Purity, Simplicity & Balance by Dr. Ingrid Mattson
Throughout history, humans have adopted many standards. These standards range from social, cultural, political, to economic and juridical. Human standards or laws can sometimes be useful or beneficial if they adhere to the divine standards. As these standards get further away from the religious laws, they produce benefits only to limited special interest groups, with the public as a whole suffering or at least not benefiting from these laws. Most people judge situations or other people based upon certain preconceived ideas and rules that they accumulated in their past. Often times, these judgments may not be universally fair or righteous. Generally speaking, there are three different kinds of standards that humans follow when facing different issues:
Divine Standard: these are the set of laws, behaviors, and actions that are prescribed by God upon all humans regardless or race, color, wealth or gender. These laws are pathways to piety and absolute justice.
Society standard: the laws and the morals that specific societies impose upon themselves that are supposedly for the welfare of the whole society at that time. However, no society standard could include all the issues that affect its people. This leaves open issues that cause major differences in opinion. For example, The American society is almost evenly divided on major issues such as abortion and gun control with no side being able to convince the other.
Individual standard: This is the standard that an individual adopts to satisfy his own needs and desires regardless of its effect on others. Many people judge an event or action based upon their own standard that can be totally impious.
It will be shown that the Divine standards and values in Islam are far superior to any other society or individual standards. One of the functions of a religion is to teach humans a set of rules and standards that are universally beneficial at all times. However, a liberal society or person may find the divine standard too restrictive and against human rights! Someone may condemn the Islamic laws of flogging or amputation of hands of criminals without entertaining the idea that these laws can protect the whole society. This is regardless of the fact that many social or human standards are always accused of being biased and unfair.
The multitude of the stories in the Holy Books is for a divine wisdom. For example, Moses (Pbuh) was a fascinating choice as a messenger of Allah. One of a prophet's human qualifications is his ability to speak and convince people with the religion. However, Moses could not speak clearly, he used to stutter. So he asked God to make his brother Aaron a co-messenger to help him with the Egyptians. God accepted the plea of Moses. When Moses went to the pharaoh to deliver the message of God, he was accused that he could not speak clearly and would not be able to "sell" the message of God. By the human standard, a stuttered prophet may not do a good job in delivering the message. But by God′s standard, His mercy can be given to anyone regardless of his physical ability and he will succeed with the help of God. As a matter of fact, Moses is considered as one of the most recognized prophets in the three monotheistic religions, and he miraculously achieved a great deal.
Crime is rampant and prevalent in the United States as well as the Western World at large. The USA is the country that has the highest number of churches on earth. At the same time, it is the country that has the most violent crimes. It is also the country that has the highest number of prisons on earth. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in USA in its 1987 Annual statistical summary reported that a major crime occurs every 3 seconds and a murder every 27 minutes. National surveys conducted by universities and governmental agencies indicate that most citizens of the USA feel that the existing criminal justice system is too soft on criminals. The major problem as envisioned by social scientists is that the goal of the criminal justice system is not punishment but correction. Hence, the prisons are called "Corrective Facilities", and the prisoners to a large extent are pampered and spoiled. When judges and juries convict criminals, sometimes the punishment is sadly inadequate. For example, a life sentence for killing a person would be in a corrective facility, and in most cases not for the remainder of the criminal′s life! A life sentence equates to merely a 33 years prison term, but the murderer may be set free after serving just one third of the sentence, or 11 years for good behavior. On the other side, if the murderer is sentenced to death, the method of execution varies from state to state in the same country USA; there is no standard for executing murderers. Execution can be performed by lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, firearms, or hanging. The different methods of execution are chosen based upon which one is easier and faster. Obviously it may well be that no one really knows the easiest way of killing murderers. And the irony is that the justice system is trying supposedly to find the easiest way for execution whether or not the victim is killed in a violent or an easy way. Furthermore, Gangs′ crimes are raging in the USA. It was reported that in one city (Fort Worth, Texas), there were about 5000 gang members committing all kinds of crimes from shooting innocent people at random, to fighting against each other. Crimes committed by children in schools, teenagers′ suicide and pregnancy, drug overdose, killing for the adrenaline rush, etc., are quite common that psychologists, religious and government spokesmen have no clues for the reason of this phenomena.
