The Causes Of Superficiality
The superficiality that some people display without feeling any discomfort in their consciences can be defined as a blemished, debased, degenerated culture of ignorance. Examining the behavior and thought patterns of the people who live within this debased culture, we see the serious deficiencies in their faith. Their childhood upbringing, their current environment, and the people they associate with strongly influence their adopting this debased superficiality. Taken altogether, these elements comprise a kind of culture that no sincere Muslim can ever adopt. This system shamelessly practices types of humiliating behavior unbefitting human nature and keeps its adherents from living the noble, honorable and respected life envisioned in the Qur’an. The following pages will examine why such people adopt this false Religion of Superficiality and some of the influences that keep them from living the good moral life that Allah commands.
Forgetting Allah and Favoring Others Draws People into Superficiality
As stated at the beginning of this book, the word superficiality makes most people imagine individuals who cannot speak compellingly, with weak personalities, insincere smiles and awkward behavior. However, superficiality has a far wider range. It is not only crude and insincere, but basically a moral aberration that arises when a person does not appreciate the power of Allah as he should. Therefore, anyone with such a character needs not behave in such an absurdly exaggerated manner.
The fear of losing the esteem of others, preferring to gain their affection rather than the pleasure, love, and assistance of Allah leads an individual to act superficially. Besides, when confronted by certain things that happen to him, this individual becomes panic-stricken. He complains, becomes angry, and reacts superficially because he is unmindful that these events are under Allah’s control. These are all indications of superficiality.
But some people, unaware of this, think that superficiality has nothing to do with them and see themselves removed from such danger. It may lead them into error that they are careful to practice certain rules of etiquette. However, a person who acts politely in certain situations may actually be living superficiality, because superficiality is not limited to behavioral aberrations.
For example, one who attaches too much importance to decorum politeness may believe that certain events happen by chance, the others he is dealing with are separate and independent of Allah (surely Allah is beyond that) and act according to their own wills. He may never act without first considering what others may think—a way of thinking that does not justly appreciate Allah, and which is reflected by the actions, reactions and conversations of this individual. Someone unaware of the Qur’an’s moral teachings may regard this behavior as wholly normal. But anyone who claims he is not superficial but who gets angry, weeps, and even becomes depressed for days when something undesired happens has a very superficial character and cannot understand the depth of faith as described in the Qur’an. A true Muslim knows that behind this behavior lies shallowness with regard to religion. Someone who knows Allah as he ought, knows the Qur’an and lives according to it, would never fall into such a state. Such untrusting behavior may indicate that an individual looks at events as separate forces, apart from Allah (surely Allah is beyond that), and does not realize that Allah is in control of everything.
As explicitly stated in the Qur’an, Allah is the One and Only god and He has infinite power:
Your god is One God. There is no god but Him, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful. (Surat al-Baqara, 163)
Everything, animate and inanimate, exists according to His will. Every human must understand this truth and consider it carefully. To think otherwise and to associate His creations with Him is a great sin as revealed in the Qur’an:
Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that. Anyone who associates something with Allah has committed a terrible crime. (Surat an-Nisa’, 48)
When we look into the Qur’an, we see that believing otherwise is one of the roots of superficiality in action and attitude. To act with the idea that any other being has the attributes of Allah brings with it artificiality in behavior, unnecessary refinement of manners, and meanness. Such an individual is given to anger, always pursuing small gains, trying to make others feel sorry for him or exaggerating his own importance. Having superior personal and moral qualities is characteristic of Muslims with nobility of spirit, who do not desire the things of this world and, in everything they do and think, turn only to Allah.
For example, if a person who is very knowledgeable assumes that his knowledge comes only from himself, his mind is superficial. This means that he has forgotten that the real possessor of all knowledge is Allah, that Allah has given him all the knowledge he has and can take it away whenever He wishes. Also, such a person does not consider that everyone, including himself, is absolutely helpless before Allah.
