Fears and Obsessions of Ignorance
Ignorant people are unableto grasp the fact that it is Allah who has absolute power over all things. This is why, starting from childhood, they develop irrational fears about everything. Later in life, this fear becomes a permanent source of trouble and difficulty. Every incident they encounter in life becomes a sheer source of unmitigated anxiety; they are always rather vulnerable. They fear other people, for instance. Likewise, random events such as, earthquakes, lightning and tornadoes strike mortal fear into their hearts.
In the Qur’an, Allah gives the example of those who worship gods other than Allah:
Allah made this comparison: There are two men; one has several part-owners, who are always quarrelling, and the other belongs wholly to one man. Are the two equal? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know. You will die, and they will die; then on the Day of Resurrection, before your Lord you will dispute with one another.(Surah Al-Zumar: 29-31)
One can actually make a list of situations feared by the people steeped in ignorance with many gods. These are the situations they perceive to be a real threat to their well-being. Getting sick, being fired, going bankrupt, not getting married or not having any children, together with many obsessions, doubts, fears, images, thoughts or worries about the future turn their lives into a hellish state. Apart from these, they have recurrent thoughts and fears which they are unable to control, even though they realise them to be unnecessary and irrelevant. Superstitions are among these irrational fears; they fear darkness, for instance, they avoid black cats or walking under ladders, believing they bring bad luck.
In the following pages we will further examine various aspects of these fears and the confusion and loss they cause both in this world and the Hereafter.
Fear of Unfaithfulness
Ignorant people trust nobody, including their immediate family members. For them, it is quite likely that anyone can betray them one day once they feel their interests are at stake. Given the fact that they have not surrendered themselves to Allah like the people who adhere to the Qur’an, they are right about it.
Indeed, it would be wrong to expect complete reliability and faithfulness from someone who has no fear of Allah or belief in the Hereafter, since it is only faith in one’s heart that paves the way for truthfulness.
One essential measure ignorant people take to combat the baneful effects of unfaithfulness is not to put their trust in anyone. The lifelong fear of unfaithfulness almost becomes an obsession for them and manifests itself in popular phrases like, "Don’t even trust your father.
Always keeping in mind this phrase, they put their trust in nobody except themselves; still this is not a deterrent to the unfaithfulness of the people surrounding them. Every day, newspapers abound in various cases of unfaithfulness. In business life, partners cheat one another. It is not surprising to hear that an accountant who has rendered years of service to a company has defrauded his boss of thousands of pounds. Sometimes even the sons of a father may attempt to cheat him.
Such cases are not restricted to material issues only. A woman, for instance, feels free to disclose a secret of her husband to her friends. Or couples, during their conversations with intimate friends, talk behind each other's backs. Similarly, though married, they remain unfaithful to each other. There are surely countless examples to give. Frequently encountering these cases, ignorant people feel the constant fear that one of these calamities might befall them one day.
Fear of Poverty
One significant weakness of the ignorant is their fear of poverty. A major cause of such a fear is the unenlightened system which rests upon material wealth. They maintain that, with the help of money, they can live a full, rewarding and healthier life. Otherwise, they believe they will be deprived of many essentials of life as well as various benefits, like social status, which are associated with prosperity.
What is interesting is the existence of wealthy people who also suffer from this fear and are always under great stress. Often these people go to great lengths; for instance they avoid spending money, even for essential needs. They work strenuously, though they have already a sufficient amount of money that will last for a lifetime. They believe it is prudent to pile up their money in their bank accounts. This is actually the way they try to ease their fears about the future.
Nevertheless, their attainments never match their expectations; while their intention is to have a rewarding life here in this world, events progress otherwise and they find themselves in a state of utter boredom that merely unsettles them.
Both fear of poverty and being stingy are the consequence of not putting one’s trust in Allah. Allah warns man against being seized by this fear:
The devil threatened you with destitution and enjoined on you lewdness. But Allah promised you forgiveness from Himself with bounty. Allah is All-Embracing and All-knowing. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 268)
The only way to ease these fears is complete obedience to Allah, since fear of Allah renders all other fears meaningless.
A true believer fully understands the fact that it is Allah who provides him with all the needs. Therefore, he never nurses a grievance about such an issue. Knowing that Allah is most generous to His servants, his mind becomes occupied only with the remembrance of Allah and never feels fear about the future.
