By A. O.
People Educated into Superficiality: How?
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 affect 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 behaviour, reacting in the same way to similar occurrences and adopting the same expressions and manners. Up to a certain age, his likings, habits and behaviour copy what he observes in others. Even if he is to be taught some new, useful, improved behaviour, 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.” (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 . . . ” (al-Baqarah: 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 behaviour 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 honoured prophet whom Allah loved, chose as His messenger and made His friend:
“…Allah took Ibrahim as an intimate friend.” (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, honourable and powerful, and he lived his life in a way so as to win Allah’s favour:
“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.” (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 behaviour 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” (Al ‘Imran: 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 demeanour. 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 behaviour of those who pursue worldly gains with no care for winning Allah’s favour. 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.
A. O. is a Turkish writer and author.