Life In The Society Of Ignorance
In the earlier sections of this book, we mentioned that the main difference between believers and disbelievers is the formers' awareness of Allah's infinite might. We also talked about how a believer who sincerely believes in Allah's existence must and does orient his entire life to earn the approval of Allah.
One of the most significant characteristics of someone who can appreciate Allah's might and thus orients all his deeds to earn Allah's blessing is his steadfastness in earning the good pleasure and blessing of Allah at each moment of his life. Having his life focused on earning His approval and being a servant to Him, he develops a different outlook on the universe, which he knows is created and controlled by Allah. Since he considers Allah as the only Deity, the false deities surrounding him lose their meaning.
In the Qur'an, this subject is stressed in the story of the Prophet Abraham (as) as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saas):
... He was a saintly man and a Prophet. Remember when he said to his father, "Father, why do you worship what can neither hear nor see and is not of any use to you at all?" (Surah Maryam: 41-42)
Since a believer seeks the pleasure of Allah alone, prays to Him, and beseeches only Him, he turns solely towards Him. He does not feel the need to seek other people's approval, and does not pin his hopes on anyone other than Allah. The attainment of true freedom is, in fact, possible only through having a full grasp of this fact and turning towards Allah.
The lives of those lacking true faith, unlike those of believers, are subservient to countless false deities. Such individuals devote their entire lives to gaining the approval of countless people, and when they seek help, it is from other people. In reality, however, the creatures a disbeliever ignorantly idolizes in his mind are nothing but weak "servants," just like himself. Indeed, these beings are far from fulfilling his desires, much less saving him. Death is, no doubt, the most obvious fact, revealing that these idolized beings cannot be of any help. However, it will be too late to wait until death to grasp the imaginary nature of these deities.
The insuperable dilemma these people face is related in the Qur'an as follows:
They have taken [other] gods besides Allah [Alone], hoping that they may be helped. They cannot help them, even though they are an army mobilized in their support. (Surah Ya Sin: 74-75)
Disbelievers base their entire lives on this very distorted rationale. Another important difference between believers and disbelievers emerges from this: believers adopt the criteria laid down by Allah as their only guidance. They observe the commands of the Qur'an, the just Book and the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas). Their religion is Islam, which is explained in detail in the Qur'an and is presented to us through the exemplary of the life of the Prophet (saas).
People who lead their lives in a state oblivious of Allah will surely accept the criteria laid down by imaginary deities rather than the criteria set forth by Allah. They will follow, not Islam, the true faith, but a false faith with superstitious ideas and beliefs. Their religion is a heretical one with many deities. These people have various conflicting rules and goals imposed by society and which are indeed highly superstitious. This being the case, the polytheistic religions they abide by take various forms. However, it needs to be stated that it is very important and necessary for a person to abide by the social order in which he lives and comply with its rules and law. What is being referred to here is not social rules that encourage truth, goodness, love and respect, but superstitious values that encourage self-interest, selfishness, lovelessness and ruthlessness.
Some of them aim at money and power, while others desire a prestigious and influential status. Some aspire to find a "good spouse" and have a "happy family life." These are all elements in a believer's life. But a true believer attaches no more importance to them than is proper. More importantly, he has no conceptions or judgments on these subjects apart from those commanded by Allah in the Qur'an and recommended by our Prophet (saas). People who do not live by religious moral values, however, have their own paths and methods to achieve such aims as they set themselves that are incompatible with religious moral values. All these superstitious conceptions that they call 'life style' make up the superstitious religions based on the failure to grasp Allah's existence and His limits.