Fear of Growing Old
Being young and beautiful are the top issues to which the ignorant society attaches importance. All through his life, it is the main ambition of man to maintain his health. Yet, it has to be admitted that this often proves to be a vain effort. Getting old and therefore losing one's looks and being in poor health are inescapable facts of life and thus important sources of grief for ignorant people. Women feel free to express their fear, while men often avoid disclosing what they feel deep inside. The apparent signs of growing old affect them profoundly. In a way, growing old puts an end to all extravagant manners. Therefore each day, the signs of growing old becoming more apparent on their faces and bodies, gives them more grief. Yet, no matter how hard they try, they can never resist this natural process.
Life in old age is surely totally different from what it used to be. Old age is a period of one’s life when one is perceived as a burden. Those taking care of old people make them feel that they are a source of trouble. Such an approach creates various feelings of anxiety in them. They fear being sent to nursing homes or remaining all alone. There is indeed a reason why they feel this fear, however. In a society where people have no obedience to Allah, the system is entirely lacking in mercy and justice. For this reason, what they fear most often becomes a reality.
Another reason for the fear of growing old is the fact that it reminds man of death and the end of this life. Each glance at the mirror signals the shortening of time in this world. This is surely a torment for an unbeliever. For a man having no faith in the life beyond, the termination of this life and the decaying of body under the earth is an end with no return. Since he has staked his all upon this life, he greatly fears losing it.
Believers, on the other hand, fear neither getting old nor the weaknesses they are likely to suffer in old age. That is because; they do not try to gain recognition or social status through good looks. They are aware that, in the presence of Allah, a believer is praised for his moral perfection rather than his appearance. Among friends, on the other hand, they are loved for being close to Allah.
Neither does the close link between old age and death make believers terrified. For them, the Hereafter is a beginning; a beginning of an incomparably and unprecedentedly better and fulfilling life which will last for all eternity. A person who spends his early years engaging in good deeds to attain Paradise and the good pleasure of Allah enters old age with joy and happiness.
Fear of Getting Sick
Those who have a deep attachment to this life harbour an inner restlessness and a great fear that unsettle them when they think about the possibility of becoming sick. They believe the disease-producing agents ó microbes and viruses ó to be separate beings apart from and independent of Allah. That is why, these microscopic agents become a nightmare for ignorant people.
Essentially, being sick is being deprived of the favours of this world. Even influenza is a hindrance to many activities and a waste of some part of their lifetime, which is already limited. Diseases hinder man from travelling, entertainment, business… This is surely a major flaw in their established system.
Perceiving diseases as such a misfortune, ill-informed ignorant people often feel anxiety about becoming sick. However, the viewpoint of believers about this issue is totally different: primarily, they are aware that, in one way or another, this life will definitely end one day. Therefore, if they manage to escape a disease, for instance, they know that an accident can alter their lives at any moment. Or they never forget that the natural process of becoming old will sooner or later do irreversible damage to their health. Apart from this, they keep in mind that, except by the will of Allah, no virus or bacteria can do any harm to anyone. Therefore, when they become sick, they know that it is ordained by Allah for a specific purpose. Submission to Allah provides complete relief from fear of diseases. Certainly, they take all possible measures to enjoy good health. But if they do become sick, they show patience and display moral perfection as the verse below relates:
…And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and times of stress, such are they who are sincere. Such are the Allah-fearing. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 177)
The Ignorant Society is in Fear of Death
One of the major shortcomings of the ignorant society is the fear of death. Yet, while living with this fear and trying to avoid even the thought of it, they neglect one crucial fact: no matter how hard they struggle, life slips away second by second. That there is no escape from death is thus recalled:
Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even though you may be in lofty towers. Yet if a happy thing befalls, them, they say: 'This is from Allah'. And if an evil thing befalls them, they say: 'This is of your doing (O Muhammad)'. Say (to them): 'All is from Allah'. What is amiss with these people that they can hardly understand a word? (Surah Al-Nisa: 78)
Say (to them, O Muhammad): 'The death from which you shrink will surely overtake you, and afterward you will be returned to the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, and He will tell you what you used to do.' (Surah Al-Jumua: 8)
As explained by the verses, death is an unavoidable end. Like all other people, the richest, the most beautiful or the most respected individual in the world will die. Nobody, without exception, can escape it. Those currently living and those who will ever live will also face death on a predestined day.
Knowing this fact, ignorant people make a great effort to delay this end and thus try to make more of this life. Death would separate them from their dearest relatives or friends and reduces all worldly efforts to insignificance. Moreover, they avoid pronouncing the word “death”. Those who remind others of it are labelled as “thoughtless” and conversations about death are often interrupted on the pretext that it is not the proper time or place to talk about it.
