Consider being present in one of two night time environments. The first is that of a bustling city with crowded streets, tall buildings, and an abundance of artificial light. The second of a secluded mountain retreat miles away from civilization with nothing but the sounds of nature and the light from the stars above. In which of these two environments would cause you to be more reflective upon God?
While towns and cities are great for commerce and entertainment, they are not always ideal for our souls. The constant distractions make it easy to forget that we are a tiny mote spinning thousands of miles an hour around a massive fireball a million times larger than our Earth hurling through a vast universe that is billions of lightyears across. This simple act of being able to stare up at the stars, which has caused countless people throughout history to reflect upon the glory and awe of God’s design, has been lost by the consequence of light pollution man has contributed in our effort to improve our condition.
On August 14, 2003, 45 million American’s in the Northeast lost power. For once, the cosmos above New York was not blocked by the perpetual light caused by the city. This allowed millions of inhabitants to be able to see the Milky Way galaxy for the first time in their entire lives. The unexpected site caused many to panic and call 911 to report a strange phenomenon they described as gas in the night sky.
For countless people, not only did they never see the Milky Way, they were not even aware that such a massive spectacle was lingering above them for their entire lives. Now contrast that with all the generations who lived prior, whose view of the perpetual vastness and all its mysteries were part of their regular lives. Where constellations were as well known to them as the names of local streets and cities are to the people of today. How would such an upbringing, or the lack thereof, impact a person’s relationship with God?
[96:6] Indeed, the human transgresses.
كَلَّا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَيَطْغَىٰ
[96:7] When he becomes rich.
أَنْ رَآهُ اسْتَغْنَىٰ
God informs us that the human being transgresses when he becomes rich. The Arabic word which is translated as “rich” in the above verse is اسْتَغْنَىٰ (is’taghnā). The literal meaning of this word is to be self-sufficient. What more sign of the achievement of being rich and self-sufficient for man, than that of the creation of a city. The paradox of this is that while these are blessings for the human being, we have a tendency of transforming these blessings into mechanisms that lead us away from God.
[17:83] When we bless the human being, he becomes preoccupied and heedless. But when adversity strikes him, he turns despondent.
وَإِذَا أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَى الْإِنْسَانِ أَعْرَضَ وَنَأَىٰ بِجَانِبِهِ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ كَانَ يَئُوسًا
[41:49] The human being never tires of imploring for good things. And when adversity befalls him, he turns despondent, desperate. [41:50] And when we bless him after suffering some adversity, he says, “This belongs to me. I do not believe that the Hour will ever come to pass. Even if I am returned to my Lord, I will find at Him better things.” Most certainly, we will inform the disbelievers of all their works, and will commit them to severe retribution. [41:51] When we bless the human being, he turns away, and drifts farther and farther away, and when he suffers any affliction, he implores loudly.
But in addition to the light from the cities that block our view from the night sky, we have other forms of artificial light that also distracts us from remembering our God, such as the light of televisions, computers, smartphones. To put this in perspective, in the US alone each day people in aggregate watch 1.25 billion hours of YouTube, while each adult spends an average of 5.4 hours on their smartphones, and 12 hours and 9 minutes per day on some form of media.
While cities and technology are blessings in one regard, they also come with tremendous responsibility. And if we misuse these blessings from God, they will only lead to us forgetting not only our Creator, but even our souls (the real self).
[59:19] Do not be like those who forgot GOD, so He made them forget themselves. These are the wicked.
وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنْسَاهُمْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
Like a baby in a womb that requires a mother to provide the food, water, and oxygen by means of the umbilical cord to survive, our souls need the constant connection with God that is achieved through His remembrance and the worship practices. So we should not let the artificial light created by men distract us from the light from God that reminds us of our Creator.
[24:35] GOD is the light of the heavens and the earth. The allegory of His light is that of a concave mirror behind a lamp that is placed inside a glass container. The glass container is like a bright, pearl-like star. The fuel thereof is supplied from a blessed oil-producing tree, that is neither eastern, nor western. Its oil is almost self-radiating; needs no fire to ignite it. Light upon light. GOD guides to His light whomever He wills. GOD thus cites the parables for the people. GOD is fully aware of all things.
اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
[24:36] (God’s guidance is found) in houses exalted by GOD, for His name is commemorated therein. Glorifying Him therein, day and night—
فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ
Those Who Frequent the Masjid
[24:37] People who are not distracted by business or trade from commemorating GOD; they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and they are conscious of the day when the minds and the eyes will be horrified.
رِجَالٌ لَا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلَا بَيْعٌ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ يَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَالْأَبْصَارُ
[24:38] GOD will certainly reward them for their good works, and will shower them with His grace. GOD provides for whomever He wills without limits.
لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَيَزِيدَهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ وَاللَّهُ يَرْزُقُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ
Chasing A Mirage
[24:39] As for those who disbelieve, their works are like a mirage in the desert. A thirsty person thinks that it is water. But when he reaches it, he finds that it is nothing, and he finds GOD there instead, to requite him fully for his works. GOD is the most efficient reckoner.
The Great Triumph
[57:12] The day will come when you see the believing men and women with their lights radiating ahead of them and to their right. Good news is yours that, on that day, you will have gardens with flowing streams. You will abide therein forever. This is the great triumph.
يَوْمَ تَرَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَسْعَىٰ نُورُهُمْ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ بُشْرَاكُمُ الْيَوْمَ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
The Worst Losers
[57:13] On that day, the hypocrite men and women will say to those who believed, “Please allow us to absorb some of your light.” It will be said, “Go back behind you, and seek light.” A barrier will be set up between them, whose gate separates mercy on the inner side, from retribution on the outer side.
يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انْظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِنْ نُورِكُمْ قِيلَ ارْجِعُوا وَرَاءَكُمْ فَالْتَمِسُوا نُورًا فَضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِسُورٍ لَهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَاهِرُهُ مِنْ قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ
[57:14] They will call upon them, “Were we not with you?” They will answer, “Yes, but you cheated your souls, hesitated, doubted, and became misled by wishful thinking, until GOD’s judgment came. You were diverted from GOD by illusions.
يُنَادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُنْ مَعَكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ وَلَٰكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنْتُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَارْتَبْتُمْ وَغَرَّتْكُمُ الْأَمَانِيُّ حَتَّىٰ جَاءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَغَرَّكُمْ بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ
[57:15] “Therefore, today no ransom can be taken from you, nor from those who disbelieved. Your abode is the fire; it is your lord, and miserable abode.”
فَالْيَوْمَ لَا يُؤْخَذُ مِنْكُمْ فِدْيَةٌ وَلَا مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مَأْوَاكُمُ النَّارُ هِيَ مَوْلَاكُمْ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