However, man is, by nature, inclined to trust Allah and be a servant to Him. Unable to fulfill his infinite needs and desires by himself, by nature, he tends to turn to Allah alone. Accordingly, the nature of man is inclined to recognize Allah as his Lord:
So, as a pure and natural believer, set your face firmly towards the faith, Allah's natural pattern on which He made mankind. There is no changing Allah's creation. That is the true faith—but most people do not know it. (Surat ar-Rum: 30)
A sincere believer, who is not seized by the evil desires of his soul but who has faith in Allah, learns how to conduct himself throughout his life from the book revealed by Allah, our Prophet's (saas) Sunnah and follows the prophets as his role models. The life of a believer is entirely different from that of a disbeliever. This aside, from the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) a believer learns facts of which disbelievers are utterly unaware. For example, Allah has imparted the glad tidings that for whoever observes his duty to Allah, He will provide a means of salvation:
… Whoever goes in fear of Allah—He will give him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect. Allah is all-sufficient for one who puts his trust in Him. Allah always achieves His aim. Allah has set a measure for all things. (Surat at-Talaq: 2-3)
A believer who duly acknowledges the power of Allah will dedicate his life to Him, because he knows that Allah will be enough for "whoever puts his trust in Him." This is expressed in the following verse:
He (Jacob) said, "My sons!"… in no way can I save you from the might of Allah, for judgment comes from no one but Allah. In Him I put my trust, and in Him alone let the faithful put their trust." (Surah Yusuf: 67)
A believer who grasps this fact will see that his duty in this world is solely to fulfill Allah's commands. This is his duty and his "profession." He is merely responsible for striving in the way of Allah. He asks Allah for everything, because it is Allah Who gives everything to him. The purpose behind man's creation is thus recorded in the Qur'an:
I only created jinn and man to worship Me. I do not require any provision from them and I do not require them to nourish Me. Truly Allah, He is the Provider, the Possessor of Strength, the Sure. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 56-58)
Consequently, it is unlikely that a believer, who displays the morals praised in the Qur'an, can have a "fear of the future" in his heart. This fear is peculiar to those who perceive life as a struggle among millions of independent false deities. Unaware that all events take place under Allah's control, in compliance with a destiny that is totally defined by Him, they assume that they need to put up a struggle to survive. They believe that they will benefit by "treading on others" and "abusing them" to achieve their own ends and satisfy their personal interests. Indeed, their thinking matches what they receive…
Said Nursi explains how man fails to understand that his real duty is to be a servant to Allah and adds:
"… They unwisely concluded that life is a struggle."
This rationale, subscribed to by those who do not live according to the values of the Qur'an, is one of the fundamental tenets of their religion. It is due to the distorted rationale in question that these people always suffer feelings of distress and tension:
- The majority of these people, unlike believers, are selfish, self-seeking people whose only concern is to benefit themselves.
- They lack the delicate disposition that develops with self-sacrifice. Their love is based on gaining advantage; they love a person not because of his good values or attributes but because it is in their interest to love him.
- Those whom they consider to be their loved ones, too, approach them with the same mindset, which creates a relationship bereft of loyalty. They always feel concerned about the potential unfaithfulness of their partners, since they know that at any time their partners may find others who are wealthier or more beautiful…
- They are consumed by jealousy, a trait that prevents them from taking pleasure in beauties and blessings. For example, instead of taking pleasure in someone's beauty and saying "How beautifully Allah has created him or her," they feel restless and ask, "Why am I not as good looking and beautiful as him or her?"
- They do not feel grateful to Allah or are not content with their blessings. With such a disposition, they always want to possess more. This insatiable desire becomes a constant source of unease.
- Unable to accept their feebleness and weaknesses, they do not ask for help from Allah. They assume they will get rid of their weaknesses if they turn away from Allah haughtily and without asking Him for help. However, this is not the way to get rid of their weaknesses. At this time, too, they turn to others and pin their hopes on them. Yet those they turn to are also weak individuals who only think of their own benefit. Moreover, they are far from being merciful and compassionate. This being the case, they often feel "depressed," and lose their spirit through a failure to satisfy their expectations.
- They lack forgiveness and understanding. For this reason, even a minor disagreement among them is likely to develop into a clash or conflict. Most of the time, each party makes it a matter of pride to refuse to accept being the one in the wrong. For this reason, they have great fights.
- They do not believe that they live in a world under Allah's protection and control, but rather in a ruthless jungle where they have to "defeat" others to survive. According to their misguided ideas, they assume they have to develop a tough, aggressive and egoistical character to be able to survive in this "jungle." Indeed, their attitude matches what they encounter. They are either, as the society of ignorance calls it, swallowed up, as in the example of the "small fish," or they grow into a "big and cruel" fish and swallow others.
These laws apply to almost all societies where people do not experience true faith but behave according to the mistaken morality described above. In the Qur'an, these societies are called "ignorant," because they are entirely unaware of Allah and the Hereafter.