Another aspect of superficial thinking is that the ignorant admire such people. Their admiration is directed not only to knowledgeable individuals, but also toward attractive people, talented artists, sports figures and the wealthy. However, it is Allah Who has given them their beauty, talent, intelligence, and success. For example, when considering a person with material wealth, the important thing is not what he owns, but to realize he is a helpless servant of Allah.
Those with superficial understanding look to such people for help, forgetting that Allah is the ultimate possessor of all things, and feel an exaggerated and insincere sense of respect for these people. They ignore this truth that Allah reveals in the Qur’an:
. . . Those you worship besides Allah have no power to provide for you. So seek your provision from Allah and worship Him and give thanks to Him . . . (Surat al-‘Ankabut 17)
We are told in another verse that some individuals do not realize that Allah has given them everything they possess:
When harm touches man he calls on Us. Then when We grant him a blessing from Us he says, “I have only been given this because of my knowledge.” In fact it is a trial but most of them do not know it. (Surat az-Zumar, 49)
One striking example of such a debased character provided in the Qur’an is a man called Qarun, to whom Allah gave great wealth. But instead of thanking Him, Qarun became avaricious:
Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him treasures, the keys alone to which were a heavy weight for a party of strong men . . . (Surat al-Qasas, 76)
As this verse goes on to say, his people warned him about this:
. . . his people said to him, “Do not gloat. Allah does not love people who gloat.” (Surat al-Qasas, 76)
But despite these warnings, be became spoiled by the gifts given to him and began to think that he deserved them:
. . . “I have only been given it because of knowledge I have . . .” (Surat al-Qasas, 78)
From this verse, we can understand that Qarun ignored Allah’s generosity. In his arrogance, he claimed that his wealth came from his own abilities. Qarun’s superficiality can be seen in his avarice, overindulgence and from his own words. Among Qarun’s acquaintances, there were similar individuals who disregarded Allah, ignored the Afterlife and concentrated on this world. As revealed in the Qur’an, Qarun “. . . went out among his people in his finery . . . .” (Surat al-Qasas: 79). Allah tells us about the state of some of these individuals:
. . . Those who desired the life of this world said, “Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses.” (Surat al-Qasas, 81-82)
From this verse, we learn that these people admired Qarun. We can tell from their manner that they had a shallow way of thinking. We are told in another verse that devout, Allah-fearing and noble-spirited Muslims behave differently; they warn such ignorant people and remind them of the truth:
But those who had been given knowledge said, “Woe to you! Allah’s reward is better for those who believe and act rightly. But only the steadfast will obtain it . . . ” (Surat al-Qasas, 80)
But since superficiality prevents people from thinking deeply and seriously, these people were unaware of their own state as well as Qarun’s, right up until Qarun received from Allah the torment he deserved:
We caused the Earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not someone who is helped. Those who had longed to take his place the day before woke up saying, "Allah expands the provision of any of His servants He wills or restricts it. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the disbelievers are not successful." (Surat al-Qasas, 81-82)
From these examples, we can see that the correct course of action is to acknowledge that Allah alone has all intelligence, ability, wealth and knowledge, that His wisdom is infinite; and to praise and exalt Him for His wonderful manifestations in human beings. The Qur’an tells us that nobility among people lies solely in godliness:
. . . The noblest among you in Allah’s sight is the one with the most taqwa [godliness, fear of Allah] . . .” (Surat al-Hujurat, 13)
Muslims feel respect and appreciation for people only because of the good moral character they manifest. They know that only the absolute power of Allah is to be revered, that they can expect help from Him alone. This truth is revealed in the Qur’an:
They do not measure Allah with His true measure. Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj, 74)
Because deniers are immersed in superficial culture, they have a shallow way of thinking. They overestimate some individuals but cannot appreciate the substantial intelligence and profound ideas of others. Throughout history they have never appreciated the value of people with moral nobility, foremost the prophets. In their resentment, they have even been hateful and extremely aggressive to these blessed individuals for calling them to practice religious morality. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals the violence of their rejection:
They said, “Shu‘ayb, We do not understand much of what you say and we see you are weak among us. Were it not for your clan, we would have stoned you. We do not hold you in high esteem!” (Surah Hud, 91)
They deferred to some individuals and gave them esteem they did not deserve. Yet they did not appreciate the distinctive qualities, noble personality, faithfulness and moral character of the prophet Shu‘ayb (as) whom Allah loved and chose. They were just influenced and intimidated by those close to him. Because of the depravity of their denial, these people preferred to live in the debased culture of superficiality, completely divorced from moral goodness and humanity.
