The Unbelievers' Hopeless Condition
Hopelessness, a spiritual sickness, is frequently found among people living far from religion. This arises due to their denial of Allah's Existence or because they do not recognize and acknowledge Him as required. Lacking faith and Qur'anic knowledge, they believe that all events are the result of a series of coincidences. They cannot understand that Allah has created everything within a context of a destiny that He has determined and that He controls everything at every instant.
For this reason, every unfavorable event that befalls them leads to distress and hopelessness. In fact, they do not even need a negative or bad event to happen, for the conjectures, whisperings, and worries that they create for themselves are enough to make them fall into a deep depression. Such people can interpret everything negatively or find the bad in it. For any event, they can reach a conclusion that will lead them into depression and hopelessness, because they have no guide to serve as a frame of reference. What determines their life philosophy and perspective on events is based upon coincidence, randomness, and chance. Such concepts cannot give them hope or confidence; rather, believing in these ideas and basing one's life on them leads to all manner of distress and pain.
This is a natural consequence, for not recognizing Allah and not taking the Qur'an, which was sent to them by Him as a guide, a mercy, and good tidings, results in them oppressing their own selves and becoming the cause of all of their pain. They are ignorant of the divine destiny enveloping themselves and all of creation, and so perceive all events, which occur within Allah's knowledge and a result of His will, as a series of random events. In short, the great blindness and ignorance in which they find themselves causes them to lead a life akin to the pain of Hell.
This is the unbelievers' situation; however, some people who call themselves Muslim are in the same spiritual state. Regardless of their self-description, their reaction and response to events is not all that different from that of unbelievers, because they are so far removed from the values of the Qur'an. They consider all events to be the result of a series of causes, the laws of nature or social development, and do not believe that Allah created them. Thus they do not see the Divine Wisdom and goal behind each event.
The Qur'anic perspective, however, gives people a totally different character. First, those who approach events with a believer's perspective believe that all events are good for them and also for other believers, for Allah is the believers' friend, the One Who wills and creates the best for them in both this world and the next. If they encounter a situation that appears to be negative, they do not attribute this to bad luck and ill fortune, or to things not going their way, for they can see that Allah may have created a great benefit in it, as in: "It may be that you hate something when it is good for you" (Surat al-Baqara, 261)
Knowing that everything comes from Allah and occurs through His will causes believers not to become sad or negative, or to fall into despair under any circumstances. Viewing everything in this world is a trial, they meet every event with the best attitude and manners, as determined by the Qur'an.
Only unbelievers despair of Allah's mercy
People can be divided into two groups based on how they respond to difficult events. The first group denies Allah's Existence and gets caught up in this worldly life. Whenever its members meet with any difficulty, distress, physical or spiritual affliction, they suddenly become aggressive and display unexpected and rebellious behavior. This despair affects their whole lives, for it destroys their enthusiasm and fervor and gives way to great defiance. They see every hardship as a calamity, and so cannot respond in a mature and balanced fashion.
The people who despair of Allah's mercy are those who do not believe in Him or the afterlife. Allah makes it clear in the following verse that only those who reject Him despair of His Mercy:
Those who reject Allah's Signs and the meeting with Him, such people have despaired of My mercy. Such people will have a painful punishment. (Surat al-Ankabut, 23)
Prophet Yaq'ub (as), one of the prophets praised in the Qur'an, advised his sons to maintain their hope in Allah and reminded them that only those who reject faith lose hope in His mercy, as follows:
O my sons! Seek news of Yusuf and his brother. Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who do not believe. (Surah Yusuf, 87)
Abandoning hope in Allah's mercy means that one is not aware that He has power over all things. Those who do so show an exceedingly vast ingratitude, for every member of humanity owes everything to our Lord. Allah created humanity and endowed its members with sight and hearing, and the ability to think, walk, and run; He causes people to breathe and smile; gives them good health; and provides for them and presents to them that which they love. Given all of the above facts, those who abandon any hope in Him in effect disregard all of these gifts and benefits. In particular, Allah is not pleased when people fall into despair after He withdraws one or more of His bounties from them.
