Harun Yahya - The Nightmare of Disbelief
The Nightmare of Disbelief

When God desires to misguide someone, He makes his breast narrow and constricted
as if he were climbing up into the sky. That is how God defiles those disbelieve.
(Surat al-An'am 125)

The Influence of Religion Upon Social Life

Disbelief has various negative impacts upon human beings and societies alike. In a society far removed from religion, the basic characteristics of its members are injustice, selfishness and untrustworthiness. This inevitably is the nature of disbelieving societies. Only the values of religion assure moral perfection for societies and individuals. Those having faith in God and the hereafter conduct themselves responsibly, since they only live to attain the approval of God. Fearing God, they cautiously avoid wicked deeds, attitudes and behaviour not praised by God. A society dominated by such people becomes one that does not experience social problems.

However, a disbelieving person, failing to recognise that he will ultimately be rewarded or punished for his deeds, does not observe the limits of God. Disregarding the Day of Judgement, he simply does not see any necessity to curb his wickedness. Despite avoiding certain socially unfavourable forms of behaviour, many people do not hesitate to commit other evils when they are urged, encouraged or have an opportunity.

For someone who shows his preference for disbelief, troubles begin while he is still in this world, since everyone, deep in his heart, knows that he should adhere to the values of religion. Surely everyone is endowed with the faculty of conscience. But while this mechanism is very fine-tuned in believers, it becomes almost dysfunctional in those who do not live by the values of religion. In other words, by paying no heed to their conscience, people who have drifted apart from the values of religion experience spiritual distress. Everyone, in reality, knows that he has a Creator, that he is responsible to Him and that he should display moral perfection. Yet, these are essentially in conflict with his worldly whims and desires.

That is why, individuals either entirely reject religion, or find excuses such as "I am honest, good and sincere" so as to avoid the way of living described in the Qur'an. However, in both cases, people in their subconscience know that they should lead the type of life approved of by God. In societies distant from the values of religion, the basic source of all mental anguish, all psychological and spiritual problems is this spiritual distress which we call "pangs of conscience."

The state of those who start to experience this grief while they are still in this world is expressed in the following verse:

They say: When will this promise be fulfilled if you are telling the truth?

Say: "It may well be that some of what you are anxious to hasten is right on your heels." (Surat an-Naml: 71-72)

"Pangs of conscience" are only a minor part of the eternal and unbearable spiritual grief a non-believer feels in the hereafter. The reason why man suffers from this worldly pain is because he prefers a way of living, attitude and outlook contrary to his purpose in creation. As long as he persists in his irreligious attitudes and mentality, he is doomed to suffer from spiritual grief. That is why he feels the urge to find ways to silence the voice of his conscience and hence find relief from mental suffering.

Mentally and physically, man is naturally inclined towards the values of religion. God has surely created not only man but also the most proper way of living for him. Therefore, transgressing beyond the boundaries of God naturally leads to personal and sociological complications. As mentioned in the preceding pages, these complications are actually the social and personal miseries, which have had a negative impact upon humanity throughout history. The one and only way to eradicate these complications is adherence to the values of religion. Religion brings solutions to each one of these complications in a real sense.


Adherence to the Values of Religion Hinders Crimes

There is no reason why any person, who does not live by the values of religion, and therefore, who is not expecting to be judged by his deeds and ultimately punished, should observe the limits set by God and work for the good and interest of others in order to attain God's approval. According to his mistaken beliefs, given that he has only one chance to live in this world, he thinks he should lead his life in the most comfortable conditions, go after anything he wants and be able to do anything he likes. The Qur'an puts this rationale as follows:

They say, "There is nothing but our existence in the world. We die and we live and nothing destroys us except for time" They have no knowledge of that. They are only conjecturing. (Surat al-Jathiya: 24)

Anyone with such a mistaken approach is vulnerable to all kinds of wickedness or immorality. He may unabashedly lie, steal, break his promises, resort to violence, take lying for granted, defraud, or exploit the labour and resources of others whenever he has the opportunity. There is simply nothing to hold such a person back from evil.

