Harun Yahya - Devoted To Allah - Life In The Society Of Ignorance
Devoted To Allah

Say: "My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds."
(Surat al-An'am: 162)

Life In The Society Of Ignorance

In the earlier sections, we mentioned that the main difference between believers and disbelievers is the formers' awareness of Allah's infinite might. We also talked about how a believer, who is aware of Allah's existence, must and does orient his entire life to earn the approval of Allah.

One of the most significant characteristics of someone who can appreciate Allah's might and thus reorients all his deeds to earn Allah's blessing, is his liberating himself from all beings other than Allah. Having his life focused on earning His approval and being a servant to Him, he develops a different outlook on the universe, which he knows is created and controlled by Allah. Since he considers Allah as the only deity, the false deities surrounding him lose their meaning.

In the Qur'an, this subject is stressed in the story of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (sas):

...He was a saintly man and a Prophet. Remember when he said to his father, "Father, why do you worship what can neither hear nor see and is not of any use to you at all?" (Surah Maryam: 41-42)

Since a believer seeks the pleasure of Allah alone, prays to Him, and beseeches only Him, he has become "independent" of all created beings. He does not feel the need to seek other people's pleasure, and does not pin his hopes on anyone other than Allah. The attainment of true freedom is, in fact, possible only through having a full grasp of this fact and turning towards Allah.

The lives of those lacking true faith, unlike those of the believers, are subservient to countless false deities. Such people devote their entire lives to gaining the approval of countless people, and when they seek help, it is from other people. In reality, however, the creatures a disbeliever idolises in his mind are nothing but weak "servants," just like himself. Indeed, these beings are far from fulfilling his desires, much less saving him. Death is, no doubt, the most obvious fact, revealing that these idolised beings can by no means be of any help. However, it would be too late to wait for death to grasp the imaginary nature of these deities.

The deadlock these people face is related in the Qur'an as follows:

They have taken [other] gods besides Allah [Alone], hoping that they may be helped. They cannot help them, even though they are an army mobilised in their support. (Surah Ya Sin: 74-75)

Disbelievers base their entire lives on this very distorted rationale. There emerges from this another important difference between believers and disbelievers: Believers adopt the criteria laid down by Allah as their only guidance. They observe the commands of the Qur'an, the just Book and the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas). Their religion is Islam, which is explained in detail in the Qur'an and is presented to us through the exemplary of the life of the Prophet (saas).

People who lead their lives in a state oblivious of Allah will surely accept the criteria laid down by the imaginary deities rather than the criteria set forth by Allah. Unlike Islam, the one and immutable law of Allah, theirs is a polytheistic religion. These people have various conflicting rules and goals imposed by society. This being the case, the polytheistic religions they abide by take various forms.

Some of them aim at money and power, while others desire a prestigious and influential status. Some aspire to find a "good spouse" and have a "happy family life." This diversity that engenders different life styles and accordingly different "religions" is, in fact, based on the failure to grasp Allah's existence and His limits.

However, man is, by nature, inclined to trust Allah and be a servant to Him. Unable to fulfil his infinite needs and desires by himself, by nature, he tends to turn to Allah alone. Accordingly, the nature of man is inclined to recognise Allah as his Lord:

So, as a pure and natural believer, set your face firmly towards the faith, Allah's natural pattern on which He made mankind. There is no changing Allah's creation. That is the true faith-but most people do not know it. (Surat ar-Rum: 30)

A sincere believer, who is not seized by the evil desires of his soul but who has faith in Allah, learns how to conduct himself throughout his life from the book revealed by Allah, and follows the prophets as his role models. The life of a believer is entirely different from that of a disbeliever. This aside, from the Qur'an and the sunnah of the Prophet (saas) a believer learns the facts of which disbelievers are utterly unaware. For example, Allah has given the glad tidings that for whoever observes his duty to Allah, He will provide a means of salvation:

… Whoever goes in fear of Allah-He will give him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect. Allah is all-sufficient for one who puts his trust in Him. Allah always achieves His aim. Allah has set a measure for all things. (Surat at-Talaq: 2-3)

A believer who duly acknowledges the power of Allah will dedicate his life to Him, because he knows that Allah will be enough for "whoever puts his trust in Him." This is expressed in the following Quranic verse:

