Living The Qur'an by Following The Conscience at all Times
The sole purpose of a person who becomes aware of the existence of Allah and the hereafter, is to please Allah and to live eternally in paradise. It is impossible for someone who acts upon his conscience and wisdom, to set an objective other than this. Another great error of man is to think that religion is a belief that covers only a small portion of one's life; that it is something to be remembered only on certain days, and that nothing is related with it except some rites of worship. On the contrary, in the Qur'an, it is stated that man's whole life, along with all rites, must be for Allah:
Say: 'My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds.' (Surat al-An'am: 162)
This means that in all his words, decisions and actions, man must pay attention to whether Allah is pleased with him or not. If he thinks that something is not pleasing to Allah, then he must totally avoid it. There is no other choice for a man who will be called to account for the life he has led, and whose eternal abode will be decided by the result. Furthermore, someone who is not ungrateful and who thinks and comprehends the truth, will surely not consider anything more important than pleasing his Lord, Who created him out of nothing, gave him life when he was nothing and bestowed upon him the favour to live in the paradise forever.
He who decides to live all his life for Allah once again turns to his conscience in order to find out how to please Allah. In the Qur'an, Allah has made clear all His orders and the deeds that He forbids. First of all, one who acts upon one's conscience strictly observes these orders and forbidden deeds. He pays the highest attention to the deeds that are approved and forbidden, and practises all the orders he reads in the Qur'an. He takes the models of good behaviour communicated in the Qur'an as a guide to himself; he acts with extreme sincerity and fulfils everything written in the Qur'an to the best of his understanding and means.
He who reads the Qur'an will see that Allah orders people to carry out certain rites of worship. One of these is to practise regular prayers:
When you have finished the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on your sides. When you are safe again keep up prayer. Prayer is prescribed for the believers at specific times. (Surat an-Nisa': 103)
This verse is a reminder that regular prayer is obligatory. The conscience of everyone who reads this verse will tell them to stand for prayers. The person may either practise what his conscience and the Qur'an require of him, or he may avoid practising the commands of the Qur'an by making various excuses. It must, however, never be forgotten that whatever excuse one may find for not keeping up prayer, this excuse will not be accepted in the hereafter.
In another verse, Allah asks man to act justly whatever the conditions and circumstances may be:
You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your patterns and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, Allah is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat an-Nisa': 135)
Performing Allah's commands meticulously even if they conflict with one's interests is only possible through listening to the voice of one's conscience. Let us think of some situations that one who is called to attention in the verse above, may face. It may be that a person's bearing witness with justice may possibly cause a relative of his to be convicted of some crime. Yet, even in such a situation, a person who knows that he will give account after his death, listens to his conscience and acts in accordance with the command in the Qur'an, for no benefit in this world can be greater than his benefit in the hereafter.
In another verse, Allah states the following about acting justly:
You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of Allah, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to taqwa. Have fear of Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 8)
In order for someone to act on this verse properly, he has to control his anger even when he is most furious, and give a just decision. The person he converses with may be someone whom he dislikes because of his manners and speech and even someone against whom he bears a grudge. Regardless of whom that person may be, it is a command from Allah to be just to everyone.
Another example is Allah's command to people to avoid suspicion and gossip:
You who believe! Avoid most suspicion. Indeed some suspicion is a crime. And do not spy and do not backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat his brother's dead flesh? No, you would hate it. And have taqwa of Allah. Allah is Ever-Returning, Most Merciful. (Surat al-Hujurat: 12)
In the above verse, Allah guards man against some bad character traits. Actually, the three specific manners mentioned in this verse are interrelated. Someone who backbites has some bad suspicions about the person he backbites. Similarly, someone who spies on someone else does so on the grounds of certain suspicions. Such types of behaviour are very common and somehow accepted by society, though they are definitely against conscience.
