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Wisdom and Sentimentalism

One of the greatest factors which can blur one’s wisdom is sentimentalism. This is a quite harmful state of mind which is inimical to the proper functioning of human reason.

Indeed sentimentalism is an explicit danger to reason. It exercises control over the faculty of reason to the point of negative sensible judgments. Under the sway of emotions, a sentimental person can easily engage in unwise and imprudent deeds. A believer, on the other hand, always keeps his emotions under the command of reasoning.

The concept of love, for instance, may have two separate dimensions; it may be either emotional or rational. The sentimental person feels a profound attachment for people or objects who truly do not deserve affection. As is prevalent in many cultures - especially the eastern cultures- a deep devotion is demonstrated to those who pay no respect to one’s devotion or who give pain in return for sincere love.

On the contrary, the love of a believer is always based on solid grounds. In the object of his love he primarily identifies the existence of “attributes of faith” or “attributes of a believer” as defined in  the Qur’an. A believer never shows affection to anyone who is unworthy of being loved.
Allah in many verses, attracts our attention to the dangers exposed inherent in sentimental love:

O you who believe! Do not take My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors), offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because you believe in Allah your Lord! If you have come out to strive in My way and to seek My good pleasure, do not take them as friends, holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that you conceal and all that you reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the straight path. If they were to get the better of you, they would behave to you as enemies, and stretch forth their hands and their tongues against you for evil: and they desire that you should reject the truth. There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever you worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever, unless you believe in Allah and Him alone... (Al-Mumtahina, 1-4)

The above words of Allah explain the grounds for it being irrational to feel love for unbelievers. Such an attitude can be explained only by sentimentalism.

Many other verses in the Qur’an advise giving careful consideration to the dangers of feeling love for unbelievers. The story of Prophet Noah sets an example for this subject; Noah asked for forgiveness of Allah for his son who did not worship Him and prayed that he be saved from the flood. Allah told Noah that his son was also among the unbelievers and that he (Noah) should not offer him his love:

So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest): “O my son! Embark with us, and do not be with the unbelievers!” The son replied: “I will take myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water.” Noah said: “This day nothing can save from the command of Allah but those on whom He has mercy! “And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood. ...And Noah called upon his Lord, and said: “O my Lord! Surely my son is of my family! And Your promise is true, and You are the most just of Judges!”He said: “O Noah! He is not of your family: For his conduct is unrighteous. So do not ask of Me for that of which you have no knowledge! I give you counsel, lest you act like the ignorant!”Noah said: “O my Lord! I do seek refuge with You, lest I ask You for that of which I have no knowledge. And unless you forgive me and have mercy on me, I shall indeed be lost!” (Hud, 42-47)

The message of the verse is apparent: Even if the immediate family members are in question, the believers do not feel an attachment for unbelievers. It is only wise to love people who really deserve love. Moreover, a believer never develops a feeling deep in his heart for someone who goes astray.

The wives of Noah and Lut were also among the unbelievers who deserved to be severely penalized by Allah. The people of Lut went astray and, hence, they were utterly destroyed. Just before the destruction, the angels came to Lut telling him to abandon the city and to leave his wife behind. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lut obeyed the command:

(The Messengers) said: “O Lut! We are messengers from your Lord! By no means shall they reach you! Now travel with your family in the remaining hours of the night, and let not any of you look back: but your wife (will remain behind): To her will happen what happens to the people. Morning is their time appointed: Is not the morning nigh?” (Hud, 81)

Lut had fully obeyed the command of Allah. This is exactly the type of behaviour that one can expect from a believer. Having a sentimental attachment for those who disobey the judgement of Allah is not an attribute that one can see among believers:

You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the last day, loving those who resist Allah and His messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has inscribed the faith in their very hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit of His own. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the party of Allah. Truly, it is the party of Allah that will achieve felicity. (Al-Mujadila, 22)

The essence of this attitude, so purified of emotion, is no doubt the understanding of love which is peculiar only to believers. Allah informs us about the different concepts of love held by believers and unbelievers in the following verse:

Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): They love them as they should love Allah. But those of faith are overflowing in their love for Allah.If only the unrighteous could see, they would know that to Allah belongs all power, and Allah will be stern in retribution. (Al-Baqara, 165)

As Allah states in the verse, believers truly love  Allah. The affection they feel for people is merely a reflection of their love for Allah. They love only believers,because  believers are those people “who truly adopt the moral framework the Qur’an presents man with.” Unbelievers, on the other hand, live according to their whims and desires. In this sense, they follow the path of Satan. Hence, it is impossible for believers to feel close to them. Unbelievers, on the other hand, are inclined to have affection for people or objects individually. They assume everything to have an existence independent of Allah. In the Qur’an, this is called “associating partners with Allah”, or in other words, paganism.

In the Qur’an, non-emotive behaviours demonstrated by believers is not limited only to love. There are many other rational kinds of behaviours recounted in the Qur’an. The following are all examples to such kinds of behaviours ; the mother of Moses left her baby floating in the river without any hesitation when she received inspiration from Allah (Al-Qasas, 7); the believers restrain their anger and pardon men (Al-E-Imran, 134); and do not despair over matters that pass them by (Al-Hadid, 23); and spend from what they most dearly love.(Al-Imran, 92).

However, one point needs further clarification here: not being sentimental does not in any way mean being insensitive. On the contrary, believers are tender-hearted people. The attributes of the Prophet Abraham are related in the Qur’an: “Abraham was most tender-hearted, and forbearing.” (At-Tawba, 114). What is criticized about sentimentalism here is its negative aspect prevalent in the culture of an ignorant society. In a sentimental way of thinking, emotions completely cloud the faculty of judgment and make one develop unsound reasoning contrary to the principles of the Qur’an. In this culture, not the spirit but the negative side of the soul stirs up these emotions.

In a community, various examples of such an attitude can be observed: sentimentalism displayed by young girls is a typical example. Being under the influence of emotions, a young girl loves the image of a man rather than his character and spirit. This is no doubt due to the mentality indoctrinated in her by the society. However, lessons drawn from experience lead eventually to wisdom. Mostly after spending only a short time with him, the young girl realizes the negative, or inhumane side of the man she loves.

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