Part One: A New World
This is the way of Your Lord, leading straight: We have made plain Our revelations for those who receive admonition. (Surat Al- An'am: 126)
Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endowed with understanding. (Surat Az-Zumar: 18)
The principal aim of this book is to induce the reader to make a re-evaluation of matters which are actually the most important issues in his life. In the process, however, he shall have to keep his prejudices in abeyance until he has made a re-appraisal of those standards which till now, he has accepted as absolute.
We must bear in mind that when one approaches any given situation with prejudices, one is no longer able to make a healthy decision or reach a right conclusion about it. As a matter of fact, when one wants to see something as right, one sees it as right. One perceives a thing as evil since one has already decided beforehand that it is so.
The telling point about these prejudices and presuppositions is that they are usually formed by the individual himself. From the beginning of his life, he is burdened with the countless prejudices that society instills in him. Family, friends and close relations determine his value-judgments. In today's societies, the media especially have a great capacity to condition people's attitudes toward certain subjects. Newspapers and television possess the means of depicting many things that are right, as unpleasant, unacceptable and even harmful, while they misrepresent the wrong to be good and desirable.
One who readily accepts these prejudices instilled by society, loses a great part of his personality. He acts under the influence of conditioning by others, and does not behave with his own mind. Others' predispositions determine his behaviour. The person in question can thus accept only the values that are shown to be true as true. Moreover, when we consider that different societies with different cultural backgrounds happen to believe in different rights and wrongs, we can see that there is not much sense in following the dictates of any given society without questioning its value-judgments. By the same token, what is currently agreed to be wrong and immoral may well be considered acceptable in the future. Cannibalism is regarded as very normal in some societies, and unconditionally obeying a crazy leader in a fascist society (like Nazi Germany) was considered absolutely right for the people who followed and supported him at that time. The number of examples is legion, but in short, what we would like to stress on is that cogitating independently upon society's false conditioning, is conduct which betokens wisdom in the thinker. Such a person is necessarily aware that the "values" imposed by society may be wrong and may lead to ethical dilemmas if adopted.
Religion – especially today – is one of the most important subjects about which countless prejudices are produced by society. Especially the indoctrination carried out by some part of the media has formed many prejudices about religion, which are hard to overcome for some people.
As a result of totally false indoctrinations, religion has become a concept which most people either do not consider important, or do not feel the need to think upon and prefer to stay away from as far as possible. People in this mindset cannot be said, however, to have adopted such an attitude consciously. These people would probably claim, when asked, that they are devout, although religion may be one of the less important matters of their life.
Indeed, such a person has never given any serious thought to religion and to his own ideas and attitudes towards religion, not even for once in his life. He probably has never pondered about the reason why moral values of religion exist. . According to his flase perspective, religion is a matter that generally concerns old people and stands up for some correct ethical values, but mostly entails many "boring", tedious prohibitions and restrictions. He finds some religious practices right and necessary and considers, in his shallow mind, certain others as ancient and "outdated". (Surely Allah and Islam are beyond that.) Still, he usually does not openly deny religionbut he tries, as we have mentioned before, to keep away from the moral values of the religion as far as possible. He is always reluctant to meet, speak to or be in the same places as people he considers religious. According to that prejudiced and distorted perspective, such people are frightening and sinister. But the fact is that he is in a terrible state of error. Islam is a religion that requires one to have a sense of aesthetic, quality, nobility, kindness, beauty, love, sincerity, compassion and warmth. Islam urges people to think, research and to be rational and bestows superiority on those who genuinely live by these values.
This wrong perception of religion originates from accepting presuppositions imposed by some part of society without subjecting them to independent scrutiny. In the Qur'an, the ultimate ethical guidebook, the importance of thinking is revealed by Allah in many verses as follows:
"Say: 'To whom belong the earth and all beings therein? Say, if you know!' They will say, 'To Allah!' Say: 'Yet will you not receive admonition?'" (Surat Al-Muminun: 84-85)
"And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?" (Surat Al-Qamar: 17)
"... This is Allah your Lord; therefore serve Him you: will you not receive admonition" (Surah Yunus: 3) "Is He then Who creates like one who cannot create ? Will you not receive admonition?" (Surat An-Nahl: 17)
Those who cannot think about religion independently of society's conditioning will make two great mistaes. The first of these is; a person who tries to keep himself away from the religious morality would not think about the real purpose of religion, about Allah and therefore would fail to appreciate the infinite might of Allah.
The second fault is supposing that religion exists to drag people to an awkward and bigoted position full of pressures, and to impose duties on people, which go against their very nature. Some certain people, who supposedly act in the name of religion, promoting the aforementioned picture as if it were the religion itself, constitute one of the principal reasons behind the fear one carries: "if I live by the religion, I cannot do what I want".. Where as the truth of the matter is very much different from such a person's convictions.
The moral values of Islam liberate one from all forms of pressure, fear, worry and tension. They enable a person to have a joyful, moderate, at peace and at ease state of mind. Someone who genuinely abides by the Qur'an and the Sunna enjoys a beauty and abundance that the person holding the prejudices cited above can never attain and maybe never even dream of.
Once the individual rectifies the first mistake and gets to know Allah, Who has created him and Who is the One closest to him, he also rids himself of the superstitions that demand him to be away from religion. The correction of the first fault brings him a sharpness of mind and a sensitivity which in turn help him to correct the second fault as well. He can then distinguish other structures under a religious guise and glaring differences between them and true religion.
In short, countless prejudices have been formed about religion. However, in approaching religion, the basic criterion should not be what people say about religion but his own conscience. In the Qur'an, it has been indicated explicitly that following the "common run of the people" does not necessarily lead us to Allah's way:
"If you were to follow the common run of those on this earth, they would lead you away from the way of Allah. They follow nothing but conjecture: they do nothing but lie." (Surat Al-An'am: 116)
When a person stops "following the herd" and begins to think with his conscience, he personally sees the reality revealed in the Qur'anic verses. He steps into a new world which is quite different from that of the "great majority of people". This step will drive the darkness, distress, and troubles of his old life away from him and bring to him the countless graces and the deep wisdom in which religion is instrumental.
On another note, let us remind you that with the word "religion", we mean Islam which is the last true faith sent down by our Lord. That is because , as Allah revealed in the Qur'an: "The only true faith in Allah's Sight is Islam." (Surah Al 'Imran: 19)