Characteristics of Unaware Individuals
Unaware individuals focus their attention on and pursue worldly desires and expectations as if they were in a trance. They direct all of their efforts toward achieving a higher rank or position and more possessions, and constantly imagine and talk about what they will do with the money they earn. They are so preoccupied with these things that they forget about Allah’s commands and prohibitions. Unable to conceive of Allah’s knowledge and power, they feel under no obligation to respect the limits He has established for humanity.
Remembering Allah stimulates the conscience of those who do not believe in the Hereafter and reminds them of their unawareness. But when they struggle with their egos as to whether they should fulfill their responsibilities to Him or not, they end up clinging to their unawareness. As a result, they feel great inner discomfort whenever Allah’s name is mentioned:
When Allah, the One and Only, is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink back, shuddering. But when others apart from Him are mentioned, they jump for joy. (Surat az-Zumar: 45)
Now, let’s examine the general character of these unaware individuals.
They do not Remember Allah and the Hereafter and Their Hearts are Filled with Worldly Ambitions.
Believers’ morality is so deep and sincere that nothing prevents them from remembering Allah and observing the obligatory prayers:
(There are people who are) not distracted by trade or commerce from remembering Allah, performing prayer, and giving alms, fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil. (Surat an-Nur: 37)
But, unlike believers, unaware individuals have their hearts set on this world’s possessions. This makes them always want to have more and a better life, regardless of how they are currently living. They think money can buy them power and recognition and make them happy. First, they want to amass wealth, and then they want to store it and acquire even more. To make this appear legitimate, they make various excuses. By refusing to spend their money to earn Allah’s pleasure, they amass wealth and think only about satisfying their worldly desires. Their fate is described in the Qur’an:
On the Day it is heated up in the fire of Hell, and their foreheads, sides, and backs are branded with it. (They are told): “This is what you hoarded for yourselves, so taste what you were hoarding!” (Surat at-Tawba: 35)
… who has amassed wealth and hoarded it! He thinks his wealth will make him live forever. No indeed! He will be flung into the Shatterer. (Surat al-Humaza: 2-4)
Blinded by their desire for worldly possessions, these people are unaware of the fate awaiting them. Having spent their lives obsessed with earning and spending money, they cannot remember Allah, perform their daily prayers, or give money to the poor. However, believers whose hearts are filled only with the desire to win His favor never forget that all of their possessions are no more than His gifts that are to be used to earn His pleasure. Believers, who think only of pleasing Allah and obtaining His mercy, work eagerly so that they may contribute to His religion. Since they cannot become caught up in any other passions, they will always remember Allah, approach Him in prayer, and understand that everything comes from and ultimately belongs to Him. As a result, they will regard their possessions as reminders to thank and praise Him.
Allah gives the example of Prophet Solomon (as) who, although he had great wealth, was neither distracted by it nor made it a focus of ambition; rather, he saw all of it as a reason to thank and praise Him:
When swift horses champing at the bit were displayed before him in the afternoon, he said: “Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord,” until the sun disappeared behind its veil. (Surah Sad: 31-32)
Until Prophet Solomon (as), Allah had never given anyone such power and wealth. He used these blessings to exalt Allah’s glory and proclaim His religion’s magnificence and honor. He always gave thanks to the true owner of his wealth and possessions.
Unaware people turn their backs on Allah, thinking that wealth, position, and fame can make them happy and content. They enjoy being among people who talk about these things, for in such an environment they can praise themselves and criticize others as well as spend hours watching useless and inane television talk shows:
(Unbelievers are) those whose eyes were blind to My remembrance and whose ears were unable to hear. (Surat al-Kahf: 101)
But believers are not content with possessing worldly goods or participating in useless conversations; rather, they are content only when praising and remembering Him and reading the Qur’an:
… those who believe and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah. Only in the remembrance of Him can the heart find peace. (Surat ar-Ra‘d: 28)
Not Using Their Intellects
In unbelieving societies, the phrase “lack of intelligence” denotes people with mental disabilities and those who behave in an abnormal manner. But in the Qur’an, this phrase refers to those individuals who reject Allah’s existence and that of the Hereafter, who live only to satisfy their own egos. According to this definition, people who lack intelligence are not only found in mental hospitals, but also make up a part of society as a whole.
The mind is one of Allah’s greatest gifts to humanity. Rational people always act according to their consciences; properly appreciate His knowledge and power; and love, fear, and respect Him. They do their best to please Him, to save themselves from Hell’s eternal punishment, and are eager to attain the Hereafter’s endless blessings. In addition, they ponder deeply on Allah’s creation and appreciate His endless power and greatness, In other words they are believers. Those irrational individuals who do not have this ability are described in the Qur’an:
Have they not traveled throughout the land, and do they not have with which hearts to understand or ears with which to hear? It is not their eyes that are blind, but the hearts in their breasts that are blind. (Surat al-Hajj: 46)
The most distinguishing feature of these irrational people is their preference for the life of this world, to which they are so passionately devoted, over that of the Hereafter. And yet Allah warns such people to reflect on this world’s true nature:
The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-An‘am: 32)
Anything you have been given is only the enjoyment of the life of this world and its finery. What is with Allah is better and longer lasting. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-Qasas: 60)
We have sent down to you a Book containing a Reminder for you. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-Anbiya’: 10)
The perfectly ordered systems and creatures that Allah has created, together with all that they teach us about reality, are beyond the vision of unaware people; they can only be appreciated by believers who use their intelligence. Intelligent, aware believers carefully observe everything in their vicinity and ponder deeply on what they see. In the Qur’an, Allah gives the examples of a mosquito, a honeybee, a spider, and many other creatures He has made to encourage people to think about and appreciate His knowledge, power, and artistry. However, only those believers with intelligence can know their qualities and understand the perfection of living things and their qualities based on what they produce. From these, they can appreciate His power and artistry.
