In all materialistic societies, the major factors responsible for progressive growth and proliferation of evil are about the same. Some discussion has already preceded; so, we shall briefly enumerate the responsible factors to serve as reminders. These factors are:
- Growing atheism;
- An enfeebling of the belief in a real powerful God Who takes live interest in human affairs and the way human beings shape their conduct;
- A progressive weakness in the beliefs in traditional and ethical values; and,
- A growing tendency to forget the end and to treat the means as ends in themselves.
This is a situation, which prevails, in all the so-called ‘civilized’ or ‘advanced’ societies of the world. Slowly, as moral and ethical values continue to wither, they begin to influence the legislative and executive process of governments. When there is no God-made law to
be accepted, and absolute ethical values and noble traditions are challenged and defied daily, any legislation to discipline moral behaviour also becomes lax and more accommodating. The very platform, on which laws pertaining to moral behaviour are founded, begins to slip away.
A comparative study of legislation in this area over the last few centuries would effectively prove the case in point. Gone are the days of Oscar Wilde when homosexuality was considered a crime by society, which would most mercilessly punish it. Gone are the days of chastity not being just a virtue but a social trust which, if violated, would be brought to account. This softening on crime is no longer seen as alarming. That is the problem.
The definition of crime itself is undergoing fundamental change. That, which was considered a crime yesterday is no longer so. That which was concealed for fear of shame or reprimand is disclosed and displayed with great pride. If this philosophy was sound and worthy of survival then all the religious, ethical and moral philosophies may be considered obsolete and unwanted. They no longer serve any purpose in the contemporary age.
The driving force in nature, common to both the animate and inanimate world, is the universal and all-powerful principle of crime and punishment and goodness and reward. In the inanimate world, this principle can be discerned to be operational in the unconscious operation of the laws of nature. In the animate world, evolution prior to the creation of man, was driven by the same principle which acquired a semi-conscious or semi-dormant state. As one travels through the lowest rungs of evolutionary stages up to man, the journey seems to be from the less conscious to the more conscious. In evolutionary terms, the principle of crime and punishment and goodness and reward is described as survival of the fittest. Throughout the whole evolutionary process, this remains the driving and motive force, which constantly pushes evolution forward and upward. It is inconceivable that when this process had reached its consummation in man, the best of creation, and consciousness had acquired horizons beyond the wildest fancies of sub-human fancies; suddenly the principle of crime and punishment should be lifted and rendered obsolete. If there is a higher goal for creation, there has to be some accountability without which the whole exercise would be rendered meaningless.
It is extremely surprising that sometimes the greatest of intellectuals and visionaries fail to see an obvious and self-evident truth like this. Such is the case of Albert Einstein, the architect of the theory of relativity, who observes:
I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the object of his own creation, whose purposes are modelled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.
If there is a God, the Lord Creator Whose existence Albert Einstein could not deny, and if all the scientific laws operating in His creation are devised, created and governed by the same creative Supreme Being, it is inconceivable for Him to abandon the ultimate object of His creation by lifting the principle of crime and punishment and leaving man to wander in the chaos of undisciplined and unaccountable behaviour.
As far as the second part of his observation is concerned, it is obvious that he failed to understand not only the role of crime and punishment in the progressive development of creation, but also completely misunderstood the meaning of man having been created in
the image of God. Man is created in the image of God not as a perfect model of God on earth. Were that so, the world would become more than a heaven on earth and all human beings would be exactly alike. It is debateable, of course, whether such a place would be worthy of being called heaven or boredom, where there is no variety, change or difference
between odour, colour and hue—instead a calm, multitudinous sea of colourless identical drops.
That is not the meaning and purpose of man having been created in the image of God. This phrase is rich in profound wisdom and speaks of the potential with which man has been endowed. It speaks of the ultimate noble goal which man must constantly endeavour to achieve. That goal is to be as perfect as man can possibly be, by acquiring godly attributes and emerging more like God. It is not a fixed goal, which one can reach and then, basking in the glory of having become the image of God, stay put there. As God is unlimited or limitless in His attributes, so every journey to Him remains limitless. The perfection in this context only means moving towards perfection from a lower order of things to a higher order of things.