When We bless man, he turns away and draws aside. When evil touches him, he despairs. (Surat al-Isra, 83)
Ungrateful people, who disregard the fact that Allah provides all of this bounty, lose all hope once that bounty is withdrawn from them and suddenly go into great shock. Such ingratitude and hopelessness are among the negative characteristics of those who live far from the Qur'an.
When they forgot what they had been reminded of, We opened up for them the doors to everything, until, when they were exulting in what they had been given, We suddenly seized them and at once they were in despair. (Surat al-An'am, 44)
Until We open to them a gate to a harsh punishment, in which they will at once be crushed by despair. (Surat al-Mu'minun, 77)
The unbelievers' weak and base nature is mentioned in another verse, as follows:
Man never tires of praying for the good, and if evil touches him, he despairs and loses hope. (Surat al-Fussilat, 49)
Allah makes it clear to believers that they should not befriend unbelievers, who do not believe at all in the afterlife and have lost all hope in the hereafter. In fact, such people are behind all illicit activity, from murder to stealing. They oppress people without hesitation and make a lifestyle out of unlawfulness and deceit, for their lack of any belief in the hereafter and hope in the hereafter means that they have no fear of Allah. This is why the following verse advises believers not to befriend such people:
O you who believe! Do not make friends of people with whom Allah is angry, who have despaired of afterlife as the unbelievers have despaired of the inhabitants of the graves. (Surat al-Mumtahana, 13)
Hopelessness is one of the most definitive differences between those who do not believe and those who do. Since unbelievers do not live according to the desire to obtain Allah's good pleasure, they do not carry the peace that believers acquire by accepting whatever happens to them as Allah's will. And so they worry even about the second after this one, and get caught up in the assumption that all events will develop against them.
Even if they get hopeful for a second, whenever something does not turn out the way they planned, they immediately fall into despair. For believers however, the exact opposite is true. Faith is the greatest favor a person can possess in this world, and a believer has "grasped the firmest handhold" (Surat al-Baqara, 256). The One Who makes existent what was not and raises to life what was dead; Who heals one after sickness; Who makes one eat, drink, and grow; and Who brings out of the darkness into the light is Allah, and believers have faith in Him alone and do not associate anything with Him.
Faith protects people from factors that cause physical and spiritual harm, such as falling into despair, sadness, worry, stress, anger, anxiety about the future, fear, and nervousness. Instead of all of this, faith causes people to be exceedingly joyous and peaceful. In short, only faith can liberate people. As a matter of fact, those that try to hold onto anything other than faith will never find peace. Even if they reach their goals, they will see that they cannot find happiness.
In times of sickness and especially when they reach old age, people see that those things or people to whom they had dedicated their lives have not remained faithful to them. As they realize that the years went by for nothing and did not do them any good, they become dejected. The ideals, expectations, friends, and loved ones that kept them on their feet until now have all vanished.
For the people of faith, however, their bodily changes and the losses around them and in their own lives do not lead to sadness or depression, because they are not so attached to this world. The esteemed Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, who spent his life struggling in the way of Allah, explains how faith was sufficient for him, and how it was an inexhaustible source of hope:
And so the light of belief was sufficient for me and all my sorrows arising from old age and the pains of separation; it gave me an inextinguishable hope, an unassailable faith, an unquenchable light, unending solace. Belief then is certainly more than enough for you in the face of the darkness, heedlessness, sorrows and griefs of old age. In reality, the old age, which is utterly black and lacking in light and solace, and the most grievous and terrible separation, is the old age and separation of the people of misguidance and the dissipated. Experiencing the belief which affords such hope, light and solace, and its effects, is possible through adopting a consciously worshipful attitude, worthy of old age and appropriate to Islam. It is not possible by trying to imitate the young, plunging one's head into heedlessness, and forgetting old age. (Risale-i Nur Collection, The Twenty-Sixth Flash, http://www.bediuzzaman.org/flashes/f26.html)
For those who are happy and joyous that Allah's bounty is present in their lives, changing their whole personality when it is withdrawn or falling into a great state of despair and anxiety is completely degrading and base. It is a sign that they do not have true faith in Allah or the hereafter, and also a sign of lack of wisdom and deficient understanding.
