By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
25 October 2016
The Quran Describes Three Types Of Persons:
1. The Believer: A person who lives a life based on truth and chooses all that is good and noble is attuned to recognize and accept the truth and recognize falsehood and reject it. He is not arrogant and will therefore accept good from whatever source it comes and support it. He is a person who strives actively on the path of truth. The characteristics of a believer are described in the following verses:
(2:2) This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;(3) Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;(4) And who believe in the Revelation sent to you, and sent before your time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter.(5) They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper.
Charity is one of the noblest virtues as it combines sacrifice with empathy and caring for others and is the foremost among the various practices that form part of the golden rule. The moral way of living enunciated in the revelations provides proof that this can come only from the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and from none else. Belief in the Unseen God who is the author of the divine moral code and belief in the Hereafter in which God’s justice finds perfection by design of God, is therefore easy for such people. The assurance in their hearts of the Hereafter, is what makes it easy for the believers to live a moral life in accordance with the way of living enunciated in the scriptures since they hope for the major portion of their rewards in the hereafter and not in this world. This is what makes it easy for them to sacrifice self-interest for truth, justice and for the well-being of all life on this earth without expecting returns in this life. They are people who are patient in the face of adversity and practice self-restraint. Such people progress on the path of guidance.
(16:30) To the righteous (when) it is said, "What is it that your Lord has revealed?" they say, "All that is good." To those who do good, there is good in this world, and the Home of the Hereafter is even better and excellent indeed is the Home of the righteous.
With all their hopes resting with God, they care very little for the vicissitudes of this life. The believer is a faith neutral term in the Quran and is any person who believes in one God, the Hereafter and practices righteousness.
(2:62) Those who believe (in the Qur´an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
2. The Hypocrite: The hypocrite is a weakling straddling both belief and disbelief. He is trying to maximize his gains. He wants to be on the winning side always. He is not arrogant and therefore sees the truth in flashes but since truth is not what interests him but his self-interest, he is immediately blinded by the very brilliance of the light and is left in the darkness as if he was blind. The characteristics of a hypocrite are described in the following verses:
(2:8) Of the people there are some who say: "We believe in Allah and the Last Day;" but they do not (really) believe. (9) Fain would they deceive Allah and those who believe, but they only deceive themselves, and realise (it) not! (10) In their hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease: And grievous is the penalty they (incur), because they are false (to themselves). (11) When it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth," they say: "Why, we only Want to make peace!" (12) Of a surety, they are the ones who make mischief, but they realise (it) not. (13) When it is said to them: "Believe as the others believe:" They say: "Shall we believe as the fools believe?" Nay, of a surety they are the fools, but they do not know.
These people are able to see the truth momentarily but do not follow the truth and are therefore false to themselves. Each time they see the truth and suppress it, such behaviour becomes stronger and the cognitive dissonance weaker until they reach a stage when the truth no longer bothers them and they become as it were deaf and blind to it. The following verses describe the same:
(2:14) When they meet those who believe, they say: "We believe;" but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say: "We are really with you: We (were) only jesting." (15) Allah will throw back their mockery on them, and give them rope in their trespasses; so they will wander like blind ones (To and fro). (16) These are they who have bartered Guidance for error: But their traffic is profitless, and they have lost true direction, (17) Their similitude is that of a man who kindled a fire; when it lighted all around him, Allah took away their light and left them in utter darkness. So they could not see. (18) Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return (to the path).
3. Those Who Reject Faith Or The Kafir: The kafir is a person who has chosen to be selfish and self-centred and convinced himself that the ends of a life on this earth are to maximize his gains and pleasures adopting whatever means appear appropriate. Truth, justice, kindness matter to him not in their absolute sense but only to the extent these can serve his purpose on this earth. He is arrogant and envious of others. He wants power, money and all the good things in life to lord over. He will therefore reject any message that invites him to what is moral. The rejection is of the messenger out of envy and arrogance and of the message as it is the opposite of what he is inclined to. He will actively resist both the messenger and the message and by his behaviour become so confirmed in his rejection that he becomes totally deaf and blind to the message. They are described in the following verses:
(17:94) What kept men back from belief when Guidance came to them, was nothing but this: they said, "Has Allah sent a man (like us) to be (His) Messenger?"
Arrogance and envy of others is what makes people reject guidance in the first place.
(14:3) Those who love the life of this world more than the Hereafter, who hinder (men) from the Path of Allah and seek therein something crooked: they are astray by a long distance.
(16:22) Your Allah is one Allah: as to those who believe not in the Hereafter, their hearts refuse to know, and they are arrogant.
