Islam's response to contemporary world problems (14)

Ahmadiyya Community

In issue 13 we presented the two distinct environments of materialistic philosophy versus the philosophy of an afterlife. 

Continuing on this theme, we would like to stress that it is interesting to note that in an atheistic or semi-atheistic society, where the concept of responsibility after death is either completely rejected or treated so vaguely and lightly as to be meaningless, it is very difficult to find a definition of crime that resembles the one it has in a sound moral philosophy. It is very difficult to conceive of members of an atheistic society being truly convinced of the harm they cause when they break a law. After all, what is law?, Is it the word of the despot or the absolute dictator, the decision of totalitarian regimes or the dictate of the democratic majority? For the common man, which of the above statements would constitute just legislation based on a sound moral philosophy? What moral philosophy?

If he does not owe his existence to any Being, or if he does not fear being questioned about his conduct during his earthly life in the life to come, since, according to his belief, there is no Afterlife, then the answers from his position to the above questions may be quite different from the requirements of a responsible society. Such a person has only a short life to live. He needs society for his benefit alone and submits to the higher authority of society only out of necessity. If he can run away with some profit for his own benefit and steal a few moments of pleasure here and there by being clever enough not to be caught, why not do it? What kind of "moral" inhibition could stay his hand?

This psychological attitude to crime develops and consolidates over time in materialistic and atheistic societies.

This, exactly, has been mentioned in the Holy Quran as the essence of the materialistic society.

The unbelievers declare:
                                                                                                                                            اِنۡ ہِیَ اِلَّا حَیَاتُنَا الدُّنۡیَا نَمُوۡتُ وَنَحۡیَا وَمَا نَحۡنُ بِمَبۡعُوۡثِیۡنَ

"There is no other life outside the present life; we die and we live, but we will not be resurrected. In other words, we reject the concept of life after death or life elsewhere". (Q. 23: Al-Muminun: 38)

Similarly, the disbelievers mockingly turn to the previous Prophets, asking them:

                                                                                                                                              وَقَالُوۡۤاءَ اِذَا کُنَّا عِظَامًا وَّرُفَاتًاءَ اِنَّا لَمَبۡعُوۡثُوۡنَ خَلۡقًا جَدِیۡدًا

They say: "When we become bones and broken particles, will we really be resurrected as a new creature?" (Q. 17: Bani-Israil: 50)

                                                                                                                                                        قَالُوۡۤا ءَاِذَا مِتۡنَا وَکُنَّا تُرَابًا وَّعِظَامًا ءَاِنَّا لَمَبۡعُوۡثُوۡنَ 

They say: "How, when we are dead and have turned to dust, shall we indeed be resurrected again? (Q. 23: Al-Mu'minun: 83)

This, according to the Holy Quran, is common to all the evils of a materialistic society. This is why so much emphasis is placed on the future life and the Day of Retribution.

In one of the traditions, Ibn Mas'ud relates that the Holy Prophet (lpbD) once drew a rectangle, in the centre of which he drew a long line, the upper part of which extended over the rectangle. Along this middle line he drew a series of short lines. He indicated that the figure represented the man, that the rectangle around it was death, the middle line represented his desires, and the short lines across it were the trials and tribulations of life. He said: "If one of them fails him, he falls victim to one of the others". (Bukhari). 

In another tradition death is described as that which puts an end to pleasure. (Tirmidhi)

Four characteristics of the materialist society

                                                                                                      مَا سَلَکَکُمۡ فِیۡ سَقَرَ ﴿۴۳﴾ قَالُوۡا لَمۡ نَکُ مِنَ الۡمُصَلِّیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۴﴾ وَلَمۡ نَکُ نُطۡعِمُ الۡمِسۡکِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۵﴾ وَکُنَّا نَخُوۡضُ مَعَ الۡخَآئِضِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۶﴾ وَکُنَّا نُکَذِّبُ بِیَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ

"What brought you to the Fire?" They will answer, "We were not of those who offered prayers, nor did we feed the poor. We indulged in vain talks with those who engage in them. And we used to deny the Day of Judgement". (C. Al-Muddazzir: 43-47)

The aspects of an atheistic and materialistic society could not have been more accurately and completely described. They are as follows:

  • Failure to perform prayer.
  • Failure to feed the poor.
  • The indulgence in banal pursuits.
  • Rejection of the Day of Retribution or Responsibility.

Before I go any further, let me dispel a confusion that makes it difficult to truly diagnose what the state of a society is. Even in societies where belief in God seems to be ingrained and belief in the Afterlife is an integral part of their article of faith, certain kinds of evils develop which could not logically be conceived of among believers responsible to God and accountable to the life to come.

The question that arises, then, is why do such societies believe in God and the Afterlife and yet all other characteristics remain materialistic in their totality? The answer is not difficult to find out when one examines in detail the nature of their beliefs. In fact, a remote theosophical belief in God cannot influence the social behaviour of such believers. How can genuine faith in God coexist with lying, falsehood, individualism, usurpation of the right of others, corruption and cruelty? Such societies' concept of God is only cosmetic, too unreal and ethereal to play an active role in shaping human behaviour. Similarly, belief in the afterlife and accountability is reduced to the pale shadow of a remote possibility. At every instant of choice, immediate interests prevail and displace any consideration of the life to come.

When we speak of materialistic societies, we do not only mean those that have openly rebelled against the idea of God and the Life to Come. Most "believing" and atheistic societies appear to be at diametrically opposite extremes in their ideologies, but in practice they have very close similarities.


The Holy Quran, on the other hand, states:

                                                                                                    لِلّٰہِ مَا فِی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَمَا فِی الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ وَاِنۡ تُبۡدُوۡا مَا فِیۡۤ اَنۡفُسِکُمۡ اَوۡ تُخۡفُوۡہُ یُحَاسِبۡکُمۡ بِہِ اللّٰہُ ؕ فَیَغۡفِرُ لِمَنۡ یَّشَآءُ وَیُعَذِّبُ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُ ؕ وَاللّٰہُ عَلٰی کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ قَدِیۡرٌ 

"To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth. He is the Owner. He has the right to shape your destinies and your social order. Whether you reveal what is in your minds or keep it hidden, Allah will call you to account for it and question you concerning your evil thoughts and deeds; then He will forgive whom He deems worthy of forgiveness and punish whom He deems worthy of punishment; and Allah has the power to do whatsoever He wills". (Ch. 2: Al-Baqarah: 285)

The Holy Quran adds:

                                                                                                                                                     وَلَا تَقۡفُ مَا لَیۡسَ لَکَ بِہٖ عِلۡمٌ ؕ اِنَّ السَّمۡعَ وَالۡبَصَرَ وَالۡفُؤَادَ کُلُّ اُولٰٓئِکَ کَانَ عَنۡہُ مَسۡـُٔوۡلً

"Do not follow what you do not know. Indeed, the ear, the eye and the heart will all be called to give an account". (Q. 17: Bani Israil: 37).

Here, the word "heart" means in the language of the Holy Quran, the ultimate force behind every human act. "Fu'wad", in the Holy Quran, means the decisive and supreme will that operates in the brain in the same way as computers are made to function. Therefore, this decisive will is the source of all good and evil and it is this will that, in the form of a new life after death, will be accountable along with the eyes and the ear.

(To be continued in the next instalment, number 15).