Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the Material Balance

I would like to share this article written by Ahmed El-Gharbawy

It keeps on happen every now and then….

There is always a conflict within one's inner being between what is spiritual and moral and what is physical and material. As is the case with the majority of people, victory is always secured in favor of the latter. As a result, people are often attached to transient pleasures and worldly gains. Throughout their lives, they use a material balance to measure all the things around them. If something weighs heavily in their balance, they will hold it in high regard and view it with deep admiration; otherwise, they will belittle it and cast it as something insignificant. At the root of such mistaken attitude lies the intense love people have for worldly things. This is indicated in a Qur'anic verse that reads:

(Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire — of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.) (Aal`Imran 3:14)

People tend to regard a person who is well dressed and apparently well-off as a respectful man worthy of all sorts of good treatment. And while the poor may receive some financial help from kindhearted people, they are rarely held in real respect. Even if people treat both the well-off and the poor kindly and respectfully, they generally regard it as a favor to the poor and as due right to the wealthy. This becomes especially apparent when a conflict arises. People usually pardon the errors of someone they deem important, but they often behave harshly and sometimes arrogantly in face of an unexpected mistake done by a person they consider as inferior.

Superficial Outlook
Beauty is also an important factor in determining the value of a person we deal with. A handsome man may well be greatly admired by others just because he looks nice or may be charismatic, without much regard to his character and attitude.

The material balance is also employed when choosing one's prospective spouse. Although we were instructed by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to take religion and attitude as fundamental criteria in this regard, many people make their choices merely on the basis of wealth, status, appearance, and beauty. As a consequence, divorce rates are soaring, since such families have no solid foundations to withstand the problems and disputes that normally occur between married couples.

We can also perceive that material balance being used in everyday dealings among people. For example, when having a conversation, people usually listen attentively to the person they deem important and superior, and they hardly find it necessary to disagree with him. Even if they happen to hold a different view, they will express it hesitatingly, carefully, and most politely — if they do express it at all. Contrarily, they may readily reject an opinion expressed by a seemingly inferior person.
Likewise, if such an important person experiences a happy occasion, they will rush to him, showing their joy and offering their congratulations, something which is not done with the same zeal or care, should the concerned individual have much less weight in their material balance. Such wrong attitude may also emerge in the simplest of situations. For instance, when an important person — deemed so in the material balance — passes by a group of people and greets them, they will reply in an enthusiastic and welcoming manner, with a broad smile on their faces. The case will be greatly different, however, if the passerby is inferior and unimportant in their eyes.

Visits are among the areas in which such unjust distinction appears. Receiving the guest and entertaining him differs greatly depending on his weight in the material balance. People tend to serve the "important" guest generously, joyfully, and wholeheartedly. On the other hand, an "unimportant" guest may be a burden on those who do not understand the essence of their religion.

Work and jobs are no exception here, for people usually evaluate any job according to how much it is profitable and prestigious, not according to the value and purpose of what is done. Therefore, many people put much of their effort toward attaining a job that will make them superior and respectable in the eyes of others — in accordance with that corrupt balance. Surely, it is permissible in Islam to assume good positions and earn a lot of money lawfully. Yet, this should never be the criterion in determining the value and importance of any human being.

An arrogant person lacking a true understanding of his religion may give a free rein to himself to find fault with others, particularly those whom he deems inferior on material grounds. As we are taught by the Noble Qur'an, a seemingly inferior person may be more honorable than a supposedly superior one. Similarly, a Muslim should not seek the friendship of another person only because he is good-looking, well-known, and from a high-status family. Before all else, the noble character of a person should constitute a sufficient reason for others to befriend him.

A Just Balance
In fact, judging the value of people or things materially is not something new to our age. Yet, such attitude had always existed throughout the ages. An example of this is related in a hadith narrated by Sahl ibn Sa`d As-Sa`id, who said:
"While Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sitting with his Companions, a man passed by. The Prophet asked them, 'What is your opinion about this [passer-by]?' They replied, 'This [passer-by] is from the noble class of people. By Allah, if he should ask for a lady's hand in marriage, he ought to be given her in marriage; and if he intercedes for somebody, his intercession will be accepted.' The Prophet kept quiet. Then another man passed by, and Prophet Muhammad asked the same question again, 'What is your opinion about this one?' They said, 'O Allah's Messenger! This person is one of the poor Muslims. Should he ask for a lady's hand in marriage, none would accept him; should he intercede for somebody, none would accept his intercession; and if he talks, none will listen to him.' Thereupon, the Prophet said, 'This [poor man] is better than such a large number of the first type (i.e. rich men) as to fill the earth.'" (Al-Bukhari)

Hence, unlike the material, unjust, and faulty balance that is commonly used to discriminate between people, a just balance was set by Islam, the noble religion. Addressing all people, Almighty Allah says:
(O mankind! We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted [with all things].) (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

From the foregoing, it becomes clear to us that we have to look more deeply and fairly into things around us so as to be able to form a correct judgment. We need to get rid of that material balance that blurs our vision and impairs our wisdom. We need to remember Almighty Allah a lot and ponder His greatness and power, aware that He alone is self-sufficient and worthy of all praise. True believers treat all people kindly and respectfully, the poor and the wealthy alike. True believers are careful not to hurt the feelings of any human being, whether he is falsely viewed as inferior or superior. Whenever a case is brought for judgment, a person who acts in compliance with the Noble Qur'an will exercise complete justice and avoid any personal considerations that may affect his judgment. Wise and pious Muslims never measure people and things materially. They fear their Lord and always act in accordance with His guidance.

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