As Allah bestows and removes bounties, one of the believers' most important characteristics, one that distinguishes them from all others, is the favorable morality that they display in such a situation. Their most fundamental feature is their complete submission to Allah, thinking and acting according to the Qur'an that He sent to humanity, and their adopting only those solutions that are in accord with the Qur'an's mentality, model, or perspective.
Those without faith, on the other hand, base every dimension of their lives on a model that goes against the Qur'an. Some of this model's features include ridicule, oppression, worry, fear, distress, deceit, a fear of death, worldly ambition, and sadness. Hopelessness is found in practically all unbelievers, because they have not based their life's goals and lifestyles on a solid foundation, namely, faith in Allah and servitude. Therefore their lives, capabilities, and perseverance are as weak as cotton thread. They are in a spiritual state that is, at all times, prone to ruin and desolation.
In order to have an enthusiastic hope that is neither exhausted nor extinguished, people need to have complete faith and trust in, as well as devotion to, Allah. People live in hope, as required, only if they are friends with Allah. Those who do not believe in Him will not know true hope, that is, a hope that does not depend upon worldly conditions. They will dwell on negative possibilities and thus evaluate events negatively. Their lack of trust in and reliance upon Allah will give them innumerable and endless reasons to worry, for they think that everything is random and happens as a result of coincidence. Under these circumstances, even potential natural disasters are a major source of distress for them.
The universe contains much detail that, under the most sensitive of balances, creates harmony. When one part of this balance is upset by the slightest amount, a major catastrophe can result. For instance, a strong earthquake can devastate everything on Earth's crust. The crust is like a membrane swimming on hot magma, which boils and bubbles at temperatures of thousands of degrees, in which the hardest metals exist only in solution. It is very easy for this membrane to rip apart in many places, and for the crust to turn to ashes from the boiling lava. Even those places on Earth considered to be the safest are not free of this danger, for no calculations carry any certainty and therefore are only estimations and suppositions.
At the same time, the world is spinning at the most incredible speed through the void of space, and thousands of meteors are passing by it at various tangents. There is no guarantee that one day a meteor will not hit Earth. A meteor just 1 km across is large enough to threaten life on Earth by upsetting the climate's balance. A large explosion on the Sun, and the resulting energy and radiation released, may end life on Earth in an instant. These are only a few examples, and there are thousands of alternative possibilities.
If people are aware of such things and yet have no faith in Allah or have not submitted to Him, they will feel great terror and unease. On the other hand, people of faith know that the universe, including their own bodies, are under His control. They have submitted completely to His will and knowledge. The fact that the universe is based on a sensitive balance increases their faith and strengthens their bond to Allah, as well as their wonder.
In his own uniquely sincere style, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi compares the peace of Muslims to the hopelessness experienced by unbelievers in the following extract:
And so all material and spiritual events in series in the universe assault, threaten and terrify the faithless people of misguidance. They unsettle their spiritual strength, putting it into disarray. As for the people of faith, let alone threatening or scaring them, these events are a source of happiness and joy, companionship, hope and strength. Because, with their faith, the people of belief can see that that endless series of events that appear one after another like the wagons of a train, a physical and spiritual train, and the mobile universe are being administered to and are sent by a Wise Creator, with perfect order and wisdom to carry out their duties. They do not deviate from these duties in the slightest degree and they do not infringe upon one another. By giving us spiritual power they make us see that they are subject to the perfect artistry and manifestations of beauty in the universe, and faith is depicted as a sample of eternal happiness… (Risale-i Nur Collection, Hutbe-i Samiye)
Unbelievers will fall into the greatest despair on the Day of Judgment, the day on which all people will be raised and called to account. Upon seeing themselves come face to face with a difficult day, they finally will meet with the truth that they denied all their lives, and will feel an untold regret because they never approached faith while on earth. Remembering Allah's promises, they will realize that they are going to be thrown into Hell. Their despair at that exact moment and from then onward is the endpoint of despair. In fact, their feelings of regret will not be like those felt on earth, for nothing is comparable to it in severity. Allah expresses their desolation on that day, the beginning of the hereafter, as follows:
On the Day the Hour arrives, the evildoers will be in despair. (Surat ar-Rum, 12)
It is also clear that the punishment of those who willingly reject faith after being invited to it by the Qur'an will be very severe and unending. The related verse reads:
It will not be eased for them. They will be crushed there by despair. We have not wronged them; it was they who were wrongdoers. (Surat az-Zukhruf, 75-76)
The spiritual condition of those in despair
One of the most important spiritual factors that gives people energy and keeps them alive, happy, and at peace is a positive spiritual state. Maintaining such a condition is required to ensure that people can live their lives in a healthy manner. In fact, many people who do not completely experience a positive outlook, and who therefore experience pain and distress, oppress themselves and make the world unlivable for themselves.