In the Qur'an, it is stated that the Prophet Moses (as) described some of the sons of Israel, a tribe that never exercised wisdom or submitted themselves to Allah, as ignorant:
We led the tribe of Israel across the sea and they came upon some people who were devoting themselves to some idols which they had. They said, "Moses, give us a god just as these people have gods." He said, "You are indeed an ignorant people. What these people are doing is destined for destruction. What they are doing is purposeless." He said, "Should I seek something other than Allah as a deity for you when He has favored you over all other beings?" (Surat al-A'raf: 138-140)
However, as mentioned earlier, "the society of ignorance" is not of a uniform nature. Though generally called "ignorant," there may be different sections in a given society, all displaying varying characteristics. The society is commonly segmented according to the degree they have attained ineffective criteria—economic power being the foremost—set by the society itself.
The Criterion by Which to Appraise People
in the Society of "Ignorance"
Sincere believers take "taqwa" (awe or fear of Allah which inspires the individual to be on guard against wrong actions and eager for ones which please Him) as the only criterion by which to appraise people. As the Prophet Muhammad (saas) said, they know that "the most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behavior is most excellent." (Tirmidhi) In ignorant societies, however, which are made up of people with no faith, "money" is considered the main criterion by which to form an opinion of others:
This being the case, many distorted rationales appear in ignorant societies:
- A rich person, albeit indecent and corrupted, is honored and paid respect.
- Due to this rule laid down by society, one who is “rich but immoral” actually believes himself to be an “estimable” person.
- Because society attaches so much importance to "money," the poor lack self-confidence. This attitude of the poor becomes most obvious when they are among the rich. A poor person may well recognize that he is superior to the rich man next to him because the latter is depraved. However, under the influence of ideas instilled by society, he is unable to overcome his feelings of inadequacy.
- In the society of ignorance, where the possession of "money" is a highly estimable criterion, moral degeneration prevails. Such corruption appears in various forms, such as bribery, abuse of authority or forgery, and is almost totally incorporated into daily life. Since the successful amassing of money is the most important value according to these people of ignorance, all methods rendering the making of money possible, no matter how immoral and unjust they may be, are legitimized.
In the story of Qarun in the Qur'an, Allah describes the "money-oriented" stance of the society of ignorance:
Qarun was one of the people of Moses but he lorded it over them. We gave him such treasures that their very keys would have been too heavy a weight for a band of strong men. When his people said to him, "Do not gloat. Allah does not love people who gloat. Seek the abode of the Hereafter with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your share in this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the land. Allah does not love corrupters." he said: "I have only been given these riches because of the knowledge I have." Did he not know that before him Allah had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far more possessions? The evil-doers will not be questioned about their sins. He went out among his people in all his finery. Those who desired the life of the world said: "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses." But those who had been given knowledge said: "Woe to you! Allah's reward is better for those who have faith and act rightly. But only the steadfast will attain it." We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, nor was he able to defend himself. Those who had longed to take his place the day before began to say: "Allah gives abundantly to whom He will, and sparingly to whom He pleases. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the disbelievers are not successful." As for the abode of the Hereafter, We shall grant it to those who do not seek to exalt themselves in this world or to cause corruption in it. The successful outcome is for those who fear Allah. (Surat al-Qasas: 76-83)
As can be understood from the verses, Qarun and those who envied him were representative of a typical society of ignorance. They failed to comprehend that Allah is the owner of everything and that Allah bestows possessions upon whoever He wishes. Qarun thought that the wealth he possessed had been given to him because of his superiority. But this was not so.
- Because Allah creates every being, He is the real owner of everything. In this sense, one who owns something may be considered as a "trustee," temporarily taking care of a possession which actually belongs to Allah.
- Blessings bestowed upon people are given to them not because they are superior or because they possess something important. These blessings are given to man as a favor or as a trial. What is expected of him in return is not to grow "arrogant" but to be "grateful" to Allah. If one fails to understand this, the property he owns brings him neither happiness nor salvation in this world and in the Hereafter.