He (Ya'qub) said, "My sons!… in no way can I save you from the might of Allah, for judgement comes from no one but Allah. In Him I put my trust, and in Him alone let the faithful put their trust." (Surah Yusuf: 67)

A believer who grasps this fact will see that his duty in this world is solely to fulfil Allah's commands. This is his duty and his "profession." He is merely responsible for striving in the way of Allah. He asks Allah for everything, because it is Allah Who gives everything to him. Man's purpose of creation is thus recorded in the Qur'an:

I only created jinn and man to worship Me. I do not require any provision from them and I do not require them to nourish Me. Truly Allah, He is the Provider, the Possessor of Strength, the Sure. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 56-58)

Consequently, it is unlikely that a believer, who displays the morals praised in the Qur'an, can have "fear of the future" in his heart. This fear is peculiar to those who perceive life as a struggle among millions of independent false deities. Unaware that all events take place under Allah's control, in compliance with destiny, they assume that they need to put up a struggle to survive. They believe that they will benefit by "stepping on others" and "abusing them" to achieve their own ends and satisfy their personal interests. Indeed, their thinking matches what they receive…

Said Nursi explains how man fails to understand that his real duty is to be a servant to Allah and adds:

"… They unwisely concluded that life is a struggle."

This rationale, subscribed to by those who do not live according to the values of the Qur'an, is one of the fundamental tenets of their religion. It is due to the rationale in question that these people always suffer feelings of distress and tension:

- The majority of these people, unlike believers, are selfish, self-seeking people whose only concern is to benefit themselves.

- They lack the delicate disposition that develops with self-sacrifice. Their love is based on gaining advantage; they love a person not because of his good values or attributes but because it is in their interest to love him.

- Those whom they consider to be their loved ones, too, approach them with the same rationale, which creates a relationship bereft of loyalty. They always feel concerned about the potential unfaithfulness of their partners, since they know that at any time they may find others who are wealthier or more beautiful…

- They are consumed by jealousy, a trait that prevents them from taking pleasure in beauties and blessings. For example, instead of taking pleasure in someone's beauty and saying "How beautifully Allah has created him or her," they feel restless and ask, "Why am I not as good looking and beautiful as him or her?"

- They do not feel grateful to Allah or are not contented with their blessings. With such a disposition, they always want to possess more. This insatiable desire becomes a constant source of uneasiness.

- Unable to accept their feebleness and weaknesses, they do not ask for help from Allah. They assume they will get rid of their weaknesses if they turn away from Allah haughtily without asking Him for help. However, this is not the way to get rid of their weaknesses. At this time too, they turn to others and pin their hopes on them. Yet those they turn to are also weak individuals who only think about their own benefit. Moreover, they are far from being merciful and compassionate. This being the case, they often feel "depressed," and lose their spirit through a failure to satisfy their expectations.

- They lack forgiveness and tolerance. For this reason, even a minor disagreement among them is likely to develop into a clash or conflict. Most of the time, each party makes it a matter of pride to refuse to accept being the one in the wrong. For this reason, they often feel distressed.

- They do not believe that they live in a world under Allah's protection and control, but rather in a ruthless jungle where they have to "defeat" others to survive. According to their misguided idea, they assume they have to develop a tough, aggressive and egoist character to be able to survive in this "jungle." Indeed, their attitude matches what they encounter. They are either, as the society of ignorance calls it, swallowed up, as in the example of the "small fish," or they grow into a "big and cruel" fish and swallow others.

These laws apply to almost all societies where people do not experience true faith, and behave according to the mistaken morality described above. The Qur'an calls these societies "ignorant and behavent," because they are entirely unaware of Allah and the hereafter.

The Qur'an tells us that the Prophet Musa (as) described the sons of Israel, a tribe that never exercised wisdom or submitted themselves to Allah, as ignorant:

We led the tribe of Israel across the sea and they came upon some people who were devoting themselves to some idols which they had. They said, "Musa, give us a god just as these people have gods." He said, "You are indeed an ignorant people.

What these people are doing is destined for destruction. What they are doing is purposeless." He said, "Should I seek something other than Allah as a deity for you when He has favoured you over all other beings?" (Surat al-A'raf: 138-140)

However, as mentioned earlier, "the society of ignorance" is not of a uniform nature. Though generally called "ignorant," there may be different sections in a given society, all displaying varying characteristics. The society is commonly segmented according to the degree they have attained the criteria-economic power being the foremost-set by the society itself.


