26. Why is it that Nations, Devoid of Faith and Belief, Possess a Life of Ease and Comfort?

Verse 96 of Surah al-A'raf says:

وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَىٰ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ بَرَكَاتٍ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِنْ كَذَّبُوا فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

“And if the people of the towns had believed and guarded (against evil) We would certainly have opened up for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they rejected, so We overtook them for what they had earned.” (7:96).

In view of the above verse a question arises that if faith and piety are the cause for the descent of Divine blessings, why are nations that do not possess faith seen to be in great ease and luxury?

The answer to this question shall become clear by taking two points into regard:

The imagination that nations that lack faith and piety are in ease and comfort is a great error that stems from another error - that of regarding wealth to be the means of prosperity.

Usually people are given to imagine that the nation that possesses the maximum wealth and the most advanced industries is the most prosperous nation whereas if we were to penetrate into such societies and observe from close the gnawing pains that overwhelm their body and soul, we would realize that many of them are the most miserable ones on the earth - notwithstanding the fact that all these very comparative advancements are a consequence of effort, endeavour, discipline and sense of responsibility - all of which had been part of the teachings of the prophets.

Just as we write this portion of the commentary, the newspapers reported that New York - the most affluent and the advanced region of the material world - was witness to a very strange scenario arising out of a sudden blackout. Taking advantage of the situation, innumerable people rampaged into shops and looted them; the looting was so widespread that the police arrested three thousand people in connection with this incident.

The actual pillagers were undoubtedly much more in number for these were the people who were unable to escape in time. Undeniably these individuals were not professionals, who had planned the general rampage beforehand since the incident itself was sudden and unexpected.

Accordingly, we infer that one blackout caused tens of thousands of people of the inhabitants of an affluent city to be transformed into pillagers; this not only reveals the moral decadence of a nation but also reflects the intense lack of social security.

The newspapers carried another report, which served to present a complete picture of this incident. The report stated that a celebrity, who had been staying in one of the reputed skyscraper hotels of New York during this period, said: The blackout made walking in the hotel aisles a dangerous proposition to the extent that the hotel staff refused to permit the guests to walk in the aisles alone to proceed to their rooms lest they be accosted by the plunderers, and so they used to send them to their rooms in groups of ten or more, under the protection of armed escorts! The celebrity added that he did not possess the courage to emerge from his room, until he was overwhelmed with hunger!

However, such blackouts in the backward oriental nations do not cause such problems indicating that despite possessing wealth and industrial advancement, they do not possess security in their environments. Apart from this, eye-witnesses report that murder in these environments is akin to drinking one mouthful of water.

And we clearly perceive that if one were to be given the entire world but at the same time made to live in such conditions, he would be of the most miserable of all men. Besides, the security problem is just one of their problems; they face numerous other social problems which, by themselves, are painful and inconveniencing. In the light of these realities, wealth should not be mistaken and confused with prosperity.

As for what has been said regarding why those, who possess faith and piety, lagged behind in backwardness, it must be stated that if the meaning of faith and piety is to merely claim the acceptance of Islam and maintain adherence to the basic teachings of the prophets, then we do confess that such individuals have surely remained backward. However we know that the reality of faith and piety is their penetration into all acts of life, and this is something which cannot be achieved by mere claims.

It is unfortunate that in most of the Islamic societies today, the fundamental teachings of the prophets of Allah (s.w.t.) and Islam remain forsaken or semi-forsaken, leaving these societies to possess an appearance which is not that of true Muslims.

Islam invites towards purity, righteousness, trustworthiness, striving and effort - where is that trustworthiness and effort? Islam invites towards science, knowledge, awakening and awareness - where is that profuse knowledge and awareness? Islam invites towards unity, closeness of ranks and self-sacrifice - do all these dictates prevail over the Islamic societies today, perfectly and completely? Thus, we ought to acknowledge that Islam is one thing while we Muslims are something else.1

  • 1. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 6, pg. 268.