- Property is not given so that one can "hoard" it and be parsimonious. Allah gives property to man so that he may use it in Allah's way. The end of those who do otherwise is stated in the Qur'an as follows:
Those who are miserly with the bounty Allah has given them should not suppose that that is better for them. No indeed, it is worse for them! What they were mean with will be hung around their necks on the Day of Rising. Allah is the inheritor of the heavens and the earth and Allah is aware of what you do. (Surah Al 'Imran: 180)
- While spending the wealth bestowed upon him by Allah, the individual must use it wisely to attain the approval of Allah, without fearing the exhaustion of his resources. In the Qur'an, Allah draws attention to this danger and reminds us that satan threatens man with "poverty" (Surat al-Baqara: 268) It is further stated that Allah repays whatever is spent in His way. The relevant verse about this issue reads:
Say: "My Lord gives abundantly to whom He wills or sparingly to whom He pleases. But anything you expend will be repaid by Him. He is the Best of Providers." (Surah Saba': 39)
In the story of Qarun, Allah in fact reveals a general attribute of the society of ignorance. A closer examination of the story reveals that Qarun could actually be representative of a character in the society of ignorance that embodies a number of rich and prestigious people.
In the relevant verses, reference is also made to those who envy Qarun. These people have the very same ignorant rationale as Qarun and fail to understand that the real owner of property is Allah. So, they attach great importance to Qarun and his wealth.
Those who can distance themselves from the indoctrination of society are the true believers:
- Because the criterion of believers was not money but faith and because they knew all property belonged to Allah, they realized that it was unwise to envy Qarun. Furthermore, they understood that he was certainly in a pitiable position.
- Unlike the members of the society of ignorance, they did not say: "Allah gives abundantly to whom He wills, or sparingly to whom he pleases" after Qarun's death, but comprehended this fact right at the beginning.
A similar situation is related in the story of "the owners of the vineyards." The distinction between a man who is given plenty of blessings and property, as is in the case of Qarun, and a believer, who believes in Allah and observes his duty to Him, is related in the Qur'an as follows:
Give them this parable. Once there were two men, to one of whom We gave two gardens of grape-vines 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. He was a man of wealth and property and he said to his companion, which conversing with him, "I have more wealth than you and my clan is mightier than yours." He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying, "I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour of Doom will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return." His companion, with whom he was conversing, said to him, "Do you then disbelieve 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. Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say, "It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Allah"? 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 on it a fireball from the sky so that morning finds it a shifting heap of dust, or morning finds its water drained into the earth so that you cannot get at it."
The fruits of his labor were completely destroyed and he woke up wringing his hands in grief, ruing everything that he had spent on it. It was total ruin with all its trellises fallen in.
He said, "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 unable to defend himself. In that situation the only protection is from Allah, the Truth. He gives the best reward and the best outcome. (Surat al-Kahf: 32-44)
Those Who Highly Esteem Material Values
In many stories in the Qur'an, Allah mentions a group of people to whom Muslims convey the morality of religion and wage an ideological struggle against their negative attitudes. In the Qur'an, Allah gives an account of the attributes of this group of people that appear in almost all stories of prophets.
In the Qur'an, this segment of society is defined with phrases such as "arrogant chiefs of the people," "those who led lives of ease," "those persisting in immense wrongdoing" and "those who were unjustly proud in the land." Their common quality is their employment of power and possessions to revolt against Allah and to make mischief on earth. Allah reveals these in the verses:
We never sent a warner into any city without the affluent people in it saying, "We reject what you have been sent with." They also said, "We have more wealth and children. We are not going to be punished." (Surah Saba': 34-35)
-In accord with the information provided in these verses, the attributes of these people can be listed as follows: The "possessions and children" given to these people added to their arrogance and denial of Allah
(Truly, Allah is above what they ascribe to Him):
The 'Ad were arrogant and unjust in the land, without any right, saying, "Who has greater strength than us?" Did they not see that Allah, Who created them, had greater strength than them? But they renounced Our Signs. (Surah Fussilat: 15)
However, it will be useful to clarify the following point here: the possession of broad material means is not a negative feature. People do need to be aware, however, that it is Almighty Allah Who bestows these means on them and people must not fail to give thanks to Him for everything they possess. What is wrong is to become proud because of the means given them in the life of this world and for this pride to lead to denial. The people whose vices are described as warnings in the Qur'an made that mistake.
