If We let man taste mercy from Us, and then take it away from him, he is despairing, ungrateful; but if We let him taste blessings after hardship has afflicted him, he says, "My troubles have gone away," and he is overjoyed, boastful – except for those who are steadfast and do right actions. They will receive forgiveness and a large reward.
Sentimentality closes the mind and makes one vulnerable to all of Satan's wiles. Using sentimentality as a tool, Satan can lead people and societies without religion as he wills into all kinds of perversion. We examined a few examples of this strategy of his in the first section of this book, and we have seen how such ideologies as romantic nationalism and communism have exploited sentimentality to lead individuals and societies into destruction.
In our own every-day lives, there are many types of sentimentality. In the following pages, we will look at the basic kinds of sentimentality.
Moroseness and Pessimism
Human beings are created with a nature that takes pleasure in beauty, and with a desire to live in happiness and in well-being. Therefore, it is a completely natural human desire to be rid of unpleasant situations as quickly as possible, or to turn them into pleasant ones. In fact, being of a peacable of mind and a healthy spirit are important factors for the health of the mind, as well as the body. However, when people act according to their feelings, desires and passions, without regard for the Qu'ran's teaching, they become oppressed by sadness, worry and fear. When one has no understanding of the nature of fate, and of what it means to put one's life in God's hands, and complete submission to His will as taught in the Qu'ran, he is in a state of constant struggle with the anxiety that arises from not knowing what will happen to him or to those close to him at any given time. Whereas, if he lives his life according to the religion that God has chosen for him, and according to the moral canons of the Qu'ran, he will never experience this anxiety or any other such difficulty. God proclaims this truth through His messengers when he says:
... all those who follow My guidance will not go astray and will not be miserable. But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one … (Qur'an, 20:123-124)
As stated in the above verse, many people turn away from God's reminder and, as a result, live an anxious and unhappy life. Moreover, since they lead their lives based on the superstition that life is led by chance, they feel regret by regarding as set-backs and bad luck those very things that could be to their future benefit. Their minds are continually agitated by the fear of being fired and ending-up poor, of being cheated or becoming sick. When they hope for adulation they worry they will be ridiculed; when they hope for loyalty, they fear of being confronted with ingratitude. They become pessimistic when they consider the possibility of receiving bad news at any moment, or that someone might say or do something unpleasant to them. Even in their happiest moments, they live with the anxiety that they cannot make the moment last forever; their life is really a nightmare. In a verse, God reveals the state of anxiety in which those who disregard the Qu'ran live:
When God desires to guide someone, He expands his breast to Islam. When He desires to misguide someone, He makes his breast narrow and constricted as if he were climbing up into the sky. That is how God defiles those who disbelieve. (Qur'an, 6:125)
It is natural that those without religion should feel disturbed and without peace of mind, because they spend their lives in the company of those without the good moral qualities of the Qu'ran, such as love, compassion, mercy, self-sacrifice, loyalty and humility. To live in a system full of deceit and harm, in which people do not help each other without expecting something in return, where friendships are pursued with expectations of profit, where even simple mistakes one commits is met with an angry response, and where everyone treats the other unjustly, gossiping and not saying what they really think, is a cause for unhappiness for a sentimental person.
However, if such a person were to live in an environment that was to their liking, it would change little. Even if there was much happening around them they should feel happy about, such emotional people would find a way to see them in a negative light. Because they view every little thing in such a way, it does not matter if the weather were hot or cold, rainy or windy; they turn whatever it is into something to complain about. We could illustrate, with pages of examples, how these people find excuses to feel dissatisfied at every opportunity. It is a manifestation of what God says in the following verse, "Let them laugh little and weep much, in repayment for what they have earned." (Qur'an, 9:82) In another verse, He reveals the behaviour of the disbeliever, who becomes "Desperate when bad things happen." (Qur'an, 70:20)
Another essential reason for the unhappiness felt by those without faith is the fact that their plans do not turn out as they expect. For example, an emotional person prepares a meal for her husband and is disappointed when she does not get the reaction she expected. She saves money to buy her friend a present, but again she is sad because she thinks she wasn't as happy with the gift as she had hoped. She buys a house, but again she feels sad because she thinks the painter has not mixed the colours well. The possible reasons for being unhappy are endless. The defeat of a favourite football team, getting a few points less than expected in an examination, being late for work, a traffic jam, breaking a pair of glasses, losing a watch, getting a stain on a favourite suit or dress at a party-everything can become an excuse for being unhappy.