They Live a Life of Unawareness
The word unawareness refers to those who forget our Lord’s existence, disregard the realities of death and the Hereafter, give themselves over to worldly desires and passions and as a result, do not obey Allah’s sublime commands. We are told in the Qur’an that these people are content to evaluate things by their external appearance:
They know an outward aspect of the life of this world but are heedless of the Hereafter.(Surat ar-Rum, 7)
They do not consider that Allah has absolute sovereignty over all matters. A shallow way of looking at the world has become a culture for them, largely due to deficiencies in their faith. They cannot properly conceive of Allah’s infinite power and sovereignty; and this failure of theirs has endowed them with an unbecoming boldness to live in this culture.
If an individual understands that Allah sees him every moment, is aware of what he does and what he thinks, and that all this is recorded in his name in Allah’s presence, then fear of Allah will lead him to practice the moral teachings of the Qur’an. This will give him a special behavior and way of thinking that are easily recognized. This is a quality far removed from superficiality; it is a natural purity that resides in no culture apart from the morality of the Qur’an; and is seen in the dignity, penitence, faithfulness and conscience of the prophets. In this morality there is a definite heedfulness and awareness that leads an individual to be aware every moment of the existence of Allah and the Hereafter, and to seek His pleasure in everything he does. In every word he utters, he knows he is in Allah’s presence, and he lives with this idea constantly in his mind. Such a person could not possibly (unless Allah wills the contrary) demonstrate a superficial personality’s manners and expressions. He will take great pains to make sure that his choices, facial expressions, and tone of voice befit the dignity of a Muslim.
But a person lacking this awareness disregards the existence of Allah and the Hereafter for the most part of his daily life. Very often, he is literally hypnotized by his contact with others, the variety of events that happen to him, and the countless details that confront him. It never occurs to him that Allah has created these things as tests and that Allah can easily create all these details. On the contrary, he disregards Allah and concentrates merely on the details. He believes that everything that happens in his life is the result of chance, under no one’s control. As a result of these unaware ideas, he thinks that human beings are absolute entities, and that their reactions result from a chain of chance occurrences. Therefore, he adjusts all his expressions, reactions, way of life and future plans in favor of his relationships with others.
A person unaware of Allah’s existence and infinite power, or who is aware but sees nothing wrong with the false religion of superficiality, cannot truthfully say that he fears Allah. So it seldom occurs to him that he should make preparations for the next life. He does not hold the ideal of developing his personality and raising his morality to a level that will please Allah and be worthy of Paradise.
An Example from the Qur'an of a Person with Superficial Ideals: The Israelites who Followed Samaritan
Allah tells in the Qur’an about the general behavior of the peoples addressed by the prophets with regard to the Divine judgments. Many of their superior moral qualities are underscored, such as their patience, determination in faith and their trust and discernment in the face of the difficulties brought against them while they were conveying the message. In one story about the Prophet Musa (as) teaching the Israelites about the religion of Allah, the Qur’an mentions a person called Samaritan who, when Musa (as) was not among the people, seized the opportunity to incite spiritual corruption among them and urge them to worship idols. He then tried to distance them from their faith.