Man’s mental process is inclined to disregard what he does not like or want. He is even inclined to deny the existence of things he avoids confronting. This tendency seems to be most apparent when death is the issue. He shuns issues like diseases or old age, which remind him of death. His fear is so great that even seeing the doctor makes him restless. He fears being diagnosed with a fatal disease. At times, such anxiety even dissuades him from seeing the doctor. Naturally, funerals are the events which cause the deepest concern. The act of placing an immediate family member or a dearest friend in the grave inevitably reminds one of the time one will encounter one’s own death.
This fear, however, brings them nothing positive. They fear losing the life of this world. Yet, though they live long, they spend all these years subject to this fear. This is really a misfortune from Allah for those who persist in this superstitious fear and do not replace it with the fear of Allah.
In the ignorant society, almost everybody is obsessed by superstitious beliefs. As the word “superstition” also suggests, such a belief is one which someone knows is irrational, but which nevertheless he insists on hanging to. However, this is a quite a natural phenomenon for someone who is not acquainted with the Qur’an, and thus is not familiar with religion.
One of the most important aspects of superstitious beliefs is that they are handed down from one generation to the next. No matter how irrational or groundless they may be, the majority of the societies have incorporated these beliefs into their way of living.
Furthermore, most societies accept these beliefs as rules and they painstakingly stick to them. They never walk under a ladder, for instance, believing that it brings bad luck. Seeing a black cat is also a sign of bad luck. They knock on wood to avoid an undesirable event. Countless such rules, which evoke a deep fear, are formulated by ignorant people. If they fail to observe these rules, they feel anxious about being hit by a disaster.
The major mistake these people make is actually to forget that each and every event occurs only by the will of Allah. Accordingly, neither a ladder nor a black cat has any individual power to bring bad luck. However, people whose minds are in darkness became obsessed by the “pseudo-fears” they themselves have invented.
The Obsession with Bad Luck
In an unenlightened society superstitious beliefs are to a great extent associated with bad luck. These beliefs have a deep influence on the daily lives of ignorant people. A number, a colour or even a person may be assumed to be cursed. It is almost universally accepted that the number thirteen equates with bad luck. Similarly, except for those who accept the Qur’anic way of life, all people around the world will take a different path in order to avoid black cats.
Ill-informed people also have fears about themselves, with which they have difficulty in coming to terms. For instance, they never wear a garment again if they have it on at the time of an accident. Alternatively, in such a case they hastily sell their cars.
The fear of being cursed is so strong among the ignorant that important decisions about their lives, even their friendships, are shaped by it. It is entirely possible that such an irrational fear might pave the way to putting an end to a long-lasting friendship, for instance. However, not until they do not give up these fears, can they can ever free themselves from these obsessions. Therefore, the solution is not to escape from them but to eradicate them. The only way to attain this, however, is by abandoning all beliefs rooted in ignorance and putting one's trust in Allah.
Phobic anxiety or phobic fear is an irrational fear which the individual in question knows is unnecessary and out of proportion to the demands of the situation concerned, but which, nevertheless, he is unable to overcome. It occurs without logic in situations which ordinarily should not cause fear. Despite being a mental problem, however, ignorant people accept those suffering from phobic anxiety or phobic fear as normal people rather than patients who need treatment. Medical dictionaries list between 250 and 300 phobias. Indeed, the ignorant can become phobic about anything. It is not rare for a person to have a list of situations which cause phobic distress for him.
Some of the fears may be rational for all people. Yet, the fears of phobic individuals are quite extreme. A person with a phobic fear of snakes, for instance, screams, jumps on the sofa or faints at the sight of a snake on television or newspaper. Some associate enclosed places with a grave or a place under earth and hence develop agoraphobia, the fear of enclosed places. This is, in fact, a manifestation of the fear of death. In their minds, they equate darkness with disasters and hence feel restless even at home, a place where they should normally feel secure. They attribute a power to darkness, assume it to be separate and apart from Allah, and believe that it is the source of all evil. In darkness, they feel terrified, assuming that unseen forces lie in wait to assault or to kill them.
There is one main reason why these people feel terrified with no rational and apparent reason: they do not trust Allah and ascribe partners to Him. In the Qur’an, Allah relates that groundless fear is a temptation of evil and that there is neither fear nor grief for true believers who fear Allah.
It is only the devil who would make (men) fear his partisans. But do not fear them; fear Me, if you are true believers. (Surah Aal-e Imran: 175)
But whoever surrenders himself to Allah while doing good, his reward is with his Lord; and no fear shall overtake them, neither shall they grieve. (Surah Al-Baqarah: 112)