Islamic Concept of Conscience
By: Prof. Maqsood Jafri
Conscience is a judge having spiritual quality that differentiates between right and wrong. Common sense and conscience are given to everyone but their use is not common. People even do not use commonsense and conscience; hence they are strayed from the right path. Conscience is like inspiration. When a man does something wrong, deep in his heart he feels guilty. When a man does some good he feels a queer sense of pleasure and satisfaction. When people like William Shakespeare say; “There is nothing good and bad, only thinking makes it so”; actually they try to mix up good and bad. Good is good and bad is bad. Intrinsically values are absolute but relatively they are relative. To make it clearer and simpler an example can be presented. Everybody irrespective of creed, class or clan condemns murder. To commit murder is a sin. When Mr. A murders Mr. B without any reason or justification it is to be cursed. But now as Mr. A is a culprit and a murderer, hence he has to be punished. Now to give him sentence to death becomes essential. We have justification for the murder of Mr. A. The act of murder, from one angle is a sin and from the other angle is correct. Hence conscience decides what is good and what is bad. Here it should be noted that Human conscience is of two types; pure conscience and impure conscience. The former in the words of Quran is “Nafs-e-Mutminah”. “The contented self” It is a virtuous self differentiating between good and bad according to divine injunctions. The latter is “Nafs-eummarah”, the evil self. It does not differentiate between good and bad. It is a demonic and vicious self. The Quran regards such vicious and cruel people worse than animals and hard stones. Such people of hardened hearts are tyrants, oppressors and terrorists. For their petty material and worldly gains they can go to any extent even to kill people indiscriminately. The atheists and the unscrupulous persons have coined the philosophy of relative values. The Theory of Relativity of Einstein has largely influenced the morals of human kind as well.
But they should know that mind and matter are two different objects. There can be no relativity in the matters of morality. Moral and Immoral are absolute values only in relative situations they look relative.
About the conscience or self the Quran in Sura “Shams” says; “And the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity and piety, he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed.”
When we ponder on this systematic and harmonious universe our mind and conscience approve of the existence of some designer. Such a designed universe cannot be accidental. The way the cells are formed, planets are made, humans, animals and plants are flawlessly created, and our conscience accepts that these things are the creation of the greatest scientist known as God. Such a perfect universe can not be the creation of chance. The creation of “cell” which is in itself a complete universe leaves no doubt that what a wonderful creator has created this universe. The vast and complex world in an atom having protons, neutrons and phontons mainifest the hidden and mysterious divine spirit. Francis Crick is one of the two scientists who discovered the structure of DNA during the 1950’s. The blood culture is also a strange scientific discovery. We have numberless green shades in green color. All leaves of different plants have different shapes and green colors. There are so many green shades of color in one green color. The finger prints of every person in the world are different from the finger prints of the other man. The shapes of all humans are different. The father of modern physics Einstein in his book entitled “Out of My Later Years” writes that the study of universe amazes one and makes one to believe in spiritual excellence. Francis Crick during research on the structure of “cell” became so amazed that in his book entitled “Life Itself: its Origin and Nature” writes; “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going; Darwin in his book entitle “The Origin of Species” propounded the theory of evolution. The Evolutionists believe in coincidence. They do not believe in creation. Francis Crick was also an evolutionist and atheist but his amazement in the perfect creation shuddered him. Such believers of the theory of “Aliens” are conscienceless people strayed from logical and divine course. The people with dead conscience have been condemned in Sura Al-Jathiyya” in the Quran in these words: “Have you seen him who takes his whims and desires to be his god – whom Allah has misguided knowingly, sealing up his hearing and his heart and placing a blindfold over his eyes? Who then will guide him after Allah? So will you not pay heed? They say, ‘there is nothing but our existence in the life of this world. We die and we live and nothing destroys us except for time’. They have no knowledge of that. They are only conjecturing.”
Conjecture and conscience are altogether different things. Conjecture has no substantial, factual or logical background. Conscience is a natural gift of God which is a great guide and arbitrator. Conscience draws the line of demarcation between vice and virtue; justice and injustice; beauty and ugliness; logical and illogical. In Sura “The Heifer” such conscienceless people are described as “blind” and “deaf”. When the Quran says that their hearts are sealed it means that they have no sense to distinguish between right and wrong. As they do not use their mind and their conscience is dirty, rusty and dead; hence they are blind to realities. Conscienceless people deliberately ignore the scriptures for their base desires. They console themselves by defying the divine instructions and injunctions. In Sura “Baqara” and Sura “Furqan” it is mentioned how people ignore the Quran. The Book of Allah shows the real purpose of life which awakens and fortifies human conscience. In Sura “Al-Muminen? The Quran says; “Did you suppose that we created you for amusement and that you would not return to us.” Life after death is also conscience related issue. The wrong doers cherish the delusions of non-accountability after death. When a man dies his soul do not die. In my book “Philosophy of Soul” I have discussed this matter in detail. It is the need of justice that the sinners and transgressors who manage to escape from punishment in this world must be punished in hereafter for their cruel deeds. The Quran names it the “Day of Accountability.” In Sura “Johah”, the Quran announces; “Each and every one of you will return to Him. Allah’s promise is true”. Then in Sura “Hud” the Quran says; “Your Lord will pay each of them in full for his actions. He is aware of what they do.” When a virtuous man dies, his conscience is clear and he feels no fear. He happily dies. At a place then Quran says; “you desire death, if you are truthful.” The pious people receive glad tidings on death bed. In Sura “An-Nahl” the Quran announces; “Those the angles take in a virtuous state. They say, ‘peace be upon you! Enter the Garden for what you did.” Again in Sura “Al-Anbiya” the Quran declares; “The greatest terror will not upset them and the angels will welcome them; this is your day, the one you were promised.”
In case man has passed voluptuous and corrupt life Allah warns these people in Sura “Muhammad” saying; “How will it be when the angels take them in death, beating their faces and their backs.” When the death seems close one starts remembering God. When a wrong doer is about to die his dead conscience is awakened and he feels ashamed of his past. Some body asked Imam Jafar Sadiq; where is God and how can we know about God? The Imam replied if you are voyaging in a boat and sudden storm encompasses you and are sure of death. Then in the heart of your hearts you seek assistance from some mysterious power to save you. That mysterious power is God. It is actually experiencing God. We find great lessons in the concept of death but only people with living conscience learn the lesson. The prophets have been regarded as conscientious men. In Sura “Saad” the Quran says; “And remember our servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, men of true strength and inner light. We purified their sincerity through sincere remembrance of the Abode. They were in our sight, truly of the company of the Elect and the Good”. The men of conscience are instructed to impart justice under all circumstances. “You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against your selves or your parents and relatives.” According to the Quran a conscientious person does not care to please even king. He only strives to please Allah. Hazrat Ali in Nehjul Balagha says; “I do not worship God due to the fear of Hell or for the greed of heaven. I worship Him because he is worship worthy.” It means we should sincerely love and worship God, as He has no partner and deserves adoration. It is the voice of conscience which makes you bow before God. The man of living conscience is like prophets. God is the voice of conscience and conscience is the voice of God. In Sura “Al-Muddaththir” the Quran about the conscience says; it is truly a reminder to which anyone who wills pay heed.” Let us listen to the voice of conscience because pure and noble conscience is the boon of God, which is the second form of rationality, intuition and even revelation. The living conscience makes a man a living personality close to human kind and God.