What are the Reasons
That Prevent Thought?
There are many factors that hinder people from thinking. They may detain a person from thinking and seeing the truth. In this respect, it is necessary that everyone identify the factors that affect them negatively, and rid themselves of these, otherwise, one cannot see the real face of the life of this world, and that might bring great loss in the Hereafter.
In the Qur'an, Allah tells us the situation of those people who are accustomed to think superficially:
They know an outward aspect of the life of this world but are heedless of the Hereafter. Have they not reflected within themselves? Allah did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them except with truth and for a fixed term. Yet many people reject the meeting with their Lord. (Surat ar-Rum: 7-8)
Following the Majority Causes Mental Numbness
One of the issues that mislead people most is their belief that what the "majority" does is right. Man is usually inclined to accept what he is taught by the people around him, rather than finding the truth by thinking for himself. He sees that things that seem odd to him at first sight are most of the time considered ordinary by people, and after a while, he too begins to become accustomed to them.
For instance, if the majority of the people in a person's social circle do not acknowledge that they will die one day, if they avoid talking about death, then the person looks around him and says, "Since everybody is like that, there must be nothing wrong with my behaving the same way" and begins to live without remembering death at all. If, however, the people around him had acted with fear of Allah and struggled with due diligence for the Hereafter, most probably this person too would have changed his attitude.
As another example, hundreds of news items of disasters, unfairness, injustice, oppression, suicide, homicide, theft and swindle are covered in the media, and thousands of needy people are mentioned everyday. Yet many people who come across these news items are unaffected. In general, people do not think why there are so many of these kind of news items, or what has to be done and what kind of precautions have to be taken in order to stop them, or what they themselves can do about these problems. Neither do people around them think over those problems. Most people hold others responsible for these problems, employing such logic as, "What can I do about this?"
Indolence is a factor that keeps the majority of people from thinking.
Indolence is a factor that keeps the majority of people from thinking. Because of mental indolence, people do everything the way they have always seen and to which they are used. To give an example from our daily lives, the way people do the cleaning is just how they have seen their parents do it. They generally do not think, "How could things be done in a cleaner and more practical way" nor try to find new methods. Similarly, when something needs repair, people use the methods they have been taught since their childhood. They are generally reluctant to practice a new method that might be more practical and efficient. Such people's styles of speech are also the same. The way an accountant speaks, for example, is just the same as all the other accountants he has seen in his life. Doctors, bankers, salesmen, people from all classes have particular styles of speech. They do not seek to find the most proper, the best, and the most favorable way by thinking about it. They just imitate what they have heard.
The solutions found to problems also reflect indolence in thinking. For example, the manager of a building brings to the building's waste disposal problem exactly the same solution as the one brought by previous managers. Or a mayor tries to solve the traffic problem by looking at what preceding mayors have done. In many cases, because of not thinking he is unable to find new solutions.
Certainly, the examples cited here are issues from which people suffer harm in their everyday lives. Yet there are subjects far more important than these, which, if people fail to think about, may cause them to suffer great and eternal loss. The cause of this loss is one's failure to think about the purpose of existence in the world, and disregarding the fact that death is unavoidable, and that we will definitely meet on The Day of Reckoning after death. In the Qur'an, Allah invites people to reflect upon these crucial matters.
Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, forever. The likeness of the two groups is that of the blind and deaf and the seeing and hearing. Are they the same as one another? So will you not pay heed? (Surah Hud: 21-24)
Is He Who creates like him who does not create? So will you not pay heed? (Surat an-Nahl: 17)
The Erroneous Indoctrination that "Thinking Too Much is Not Good"
There is an ill-judged belief prevalent in society that deep thought is not good. People warn one another saying, "Don't think so much, you will lose your mind". This is merely a superstition invented by people who are distant from religion. People should not avoid thinking; however, they should avoid thinking negatively or being carried away by exaggerations and misapprehensions.
Since those who do not have strong faith in Allah and the Hereafter think without committing themselves to fairness and goodness, but instead think negatively, then by their contemplation they achieve outcomes that are not entirely beneficial. They think, for example, that the life of this world is temporary, and that one day they will die, but this causes them to display great pessimism. This is because, conscientiously, they are aware that the life they pass without following the commands of Allah prepares a wretched end for them in the Hereafter. Some, on the other hand, are pessimistic because they have a superstitious belief that they will totally vanish after death.
