The True Wisdom That Comes from Faith
In what is to follow in this book, we will examine the effects of romanticism in our daily lives. Before venturing into this topic, however, we must explain in more detail the meaning of the idea of "wisdom" we have mentioned so often up to this point in the book.
… A Light has come to you from God and a Clear Book. By it, God guides those who follow what pleases Him to the ways of Peace. He will bring them from the darkness to the light by His permission, and guide them to a straight path. (Qur'an, 5:15-16)
The important difference between a wise person and an intelligent person is often missed. This is a critical error. The word "intelligence" is generally used in our society to refer to the quality of mere mental acuity, and is very different from wisdom.
Wisdom is the quality of a believer who has the ability to recognise the subtle signs of God in everything that He has created, allowing him to understand the world around him. But, any attempt to consider these things that relies only on the brain's ability to calculate cause and effect is bound to end in a mechanistic and narrow perception of reality. Intelligence is a quality of a believer who has a firm faith in God, and who lives his life in accordance with the teaching found in the verses of the Qu'ran. Intelligence is a physical characteristic possessed by all individuals in varying degrees, but wisdom is a quality that belongs only to believers. Those who do not have faith also are not possessed of the "virtue" of wisdom.
Wisdom allows a believer to properly employ his mental abilities, judgement, and logic, thus making the best use of his virtues. An individual without wisdom, no matter how intelligent he may be, is bound at some point to veer into faulty thinking or into bad judgement. If we examine unbelieving philosophers throughout the course of history, we will recognise that they have put forward different and sometimes even diametrically opposed views on the very same subject. Despite the fact that they were people of high intelligence, they had no faith; and because they had no faith, they also were not sufficiently wise and were therefore incapable of arriving at the truth. Some of them, indeed, drew humanity into numberless errors. We can find several such examples in recent history: Many philosophers, ideologues, and statesmen, such as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, despite the fact that they were very intelligent, caused disaster to fall upon millions of people, because they were unable to use their minds effectively. Wisdom, however, assures peace, well-being, and happiness, and shows the way to attain them.
Intelligence makes it possible for us, among other things, to think, form perceptions, focus our attention, and engage in practical activities. But, in addition to all these, a wise person also possesses a deep understanding unattainable by mere intelligence, and by means of which he is able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Therefore, a wise person possesses insight far superior to that of an intelligent person.
The source of wisdom, as we said before, is a deep-seated faith and fear of God. Those who fear God, heed His commandments and proscriptions, become naturally possessed of this superior insight as a blessing from God. But, though this virtue is easily acquired, very few are endowed of wisdom. This condition, that God makes known in the Qu'ran, saying, "Most of them do not use their reason." (Qur'an, 5:103), arises from the fact that most people do not have the proper faith, having left no room for the Qu'ran in their lives.
You who believe! If you have fear of God, He will give you a criterion (by which to judge between right and wrong) and erase your bad actions from you and forgive you. God's favour is indeed immense. (Qur'an, 8:29)
The wisdom that God has granted to those who fear Him, and who live their lives in conformity with the Qu'ran, renders the devout believer superior to the unbeliever in many ways. The basic components of this wisdom are the believer's knowledge that God controls all things all the time, his consciousness of the fact that everything in its every detail comes into being according to the fate which God has predetermined, and his awareness that he is with God at every moment. In addition, wisdom makes it possible for the believer to adapt himself easily to changing conditions and situations.
The keenness of the believers' insight and understanding, their attentiveness and awareness, their superior analytical ability, good morals, strong character, and their wisdom in word and action, are all natural products of their wisdom. (for detailed information see True Wisdom According to the Qur'an by Harun Yahya)
Consider if the extraordinary characteristics we have described as belonging to an individual were to belong to society as a whole. Think of the benefits incurring to a society formed of individuals who use their minds in every thing they say, in every action they take, in every decision they make, and in every problem they undertake to solve; think of the kind of environment that would exist in a society formed of wise individuals... Indeed, we all need people of wisdom around to ensure our comfort, health, security, and peace of mind. Furthermore, the existence of wise individuals is indispensable in order to prevent chaos, confusion and anarchy, and to discover solutions to the problems from which these things arise. Taking these matters into consideration, it is clear that the key to every problem is the recognition of a need tempered with wisdom.