A good criterion for comparison would be to think of one's self in such a situation. No one would ever wish to be spied on and have his secrets and mistakes pried into and revealed. He would not wish to be gossiped about, or for other people to have bad and incorrect suspicions about him. Someone who discovered he was being talked about in this way would be greatly distressed and feel he was being treated unjustly. Subjecting someone to such pain and making him live in such circumstances is wicked and inexcusable. It is an indication of a man's conscience that he never subjects someone else to something which he himself would not like to be subjected to. For this reason, Allah compares these manners to 'eating the dead flesh of one's brother.' This is just as disgusting as backbiting, suspicion and faultfinding. Besides, Allah threatens those who engage in such acts with hell:
Woe to every faultfinding backbiter… No indeed! He will be flung into the Shatterer. And what will convey to you what the Shatterer is? The kindled Fire of Allah reaching right into the heart. It is sealed in above them in towering columns. (Surat al-Humaza: 1-9)
Backbiting, prying into the secrets of others, and accusing people on the basis of mere suspicion, are often products of jealousy, envy and grudges, and are directly opposed to Quranic morals. Such behaviour is absolutely incompatible with conscience even though it is not greatly renounced by society. When one considers how Allah will repay these actions, the most appropriate conduct in accordance with Qur'anic morals is not to do them even for a moment, and to strongly discourage others from doing them.
The behaviour and thoughts of someone who has grasped the essence of the Qur'an, will be based on the good morals prescribed by Islam in general. In other words, he who lives this good character will always think and act conscientiously. He will never forget death and the hereafter, and this will make all his actions be oriented towards the hereafter. Such a remarkable man will think about the hereafter not only for himself, but also for his loved ones and his whole community. All his efforts will be geared towards preparing for this eternal home. Even with regards to seemingly ordinary events, the conscientious person comments with reference not to the world, but to the hereafter. For example, if he has a very wealthy friend, he instantly thinks that his friend too will die one day and give account in the hereafter. He particularly avoids making speeches that might make his friend attached to this world. He encourages him to be generous, and reminds him of paradise and hell. He prays for his good and peace both in the world and the hereafter, and that Allah will cause them to meet in a happy hereafter. A conscientious man displays his love for his friend by making efforts for his hereafter and by forbidding him the wrong and enjoining the right.
At first sight, someone who acts upon his conscience and always seeks Allah's good pleasure may seem to be no different to others. He too goes to work or school, does shopping, and enjoys himself. He, however, seeks Allah's pleasure in everything he does. In a verse Allah states:
…There are men, who proclaim His glory morning and evening, not distracted by trade or commerce from the remembrance of Allah and the establishment of regular prayers and the payment of regular charity; fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil. (Surat an-Nur: 37)
One may wonder how it is possible to seek Allah's good pleasure in the common, everyday actions one does, and how it is possible to remember Allah at every moment. Firstly, it must be stated that for someone who follows his conscience, the rites of worship and Allah's commands are above everything else. He never forgets that Allah is always watching him. In the trade he engages in, he does not become concerned with his benefits in the world, but his benefits in the hereafter. He never declines in honesty, and never stoops to commit any act for which he will not be able to give account, or be ashamed of in the hereafter. Even if he knows that he will lose income, he is not tempted to cheat in measure, weight or calculation. In every issue he is most reliable and trustworthy. He does not delay the paying of his debts when he has the means; or if someone who owes him is in difficulty, he may give up the debt. In the Qur'an it is advised thus:
If (the debtor) is in difficult circumstances, (let there be) a deferral until things are easier. But making a free gift of it would be better for you if you only knew. (Surat al-Baqara 2:280)
A believer never forgets that the only power that will give favour and prosperity is with Allah. He does not transgress by being spoiled with what he has, and on the contrary thanks Allah for every favour He grants him.
There are many other events which man meets in his daily life through which he can remember Allah and seek His good pleasure by relying on the truth and wisdom of His Word conveyed by His Messenger in the Qur'an. Everyone who wants to live by the deen should read the Qur'an by using his conscience and practise what he has read once again by employing his conscience.
The conscience looks for the manners that will please Allah most
Man's conscience takes great pains in working for the pleasure of Allah. It always thinks, 'How can I please Allah most?' It never seeks other people's pleasure, or worries about its position in their eyes. It turns only to Allah in penitence.
Some people live Islam not by using their conscience, but in a traditional and habitual way as they have seen from their ancestors. They perform certain rituals of worship that they have memorised and with this they are satisfied. They have chosen a lifestyle which pays lip service to Islam. The reason for doing this may be to avoid conflict with their associates or simply because they were raised that way. Rather than thinking what to do to please Allah most, they think, 'What is the minimum I should do to make people believe that I am religious?'