As for unaware individuals, their irrationality causes them to imagine that the creatures they see around them every day are simple and ordinary. To them, a bee just buzzes around and lands on flowers, and a mosquito is just a blood-sucking pest:
The worst of beasts in Allah’ sight are the deaf and dumb (people) who have no intellect. (Surat al-Anfal: 22)
Another important aspect of such people is that since they cannot discriminate between rationality and irrationality, they imagine that they are rational and that it is the rational people who are irrational:
When they are told: “Believe in the way that the people believe,” they exclaim: “What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?” No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. (Surat al-Baqara: 13)
They Believe They are on The Right Path
Taking the general population as an example, the most salient characteristic of heedless individuals is their attempt to persuade themselves that their thoughts and actions are justified. Believing that they are not harming others and that their hearts are filled with goodness, they imagine that they deserve what they have. However, Allah says something rather different in the Qur’an:
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: 55-56)
It is revealed in the Qur’an that such people believe that they are on the right path, and so satan prevents them from obeying Allah’s commands and prohibitions:
They debar them from the path, yet they still think they are guided. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 37)
But your Lord knows best who is best guided on the (right) Path. (Surat al-Isra': 84)
Allah gives an instructive example of the state of such individuals in the story of the vineyard owner. We are told in the Qur’an of a conversation between two people, only one of whom is aware:
Make an example for them of two men. To one of them We gave two gardens of grapevines and surrounded them with date palms, putting between them some cultivated land. Both gardens yielded their crops and did not suffer any loss, and We made a river flow right through the middle of them. (Surat al-Kahf: 32-33)
He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying: “I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.” (Surat al-Kahf: 35-36)
His companion, with whom he was debating, asked: “Do you then not believe in Him Who created you from dust, then from a drop of sperm, and then formed you as a man? He is, however, Allah, my Lord, and I will not associate anyone with my Lord.” (His companion replied:) “Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say: ‘It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Him’? Though you see me with less wealth and children than you possess, it may well be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden and send down upon it a fireball from the sky so that the morning finds it a shifting heap of dust or finds its water drained into the ground so that you cannot get at it. (Surat al-Kahf: 37-41)
The fruits of his labor were completely destroyed, and he woke up wringing his hands in grief, for everything that he had spent on it was now a ruin, a ruin with all of its trellises fallen in. He exclaimed: “Oh, if only I had not associated anyone with my Lord!” There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not given any help. In that situation, the only protection is from Allah, the Real. He gives the best reward and the best outcome. (Surat al-Kahf: 42-44)
The vineyard owner was deceived into thinking that he was on the right path due to his great wealth and many children. His very words demonstrate his unawareness, for his overwhelming pride and arrogance made it impossible for him to conceive of Allah’s power: “But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”, His unawareness is so deep that he thinks he created his garden and therefore will keep it forever. In recompense for his attitude, all of a sudden Allah destroyed his treasured vineyard.
Although they are unaware, some individuals think that they are on the right path and do some good deeds. However, these are not done to gain Allah’s favor but out of custom and habit, or out of a desire to put on appearances or soothe their consciences, or to make someone feel grateful to them. In reality, such deeds may not be of any use in the Hereafter, because they are limited only to those actions that do not conflict with the person’s own interests. Unaware that they may not receive a reward for the deeds they did to curry other people’s favor rather than to please Allah, they feel certainly sure that they are on the right path.
These people regard their children, property, and easy and carefree life as signs that they are on the right path. The fact is, however, that Allah allots them a period of time to test them and, due to their actions, gives them no share in the Hereafter:
As for those who desire the life of this world and its finery, We will give them full payment in it for their actions. They will not be deprived here of their due. But such people will have nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. What they achieved here will come to nothing. What they did will prove to be null and void. (Surah Hud: 15-16)
People who deceive themselves in this way gain nothing but a painful death in a state of unawareness and eternal suffering:
Do not let their wealth and their children impress you. Allah merely wants to punish them by them in this world, and for them to die while they are unbelievers. (Surat at-Tawba: 85)
Such people overreact to events, do not trust Allah and behave rebelliously. But believers know that Allah controls everything and so trust Him completely, regardless of what trials He sends their way. When something happens, they remain as patient as they can, for they know that such things are no more than trials sent by Allah. Therefore, they are happy and joyful in the knowledge that He will reward their patience and trust:
We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth, life, and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast. (Surat al-Baqara: 155)
Remembering these glad tidings only makes them more determined to be patient when facing difficulties. Fully aware that their possessions, wealth, position, and rank are meant to test them, they do their best to thank Him and use them according to His will so that they may earn His pleasure:
Every self will taste death. We test you with both good and evil as a trial. And you will be returned to Us. (Surat al-Anbiya’: 35)
Unaware people are ignorant of these facts; even if they know about them, they ignore them. Therefore, they react to events quite differently. For example, believers who know that their loss of material goods is a trial from Allah accept their fate with full trust in Him. However, the same situation will cause material and spiritual damage to those who are unaware. They will become dejected and, as this feeling grows, become more unbalanced and irritable until they lose their mental health. Being rejected by their circle of acquaintances and losing their luxuries will only make things worse; it might even bring some individuals to the brink of suicide. As we can see, unaware people have no trust in Allah, are rebellious, and live their lives far removed from His will.