To Thamud We sent their brother Salih. He said: “O my people, worship Allah. You have no deity apart from Him. He brought you into being from the earth and made you its inhabitants. So ask His forgiveness and then repent to Him. My Lord is Close and Quick to Respond.”
Unbelievers have a totally different worldview from that outlined in the Qur’an, for they have developed distorted, fictitious, and mythological beliefs in accordance with their own non-Islamic understanding. For example, they believe that Allah is “sitting” in some corner of outer space and that, once He created the universe and human beings, left them on their own (surely He is beyond that). Such mistaken views cause them to disregard Allah and prevent them from grasping His greatness.
Shu‘ayb (as) said of his people’s deviant beliefs: “…O my people, do you esteem my clan more than you do Allah? You have made Him into something to cast disdainfully behind your backs!...” and explained what Allah was really like: “…But my Lord encompasses everything that you do!” (Surah Hud: 92).
Such people occasionally utter clichés that mention Allah’s name, such as “Allah forbid” and “if Allah wills,” but He is like an abstract concept that hardly ever enters their minds. Perhaps they accept what they have heard about His existence and power, but they do not really believe it. This becomes clear whenever they are asked to do something for Allah or to suffer some inconvenience for another person’s sake. In times of anxiety or potential loss, they show their insincerity by joining the unbelievers.
Most people in an unbelieving society openly deny Allah’s existence and oppose the Qur’an. Some find support for their denial in materialist philosophy and the theory of evolution, and thus make these their ideological foundations. They present themselves as modern, enlightened, contemporary, scientific, intellectual, and so on in the hope of impressing others, and think that they have gained a “good reputation” by denying Allah. Their minds are so shallow that they cannot grasp something so clear as His existence.
These two groups must be approached in the same way: bringing them to the stage where they can see proofs of Allah’s existence and finally understand that they must abandon their superstitions. And because they have established their denial on an ideological foundation, the bases of these ideologies must first be destroyed. For example, their blind belief in the theory of evolution must be dismantled by showing its impasses and internal inconsistencies. They must come to realize that this system is actually a gross deception.
After this point, the approach to each group is the same. Their ability to think independently and to trust their own judgments and intellects must be regained. Perhaps this is the first time they have been invited to “think,” as thinking is understood in the Qur’an. They will be forced to think about the origin of the fruits they have eaten for years, the water they have drunk, and the air they have breathed. They will be urged to consider where their bodies, eyes, ears, and hearts came from and who created them. The Qur’an teaches people how to think and often stresses what to think about:
Have you thought about the sperm that you ejaculate? Is it you who creates it, or are We the Creator? We have decreed death for you and We will not be forestalled in replacing you with others [who are] the same as you and re-forming you in a way you know nothing about. You have known the first formation, so will you not pay heed? Have you thought about what you cultivate? Is it you who makes it germinate, or are We the Germinator? If We willed, We could have made it broken stubble. You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught: “We are ruined, in fact we are destitute!” Have you thought about the water that you drink? Is it you who sent it down from the clouds, or are We the Sender? If We willed, We could have made it bitter. So will you not give thanks? Have you thought about the fire that you light? Is it you who makes the trees that fuel it grow, or are We the Grower? We have made it to be a reminder and a comfort for travelers in the wild. So glorify the name of your Lord, the Magnificent! (Surat al-Waqi‘a: 58-74)
Those to whom the faith is to be communicated must begin to think in this way. Nothing that has order or beauty could have come into existence on its own or by chance. Wherever things show evidence of balance, design, or beauty, someone had to have ordered them and brought them into being. Anyone who sees an ordered geometrical shape or a single letter of the alphabet drawn on a piece of paper will know that they have been drawn by someone with intelligence. The universe, in all its calculated balance, is surely the work of a supremely intelligent Creator. That Creator is Allah, the Lord of all things.
Therefore, what we see, hear, and feel all reveal Allah, the Creator of heaven and Earth. He has created things in order to manifest His attributes in them. It is enough to think about the universe’s perfection and matchless beauty to become aware of this clear truth, because all of the facts of creation clearly show that this glorious order belongs to someone. Once the person has grasped this truth, it will be even easier to describe the Qur’an’s moral values. After this understanding has been attained, a number of concepts that were unclear will begin to be clarified.