A person who assesses a situation superficially and reacts emotionally to it cannot foresee how, if something were to happen to him that it might in a later stage turn out beneficially for him. Consider, for example, a person dejected because he missed his bus; how does he know that that bus will not be in an accident a moment later? Maybe God determined he miss the bus as part of his fate so that he would escape the accident. Let us consider another example: a driver misses an exit that he is very familiar with and gets on the wrong road. Assessing the situation from his superficial level of understanding, he becomes angry at himself, his joy evaporating because he will have to drive farther. However, it was God who made him take that road; as in every occurrence, this too was his fate.
And again, not getting the job he really wanted is an occasion for an ignorant person, to feel unlucky and dejected. Such a person regards getting the job as definitely the best thing for him, and not getting it as his greatest loss, whereas, a person who has faith that God is his friend and protector will know that God approved the result for his good, and he will submit to it with pleasure and satisfaction. Perhaps the work environment would have damaged his health; perhaps it was necessary for him not to take that job because a greater opportunity was about to come to him.
And finally, if a person were to get into a car in the morning and it didn't work, he will, in his ignorance, regard it as a great misfortune, but actually the car didn't work because God designated it so, and some benefit was to come from the situation. The person in this situation may not see the reason behind the occurrence, but whether he sees it or not, he must be pleased with God.
People call it misfortune when something happens against their wishes, whereas it is best for the event to happen in this particular way because it was determined by fate. If God were to show them the reason behind what they call misfortune, and for which they feel frustrated, and the benefit that ultimately comes from the things that otherwise upset them and make them anxious or angry, they would understand just how misguided they were in being sad, and their feelings would turn to joy and delight. If a person's fate were to be revealed to him in its entirety, and the so-called misfortunes were to be seen for the part they play in it, he would never again feel regret for that which happens to him.
Therefore, the wisest thing to do is to live a life of submission to God. Be that as it may, it remains to be said that everyone already lives in submission to God, whether they realise it or not, but it is necessary that an individual be conscious of this in his life. Believers who are possessed of such a consciousness live secure with peace of mind, observing with a contented spirit the unravelling of the fate that God has determined for them, as peaceably as one might watch a film. They know that, as the Prophet Mohammed said, "Wealth is not in vast riches but wealth is in self-contentment."13
Most people think that, apart from birth, death and its appointed hour, and what God has provided for human beings, fate determines nothing; they believe that things happen by accident or inadvertence unconnected to fate. This delusion makes them rebel against the things that have been determined for them according to their fate, and is the reason for their melancholy. They consider every event to be a setback against them, causing them to suffer continuing torment. Therefore, the happy and joyful moments enjoyed by sentimental people are but brief and fleeting. And, just after having experienced a moment of joy, they choose to recall something saddening and revert once again to their depressive melancholy.
These factors are all the natural and inevitable results of living without religion. Without faith, a person becomes enslaved to regret and melancholy. Similarly, those who live in the world neglectfully, wasting their lives without any attention to the commandments of God, or to His proscriptions, will, in the hereafter, face their unhappiness:
They will say, "Our Lord, our misery has overwhelmed us. We were misguided people." (Qur'an, 23:106)
It is true that God may test a person in this world with certain difficulties and worries. However, the believer does not give in to melancholy and pessimism when he is faced with such anxieties; he does not react emotionally. He knows that God is trying him to see how he will behave in difficulty, and that the solution is not to turn to weeping or sorrowful regret. The solution lies in seeking help from God, "Who responds to the oppressed when they call on Him and removes their distress" (Qur'an, 27:62), relying only on Him, and in being certain that God will hear his prayers and grant his requests. This is the promise of God to His servants:
Yes, the friends of God will feel no fear and will know no sorrow: those who believe and have done their duty, there is good news for them in the life of the world and in the hereafter. There is no changing the words of God. That is the great victory! (Qur'an, 10:62-64)
Moreover, God creates such trying moments of anxiety and difficulty for a very special reason. When someone looks with the eyes of faith, and sees the reasons behind all the beauty that God has created, he will be moved to compassion, and his contentment will increase. Therefore, submission to God brings a sense of calm to the spirit, and allows one to live with peace of mind.