We are told in the Qur’an that Musa (as) left his people and went up to Mount Sinai to receive a revelation from Allah:
“Why have you hurried on ahead of your people, Musa?” He [Musa] said, “They are following in my tracks. I have hurried on ahead to You, my Lord, to gain Your good pleasure.” (Surah Ta Ha, 83-84)
The people did not have the Prophet Musa (as) to direct them. Samaritan seized the opportunity; the people were weak in their faith and open to suggestion, and he led them astray. They fell into strife and contention.
He [Allah] said, "We tried your people after you left and the Samaritan has misguided them." (Surah Ta Ha, 85)
While Musa (as) was receiving the revelation, he realized that his people had ceased following him. Returning to them, he reminded them of the world to come and Allah's promises to those with faith. Then he told them about the great trouble that would befall those who lost their faith in Allah's promises and the strife that would overtake them:
Musa returned to his people in anger and great sorrow. He said, “My people, did not your Lord make you a handsome promise? Did the fulfillment of the contract seem too long to you or did you want to unleash your Lord’s anger upon yourselves, so you broke your promise to me?” (Surah Ta Ha, 86)
At this, those who had departed from the truth by heeding Samaritan’s twisted incitements described what had happened after the departure of the Prophet Musa (as):
They said, “We did not break our promise to you of our own volition. But we were weighed down with the heavy loads of the people’s jewelry and we threw them in, for that is what the Samaritan did.” (Surah Ta Ha, 87)
As plainly said in this verse, Samaritan urged the people to throw their jewelry into the fire, throwing his own into the flames to prove that he was sincere. He persuaded the people with this insidious ploy. Those who were weak in faith or willpower were open to his rebellious suggestions; their moral character made them susceptible to abandoning the way of Allah, and they did not hesitate to do what Samaritan told them to. Despite the truths they had learned from Musa (as) and the miracles he had performed, they had no compunction in following the perverse suggestions of one of their own who had no power or authority. Then, using those molten ornaments, Samaritan made a statue of a calf. After that, he depicted this calf as (Allah forbid) their true deity. At the same time, in order to destroy the influence of Musa (as) over the people, he began to make some negative insinuations about him:
Then he produced a calf for them, a physical form which made a lowing sound. So they said, “This is your deity—and Musa’s deity as well, but he forgot.” (Surah Ta Ha, 88)
Allah reveals in the Qur’an that the idol made by Samaritan had no power; it had no strength or will to speak to them, to answer their questions or to do anything good or evil. But the people pretended not to recognize these plain facts and heeded Samaritan’s call:
Could they not see that it did not reply to them and that it possessed no power to either harm or benefit them? (Surah Ta Ha, 89)
Besides Musa (as), the people also had his brother Harun (as) as a prophet among them. When Musa (as) went up Mount Sinai, he put Harun (as) in charge of them. But the people put their faith in Samaritan’s calf statue and started to worship it; they did not listen to the warnings of Harun (as), even though he told them that the statue was a trial for them and that their true god was Allah, the Israelites did not listen. Although Harun (as) was a prophet, they rebelled and refused to obey him.
Harun had earlier said to them, “My people! It is just a trial for you. Your Lord is the All-Merciful, so follow me and obey my command!” (Surah Ta Ha, 90)
Later, to gain time they offered a lame excuse, such as should never be spoken to a prophet, for the evil they had done.
They said, “We will not stop devoting ourselves to it until Musa returns to us.” (Surah Ta Ha, 91)
In their ignorance and lack of intelligence, they imputed power to this statue that had been crafted before their own eyes and began to bow down to it. When Musa (as) came down from Mount Sinai and rejoined his people, he asked, “. . . What do you think you were doing, Samaritan?” (Surah Taha: 95). Samaritan replied, “ . . . I saw what they did not see. So I gathered up a handful from the messenger’s footprints and threw it in. That is what my inner self urged me to do”(Surah Ta Ha: 96).
