Imagine that you were admitted to a secret cabal and they offered you the ability to be the ultimate ruler in this world. This means that whatever law you establish all nations will be required to follow it. For instance, if you wanted Russia to stop bombing Ukraine, it would happen instantly. You could command all countries to destroy all nuclear weapons. You could tax billionaires and redistribute their wealth. You could remove all borders. You can ban all drugs and alcohol. Whatever command you make will instantly become the law of the land.
For these powers, there are only two caveats. The first is that these powers will be temporary and can be terminated at any time without notice by the council. The second caveat is that at the end of your interim, the council will assess how you used these powers and determine if the powers bestowed upon you created a net positive in goodness or net negative in evil in the world, and based on this outcome you will be rewarded or requited 1000x the aggregate good or evil you caused. Would you be willing to take on such responsibility?
I think most sensible people would be scared of such responsibility and the possibility that even if they had the best intentions in mind their decisions could have unintended consequences and cause more pain than good and thus setting themselves up to suffer the consequences when their rule comes to an end. But before you respond thinking you would unequivocally reject such a responsibility, realize that you actually already agreed to participate in a similar scenario.
[33:72] We have offered the responsibility (freedom of choice) to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they refused to bear it, and were afraid of it. But the human being accepted it; he was transgressing, ignorant.
إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَنْ يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنْسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا
When God’s creatures were presented with this offer the vast majority ran away from such an offer because they were afraid of it, but us human beings we accepted it because we were transgressing ignorant. This is because we didn’t take heed to God’s warnings, and secondly we downplayed the difficulty of the responsibility. When a person doesn’t think failure is possible then they won’t fear that this decision could cause them to have to spend eternity in Hell. Similarly, those who listened to this thought experiment and thought they would want such responsibility also couldn’t perceive firstly how difficult this test would be and secondly that they very likely could fail.
When we accepted this responsibility we decreed that we wanted to be sovereigns in our own lives and the decisions we made. For this responsibility, God provided us with two innate qualities. The first is the innate sense that there is only one God, monotheism.
[7:172] Recall that your Lord summoned all the descendants of Adam, and had them bear witness for themselves: “Am I not your Lord?” They all said, “Yes. We bear witness.” Thus, you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, “We were not aware of this.”
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ شَهِدْنَا أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَٰذَا غَافِلِينَ
The second which comes hand-in-hand with the responsibility is the natural understanding between right and wrong.
[91:7] The soul and Him who created it.
[91:8] Then showed it what is evil and what is good.
(٧) وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا
(٨) فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
I would assume that after being given such innate senses we probably felt pretty confident in our ability to pass this test, but what I think we underestimated was how easily our innate sense of right and wrong and of monotheism could so quickly be compromised in this world. Most tyrants are convinced that what they are doing is right. Their moral compass is so out of whack that they convince themselves that their terrible actions are for the greater good, and they are not even aware of it.
[35:8] Note the one whose evil work is adorned in his eyes, until he thinks that it is righteous. GOD thus sends astray whoever wills (to go astray), and He guides whoever wills (to be guided). Therefore, do not grieve over them. GOD is fully aware of everything they do.
أَفَمَنْ زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ فَرَآهُ حَسَنًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ فَلَا تَذْهَبْ نَفْسُكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَسَرَاتٍ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
[40:56] Surely, those who argue against GOD’s revelations without proof are exposing the arrogance that is hidden inside their chests, and they are not even aware of it. Therefore, seek refuge in GOD; He is the Hearer, the Seer.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ بِغَيْرِ سُلْطَانٍ أَتَاهُمْ إِنْ فِي صُدُورِهِمْ إِلَّا كِبْرٌ مَا هُمْ بِبَالِغِيهِ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
Take the example of Pharoah and his elders, they genuinely believed that what they were doing was for the benefit of the people in the society.
[26:18] He said, “Did we not raise you from infancy, and you spent many years with us? [26:19] “Then you committed the crime that you committed, and you were ungrateful.” [26:20] He said, “Indeed, I did it when I was astray. [26:21] “Then I fled, when I feared you, and my Lord endowed me with wisdom and made me one of the messengers. [26:22] “You are boasting that you did me a favor, while enslaving the Children of Israel!”
[20:63] They said, “These two are no more than magicians who wish to take you out of your land with their magic, and to destroy your ideal way of life.
(٦٣) قَالُوا إِنْ هَٰذَانِ لَسَاحِرَانِ يُرِيدَانِ أَنْ يُخْرِجَاكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ بِسِحْرِهِمَا وَيَذْهَبَا بِطَرِيقَتِكُمُ الْمُثْلَىٰ
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”C.S. Lewis
Talk to the Experts
So knowing that we have these vulnerabilities and are susceptible to these shortcomings what can we do to make sure that our reign in this world is one that will be good and not evil?
