Getting to Know the Ignorant Society
The foremost and inherent characteristic of the members of an ignorant society is their unwillingness to develop a consciousness of Allah. Thus, people in this state of ignorance simply avoid complying with the commandments of Allah, having developed their own moral principles and a way of thinking contrary to everything approved of as being right by the Qur’an. The Qur’an, the last Divine Book, provides all the answers to all possible questions the individual might raise throughout his life. It offers all the key explanations and solutions which he needs in every aspect of his life.
Despite the existence of the Qur’an ó the only guide to the true path for humanity ó people in this state of ignorance abandon this precious source of wisdom and resort to their own limited thinking faculties to determine how to spend their lives so as to make them rewarding. Considering this fact, the mentality of such a society definitely proves to be ignorant when compared with the ideal mentality described in the Qur’an. In the following sections of the book, further scrutiny of the way of living favoured by the ignorant society will give us a better understanding of its primitive nature. Before proceeding with the way of living and the moral understanding of the ignorant society, however, it would be beneficial to have an opinion of its general traits.
In Every Age There Existed an Ignorant Society
From the time man was created, there have always been two distinct societies: the ignorant society and the community of believers. All those who fail to observe the limits set by the religion, constitute the ignorant society. Despite discrepancies in beliefs, thoughts and ways of living, one fundamental rationale lays the groundwork for the life of all ignorant societies: not to adhere to true religion. The members of the ignorant society, merely limited strictly in their outlook to the worldly life, are defined in the following verse:
Those who entertain no hope of meeting Us, but desire the life of the world and feel secure therein, and those who are neglectful of Our revelations. (Surah Yunus: 7)
Those who love too well this fleeting life, and put behind them (the remembrance of) a grievous day. (Surah Al-Insan: 27)
It is not in any way wrong to enjoy the favours of this world. Allah created these favours and gave them to the service of mankind. However, members of the ignorant society fall into an error at this point: they never take satisfaction in what they possess and always want to have more. In the words of the Qur’an, they are deceived by this world. What is more important, they never feel grateful to their Creator, the only One who bestows these favours upon them.
This is exactly why throughout history, regardless of the differences in their lifestyles, prosperity, races, colours and languages, all ignorant societies have displayed an astonishing similarity in terms of their fundamental reasoning and mentality. Whether a community is the most primitive tribe in history or the most glorious civilisation dating back to time immemorial, or a contemporary society, the goal for all societies maintaining an existence rooted in ignorance has always been one and the same: worldly gain.
The Morality of Ignorance is a System of Beliefs Inherited from One Generation to Another
Another trait of the ignorant societies is the way they acquire information regarding life. Rather than from the Divine books revealed by the Creator, members of the ignorant societies gather all their knowledge pertaining to life from their ancestors (parents, grandparents, etc...) Ancestors, the unchanging mentors of the members of the ignorant society, instruct their younger generations in the religion of ignorance and the moral values it encourages, and thus maintain the continuity of this primitive religion. These mentors themselves were likewise informed about the fundamentals of this corrupted religion by preceding generations.
Surprisingly, this system, inherited by one generation from another, is never questioned. Every item of information is accepted as a certain fact. All values of judgment, both right and wrong, are all passed on to the next generation, ready for their use. Such an attitude naturally never encourages the younger members to question the system or to find out anything about its reliability.
The Qur’an calls attention to the unquestioning support provided to this system and how ignorant people turn their faces away from the guidance of Allah without even feeling the need to ponder over it:
And when it is said to them: Follow that which Allah has revealed, they say: We follow that wherein we found our fathers. What! Even though their fathers were wholly unintelligent and had no guidance? (Surah Al-Baqarah: 170
The Fact that They Make Up the Majority of the Society does not Indicate the Reliability of Their Rationale
The Qur’an provides another important fact about the ignorant societies: they always constitute the majority of the population as compared to the community of believers. The Qur’an informs us that the believers are always in the minority:
Yet strive as you may, most men will not believe.(Surah Yusuf: 103)
But for a few of them, they have no faith.(Surah An-Nisa: 46)
And most of them believe in Allah only when they can attribute partners (to Him).(Surah Yusuf: 106)
Surely this is not a coincidence but a special situation created deliberately by Allah for a certain cause. Those believers are in the minority makes their virtuous conduct even more precious in this world. Furthermore, this is a factor enhancing their rewards in the Hereafter. This world surely has a lure as an essential part of the trial by Allah. Nevertheless, if concern for the Hereafter takes complete hold of one’s mind and, in consequence, one’s actions, one would surely be superior to the majority deceived by the attraction of worldly goods.
Besides, this is an important matter of trial for unbelievers. For the majority of the people it is customary to follow the general way of doing things in society. They simply take it for granted that the general attitude of the society is the righteous one. The same rationale further holds that the majority represents the absolute truth while the standpoint of the minority is to be approached with doubt and concern. Our point, put briefly, is: when summoned to the true path, by the guidance of Allah, people in a state of ignorance refuse to comply with this call on the flimsy pretext that it does not conform to the recognised social order. However, popular acceptance can by no means be an argument for truth.