A person who does not live by the values of the Qur'an becomes unscrupulous and, in time, will be entirely taken over by his baser self. He recognises no limits to the wickedness he can engage in. If it is in his interests, he sees no reason not to commit murder. The reason why daily newspapers run headlines about such incidents is the existence of people who have no fear of God.

In time, being enslaved by his ego (lower soul), he obeys its commandments without any hesitation. He sees no limits to how he should engage in wickedness. If it is in his interest, he sees no reason not to commit murder. Daily newspapers run headlines about such incidents. Their pages are full of news about people killing their neighbours for jewellery, women killing their husbands out of rage, fathers torturing their children or people murdering their parents for money. Definitely, there are countless similar incidents occurring each day, which remain hidden. All these provide clear evidence that people have become the blind slaves of their lower selves. Spiritually, they are inferior even to animals. In the Qur'an, each such individual is called "the Transgressor beyond bounds, the Sinner." (Surat al-Mutaffifin: 12)

In a society where people can do anything at any time, an ordinary person next to you in a bus, shopping mall, or theatre, may well pose a potential danger. He may be a robber, a murderer, a rapist. Furthermore, such a dangerous person can be good-looking and have a brilliant educational background. An interview, which appeared in a popular magazine, confirms this:

Q. "You say that murders always attract your attention. In that case, would you like to commit a murder one day?"

A. "…There have been many times I wanted to commit a murder. However, I did not have anybody particular in my mind. I may simply want to kill eight or nine people in a day. Man's soul is prone to such violence. And I feel this deep inside. Yet, a concrete murder does not sound so good; after all, there are the blood, the dead, sirens, the police… all that kind of stuff… Despite all that, however, murders always tempt me."

Q. "What kind of a murder would you like to commit?"

A. "I would absolutely prefer using guns. Poison does not create the terror a murder is associated with, it is too stealthy."

To one's surprise, the interviewee, who is known in his society to be an enlightened person, harbours such terrorist feelings and, without hesitation, gives expression to them. This surely gives a clear picture of the general mentality of a society paying no heed to the values of religion. This example shows how terrifying is the nature of people who have no faith in or fear of God. The commandment of the Qur'an about murder, which disbelieving people so easily commit, is the following:

So We decreed for the tribe of Israel that if someone kills another person-unless it is in retaliation for the murder of someone else or for causing corruption in the land-he shall be looked upon as if he had murdered all mankind. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 32)

Under the headlines, "A World War on Bribery" and "War Against Sleaze," Time magazine gave extended coverage to bribery scandals in all parts of the world. Such scandals have erupted everywhere, from Colombia to India, France to North Korea, and Japan to Spain. The only solution to these problems, the fundamental cause of which is unbelief, is living by the values of the Qur'an.

The example given in the above verse in which God says that killing a single person is like killing all mankind, is very important. In another verse, it is also stated that those who commit murder will be punished with eternal torment in Hell. (Surat an-Nisa': 93) In this case, a person who fears God would not even conceive of killing anyone. This is illustrated in the Qur'an by the story of the two sons of Adam, upon whom be peace. One of the sons of Adam wanted to kill his brother merely because he was jealous of him. The sufferer, who feared God, displayed an exemplary attitude:

Even if you do raise your hand against me to kill me, I am not going to raise my hand against you to kill you. Truly, I fear God, the Lord of all the worlds. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 28)

At such a point, the basic difference between believers and unbelievers becomes most apparent. Whatever the circumstances may be, believers never even contemplate anything condemned by God. The instruction of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) to the believers, "There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm" (Sunan ibn Majah) also explains this very clearly. Disbelievers, on the other hand, feel free to engage in wicked deeds.

The morals of Islam eradicate from society theft, bribery, lying and murder. One who adheres to the morals of Islam lives by observing the limits of God and does not obey the evil whispered to him by his lower self.

