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
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
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:
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
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
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
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:
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
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:
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:
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
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
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
|...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':
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
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
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.