A person who seeks immediate gratification loves the life of this world and to such a person, promises in the Hereafter are too distant, uncertain and probably appear as false. The fact that that he has gained much in this life through immoral means and the fact that he sees that any change in his present ways would cause an immediate loss in power and wealth is what prevents him from seeing the truth. His arrogance is also self-gratification through self-aggrandizement.
(1) The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things),
(2) Until ye visit the graves.
(3) But nay, ye soon shall know (the reality).
(4) Again, ye soon shall know!
(5) Nay, were ye to know with certainty of mind, (ye would beware!)
(6) Ye shall certainly see Hell-Fire!
(7) Again, ye shall see it with certainty of sight!
(8) Then, shall ye be questioned that Day about the joy (ye indulged in!).
(2:6) As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.(7) Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur).
When Allah says that Allah sets a seal on the hearts of the sinners, the reference is to the natural law of Allah, whereby a person who is arrogant and dismissive of others on account of his arrogance, and is only interested in immediate gratification, is selfish, self-centred, and shuts out the voice of reason and truth, loses the ability to perceive anything except what is immediately gratifying so that it were as if ‘a seal is set upon his heart'. It is not Allah who wrongs them, but they wrong themselves by what they choose for themselves (3:117, 9:70)
6:12 It is they who have lost their own souls, that will not believe.
(6:108) Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.
They have by their choice, lost all their potential for nobility that man is endowed with, by wilfully inclining towards evil and rejecting what is good. Such people will never believe and they will be happy in their disbelief considering the believers to be fools and themselves to be smart.
The word kafir is a faith neutral term in the Quran. A kafir could be a Muslim, Christian, Jew, polytheist or a person professing any other faith. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall says: “In the Qur’an I find two meanings (of a Kafir), which become one the moment that we try to realize the divine standpoint. The Kafir in the first place, is not the follower of any religion. He is the opponent of Allah’s benevolent will and purpose for mankind - therefore the disbeliever in the truth of all religions, the disbeliever in all Scriptures as of divine revelation, the disbeliever to the point of active opposition in all the Prophets (pbut) whom the Muslims are bidden to regard, without distinction, as messengers of Allah.
Understanding God’s Laws of Human Behaviour
The Role of Cognitive Dissonance
Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said in his 1925 book, Science and the Modern World: “It is easy enough to find a [self-consistent] theory . . . , provided that you are content to disregard half your evidence. The moral temper required for the pursuit of truth, includes an unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account.”
There are many people who show an unflinching determination to disregard half of the relevant evidence!
In Psychology this is called cognitive bias where we pay attention only to facts that support our prejudices. Uncomfortable evidence that contradicts our theory causes what is called cognitive dissonance. An honest way of dealing with cognitive dissonance is to revise our opinion/theory taking the full facts of the case into consideration. Dishonest ways are by way of discounting, falsifying, or by ignoring altogether the evidence that does not suit our purpose.
Not everyone feels cognitive dissonance to the same degree. People with a higher need for consistency and certainty in their lives usually feel the effects of cognitive dissonance more than those who have a lesser need for such consistency. People who have not trained themselves to deal honestly with cognitive dissonance become habitual liars and feel nothing. It is about these people that the Quran says:
(2:16) These are they who have bartered Guidance for error: But their traffic is profitless, and they have lost true direction,(17) Their similitude is that of a man who kindled a fire; when it lighted all around him, Allah took away their light and left them in utter darkness. So they could not see. (18) Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return (to the correct path).
People who have learnt to suppress cognitive dissonance will rarely change their stand on any issue no matter even if they are proved wrong. This is so since their stand is not based on an objective analysis and the truth in any case is unimportant to such people. The only deity they worship is self-interest. Pride and arrogance prevent such people from changing their stand even if proved wrong. The Quran says about such people:
(6:109) They swear their strongest oaths by Allah, that if a (special) sign came to them, by it they would believe. Say: "Certainly (all) signs are in the power of Allah: but what will make you realise that (even) if (special) signs came, they will not believe."?
(110) We (too) shall turn to (confusion) their hearts and their eyes, even as they refused to believe in this in the first instance: We shall leave them in their trespasses, to wander in distraction.
What made them refuse to believe in the first instance will continue to dominate their thinking and they will not believe no matter what signs are sent. This is because, through wilful rejection of the truth on all previous occasions, they have perverted their thinking progressively and completely and they are too far gone astray.
(111) Even if We did send to them angels, and the dead did speak to them, and We gathered together all things before their very eyes, they are not the ones to believe, unless it is in Allah´s plan. But most of them ignore (the truth).
(112) Likewise did We make for every Messenger an enemy,- evil ones among men and jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception. If your Lord had so planned, they would not have done it: so leave them and their inventions alone.