Emotionalism, on the other hand, completely alienates people from the awareness of being in God's hands, and leads them to react to situations with excessive pleasure, or exaggerated pain and sorrow. God explains in the Qu'ran the wavering of such people between hopelessness and arrogance, and the difference between them and believers:
If We let man taste mercy from Us, and then take it away from him, he is despairing, ungrateful; but if We let him taste blessings after hardship has afflicted him, he says, "My troubles have gone away," and he is overjoyed, boastful except for those who are steadfast and do right actions. They will receive forgiveness and a large reward. (Qur'an, 11:9-11)
Anger and Irascibility
Sentimentality shows itself most often in women as sadness, pessimism, weeping and whinniness, while in men it appears generally as anger, irascibility, and aggression. For example, when an emotional man sees that his place in a parking garage has been taken by someone else, he will shout and kick the intruding car. Or, if someone bumps into him on the sidewalk by mistake, he will easily lose his temper. Or, if his son or daughter left the house and forgot the key inside, if a waiter is late bringing the bill, if a secretary makes him wait on telephone, or if he is irritated by traffic, he will say the first thing that comes to his mind. Confronted with problems that a rational person could deal with easily, even without occupying his mind with the hundreds of details involved, an emotional person would react in an unnecessarily exaggerated manner. And, most of the time, he merely harms himself and ends up humiliated.
Emotionalism in men takes the form of anger and irascibility, and is often regarded as the quality of a "tough-guy" or "macho." This psychology is merely an amalgam of anger and romanticism, while most of those affected by it are unbalanced, and have a tendency to lose their temper, or "go off the handle." As a result of a moment of rashness, they may hurt or injure someone, or even kill; their victim could easily be a total stranger. Pages of newspapers are often filled with the crimes and offences committed by this type of personality. An evening that might have begun pleasantly could suddenly come to an end when an emotional man becomes irritated and hits a friend or someone near him. Walking in the street he may pull out a knife and stab some unknown person who "looked at him sideways." For that one minute, he may give in to his passions, and then end up spending the rest of his life in prison. More importantly, if he kills, or otherwise harms someone, without just cause, he will have committed a grave sin in the sight of God.
Irascible emotionalism in a person is a potential danger that can erupt out at any time, and have very serious repercussions. An emotional person may become angry if someone makes a wrong move in traffic, or if someone he does not know looks at him in such a way as to make him uncomfortable, or because of some simple misunderstanding, then act in such a way as to only bring upon himself all sorts of trouble and pain.
A clear example of the unreasonableness that emotionalism gives rise to can be seen in the brutish behaviour of some fans after a football match. They assault people they do not know, and nearly kill them with meat cleavers, knives and clubs. Their minds and consciences are blinded by the satanic weapon of emotionalism, truly a grave plague on society. But, God commands human beings to avoid Satan, to establish peace and security, not anger and conflict.