The Criterion by which to Appraise People in the Society of "Ignorance"

Muslims take "taqwa" (awe or fear of Allah which inspires the individual to be on guard against wrong actions and eager for ones which please Him) as the only criterion by which to appraise people. As the Prophet (saas) said, they know that "the most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is most excellent." (Tirmidhi) In ignorant societies, however, which are made up of people with no faith, "money" is considered the main criterion by which to form an opinion of others:

This being the case, many distorted rationales appear in ignorant societies:

- A rich person, albeit indecent and corrupted, is paid respect.

- Due to this rule laid down by society, one who is "rich but indecent" believes himself actually to be an "estimable" person.

- Because society attaches so much importance to "money," the poor lack self-confidence. This attitude of the poor becomes most obvious when they are among the rich. A poor person may well recognise that he is superior to the rich man next to him because the latter is depraved. However, under the influence of ideas instilled by society, he is unable to overcome his feelings of inadequacy.

- In the society of ignorance, where the possession of "money" is a highly estimable criterion, moral degeneration prevails. Such corruption appears in various forms, such as bribery, abuse of authority or forgery, and is almost totally incorporated into daily life. Since the successful amassing of money is the most important value, all methods rendering the making of money possible, no matter how immoral and unjust they may be, are legitimised.

The story of Qarun in the Qur'an best describes the "money-oriented" stance of the society of ignorance:

Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him such treasures that their very keys would have been too heavy a weight for a band of strong men. When his people said to him, "Do not gloat. Allah does not love people who gloat. Seek the abode of the hereafter with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your share in this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the land. Allah does not love corrupters." he said: "I have only been given these riches because of the knowledge I have." Did he not know that before him Allah had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far more possessions? The evil-doers will not be questioned about their sins. He went out among his people in all his finery. Those who desired the life of the world said: "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses." But those who had been given knowledge said: "Woe to you! Allah's reward is better for those who have faith and act rightly. But only the steadfast will attain it." We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, nor was he able to defend himself. Those who had longed to take his place the day before began to say: "Allah gives abundantly to whom He will, and sparingly to whom He pleases. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the disbelievers are not successful." As for the abode of the hereafter, We shall grant it to those who do not seek to exalt themselves in this world or to cause corruption in it. The successful outcome is for those who fear Allah. (Surat al-Qasas: 76-83)

As can be understood from the verses, Qarun and those who envied him were representative of a typical society of ignorance. They failed to comprehend that Allah is the owner of everything and that Allah bestows possessions upon whoever He wishes. Qarun thought that the wealth he possessed had been given to him because of his superiority. But this was not so.

- Because Allah creates every being, He is the real owner of everything. In this sense, one who owns something may be considered as a "trustee," temporarily taking care of a possession which actually belongs to Allah.

- Blessings bestowed upon people are given to them not because they are superior or because they possess something important. These blessings are given to man as a favour or as a trial. What is expected of him in return is not to grow "arrogant" but to be "grateful" to Allah. If one fails to understand this, the property he owns brings him neither happiness nor salvation in this world and in the hereafter.

- Property is not given so that one can "hoard" it and be parsimonious. Allah gives property to man so that he may use it in Allah's way. The end of those who do otherwise is stated in the Qur'an as follows:

Those who are miserly with the bounty Allah has given them should not suppose that that is better for them. No indeed, it is worse for them! What they were mean with will be hung around their necks on the Day of Rising. Allah is the inheritor of the heavens and the earth and Allah is aware of what you do. (Surah Al 'Imran: 180)

- While spending the wealth bestowed upon him by Allah, the individual must use it wisely to attain the approval of Allah, without fearing the exhaustion of his resources. In the Qur'an, Allah draws attention to this danger and reminds us that Satan threatens man with "poverty" (Surat al-Baqara: 268) It is further stated that Allah repays whatever is spent in His way. The relevant verse about this issue is as follows:

Say: "My Lord gives abundantly to whom He wills or sparingly to whom He pleases. But anything you expend will be repaid by Him. He is the Best of Providers." (Surah Saba': 39)

The story of Qarun in fact reveals a general attribute of the society of ignorance. A closer examination of the story reveals that Qarun could actually be representative of a character in the society of ignorance that embodies rich and prestigious people.