Samaritan knew that some among the Israelites did not have the high level of consciousness that true religion gives and were basically out for their own gain. He also knew that they were not about to give up their worldly desires and he could take advantage of these weaknesses. Finding his opportunity in the absence of the prophet, he established a way to lead them back to their idolatrous lives. As we can deduce from his words “I saw what they did not see,” he presented himself as having special abilities; he wanted to satisfy his own passion for rank and position. But those who did what Samaritan said, instead of seeking Allah’s favor and obeying the prophet, accommodated themselves to the direction of an opportunist with worldly aspirations. Such people have small goals and basic ideals. Their morality is such that they take no pleasure in living as they should to win Allah’s favor. And at the least suggestion of worldly gain, they lose their faith.
Instead of following their prophet and waiting faithfully for the revelation of Allah, the Israelites followed the fabrications of some ill-intentioned individual and chose to pursue transient worldly gain. As we are told in the Qur’an, they did not obey Harun (as) but acted as unbelievers do toward the prophets:
Say, “Obey Allah and the messenger.” Then if they turn away, Allah does not love the unbelievers.(Surah Al ‘Imran, 32)
As you can see, those who pursue simple gains with no view to the Hereafter can be deceived with very superficial logic. It is no effort for them to abandon their faith. Their weak wills can be broken by the slightest suggestion. They can immediately fall into despair and be persuaded by nonsense. Their faith, not founded on the fear of Allah or a belief in the world to come, can be quickly shattered. Material things that they can see with their eyes seem more real to them than the endless blessings promised to them in the life to come. However, the blessings of Paradise that Allah has promised in the Hereafter will (Allah willing) keep their value and their beauty for eternity. About the perfect blessings of Paradise, the following is revealed in the Qur’an:
The people who guard against evil will have Gardens of Delight with their Lord. (Surat al-Qalam: 34)
Some people think that death is remote for them; they make the mistake of laying more importance on pursuing the simple material gains and worldly targets they set for themselves. But contrary to what they think, the reality of life in this world and its material goods are deceptive: “. . . The life of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion” (Surah Al ‘Imran: 185). In another verse, Allah describes the real nature of these material goods that are regarded as being so valuable. “. . . Say, ‘The enjoyment of this world is very brief. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil . . .” (Surat an-Nisa’: 77).
Instead of being subject to Musa (as), the people obeyed someone like Samaritan who deceived them with material things and false words. They listened to him, hoping to make some small gain in their Earthly lives. Because of this, they fell into a state of humiliation while still in this world. Allah intends every story in the Qur’an to teach and advise those of pure minds. This story has served as a reminder of such advice for every individual from the time of Musa (as) to the present.
In this way We give you news of what has gone before and We have given you a reminder direct from Us.(Surah Ta Ha, 99)
There is instruction in their stories for people of intelligence . . . (Surah Yusuf 111)
Anyone who takes this advice will never exchange his faith in Allah for some valueless worldly gain. He would never want to damage his faith by pursuing shallow goals or do anything that would cause him to lose the Paradise of the world to come. He determines his ideals with a view to please Allah and recoils from anything that He would not approve of. He does not adopt a way of life or a culture that would distance him from the life of Paradise. He would strenuously avoid it and wouldn’t want his friends and acquaintances to live in this way either. He would be afraid of demonstrating any behavior that showed an ignorant moral character or taking the responsibility for the negative effect such behavior might have on others. As we see in the moral character of Musa (as), he makes every effort for the faith and godliness of others as well. He does not want to abandon them mired in the debased and idolatrous culture of superficiality.
