It is easy to stand for the truth when the people in one’s environment are in agreement, but the real test comes when we stand for the truth despite the pushback and ramifications that one will face for holding such opinions. Therefore,
A person is not virtuous for the popular opinions they eagerly promote, but the unpopular opinions they dare to proclaim.
To articulate this point below is a thought experiment from Professor Robert George of Princeton.
Imagine you are living in 1860 Alabama. How many of you would be on the side of the abolitionist?
Nearly all the hands go up
Really? Can anyone of you name a single political stance you are currently willing to publicly proclaim that may cost you your life, liberty, or career today?
We all like to think that we are not a byproduct of our environment and our norms, but consider that in 1860 Alabama 25% of free blacks even owned slaves. So to think that we would all be immune to such societal pressures and stick with the morals we have today, if we were living in 1860 Alabama, would be naive.
A trait of a believer is that they worship their Lord privately and publicly.
[7:55] You shall worship your Lord publicly and privately; He does not love the transgressors.
دْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ
[7:205] You shall remember your Lord within yourself, publicly, privately, and quietly, day and night; do not be unaware.
وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعًا وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ وَلَا تَكُنْ مِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ
It is easy to proclaim our belief in God and His words when the individuals we are in contact with are in agreement, but as we have seen through the example of the messengers and prophets the real test is if we are willing to do this when it goes against the crowd. Like Moses to Pharaoh, or Muhammad to the People of Quraish, or Jesus to the Children of Israel, or Abraham to his people and his father, or Lot to his community, we see that throughout history the true test for the believers is are they willing to stand with God despite the opposition.
God informs us that He never burdens a soul beyond its means (2:285), but at the same time that as believers we know that we will be tested through insults from those who do not believe (3:187).
[2:286] GOD never burdens a soul beyond its means: to its credit is what it earns, and against it is what it commits. “Our Lord, do not condemn us if we forget or make mistakes. Our Lord, and protect us from blaspheming against You, like those before us have done. Our Lord, protect us from sinning until it becomes too late for us to repent. Pardon us and forgive us. You are our Lord and Master. Grant us victory over the disbelieving people.”
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِنْ نَسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا أَنْتَ مَوْلَانَا فَانْصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ
[3:186] You will certainly be tested, through your money and your lives, and you will hear from those who received the scripture, and from the idol worshipers, a lot of insult. If you steadfastly persevere and lead a righteous life, this will prove the strength of your faith.
لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنْفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا وَإِنْ تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
This is a mandatory test that all believers will eventually have to face to prove their faith.
The Test is Mandatory
[29:2] Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe,” without being put to the test?
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
[29:3] We have tested those before them, for GOD must distinguish those who are truthful, and He must expose the liars.
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ
While God allows for weak believers to hide their faith at times and even profess disbelief if forced, this should not be the perpetual state of a believer.
[3:28] The believers never ally themselves with the disbelievers, instead of the believers. Whoever does this is exiled from GOD. Exempted are those who are forced to do this to avoid persecution. GOD alerts you that you shall reverence Him alone. To GOD is the ultimate destiny.
لَا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلَّا أَنْ تَتَّقُوا مِنْهُمْ تُقَاةً وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ
[16:106] Those who disbelieve in GOD, after having acquired faith, and become fully content with disbelief, have incurred wrath from GOD. The only ones to be excused are those who are forced to profess disbelief, while their hearts are full of faith.
مَنْ كَفَرَ بِاللَّهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِيمَانِهِ إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَٰكِنْ مَنْ شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
Eventually our true convictions have to be put to the test to see if we will stand with God despite the persecution we will face.
Fair Weather Friends
[29:10] Among the people there are those who say, “We believe in GOD,” but as soon as they suffer any hardship because of GOD, they equate the people’s persecution with GOD’s retribution. But if blessings from your Lord come your way, they say, “We were with you.” Is GOD not fully aware of the people’s innermost thoughts?
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ اللَّهِ وَلَئِنْ جَاءَ نَصْرٌ مِنْ رَبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّا كُنَّا مَعَكُمْ أَوَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَعْلَمَ بِمَا فِي صُدُورِ الْعَالَمِينَ
[29:11] GOD will most certainly distinguish those who believe, and He will most certainly expose the hypocrites.
وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ
So therefore we cannot go our whole lives avoiding worshipping God alone in public or continually professing disbelief because we are concerned about the possible threat to our emotions, liberty, or life. At some point it is required that if want to prove that we are a committed believer that we will stand with God in the face of fear of backlash from the people.
[3:175] It is the devil’s system to instill fear into his subjects. Do not fear them and fear Me instead, if you are believers.
إِنَّمَا ذَٰلِكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ يُخَوِّفُ أَوْلِيَاءَهُ فَلَا تَخَافُوهُمْ وَخَافُونِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