And yet, the western person considers the Islamic Laws and traditions, dealing with criminal matters not only uncivilized but also barbaric. In a rather interesting book entitled "The Arabs", by David Lamb, Random House, New York, 1987, the author reports of the tremendous disparity in the crime rates between the whole Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and city of Los Angles during the calendar year 1982. Both Saudi Arabia and Los Angles had a population of 7 Million, and their respective crime statistics compares as follows:
It is important to know that the 14200 total crimes in Saudi Arabia included 3124 offenses due to the use of alcohol. If alcohol use were to be an offense in Los Angles, the total number of crimes would exceed several million! Also in Saudi Arabia, it is very common that jewelry, trading currency stores and all other stores can be left opened and unattended at any time with no fear of robbery. Can you imagine the sense of security that you have if you are able to do that?
At first glance, it can be assumed that this tremendous discrepancy in the crime rate that exist between Muslim societies, such as Saudi Arabia, and the western countries such as the USA is due to the manner in which justice is rendered. The justice system in Saudi Arabia is based upon divine laws and standards as well as the prophetic teachings, whereas that in the western countries is generally based upon man-made laws inherited to a large degree from Romans.
In an attempt to clarify this point, we should perhaps first examine the criminal Islamic laws. It is appropriate to explain the basics of the overall features concerning these laws:
1. First, all crimes that injure or inflict wounds on other individuals are oppressive to humans and offensive to the Creator. Thus in all such crimes the right of God and the right of the individual are included. The criminal is an offender to both God and humanity. However, in some cases the right of the individual is dominant, while in others the right of God is governing. Thus, the commands in the Islamic Law in imposing punishment are based upon which right is governing.
2. Second, the Islamic criminal law, except for a few stated crimes, has not fixed any specific punishment but has left it to the discretion of the judges to determine according to the needs of the time, place, and nature of each crime. It is also lawful for Islamic Government to determine a standard range of punishment for the entire state or to impose a limitation on the powers of the judges in accordance with the requirements of time and place.
Robbing and stealing are acts of taking other people′s property without any lawful claim to it. God and His Messenger Muhammad prescribed very severe punishment to this act.
Surah 5, Ayah 38 "As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power."
The extreme severity of this Islamic punishment is no doubt what westerners have in mind when they call the Muslims barbaric. This punishment can only be understood if one bears in mind the fundamental principle of the Islamic Law that no duty is ever imposed on man without his being granted a corresponding right, and the duty also comprises, in this context, liability to punishment. Now, among the inalienable rights of every member of the Islamic society - Muslim as well as non-Muslim - is the right to protection (in every sense of the word) by the community as a whole. As is evident in many Quranic verses as well as the Prophetic authentic teachings, every citizen is entitled to a share in the community′s resources and, thus to the enjoyment of social security. In other words, every citizen must be assured of an equitable standard of living commensurate with the resources at the disposal of the community. Islam envisages and demands a society that provides for not only for the spiritual needs of man but also for his bodily and intellectual needs as well. It follows, therefore, that in order to have a truly Islamic State, the laws must be constituted such that every individual must enjoy a minimum of basic requirements of material rights and security. Without these basic requirements, there can be no human dignity, no real freedom, and no spiritual progress. There can be no real happiness and strength in a society that permits some of its members to suffer from hunger while others have more than their needs. If certain groups of an Islamic society live in prosperity, while the majority is forced to use up their energies in search of their daily bread, poverty becomes the most dangerous enemy of the spiritual progress. Poverty may derive the entire community from being God-conscious and into the arms of soul-destroying materialism.
Consequently, the social legislation of Islam aims at a state of affairs in which every individual has:
1. Enough to eat and wear.
2. An adequate home.
3. An ample security.
4. Equal opportunities and facilities for education.
5. Medical care in health and in sickness.
It is against the background of this social security system that Islam imposes the severe sentence of hand cutting as a deterrent punishment for robbery and stealing. Since, under the circumstances outlined above, temptation cannot be admitted as a justifiable excuse. In an Islamic State which neglects or is unable to provide complete social security for all it members, the temptation to enrich oneself by illegal means often becomes irresistible. In such a case, should one be inflicted by this harsh punishment? Should the society, which is unable to fulfill its obligations with regard to every citizen, have the right to invoke the full sanction of the criminal law against the individual transgressor? Reason dictates otherwise and in fact during the time of the second Caliph Omar, the hand-cutting law was waived in a period of famine that afflicted Arabia for some time.
