Be Like Adam's Son: To Love the Short-term Benefit and to Disregard the Long-tem Benefit

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We speak of the ignorant young men who alarm the world with explosions here and there, and of the world leaders who precipitate the world into terrible wars. But we have to turn now to the intellectuals. Do they fulfill what is due on them, by pointing out the right way, or do they still find their satisfaction in fawning on the powerful men? If the latter, then they put the immediate gratification of desires before the long term gratification; when the Lord says in the Qur'an, "Nay, you men! But you love the fleeting life, and leave alone the Hereafter." (75:20-21); and "they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day that will be hard;" (76: 27) in all these and similar situations we must understand "the later outcomes" to include not only the Hereafter, but the consequences in this world, too. We should not let the idea of the unseen so overwhelm us not to let us consider the long-term consequences of deeds, not only in history, but in the Qur'an, too.

I may mention in this connection that while some philosophers and clerics condemned imperialism on ethical account, Malek Bennabi quotes a quite different criticism leveled by some economists, who asserted that the same profits that the colonizers reaped through piracy and plunder could be obtained and much more at much less costs, in a human sense, in deals in which all parties would be winners.

I feel that I keep beating about the bush, since the ideas I am dabbing in are not yet elaborate enough in my hands, and so do not come out smoothly and convincingly. They need to be developed much further to be of real use to people. I hope that some of the brighter Muslims would think of Moses and Pharaoh, and their story as mentioned time and time again in the Qur'an. But let me pass on to some analysis of the life of Abu Dhar, in the same way as I commented on Bilal.

I like to think of the Prophet's, peace be upon him, saying of Abu Dhar that he lives by himself, dies by himself, and is resurrected by himself. (Reported by al-Hakem, who rated it as 'authentic'; while al-Dhahabi commented that a name in the link of reporters was glossed over.)

It is not right that Abu Dhar should be forgotten in the folds of history. It is significant, too, how a human like this is forgotten; it is worthwhile to consider what might bring him back to recognition. It will be seen then why so many positions appear to be worthless while Abu Dhar's regains its well-deserved honorable place. He learned well the lessons of the Prophet and the lessons of history. But as I said above, we have in the sun a great sign, how we see it daily, all of us, but then we can be badly deluded about it – for how long did men asserted that it was the sun that revolved round the earth, and then all their assertions were shown to be misguided. We have every reason to doubt our knowledge and understanding. And this so important, as all our behavior stems from our understanding, conscious or unconscious.

That we are sure of what we believe is no evidence that it is right. It can be, and very often is, entirely wrong. The proof for what we hold to be true does not lie inside the mind. It is not so about what we hold to be true about the sun and the moon, and it is not so about the Prophet, peace be upon him. Indeed, if what people insist that what is in their minds is true were so, the world would be ruined. This is something we find in the Qur'an, "If the Truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein would have been in confusion." (23:71) Galileo was right not because he believed he was so, but because there was evidence out there that what he claimed was true.

That is why I say that what all men hold to be true is not true, and what the prophets asserted to be true is really so. In the same way as we long insisted that what is in our minds about the sun and moon was true was disproved, so I insist that what we hold to be true about the prophets and the books they taught is not true. Let us just accept that neither what I claim to be true is so just because I am so sure it is, nor is what the other claims to be true is so just because he is so sure it is so. It is about this that the Qur'an says, "certain it is that either we or you are on right guidance or in manifest error." (34:24) The proof for truth is quite something else: it is in the consequences of what we claim to be true, when we act upon it.

This shift in the accepted evidence from what is in the mind to the reality outside the mind is a most significant one. This is the kind of change that we mean when we say that by changing what is in our minds we may be sure that God will change our condition. This shift does not prove that we can change the law, but that the law is proved once again to hold. The Qur'an says about that "no change will you find in Allah's way of dealings; no turning off will you find in Allah's way of dealings." (35:43). Once we understand the law, we can put it to use, and the evidence that we understand rightly is that what we claimed to be true is working. We also should add that no understanding is final. You may wish to see what the Qur'an says about all this. Here is an example. "Until when We seize in punishment those of them who received the good things of this world, behold, they will groan in supplication! It will be said: 'Do not groan in supplication this day: for you shall certainly not be helped by Us. My Signs used to be rehearsed to you, but you used to turn back on your heels – in arrogance: talking nonsense about the Qur'an, like one telling fables by night.' Do they not ponder over the Word of Allah, or has anything new come to them that did not come to their fathers of old? Or do they not recognize their Messenger, that they deny him? Or do they say, 'he is one possessed'? Nay, he has brought them to the Truth, but most of them hate the truth. If the Truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay, We have sent them their admonition, but they turn away from their admonition." (23:64-71)

Do not you see that the Muslims want to be devout and pious, but would not accept to ponder on such directives about the way out at the time of violent uproar and general chaos, even from their Prophet? That they are so sure they are good Muslims is no proof that they follow in his steps. Muslims still take what their forefathers accepted to be true to be nearer the truth than what the Prophet taught. And it does not avail Muslims to attribute their disasters to the West or any other party. History has the means to punish us for our failings; that is the right kind of teacher; the teacher that can put people right. And that is why the Qur'an keeps reiterating the injunction to look well at history; as for instance in 89:6-14. This is the criterion for behavior, how it is judged to be true by history. But of course history's reminding can be quite severe and stern. It reminds with casualties and losses and humiliation. All that to awaken people, and to remind them that what they hold as sacred can very well be the opposite. All superstitions and delusions will be shaken with the lashes of disaster that they engender. And no matter how vehemently we cite verses of the Qur'an, traditions of the Prophet, or sayings of the greatest scholars that what we do is the right thing to do, history may have a different verdict, and will show its verdict relentlessly in the way it deals with us. It will show that delusions are delusions. Its power is indeed invincible. But have the lashes inflicted on us been enough for us to awake? "But how terrible was My penalty and My warning!" (54:16) Do we yet find evidence enough in what the prophets have taught?