This problem is due to the facts that they do not believe in Allah's control of all events and so do not submit completely to their destiny, for only complete submission to Allah and destiny can bring peace to a person. Being positive about the future, instead of getting caught up in fear and distress, and trusting Allah renders people both physically and spiritually healthy. Not doing so makes it impossible for them to be balanced and healthy. Those who feel anxious and distressed about the future, even if it is only one second from now, are like those who have lost all life, even though they are still living. It would be wrong to expect great progress and service, as well as good ideas and thoughts and positive behavior from such people, because their souls are constantly filled with displeasure and anxiety.
People who are shaken by the smallest event that goes against their wishes, who go into depression and spiritual decline, are at a loss on several accounts. Their souls become battered, and consequently their bodies start to decline, whereas they were created to be peaceful, healthy, and productive by submitting to and trusting in Allah alone.
For those without faith, everything can seem to be a problem. Getting sick on an important day, not being able to accept a "special" invitation, complete one's research, or going on a much-desired holiday, not receiving attention from somebody one wants to impress, or even a small scrape on one's car can lead to sudden and great sadness and despair. Similar trivial events also can lead to sudden depression. The reason for such negative attitudes is that such people give far more importance to the world than it deserves, do not think even for a minute about the afterlife or remember that everybody will die and leave this world behind. Thus they get stuck on trivial things and problems, and the hopes that they placed on small goals can be shaken very quickly. People who adopt this type of lifestyle become unhappy and troubled.
People may also become depressed about a certain unexpected physical flaw and may experience a period of great despair. During this time, they may exhibit certain behavior – which they would not display if they thought there were no flaws in their physical appearance – such as mocking a beautiful or handsome friend out of jealousy or talking in ways that make their friends feel ugly. Other people, under the same circumstances, may withdraw into themselves and avoid their friends. All of these behavior disorders result from not submitting to destiny and trusting Allah.
No one gains from despair, for it has no positive effect upon their manners, spiritual health, future, or present lifestyle. On the contrary, it drives them to sickness and moral depression, which can lead even to death. However, having a positive attitude bears a lot of physical and spiritual gains. First of all, it results in one's gaining Allah's good pleasure and performing a type of worship by applying His commands.
Remaining hopeful in the face of all events and rejecting hopelessness leads to the soul's positive development. Such people are resigned to their destiny and have no worldly ambitions. Patient and calm, they are not swept away by events and are strong, content, and respected by others. They become people who are sought after for advice, are mature, and have the characteristics of a leader.
The "hope" of those without wisdom
There is a very important connection between being hopeful, following Allah's commands, and observing the limits set by Him. A person's degree of hope for Allah's mercy is in direct proportion to one's attachment and closeness to Him and to one's observance of the Qur'an's rulings. Those who do not remember Allah, who live as they please, and who turn away from Allah's commands and then expect a good recompense are only fooling themselves. They can obtain that good recompense only by correcting those attitudes and turning to Allah in sincere repentance.