You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you. (Qur'an, 2:208)
The Prophet Mohammed also preached serenity among the believers, saying "The strong is not the one who overcomes the people with his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger."14
Here, it is necessary to distinguish between sentimentality and rationality. Anger and hate felt in response to acts of cruelty and evil make a person more sensitive to and aware of justice, peace and goodness, and motivate him to strive for the eradication of that cruelty and evil, for its prevention, and for the protection of the rights of the weak and the innocent. If the sense of justice that God gave to humanity is not controlled by the will and wisdom, it can be diverted from its true purpose, and flare up against the fans of an opposing sports club. People who do not have a strong will and wisdom cannot restrain their emotions, and can be led from the true path into whatever direction Satan may desire. In another verse, God warns humanity against Satan:
You who believe! Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. Anyone who follows in Satan's footsteps should know that he commands indecency and wrongdoing. Were it not for God's favour to you and His mercy, not one of you would ever have been purified. But God purifies whoever He wills. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 24:21)
The Satanic Sense of Compassion
People who are not on guard against the wiles of Satan may be led to use their God-given blessing of mercy in a totally inappropriate manner. The perception of a meaning of mercy that is against God's decrees is a satanic sense of mercy. Sentimental people do not take the Qu'ran as the measure of compassion and mercy, but their own impulses rather, and, as a result, their sense of these matters is misguided.
For example, some people are deeply affected by human pain, and the death of small children, or cute harmless animals. But here, the satanic kind of mercy comes into effect, and leads a person into rebellion against God, and into a blasphemous ascription to God. On the other hand, a person who uses his wisdom to free himself from such an intimation, will be able to see the truth clearly an unsullied. For small children or a believer, death is not an oppressive threat; it is for him a release, and a step towards an eternally beautiful life. It is a door through which God brings His servants into His presence. But, from the point of view of Satan and his friends, death is the end of their unrestrained lusts and passions; it is the moment the door opens to the eternal torment that has been promised them. For this reason, Satan regards death as something vile and abhorrent, and tries to present it as such. From his perspective, it is true, but it is not so for believers and for the innocent. From the point of view of someone who is destined for Hell, death is truly an evil thing; but for those destined for Paradise, it is something that promises pleasure.
The satanic understanding of compassion leads one to exercise compassion in a way that will do no good, but rather only harm to others. People in atheistic or pagan societies close their eyes to everything that others do without considering whether or not those actions will be ultimately to their detriment in the hereafter. For example, they permit immorality, and say nothing when they see someone do something that God has forbidden; in fact, they may even abet the act. Another example is the parents of a child who has come to the age where he is able to fast; they do not permit him to, because they think he will not be able to withstand the hunger, and a second example is one who cannot bring himself to wake up a family member and invite him to morning prayer. Such people actually have a satanic understanding of compassion.
The believer measures the compassion he exercises in terms of the good it will bring another in the afterlife. Sometimes, the love and compassion he feels towards another believer will require him to be critical or correct that person for their own good. He may criticise someone whose behaviour he finds objectionable, he may try to dissuade him from following a certain course, or he may forbid the wrong as it is commanded in the Qu'ran. This is true compassion. When a believer speaks in this way, he is attempting to say something that the other person will seriously take to heart, and to prevent him from pursuing any action that is contrary to the Qu'ran. He does not want to see him risk falling into the torments of Hell in the afterlife, from which there will be no return. For this reason, he will encourage him to live the kind of moral life that is most pleasing to God; this way, he prepares him for Paradise and, in so doing, will actually be acting out of the greatest possible kind of compassion. It must not be forgotten that true lack of pity is to passively observe the wrongs another has done without regard for what awaits him in the afterlife.
Satanic compassion goes hand in hand with injustice. A wise believer makes his decisions in every situation with a view to justice and to the will of God, whereas a person who makes his decisions on the basis of these satanic feelings of sorrow and compassion is quite liable to act unjustly. He will act in the direction dictated by his lower self, his feelings, desires and passions. When he witnesses an event, he will act out of his feelings of pity without knowing who is right and who is wrong, without making a just and wise assessment and, most importantly, without giving any regard to the commands of the Qu'ran. He will act out of his feelings of pity. Generally he will involve himself and others in harmful enterprises by his faulty decisions and methods. Therefore, it becomes clear that the compassion he feels is quite far from the fine moral virtue commanded in the Qu'ran.