The main criticism heard by believers as they communicate the moral values of the Qur'an generally comes from those "affluent people" spoiled by comfort and well-being. Since they refuse to submit to Allah and to use the means at their disposal in the manner He wishes, they exhibit hatred toward believers. For example, it was this anger among the pagans of Mecca that led some to seek to imprison, expel and even kill our beloved Prophet (saas):
When those who disbelieve were plotting against you to imprison you or kill you or expel you: they were plotting and Allah was plotting, but Allah is the Best of Plotters. (Surat al-Anfal: 30)
Similar examples to such communities described in detail in the Qur'an can also be found in present-day societies. These people, who live degenerate lives, regarding all forms of moral perversion as legitimate, and who represent the leading class in society because of the means at their disposal, represent one of the main causes of social moral collapse. This, the result of societies turning to all kinds of sexual perversion and whose idea of entertainment consists of the consumption of enormous quantities of drugs and alcohol, can clearly be seen in various South American, South Asian and Western nations.
However, it must not be forgotten that no system constructed on immorality, fraud, hypocrisy and injustice can ever be permanent. All false and degenerate systems are condemned to disappear. This truth is revealed in these terms in the Qur'an:
… shown by their arrogance in the land and evil plotting. But evil plotting envelops only those who do it. Do they expect anything but the pattern of previous peoples? You will not find any changing in the pattern of Allah. You will not find any alteration in the pattern of Allah. (Surat al-Fatir: 43)
As can be seen, the defeat of all groups that become proud and spoiled because of the material means at their disposal, and that use these to lead immoral lives, is a law of Allah. Yet all such people can still repent during their time in this world and abandon their evil ways. People adhering to such a system must never forget that Allah is always forgiving, and that He forgives those who reject that path and turn to true faith, who begin to work for the benefit of the nation and the country, and who behave with goodness and justice.
Whoever follows the true path will first and foremost abide by it for his or her own good. If people nonetheless return to the path of evil and perversion, there is no doubt that Allah's punishment is very severe. As Allah reveals in another verse:
Whoever is guided is only guided to his own good. Whoever is misguided is only misguided to his detriment. No burden-bearer can bear another's burden. We never punish until We have sent a messenger. (Surat al-Isra': 15)
Distorted Understanding of Morality
in the Society of Ignorance
The morality of believers described in the Qur'an is based on fear of Allah and His approval. Since the members of the society of "ignorance" do not establish their value judgments on piety, their moral values are also distorted.
Since the society of "ignorance" is unaware of the infinite power of Allah, its members base their moral understanding on the criterion best expressed in the words: "What will people think?" Such an understanding permits the commission of morally unacceptable acts in an environment where no one hears or witnesses them. Alternatively, this immoral understanding is legitimized under a new title and form.
For instance, many people in the society of "ignorance" consider adultery immoral. Some individuals who commit adultery hardly dare to admit it. However, they generally do not avoid committing it, provided that not a soul witnesses it.
It is possible to observe various forms of this conduct in the lives of most ignorant people.
The Desire to Live Forever
Say: "Death, from which you are fleeing, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible and He will inform you about what you did." (Surat al-Jumu'a: 8)
While lacking a sincere belief in the existence of Allah and the Hereafter, the members of the society of "ignorance" behave "as if they will never die." In this society, death continues to be one of those words that is never spoken. While making plans, death is ignored outright. They pile up fortunes as if the life of this world were perpetual. Since these plans pertain entirely to this world, those who recall death are called "killjoys."
This is one of the most evident indications of the distorted rationale upon which ignorant unbelievers base their lives. Since "every soul shall taste death" (Surah Al 'Imran: 185), a life based on feigning ignorance of death is surely established on a rotten foundation. However, man must employ his intellect and conscience:
- Since he is granted the desire to live forever, he must think why his life should be restricted to 60-70 years.
- He should recognize as an unwise rationale, the assumption that avoidance of the thought of death is a way to keep death at distance. This is behaving just like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
- He should grasp the fact that Allah, Who has shaped him into a most perfect body out of a sperm, has the might to recreate him and to give him a new life.
- Finally, he must keep in mind that Allah, Who promised and asserted in hundreds of verses that He would recreate him after death, will surely keep His promise.
All of the above will lead him to comprehend that death is not a form of disappearance, but a transition to the Hereafter.