This social criterion is surely nothing but an unsound judgment of the aforementioned crude understanding. Ignorant people make up the majority of the community merely because they all turn away in total ungratefulness from their Creator, simply prefering this world to the next. Surely those who adopt the attitude of such a society merely deceive themselves.
In the Qur’an Allah informs us about the reasons why these people in their state of ignorance make up the majority of the society and warn believers against taking this as a criterion for themselves:
And if you obey most of those on the earth, they will lead you astray from Allah’s way; they follow nothing but conjectures and they preach nothing but falsehoods.Surely your Lord He best knows who goes astray from His way, and He best knows those who follow the right course. (Surah Al-Anaam: 116-117)
Most of them follow nothing but mere conjecture. Assuredly, conjecture can by no means take the place of truth. Allah is Aware of what they do. (Surah Yunus: 36)
The attitude assumed by believers to find out the truth is explained in the Qur’an:
And there are among us some who have surrendered (to Allah) and there are among us some who are unjust. And whoever has surrendered to Allah has taken the right path purposefully. (Surah Al-Jinn: 14)
Ignorant Societies have Always been Warned Throughout History
Whoever goes aright, does so for his own soul; and whoever goes astray, does so to its detriment; no soul shall bear the burden of another, nor do We chastise a nation until We have sent forth a messenger to warn it. (Surah Al-Isra: 15)
And never did your Lord destroy the nations, till He had sent to their capital cities a messenger reciting to them Our revelations. And never did We destroy any nations unless its people were evil-doers. (Surah Al-Qasas: 59)
The above verses point to one single fact: to every ignorant society a messenger was sent to communicate the message of Allah. Out of His infinite mercy, Allah does not punish a society to whom His divine message has not been communicated. Through messengers, Allah informed man that there is no god other than Him and reminded them about the Day of Judgment.
And We sent to them a messenger from among themselves, (saying), Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him. Will you not fear (Him)? (Surah Al-Mumenoon: 32)
Another point deserves mention here: members of the ignorant society deliberately insist on maintaining their primitive thinking. They display an incomprehensible persistence in adherence to the religion of ignorance, although messengers provide them with clear explanations of the existence of Allah and the Hereafter. In another verse, the common attitude of prominent people of the ignorant society to the Divine message is recounted:
Just in the same way, whenever We sent a Warner before you to any people, the wealthy ones among them said: We found our fathers following a certain religion, and we will certainly follow in their footsteps.(Surah Al-Zukhruf: 23)
They Spend Their Lives in Trouble and Anguish
People in a state of ignorance invest all their hopes and dreams in this world alone and forget the Hereafter. However, the attachment they form for this life often turns into an unbridled ambition. At this point, fortune, fame or status cease to satisfy the individual’s worldly whims and desires. Success and prosperity only engender further ambition and greed rather than induce a peaceful state of mind. Such ambition, however, is detrimental to man’s physical well-being. Ambitions also make him lose his moral values. Self-interest finally isolates him. Though surrounded by a lot of people, people in a state of ignorance feel lonely and insecure, never finding a true companion. These factors together with other troubles (examined in the following sections) become a major source of disappointment. Under such circumstances, life becomes a burden rather than a source of joy and pleasure.
This is exactly what befalls the ignorant as a result of their own preferences. However, no matter what befalls them, they do not realise what is happening to their lives. Most of them only realise it after spending a whole life devoted to worldly pleasures, at the very time when they feel death is close. To their sorrow, however, it is too late. Even then, the grief does not stop there. Allah informs us that it is not only this life that they lose. Because of their adherence to primitive reasoning, these people will meet a grievous end in the Hereafter:
They indeed are losers who deny their meeting with Allah until, when the Hour comes on them suddenly, they cry: Alas for us, that we neglected it! They bear upon their backs their burdens. Ah, evil are the burdens which they bear! (Surah Al-Anaam: 31)
On the other hand, believers who spend their lives in the cause of Allah are rewarded with a beautiful life both in this world and the Hereafter:
So Allah gave them the reward of this world and the glorious reward of the Hereafter. Allah loves those whose deeds are good. (Surah Al-e Imran : 148)
Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of this world. Thus do we make plain Our revelations for peoples who have knowledge. (Surah Al-Araf : 32)
This is the ayah starting with:
Those who believe and carry out their duty to Allah, theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the Words of Allah ó that is the Supreme Triumph. (Surah Yunus : 63-64)
Why do They Prefer a Primitive Life?
Because They Assume Everything is Restricted to this Life
One inherited characteristic of the ignorant is their way of thinking, which limits their existence to this world. This has one meaning: accepting this temporary world as the real one, and hence not getting prepared for the next...consequently, such an attitude makes us believe that these people do not have faith, or rather a poor faith, in the Hereafter. Satisfied with a life to which death will ultimately put an end, those in a state of ignorance struggle to hold on tightly to the worldly life. The mentality of these people is expressed in the Qur’an in their own words:
There is nothing but our life in this world! We shall die and we live! But we shall never be raised up again! (Surah Al-Mumenoon: 37)
Those who have such a conviction do not observe the limits set by Allah and, accordingly, do not demonstrate obedience to His commandments. Such an understanding is based on the desire to be superior merely in this world, while forgetting the next. At this point, there is one fundamental mistake these people make: they prefer such a way of living on the grounds of making more of this life. However, its consequences prove to be otherwise. Let alone enjoying material and spiritual benefits, they hardly take pleasure from worldly gains.