There is No Place in Their Lives for High Ideals
Muslims have great hopes for the Hereafter. The most important of these is the desire to enter the Paradise that Allah has prepared for the believers. But chief of all these hopes is that Allah will be pleased with them:
Allah has promised the men and women of the believers Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever, and fine dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. And Allah’s good pleasure is even greater ...(Surat at-Tawba, 72)
Paradise abounds in all the blessings that the heart desires. It is the abode of endless delights where any individual who practices the morality of the Qur’an desires passionately to live and expends every effort to attain. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that the most important thing for a believer is to please Him, Whose power is infinite. With this goal in mind, a Muslim improves his moral character every moment and sets his target higher every day so that he can develop his strength of character. For this reason, a sincere Muslim never regards his development as sufficient. He never gives up trying to develop himself and change any of those personality traits, habits and behavior that he regards as wanting. He is not content to limit his personality development by worldly comparisons. He has the will to improve his character every moment, and hopes to attain the maturity pleasing to Allah. He develops himself not by worldly measures but by the measure of Paradise, and prepares himself in the hopes that he will live among people with the kind of superior morality that Allah has been pleased to award the prophets. For this reason, his goal is always high.
However, as said earlier, those unaware individuals whose faith in Allah and the Hereafter is weak usually have their hopes squeezed within four walls. Anyone living in such a culture cannot easily share the high ideals of a Muslim. Such a person’s hopes are always limited by this world; he wants a nice house, a good job and family environment and standard of living. Segments of the population want only to attain these classic goals, and they work hard all their lives to attain them.
Someone who lives superficially without a good moral character may attain some or even all of these goals. Some people don’t even hesitate to display the wickedness in their hearts in order to attain those. For example, a person thinking only of himself and his loved ones may act selfishly and meanly to please them. He does not think about winning Allah’s favor; it is enough for him to work to satisfy his desires for worldly gain. He may never consider what return he will receive in the next world for the gains he has made in this one. However, a gain that satisfies a person’s Earthly desires may cause him eternal misery in the world to come.
Anyone who ignores the infinite blessings that Allah will give to his faithful servants in the next world and limits himself to transient material satisfactions of this world is practically blind to reality. In the Qur’an, Allah tells us that the gains of this world are passing: “. . . They rejoice in the life of this world. Yet the life of this world, compared to the Hereafter, is only fleeting enjoyment” (Surat ar-Ra‘d: 26). In another verse, He describes such individuals as: “… the people who trade the Hereafter for this world” (Surat al-Baqara: 86). In these words, this verse gives an important indication of how limited these people’s ideals are. They ignore the infinite blessings of Paradise that Allah has prepared for His faithful servants, preferring to be content with this world’s very short-lived material goods. This choice draws them into the debased culture of superficiality, to live in a shallow culture with limited ideals and as humans of low quality.
However, no one will escape the death that draws nearer and nearer. It is a great mistake to knowingly disregard the next life and limit one’s goals only to his own small world. Such a way of thinking is the choice of shallow-minded individuals who cannot see the plainest facts.
In determining his worldly hopes and ideals, a person must bear in mind that one day, somewhere, he will come face to face with death. When that day comes, all his worldly plans and ideals he strove to realize will mean nothing any more. Entering the next life, he will leave everything behind. Allah tells us that, when the time of death comes, an individual will come into His presence all alone, with nothing he possessed in this world:
You have come to Us all alone just as We created you at first, leaving behind you everything We bestowed on you . . . (Surat al-An‘am, 94)
For this reason, the most reasonable and right thing for a person to do is think like a Muslim and determine his Earthly ideals as a Muslim does. This is the only way a person can be saved from shallow-mindedness and from setting superficial worldly goals.
How People are Trained and Educated into This Culture
The superficial cues people take from their family environments, close friendships and social surroundings exert an important influence on the culture they live in. The process of education begins in the family and continues in school. The manner of thinking and behaving they acquire from people they associate with has a lifelong influence. If an individual raised in an ignorant society has not adopted the moral teachings of the Qur’an, the ill character acquired from his environment will remain unchanged.