In addition to this exception, the majority of Islamic jurists hold that petty thefts are exempt from this punishment. The general opinion from the Bible is:
Matthew 18:8 "If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut them off, and cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire"
Also, during the time of Jesus, thieves were crucified according to the Roman law:
Matthew 27:38 "Then were there two thieves crucified with him,"
The above discussion makes it clear that those who accuse Islam of being uncivilized or barbaric dot not know the full story behind this severe punishment and certainly they do not know the Bible as well. They do not know that Jesus decreed a much harder punishment than the Islamic law, because Islam adopts hand cutting only for stealing, while Jesus made it general for any sin caused by hand or foot. This verse of Matthew 18:8 is never mentioned by half the truth TV Evangelists, while the softer Quranic verse of hand cutting is always publicized.
Illegal intercourse (Zina in Arabic) is another issue in Islamic Law. This, in general includes four categories as understood in the western world, and they are:
1. Adultery: Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, at least one of them is married to someone else.
2. Fornication: Sexual intercourse between unmarried persons.
3. Incest: Sexual intercourse between parent and child, any sibling pair, or between close blood relatives.
4. Rape: sexual intercourse with a person against his or her will and through the use of threat of force or fear.
Following Islamic law, illegal intercourse is defined as that between a man and a woman without the legal relationship of husband and a wife. Historically, all social systems, that have been close to human nature have always considered illegal intercourse a serious crime and have prescribed severe punishment. But with the deterioration in moral standards, the society has become more and more liberal. The first common lapse in this matter was caused by the absence of clear distinction between adultery and fornication. Fornication was taken as an ordinary offense while adultery was taken as a punishable crime. For many reasons, this distinction is a direct outcome of the erroneous conception formed by the Christians resulting from the incident of the Jews asking Jesus (Pbuh) to pronounce judgment on a case of adultery and his reply to them
John 8:7 "He that is without a sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her"
The above statement by Jesus could well mean that the accusers should be sinless and should start by themselves first before accusing someone else. Certainly, it does not mean that Jesus supported adultery.
According to the Christian interpretation, illegal intercourse between an unmarried man and unmarried woman is a sin, but not a punishable offense. But if either of them (or both) is married, it is adultery in which case it is treated as a crime. This is because unlawful intercourse is not the issue at hand but rather the vow of fidelity taken by each other before the priest or the pastor at the alter. Nevertheless, in this secular western society, there is no actual punishment even for adultery, except that the wife or the husband may sue each other and claim separation. Likewise in the Code of Criminal Procedure of the USA, it is not a punishable crime to commit adultery or fornication.
In Islamic law, in clear contrast, illegal intercourse is a punishable crime. This is not because of the violation of the oath of fidelity during the marriage ceremony nor because the marital rights of the other, but because the criminal resorts to an unlawful method when there exists a lawful method for satisfying sexual needs and desires. Furthermore, it is regarded as an abomination and an evil way as stated by Allah:
Surah 17, Ayah 32 "Nor come nigh to adultery, for it is an indecent (deed) and an evil way."
Is punishment the solution? It certainly is, but as a last resort, Islam does rely on punitive law alone for saving humanity from the menace of illegal intercourse. It employs both reformatory and prohibitory measures on a larger scale. In fact, contrary to some of the western concepts on Islam, it is not the intent of Islam to flog people day and night. Its real aim is that people should not commit this crime at all. Also people should not put themselves in a position that may lead to this crime. Hence Islam endeavors to purify humans through prayers, fasting and charity. Moreover, Islam provides all possible facilities for a man to marry. In fact he may even marry four provided that he can treat them equally. Furthermore, in cases of dispute between the married couple, provisions exist for reconciliation or divorce. In addition, Islam puts an end to all factors that lure man and woman to illegal intercourse or provide the opportunity for it. For instance, Muslim women are commanded to cover themselves with their garments, and the wives of the Prophet were given Quranic instruction to stay in their houses and not to display their adornment. Likewise, the free mixing of men and women is discouraged, and they are both enjoined to restrain their gaze so that unrestricted feasting of the eyes should not lead to illegal love. Many of these admonishments were revealed in the Quran as well as taught by Muhammad.
Islamic Law states that the punishment of fornication is flogging each man and woman with a hundred stripes, while the adulterers, stoned to death. We find on examining the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus 20:10.
"And the man that committeth adultery with another man′s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor′s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."
Furthermore, the Old Testament states in the Book of Deuteronomy 22: 23-24
"If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto a husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her: Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die."
Therefore, the Quran was revealed to restore many of the original laws that were applied, before Christians abolished all the Mosaic laws.
There are many conditions, however, that must be applied for the illegal intercourse to be punishable. Some of these conditions are as follows:
The burden of the proof is on the state and not the accused.