A wise person who believes in Allah and the Hereafter draws completely different scrumptious conclusions when he reflects on the fact that the life of this world is temporary. First of all, his realization that the world is temporary causes him to engage in zealous struggle for his real and eternal life in the Hereafter. Since he knows that this life will sooner or later end, he does not become carried away by the ambition for worldly passions and interests. He is extremely resigned. Nothing in this temporary life annoys him. He always cherishes the hope of attaining an eternal and pleasant life. He also enjoys worldly blessings and beauty but keeps these things in perspective. Allah has created the world incomplete and flawed in order to test people. The intelligent person thinks that if there is so much beauty, which is pleasing to man even in this incomplete and flawed world, then the beauty of Paradise should be unimaginably more attractive. He hopes to see in the Hereafter the "originals" of all the beauty he views here. And he comprehends all of these by thinking deeply.
Therefore, it would be a great loss to worry about "what if I become pessimistic by finally seeing the truth?", and hence, avoid thinking. For a person who always entertains hope by virtue of his faith in Allah, and who thinks positively, there is nothing to be pessimistic about.
Avoiding the Responsibilities that Thinking Brings
Most people think that they might be able to evade various responsibilities by avoiding thinking and setting their brain to work on certain issues. By doing so in this world, they succeed in holding themselves aloof from many subjects. One of the greatest ways in which people are deceived, however, is in their supposition that they can escape their responsibilities to Allah by not thinking. This is the main reason why people do not think about death and life after death. If man thinks that he will die one day and remembers that there is an eternal life after death, he will necessarily have to strive strenuously for his life after death. He, however, deceives himself, supposing that he is saved from such responsibility when he does not think of the existence of the Hereafter. This is a great self-deception and if man does not attain the truth in this world by thinking, he will understand, with death, that there is no escape for him.
The stupor of death will come in truth. (And it is said unto him): "That is what you were trying to evade! The trumpet is blown. That is the day of the threat." (Surah Qaf: 19-20)
Not Thinking Because of Being Swept Away by the Flow of Daily Life
One of the most important factors that hinder men from deep thought is the overload of their daily affairs.
The majority of people spend their whole lives in a rush. When they reach a certain age, they have to work and look after themselves and their families. They call this "the struggle for life" and complain that they have no time for anything as they have to rush around in this struggle. In this so-called "shortage of time", thinking is one of the things for which they cannot spare any time. Therefore, they are swept away wherever the flow of their daily lives takes them. In this way of life, the majority of people become insensitive to events taking place around them.
The aim of man, however, should not be to consume time, rushing from one place to another. The main issue is to be able to see the real face of this world and assume a way of living accordingly. No one's sole purpose in life is earning money, going to work, studying at university or purchasing a house. Surely, man may need to do those things during the course of his life, yet there is something that he should always bear in mind while doing them: the purpose of his existence in this world is to be a servant of Allah, to work for Allah's pleasure, His mercy in order to achieve Paradise. All works other than this purpose can serve only as a means to help man to attain his true purpose. Adopting the means to certain ends as the real purpose is a serious deception with which satan misleads man.
Someone who lives without thinking may easily take these means as his real purpose. We can cite an example from our daily lives. It is undoubtedly a good act for one to work and produce beneficial things for society. A person who believes in Allah performs such an act eagerly and wishes for a reward from Allah both in the world and in the Hereafter. If a person, on the other hand, does the same thing without remembering Allah and only for worldly interests such as status and people's appreciation, he is making a mistake. And he will regret this when he faces realities in the Hereafter. In a verse, Allah refers to those who indulge in this manner in the life of this world:
Like those before you who had greater strength than you and more wealth and children. They enjoyed their portion; so enjoy your portion as those before you enjoyed theirs. You have plunged into defamation as they plunged into it. The actions of such people come to nothing in this world or the Hereafter. They are the lost. (Surat at-Tawba: 69)
Looking at Everything with "The Eye of Habit" And Therefore Seeing No Need to Reflect Thereon
When people come across certain things for the first time, they may understand the extraordinary nature of them and this may spur them to further inspect what they see. After a while, however, they develop a habitual resistance to those things and they no longer impress them. In particular, an object or happening they meet everyday becomes ordinary for them.