In the relevant verses, reference is also made to those who envy Qarun. These people have the very same ignorant rationale as Qarun and fail to understand that the real owner of property is Allah. So, they attach great importance to Qarun and his wealth.

Those who can distance themselves from the inculcations of society are the true believers:

- Because the criterion of believers was not money but faith and because they knew all property belonged to Allah, they realised that it was unwise to envy Qarun. Furthermore, they understood that he was certainly in a pitiable position.

- Unlike the members of the society of ignorance, they did not say: "Allah gives abundantly to whom He wills, or sparingly to whom he pleases" after Qarun's death, but comprehended this fact right at the beginning.

A similar situation is related in the story of "the owners of the vineyards." The distinction between a man who is given plenty of blessings and property, as is in the case of Qarun, and a believer, who believes in Allah and observes his duty to Him, is related in the Qur'an as follows:

Give them this parable. Once there were two men, to one of whom We gave two gardens of grape-vines and surrounded them with date-palms, putting between them some cultivated land. Both gardens yielded their crops and did not suffer any loss, and We made a river flow right through the middle of them. He was a man of wealth and property and he said to his companion, which conversing with him, "I have more wealth than you and my clan is mightier than yours." He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying, "I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour of Doom will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return." His companion, with whom he was conversing, said to him, "Do you then disbelieve in Him Who created you from dust, then from a drop of sperm, and then formed you as a man? He is, however, Allah, my Lord, and I will not associate anyone with my Lord. Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say, "It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Allah"? Though you see me with less wealth and children than you possess, it may well be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden and send down on it a fireball from the sky so that morning finds it a shifting heap of dust, or morning finds its water drained into the earth so that you cannot get at it."

The fruits of his labour were completely destroyed and he woke up wringing his hands in grief, rueing everything that he had spent on it. It was total ruin with all its trellises fallen in.

He said, "Oh, if only I had not associated anyone with my Lord!" There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was unable to defend himself. In that situation the only protection is from Allah, the Truth. He gives the best reward and the best outcome. (Surat al-Kahf: 32-44)


The Leaders of the Societies in Which the Possession of Money is the Criterion

In almost every story in the Qur'an, Allah mentions a group of people to whom Muslims convey His message. However, instead of reforming them, the communication of the true religion makes these people grow arrogant and oppress believers. The Qur'an gives an account of the attributes of this group of people that appear in almost all stories of prophets.

In the Qur'an, this segment of society is defined with phrases such as "arrogant chiefs of the people," "those who led lives of ease," "those persisting in immense wrongdoing" and "those who were unjustly proud in the land." Their common quality is their employment of power and possessions to revolt against Allah and to make mischief on earth. In the Qur'an, "the leaders" are described in Surah Saba':

We never sent a warner into any city without the affluent people in it saying, "We reject what you have been sent with." They also said, "We have more wealth and children. We are not going to be punished." (Surah Saba': 34-35)

- The "possessions and children" given to these people added to their arrogance and denial of Allah:

The 'Ad were arrogant and unjust in the land, without any right, saying, "Who has greater strength than us?" Did they not see that Allah, Who created them, had greater strength than them? But they renounced Our Signs. (Surah Fussilat: 15)

- This segment of society harbour a deep-seated enmity against those who believe in Allah. Similarly, believers often receive the strongest reaction from these people "who lead lives of ease." These people, averse to submitting to Allah and using their possessions in His way, nurture resentment and hatred of believers. Due to the hatred they felt for believers, some of them even tried to "do away with" them:

The ruling circle of those of his people who were arrogant said, "We will drive you out of our city, Shu'ayb, you and those who believe along with you, unless you return to our religion." He said, "What, even though we detest it?" (Surat al-A'raf: 88)

Examples of such people, who are extensively referred to in the Qur'an, also exist in today's societies.

Once we consider the main qualities of "those who lead lives of ease," as mentioned in the Qur'an, the subject becomes self-explanatory, because there are striking parallels between the qualities of "those who lead lives of ease" and of some members of a certain segment of society who have adopted the values of the ignorant. This segment of society is called "high society" almost everywhere in the world

The life led by some of the members of this community who enjoy a standard of living far above the average, is quite degenerate.(Of course, there are those with good manners as well as those with bad manners in this section of society). Parties extending from private bars to homes, shows based on a crude understanding of entertainment, young people ruined by drug-abuse, moral failings that irreparably disqualify individuals from being decent and reliable, excessive drinking, extravagant spending, etc., are presented as "natural" in this unbridled social ambience… In this sense, in the guise of the sophisticated concepts of modernism or freedom, all forms of outrage, perversion and immorality are imposed upon people.