Only an Islamic court in an Islamic state has the authority to punish the defendant. This applies to any punishment in Islamic Law. There is no place for vigilant justice.
The Islamic Law does not make it obligatory that a person must confess his guilt of illegal intercourse, or that those who have knowledge of it must inform the Islamic Authorities about it.
The Islamic authority shall not take actions against anyone for illegal intercourse unless it is fully proved.
Confession of the accused may be used against him, and the Islamic Court must satisfy itself that the confession was voluntary and that at the time of the confession, he was in the right sense.
To prove an illegal intercourse, there should be at least four reliable eyewitnesses to prove the guilt.
Besides illegal intercourse, Islamic attitude towards slander is totally different from that in the western world. To begin with, slander is not a criminal offense in the West. It is a civil offense, and the burden of proof is on the accuser. Furthermore, under the disguise of freedom of speech and press, especially in the USA, many slanderous statements are made on a daily basis published in all kinds of magazines and newspapers. In many cases, the reporting is correct; however, they still have the detrimental effect on society since they create an atmosphere of immorality that over the years becomes the norm of the society. For instance, several decades back, in a conservative and more religious USA, fornication was socially and morally unacceptable. Now, however, fornication is part and parcel in the American way of life, and, also bragging about it is every day sort of fun. Islam does not only forbid unlawful intercourse, but also discourages publicity of such. False accusation or slander is punishable in the most severe way. For example, false accusation against the chastity of a pure woman is punishable by eighty lashes, Surah 24, Ayah 4.
Therefore, one can conclude that the law of slander prescribed the punishment for the person who accused another man or woman of illegal intercourse and could not produce four eyewitnesses to prove the charge. The question, however, arises as to what should a man do if he finds out that his own wife was involved in illegal intercourse, or vice versa. If he kills her, he will be guilty of murder and be punished. If he searches for witnesses, the offenders will no doubt escape. If he accuses his wife without witnesses, he will be again punished for slander. If he divorces his wife, there will be no moral or physical punishment for his wife or her seducer, and if the illegal intercourse results in pregnancy, he will have to suffer the burden of bringing up the child.
This problem was in fact raised as a practical case, and actually there were such cases during the life of Muhammad (Pbuh). One particular incidence involved a man who presented the case of his wife whom he had himself witnessed her act of illegal intercourse. The Apostle of Allah said, "Bring your proof, otherwise you will have the prescribed punishment of slander inflicted upon you." At this time the panic spread among the companions, and the man replied "I swear by Allah who has sent you as a Prophet that I am speaking the truth; I have seen it with my eye and heard it with my ears. I am sure that Allah will send down a Command which will protect my back from punishment." The traditions confirm that the following verses were revealed to the Prophet at that time:
Surah 24, Ayah 6-9 "And for those who launch a charge against their wives, and have no evidence but their own, let one of them testify four times by Allah that he is of those who speak the truth. And the fifth oath (should be) that he solemnly invokes the curse of Allah on himself if he tells a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah, that (her husband) is telling a lie. And the fifth oath should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth."
Who could ever come up with a solution like that? The divine solution is if the man′s word is against his wife′s word, each of them swears by Allah four times, and the fifth oath they accept the curse and wrath of Allah if they are telling a lie. This may seem strange these days, since not very many people understand the significance of the wrath of God, which to the real believer, is much more than any kind of worldly punishment.
Economic systems vary in several important regards. One of the most important issues is the question of who owns the capital or productive capacity. In some economies, capital is for the most part privately owned; in others it is mainly publicly owned; and in yet others it is a mix of public and private ownership.
Capitalism is one in which most of the capital is privately owned. Capital or productive capacity includes manufacturing plants, distribution systems, land, raw mineral, and money can be converted into such items. Capital can be thought of as income-producing wealth: if you own something that produces income, you own capital. The larger the share of capital that is owned privately, the more capitalist an economy is said to be. In a purely capitalist system - an ideal type that does not exist in real life - all productive capacity would be privately owned. The USA is the most capitalist nation in the world. More of its productive capacity is privately owned than is the case in most other western nations - but it is not completely capitalist. Certain important economic functions (highway construction, mail, and education) are performed predominantly by government-owned organizations. Although capitalism is primarily found in industrialized economies, countries of various stages of industrialization have adopted its basic characteristics.