Undoubtedly, wisdom is the most important quality a person can have. With it, he brings benefit to others more than anyone else, because, by the morality that faith instils, there is no greater aim for him than to gain the approval of God. Throughout his life, such a person displays the qualities of the true believer as described in the Qu'ran: he protects the oppressed, he cares for the homeless, the lonely, and the needy, he feels responsibility for the fair application of justice and will not tolerate anyone going hungry. His wisdom allows him to apply what he has learned from the Qu'ran in his own life, and to develop a conscientious sense of social responsibility. We all seek such people, who use their minds to find solutions to problems, to apply the appropriate measures, in giving advice and recommendations, and who show wisdom in what they say and in what they write. Therefore, there is much benefit to be gained from the words and actions of such a person.
Once we recognise the importance of wisdom, it is not difficult to realise the seriousness of the danger posed by its opposite. This danger is a threat to both individuals and to society in general, and it will be helpful to examine the problems occasioned by lack of wisdom.
One of the greatest impediments to wisdom is the spiritual corruption that we spoke of in the previous section of this book: romanticism, otherwise called sentimentality.
Feeling sad, being pessimistic, or thinking that one is the victim of bad luck, are the typical characteristics of people who do not put their trust in God. However, no matter what the circumstances are, one should have trust in God, remain hopeful, and act accordingly.
We have defined sentimentality as one's acting upon not in accordance to the truths acquired by wisdom and reason, but in accordance to one's emotions. Sentimentality is a spiritual disease latent in every member of atheistic or pagan societies, though it generally tends to affect people differently; some people being more emotional than others. It is not possible for one who has no interest in the Qu'ran, or who does not live by the religion, to save himself from the grip of romanticism. Sentimentality can only be eradicated by acting wisely, that is, by acting according to the moral teachings of the Qu'ran. For, it is not possible for someone who does not make his life conform to the Qu'ran, as we said earlier, to use his mind effectively.
Despite its actually being a spiritual disease, sentimentality is, nonetheless, a very common measure in ignorant societies towards determining whether or not someone is a "good person." It has affected the majority-albeit the uninformed majority-of society, to such an extent that someone who is not easily moved to romantic feeling is quickly dismissed as heartless and unfeeling.
Can sentimentality be so innocent and harmless as it is thought to be? If we are to look at this question and answer it realistically, we will discover the fact that sentimentality gives rise to some very grave results. In the previous sections of this book, we saw the plain effects of sentimentality in the social sphere but it also has highly damaging effects in everyday life. Sentimentality has been one of the main reasons for the complaints voiced by many people relative to many issues for which they are at a loss to find a solution.
However, because the solution to every problem, and the way out of every difficulty, is presented in the Qu'ran, those individuals or societies that use it as their guide have all the advantages that wisdom affords. In other words, they come to live the benefits of wisdom:
Sentimental people cannot free themselves from despair and melancholy. They wrong themselves.
...A Light has come to you from God and a Clear Book. By it, God guides those who follow what pleases Him to the ways of peace. He will bring them from the darkness to the light by His permission, and guide them to a straight path. (Qur'an, 5:15-16)
From the time we were children, we are accustomed to seeing people able to cry at anything, from an act of injustice they might read about in a newspaper, to the sight of a hungry person on television. When we see them expressing their sorrow for others, we suppose them to be possessed of a good conscience, whereas such an emotional reaction, if it does not go beyond the mere shedding of tears and the placing of blame, is of no use. What such an emotional reaction does not demonstrate is an active and involved interest in the welfare of those who are suffering. This type of person takes pleasure in crying and feeling sorry for someone who is suffering, but does nothing to solve the problem. Subconsciously, they prefer to live in a state of abstracted sentimentality. Interestingly, such people seem also to be drawn to pessimism, hopelessness, sorrow, despondency, depression and all the other negative feelings, into which Satan has diverted the world by means of sentimentality.
