The Lifestyle Ignorance Exposes
Would you like to have a perfect life of grace, security and comfort, where the concept of time does not matter or an inherently flawed life limited to five or six decades? Meanwhile, keep in mind that the first decade of this life will be passed in the unconsciousness of childhood and the last one in dealing with declining health and other age-related problems.
No doubt a person of wisdom would prefer a perfect life of grace, security and comfort; for the sake of a few decades, he would not like to lose an eternal life. However, there are also some who become enthralled and blinded by the spell of this world, which passes in the blink of an eye.
Preferring such a life in pursuit of personal benefits, these people soon realise that this is not a reliable way of attaining their goals. After all, in the course of their lives, whatever they do or wherever they go, they never succeed in escaping from anguish and trouble. But an understanding of this reality often comes too late; usually, the moment one meets one’s death, one conceives of the irreversible wrong choice one has made.
The life of this world, with its very strong attachments, gives only moderate satisfaction; it offers nothing more than some subsistence and shelter. In the Qur’an, Allah gives the reason for such a preference: the lack of wisdom. So, what are the traits of this lifestyle, which is merely a source of unrest and trouble and which leads to the sheerest torture for all eternity? What kind of a life do ignorant people lead?
In the subsequent pages, a general framework of the environment surrounding such ignorant people is provided. The purpose here is to reveal the crude understanding it inherits and to show how detrimental this lifestyle is to an individual’s well-being in the long and short run.
However, before going into details, one should remember that the lifestyle depicted here is seen in terms of a general understanding of ignorant societies. Hence, though very commonly practiced in society, it may not be true for all individuals. There may be people who do not involve themselves in the practices mentioned in subsequent sections of this book. However, the intention here is to stress the primitive nature of this reasoning which reveals itself in the human soul in a number of ways: sometimes we observe it in individual’s approach to moral values; alternatively, it may well be apparent in the lifestyle or self-centred world a person builds for himself. No matter how this lifestyle discloses itself, there is one fact which needs to be underlined: people who abandon themselves to this worldly life, totally forgetting the Day of Judgment unconditionally display this primitiveness in one way or another.
A Monotonous Life
Those who accept ignorance sooner or later become entrapped by monotony. Unable to find out its reasons, they finally surrender themselves to this monotony and simply embrace it as a way of living. From then on, they make no effort to enrich their lives, by making them healthier, more comfortable and more satisfying. They spend their lives just waiting for the day they will meet their death.
At this point the monotony starts for the ignorant. The moment they open their eyes to a new day, they find themselves engrossed with everyday routines. Many people see their long hours at home or work as somewhat vacant. There is not a great deal they can hold fast to in society when they are looking for something to give their lives some meaning. Early in the morning they leave home for work where they meet the same people talking about the same issues. Once the work is over, they ride back to home in the same car, taking the route they always take. At home, nothing different happens; the family gathering at the supper table engage in their everyday conversation. No sooner do they start watching television, than they fall asleep. And thus they prepare themselves for another day that will bring nothing new.
Knowing that nothing will change in the course of time makes everything even more unbearable and troublesome. They start to dislike their house, for instance, albeit decorated with care and enthusiasm. Time eventually erases the attraction of the house, furniture, decor, in brief, everything they like. Time also makes people lose their affection for the people surrounding them; after some time they do not derive as much pleasure from their relations as they did in the old days. Immediate family members and close friends no longer give the happiness and excitement they used to give; people in their state of ignorance want them around solely out of habit.
A major reason for this monotony is surely the minor goals they have. Even the most ambitious person in the world has ordinary targets, this all being the outcome of living in a small world: graduating from a prestigious university, getting a good job, being happily married, getting the kids through school, improving living standards and finally waiting for death... To put it concisely, coming into existence, growing old and dying.
Stepping out of the boundaries of these targets, imposed by the culture of ignorance, is almost impossible. All ideals are set for a few decades of this life.
The individual, however, should devote his resources to fulfilling the commands of Allah in order to secure His pleasure. A life spent for the cause of Allah never gets monotonous. Each moment becomes a source of excitement and zeal. He will stay in this world for a while, but in Heaven, a place of eternal happiness, he will eventually receive the rewards for what he has done. Therefore, for a believer, it is unwise to kill time. On the contrary, a person finds every moment of this limited life to be precious.