God is the Most Perfect, the Most Just, the Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, the Lord Creator and Master of the Day of Judgement. All praise belongs to God. The Holy Quran states:
Allah is He beside Whom there is no god, Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful. Allah is He beside Whom there is no god, the Sovereign, the Most Holy, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah, far above that which they associate with Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most perfect names. All that is
in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him. And He is the
Mighty, the Wise.
It is such a God Who created this universe. He does not suffer from human frailties. The Holy Quran repeatedly asks the believers to reflect on His Signs. For instance:
Blessed is He in Whose hand is the kingdom and He has the
power to do all that He wills, Who has created death and life that He might try you—which of you is best in conduct; and He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving, Who has created the seven heavens in order, one above the other. Thou canst not discover a flaw in the creation of the Gracious One. Then look again: Seest thou any disparity? Look again, and yet again, thy sight will return to thee frustrated and fatigued.
Having understood the significance of the words the image of God, when one looks back at the entire forces of the creation of the universe—from the time of the Big Bang to the present day—the entire journey of creation from the unconscious to the conscious, in
fact, is a journey to become the image of God and to develop in man godly attributes.
Islamic Social Climate
Islam, on the other hand, designs to create a climate, which is as different from the one described above, as spring is from autumn. Within the Islamic concept of society, Islam moderates, disciplines and trims natural desires which, if left uncontrolled, would play havoc with the gamut of human emotions. It discourages or prohibits the fulfillment of desires which can, in the final analysis; result in more misery than pleasure in the society.
At the same time, Islam cultivates new tastes and develops the ability to derive pleasure and satisfaction from acts which may appear colourless, insipid and tasteless to the uncultured and untrained. Tastes are modified and coarse sensual cravings are trained and refined and turned into aspirations for the sublime.
But the question is how can we determine that the prevalent and contemporary social trends are unhealthy for a society? To me, the answer seems to be a simple one. The health of a society should be judged by the same symptoms as the health of an individual. When someone is in pain, restless, abnormal or sub-normal in his reactions or when anxiety seems to displace one’s content and peace of heart and mind, it does not require an exceptionally wise man or highlyproficient physician to adjudge or diagnose such an unhealthy person as being seriously ill. All these symptoms are manifest in contemporary
How true were the words of Jesus (as) when he said:
By their fruits you will recognise them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree bears fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.
People are crying themselves hoarse against the bitterness of the fruit today, but somehow they do not want to replace the tree with a better one. They fail to see that it is not the tree which is at fault nor the fruit it bears. The Islamic social order stands for the uprooting of the evil tree and the planting of a healthier one instead.
According to the Holy Quran, when Adam (as) was forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree, this is precisely what was meant:
Dost thou not see how Allah sets forth the similitude of a good word? It is like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches reach into heaven. It brings forth its fruit at all times by the command of its Lord. And Allah sets forth similitudes for men that they may reflect.
Here, the tree is just a symbol. The Quran clearly speaks of an unhealthy philosophy as against a healthy one in the same symbolic language. The evil tree and the condition of the disbeliever are described in the next two verses:
And the case of an evil word is like that of an evil tree, which is uprooted from above the earth and has no stability. Allah
strengthens the believers with the word that is firmly established, both in the present life and in the Hereafter, and Allah lets the wrongdoers go astray. And Allah does what He wills.
The word is used in this context in the connotation of a philosophy, system, and order just as the same word is also used in its much wider connotation in the opening verse of John:
In the beginning the Word was and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Evil philosophies and orders are bound to meet the fate of an evil tree which fails to pass the test of survival of the fittest and is ultimately uprooted and tossed from place to place by the raging tempest.
On the other hand, the example of a healthy system and order of things is like that of a healthy tree which is firmly rooted in this earth but whose lofty stems and twigs reach out into a pure heavenly atmosphere. It is nourished by heavenly light and it bears good wholesome fruit in every season. The Holy Quran describes the believers as having a firm belief in God; their entire ethical and moral structure is securely and firmly founded in this belief. This gives a quality of absoluteness to the Islamic concept of morality and ethics,
which does not permit discrimination on any known plane of social, religious or racial divisions. The guiding principle applicable to all human activity is expressed in the following verse of the Holy Quran:
To Allah belong the hidden things of the heavens and the earth, and to Him shall the whole affair be referred. So worship Him and put thy faith in Him alone. And thy Lord is not unmindful of what you do.
Verily, His is the creation and the command. Blessed is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
All Islamic philosophies start and end with the absolute authority of God, the Lord Creator of the universe.