Someone who does not live by the values of religion, on the contrary, always behaves as his own interests demand. This is exactly what leads the way to every kind of wickedness. For instance, stealing may well be in someone's material interest, but religion prohibits it. As a matter of fact, theft does harm to both the wronged and the wrong-doer. All somebody's savings can be stolen in a single night, while on the other hand, it may also cause the thief to have "pangs of conscience." For these reasons, religion prohibits such wickedness and opens the way to a beautiful and peaceful environment in this world.

At this point, a disbelieving person may come forward and say: "I do not have faith in God, but neither do I cheat." Indeed, it is quite possible that this person did not cheat throughout his life because of his principles. However, under certain undesirable circumstances, he may not be able to resist temptation and will then cheat other people. For instance, he may be in desperate need of money or he may be in an environment where cheating is considered acceptable. Various other circumstances may lay the appropriate "groundwork" for cheating and thus lead that person into sin.

However, religion strictly prohibits appropriating other people's property. A person who lives by the principles of religion never attempts to cheat other people. Cheating is a form of injustice which is condemned in many verses:

Do not swallow up one another's property by false means, nor offer it to the judges as a bribe, trying through crime to knowingly usurp a portion of other people's possession. (Surat al-Baqara: 188)


The Qur'an Demands the Allocation of Responsibilities Among the Informed and Experienced

In our day, the major reason why so many problems remain unsettled is the fact that the people who are assigned to deal with them have neither the qualifications nor the talent to handle them. In societies where the commandments of Islamic morals are not applied, there are many people who lack even the essential skills their responsibilities require. Moreover, even if they possess the skills, they lack the commitment to work for the good of others or to serve humanity. Often, the criteria upon which individuals are assigned to particular positions are not their experience or skills, but mutual self-interest and privilege.

For instance, when the owner of a factory dies or retires, his son generally assumes the responsibility for managing the factory. When this decision is made, however, whether the heir possesses the knowledge and skills to manage a factory is not considered. Moreover, he may have a dislike for the job. Yet, since another job might not provide the success, security and respectability he looks for, he unwillingly assumes the responsibility. Given this background, he fails to handle even the minor problems arising at the workplace or take timely corrective measures, a situation which causes more dramatic problems in the course of time.

However, in an environment where Qur'anic principles are adhered to, such problems never appear, since the Qur'an commands believers to give tasks and responsibilities to those people who possess the skills and knowledge the particular tasks require:

God commands you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what God exhorts you to do! God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Surat an-Nisa': 58)

One who has faith in God and lives by the principles of religion is mindful of the commandments of God. Therefore, a society of faithful people, is made up of "those who honour their trusts and contracts; those who stand by their testimony." (Surat al-Ma'arij: 32-33) There, everyone carries out his responsibilities to the best of his capabilities.


The Morals of Islam Rid Mankind of Infidelity and Disloyalty

Many old people today are left to the care of institutions or simply abandoned on the street. This is one of the consequences of societies that lack belief, in which human beings are considered worthless.

Religion teaches man the concepts of reliability and fidelity. It would be quite wrong to expect these concepts to endure in a society where the values of the Qur'an do not prevail, since the individual remains faithful to others in all circumstances-in times of difficulty and trouble as well as good times-solely when he endeavours to earn God's approval. Otherwise, if one thinks that one will not give account for his deeds and be punished for one's wicked acts, one would simply be driven by one's own interests and become a wholly selfish creature.

Society abounds in examples. People fall away from one who retires from a respectable position, from the celebrity who no longer attracts people's attention, and from the wealthy man who goes bankrupt. Similarly, one afflicted by a deadly disease bitterly feels the loss of his friends as they desert him. In newspapers, it is possible to read about examples of unfaithfulness every day. For instance, in business life, partners cheat one another. In such interest-ridden relations, it is possible to witness all sorts of immoral behaviour, since money is of the greatest significance in daily life.