For instance, it makes a great impression on some prospective doctors the first time they see a corpse, or the first time one of their patients dies. This makes them ponder deeply. It may be that all of a sudden they face the lifeless, almost stuff-like body of a person, who was, just a few minutes ago, full of life, laughing, making plans, talking, taking pleasure, eyes sparkling with life. The first time a cadaver is laid down in front of them for autopsy, they think over everything they see in that corpse: that the body decays so fast, that a repugnant smell comes out of it, that the hair once so pleasant to look at become so unpleasant that it is repulsive to touch, are all subjects they think about. This leads them to consider that the composition of everyone's body is the same and everyone will meet the same end, and that they too will become like this.
Yet, after seeing a few cadavers or losing some patients, these people develop a habitual resistance to certain things. They begin to treat cadavers, and even patients, as if they are objects.
Surely, this situation does not hold true for doctors alone. For the majority of people, the same situation applies in many areas of their lives. For example, when a person who lives in difficulty is granted a pleasant lifestyle, he understands that everything he possesses is a blessing for him; that his bed is more comfortable, his house has a beautiful view, he can buy everything he wants, he can heat his house in winter as he wishes, he can easily move by car, and many other things are all blessings for this person. Thinking of his old state, he rejoices at each of these new things. Yet someone who possesses these means from birth may not think so much about their worth. So, his appreciation of these blessings does not become possible unless he thinks over them.
For a man who ponders, on the other hand, it makes no difference whether he possesses these blessings from birth or whether he attained them afterwards. He never looks at his possessions in a habitual way. He knows that anything he owns has been created by Allah and Allah may take them back from him at any time if He wills. For example, believers say the following prayer when they travel by any means of transport:
... "Glory be to Him Who has subjected this to us. We could never have done it by ourselves. Indeed we are returning to our Lord!" (Surat az-Zukhruf: 13-14)
In another verse, it is said that when believers enter their gardens, they remember Allah and say, "... It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Allah..." (Surat al-Kahf: 39). Whenever they enter their gardens, they think that Allah has created and sustains this garden. On the other hand, a man who does not think may be impressed the first time he sees a beautiful garden, but then it becomes an ordinary place for him. His admiration fades for the beauty therein. Some people do not realize these blessings at all since they do not think. They can be mistaken by taking these blessings for granted and "something that already had to exist". Therefore, they cannot derive pleasure from their beauty.
Conclusion: It is Imperative for Man to Eliminate All the Factors That Hold Him Back From Thinking
As we mentioned earlier, the fact that the majority of people do not think and live heedless of truth cannot be a sufficient excuse for one not thinking. Each person is an independent individual responsible to Allah by himself alone. It is very important to bear in mind that Allah tests people in the life of this world. The indifference of others, people who do not think, reason, and see the truth is, most of the time, a part of this test. A person who thinks sincerely does not say, "Most people do not reflect, and are unaware of all these, so why should I alone think?". On the contrary, he takes warning by thinking about the heedlessness of these people and takes refuge in Allah in order not be one of them. It is clear that the situation of these people cannot be an excuse for him. In the Qur'an, Allah informs us in many of His verses that most people are heedless and do not believe:
Yet no faith will the greater part of mankind have, however ardently you desire it. (Surah Yusuf: 103)
Alif Lam Mim Ra. Those are the signs of the Book. And what has been sent down to you from your Lord is the truth. But most people do not believe. (Surat ar-Ra'd: 1)
They swear by Allah with their most earnest oaths that Allah will not raise up those who die, when, on the contrary, it is a binding promise on Him; but most people do not know it. (Surat an-Nahl: 38)
We have variegated it for them so they might pay heed but most people begrudge aught save ingratitude. (Surat al-Furqan: 50)
In other verse, Allah announces the end of those who have gone astray by following the majority, those who failed to obey the commands of Allah by forgetting the purpose of their creation:
They will shout out in it, "Our Lord! Take us out! We will act rightly, differently from the way we used to act!" Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed? And did not the warner come to you? Taste it then! There is no helper for the wrongdoers. (Surah Fatir: 37)
For this reason, every person should, by getting rid of the reasons preventing him from thinking, sincerely and honestly think over every event and creature that Allah creates and draw a lesson and warning from his reflections.
In the next chapter, we will be discussing what man may reflect on about certain events and creatures he may come across in his daily life in order to provide the reader with guidance and help them spend the rest of their lives as people who think and draw warnings from what they reflect on.