Socialism, on the other hand, is a system in which capital is publicly owned. Sometimes, to emphasize the major role of government, this system is referred to as state socialism. Just as there is no such thing as a purely capitalist economy, so is there no purely socialist system. Some socialist countries permit farmers to have privately owned land and sell what they produce, as long as they meet production quotas for their collective farm or commune. Moreover, many socialist countries have black markets - illegal private sales of goods and services.
Communism, as defined by Karl Marx as the "classless communist society," was the final stage of economic evolution that could only come after capitalism and socialism. In communism, as predicted by Marx, capital would be controlled not by government, but by collectives of workers who would own and operate the establishments at which they work. The role of the government would fade away because the people would act collectively and democratically at the local level. Individuals would contribute according to their talent and abilities and receive according to their needs. Because people would control their work situation, they would be able to perform to their fullest potential. Marx′s utopian ideal has never been achieved.
Capitalism and socialism both reflect and produce dramatically different value systems. Capitalism depends on the norm of maximization that assumes that people will seek to get as much wealth and income as they can. One may think that this is human nature. In fact it is not human nature. It only seems this way because the norm of maximization is so deeply engraved in the culture of capitalist societies.
Early capitalist economists such as Adam Smith believed that the norm of maximization would benefit all groups in a society. By rewarding greater efficiency with high profits, they argued that capitalism would improve overall productivity and thus make everyone′s life better. Smith was writing about individual capitalism. Modern corporate capitalism operates differently from what he envisioned. Corporate management systems, in its worst case, can produce an economy that is governed solely by the stock market. In this case, the owners of the capitals, or the shareholders, demand a quick return on their investment regardless of human sufferings, research and development, long term planning, and even the interest of the society as a whole. Smith would probably no more recognize capitalism in the USA today than Marx would recognize communism in the Soviet Union before its collapse. Capitalist systems resulted in a society with chronic social diseases such as high rates of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and homeless people.
On the other hand, socialism is based upon a very different set of human standards than those that sustain capitalism. Central to socialism is the belief that nobody should become wealthy if someone else must do without necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, health care or the opportunities for meaningful employment. Thus the first priority of a socialist economy is to meet the basic needs of the population, even if it means operating at a loss, using government subsidies, or maintaining unprofitable organizations. Rather than competing for wealth, the ideal value of socialist economies is the cooperation for the common goals of leaving nobody′s basic needs unmet. Socialist systems appealed to poor countries that were governed by dictators. It ended up with not a single class, but actually two classes where the "elite" governing class can have anything at their disposal, while the masses are deprived of their basic needs. Therefore, socialist economies are sometimes labeled as a mere capitalist system of the few. The masses in socialist systems are actually living on a dream, of general equality, that will never happen. The statement of Marx that religion is the opium of the people can actually be stated as socialism is the opium of people. This is because socialism in the late Soviet Union had produced a nation that worked by force in the morning, and drank Vodka in the evening.
According to the Islamic system, man is encouraged to work, is free to enterprise, and is entitled to earn and possess. However, the fact that he is a mere trustee provides the necessary measure to ensure proper handling of his possessions, his trusts. God the Almighty is recognized as the absolute owner of every wealth, and working to earn a living is a kind of worship. Therefore, work has to be performed with efficiency and honesty. Once the work is done, the employee is entitled to a fair wage. Failure of the employer to pay a fair wage is a punishable act according the Laws of God.
Business transactions enjoy a great deal of attention from Islam. Honest trade is permitted and blessed by God. This may be carried out through individuals, companies, agencies, and the like. But all business deals should be concluded with frankness and honesty. Cheating, hiding defects of merchandise, exploiting the needs of customers, monopolizing to force one′s own price are all sinful acts and punishable by Islamic Law. To combat cheating and exploitation, Islam demands honesty in business, warns the cheaters, encourages decent work, and forbids usury or the taking of interest just in return for lending money to the needy. Lending money with interest is imposed by the capitalist system on the individuals as well as on other nations to the extent that it is becoming almost the global norm. However, Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia forbid interest on borrowing money.
Inheritance is a fascinating subject where in many cases the individual and sometimes the state standards contradict the Divine Standard. Inheritance is a very serious business in the life of a family. Many crimes are committed if the will of the deceased is not liked by his relatives. Parents are even murdered by their sons in order to get their inheritance faster. Relatives of the deceased sometimes argue about the distribution of the will even during a funeral. The greedy nature of some people may lead them to fight for money. Therefore, human wills may result in spreading hate or even killings. Islam realizes this issue, and consequently, the principles of inheritance are laid down in broad outline in the Quran. The precise details have been worked out on the basis of the Prophet′s practice and the practice of his companions, and by interpretation and analogy. Muslim jurists have collected a vast amount of learning on this subject, and this body of law is enough by itself to form a long study. The Islamic law of inheritance covers every conceivable case of existence of the parents and the spouse of the deceased, the number of his sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, etc.
