Social environment is a major influence in the development of character types in a society of ignorance. Each society offers a different social environment, and this environment develops traits in a character type that are life-long. A person’s personality may vary according to the city, or even the area of a city, which he lives in.
In discourse typical of the ignorant, a new acquaintance may be first asked his name, then where he was born and brought up, and then, which part of the city he lives in. The purpose of this interrogation is to find out under what circumstances he brought up under, and thereby to acquire a basic idea of what type of character he ought to be. Because, the ignorant are very aware of the influence a specific environment can have on a person’s character.
One type of character formed by specific social environments is that of a rich person. This character-type is that of one who has been brought up in wealthy surroundings. Compared with other members of the society, these individuals have benefited from much more favorable circumstances, not having experienced any difficulty or hardship. They have always had little problem getting what they want; everything is at their disposal. When they are hungry, food is put before them; if they make a mess, it is cleaned up for them; they get what they want immediately; their cars are bought for them and money is put into their wallets. And, they do not have to put forth the slightest effort to get any of these things. However, there are many “behind the scenes” who are required to expend much physical and spiritual effort to provide them these things. There are those who work to earn the money, determine their needs, provide what is required, prepare it and offer it to them. But, a great majority of the people living by the morality of ignorance do not recognize these efforts, and therefore show no gratitude for them.
A fundamental characteristic that attends this ingratitude is a lack of sympathy. Because majority of these people have nothing to worry about, and experience no difficulties, they have no appreciation for those who live in lesser circumstances.
Another prominent characteristic of some of the people living by the morality of ignorance is their lack of faithfulness. They do not appreciate the virtues of others, and therefore see no reason to be loyal towards them. Such individuals can never establish sincere relationships; they rely too heavily on their material wealth, and think that, even if they were to lose one friend, through it they could find others. What they regard as important in another person is not his good character, or the fact that he practices the moral teachings of the Qur’an; that which is important to them is what material gain he may be. They do not value friendships on the basis of love and good morality, and so can never establish real ones. They keep company with others whose money they want to take advantage of, or with other inconsiderate and wealthy people like themselves, who also do not know the real meaning of friendship.
Indeed, it is because of all these vices that they are unable to find happiness easily. Majority of them are used to getting everything easily, and so take the advantages of their material wealth for granted. And, they fail to derive due pleasure from good that is spiritual because they cannot recognize it. Compared to other character-types, their deviance is more blatant. One who is not accustomed to recognizing such subtleties, will not appreciate an act of kindness done towards him, and will soon forget it. For this reason, he becomes one who is hard to satisfy.
Because they are not able to appreciate the good in others, they cannot experience love or respect for them. It does not enter their minds that others appreciate that the good in them and love they are ready to show to be recognized.
Evidently, these people have developed for themselves a type of character contrary to the values otherwise considered acceptable. But, it must be pointed out that, even though they were to be exiled from the social milieu, or lose their wealth, they would continue in their debased morality. Therefore, this character type does not refer merely who are wealthy. Merely the fact that they have been brought in such a milieu and under specific circumstances, is sometimes enough for them to acquire such character traits.
However, being brought up in a wealthy environment is no reason not to have a good moral character. On the contrary, wealth is a blessing from Allah. The important thing is to thank Him for these blessings, and to use them in a way that will please Him. We can see examples of this morality in the lives of the prophets. We are told in the Qur’an that the Prophet Sulayman (as) asked for wealth from Allah so that he could worship Him, and show gratitude for His blessings:
He (Sulayman) said, “Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord until the Sun disappeared behind its veil.” (Surah Sâd, 32)
Moreover, one who appreciates the blessings that Allah has conferred upon him will have the breadth of insight to enable him to acknowledge the good in the others around him. Therefore, such a person, even if he were to be the wealthiest person in the world, and have everything served to him on a silver platter, and even if he had never experienced any difficulties or troubles in his life, he will nonetheless be sympathetic and considerate, exercising a good conscience. He knows the emotional and material needs of those who are poor and troubled. He shows a deep sense of compassion and respect. He knows what friendship is. Because, he is a believer and, no matter how prosperous he may be, he will never act carelessly or against his better conscience. A believer is always looking toward what is good and just, and searches for ways to win Allah’s favor. For this reason, prosperity does not lead him into moral depravity.
Such people are truly racing towards good things, and they are the first to reach them. (Surat al-Muminun, 61)2012-01-21 03:02:15