One who follows the commandments of the Qur’an never experiences monotony. He is a man of wisdom who constantly brings something new to his life. He never lets the people surrounding him or his own life go on a vicious circle. Even with limited resources and in difficult times, he always finds ways to improve his life. In his old age, too, his enthusiasm for the betterment of his life never disappears. His determination to follow the righteous path eventually brings him a great life in this world and Paradise in the Hereafter:
And they will say: Praise be to Allah, Who has removed from us (all) sorrow: for our Lord is indeed Oft-Forgiving and ready to appreciate (service)(Surah Fatir: 34-35)
Despite such rewards, ignorant people accept the dullness of their life. Allah, in the Qur’an gives the reasons for such an attitude.
That is because they are a people who have no sense. Just like those (who suffered) a short time before them, they taste the ill-effects of their own conduct, and theirs is a painful punishment. (Surah Al-Hashr: 14-15)
A Troublesome Environment
In the ignorant societies people lead troubled lives. This is surely a direct consequence of not putting one’s trust in Allah. Not believing in Allah, they assume they can avoid their responsibilities towards Allah and still enjoy all the worldly pleasures of life. But to their disappointment, one thing bothers them greatly: stress. Their choice of disbelief rests solely on the assumption that an environment where proper behaviour is not enforced by an absolute sense of right and wrong but by devotion to one’s own principles would afford them peace, comfort and a life of joy and happiness. Yet, contrary to their expectations, their experience proves to be otherwise.
The main source of this trouble is insecurity. This insecurity is a consequence of not putting one’s trust in Allah. People, who cannot conceive of the power and control of Allah over all men and incidents, feel a constant fear and a sense of uneasiness. Not aware of fate, which is only under the total control of Allah, they struggle to cope with the whole of life. This rationale holds that, at every moment, misfortunes may befall them and they are weak and helpless against them.
They have a negative approach towards all happenings. Mostly fear surrounds them on all sides. Blurred with stress, their mind fails to bring solutions to problems. If dealt with in a peaceful state of mind, however, these surely would be minor issues to resolve. They are mostly unhappy; everything they meet with in the course of their lives, whether important or trifling, makes them easily tense. Especially situations which they describe as misfortunes become the main sources of stress.
Yet, what is most common to these people is the harm they do to their own mental health. Statements starting with What if...? keep their minds occupied with disaster scenarios. A businessman, for instance, considers all the possible consequences of missing an important meeting that will be held the following week: What if he misses the plane and cannot arrive at the meeting on time? ; what would be his loss in such a situation?; how can he explain this situation to his boss? are only a few of the questions that cross his mind. This attitude, however, is not restricted to one subject only. Such an approach holds true for every aspect of life, like health, family and friends, social and economic affairs, to name a few. The imaginary problems of their spouses, children and friends increase their distress.
Believers complying with the commandments of the Qur’an, on the other hand, feel peace, comfort and happiness deep in their hearts. Being conscious of Allah’s existence and power, they are never overwhelmed by trouble and distress. They handle problems with wisdom. If they face any difficulty in solving a problem, this does not break their spirit. They know that, whatever happens, there is goodness in it. Again, in a peaceful state of mind, they look for ways to improve the situation. With such an attitude, the direct consequence of their faith in Allah, they stay away from all the harm that stress and tension give to the human body and soul.
Believers never lose their trust in Allah; material loss, an accident or illness does not affect their trust in their Creator, since they know that there is goodness in everything. They know that, besides Allah, people have no other protector or helper... In situations particularly where circumstances are not favourable, they quickly acknowledge this to be a trial by Allah. Allah provides the underlying reason for this attitude in the following verse:
But it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows, but you do not know. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 216)
Ignorant people are exceptionally vulnerable. Stress, a consequence of their senseless rationale, causes irreversible damage to body and soul. While endlessly pursuing the pleasures of life, they find themselves overcome by the grief of their unreasonable worries. Besides this world, they also lose the eternal life. If, however, they devoted their time to contemplating the Hereafter, rather than producing negative scenarios, which are mere figments of the imagination, they would certainly attain happiness both in this world and the Hereafter.