The laws of human behaviour which help man progress on the path of guidance or goes astray, are part of Allah’s plan and it is in Allah’s plan to allow full freedom and autonomy to man to choose whatever path he may, after providing complete guidance and making the truth clear from falsehood.
(113) To such (deceit) let the hearts of those incline, who have no faith in the hereafter: let them delight in it, and let them earn from it what they may.
(114) Say: "Shall I seek for judge other than Allah? - when He it is Who has sent to you the Book, explained in detail." They know full well, to whom We have given the Book, that it has been sent down from your Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt.
(115) The word of your Lord does find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who hears and knows everything.
The word here refers to the laws of Allah which none can change and through which Allah ensures justice.
(116) Were you to follow the common run of those on earth, they will lead you away from the way of Allah. They follow nothing but conjecture: they do nothing but lie.
(117) Your Lord knows best who strays from His way: He knows best who they are that receive His guidance.
The verse refers to the characteristics of persons who strays from His way and those who receive guidance.
Arrogance and Rejection of Belief
(7:146) Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right - them will I turn away from My signs: Even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as the way; but if they see the way of error, that is the way they will adopt. For they have rejected our signs, and failed to take warning from them.
Arrogance to the extent that a person does not care for what is right is defiance of God. Such people will not believe in God or turn to what is right.
Whom Does God Guide?
(8:23) If Allah had found in them any good. He would indeed have made them listen: (As it is), if He had made them listen, they would but have turned back and declined (Faith).
It is the natural law of God that all those in whom is some good will incline towards His message and if God did make those in whom there is no good listen, they would still soon revert to their disbelief.
(10:32) Such is Allah, your real Cherisher and Sustainer: apart from truth, what (remains) but error? How then are ye turned away? (33) Thus is the word of your Lord proved true against those who rebel: Verily they will not believe.
The distinction between truth and falsehood is clear and anyone who turns away from the truth is clearly a rebel. The law of Allah (Allah’s word) is that a person who turns away from the truth in rebellion, will not believe.
Can A Person Living The Life Of Error And Falsehood Change Himself?
A person has to first accept that there is a problem and make a moral choice to change and seek God’s help. He must realize that refusing to learn to deal honestly with cognitive dissonance in its most basic form, is a lie to oneself and self-deception. Matz and his colleagues (2008) found that people who were extraverted were less likely to feel the negative impact of cognitive dissonance and were also less likely to change their mind. Introverts, on the other hand, deal more honestly with cognitive dissonance. This is hardly surprising since introverts are concerned with self-image and telling a lie to one self is more difficult and the extraverts are more concerned with what others say about them. The cronies, side-kicks and sycophants of the extraverts are there to heap praise on them whatever they say or do. If there are people who confront them with their lie and embarrass them, they will be conveniently categorized as belonging to the `enemy party’ and drowned with more lies. These people will never change if they have people who support them in their lie. Politicians therefore are some of the most adept liars and practitioners of systematic deceit and the most shameless among all the liars.
Self-awareness and a desire to change is the key to changing oneself. You know when you are disregarding information that contradicts your stand on any issue. As Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Develop self-awareness which is the first step to change.
If there is a conflict between what you desire and what you consider right, then consciously choose what is right. Learn to admit past mistakes, apologize for these and learn to move forward. The congenital liars when confronted with evidence that proves them wrong label the evidence ‘deceptive’. To them the uncomfortable truth is deception and their own comfortable lies are the truth.
People who talk about morals speak about the ‘conscience’ or the inner voice which is nothing but the cognitive dissonance that we experience when our action does not match what we consider to be right. This is not anything that we are born with but the values that we imbibe. To develop such a conscience, read the Quran to know right from wrong.
Can Prayer Help?
Prayer is a form of self-priming and is most effective in changing one’s behaviour. Belief in God helps but it should work even without such belief if the prayer is changed to a daily resolution or pledge.
This prayer (of the Prophet) is part of my daily morning prayers:
O Allah! Purge my heart of hypocrisy,
My conduct from dissimulation,
My tongue from falsehood,
And my eyes from treachery,
For You indeed know the treacherous glance of the eyes
And that which the heart conceals.
The Quran describes the laws of human behaviour but puts the same across as what God does. This is so since these are nothing but the unchanging laws of God which work inexorably in the most consistent and unchanging fashion. People take this literally and say that if God is allowing people to go astray or sealing up their hearts, or causing them to become “deaf, dumb and blind”, how can they be blamed? This is again more of self-deception and inability to take responsibility for the moral choices they themselves make or for the path that they have chosen even though God constantly reminds them that:
(4:120) Satan makes them promises, and creates in them false desires; but satan´s promises are nothing but deception.
(35:5) O men! Certainly the promise of Allah is true. Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver deceive you about Allah. (6) Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
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