Childhood observations play an important role in the acquisition of character. The culture a child learns from parents, relatives and friends deeply affects him. He remembers the good and bad things he observed in those around him during those years. Later, at a certain point, he imitates their behavior, reacting in the same way to similar occurrences and adopting the same expressions and manners. Up to a certain age, his likings, habits and behavior copy what he observes in others. Even if he is to be taught some new, useful, improved behavior, he may hesitate to follow such advice, claiming that it is not what he has learned from his mother, father or anyone else whose culture he has adopted.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an that some ignorant people insist on following the old practices of their ancestors:
They said, “No, but this is what we found our fathers doing.” (Surat ash-Shu‘ara’, 74)
When they are told, “Follow what Allah has sent down to you,” they say, “We are following what we found our fathers doing . . . ” (Surat al-Baqara, 170)
However, when a person reaches the age where he is able to distinguish right from wrong and consciously adopts the Qur’an as his guide, he will realize he is surrounded by a wicked, debased culture. With his fear of Allah and his moral understanding, he cannot fit into such a culture. He could never reflect this culture in his actions and understanding and for this reason, rejects being a part of it.
No matter under what conditions he has been brought up, his level of education or his physical appearance, a sincere Muslim responds with trust and gratitude to everything that Allah sends him. No matter how ignorant the culture around him, his high moral character easily raises him above it. The difference in such an individual’s appearance and behavior and his noble faith and spiritual quality are noticeable immediately. The finest examples are the prophets who have lived throughout the ages. For example, though his father was a shallow and aggressive idolater, Ibrahim (as) was an honored prophet whom Allah loved, chose as His messenger and made His friend:
. . . Allah took Ibrahim as an intimate friend...(Surat an-Nisa’, 125)
Ibrahim (as) never adopted the superficial culture of his society, but completely removed himself from it. He never accepted anything they told him or taught him; his personality was faithful, honorable and powerful, and he lived his life in a way so as to win Allah’s favor:
“I will separate myself from you and all you call upon besides Allah and I will call upon my Lord. It may well be that, in calling on my Lord, I will not be disappointed.” (Surah Maryam, 48)
Fallacious criteria that contradict the moral values contained in the Qur’an carry weight in ignorant morality. For example, a person will regard himself as having no value if he was brought up in a bad environment according to the norms of ignorance. If he lacks the wealth or fame that is seen as so vital in societies removed from religious morality, he will develop a false sense of being oppressed and inferiority complex. Because he sees himself in this light, he will not try to seek out what is good and beautiful. Because he has no faith, he seeks out what others regard as important and disregards what is valuable in Allah’s sight. As a result, he becomes weak and powerless, with little strength of will or personality. He has no response to negative ideas and suggestions that come to him. It is very easy for such a person to be influenced by negativity in his environment.
Without having the ability that faith gives to distinguish between right and wrong, a personality may be weakened by wrong information, wrong suggestions and wrong directions. This results in one who is insecure in his environment, whose behavior is shallow, with no sense of self-worth. Because of his situation, he never thinks that he should trust in Allah and be steadfast in acquiring a noble moral character. On the contrary, he becomes unable to understand or practice any other morality than the one formed by this debased culture.
But anyone living according to the moral precepts of the Qur’an thanks Allah for creating him as a Muslim. He knows that it is being a Muslim, having faith, intelligence and a godly conscience that gives a person value. None of his shortcomings leads him to act in an unseemly superficial way. On the contrary, they lead him to trust in Allah, correct his faults and shortcomings as much as he can, and behave in a way conforming to the Qur’an. Even if this person was brought up in a mean, selfish and aggressive environment, he will never react to occurrences as others do. But, as Allah says in the Qur’an, he is generous, gentle and good-natured.
. . . Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people . . .(Surah Al ‘Im ran, 134)
As we are told in the Qur’an, such people care for the needy in every situation. Instead of being overcome by anger, they forgive; and are humble in their demeanor. They never set themselves superficial goals; never forget the next world or develop ambitions that attach them to this one. They never exhibit the kind of moral behavior of those who pursue worldly gains with no care for winning Allah’s favor. The change they attain in their character by making the Qur’an their guide enables them to abandon everything they learned in their life of ignorance.