Surely Allah has bought from the believers their persons and their property and in return has promised them, that they shall have the Garden; they fight in Allah’s way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat1 and the Injeel2 and the Qur’an; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice, therefore, in the pledge which you have made; and that is the supreme achievement. (Surah At-Tawba: 111)
Attaching Importance to People According to Their Wealth, Status and Good Looks
Wealthy people are held in high esteem by the ignorant. The more money a person has, the more respected he becomes.
Moral values, honesty, reliability and modesty do not earn honour in the ignorant society. These are actually not the virtues ignorance attaches importance to. Money, being the sole basis of all relations and values, introduces a completely different set of moral values and standpoint to the ignorant society; in this system everyone and everything has a price and there is nothing you cannot attain as long as you pay the due price.
Due to this so-called superiority, people in a state of ignorance feel an inconceivable admiration for the elite of the society. No matter how morally corrupted, their lifestyle is appreciated, moreover imitated. According to this philosophy, a person, albeit a totally morally corrupted, might easily occupy a high and respectable status in society.
As well as wealth, status and good looks, too, earn admiration in a society blighted by ignorance. Often, the ignorant deem a person to be superior due to his good looks or his prestigious position in business, without having the slightest idea about his character. This is actually the system an ignorant society rests upon. Early in childhood, all members of such a society learn these values and start to live according to them. Everyone knows of which social class they are a member, and what benefits and advantages accrue from belonging to this particular class. Wealth has an obvious advantage over poverty, for instance, like the advantage which well-educated people have over illiterate and well-known people over ordinary citizens. This is the major source of a ridiculous envy of and a sense of inferiority felt towards these people who appear to be better placed in life than others. Such feelings inevitably push people into meaningless competition. They devote all their energy, thinking faculties and time to engaging in this struggle for status. Such a competition inevitably makes individuals forget about the purpose of their existence.
As a consequence of social indoctrination, the ones deemed to be superior, assume the right to exercise oppressive control over others. The unwritten hierarchy prevailing in society makes it possible for a landlord to trouble his tenant, for instance. Similarly, the tenant feels he has the right to trouble his doorkeeper. The doorkeeper exercises authority at home, over his wife, and in like manner the wife of the doorkeeper over her children. In their own world, there is a hierarchy of superiority. In this hierarchy everybody knows his individual rights and limits of his authority.
Surely this is inherently a flawed system of social conduct. People in this state of ignorance establish a system and then face difficulty in complying with the rules of the system they have themselves created. This is the direct outcome of a crude understanding. However, rather than eradicating this fundamental mistake, ignorant people struggle to find ways of being successful in this relentless competition.
Contrary to the ignorant society’s criteria laid down for superiority ó in other words property, power and status ó the real superiority calls for faith in Allah and fear of Allah. The colour of one’s skin, good-looks or prosperity have no importance in the presence of Allah. One day, everyone, be he poor or wealthy, beautiful or ugly, will be wrapped in a simple shroud and placed in a pit ó which will reduce his body into insignificance.
The Qur’an sets the real criteria for man:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you might know each other. Indeed, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. (Surah Al-Hujraat: 13)
Living in a community of people, who have an inner grasp of this Qur’anic understanding, is no doubt a great source of comfort. An environment where the concepts of love and respect are isolated from material values and replaced by virtues like honesty, moral awareness, etc., naturally puts an end to this relentless competition. Such competition should be replaced by striving in the way of Allah. Allah states the superiority of those who strive in the way of Allah:
These vie with each others for salvation and shall be the first to attain it. (Surah Al-Mumenoon: 61)
And everyone has a direction to which he should turn, therefore hasten to (do) good works; wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together; surely Allah has power over all things. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 148)
They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency, and vie with one another in good works. These are of the righteous. (Surah Aal-e Imran: 114)
They Live in an Environment where Wisdom and Conscience have No Place
The system of ignorance leaves no room for thought; it means living without thinking, speaking without thinking, giving decisions without thinking, implementing without thinking... Ignorant people regard thinking as a waste of time, and more importantly, perceive it as troublesome, since it definitely calls for conscience and wisdom, two concepts honoured only in theory but never in practice in the ignorant way of living. Instead, without subjecting them to thorough investigation, people apply and observe rules, principles and customs of their own making, surely an easy way of living never demanding thought.
