and return to their daydreams.
Unawareness can be compared to how people with poor eyesight see the world through an indistinct haze. They cannot see anything clearly or in detail until they put on their glasses. Only after doing that will they become aware of how little they could see without their glasses. Perhaps they had not seen anything at all.
Unaware people also have a similar (but more serious) type of conception deficiency: they cannot properly appreciate Allah’s existence, splendor, and honor. But when they approach Him with a true heart, pray to Him, contemplate Him, and respect the boundaries He has set for humanity, He may remove this deficiency so that they can obtain a clear understanding of reality.
The Unawareness of Deniers
The inner state of those who deny Allah’s existence and cannot stand to have His name be remembered or mentioned is considered to be the final stage of unawareness. Such people, who flounder in denial, are unloved and condemned by Allah. In addition, they have many negative and unpleasant attributes.
Deniers are rebellious, arrogant, selfish, irritable, hypocritical, and unbalanced liars who are ready to engage in any wickedness. When it is a question of their gaining an advantage, they become so overwhelmed with worldly ambition that they no longer even recognize their own father or mother. Ignoring all limits that stand in the way of getting their own way, they resort to falsity, immorality, and lawlessness to overcome all obstacles.
Their consciences are shrouded, and so they have no sense of mercy, compassion, and pity. Having no sensitivity toward those around them, they live only for themselves and to satisfy the selfish desires and passions of their egos. Their minds are so clouded by unawareness that they never think about Allah or even remember His name:
When Allah, the One and Only, is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink back, shuddering. (Surat az-Zumar: 45)
They deny the Hereafter’s existence and, to appease their consciences and justify their behavior, disparage religion and try to draw others down the same path. They are not aware of the wickedness they commit or of the eternal punishment awaiting them:
As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have made their actions appear good to them, and they wander about blindly. Such people will receive an evil punishment and will be the greatest losers in the Hereafter. (Surat an-Naml: 4-5)
We created many of the jinn and humanity for Hell. They have hearts with which they do not understand, eyes with which they do not see, and ears with which they do not hear. Such people are like cattle. No, they are even further astray! They are the unaware. (Surat al-A‘raf: 179)
As we see, deniers ignore the promised eternal punishment. Moreover, they are described in the Qur’an as being lower than animals, because they have been engulfed by unawareness. In other words, they are happy only when eating, drinking, and enjoying themselves, for they focus only on this world and are content to remain unaware of what is really important:
They know an outward aspect of this world’s life, but are heedless of the Hereafter. (Surat ar-Rum: 7)
Such people think only of this worldly life, even though Allah has sent prophets and messengers, as well as holy books and believers, throughout history to warn them of the Day of Judgment, when they will have to account for themselves. They have been reminded of their sins and that these will not be forgotten on that day. They have heard what will happen to them if they do not obey Allah’s commands and prohibitions, continue to ignore His advice, and do not repent of their wicked and corrupt lives: they will be rewarded with Hell’s endless punishment. The only way to avoid all these is to heed His warnings and correct their attitudes, live in a way that earns His pleasure so that they will not disgrace themselves on the Day of Judgment. However, only some of them will listen:
Humanity’s reckoning has drawn very close to them, yet they heedlessly turn away. (Surat al-Anbiya’: 1)
The Unawareness of Those Who have Gone Astray
Some individuals do not practice Islam according to the Qur’an, but according to what they have learned in their community and from their elders. In other words, they have inherited a false religious tradition from their ancestors and named it “Islam.” For this reason, even if they read the Qur’an they interpret it incorrectly. They are unaware of the truth handed down in the Qu’ran and the sayings of our Prophet (saas), and thus cannot be considered true believers:
When they are told: “Follow what Allah has sent down to you,” they say: “We are following what we found our ancestors doing.” What, even though their ancestors did not understand a thing and were not guided! (Surat al-Baqara: 170)
When they are told: “Come to what Allah has sent down and to the Messenger,” they say: “What we found our ancestors doing is enough for us.” What! Even if their ancestors did not know anything and were not guided! (Surat al-Ma’ida: 104)
When they are told: “Follow what Allah has sent down,” they say: “No, we will follow what we found our ancestors doing.” What! Even if satan is calling them to the punishment of the Blazing Fire? (Surah Luqman: 21)
It is stated in the Qur’an that these people do not practice the commands and prohibitions Allah prescribed in the Qur’an, but those devised by their ancestors. It is obvious from the Qur’an that they are heretics following satan, who is drawing them toward the eternal punishment of Hell. They associate others with Him by valuing their ancestors’ religion more than true Islam, and their own traditions more than the Qur’an. As a result, satan has used their ignorance, bigotry, pride and lack of intelligence to lead them astray. In other words, their own attitudes cause them to stray from the true path and adopt a distorted ancestral religion known to them as “Islam.”
This ancestral religion is very different from the Islam described in the Qur’an. For example, they pray when something is bothering them or when they feel they have exhausted all other possibilities; sometimes they even pray to receive worldly favors to satisfy their egos. Even though they may know what is actually said in the Qur’an about prayer, they do not really practice it. In fact, they do not give proper thanks to Allah, but only for something of importance to them. They do not have a correct view of the Qur’an and therefore ignore the countless blessings that Allah has given them and for which they must thank Him.