- In this case, he may also understand that fear of death is senseless. In fact, fear of death will avail him nothing; death is inescapable. Everybody will die at a predestined time. Those who fear death are warned in the Qur'an as follows:
… They are concealing things inside themselves which they do not disclose to you, saying, "If we had only had a say in the affair, none of us would have been killed here in this place." Say, "Even if you had been inside your homes, those people for whom killing was decreed would have gone out to their place of death."… (Surah Al 'Imran: 154)
Death, which is a door to the Hereafter, brings bliss and salvation only to those who have spent their lives in compliance with Allah's good pleasure. For those who turned away from Allah, on the other hand, death means utter destruction and the beginning of a horrible disaster. In the Qur'an it is related that once death comes, the regret felt by those who have forgotten Allah—as if they would never die—will be of no avail:
There is no forgiveness for people who persist in doing evil until death comes to them and who then say, "Now I repent," nor for people who die disbelievers. We have prepared for them a painful punishment. (Surat an-Nisa': 18)
When death comes to a wrongdoer, he says, "My Lord, send me back again, so that perhaps I may act rightly regarding the things I failed to do!" No indeed! It is just words he utters. Before them there shall stand a barrier until the Day they are raised up. (Surat al-Mu'minun: 99-100)
Everybody who has not devoted his life to Allah will live to suffer this regret unless Allah wills otherwise.
Consider that life is too short, that there is a real eternal life after the life of this world, and that one is entitled to attain eternal life, provided that he earns the approval of Allah in this world;
- We must concern ourselves with the real life, due to begin after death, more than with the life of this world, which is short and worthless next to the eternal abundance promised. That is why, believers who conceive of this fact are of those whose "sincerity has been purified through earnest remembrance of the Abode." (Surah Sad: 46)
- It is utterly foolish to be deceived by the insignificance and deceptive allure of the world and become deeply attached to it. Neither possessions, nor beauty, neither power, family, nor fame can accompany a person to his grave. What is left in the grave is only a body wrapped in a shroud, which undergoes a rapid process of decay after burial.
- What will be taken to the Hereafter are the good deeds and acts of worship done to earn the approval of Allah. There, the temporary blessings of this world (health, beauty, wealth and so on) will, in their most perfect forms, be given back to man for all eternity.
- One who fails to comprehend this fact and, remaining stingy avoids spending his wealth in Allah's way, eventually ruins his eternal life in the Hereafter and does harm to his own soul:
Here you are then: people who are called upon to spend in the Way of Allah and then some of you are ungenerous! But whoever is ungenerous to the cause is ungenerous to himself. Allah is Rich and you are poor. If you turn away, He will replace you with a people other than yourselves and they will not be like you. (Surah Muhammad: 38)
Those who fail to grasp this and become deeply attached to this world strive to attain a so-called "immortality," for which reason they have the desire to "leave something in this world by which people may remember them." This desire appears in various forms:
- Some try to leave "works of art" behind, so that "their name may live on." In the Qur'an, Allah says of this attitude:
Will you build a tower on every hilltop, just to amuse yourselves, and construct great fortresses, hoping to live forever? (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 128-129)
- This rationale best expresses itself in the desire to "raise children." Those who place no hope in the Hereafter wish to have children who will carry the family name into the future. This is the main reason why families prefer sons.
It is stated in the Qur'an that the desire to "have children" is merely part of the temporal pomp of this world:
Know that the life of the world is merely a game and a diversion, ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children: like the plant-growth after rain which delights the cultivators, but then it withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the Hereafter there is terrible punishment but also the forgiveness of Allah and His approval. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid: 20)
Of course, it is most agreeable for people to desire to raise children with good morals. However, in the twisted system of the society of ignorance, the aim behind this desire is not to please Allah but to satisfy their arrogance and to leave a permanent mark behind them in this world.
However, when we refer to the Qur'an, we witness the attitude of true believers; they ask for children from Allah only if it is for the good pleasure of Allah, and they raise their children in compliance with Allah's good pleasure. Most of the prophets lived their lives without children since they did not have such an opportunity during their time and age and only asked for children from Allah when they grew too old and needed someone who would continue to communicate the message of Allah and advocate His religion.
The Conception of Religion in the Society
Such people as described above, who fail to give Allah due appreciation and thus are "ignorant," have interpreted religion in accordance with their own distorted rationale and beliefs. The resulting understanding of religion shows apparent deviations from the original religion as set forth in the Qur'an. Allah defines the religion revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saas) as one that "relieves people of their heavy loads and the chains which were around them." (Surat al-A'raf: 157) and as the religion that "contains no difficulties in it":
… He has selected you and not placed any constraint upon you in the observance of your religion—the religion of your forefather Abraham In this, as in former scriptures he named you Muslims… (Surat al-Hajj: 78)
In the Qur'an, Allah has summoned people to reflect and, recognizing the erroneous beliefs and methods they hold, to turn to the lifestyle deemed to be appropriate by Allah.