That is solely because, due to their insensitiveness to the need to occupy themselves with the remembrance of Allah, Allah either takes back His favours from them or gives their hearts an everlasting fear of losing these favours. This is indeed a troublesome situation since they can never ease their fears about the future. The thought of it occupies every moment of their lives. The only way to benefit from the favours of this world is to have a thorough grasp of the fact that they are bestowed by Allah. One who understands this surely knows that these favours are temporary and inferior compared to the favours in the Hereafter.
Here an important question arises: Don’t they feel frustrated and finally understand this mystery of life? Alternatively, once they understand that they cannot take pleasure in this life, why do they still have this mentality? The answers provided by the Qur’an to these questions are explicit:
This is because they love the life of this world better than that of the Hereafter: and Allah will not guide those who reject Faith. (Surah Al-Nahl: 107)
Allah gives abundantly to whom He will, and sparingly (to whom He pleases); and they rejoice in the life of this world, whereas the life of this world is but brief comfort as compared with that of the Hereafter. (Surah Al-Rad: 26)
These verses reveal the rationale lying behind the primitive way of thinking prevalent in the ignorant societies: To feel an attachment to this life and to forget the Hereafter. Contrary to this conviction; however, this life is merely a scenario designed to put man on trial. The real life is actually the one that will start once a person breathes his last. This reality is related in the verse below:
This life of this world is but a pastime and a game. The home of the Hereafter ó that is Life, if they but knew.(Surah Al-Ankaboot: 64)
Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring; and stored-up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), and cattle and land. That is the comfort of the life of this world. Allah! With Him is a more excellent abode. (Surah Aal-e Imran: 14
Allah describes in these verses the particular lures over which man becomes the most impassioned, viz. money and possessions. But material prosperity does not bring peace and satisfaction. Efforts to find real love and respect often prove to be vain. True companionship also remains desperately sought after yet is never attained in the ignorant society. They can never be achieved because love, respect and companionship are attainable only when the individual conducts himself responsibly towards his Creator, thus attaining moral perfection. A sincere believer having moral values leaves a positive impression on other people and builds a bond of trust; this is actually the basis of true love and respect. One bereft of these moral values might quickly amass a fortune, have the most glorious villa in the world, or travel to the world’s best holiday resorts. In brief, he might indulge his taste for every joy that money can bring. Yet such material prosperity never provides the peace of mind and sense of security he needs. His achievements never satisfy his cupidity and hence make him happy. Despite possessing everything he needs, he still finds reasons to complain.
Ambitions inevitably become the source of a profound moral corruption. The urge for money pushes man into forgery, lying, selfishness, unjust practices, and other misbehaviour, which cause him to rage and to suffer feelings of tension and distress. In the Qur’an, another reason for the ignorant society’s insistence on this crude understanding is stated to be fondness for boasting which it fosters:
Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children. (Surah Al-Hadid: 20)
Any issue related to this worldly life becomes a subject for boasting. People attach so much importance to being appreciated by other people that their life becomes a search for having things to boast about. A good education, having an admirable status in society, marrying a member of a prominent family or even having children are for ignorant people among the important materials to boast. The good looks or intelligence of the child, the schools he/she attends become issues to boast about. A life limited to only six or seven decades is thus spent in soothing one’s ambitions for wealth, success or any form of prosperity. Considering that the major reason for this desire is to show off to other people who are weak and mortal like any other person, is something to give thought to. After all, one should not dare to lose eternal life at the cost of making a good impression upon others in this world.
Because Rather than Behaving Conscientiously, they Endeavour to Fulfil Their Own Vain Desires
If one thing is remembered about the reasons for pursuing a primitive life when all else is forgotten, it should surely be the inclination of the ignorant to follow their own desires. Allah inspired in man’s soul two voices, exactly contrary to each other in nature. One of these voices inspires the soul with a consciousness of what is wrong and what is right. If one listens to the voice of this divine guide, which is his conscience, he will not diverge from the right way and will remain wise and clear-sighted. The other voice, on the contrary, calls one to a life conforming to the negative side of one’s soul. These two voices are actually the conscience and the soul (an-nafs). This fact is related in the Qur’an:
By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right: truly, he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it! (Surah Al-Shams: 7-10)
In a work devoted to identifying and defining the ignorant society from every aspect, the distinction between conscience and the soul deserves a special mention. Because the foremost reason for a person being ignorant is his inclination to pursue his whims and desires and his complete indifference to the whisper calling him to the divine guidance. Contrary to high expectations, a life marked by fondness for worldly gain is spiritually unrewarding.