The Abode of Those Who Do Not Follow Their Conscience
We have stated that there is a conviction prevalent in society that following the conscience will harm one's interests. Those who believe this think that by not following their conscience, they can satisfy their wishes and desires, guard their interests, and thus profit. This is one of their biggest misconceptions, as they in fact lose both the world and the hereafter because of this perverted belief.
Conscience is under the command of Allah and is totally out of man's control. Whatever decision a person may make, his conscience never leaves him and always tells him the truth. Hearing the truth on the one hand, and not following it on the other, causes a great 'twinge of conscience'. This 'twinge of conscience' is not like any other form of distress. It is a distress Allah has given people in return for what they have done and also as an opportunity to correct their mistakes. In the Qur'an, Allah mentions the three men who suffered because they did not follow their conscience. Their worldly concerns prevented them from accompanying the Muslims on a campaign. They deeply regretted their negligence, could hardly endure the distress, and subsequently repented with all sincerity.
(Allah has turned) also towards the three who were left behind, so that when the earth became narrow for them, for all its great breadth, and their own selves became constricted for them and they realised that there was no refuge from Allah except in Him, He turned to them so that they might turn to Him. Allah is the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful. (Surat at-Tawba: 118)
In the Qur'an, one of those whose twinge of conscience has been quoted as an example is Prophet Yunus (AS), a praised messenger of Allah. Prophet Yunus left his people when they did not listen to him. A while later, after suffering great distress, he understood that it was wrong to have abandoned them; he felt great remorse and repented to his Lord. Allah accepted his repentance and sent him to a new community as messenger. This is described in different verses of the Qur'an:
And Dhu'n-Nun (Yunus) when he left in anger and thought We would not punish him. He called out in the pitch darkness: 'There is no god but You! Glory be to You! Truly I have been one of the wrongdoers.' We responded to him and rescued him from his grief. That is how We rescue the believers. (Surat al-Anbiya': 87-88)
So wait steadfastly for the judgement of your Lord. Do not be like the Companion of the Fish (Prophet Yunus) when he called out in absolute despair. Had a blessing from his Lord not overtaken him, he would have been thrown up on the naked shore, for he was at fault. (Surat al-Qalam: 48-49)
It should be stated that both of the examples above are about believers who repented because of the twinge of their conscience, and were saved. These examples show us that in order for a man to find peace, it is imperative that he follow his conscience and turn to Allah in repentance when he makes a mistake. Those who do the opposite will be full of grief and anxiety throughout their lives.
Nevertheless, there are many who, despite the twinge of conscience they feel, carry on their resistance against righteousness. They try to silence the voice inside them by deferring, putting forward excuses or 'talking themselves round'. In the Qur'an, Allah describes the inner distress and spiritual void felt by those who do not follow their conscience, and whose hearts are insensitive to Islam:
…As for anyone who associates others with Allah, it is as though he had fallen from the sky and the birds had seized him and carried him away or the wind had dropped him in a distant place. (Surat al-Hajj: 31)
When Allah 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 Allah defiles those who have no belief. (Surat al-An'am: 125)
In addition to this inner distress, their souls can never be satisfied. Even if they acquire the greatest benefit they can have in worldly terms, they are not satisfied with it. They always feel incomplete and unfulfilled. For Allah has created man's soul in such a way as to be satisfied only by following his conscience and earning the good pleasure of Allah. A verse reads:
Those who believe and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah. Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace. (Surat ar-Ra'd: 28)
In the same way that a conscientious person is always surrounded by conscientious people, an evil person is condemned to be surrounded by evil people, following in the footsteps of the shaytan. Those who do not practise the truth despite their knowledge of it, who are averse to making sacrifices, who act unjustly, who envy, who ridicule others, who are arrogant and who practise all kinds of similar bad habits will receive the same treatment in return. Such behaviour creates an atmosphere of great restlessness in everyone. People cannot know what treatment to expect from one another. There cannot be real friendships, loyalty or understanding, and self-sacrifice is never displayed.
Thus, they live in an atmosphere of hell both physically and spiritually. Sometimes they cannot even understand the reason for the distress they are in. As a penalty from Allah for not following their conscience, they live an unsatisfactory, restless and displeasing life. This is only the grief they suffer in this world. The eternal grief they may meet in the hereafter will be too horrible and dreadful to be compared to the one in this world. The recompense that will be given to those who act out wickedness in the world is stated as follows in the Qur'an:
That day no one will punish as He punishes and no one will shackle as He shackles. (Surat al-Fajr: 25-26)
Just as conscientious people prepare their places in paradise, so do wicked people prepare their places in hell, but they are unaware of it:
They ask you to hasten the punishment. If it were not for a stipulated term, the punishment would have come to them already. It will come upon them suddenly when they are not expecting it. They ask you to hasten the punishment but Hell already encircles the disbelievers. On the day the punishment envelops them from above them and from underneath their feet, He will say, 'Taste what you were doing!' (Surat al-'Ankabut: 53-55)