Thus, the hope of unwise people is like this. Many people have convinced themselves that they will receive a great reward in the hereafter, even though they have not acknowledged and appreciated Allah as required and have no idea about the Qur'an and Islam. Instead of being hopeful, a trait unique to believers, this ugly daring and recklessness is brought about by unbelief. They try to comfort their consciences – which have become constricted due to their living far from religion – with false hopes and expectations. Eventually, they make themselves believe in the truth of such self-deceptions.
For example, consider a researcher who does not display even the slightest Qur'anic behavior and yet expects to be saved because of his scientific research. Or a philosopher who, even though she denies and rejects religion, believes that she is superior to others because of her education, and believes that she will be rewarded for it in the afterlife. A merchant also expects the hereafter and becomes hopeful because of the merchandise and opportunities that he provides to others. But when one speaks to these people for a while, one sees that they doubt the existence of an afterlife. One verse describes such people as follows:
Make an example for them of two men. To one of them We gave two gardens of grapevines and surrounded them with date palms, putting between them some cultivated land. Both gardens yielded their crops and did not suffer any loss, and We made a river flow right through the middle of them. He was a man of wealth and property, and he said to his companion, debating with him: "I have more wealth than you, and more people under me." He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying: "I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return."(Surat al-Kahf, 32-36)
This person clearly has doubts about the Day of Judgment, and so displays an inconsistent logic by hoping to meet with a good result just in case he goes to the hereafter. This inconsistent logic is a result of the senselessness engendered by the lack of true faith. This example reflects a mentality that is very widespread today.
Those who have this ridiculous hope and expectation believe that they should be rewarded for the good they did in this world – which they did only for their own benefit. In fact, they believe it is their natural right. They adopt and frequently use such slogans as "Work is the greatest form of worship" and "Service to the public is service to Allah." Now these ideas are useful if they are done sincerely, but to display an ungrateful and rebellious attitude toward Allah in addition to the corrupt behavior and ugly manners that the Qur'an forbids, and then to expect to be rewarded for deeds done only to suit one's ego is illogical.
But when reminded that such an expectation is vain and ridiculous, and that Allah considers the important thing to be having faith and carrying out actions solely to gain His good pleasure, they do not draw near to accepting this truth. The Qur'an relates that deeds done without faith or keeping Allah's good pleasure in mind receive no reward in the afterlife and are for nothing. Except for what Allah wills, whatever they do is in vain if they have no faith, as related in the Qur'an as follows:
Say: "Shall I inform you of the greatest losers in their actions? People whose efforts in the life of the world are misguided while they suppose that they are doing good." (Surat al-Kahf, 103-104)
People who consider themselves religious but who, in reality, have adopted a non-Qur'anic religious model and are thus committing idolatry, also entertain false expectations and hopes of the hereafter. However, the only religious way or application that has any value to Allah is the Qur'an, for it contains the true religion revealed by Allah. No so-called "religious" model other than the Qur'an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (saas) is valid in His sight. The Qur'an mentions those people who think they are serving religion, but whose thinking is actually based on idolatry, as having acted in vain.
It is not for the polytheists to maintain the mosques of Allah [while] bearing witness against themselves of their disbelief. They are the ones whose actions will come to nothing. They will be in the Fire timelessly, forever. (Surat at-Tawba, 17)
The Qur'an also describes the shock when those who set up partners with Allah, and yet still expected to enter Paradise, face this unexpected situation as follows:
On the Day We gather them all together, We will say to those who associated others with Allah: "Where are the partner-gods for whom you made such claims?" Then they will have no recourse except to say: "By Allah, our Lord, We were not polytheists." See how they lie against themselves, and how what they invented has forsaken them! (Surat al-An'am, 22-24)
Therefore, being hopeful has meaning only when coupled with faith, for then it becomes a type of worship and good manners. To hope from Allah and to expect the hereafter without having true faith, observing the Qur'anic rulings, and worshipping in the manner prescribed by Allah are all products of an insincere, inconsistent mentality driven by easing one's conscience. Such thinking only deludes those who follow it, for it is no more than empty conjecture. The believers' hopefulness should not be confused with the vain hope of the people of ignorance and those who associate others with Allah.