Friendship is another social phenomenon where infidelity is commonly experienced. In disbelieving societies, people tend to leave even their closest friends once they believe another friendship would prove to be more fruitful. Many people surely have suffered the loss of their friends for similar reasons. The same is also true of marriages. Couples elope or deceive one another for trivial reasons. They are able to act so irresponsibly because, according to their flawed rationale, the wicked deeds they commit will remain hidden, since nobody witnesses them. Therefore there is nothing to hinder them. In brief, in most relationships in disbelieving societies, there is disloyalty and infidelity, which make people develop a hesitant approach to one another.

The distorted rationale of disbelieving societies is not limited only to these examples. People renowned for their fame or beauty, enjoying the love of thousands of fans, dramatically lose this love and remain all alone when they grow old and lose their charm. In most cases, they await death in poverty and loneliness. All of a sudden, the fans, friends and press surrounding them simply disappear. This is a bitter yet unchanging facet of the type of life they lead…

The belief governing the lives of people who have no faith in God maintains that man evolved from ape-like creatures as a result of a random process. That is why one's physical appearance and prosperity are the principal values that make one distinguished in society. Once these values disappear all credit in the eyes of others goes too. Surely, this philosophy disallows attaching importance and value to a being who evolved from an ape-like creature. All the attention is given to the money and fame that one possesses. Younger, more beautiful and popular people replace the aged, and society puts aside the latter since it no longer needs them. The rest of society is also made up of people who assume they came from apes and will end up as dust. Since their philosophy does not demand values like fidelity, people leave their old parents to the care of institutions, forgetting that, once upon a time, it was these old people who brought them up. Worse, these aged people are treated badly in many of these homes.

People who live by the values of the Qur'an are very loyal to one another, for they believe in the hereafter which will last for all eternity. The morality of the Qur'an is the only solution to problems of all kinds.

As is evident, a heart deprived of religious values can make a man assume an uncaring or violent attitude even towards his own parents. Infidelity permeates all sorts of human relations. This social problem which injects trouble and pain into the human soul can be solved only by observing the values of religion. When people adhere to the principles of Islam, they no longer see one another as worthless. An individual's marks of distinction are surely neither his good looks nor his possessions, nor his status. His fear of God and the moral perfection he displays are what make him precious. The body is but a temporary favour given to man. Man is here in this world to be tested. He will live a short life, then go to the eternal abode of the hereafter. In the hereafter, he will be judged according to his moral qualities. That is why only good character matters. God demands that His servants be faithful to one another and, accordingly, this is what believers derive pleasure from.

When Islamic morals prevail, the best examples of loyalty and faithfulness are witnessed. Children cherish their parents. No matter how old they are, parents, artists, scholars, people who served their countries are held dear. Young people do not leave their elder family members alone in their old age. They frequently visit them and do their best to help them. In such a society, friendships last for a lifetime. More than friends, people become like brothers and sisters. Moreover, in times of sickness, difficulty or trouble, people see helping each other as the best way to earn God's approval. Couples, who plan to marry, maintain the continuity of their relationship in the remembrance of God. Having faith in the existence of an everlasting life after death, they display complete devotion to each other. This devotion never changes according to circumstances, for instance, even if one of them becomes disabled, aged or a bedridden patient. For instance, a man's devotion, love and respect for his wife, remains undiminished, even if she loses all her charms at an early age due to burns on her face. This is merely because believers hold the "spirit" dear and nothing else. Indeed, patience shown in such times of trouble becomes more pleasurable for believers. The following words of the Prophet (saas), explains the loyalty of believers to one another very well:

A Muslim is a Muslim's brother; he does not wrong him or abandons him. If anyone cares for his brother's need, God will care for his need; if anyone removes his brother's anxiety, God will remove from him one of the anxieties of the Day of Resurrection. (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)

This understanding of devotion holds true for business partnerships and all other sorts of relations entered into by believers. Keeping promises and fulfilling contracts are typical traits of the reliable character of believers. In a society where the values of the Qur'an do not prevail, it would be unwise to expect people to keep their promises and be loyal.