Some of the members of this community display all the characteristics of the perverted societies mentioned in the Qur'an: the homosexual practises of the people of Lut, cheating in measure, weight and calculation-a trait peculiar to the people of Madyan (Surah Hud: 84), mocking believers, as in the case of the people of Nuh (Surah Hud: 38), exploitation of people's material wealth by usury, as practised by the sons of Israel. (Surat an-Nisa': 161)

The members of this section of society, having no quality other than their love of luxury, display a life of moral deficiency, while average people can barely earn a living, although they work hard and decently. These people who spend huge sums of money, far above the salary of an average person, in a single night cause great spiritual harm to society at large.

At this point, we need to recall that the Qur'an informs us about the end of the "chiefs who lead their lives in ease," unless they repent and are resolute in their renunciation of such a life:

But then when We seize the affluent among them to punish them, they will suddenly start praying fervently We shall say: "Do not pray fervently today. You will not receive any help from Us. (Surat al-Mu'minun: 64-65)


Morals in the Society of Ignorance

The morality of believers described in the Qur'an is based on fear of Allah and His approval. Since the members of the society of "ignorance" do not establish their value judgments on piety, their moral values are also distorted.

Since the society of "ignorance" is unaware of the infinite power of Allah, its members base their moral understanding on the criterion best expressed in the words: "What will people think about it?" Such an understanding permits the commission of morally unacceptable acts in an environment where no one hears or witnesses them. Alternatively, this immoral understanding is legitimised under a new title and form.

For instance, many people in the society of "ignorance" consider adultery immoral. Some of the individuals who commit adultery hardly dare to admit it. However, they generally do not avoid committing it, provided that not a soul witnesses it.

It is possible to observe various forms of this conduct in the lives of ignorant people.


The Desire to Live Forever

Say: "Death, from which you are fleeing, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible and He will inform you about what you did." (Surat al-Jumu'a: 8)

Unaware of the existence of Allah and the hereafter, the members of the society of "ignorance" behave "as if they will never die." In this society, death continues to be one of the words that is never pronounced. While making plans, death is ignored outright. They pile up fortunes as if the life of this world is perpetual. Since these plans pertain entirely to this world, those who recall death are labelled "killjoy."

This is one of the most evident indications of the distorted rationale upon which ignorant unbelievers base their lives. Since "every soul shall taste death" (Surah Al 'Imran: 185), a life based on feigning ignorance of death is surely established on a rotten foundation. However, man must employ his intellect:

- Since he is granted the desire to live forever, he must think why his life should be restricted to 60-70 years.

- He should recognise as an unwise rationale, the assumption that avoidance of the thought of death is a way to keep death at distance. This is behaving just like an ostrich with its head in the sand.

- He should grasp the fact that Allah, Who has shaped him into a most perfect body out of a sperm, has the might to recreate him and to give him a new life.

- Finally, he must keep in mind that Allah, Who promised and asserted in hundreds of verses that He would recreate him after death, will surely keep His promise.

All of the above will lead him to comprehend that death is not a form of disappearance, but a transition to the hereafter.

- In this case, he may also understand that fear of death is senseless. In fact, fear of death will not avail him; death is inescapable. Everybody will die at a predestined time. Those who fear death are warned in the Qur'an as follows:

…They are concealing things inside themselves which they do not disclose to you, saying, "If we had only had a say in the affair, none of us would have been killed here in this place." Say, "Even if you had been inside your homes, those people for whom killing was decreed would have gone out to their place of death."… (Surah Al 'Imran: 154)

Death, which is a door to the hereafter, brings bliss and salvation only to those who have spent their lives in compliance with Allah's good pleasure. For those who turned away from Allah, on the other hand, death means utter destruction and the beginning of a horrible disaster. The Qur'an informs us that once death comes, the regret felt by those who have forgotten Allah-as if they would never die-will be of no avail:

There is no forgiveness for people who persist in doing evil until death comes to them and who then say, "Now I repent," nor for people who die disbelievers. We have prepared for them a painful punishment. (Surat an-Nisa': 18)

When death comes to a wrongdoer, he says, "My Lord, send me back again, so that perhaps I may act rightly regarding the things I failed to do!" No indeed! It is just words he utters. Before them there shall stand a barrier until the Day they are raised up. (Surat al-Mu'minun: 99-100)

Everybody who has not devoted his life to Allah will live to suffer this regret unless Allah wills otherwise.