Talk to most people and they will say you need to find the smartest people the most educated and consult with them. Ultimately in this case you would just be outsourcing your responsibility to others and will now be at the mercy that these people will have the right answers. The irony is that who is to say that these experts have the right answers. Take into consideration how the experts handled COVID19.
It is safe to say that much of their efforts caused more harm than good and caused more havoc on the well-being of society than benefits. This is best depicted in the mass lockdowns that have been proven to be utterly useless, the deprivation of people’s livelihoods by closing people’s businesses, the shutdown of public schools, causing the increased rates of teen suicides, drug overdoses, and depression. As well as the creation of a two-tier society of haves and have-nots where the celebrities and elite are able to go about their lives like normal while the rest of society has to serve them dawning masks and restricting their freedoms.
Similarly in the matter of faith, we have numerous examples of so-called experts leading their people astray.
[28:41] We made them imams who led their people to Hell. Furthermore, on the Day of Resurrection, they will have no help.
(٤١) وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يُنْصَرُونَ
[40:47] As they argue in Hell, the followers will say to their leaders, “We used to be your followers, can you spare us any part of this Hell?” [40:48] The leaders will say, “We are all in this together. GOD has judged among the people.”
The Real Experts
Luckily for us, God sends commissioned experts in the form of messengers to help us on our journey.
[65:11] a messenger who recites to you GOD’s revelations, clearly, to lead those who believe and work righteousness out of the darkness into the light. Anyone who believes in GOD and leads a righteous life, He will admit him into gardens with flowing streams; they abide therein forever. GOD will generously reward him.
رَسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ لِيُخْرِجَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَيَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا يُدْخِلْهُ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا قَدْ أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ لَهُ رِزْقًا
Yet the irony is that more often than not we end up rejecting the messengers when they come.
[2:87] We gave Moses the scripture, and subsequent to him we sent other messengers, and we gave Jesus, son of Mary, profound miracles and supported him with the Holy Spirit. Is it not a fact that every time a messenger went to you with anything you disliked, your ego caused you to be arrogant? Some of them you rejected, and some of them you killed.
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَقَفَّيْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ بِالرُّسُلِ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ أَفَكُلَّمَا جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ بِمَا لَا تَهْوَىٰ أَنْفُسُكُمُ اسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ فَفَرِيقًا كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقًا تَقْتُلُونَ
Or even when individuals claim to accept that these individuals as messengers from God, more often than not they still do not do as they are asked for the sake of their own souls.
[5:19] O people of the scripture, our messenger has come to you, to explain things to you, after a period of time without messengers, lest you say, “We did not receive any preacher or warner.” A preacher and warner has now come to you. GOD is Omnipotent. [5:20] Recall that Moses said to his people, “O my people, remember GOD’s blessings upon you: He appointed prophets from among you, made you kings, and granted you what He never granted any other people. [5:21] “O my people, enter the holy land that GOD has decreed for you, and do not rebel, lest you become losers.” [5:22] They said, “O Moses, there are powerful people in it, and we will not enter it, unless they get out of it. If they get out, we are entering.” [5:23] Two men who were reverent and blessed by GOD said, “Just enter the gate. If you just enter it, you will surely prevail. You must trust in GOD, if you are believers.” [5:24] They said, “O Moses, we will never enter it, so long as they are in it. Therefore, go—you and your Lord —and fight. We are sitting right here.”
This shows that even with the innate knowledge and the experts this is not enough to guarantee that we will make the right decisions, therefore we need to go deeper to see what is the core of what we need to do in order to be guided to make the right decisions.
Read the Manual
Luckily for us with this responsibility, God also provided us with a manual for decision-making that provides all the answers we need in order to be successful in this life and in the Hereafter.
[39:23] GOD has revealed herein the best Hadith; a book that is consistent, and points out both ways (to Heaven and Hell). The skins of those who reverence their Lord cringe therefrom, then their skins and their hearts soften up for GOD’s message. Such is GOD’s guidance; He bestows it upon whomever He wills. As for those sent astray by GOD, nothing can guide them.
اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُتَشَابِهًا مَثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
[39:27] We have cited for the people every kind of example in this Quran, that they may take heed.
(٢٧) وَلَقَدْ ضَرَبْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
[39:28] An Arabic Quran, without any ambiguity, that they may be righteous.