It is, however, impossible to live Islam without employing the conscience fully. A truly conscientious person thinks about how he can practise every act of worship in the best manner. He strives to ensure that neither his actions nor his speech will pose a risk on the Day of Account. He knows that he will be repaid in the hereafter for what he has done. Allah warns people with respect to this:
Establish regular prayers and regular charity. Any good you send ahead for yourselves, you will find with Allah. Certainly Allah sees what you do. (Surat al-Baqara: 110)
An example from the Qur'an to someone seeking to do something to the best of his ability, and in the most beautiful way is the command given to the believers about 'saying the best'.
Say to My slaves that they should only say the best. The shaytan wants to stir up trouble between them. The shaytan is an outright enemy to man. (Surat al-Isra': 53)
He who knows this command of Allah will find the best speech by referring to his conscience. He will not just say whatever comes into his mind. On the contrary, he makes the most beautiful and impressive speeches, and he takes great care not to hurt or dishearten the people he talks to. He chooses the speech which will please Allah most, and while doing it, he employs his conscience as a key reference.
In another verse, Allah categorises mankind in three groups in terms of their attachment to Islam:
Then We made Our chosen slaves inherit the Book. But some of them wrong themselves; some are ambivalent; and some outdo each other in good by Allah's permission. That is the great favour. (Surah Fatir: 32)
As stated in the verse, some people do not live by Islam at all. Others only follow a part of what their conscience bids them, and spend only some of their time and means for Islam, though not when it conflicts with their interests. They do not make a serious effort for Islam and good manners to be spread among the people. Thinking that they already pay attention to what is forbidden and permitted, they take it for granted that the acts of worship they practise make them morally competent.
In actual fact, what suits conscience most is to choose and practise the most morally correct and beautiful deeds of those which are permissible and acceptable. With relation to this, in the Qur'an, Allah refers with high regard to those who follow the best of what is said:
Those who listen well to what is said and follow the best of it, they are the ones whom Allah has guided, they are the people of intelligence. (Surat az-Zumar: 18)
The third group, who outdo each other in good, are those who act in full accordance with their conscience. They outdo each other to gain the highest reward from their Lord, and step forward willingly in every service and every act of goodness, without waiting for anyone else to do it. When there are better things that they can do, their conscience does not allow them to continue with the lesser, without striving for improvement.
As seen, conscience requires not only knowing Allah and accepting His existence, but also performing acts that will please Him and paying great attention to this. The majority of people assume that believing in Allah's existence alone is sufficient. In some verses of the Qur'an, these people are addressed thus:
Say: 'Who provides for you out of heaven and earth? Who controls hearing and sight? Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who directs the whole affair?' They will say, 'Allah.' Say, 'So will you not have taqwa?' That is Allah, your Lord, the Truth, and what is there after truth except misguidance? So how have you been distracted? (Surah Yunus: 31-32)
As seen in the above verses, such people believe in the existence of Allah, and even accept that Allah provides for them, that He gives life and death, and that He is the Creator and Owner of everything. They employ their conscience only so much as to have such an awareness, and see this sufficient for their faith. Someone who makes full use of his conscience, however, feels a fear full of respect towards Allah since he can grasp the sublimity of Allah. This fear is different from other fears experienced; this is the fear of losing Allah's approval. The whole life of a person who feels this fear passes solely by seeking to gain his Lord's pleasure. He does not set a limit to himself in drawing near to Allah. In the Qur'an, Allah shows Ibrahim as an example and says:
Who could have a better religion than someone who submits himself completely to Allah and is a good-doer, and follows the religion of Ibrahim, a man of pure natural belief? Allah took Ibrahim as an intimate friend. (Surat an-Nisa': 125)
Someone who acts one hundred percent upon his conscience, will strive to reach the highest level of understanding possible for the human mind; he will labour day and night to grasp the might and majesty of Allah and to draw near Him and become His intimate friend. Since he can never be sure to have established the highest degree of friendship and nearness, his effort and willingness will continue until he dies.
One may wonder how it is possible to be near to Allah. The key to this is again our conscience, as explained in the following pages.