Chapter 4 in the Quran outlines the Divine Laws of inheritance. Before, detailing the rules of inheritance, special considerations by Allah are prescribed against injustice to orphans in the strongest way.
Surah 4, Ayah 10 "Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a fire in their own bodies: they will soon be enduring a blazing fire."
Once again, in this chapter of the Quran, strong emphasis is placed on the definition of properties where ultimately all property belongs to Allah. In this case, God, the Real Owner, is the one that has the right to distribute the property according to His Will and not according to any human desire. By realizing this simple fact, humans must surrender to the will of Allah and accept His Judgment.
Success in Life
In the present materialistic world, human′s measure of success in life is based upon:
1. How much money does a person have?
2. How much control does a person exercise over other humans?
3. How much an image of success does a person project?
4. How much knowledge does a person have?
5. How much importance does a person have?
If someone has more money and control over another, then human standard judges the first is more successful than the later. Human nature tends to project one′s success if one is successful by human′s standards. That is why the old clich� of "dress for success and show to impress" is regarded with great care. Many years ago, IBM adopted a dress code for its salesmen that consisted of pinstriped dark suits, white shirts, and red ties. This immediately became the standard of the business dress, regardless of the weather. Lately, IBM abolished this dress code, realizing that this dress code alone did not really help its bottom line.
It is also fascinating to watch a discussion between two persons. In many cases, you find that each one is implying that he is more successful, by human′s standard, than the other one. People like to talk about their houses and how big they are, about their cars and how luxurious they look, about their kids and how smart they are, about their knowledge and how useful it is for humanity, etc. Of course this discussion is not going to be conducted bluntly, but the implication is there for anyone to get the idea.
The Apostle of Allah recommended reading Surah 18 every Friday. This particular Surah has many stories that indicate the importance of humility, truth, patience, and other virtues. One of the stories shows a simple story of the contrast between two men. One was arrogant and forgot that what he had was from Allah, by way of a trust and a trial in this life. The other did not brag about what he possessed, and his trust was in Allah. The two men began to compare notes. The arrogant one was bragging about his possessions, his income, and his large family, and thought in his self-satisfaction that it would last forever. The Quran states:
Surah 18, Ayah 34 "(Abundant) was the produce this man had: he said to his companion, in the course of mutual argument: More wealth have I than you, and more honor and power in (my following of) men."
The worldly wealth of the first was destroyed, and he had nothing left. The second was the happier in the end. This part of the above Ayah "More wealth have I than you, and more honor and power in men" is really very striking, because it reveals the standard of human materialistic life. One sees and hears this sentence many times every day, and everywhere. It is not the wealth that ruined him, but the attitude of his mind. He was unjust, not so much to his companion, but to his own soul. In his love for material, he forgot and openly defied the spiritual. In his mind "better" means more wealth, and more power, of the kind he was enjoying in his life. Although in reality, even what he had, rested on a shaky foundation and was doomed to perish and bring him down with it.
So what is the true and lasting standard of success in life? In one Ayah, Allah addresses all mankind and not only the Muslims about His Divine Standard:
Surah 49, Ayah 13 "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
This Ayah defines clearly the Divine Standard of success; it is piety. Piety is not a matter of convenient claims and oral confessions. It is much more serious. According to the authentic tradition, when the Prophet was asked about piety, he said its place is in the heart. No person can claim having more piety than another. This is because there is no worldly measure of piety. Only Allah knows the degree of piety of everyone. Piety has nothing to do with wealth, color, or race. The Prophet also once said that:
"Perhaps a dirty and dusty person, if he asks Allah anything, He will grant him his wish."
Therefore, we do not know who is really better than who. An arrogant person may look down on another, and in fact the later is much more successful than the former. The Quran, as our best source of knowledge, describes pious people as those who believe in the Unseen (which is taught by God), are steadfast in prayer, and spend their money on charity; and who believe in the revelation sent to Muhammad and all the prophets before him. Piety demands a high degree of self-control over one′s anger and emotions, a moral capacity for forgiveness and patience, and a conscious urge to make the sinner return to God in regret and repentance. Piety, righteousness, and meaningful faith are interrelated and all pour in one channel. This leads to the formation of the true Muslim.