(٢٨) قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
If we have this Quran and it has every example that we require in our lives in order to find salvation, then how could we go wrong? While the Quran is perfect, we humans are far from perfect. We have a deficiency that we caused upon ourselves that makes us prone to ego and defiance. We see this example with the Children of Israel that God informs us as a lesson not to make the same mistake.
[5:43] Why do they ask you to judge among them, when they have the Torah, containing GOD’s law, and they chose to disregard it? They are not believers.
(٤٣) وَكَيْفَ يُحَكِّمُونَكَ وَعِنْدَهُمُ التَّوْرَاةُ فِيهَا حُكْمُ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يَتَوَلَّوْنَ مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ وَمَا أُولَٰئِكَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ
[62:5] The example of those who were given the Torah then failed to uphold it is like the donkey carrying great works of literature. Miserable indeed is the example of people who rejected GOD’s revelations. GOD does not guide the wicked people.
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
But followers of the Quran are not much different. Despite having this book from God most people who claim to accept the Quran will fail to uphold it.
[18:54] We have cited in this Quran every kind of example, but the human being is the most argumentative creature.
(٥٤) وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ وَكَانَ الْإِنْسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلًا
[17:82] We send down in the Quran healing and mercy for the believers. At the same time, it only increases the wickedness of the transgressors.
(٨٢) وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا
[25:30] The messenger said, “My Lord, my people have deserted this Quran.”
(٣٠) وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَارَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
So if the innate knowledge of monotheism, being able to distinguish between right and wrong, having messengers, and having a manual from God is not the precursor to being successful then what is left? What is our kernel for righteousness?
The word kernel is a multi-meaning word and associated with the term seed. The kernel is the foundation of the plant and will determine what will be produced from it and the quality of the fruit it produces. The word kernel in computer speak denotes the most basic instruction set of an operating system responsible for resource allocation, file management, and security. It is the central component necessary to launch an application on a computer and is one of the most crucial layers for decision-making on an operating system. And just like if a seed of a plant is defective it can either cause the plant to not produce any fruit or if it does the fruit may be unpalatable. Similarly, if a software kernel is corrupted or defective then the program will fail to load properly.
So the kernel is the foundational set of instructions that will inform the rest of the program on how to execute the commands in order for the program to run correctly. This serves as an adequate comparison to our faith. The Quran is our God-given set of instructions that we need to run in order to operate a perfect life, and our kernel for being able to make sure we run these instructions correctly is based on our sincerity. Such that if we are insincere we will never be able to unlock and properly understand the Quran to apply it to our lives and the decisions we make.
[56:75] I swear by the positions of the stars. [56:76] This is an oath, if you only knew, that is awesome. [56:77] This is an honorable Quran. [56:78] In a protected book. [56:79] None can grasp it except the sincere.
(٧٩) لَا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ
But just because we are sincere and we have the right answers there is another requirement which is the will to do what is right in the face of adversity.
[3:155] Surely, those among you who turned back the day the two armies clashed have been duped by the devil. This reflects some of the (evil) works they had committed. GOD has pardoned them. GOD is Forgiver, Clement.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَلَّوْا مِنْكُمْ يَوْمَ الْتَقَى الْجَمْعَانِ إِنَّمَا اسْتَزَلَّهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ بِبَعْضِ مَا كَسَبُوا وَلَقَدْ عَفَا اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ
[29:2] Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe,” without being put to the test?
(٢) 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.
(٣) وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ
[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
Sincerity just like any other virtue needs to be constantly refined and purified, and the mechanism God gave us to purify our souls and maintain our sincerity is through the Contract Prayers (Salat).
[29:45] You shall recite what is revealed to you of the scripture, and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), for the Contact Prayers prohibit evil and vice. But the remembrance of GOD (through Salat) is the most important objective.* GOD knows everything you do.
اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ
[31:17] “O my son, you shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat). You shall advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and remain steadfast in the face of adversity. These are the most honorable traits.
(١٧) يَابُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
So now that we know that we have this responsibility and we cannot skirt away from it, what will we do with such powers?
[22:41] They are those who, if we appointed them as rulers on earth, they would establish the Contact Prayers (Salat) and the obligatory charity (Zakat), and would advocate righteousness and forbid evil. GOD is the ultimate ruler.
(٤١) الَّذِينَ إِنْ مَكَّنَّاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَمَرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَنَهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَلِلَّهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ
Like it or not we have already decided to partake in this test. For this test God has provided us the innate sense of monotheism, the ability to be able to distinguish right from wrong, messengers to clarify matters for us, the scriptures to serve as manuals, but all this is in vain if we do not establish our sincerity and guard it against corruption through our worship practices.