When a man dies he has to do with God alone, and if we have to live with a person, our happiness entirely depends on the degree of affection we feel towards him. Love is the seed of happiness, and love to God is fostered and developed by worship. Such worship and constant remembrance of God implies a certain degree of austerity and curbing of bodily appetites. Not that a man is intended altogether to abolish these, for then the human race would perish. But strict limits must be set to their indulgence, and as a man is not the best judge in his own case as to what these limits should be, he had better consult some spiritual guide on the subject. Such spiritual guides are the prophets, and the laws which they have laid down under divine inspiration prescribe the limits which must be observed in these matters.
He who transgresses these limits “wrongs his own soul,” as it is written in the Qur’an.
Notwithstanding this clear pronouncement of the Qur’an there are those who, through their ignorance of God, do transgress these limits, and this ignorance may be due to several different causes: Firstly, there are some who, failing to find God by observation, conclude that there is no God and that this world of wonders made itself, or existed from everlasting. They are like a man who, seeing a beautifully written letter, should suppose that it had written itself without a writer, or had always existed. People in this state of mind are so far gone in error that it is of little use to argue with them. Such are some of the physicists and astronomers to whom we referred above.
Some, through ignorance of the real nature of the soul, repudiate the doctrine of a future life, in which man will be called to account and be rewarded or punished. They regard themselves as no better than animals or vegetables, and equally perishable. Some, on the other hand, believe in God and a future life but with a weak belief. They say to themselves, “God is great and independent of us; our worship or abstinence from worship is a matter of entire indifference to Him.” Their state of mind is like that of a sick man who, when prescribed a certain regime by his doctor, should say, “Well, if I follow it or don’t follow it, what does it matter to the doctor?” It certainly does not matter to the doctor, but the patient may destroy himself by his disobedience. Just as surely as unchecked sickness of body ends in bodily death, so does uncured disease of the soul end in future misery, according to the saying of the Qur’an, “Only those shall be saved who come to God with a sound heart.”
A fourth kind of unbelievers are those who say, “the Law tells us to abstain from anger, lust, and hypocrisy. This is plainly impossible, for man is created with these qualities inherent in him. You might as well tell us to make black white.” These foolish people ignore the fact that the law does not tell us to uproot these passions, but to restrain them within due limits, so that, by avoiding the greater sins, we may obtain forgiveness of the smaller ones. Even the Prophet of God said, “I am a man like you, and get angry like others”; and in the Qur’an it is written. “God loves those who swallow down their anger,” not those who have no anger at all.
A fifth class lay stress on the beneficence of God, and ignore His justice, saying to themselves, “Well, whatever we do, God is merciful.” They do not consider that, though God is merciful, thousands of human beings perish miserably in hunger and disease. They know that whosoever wishes for a livelihood, or for wealth, or learning, must not merely say, “God is merciful,” but must exert himself. Although the Qur’an says, “Every living creature’s support comes from God,” it is also written, “Man obtains nothing except by striving.” The fact is, such teaching is really from the devil, and such people only speak with their lips and not with their heart.
A sixth class claim to have reached such a degree of sanctity that sin cannot affect them. Yet, if you treat one of them with disrespect, he will bear a grudge against you for years, and if one of them be deprived of a morsel of food which he thinks his due, the whole world will appear dark and narrow to him. Even if any of them do really conquer their passions, they have no right to make such a claim, for the prophets, the highest of human kind, constantly confessed and bewailed their sins. Some of them had such a dread of sin that they even abstained from lawful things; thus, it is related of the Prophet that, one day, when a date had been brought to him he would not eat it, as he was not sure that it had been lawfully obtained. Whereas these free-livers will swallow gallons of wine and claim (I shudder as I write) to be superior to the Prophet whose sanctity was endangered by a date, while theirs is unaffected by all that wine! Surely they deserve that the devil should drag them down to perdition. Real saints know that he who does not master his appetites does not deserve the name of a man, and that the true Moslem is one who will cheerfully acknowledge the limits imposed by the Law. He who endeavours, on whatever pretext, to ignore its obligations is certainly under Satanic influence, and should be talked to, not with a pen, but with a sword. These pseudo-mystics sometimes pretend to be drowned in a sea of wonder, but if you ask them what they are wondering at they do not know. They should be told to wonder as much as they please, but at the same time to remember that the Almighty is their Creator and that they are His servants.