For instance, they know exactly what to do as long as they are instructed. In case of an emergency or an unexpected situation, they lack the initiative to provide solutions to problems. That is merely because they are used to ready-made solutions. Astonishment and acting indecisively are only a few of the consequences of not applying wisdom or conscience.
Similarly, the ignorant show apathy towards innovation. Unless under compulsion, they display reluctance to produce anything new, no matter what the subject. An example from daily life would make these explanations more explicit. Ignorant people are ready to buy whatever designers serve up, however ridiculous. Just for the sake of being in fashion, they wear clothes which look ridiculous. They seldom use their common sense to look good. Likewise, preferences regarding home decoration, movies, entertainment, TV shows, etc. are all determined by the general tendencies in fashion.
This point of view reveals itself in many ways in daily life. Meeting a beggar with outstretched hands on the street, they cannot sidestep, but give some money. This, however, is a reflex action, which is the outcome of a learning process rather than a conscientious decision. In a totally different situation, however, it is quite possible that they would behave in a thoughtless and senseless way. In the course of daily life, it is possible to witness hundreds of other examples of these reflex actions. The essence of the issue is that the consequences of habitual thoughtlessness can be more serious than one can ever imagine. Surely the most serious deficiency of all, however, is having a poor grasp of the greatness of Allah and the existence of the Hereafter. In the Qur’an, the reason for these characteristics of the ignorant society is simply stated:
That is because they are people who have no sense. (Surah Al-Hashr: 14)
Believers are those, on the other hand, who have an insight into the importance of wisdom and conscience. In every aspect of life, they take advantage of this favour to the fullest possible extent. They ponder upon every incident which befalls them and take wise and thoughtful action. Believers also draw lessons from these incidents and gather enlightening experience to be used later in life. Never do they engage in inherited practices without questioning them. If the system handed down to them offers something really favourable, they embrace it. Meanwhile, they don’t allow the non-workable components of this system to influence their lives, and lose no time in changing or improving conditions, if a renovation is required. What is more important, they live a peaceful and rewarding life in this world, and also attain happiness for all eternity thanks to their considerate behaviour.
These are the actual favours brought by conscience and wisdom.
What we refer to as moral values are the concepts introduced by religion that make life beautiful and rewarding. Whenever these values are distorted, we face a really disturbing picture in society. First of all, in an environment where no rules and limits are observed, lawlessness prevails. In this system, everyone lays down his own rules and principles, based on highly variable criteria. In the ignorant society the basic principle that is applied is not to go to extremes in social conduct and hence not to incur any reaction from the society. It is wholly acceptable to do anything wrong, as long as it is not publicly disclosed. Ignorant people deliver speeches about virtuous conduct and morals, or severely condemn those who hold a contrary view. However, they themselves violate these values when they are convinced that nobody sees them.
This is actually the main basis upon which their philosophy rests. They never think that Allah surrounds them all at every moment; they never conceive that He sees every deed they commit and hears every word they utter. They perceive degeneration as a modern way of living.
They fear being humiliated if they do not project the image of a modern person. This image essentially calls for the flouting of such moral values as honesty. Someone, for instance, who returns the money he found on the street to its owner, is ridiculed. In such a situation, acceptable behaviour according to ignorant people would be not to give the money back. This example reflects only one aspect of the ignorant societyís understanding about moral values however. Concepts like honesty and chastity also lose their importance. Forgery and lying are accepted as normal. A person may commit burglary since he finds nothing wrong with it. Likewise, anyone can tell a lie whenever he wishes. In this system other people have no right to object because they also have the right to behave freely (!) in accordance with their own moral values.
The Qur’an makes it clear that people who adhere to the moral values of the age of the ignorant suffer for doing so:
Indeed, Allah will not deal unjustly with man in any way. It is man who wrongs his own soul. (Surah Yunus: 44)
In a society where people adhere to religious values, they conduct themselves responsibly towards each other since they go in fear of Allah. They never deign to be dishonest or insincere, and certainly never push things to such extremes as to make life difficult for others. Moral values become the basis of all acts and conduct.