The society of ignorance, however, feigning not to see the explicit and comprehensible message of the Qur'an, has, in the name of Islam, fabricated a religion bogged down in bigotry. Some of the characteristics of this distorted religion are as follows:
- The religion introduced in the Qur'an summons people to serve Allah alone and thus commands people not to take other any entities as gods except for Him. Accordingly, since he is not obliged to seek other people's pleasure, man is only responsible for seeking Allah's approval. The people of the society of ignorance, however, have developed an understanding of religion not as a way to seek Allah's pleasure but as a social institution. Owing to this twisted perception, the religion that results has lapsed into a form which is primarily concerned with "what people would say,"—a way of thinking far removed from the true morality of religion.
- The conception of religion in the society of ignorance, which has no idea or comprehension regarding the moral values of the Qur'an, is based on various superstitious beliefs. Various local customs and beliefs and cultural factors have been incorporated into the religion, and "being pious" has deteriorated into "adherence to one's forefathers' superstitious beliefs." The religion revealed by Allah in the Qur'an and embodied in the exemplary life of the Prophet Muhammad (saas), however, bears no similarity whatsoever to these. In the Qur'an, Allah commands man to take His limits and the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas) as a measure and nothing else. Throughout history, the prophets had to struggle with those who attempted to deny the truth by quoting the superstitious beliefs inherited from their forefathers. The morality they displayed is indicated in the verse below:
When they are told, "Follow what Allah has sent down to you," they say, "We are following what we found our fathers doing." What, even though their fathers did not understand a thing and were not guided! (Surat al-Baqara: 170)
The same theme is repeated in Surat al-Ma'ida: 104; Surat al-An'am: 91; Surat al-A'raf: 28 and in many other verses as well.
- Some of the members of the society of ignorance, who foolishly evaluate religion in compliance with that mistaken understanding, in consequence fall into the error that religion is separate from reason. However, as Allah informs us in the Qur'an, being a Muslim entails being wise. Believers are always summoned to think, to enquire and thus see the verses of Allah. Faith and wisdom are interrelated; as a consequence of exercising wisdom one attains faith, and faith grows ever more profound as one continues to exercise wisdom.
- That distorted rationale, stemming from ignorance, sees no harm in introducing new principles to religion and making unlawful what is lawful, based on a mistaken mentality of their own.
In the Qur'an, Allah reveals this mistaken rationale that disturbs many people:
Say: "Who has forbidden the fine clothing Allah has produced for His servants and the good kinds of provision?" Say: "On the Day of Rising such things will be exclusively for those who had faith during their life in the world." In this way We make the Signs clear for people who know. Say: "My Lord has forbidden indecency, both open and hidden, and wrong action, and unrighteous tyranny, and associating anything with Allah for which He has sent down no authority, and saying things about Allah you do not know." (Surat al-A'raf: 32-33)
What is the matter with you that you do not eat that which has been consecrated in the name of Allah, when He has made clear to you what He has made unlawful for you, except when you are forced to eat it? Many people lead others astray through their whims and desires unchecked by any knowledge. Your Lord knows best those who overstep the limits. (Surat al-An'am: 119)
You who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things Allah has made lawful for you, and do not overstep the limits. Allah does not love people who overstep the limits. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 87)
- As a result of this superstitious understanding caused by the society of ignorance, Islam is being presented in a different form rather than in its real nature. The fact is that Islam is the true faith, in which reason, beauty, love, understanding, warmth, compassion, cleanliness, quality and nobility predominate. Prophets have always been the most civilized people of their time. They were cultured and enlightened people with refined esthetic values. With his manners, the quality of his esthetic understanding, his beauty, cleanliness and superior moral values, our Prophet (saas) is the finest role model for all believers. With his palace, which is known to have been an architectural masterpiece abounding in many exquisite places, the Prophet Solomon (as) is one of the most outstanding examples cited in the Qur'an.
Being a Muslim is to be a servant to Allah and to be grateful for the blessings granted by Him. It means striving to know Allah, drawing nearer to Him and becoming a human being with a noble character.
A true Muslim is one who seeks the approval of his Creator, Allah, the Almighty, and who has distanced himself from any material or spiritual expectation other than earning His approval.
This is one of the definitions of a Muslim.