One point deserves mention here: someone may claim that he would never break his promises or demonstrate disloyalty, despite the fact that he has no faith. It may indeed prove true that he is never guilty of unscrupulous behaviour throughout his life. However, as we mentioned earlier, conditions may change in such a way that he thinks he can advance his interests. In this case, he cannot but be tempted by the allure of the new conditions. However, whatever the circumstances may be, believers never dare to assume an attitude which displeases God.


Peace and Security Prevail where People Adhere to the Way of God

God advises man to live in an environment where peace and security prevail. In such an environment, rage or anger and other immoral attitudes do not exist since they are prohibited by God.

Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people-God loves the charitable. (Surah Al 'Imran: 134)

Those who avoid major wrong actions and indecencies and who, when they are angered, are willing to forgive. (Surat ash-Shura: 37)

The Prophet Muhammad (saas), also called upon believers to control their rage in many of his sayings:

The strong man is not the one who overcomes others with his strength, but the one who controls himself while enraged. (Al-Bukhari)

God thus describes the believers in the Qur'an and believers are meticulous about not acting to the contrary. That is merely because they base their entire lives on the earning of God's approval. In every word they speak, every attitude they assume and every step they take, they simply endeavour to do that which most pleases God. God demands a mode of behaviour which is even superior to "good morals" and defines this excellent mode of behaviour to be "the best." In many verses, God draws attention to this:

Tell My servants that they should say whatever is politest… (Surat al-Isra': 53)

Repel evil with that which is best… (Surat al-Mu'minun: 96)

A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel (evil) with what is best and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will become like a bosom friend. (Surah Fussilat: 34)

In the Qur'an God commands, "Ward off evil with what is better." Self-control and calm, whatever the conditions and circumstances may be, are attitudes praised by God in the Qur'an.

In an environment where people adhere to the principles of the Qur'an, everyone endeavours to develop "the best" manners. In such an environment, peace and tranquility become a natural way of living. Anger, conflict, disputes and rage simply disappear. Believers never stoop to display such crude manners. Neither in family life, in business, nor in traffic congestion does one see these unfavourable reactions. Such imperfect manners, deemed to be perfectly acceptable by other people, are indeed embarrassing for believers.

When Islamic morality is strictly adhered to in a society, a naturally peaceful atmosphere becomes prevalent. In a contrary situation, people suffer restlessness and trouble. There is not a single mechanism to stop a person who do not live by the principles of religion from engaging in unfavourable conduct. It is most likely that such a person would experience altering moods, since he behaves under the influence of his whims and desires; at an unexpected moment, he may simply become angry, behave in a degrading manner towards others or even resort to violence. In fact, feeling rage is an explicit sign of individual and social restlessness. As stated earlier, this is a state frequently experienced among couples, friends, in business life or family relations. There are very few people who do not become annoyed when they feel things are not going well, when they feel under pressure or their interests are at stake. In such a society it is really hard to live in peace. Its members hardly consider how others feel. Not many people imagine that the person with whom they are angry may be exhausted, sleepless, sick or have a problem. People are only human beings, and they may frequently have faults. It is nonsense to react to others by insulting them or even fighting with them over minor faults. However, in disbelieving societies, an over-cooked meal, a stained shirt or late service at a restaurant may well become reasons to become involved in a dispute. Conversely, the members of such societies may simply remain indifferent towards unjust behaviour if its consequences do not affect them negatively.


