The Natural Good
By: Jahangir Hanif
Renaissance Islamic Journal* -
Good and evil are not alien to humankind. Humans are equipped with a sharp vision to separate the former from the latter. More often than not, he strikes the right choice between right and wrong. Even where he fails, he is found to have another good sense. This sense helps him appreciate the correct choice when someone else distinguishes between good and evil. While he appears to be instinctively inclined to good in order to personify it, he seems to experience strong repulsion to evil - so much so that he wants to eliminate it altogether. His adherence to good makes him feel relieved, contented, and humble. And his submission to evil causes him to feel low, embarrassed and arrogant. However, perpetual adherence to either virtue or vice determines the course of his life before too long. Little does he deviate from this course once it is set by his conscious compliance with either of them - he is then destined to reach the destination defined by his own actions.
The Holy Quran says that the Lord has shown him both these ways. In addition to blessing him with eyes, tongue and lips, he also blessed him with the knowledge of right and wrong (Quran 90:9-10). At more than one place, the Quran reinforces that man knows both ways and it is up to him to choose whatever he may wish; he can either become thankful by taking the correct course of life or be unthankful by treading the path of evil (Quran 76:3). The Lord indeed has inspired to him the boundaries to respect and the vices to avoid that lie beyond them (Quran 91:7-8). The assertions of the Quran can hardly be disputed since they depict a phenomenon commonly observed. The tradition of the majority of humankind seems to be pregnant with narratives of how they have cherished the good virtues and loathed the despicable ways of evil. The annals of history record the awe inspiring anecdotes of the sacrifices made for upholding the virtue of justice, and eradicating the evil of oppression. From a simple shoemaker to a grand emperor each has made unforgettable contributions to the preservation of virtues and elimination of evil. It is therefore highly improbable that we can put down the assertions of the Holy Book regarding the human knowledge of right and wrong.
Despite our instinctive impulses to comply with our knowledge of good and bad, the Holy Quran enjoins upon us to remind each other of the mutual teaching of Truth. It is true that we have the knowledge; we nonetheless have other frailties that obstruct perpetual adherence to good. The Holy Book recognizes that to have this knowledge does not mean that we have acquired a knack and that we are now preconditioned to do good (Quran 103:3). For if we were conditioned, there would have been no reward for us in the Hereafter. To confuse knowledge with conditioning is to overlook the central problem in most issues facing humankind on the face of this earth. Unless hypnotized by falsehood, man will carry out good works by his own free desire. To galvanize human desire into the favor of good, one needs to be reminded constantly. It is a duty prescribed for us - to help others and be helped in order to lead a life that is virtuous.