From the day a man is born, a voice that always perpetually whispers evil accompanies him. This whisper belongs to one's lower self (an-nafs). Next to this voice, however, there exists an infallible voice that forbids evil and guides him to the right path. This voice that leads man to righteousness is called "conscience". Allah introduces to us these two aspects of the self as follows:
By the soul and the One Who proportioned it and inspired it with knowledge of depravity and with its sense of duty, he purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams, 7-10)
As stated in the above verse, Allah also inspires man to avoid the evil of his self. This inspiration is provided through the conscience. Therefore, conscience is, in a sense, the voice of Allah that summons believers to what is good and right. For this reason, the conscience is a key to perfected faith.
Those of perfected faith unceasingly give ear to this voice. They have a quite different understanding of conscience from that prevalent in society. Helping needy and old people or making contributions to aid organisations is generally regarded as a sign of a good conscience. But except for such examples, the conscience is excluded from almost all other fields of life; people generally do not feel the need to employ their conscience and they lead their lives in compliance with their lower self.
Those who heed their conscience as commanded in the Qur'an are only those who are of perfected faith: throughout their lives, they listen to their conscience on every issue. Drawing near to Allah and earning His approval being their sole goal in life, they unceasingly bow to their conscience, whatever the conditions or circumstances may be. Neither exhaustion, sleeplessness nor the rush of daily life distracts them from following this voice. Their busiest moments or hard times are no exceptions; a single warning from their conscience suffices to make them immediately see the good and turn to it.
An example will clarify this issue: Think of a believer who has just returned from a long tiresome journey; having had only a few hours sleep, he is exhausted and hungry. Just at the time he is about to rest to regain his strength, he meets a person in a desperate situation who asks for help. This believer feels no hesitation in setting aside all his personal needs and rushes to his assistance. If he is physically too weak to help himself, then he finds someone who will replace him. Meanwhile, in return for all this help, he avoids any such attitude as would arouse feelings of indebtedness in the other person; he does not stoop to mentioning his needs or the sacrifices he has made. That is because, he has performed all these services to earn Allah's approval. He does not expect anything in return. The attitude of such people is stated in the Qur'an as follows:
We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We do not want any repayment from you or any thanks. Truly, We fear from our Lord a day of anguish and of woe. (Surat al-Insan, 9-10)
This is the understanding of conscience of a person of perfected faith. No matter how dire the circumstances may be, he does not swerve from following his conscience and never does a good deed in expectation of a reward. The thought that Allah is aware of that deed is sufficient for him.
In the case of one who lacks the morality conferred by perfected faith, every inconvenience becomes a legitimate excuse that makes him ignore the right option to which his conscience guides him. Physical needs such as sleeplessness, exhaustion or hunger may well change his attitude, turning him into an intolerant, nervous and bad-tempered person. At such times, let alone helping someone, he becomes rude to the people around him who try to help him. If he agrees to help another-which is often an exceptional situation-he definitely grumbles about it, reproaches the person and does much to make him feel obliged.
As is evident, there is a wide gulf between the morality and attitudes of those of perfected faith and those bereft of such noble character traits. This distinction becomes obvious at every moment of their lives and will make a considerable difference in the rewards they will receive in the hereafter.