The Morality of Islam Grants a Balanced State of Mind

Those who adhere to the values of religion acknowledge that everything that occurs is under the control of God and hence they submit themselves to Him. This awareness provides them with spiritual balance. Good or bad, no incident makes them lose their control. They do not display sudden reactions. They are not misled by their emotions and so they conduct themselves rationally in all circumstances. That is why they are very trustworthy people. Particularly in times of hardship and trouble, they take the most sensible precautions and minimise the possible damage they and the people surrounding them are likely to suffer. Being instructed in the principles of the Qur'an-the guide revealed by God to humanity-believers reflect Qur'anic moral conduct in all their behaviour and attitudes. Adhering meticulously to the commands of God and having a deep fear of God raise their consciousness and comprehension remarkably. They are thus endowed with thinking and judgement faculties of a kind which lead them to the best of conduct and the mechanism of correct decision-making.

Surely being endowed with all these faculties, a believer does not feel panic, sorrow, hopelessness, or desperation. Nor does he become concerned at events which seem to be unfavourable and always conducts himself rationally. He resists difficulties and trouble and never gives up. Even in difficult times, he speaks most civilly to people and displays patience, which is a sign of a reliable and mature character. Having an inner faith in the fact that everything takes place under the control of God, a believer always keeps in mind the following verse:

Nothing occurs, either in the earth or in yourselves, without its being in a Book before We make it happen. That is something easy for God. That is so that you will not be grieved about the things that pass you by or exult about the things that come to you. God does not love any vain or boastful man. (Surat al-Hadid: 22-23)

Fear, restlessness and worry particularly affect those who do not live by the values of religion. An unstable personality is often the end result.

Failing to grasp these facts, however, those who do not live by the values of religion always feel concerned, fear, restlessness and suffer distress. Stress makes them mentally and emotionally unstable. For someone looking from the outside, their mood is quite disturbing. Such people always experience distressing fluctuations in their mood. When they seem to be happy, they suddenly burst into tears. What makes them happy or sad is most of the time unpredictable. Sometimes they recall an unpleasant memory and feel sad. They easily fall into depression and do not hesitate to say that they are in a state of total depression. Now and then they think to commit suicide and even attempt it. Such people observe no limitations in their behaviour. They also have no idea about right or wrong, or which behaviour is appropriate or which inappropriate, what makes sense and what does not since they are ignorant of the criteria laid down by righteous religion.

They do not put their trust in God, since they are uninformed about religion. They are simply unaware of the fact that what God creates is in one's faith, that everything occurs by the will of God and that everything created, no matter whether good or bad, are but to test man in this world. Not being in possession of the tenets of righteous religion, they never comprehend the real purpose lying behind the incidents befalling them. That is why they cannot assess them as they should. Attributing all incidents to coincidences, they always feel insecure, concerned and distressed. That is why they take wrong decisions and display inappropriate reactions. They feel regret for everything they do.

They cannot establish any healthy criteria about any subject; they feel extremely happy and become impulsive when things go as they like. They suddenly become arrogant and insolent. When they cheer up, they lose their self control and display humiliating behaviour and crude manners. They can do unexpected things; they may suddenly start yelling or cry for joy. When they feel enraged, they may talk bluntly or become aggressive.

Such manners, however, are not limited to particular people of certain strata of society. In societies where the morality of religion does not prevail, even people who seem most mature, educated, and sensible are prone to lose their self-control and misuse their talents by bending them to evil purposes. It is commonly witnessed how such people condescend to mean actions or become aggressive when they feel their benefits are at stake or when things do not go as they wish.


People who Adhere to Religion Have a Strong and Resolute Character

...God sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and bound them to the expression of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. God has knowledge of all things. (Surat al-Fath: 26)

In ignorant societies even though people seem to be personally strong, they definitely have certain limitations. Under certain circumstances, they cannot resist their weaknesses. Even one who is known to be a person of strict principles may feel inclined to break his own rules when his benefits are in question. Under pressure, in times of trouble, difficulty or illness, or when they think there is nobody around to condemn them, they observe no rules or limits. They willingly accept attractive proposals, since there seems to be no serious reason not to abandon their principles and give in to their wishes.

Yet, as noted earlier, it is not important whether one has so far committed such a misdeed or not. The important point is that there is no binding reason whatsoever for someone who takes no notice of the values of religion which would prevent him from giving in to his selfish desires. Having no fear of God, such a person is lacking in the strength to adhere strictly to his will.

