In Issue 12 we gave a brief introduction on Social Peace. In developing this theme further we would like to clarify that the Holy Quran refers to two social order environments.
Two social order environments
The Holy Quran describes two environments of social order:
(a) One in which evil is free to flourish.
b) One in which the growth of evil is strongly inhibited.
If the Islamic moral teachings were considered separately, it would be very difficult for the Western mentality to understand the philosophy of its Message. This is because the moral teachings must be studied as part of the social environment. They have to be observed in their totality. One cannot understand the season of autumn by looking only at a fallen and dry leaf or a part of a tree changing colour. It is necessary to visualise and feel the atmosphere and temperament of autumn as a whole in order to know what the season is, and how it affects plant life. In the same way, one swallow does not make a summer. While autumn discourages life, spring encourages it. It is not just a change in temperature but a transformation of the whole environment when the wind itself seems to breathe life. Social systems are also like seasons, with their own peculiarities and influences.
Islam deals with this issue in the same way. Let me first describe a society, which according to the Quran is not Islamic:
اِعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّمَا الۡحَیٰوۃُ الدُّنۡیَا لَعِبٌ وَّلَہۡوٌ وَّزِیۡنَۃٌ وَّتَفَاخُرٌۢ بَیۡنَکُمۡ وَتَکَاثُرٌ فِی الۡاَمۡوَالِ وَالۡاَوۡلَادِ ؕ کَمَثَلِ غَیۡثٍ اَعۡجَبَ الۡکُفَّارَ نَبَاتُہٗ ثُمَّ یَہِیۡجُ فَتَرٰٮہُ مُصۡفَرًّا ثُمَّ یَکُوۡنُ حُطَامًا ؕ وَفِی الۡاٰخِرَۃِ عَذَابٌ شَدِیۡدٌ ۙ وَّمَغۡفِرَۃٌ مِّنَ اللّٰہِ وَرِضۡوَانٌ ؕ وَمَا الۡحَیٰوۃُ الدُّنۡیَاۤ اِلَّا مَتَاعُ الۡغُرُوۡرِ
"Know that the life of this world is but a play and a pastime, an ornament, a source of boasting among yourselves and of rivalry in the multiplication of wealth and children. This life is like the rain: the vegetation it produces rejoices the husbandmen. But then it dries up and you see it turn yellow. Then it becomes broken pieces of straw. But in the Afterlife there is a severe punishment for the wicked, and also Allah's forgiveness and His pleasure for the righteous. For the life of this world is but a temporary illusory enjoyment of deceitful things". (Q. 57: Al-Hadid: 21)
Again, referring to the vanity of material life, the Holy Quran says the following:
وَالَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡۤا اَعۡمَالُہُمۡ کَسَرَابٍۭ بِقِیۡعَۃٍ یَّحۡسَبُہُ الظَّمۡاٰنُ مَآءً ؕ حَتّٰۤی اِذَا جَآءَہٗ لَمۡ یَجِدۡہُ شَیۡئًا وَّوَجَدَ اللّٰہَ عِنۡدَہٗ فَوَفّٰٮہُ حِسَابَہٗ ؕ وَاللّٰہُ سَرِیۡعُ الۡحِسَابِ
"As for the unbelievers, their actions are like a mirage in the desert. The thirsty man thinks that there is water until, when he comes to it, he finds that there is none. But he finds Allah there, Who fully rewards him for his deeds, for Allah is swift in retribution". (Q.24: Al-Nur: 40)
The Holy Quran describes vanity for materialistic attainment as a mirage that tempts the thirsty one by always escaping from it until he becomes so exhausted that he can no longer pursue it. It is then that he is punished. He is made to realise that this is the hollow and empty goal he had been pursuing all along. Suddenly, the mirage stops receding, and he is allowed to cling to it, only to realise the bitter meaning of chasing nothingness. This is the punishment encountered by those who pursue the vanity of materialistic life. This is how all such societies end, according to the Holy Quran.
Against this, religion advocates an ideology that declares that life in this world is not the destination - and the end - of all things but that there is an afterlife awaiting us.
If our death on earth is not final but we continue to live on in one form or another, as Islam and other religions would have us believe; if life on earth cannot be taken separately from life in the Hereafter; and if both lives are to be understood as a continuation of each other, then it would be unwise to ignore the role of social influences on a person here on earth. Evil and immoral and unwholesome influences must give rise to an unwholesome soul in the life to come.
This is not the place to discuss the Islamic philosophy of the afterlife in detail, but it would suffice to mention that, according to Islam, the way we conduct our lives here on earth influences our souls in the same way as, at times, certain illnesses of the pregnant mother influence her child in an embryogenic state. The child can be so congenitally handicapped that it can be a living hell for him to live with his disabilities among healthy children in the most helpless situation. The torment may become even more bitter and profound as the child's conscience matures. This, in a nutshell, is how, according to Islam, we shape our heaven or hell.
In this context, it should be clear that any kind of social order that promotes irresponsible, violent or disorderly behaviour should be rejected even if it may appear attractive and tempting to the casual observer.
It is appropriate for believers to make such claims, since they concern otherworldly matters. After all, who has returned from the so-called "other world" to testify for or against such claims? Why not settle for "a bird in the hand that flies a hundredfold"? This is the materialist answer to the Islamic philosophy as to how society should be shaped and on what principles it should be based.
Islamic philosophy embraces the present life here on earth and the Afterlife as a continuous course that is momentarily broken by death, which is in fact a transformative state from one life into another. By contrast, materialist philosophy visualises life as a brief accidental lapse of consciousness that becomes nothingness at the moment of death. Therefore, the social system has to cater only to the needs related to this brief lapse of existence. The individual is accountable only to society, only as long as he lives and only for the aspect of his life that is visible and detectable; what remains hidden in the form of subtly perpetrated thoughts, intentions, plans, conspiracies and crimes goes undetected and unchallenged.
Likewise, crimes committed against society are only judged as such when it is established beyond a shadow of a doubt that such a crime has been committed. There is the possibility of miscarriage of justice. In this social order, the administration of justice is not only superficial and limited but leads to crimes against society itself. It promotes the pursuit of vested interests and encourages extreme selfishness on the part of the individual.
(We will continue in the next installment - number 14 - with the theme of Social Peace).