Consider that life is too short, that there is a real eternal life after the life of this world, and that one is entitled to attain eternal life, provided that he earns the approval of Allah in this world;

- We must concern ourselves with the real life, due to begin after death, more than with the life of this world, which is short and worthless next to the eternal abundance promised. That is why, believers who conceive of this fact are of those whose "sincerity has been purified through earnest remembrance of the Abode." (Surah Sad: 46)

- It is senseless to be deceived by the insignificance and deceptive allure of the world and become deeply attached to it. Neither possessions, nor beauty, neither power, family, nor fame can accompany a person to his grave. What is left in the grave is only a body wrapped in a shroud, which undergoes a rapid process of decay after burial.

- What will be taken to the hereafter are the good deeds and acts of worship done to earn the approval of Allah. There, the temporary blessings of this world (health, beauty, wealth and so on) will, in their most perfect forms, be given back to man for all eternity.

- One who fails to comprehend this fact and, remaining niggardly avoids spending his wealth in Allah's way, eventually ruins his eternal life in the hereafter and does harm to his own soul:

Here you are then: people who are called upon to spend in the Way of Allah and then some of you are ungenerous! But whoever is ungenerous to the cause is ungenerous to himself. Allah is Rich and you are poor. If you turn away, He will replace you with a people other than yourselves and they will not be like you. (Surah Muhammad: 38)

Those who fail to grasp this and become deeply attached to this world strive to attain a so-called "immortality," for which reason they desire to "leave something in this world by which people may remember them." This desire appears in various forms:

- Some try to leave "works of art" behind, so that "their name may live on." About this attitude, the Qur'an says:

Will you build a tower on every hilltop, just to amuse yourselves, and construct great fortresses, hoping to live for ever? (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 128-129)

- This rationale best expresses itself in the desire to "raise children." Those who place no hope in the hereafter wish to have children who will carry the family name into the future. This is mainly the reason why families prefer sons.

It is stated in another verse that the desire to "have children" is merely part of the temporal pomp of this world:

Know that the life of the world is merely a game and a diversion, ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children: like the plant-growth after rain which delights the cultivators, but then it withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the hereafter there is terrible punishment but also the forgiveness of Allah and His approval. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid: 20)

Of course, it is most agreeable for people to desire to raise children with good morals. However, in the twisted system of the society of ignorance, the cause of this desire is not to please Allah but to satisfy their arrogance and to leave a permanent mark behind them in this world.

However, when we refer to the Qur'an, we witness the attitude of true believers; they ask for children from Allah only if this is necessary for the pleasure of Allah. Most of the prophets lived their lives without children since they did not have such an opportunity during their time and age and only asked for children from Allah when they grew too old and needed someone who would continue to communicate the message of Allah and advocate His religion.

Therefore, "having children" is necessary only if it complies with Allah's good pleasure. It is a great mistake to do this simply out of an instinctive wish to "outdo one another" and to continue their family names in the way that unbelievers do.


The Understanding of Religion in the Society of Ignorance

Such people as are described above, who fail to give Allah due appreciation and thus are "ignorant," have interpreted religion in accordance with their distorted rationale and beliefs. The resultant understanding of religion shows apparent deviations from the original religion as set forth in the Qur'an. The Qur'an defines the religion brought by the Prophet Muhammad (saas) as a religion that "relieves people of their heavy loads and the chains which were around them." (Surat al-A'raf: 157) and as the religion that "contains no difficulties in it":

…He has selected you and not placed any constraint upon you in the observance of your religion-the religion of your forefather Ibrahim. In this, as in former scriptures he named you Muslims… (Surat al-Hajj: 78)

In the Qur'an, Allah has summoned people to reflect and, recognising the erroneous beliefs and methods they hold, to turn to the lifestyle deemed to be appropriate by Allah.