One of the most telling characteristics of a sentimental person is their selfishness. This type of person appears on the surface to act out of a spirit of self-sacrifice, but actually, his action was determined in order to satisfy his own emotions. For that reason, we do not expect a sentimental person to act justly or to have a true sense of egalitarianism. When he finds himself in a situation that appears to go against his personal interests, or that of a relative or of someone he loves, instead of acting fairly, makes unfair and biased decisions. In regards to a matter referred to him for his consideration, he may even offer a dishonest opinion in favour of a friend or relative, or even offer false testimony. On the contrary, one of the most important characteristics for a believer to have is for him to act justly. In the Qu'ran, God commands everyone to act in justice, not only towards friends and relatives, but also towards those who may be our enemies:
You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, God is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, God is aware of what you do. (Qur'an, 4:135)
In another verse, God invites human beings to bear "witness with justice":
You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of God, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just... (Qur'an, 5:8)
However, it is not possible for a sentimental person to properly fulfil the commandments in these verses, because such a person's character is rooted in selfishness, and his judgements are not objective. He will first act in his own favour, and then that of his family and friends, then perhaps even giving preference those he is partial to without any particular reason. He closes his eyes to immorality, and even to acts that could be regarded a crime.
The Feeling of Gratitude
One of the strongest emotions a person can feel is "gratitude." A human being is, every moment of his life, from the day he was born, the recipient of a continual flood of blessings. Because most of these blessings are received by him through some means or other, a person tends instead to direct his feelings of gratitude towards these sources. However, the Qu'ran clearly states, in several instances, that the only one to whom true gratitude is due is God. In the Quran, this gratitude is defined as "giving thanks." The giving of thanks refers to the consciousness that all blessings, no matter what their source, come from God, and that He is the only Provider; it is the heartfelt expression of our thanks and gratitude to God alone.
In the Qu'ran, it is stated that, to give thanks only to God and to express gratitude only to Him, is the mark of a true worshipper.
You who believe! Eat of the good things We have provided for you and give thanks to God if you worship Him alone. (Qur'an, 2:172)
So eat from what God has provided for you, lawful and good, and be thankful for the blessing of God if it is Him you worship. (Qur'an, 16:114)
From what is mentioned in these verses, it should be clear that to give thanks to God, as the only God and not to attribute divinity to anything in creation, is the sign of true worship. A person who renders thanks to God is conscious that all blessings come from Him, that everything is under His control, and that, apart from God, there is no other deity. A person who is aware that all blessings come from God is one who has in his heart a firm faith in the fact that all power and authority belong to Him. This is the ideal human being, as expounded and praised in the Qu'ran.
Emotional people tend to be just the opposite. These people attribute the blessings they have received to the material or personal means employed by God to impart them; and it is to these means that they look for help. To them are they thankful. In short, they erect for themselves countless false gods, to whom they falsely ascribe divine power. Because they do not use their wisdom, they cannot see that God created that which they falsely venerate, and all that they accomplish by Him, and that without His power and command they would have no power or ability to do anything.
This misplaced gratitude is only later a cause of shame for sentimental people. Their grovelling to their bosses, a family elder or a rich relative leads them to become depressed, a feeling which is then reflected in the way they speak and how they act. This kind of behaviour is one of the numerous forms of anxieties that romanticism engenders, and is unbecoming for a believer.
In some people, sentimentality takes the form of introversion, or the inability to communicate with others. In this kind of sentimentality, a person lives in his own world, immerses himself in his own problems; he has no interest in what goes on around him, and, therefore, is incapable of taking action. Because he does not have the strength of character commended in the Qu'ran, he is not possessed of the ability to deal with external realities. He does not attempt to solve problems that confront him, feeling only weak, helpless and useless. Because he has not put himself in the hands of God, and does not trust in His unfailing help, he feels that he is all alone in the world and without recourse. For that reason, he is afraid to come out of the dream-world he has created within himself.
God is the Protector of those who believe.