However, the situation is otherwise for someone who has a full comprehension of Islamic morals. Nothing breaks his determination to do what he believes to be true. The main reason for such determination is merely his profound fear of God. He is aware of the fact that God sees, hears, and knows everything he hides in his heart and feels that he is always in the presence of God. One who truly believes in God has a strong personality and will, and meticulously observes God's limits. He never dares to do something which displeases Him. No matter what he encounters in life, he shows an unflagging willingness to feel closer to God. This is related in the following verses:

…There are men who proclaim His glory morning and evening, not distracted by trade or commerce from the remembrance of God and the offering of prayers and paying to the poor their due; fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil, hoping that God will reward them for the best of what they did and give them more from His unbounded favour. God provides for anyone He wills without reckoning. (Surat an-Nur: 36-38)


Islamic Morals Remove Selfishness

…those who give in times of both ease
and hardship, those who control their
rage and pardon other people-God loves the gooddoers.

(Surah Al'Imran: 134)

It is not surprising that those who do not adhere to religious principles think only of themselves. This is, in fact, a philosophical prerequisite of the system in which they live. Willingness to make sacrifices, mercy, good morals are the values introduced by religion and only religion ensures that one will cherish them. Only those who believe in God and the life beyond and those who are aware of the fact that they will be taken to account in the hereafter can display moral perfection as described in the Qur'an. That is why, for a disbeliever, it is totally unlikely that he will display such a noble character. Moreover, it would be completely wrong for a disbeliever to say: "There are such selfish people out there but I am certainly not one of them." This is simply because, if one does not adhere to religious values, there is no alternative but to be selfish. The reason for this is no different from the underlying reasons for other types of immoral mindset; such as having no belief in the existence of the hereafter, having no conviction that each misdeed in this world will be punished in the hereafter and having no fear of God.

That is why; those who do not live by religious values pursue only their own interests and do not care about others. Their major expectation in life is to be wealthier, to improve their professional life, to attain better living standards... Meeting the needs of their close circle, those in need, the poor and the elderly or doing something for the benefit of society is generally the last thing that occurs to them. This is simply because; the disbeliever's assessment of life lacks an impetus to make sacrifices or to commit himself to displaying good character. The general attitude they observe in the people surrounding them is also no different; indeed, the whole of society behaves in more or less the same way. This general tendency of all people in society provides some sort of salve to the conscience.

In brief, in a society where religious values are nor upheld, selfishness is inevitable. Without exception, everyone is selfish.

However, man is tested in this feeling of selfishness which God has placed in the unregenerate self (nafs). God draws attention to this inclination in man in the following verse:

…But people are prone to selfish greed. If you do good and have fear for God, God is aware of what you do. (Surat an-Nisa': 128)

By and large, selfish people insist on the correctness of their own convictions even in trivial matters. What others need or want hardly means anything to them. If a selfish person is exhausted, for instance, he wants to sit down as soon as possible and never thinks of an elderly or a sick person next to him who needs a rest. Despite the existence of others, he is sure to take the best of everything. Giving others discomfort for the sake of his own comfort never disturbs him. He demands peace while he works, but fails to show respect for others while they work. His selfishness manifests itself in various ways, both in his family and business life.

In disbelieving societies too, there may be some people who are known for their good character. They may be very generous to the people surrounding them, for instance. However, the main reason why they do goodness is actually not to earn God's approval, but merely to be reputed to be virtuous. Being praised, appreciated and having a "good" reputation among people, for instance, are what they actually aim for. Besides, the contribution these people make to the poor is most of the time insignificant as compared to their income.

Idealists may also have the desire to assume responsibility or leadership. Their aim again is not to earn God's approval or serve other people. They simply chase after their own selfish whims and desires, seeking to gain prestige and reputation, and enhance their social standing. Most of the time when they feel their interests are at stake, they show their real character.

