The question I wish to address in this article is how can we reduce the negative influences of the society in which we live. I don’t think it is possible to entirely insulate oneself from these negative influences, but I do feel that we at least have to make an effort to the best of our abilities.
We are so immersed in the society in which we live that we are not always aware of just how much we are being influenced in our actions, speech and modes of thinking. Because we see things on a regular basis they become normal in our minds and we never stop to think that they may actually be prohibited in our religion and have a deleterious impact on our spirituality. If we take our cues regarding how to speak, think and act from the wider society we may end up in a not-so-good place when it comes to our relationship with Allah. Now I’m not saying that everything in society is bad, but we have come to a point in history where much of how people speak, think and act is tainted with evil to the point that we have to actively seek out those things which are wholesome and does not negatively affect our spirituality. This is a not-so-easy thing to do when we are so close to the thing that we are examining. When we are exposed to something on a daily basis over a long period of time it appears to be both right and normal when in fact, from the vantage point of the normative teachings of our faith, they are not normal nor are they right.
For the believer, the standard of how to speak, think and act correctly comes from the Quran and the lived example of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. When we study these two sources and then view society in light of these, then we begin to more fully recognize and acknowledge just how much evil and corruption have permeated almost every aspect of the society in which we live. For example, there is a lot of dishonesty and deception within society and we always have to be on guard to ensure that we are not ripped off. In addition, there is a lot of open immorality and licentiousness which is a constant temptation and distraction and we can be easily taken in by these things because of their alluring nature and our desires become the arbiter of what is right and wrong.
This is why we have to have a close relationship with the Quran and the lived example of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. We need to expose ourselves on a daily basis to these two main sources so that they ground us in our thinking, our actions and our speech and put a check on us when we veer off the right path. If we neglect these two sources in our lives then other things will move in and fill the void.
In addition, it is very important that we associate with other good people who live pure and wholesome lives and are very much invested in bringing the deen of Allah into their lives. And if we are associating with those people who are bringing us down and causing us to behave, speak and think in a bad way, then perhaps we should remove ourselves from their presence and reduce our interaction with them.
I feel it is also important to examine the things that we consciously expose ourselves to including the material that we read and watch on a regular basis and to make an honest assessment regarding the impact they have on our relationship with Allah. If these things are having a negative impact on our spirituality, then perhaps it would be better to reassess those things we are reading and watching and expose ourselves to those things which strengthen our spirituality and reinforce our faith. This can be done by reading more wholesome material and watching things that are more uplifting and pure.
We should also examine on a regular basis the condition of our hearts. For example, we may be filled with a lot of envy and jealousy towards those people who are more fortunate in life and this can be instrumental in generating a disease within our hearts to the point that we become obsessed with what other people have or what they have accomplished and we are incapable of having peace and tranquillity in our own lives. Our faith teaches us that we should look upon those people who are less fortunate than us and not on those people who are more fortunate with a view to be more thankful for what we have. It is essential that we try to develop to the best of our abilities a sense of contentment for what Allah has decreed for us and not always focus on those things that we have not been able to accomplish or that we don’t possess. We should instead thank Allah for the things that we have been able to do and the things that we do have in our possession. This is more conducive to generating peace and contentment in one’s heart.
We have to learn to let go of those things that generate negative feelings and emotions within us for our own sake. Going through life with hatred and bitterness and a host of other negative feelings is not good for one’s spiritual and physical well-being. It is also not good for the person who is seeking to cultivate a relationship with Allah. We must be honest with ourselves and examine our hearts on a regular basis and look at what is on the inside and seek to change those things which are causing us harm. As always, we ask Allah for help in these matters because they are not always easy to overcome on our own. But if we keep in mind the end goal of what we’re trying to achieve, then this will make the task much easier.
We must ask ourselves the question: what kind of person do we wish to be and what kind of life do we wish to lead? What are those things we consider to be important? And what impact do the people with whom we associate have on us?
I think it’s also important to remember that this life is temporary and that we are only here for a short period of time, after which we return to Allah. Sometimes, we get wrapped up in our daily lives with all the responsibilities that we have and all the material things that we are surrounded with and we forget this reality. We forget the fact that we will one day pass away and that we will have to return to The One Who created us. Perhaps reviewing those verses in the Quran which speak about the hereafter, both its rewards and punishments, will help us to focus on the temporality of this worldly existence.
The expectations that the wider society has upon us are constantly changing. In addition, what is considered right and wrong remains unstable. We are subjected to tremendous amounts of propaganda and manipulation with a view to changing our worldview and actions. I highly recommend you listen to the brief video “The Manipulation Industry” which highlights this reality.
I began this article by stating that I wish to address how we can reduce the negative impact all the society in which we live. If we don’t believe that this is a serious question or a thing worth thinking about, then we will do nothing and proceed with our lives with no concern whatsoever regarding how society influences us. But this should not be the attitude of the believer. The attitude of the believer is always centred on how they can please Allah in their lives and avoid those things which displease Him. But it goes beyond even this and relates to how we can cultivate a genuine love for Allah in our hearts. When we have this love in our hearts then we will look upon the things of this world in an altogether different light and see our earthly existence as merely a test and preparation for the hereafter and thus not become overly attached to those material things. As believers, we will experience gain and suffer loss in our lives, but the greatest gain that we can achieve is the pleasure of Allah and the greatest loss that we could ever experience is to end up in a state of eternal perdition because we did not take proper heed to what Allah has called us to.