There is still another important aspect to consider in this matter: If one were to suggest to them that, instead of shedding tears in front of the television, they should get up and do something, it would accomplish nothing. They would try to get out of it by making excuses, such as, "What's there to do?" "What can I do all by myself?"
Emotional people contribute in pessimism by suggesting that a problem is too complex to be solved; and this makes others like them adopt the same hopelessness.
Many a good moral quality loses its virtue by being affiliated with sentimentality, to the point of even becoming dangerous. For example, compassion is a moral sentiment encouraged by God in the Qu'ran, but it is abused by an emotional person who may feel sorry for an oppressor, commend his deeds, and tolerate his ruthlessness. On the contrary, a wise person cannot possibly see any justification in any attitude, behaviour or thought associated with sentimentality. That is because as long as this emotional temperament is nurtured in the soul, its more insidious aspects may emerge at any time depending on the circumstances and the environment.
It is interesting that people, whom Satan has misled through sentimentalism, seem to be drawn to ill feelings such as pessimism, hopelessness, sorrow, grief, and depression. Instead of living with the peace of mind resulting from putting one's trust in God, people commit themselves into continual sorrow.
Now, it is necessary to point out the difference between being sensitive and empathetic and being emotional. In the Qu'ran, God makes it clear that to be "sensitive, empathetic and gentle" are qualities best exhibited in a prophet. Sentimentality is the exact opposite of the moral attitude that is recommended in the Qu'ran. Believers are not sentimental, but are empathetic and humane. In other words, they are sober individuals, of superior wisdom, who possess very strong moral qualities. In the Qu'ran, God speaks about the good moral character of the prophet Ibrahim: "Ibrahim was forbearing, compassionate, penitent." (Qur'an, 11:75)
It must not be forgotten that emotional people only feel pity for others; they make no attempt to help them out of difficult situations, or to find solutions to their problems. However, someone who possesses the kind of empathy commended by God will do anything he can to help another person to find solutions to his problems, and take the necessary measures to get him out of his difficulties. This is true compassion and love.
How Does Sentimentality Obscure Wisdom?
Everyone was created with feelings like love, compassion, mercy and fear. To possess these feelings is to be human. What we want to emphasise here is that, in order for a person to have a healthy and balanced spiritual life, it is necessary for him to keep his emotions under control, and direct them according to his faith and wisdom. For example, love has been given to humanity so that it may be shown foremost towards God, who created us from nothing, who provides for us, gives us every blessing, and who promised us an eternal life filled with happiness. Also, love is an emotion that must be directed towards those who love God and whom God loves, that is, to believers. A person is loved for his closeness to God, his fear of God, and his care to protect His prerogatives. All these forms of love are directed toward God, and toward those objects in which His attributes are manifested. In fact, for a believer to feel love for the enemies of God and His religion is forbidden in the Qu'ran.
As well, God has commanded His believers to fear nothing or no one other than Him, because every thing and every person is within His sovereignty. Apart from God, there is no strength or power; therefore, there is no other being worthy to be feared than Him.
Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people-God loves the good-doers (Qur'an, 3:134)
We will take the feeling of rage as our next example. Rage is an emotion that awakens a believer's responsibility towards his fellow man, and leads him to take action against injustice, against the enemies of God and religion, and against oppression. However, when a believer acts on his sense of responsibility, it is with intelligence, moderation and a good moral sense. A believer never acts unjustly or mercilessly, nor out of vengeance, or, as the Qu'ran commands, he never returns injustice for injustice, or cruelty for cruelty.
However, a person who acts based on his feelings may become easily infuriated if the slightest thing does not go his way, and if things don't happen according to his wishes, or if someone does not do what he wants, and may suddenly erupt in anger. Because of the anger inside him, his judgement and insight may suddenly become obscured, and he may, at any moment, commit an impulsive act.
A person whose mind is devoid of reason and is swept away by his emotions, may easily become angry, develop a grudge, and even resort to violence. A person of wisdom who has faith, on the other hand, "controls his rage," as commanded by God, and always assumes a moderate attitude.