Those who hope for Paradise should behave in a manner consistent with Allah's signs for this. If they act according to His will, follow His orders and advice, and never compromise with His verses, they win the right to hope that they will be among those whom Allah has determined to be worthy of the reward of Paradise. The following verse states:
Wealth and sons are the embellishment of the life of the world. But in your Lord's sight, right actions that are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope. (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
Another point deserves special mention here: Until this very moment, one may well have adopted a morality and a way of life that displease Allah. But what matters is that one repent and intend to be a sincere person after becoming aware of the facts related in the Qur'an. After making this decision, one should display moral perfection throughout his or her life. In such a case, one may hope for Allah's forgiveness and Paradise.
Satan desires to infect people with hopelessness
Satan inculcates a lack of confidence, despair for the future, and a negative outlook of events in people who befriend him. He does not want people to have faith, trust and obey Allah, submit to their destiny, or to live with hope and enthusiasm. Allah wills that believers have all of these attributes, because they allow them to draw closer to Him. Of course Satan does not want to see people succeed in reaching such goals, and so tries to drive them to destruction by tempting them to non-enthusiasm, depression, helplessness, and boredom.
One of the things that Satan wants to make the believers do, but fails at, is to feel despair when situations appear negative. Satan fails only with the sincere believers, for he cannot pull them toward him due to their ever-mindful faith, which causes them to observe carefully Allah's commands and advice at all times. And since He has mentioned being positive in the Qur'an, believers cannot form a different response on this topic. Allah tells believers:
Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who do not believe. (Surah Yusuf, 87)
So, believers avoid showing any tendency toward such a state of mind.
Other verses also condemn falling into despair and state that it is one of the unbelievers' negative characteristic. The related verses are as follows:
Man never tires of praying for the good, and if evil touches him, he despairs and loses hope. But if We let him taste mercy from Us after he has suffered hardship, he says: "This is my due. I do not think that the Hour is going to come. And if I am returned to my Lord, I will definitely find the best reward with Him." But We will inform those who do not believe of what they did, and make them suffer a severe punishment. (Surat al-Fussilat, 49-50)
Those who reject Allah's Signs and the meeting with Him, such people can despair of My mercy, and such people will have a painful punishment. (Surat al-'Ankabut, 23)
Those who lose hope and rebel have fallen into Satan's trap and fulfilled his commands. On the other hand, believers are always hopeful and look positively upon their future. They have gained Allah's good pleasure and the reward of the hereafter and, as a favor from Him, live a healthy and happy life in this world. Satan cannot lure them into despair, because they are hopeful under all circumstances, bound firmly to the Qur'an, and have taken Allah as a close Friend. Since this subject is most important and even central to Islam, believers are just as meticulous with it as they are with all other Qur'anic teachings.
Satan does not want Allah's religion to prevail. Rather, he wants people to live lives based on anti-religious morals, and hopelessness is one part of this model. In some societies, hopelessness has become a philosophy of life. Those who are under Satan's influence reach a state in which they receive egotistical pleasure out of songs, films, and other forms of expression that reflect hopelessness and pessimism.
But the mind, mentality, opinion, and reasoning of those without hope are not conducive to healthy decision-making. Just as hopelessness can cause people to lose their physical and mental health, it is also a serious spiritual illness that, depending on its severity, can lead people to commit suicide. Obviously, such people cannot be expected to live according to the Qur'anic morals. This situation serves Satan very well, for he uses it to make people stray from the religion and any expectation in the hereafter, and to drag them along with himself toward an endless punishment. Throughout human history, this has always been his goal.
People without hope infect those around them with the same negative depressive state. In effect, they virtually become Satan's helpers, for they can inculcate in other people the spiritual state desired by Satan. When successful, this approach turns people – willingly or unwillingly – into Satan's servants, despite the fact that humanity was created only to serve Islam and to be Allah's servant.