The Example of the Prophet Musa (as) and Pharaoh
Musa (as) grew up in the Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh wanted to present himself to his people as a deity (surely Allah is beyond that!); he inflicted a life of oppression on them under his cruel laws.
Some of Pharaoh’s character traits are mentioned in the Qur’an. He was an arrogant individual who claimed to be a deity (surely Allah is beyond that):
Pharaoh said, “Council, I do not know of any other deity for you apart from me.” (Surat al-Qasas, 38)
He continually exalted himself and belittled the people:
. . . he swayed his people and they succumbed to him . . . (Surat az-Zukhruf, 54)
From what is revealed in the Qur’an, we can also see that Pharaoh was mentally unbalanced. He desired power and wealth, and rejected the fact that Allah was the real Lord of his wealth. He was a tyrannical dictator who wanted to be extolled for his riches and material power.
Pharaoh called to his people, saying, “My people, does the kingdom of Egypt not belong to me? Do not all these rivers flow under my control? Do you not then see?” (Surat az-Zukhruf, 51)
Musa (as) was brought up in the house of someone with such a mindset. But he was completely different from the others because of his deep faith and awareness. He was a sincere believer with a superior moral character, and a moral understanding totally different from that of the surrounding community. Pharaoh and other deniers lived in moral laxity; they were praised for their possessions, were arrogant, and belittled and degraded others. They were self-satisfied, heedless, and their hopes and ideals were circumscribed by this Earthly life. Musa (as), however, was far superior with his morality and noble personality. In the Qur’an, Allah calls Musa (as) a “noble messenger”: “Before them We put Pharaoh’s people to the test when a noble messenger came to them” (Surat ad-Dukhan, 17). We can see that, unlike the bad moral character of Pharaoh, unique to deniers, Musa (as) had the kind of character proper to believers; he was a noble person. [For more detailed information, see Harun Yahya’s, The Prophet Musa (as)]
In stories related in the Qur’an about the lives of Musa (as) and other prophets, we can see that they lived among people with very different characters and beliefs. But the lives they lived and their personalities are examples of high morality, nobility and excellence. They built an indestructible wall between themselves and the ignorant cultures others lived in. With the superior awareness their faith gave them, they remained always apart from the debased culture that the majority had fallen into. Because of his conscience, as we said above, a person with faith would never accept being a part of such a culture no matter what circumstances he was brought up under. For him, living in such a way would not seem fitting. Even if he knew that he would cause consternation among his acquaintances and lose their affections, he would never allow a single thought or action of such debased culture to adulterate his character as a Muslim.
Those who live in the debased culture of ignorance may make themselves a lot of friends in their society. They may gain material means and form friendships based on profit. They may be deceived by the large numbers of people living shallow lives, and advance friendships with such people with the idea of increasing their own gain. They may think they can obtain power and respect by conforming to the majority—even if the majority is made up of those with debased moral characters. According to the Qur’an, however, this idea is totally wrong. In the following verses, Allah tells us that real excellence and nobility come from living the moral life of faithful Muslims and making friends with them:
Do those who take the unbelievers as protectors, rather than the believers, hope to find honor with them? Honor belongs entirely to Allah. (Surat an-Nisa’, 139)
. . . But all honor belongs to Allah and to His messenger and the believers . . . (Surat al-Munafiqun, 8)
For this reason, a faithful Muslim would never support this kind of moral behavior, even if it meant losing all the advantages and means at his disposal. He feels no need to conform to the situation and conditions he lives in. On the contrary, he does his best to create circumstances that will be pleasing to Allah. In return for this faithful and honorable character, Allah will reward devout Muslims both in this world and the Hereafter:
Those who believe and migrate and strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and themselves have a higher rank with Allah. They are the ones who are victorious. Their Lord gives them the good news of His mercy and good pleasure and Gardens where they will enjoy everlasting delight, remaining in them timelessly, forever and ever. Truly there is an immense reward with Allah. (Surat at-Tawba, 20-22)