As we have seen, a human being must direct the emotions God has created in him according to God's will. In other words, he must not harbour within himself fear or anger, or any kind of love, that is not according to God's will. If he does, he will not be following the way God has revealed, but the way his emotions have directed him to. This is nothing less than idolatry.
When those feelings innate in human beings are not directed by wisdom, the disease of sentimentality sets in and starts to overtake their behaviour, conversation, actions, thoughts and their approach to things in general. When such is the case, one departs from the realm of wisdom and enters the tyranny of emotion. In such people, emotion thwarts intelligence and clouds the mind.
We are witnesses to the fact that the majority of emotional people just sit by as if their hands were tied; they are satisfied with merely crying and complaining, but take no action to relieve themselves or other of the situation. These people feel pity for themselves so intensely that they will produce a problem out of nothing in order to have something to whine about.
Without any regard for the criteria of the Qur'an, they dote excessively on the person they are in love with, they may be in great fear of their boss, their spouse or someone else, or they may become enraged with anger. Of course, we would not expect anyone in such a spiritual state to be wise in behaviour, because in such people wisdom is superseded by unbounded emotion
Sentimentality robs a person of his sense of reality. One of the most telling signs of an emotional personality is his desire to live in a world divorced from reality; he is like one who lives in a dream world, with only a tenuous connection to reality. Instead of reason and logic, he chooses emotion; and instead of reality, he chooses dreams and fantasies. Therefore, it is impossible to engage in conversation or discourse with him; he can neither offer nor take any guidance or advice. In actuality, sentimentality is a mild form of the mental disorder that psychiatrists call "schizophrenia." (People who suffer from schizophrenia are cut off from reality and live in their own world)
An emotional person can be compared to someone crying while watching a film on television: The viewer is so far removed from reality that he can feel sorry and even cry for an actor who suffers in the film, even though that actor receives money for playing his role, and his real life may be filled with all manner of moral depravity. This is a state into which a wise person would never fall, and shows clearly to what extent a sentimental mentality can cut a person off from reality, and how far it can force him into unsound thinking, which is in turn reflected in his day to day life.
We are witnesses to the fact that the majority of emotional people just sit as if their hands were tied. They are content to cry and complain but do nothing to deal with their disgust with the situation. For example, news comes that a relative has had an accident; instead of thinking that there must be a good in it anyway, and determining how he may be of some use and offering his assistance, an emotional person will usually become faint and start to cry. He will not ask what has been done for the victim, if the doctor has been called or if there is enough medicine. He will not try to find out what he can do to help, but will seek to be consoled himself as if he were the one in need of support.
Or, someone near him suddenly becomes ill; instead of performing first aid and calling an ambulance, he will start running around creating panic with his foolishness. If someone asked him what was happening, he would not be able to because his emotionalism prevents him from using his mind, and detaches him from other people.
Or, he himself suffers some illness; he knows there is something wrong, but if he goes to the doctor he is afraid it will turn out to be serious. He does not want to be unhappy, so he is not interested in getting a final diagnosis. By not getting the treatment he could have got if he had acted wisely, he loses the opportunity to be cured of his illness.
We could multiply the examples of this kind of unwise emotional behaviour to demonstrate how such irrationality leads to terribly detrimental results, and which can at times be a matter of life and death. These individuals are so disturbed, through the influence of Satan, by the things they see happening around them that beome debilitated, such that they themselves come to need help and reassurance. However, if they had used their wisdom and taken appropriate decisions in relation to the events they had experienced, they could have found solutions to their problems.
He (Satan) has no authority over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. He only has authority over those who take him as a friend and associate others with God. (Qur'an, 16:99-100)
A distinct characteristic of sentimental people is that they cannot find solutions to the problems they encounter, but choose rather to become pessimistic. On the other hand, those who act, not with their emotions, but with their reason, and put their trust in God, are able to come up with numerous and unique solutions, whatever the situation.