The society of ignorance, however, feigning not to see the explicit and comprehensible message of the Qur'an, has, in the name of Islam, fabricated a religion bogged down in bigotry. Some of the characteristics of this distorted religion are as follows:

- The religion introduced in the Qur'an summons people to serve Allah alone and thus liberate themselves from the yoke of all other beings. Accordingly, since he is not obliged to seek other people's pleasure, man is only responsible for seeking Allah's approval. The people of the society of ignorance, however, have developed an understanding of religion not as a way to seek Allah's pleasure and hence liberate themselves, but as a social institution. This conceives of religion as a factor applying social pressure to people. Owing to this perception, this false religion has lapsed into a form, which is primarily concerned with "what people would say,"-an understanding far removed from true religion.

- Having such misconceptions about religion, the society of ignorance has to a great extent identified religion with tradition. Local customs and beliefs and cultural factors have been incorporated into the religion, and "being pious" has deteriorated into "adherence to one's forefathers' customs." The religion brought by the Qur'an and embodied in the exemplary life of the Prophet (saas), however, bears no similarity whatsoever to these. In the Qur'an, Allah commands man to take His limits and the sunnah of the Prophet (saas) as a measure and nothing else. Throughout history, the prophets had to struggle with those who attempted to deny the truth by quoting the beliefs inherited from their forefathers. The morality they displayed is indicated in the verse below:

When they are told, "Follow what Allah has sent down to you," they say, "We are following what we found our fathers doing." What, even though their fathers did not understand a thing and were not guided! (Surat al-Baqara: 170)

The same theme is repeated in Surat al-Ma'ida: 104; Surat al-An'am: 91; Surat al-A'raf: 28 and in many other verses as well.

- The members of the society of ignorance, who perceive religion as a social institution and identify it with traditions, have in consequence distanced religion from rationality. However, as the Qur'an informs us, being a Muslim entails being wise. Believers are always summoned to think, to enquire and thus see the verses of Allah. Faith and wisdom are interrelated; as a consequence of exercising wisdom one attains faith, and faith grows ever more profound as one continues to exercise wisdom. The society of ignorance, however, believes faith to consist of "beliefs" alone. They perceive blind adherence to traditional knowledge as faith, whereas wisdom is the key to having a grasp of Allah's existence and His attributes. That is why faith in Allah in the society of ignorance is of a rather weak nature. In order not to shake this anti-Qura'anic, feeble faith, they have developed an irrational stance which implies that, "pondering too much over religious issues may be harmful to one's faith."

- This rationale, stemming from ignorance, sees no harm in introducing new principles to religion and making unlawful what is lawful.

The Qur'an frequently draws attention to this "prohibitive" rationale that disturbs many people:

Say: "Who has forbidden the fine clothing Allah has produced for His servants and the good kinds of provision?" Say: "On the Day of Rising such things will be exclusively for those who had faith during their life in the world." In this way We make the Signs clear for people who know.

Say: "My Lord has forbidden indecency, both open and hidden, and wrong action, and unrightful tyranny, and associating anything with Allah for which He has sent down no authority, and saying things about Allah you do not know." (Surat al-A'raf: 32-33)

What is the matter with you that you do not eat that which has been consecrated in the name of Allah, when He has made clear to you what He has made unlawful for you, except when you are forced to eat it? Many people lead others astray through their whims and desires unchecked by any knowledge. Your Lord knows best those who overstep the limits. (Surat al-An'am: 119)

You who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things Allah has made lawful for you, and do not overstep the limits. Allah does not love people who overstep the limits. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 87)

- As a result of this degeneration caused by the society of ignorance, Islam is being presented as "a religion peculiar to the Bedouins (nomadic Arabs)." Yet the facts are otherwise. Prophets have always been the most civilised people of their time. They were cultured and enlightened people with refined aesthetic values. With his palace, which is known to have been an architectural masterpiece abounding in many exquisite places, the Prophet Sulayman (as) is one of the most outstanding examples cited in the Qur'an.

Being a Muslim means not being attached to traditional culture or taking pleasure in nostalgic values. It is certainly not being "oriental" or being attached to only one culture, either. Being a Muslim is to be a servant to Allah and to be grateful for the blessings granted by Him. It means striving to know Allah, drawing nearer to Him and becoming a human being with a noble character.

A true Muslim is one who seeks the approval of his Creator, Allah, the Almighty, and who has distanced himself from any material or spiritual expectation other than earning His approval.

This is the definition of a Muslim.