In societies where the values of religion are ignored, those who are known to be generous would actually be considered to be selfish when their "generosity" is compared with the sacrifices the believers make. What believers understand by the concept of self-sacrifice is very different from how disbelievers view it. Believers always prefer to meet the needs of others rather than their own. Deep in their hearts, they wish the best of everything for their brothers and sisters. This surely demonstrates the morals of the Qur'an:

They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives. (Surat al-Insan: 8)

Due to this moral sense, believers "fight in the Way of God-for those men, women and children who are oppressed." (Surat an-Nisa': 75)

Instead of thinking about only their own needs, believers assume the responsibility for everyone and consider the general good. The Prophet's saying, "By Him in Whose hand my soul is, a man does not believe till he likes for his brother what he likes for himself," (Al-Bukhari, Muslim) very aptly reflects this spirit of the believers.

Whenever religious values are pervasive, social relations will be based on sacrifice and thus many problems will disappear.


Islamic Morals Hinder Worldly Ambition

Only religion teaches the concepts of love, brotherhood and sharing, in the real sense, and it is again only religion that can perpetuate these concepts. This is due to the fact that the soul of man is prone to worldly greed and selfish desires. Since they do not make the hereafter their goal, people who are strangers to the values of religion endeavour to satisfy their unending ambitions all throughout their lives. God depicts such a man in the following verse:

Him to whom I have given great wealth and sons who stay with him, and whose way I have smoothed: yet he wants Me to add yet more! (Surat al-Muddaththir: 12-15)

In an environment where people do not live by the principles of religion, peoples' ambition becomes merely to have more possessions and money. Fierce competition always exists among the members of such society, whose members want to be the wealthiest, the most successful, the most beautiful, the most beloved or the most popular. They simply cannot stand others possessing good and beautiful things. Furthermore, they envy others, and aim to possess what they have. Even seeing others lose their possessions makes them happy.

With this greed comes a basic philosophy of life; these people see others not as beings whom God created and endowed with a soul, but as ordinary creatures who evolved from ape-like ancestors and who will ultimately be reduced to insignificance under the soil. By the same rationale, since man lives only once in this world, he should have the best of everything and his aim should be to pursue his ambitions. According to this perverted notion, it is nonsense to help others and fulfil their wishes and desires. Surely this flawed outlook causes man to drift into a mood of depression.

Know that the life of the world is merely a game and a diversion and ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children:
(Surat al-Hadid: 20)

Such a mood may seem quite typical and inevitable to someone who is unaware of the morality of religion. However, the fact is that it leads man into a difficult and stressful life, which is detrimental to the human soul. That is why; disbelievers never find real peace and happiness. Despite being legitimate, the wishes and desires of man have no end, since man is created to be a part of the eternal life in the hereafter. This life, however, is merely a place of trial specifically designed to be so flawed and inadequate as never to satisfy man's whims and desires. Those failing to grasp this essential secret of the test, due to their unawareness of the values of religion, strive to fulfil their desires in this world and hence continually feel displeased and unsatisfied. Never attaining real contentment, their lives turn into a nightmare. In a state of prosperity, they nevertheless suffer poverty. Failing to take pleasure in what they already possess, they give themselves over to the sorrow of not possessing whatever remains. This spiritual torture is, in a way, only the beginning of an eternal torment.

Religion commands man to share. Believers are brothers and sisters (Surat at-Tawba: 71) and seeing one's brother having good and beautiful things makes believers happy. Since everyone uses his skills and possessions for the cause of God, there exists an extensive cooperation and spirit of sharing. Individuals, acknowledging that man is a creation of God, value each other and treat one another respectfully and benevolently. In such a society, it is not possible even to talk of social injustice, struggle and disorder. The Prophet Muhammad's saying, "Wealth is not in vast riches but wealth is in self-contentment," (Al-Bukhari, Muslim) explains the source of peace in the believers' hearts.