As we can see, emotional individuals are not people who can use their minds to produce solutions to problems; they cannot lead people. On the contrary, because they themselves need to be led or looked after, they become a burden to others. For example, if an emotional person sees someone in need, instead of offering help, he will think to do nothing more than moan and say "Oh, the poor thing!," or some other expression of pity. In this case, wisdom is relegated completely into the background, and it is a mistake to expect any positive benefit from someone such as this.
In the Qu'ran, God reveals the difference between such people and believers:
God makes another metaphor: two men, one of them deaf and dumb, unable to do anything, a burden on his master, no matter where he directs him he brings no good, is he the same as someone who commands justice and is on a straight path? (Qur'an, 16:76)
Believers do not react to things according to their emotions, but tempered by their wisdom, and in every situation, as stated in the verse above, they "command justice," that is, they make sure that the right and proper thing is done. Since they believe that everything they experience in their lives is by the consent of God, and that, apart from what God wants for them, they have no power to accomplish anything. So, they never lose the sense of moderation that comes from their submission to and their confidence in God. They never react rashly and they never yield to pessimism or despair. They know that God may bring good for them even out of adversity.
It has been revealed to you and those before you: "If you associate others with God, your actions will come to nothing and you will be among the losers." No! Worship God and be among the thankful. (Qur'an, 39: 65-66)
If you wished to inform someone of the danger that sentimentality poses to his spiritual life, he would not listen to you; from the outset he would refuse to consider even such a possibility. The mind of an emotional person is so closed to any contrary suggestion that he would immediately feel unjustly treated and, either feel offended and begin to cry, or get angry and withdraw into himself. So, you cannot criticise an emotional person, much less offer him suggestions or advice.
Emotionalism causes people to become easily offended. As a result, these people fear that there is a hidden meaning in everything that is said to them; they easily misinterpret or exaggerate. Then, in protest and without any explanation, they stop talking, withdraw and pout like a child. Because they are either incapable of thinking rationally, or are afraid to face reality, it is impossible for them to self-criticise themselves, or improve on their mistakes. As we just mentioned, people with this kind of psychology either interpret every word said to them as an injustice and become vexed, as a result of which they despair and withdraw into themselves. God speaks in the Qu'ran of the kind of person who chooses unhappiness for himself:
He who has fear will be reminded; but the most miserable will shun it. (Qur'an, 87:10-11)
By not using their reason and following the dictates of their emotions, these people allow their wisdom to be clouded more and more day by day. If they do not correct their condition, they cannot possibly conceive of the essence of religion, or live their lives according to its principles. An emotional person without wisdom is not possessed of sound judgement or a stable and coherent mind. In a matter that would otherwise be very clear to a believer, the emotional person finds contradiction and confusion. He struggles apprehensively. The emotional person cannot understand the Qu'ran, which is a guide for those of wisdom; he cannot receive advice from it. He cannot measure God according to His true measure and understand the hidden wisdom behind that which takes place in the universe; he cannot conceive of the reasons for the existence of the world, heaven and hell. He does not know what it means to say that there is no other deity besides God. Every idea in the mind of such a person, his every thought, intention and aim, his every act leads him from one act of idolatry to another.
This is one of the methods Satan uses to divert humanity from the way of God. In the Qu'ran, God warns that Satan will use any means at his disposal to lead people to hell:
Satan whom God has cursed said, "I will take a certain fixed proportion of Your slaves. I will lead them astray and fill them with false hopes. I will command them and they will cut off cattle's ears. I will command them and they will change God's creation." Anyone who takes Satan as his protector in place of God has clearly lost everything. He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what Satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (Qur'an, 4:118-120)
He who understands these verses does not let Satan lead him into delusion. He does not get caught up in emotion, but uses his wisdom to see reality clearly, and to then act justly according to what he sees. That which is confused, contradictory, and inexplicable to someone whose mind has been clouded by emotion, is clear, obvious and simple to the mind of a believer. Those who slavishly fall into sentimentality, on the other hand, have thrown aside their reason, delivered themselves to the will and the whim of Satan, and continue to be led toward eternal torment through the bleak mire of idolatry.
Satan can easily lead people astray by filling them with apprehension. He makes them feel a lack of hope and desperation.