Relations Based on Interest Rather than on Honesty and Sincerity
Interest-ridden relations, also a trait of the ignorant society, do not allow the forming of true friendships. True friendships demand sacrifice and thought; one has to consider the needs and interests of the other person rather than one's own and seek ways to provide peace and comfort to him/her. Such a sensitive approach is, however, entirely contrary to the understanding of ignorant people. Their primitive rationale calls for a non-appeasing obedience to self-interests on the misconception that life is short and the world is a temporary place.
This rationale however brings harm rather than benefit. The trouble caused by this selfish approach affects them the most. All throughout their lives, they have to spend time in an environment where they never experience true love and respect. They are always aware that their friendships are based on mutual interests. They feel no doubt that in times of trouble their friends will just disappear. They also approach other people with the same mentality. Yet all their lives they complain that they have no true friends around them..
People who are ignorant assume a self-sacrificing attitude towards their friends only when they believe it is advantageous. For a temporary period of time, they pretend to be a loyal friend. Yet, once the advantage have been derived from this relationship they assume a cool and distant attitude, implying that they no longer need such a bond.
This is indeed a very well known process. It is interesting that nobody condemns others or opposes this system since all members of the ignorant society think in the same way. Even marriages or relationships between immediate family members are based on this system. Rather than offering trust, love and respect, the two sides approach each other with the intention of drawing some benefits from the other. Women generally see marriage as a guarantee for their future. The bank account of the prospective husband in most of the cases serves as a life insurance. Though never openly voiced, marriage is considered as a contract. If the man is wealthy, the woman assumes herself to have made a good deal. The man feels the same and assumes himself to be the one who deceives the other. As in all dealings, he stands to reap some benefits; his beautiful wife becomes something to boast about. At least he guarantees the existence of someone at home who for the rest of her life will patiently do the housework, iron his shirts and take care of the children.
Such a system is surely the inevitable consequence of being away from the Islamic standpoint. Seeing people as a means to attain particular goals is assuredly a major part of the significant detriment caused by disbelief to a society steeped in ignorance.
This distorted rationale is also conveyed to new generations. Influenced by their parents, children start to see their parents as providers who look after them, get them through schools and finally arrange for them to have a respectable profession. In return, parents see their children as possessions to invest in. Their ultimate aim is to have someone who will take care of them when they grow old. These intentions, never pronounced loudly, but intensely felt and experienced, occupy the minds of all individuals in the ignorant society.
As we have seen, believing to have done the best for their lives, all members of such a society, without exception, conform to this order. However, it is a great loss not to experience real intimacy and honesty even with one’s own spouse or children. Knowing that immediate family members, too, approach each other with materialistic intentions certainly causes inner pain.
However, the ills stemming from the corrupted mentality of the ignorant society are not restricted only to the aforementioned cases. The loneliness felt here in this world also lasts for all eternity. Allah warns man against such a disappointment beforehand:
Now you have come to Us solitary as We created you at first, and you have left behind you all that We bestowed upon you, and We do not see with you your intercessors, those whom you claimed to be Allah's equals. Now the bond between you is severed, and that which you presumed has failed you. (Surah Al-Anaam: 94)
When a person submits himself to Allah, He protects him. Such a person becomes the everlasting companion of all prophets, angels and all believers
Those who obey Allah and the messenger shall dwell with those to whom Allah has shown favour: the prophets, the saints, the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they! (Surah Al-Nisa: 69)
Living in Unsanitary Conditions
The primitive rationale, making to survive the ultimate goal of life, causes its members to drift into a disorganised lifestyle. One of the grounds of this mentality is to have more time to take pleasure from life. This goal, manifesting itself in common phrases like to make the most of life or to savour the moment, is eagerly promoted and encouraged, as being the contemporary lifestyle.