This melancholy caused by sentimentality can lead this type of person into depression. The particular conditions naturally experienced by emotional people are loneliness, stress, low-spiritedness, and nervous breakdowns. They always find a reason for their mournfulness, sadness, depression and thoughts of suicide. For example, a girl who had been the but of a joke made by a friend may think it normal to spend the entire night crying, and obsessing over why her friend would have said such a thing. In another case, greying hair or a physical flaw may be sufficient enough for depression. "Why aren't my eyes a different colour?" "Why couldn't I be a little taller?"; dozens, or hundreds, of such questions occupy such people's minds, viewed as problems justifying their depression.
You will often find this type of person sitting in the dark doing what appears to be "thinking," writing sad poems, staring at the wall for hours day-dreaming, walking in the rain, sighing deeply, crying secretly, teary-eyed, and speaking with a quivering voice. Some of them will drink or smoke too much in a purported attempt to dispel their sadness. These people experience the depression and discomfort of what they image to be a dark world, needlessly leading a life of both spiritual and physical misery. Important to note, however, is that they have adopted a behaviour and morality disapproved of by God.
Certainly, these people could not spend their whole lives shut up in their rooms. Though they have a social life, they bring their flawed emotional state with them in public. Generally, they are of a fragile disposition and are easily insulted. From every word they take a meaning that was not intended, seeing in it a meaning intended against them. They are easily demoralised and offended. At the least provocation, their eyes well-up with tears, and they may even weep secretly.
In men, a sentimental nature may, with the passing of time, reach further degrees of deviance: it may cause serious mental health problems, effeminate behaviour, sexual impropriety and may give rise to homosexual tendencies. An emotional person may hide the perverse tendencies of his hidden self, or he may boldly proclaim them, depending on his environment. At any moment, he may burst forth with his suppressed tendencies, thus exposing his hidden passions, lack of restraint and moral judgement. For example, these days, we are accustomed to emotional, melancholic, introverted people, coming out in public as aggressive homosexuals or transvestites. In the Qu'ran, God draws attention to the shamefulness of this sexual deviation in the words Lot said to his people:
And Lot, when he said to his people, "Do you commit an obscenity not perpetrated before you by anyone in all the worlds? You come with lust to men instead of women. You are indeed a depraved people." (Qur'an, 7:80-81)
Surely, such scandalous type of behaviour is due to the fact that people have departed from the way of God and, being slaves to their passions and desires, follow in the path of Satan. God issues this warning to humanity in the Qu'ran:
... And do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He truly is an outright enemy to you. He only commands you to do evil and indecent acts and to say about God what you do not know. (Qur'an, 2:168-169)
All the types of emotionalism that we have enumerated so far, are present to a certain degree in all those who have abandoned reason in favour of living as slaves to their emotions. But it takes on different forms depending on the situations and the people involved. For example, an irascible, irritable, unbalanced person, no matter how hard and gruff he may try to appear, still tries to cover his sentimentality and weakness with the guise of irascibility. Such a person may humiliate himself by unexpectedly breaking out in tears or whining. In short, someone who has no faith, or who does not have the wisdom proper to a believer, will be possessed of a weakness of mind and character that is the result of sentimentality. This sentimentality will manifest itself in various kinds of unbalanced behaviour, depending on the circumstances, the environment and the situation.
Sentimentality is not a vice to be found in believers, who have faith and fear God. Since Satan has no influence over the devout who believe, he cannot use his weapon of sentimentality against them. In regards to Satan, God gives this command in Sura 15, verse 42, as follows: "You have no authority over any of My slaves except for the misled who follow you." For this reason, believers possess a character strengthened by faith, wisdom and their commitment to the Qu'ran; they are strong, sound, balanced and perceptive.
When the affair is decided Satan will say, "God made you a promise, a promise of truth, and I made you a promise but broke my promise. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. Do not, therefore, blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot come to your aid nor you to mine. I reject the way you associated me with God before."... (Qur'an, 14:22)
One of the most common forms of sentimentality in society today is the notion of romantic love. This sentiment is experienced differently by different people, and is found from family relations, to relations of friendship and camaraderie; but it is most usually found in the relationship between a man and a woman.
Because the idea of romantic love is perhaps the most widespread and perverse kind of sentimentality, we will treat it in a separate section.