So, although they know that Allah exists, they ignore such verses as “Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him” (Surat an-Nisa’: 36) and fall into the sin of association. They are so unaware of reality that they think that on the Day of Judgment, when everything will be revealed, Allah will accept their claim that they never committed such a grave sin:
On the Day We gather them all together, We will ask those who associated others with Allah: “Where are the partner-deities for whom you made such claims?” Then they will have no recourse but to say: “By Allah, our Lord, We were not idolaters.” See how they lie against themselves and how what they invented has forsaken them! (Surat al-An‘am: 22-24)
… Turning toward Him. Fear (and respect) Him and perform (the obligatory) prayer. Do not be among the idolaters, those who split up their religion and form into sects, each faction exulting in what it has. (Surat ar-Rum: 31-32)
As these verses reveal, the fact that they happily accept the perversity of those idolaters who divide their religion into sects show just how unaware they really are. Although they know their errors and understand what is right, they refuse to accept the truth out of a strong desire to continue being guided by their own passions and desires.
Satan's Efforts to Drag Believers into Unawareness
One of satan’s major goals is to divert people from the Way of Allah and lead them to Hell. He busies their minds with false apprehensions in an attempt to confuse them and prevent sound thought.
All sincere believers have an open mind and thus are aware of reality and can consider all of the details necessary to reach a sound decision. Their moral character, which is reflected in their behavior, comes from their faith, fear, and respect of Allah. But sometimes satan can take advantage of their momentary forgetfulness, carelessness, or lack of knowledge to draw them into unawareness.
Allah warns believers about this danger: “Do not let satan bar your way. He truly is an outright enemy to you.” (Surat al-Zukhruf: 62) and “Those who believe fight in the Way of Allah. Those who disbelieve fight in the way of false deities. So fight the friends of satan! Satan’s scheming is always feeble”(Surat an-Nisa’: 76). He announces that satan’s devious plans will not affect sincere believers. Satan knows this and, when he vows to lead people astray, does not include Allah’s sincere servants:
He (satan) said: “By Your might, I will mislead all of them, except for Your chosen servants among them.” (Surah Sad: 82-83)
Despite this knowledge, satan nevertheless tries to confuse their minds during times of difficulty, illness, or some other personal hardship, if only for a moment, to prevent them from earning an even greater reward and rising to an even higher place in Allah’s Sight. For example, if someone is about to do a good deed, satan may insert thoughts about postponing it until later so that, hopefully, the person will forget all about it. Or, as we read in Surat al-Nisa’ 95: “Those believers who stay behind–other than those forced to by necessity–are not the same as those who strive in the Way of Allah, sacrificing their wealth and themselves. Allah has given those who strive with their wealth and themselves a higher rank than those who stay behind. Allah has promised the best to both, but has preferred those who strive over those who stay behind by an immense reward.” Satan wants to prevent believers from striving in His Way and from earning greater dignity in His Sight.
Satan makes intimations to believers during difficult times of sickness or in the heat of battle in order to take advantage of a momentary weakness.
Of course, Allah tests individuals with periods of difficulty, pressure, and distress so that they will reveal their true natures. Such testing is very important. For example, during the time of our Prophet (saas), some individuals who were constantly by his side on the battlefield became unaware in the heat of battle:
… when they came at you from above you and below you, when your eyes rolled and your hearts rose to your throats, and you thought unworthy thoughts about Allah. (Surat al-Ahzab: 10)
Allah gives the good news that sincere believers who fall into momentary unawareness will be forgiven if they repent. Repentance is thus one of His great gifts. In fact, He tells us in the Qur’an how He forgave three sincere believers who regretted their failure to fight:
And (He turned) also toward the three who were left behind, so that when Earth became narrow for them, for all its great breadth, and their own selves became constricted for them and they realized that there was no refuge from Allah except in Him, He turned to them so that they might turn to Him. Allah is the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful. (Surat at-Tawba: 118)
Satan can whisper to people until they become immersed in despair, thinking that everything is lost and that the situation is irremediable. But believers know that such thoughts are no more than satanic deceptions, and so ignore them. They immediately turn to Allah, repent, and take refuge from unawareness in Him:
As for those who guard against evil, when they are bothered by suggestions from satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A‘raf: 201)
Taking refuge in Allah from the empty apprehensions that can lead them into unawareness, they are careful to remember Him at all times, read and ponder the Qur’an, and pray constantly. So, by His will, they are saved from even a moment of unawareness.
A Warning to Unaware People
… so that you may warn a people whose ancestors were not warned and who are therefore unaware. (Surah Ya Sin: 6)
Throughout history, Allah chose prophets and messengers, upon whom He bestowed light and understanding, to warn all people who, for whatever reason, had rejected or had lost their earlier awareness of true Islam. Allah chose our Prophet, Muhammad (saas), to warn his own people, to bring the true religion to them, and to instill in them fear and respect due to Allah:
Warn them of the Day of Bitter Regret, when the affair will be resolved. But they take no notice. They have no faith. (Surah Maryam: 39)
These prophets and messengers told their people about Allah, His infinite power, and the Hereafter; showed proofs on Earth and in the heavens of His existence; and, through various means, called their people to faith in Allah and obedience to Him. But most people, in spite of the wondrous order in all that they could see, did not appreciate His power properly and so continued to turn their backs on Him:
When Our Signs came to them in all their clarity, they exclaimed: “This is downright magic!” And they repudiated them wrongly and haughtily, despite their own certainty about them. See the final fate of the corrupters. (Surat an-Naml: 13-14)
Allah warns people in different ways. This book, a believer’s words, a person’s own conscience, or even an informative report in the press or some other publication can all serve to warn people. Everything a person sees and hears actually occurs through Allah’s choosing and, if evaluated in the knowledge that they come from Him, can be understood as warnings to turn to Him. Allah has sent us various warnings and reminders, and in the Qur’an He commands us to correct their behaviors and find the right path.