There is another point that deserves mention here: the fact that individuals attach importance to nobody but to themselves, and thus show no true love and respect to anybody, eventually introduces such a way of living. This situation becomes most apparent in marriages in which couples lose mutual respect. Just after marriage, both sides do not hesitate to behave in a way they never dared before the wedding. Spending all day in pyjamas with unwashed face, uncombed hair and bad breath, or living in a house where the kitchen surfaces overflow with dirty dishes the whole day long are all the outcome of this mentality.
Indeed, this mentality brings nothing but difficulty, disorder and chaos to the lives of ignorant people. On the pretext of not wasting time, they avoid many things that would bring an aesthetic touch to their lives. They deal with only the essentials and do not exert themselves to make their environment beautiful. For instance, they do not pay attention to details while doing housework. They often find it difficult to clean up; just not seeing the dirt all around is most of the time a sufficient excuse for not doing any cleaning. Some people perceive ironing, taking a shower, changing dirty linen, towels, clothes or tidying their room as a waste of time. They don’t wash their clothes unless an obvious stain or dirt appears on them. They can’t be bothered to shave. Especially in cold weather they dislike taking a bath. Mostly they only wash their hair. In some cultures, women have a practical solution for this: they visit a hair-dresser once a week and never feel the need to wash their hair until the next visit to the hair-dresser. Instead of taking a shower, they generally camouflage any undesirable odour with scents and deodorants, which makes it even more disturbing. Ignorant people give importance to the outer appearance of their clothes, yet they don’t feel the necessity to wash clothing which gives off a strong smell of sweat, food or cigarettes.
This primitive understanding of hygiene is especially widespread among young people. Their favourite clothes are worn-out or ripped jeans soaked in dirt. In universities and discos or on the streets, it is very popular to sit on pavements or steps, wearing dirty leather jackets and, muddy boots, and to carry faded satchels. They generally do not tidy their wardrobes; dirty clothes are thrown crumpled into the wardrobe, right next to the clean ones. The cleaning lady does all the cleaning once a week; and so as not to spend time on dish-washing, they generally prefer fast food.
Encouraged on the pretext of modernism, this understanding and lifestyle enjoy a special popularity among the section of society called intellectuals. The majority of these people, mostly made up of journalists, authors, painters, actors, poets and people in show business, project the image of the intellectual with dirty beards, greasy hair and untidy clothes. A next appearance with clean and well pressed clothes, they believe, is something incompatible with their charisma. Such unsanitary conditions surely negatively influence these ignorant people. Be they young or old, they develop diseases caused by malnutrition and unsanitary conditions. Always inhaling cigarette smoke in their offices, shopping malls, cafe’s, etc., their skins turn yellowish and they suffer serious lung problems. However, these are the negative affects observed only on the body. Living in dirty and untidy places along with other people who likewise do not care about sanitary conditions has a negative effect on their psychology too. In time, they become entirely insensitive to beauty and aesthetics. This is actually the consequence of a choice they willingly make.
The Qur’an, on the contrary, encourages man to live in the cleanest and most beautiful places possible. Allah gives a detailed account of how believers should lead their lives in the Qur’an;
And your garments keep free from stain! (Surah Al-Muddassir: 4)
You could possibly substitute: Allah loves those that turn to Him in repentance and strive to keep themselves (pure and) clean. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 222)
O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and wholesome in the Earth.(Surah Al-Baqarah: 168)
They ask you as to what is allowed to them. Say: The good things are allowed to you.(Surah Al-Maeda: 4)
He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul. Surah Al-Araf: 157)
Remember We made the House (The Kaíba in Makka) a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; made the station of Abraham a place of prayer; We covenanted with Abraham and Ismaíil, that they should purify My House for those who walk round it, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). Surah Al-Baqarah: 125)
(Others) said: Your Lord best knows how long you have tarried. Now let one of you go with this silver coin into the city, and let him see what food is purest there and bring you a supply of it. (Surah Al- Kahf: 19)
To John we said: 'Observe the Scriptures with a firm resolve'. We bestowed on him wisdom grace and purity; and he was devout. (Surah Maryam: 12)
In the name of modernism, ignorant people create unsanitary and disorganised environments with their own hands. On the other hand by complying with the principles of the Qur’an, believers enjoy the beauties of this life before attaining the Hereafter.