Indiscipline is the bane of our lives today. Like a canker or cancer, it is eating into the vitals of our society. Lest this statement should be considered an exaggeration:
a. Ask the parents, and most of them will tell you that their children no longer listen to them, nor submit to any discipline.
b. Ask the schoolteachers, and they will tell you the same sad tale.
c. Ask the college professors, and you will find that by that time indiscipline has grown worse.
d. Ask the husbands, and they will complain that their wives do not listen to them nor yield an inch on most issues of difference of opinion, if they can help it.
e. Ask the employers, and they will be unanimous that todays labourers or employees usually take the law into their own hands and do not take any notice of even the Union bosses unless they dance to their tunes.
f. Had anybody ever heard of police strikes until recently?
g. And if you ask the police, they will tell you that the people at large sadly lack discipline. For instance, the traffic police will tell you how the pedestrians will cross the road at any place they like even though a zebra crossing is nearby. The motorists will park under the "No Parking" sign or rush through traffic lights even if they are against them or break speed restrictions — in fact all laws if they can help it.
And so on.
The defence forces are rightly known for their discipline. But how is that achieved? Through years of hard training in which all ranks are put through the severest possible drills and training; so they learn to obey orders whatever the cost. In other words, each soldier or member of the defence forces learns to subordinate his will, his comfort and even his life to the orders of the superiors. However, that is only on the parade ground, on duty or in the battlefield. The Muslim soldiery has a unique record of discipline at all times (the reason for which will be discussed later). But other soldiers are known to get completely out of control in moments of conquest when they behave like animals let loose.
That brings me to the crux of the problem. Man is an animal so far as his body is concerned. It is because our physique is basically common with the animals, difference in finish notwithstanding, that chemists and doctors try out medicines on the animals first and then adapt them to the human beings. The Great Creator has Himself drawn attention to it in more than one place in the Holy Quran. To quote one verse:
"And there is not an animal in the earth nor a bird that flies on its two wings, but (they are) communities like yourselves" (6:38).
Mans superiority over the animal world lies in the spirit blown into him by Allah. Addressing the angels at the time of mans creation, Allah says:
"So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down making obeisance to him." (15:29, 38:72).
More of this obeisance later.
The Holy Quran reveals another secret of mans inner self. The animal within man provides the motive power for human activity. But like all other motive powers (such as in a motor car, railway engine or aeroplane) it has to be controlled and steered or else man ends up in disaster. And the devil drives the animal within man by inciting the animal desires and passions in him. Thus man will appear before his Creator accompanied by the angel who will be a witness to what the man did, and by the devil who drove the animal within him. Says the Holy Quran:
"And every soul will come, with it the driver and the witness" (50:21).
The parable of Adam and Eve, according to the Holy Quran, is the story of each man and woman:
"O children of Adam, let not the devil seduce you as he expelled your parents from the garden (i.e. a state of innocent bliss)" (7:27).
In addition, in the parable of Adam and Eve, as narrated in the Holy Quran, Allah has made it clear that while the angles are submissive to man, the devil is not:
"And when We said to the angels, Be submissive to Adam, they submitted but the devil (did not). He refused and was proud" (2:34).
And the devil, true to his nature, urges man also to be insubordinate to his Creator.
Allah has fixed the limits up to which mans animal desires can be satisfied without violating moral and spiritual values. For instance, man should take his food lawfully, not like the animal which takes whatever it fancies whether it rightfully belongs to it or not. Similarly, man can marry but not indulge in extra-marital relations, and so on. And these limits are ingrained in human nature. That is why man resents if, for instance, another man wishes to commit adultery with his daughter instead of marrying her; or if a person cheats or steals from him. Human reason also confirms what is right or wrong. For instance, nobody will say that cheating or stealing is right. But this Divine guidance placed in mans nature and reason was not enough to save Adam and Eve from being beguiled by the devil. And it is not enough even to the present-day man or woman who is in many cases blinded by the animal desires and passions incited by the devil to exceed the limits laid down by the Creator in mans nature and reason.
As the Divine guidance laid down in mans nature and reason was not enough to save him from the seduction of the devil, Allah in His infinite mercy provided external guidance in black and white through revelation. Says the Holy Quran:
"Then Adam received (revealed) words from his Lord, and He turned to him (mercifully). Surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful"(2:37).
Mankind was told generally:
"Surely there will come to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve"(2:38).
Fear precedes an evil: grief follows upon it. The men and women to whom "no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve" enter the inner garden of heavenly bliss in this very life.
Let us revert to the question I posed in the beginning. Why is there such widespread indiscipline in the world today? And why has the unparalleled advance made by man in the fields of education, science, technology, material welfare, etc., failed to induce discipline in him? It is because while man has conquered the world without him, he has not conquered the world within him. If a person does not submit to Divine guidance, he naturally follow his hearts desires and passions, which are animal desires and passions incited by the devil — as stated above. And the devils nature being to disobey because he is proud, he induces the same state of mind in each man and woman. He incites their pride to make them say: "We dont want any guidance. Why should anybody tell us what to do?" And thus they ignore or reject Divine discipline to begin with, and then even the human disciplines.
Has this defiance ever made anybody happy? It has not. For man is not really an animal, because of the spark of Divine spirit blown into him which rankles in his heart if he goes wrong. That is why mankind, in spite of its material advancement, is unhappy and is in search of peace of mind. The spark of the Divine sprit in man is not satisfied with anything less than Divine guidance. In any case, without it, Adam and Eve went astray, as does the modern man or woman who is not guided by Divine guidance. The Merciful Providence, therefore, sent down Divine guidance from time to time in all nations according to their requirements and the needs of the times. That is the unique teaching of the Holy Quran which recognises the Divine origin and the initial truth of all religions. But what happened was that the Divine guidance thus sent was lost, or it became corrupted, because the revealed books which contained that guidance were never reduced to writing when revealed. They or their translations were written down centuries afterwards. No wonder that the revelation which was not reduced to writing got lost in oral transmission or translation or through interpolations at the hands of unscrupulous religious persons who wanted to impose their viewpoint on others. Scholars of comparative religions now admit the loss or corruption of all revealed books, except the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran is:
a. The only revealed book to be reduced to writing as and when it was revealed.
b. The only revealed book to claim that it contains complete Divine guidance;
c. The only revealed book to claim that it is meant for the guidance of all nations; and
d. The only revealed book to claim that it has preserved such contents of the previous revealed teachings as were worth preserving.
The clear insight given by Islam into the working of the inner forces in man goes a long way to help him to steer clear of the shoals and dangerous rocks which have brought many sailors to grief. The secrets of self are not the only secrets thrown open by the Holy Quran. It has revealed the Great Unseen, namely, Allah in a way that appeals to human heart and reason. That way alone can true faith be born. And true faith alone can lead to good deeds. The Allah of the Holy Quran is not an idol confined in a temple or at the most a human being like ourselves raised to godhead by his followers after his death, as in almost all major religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. The only concept of God that can inspire human beings is that of the Mighty Creator of the whole universe, of life and death, and of the Hereafter in which He will be the Master of the Day of Judgement. He is the Beneficent and the Merciful Rabb or Fosterer unto perfection of His wonderful creation, and so on. That is the beautiful and sublime concept of God presented by the Holy Quran.
Modern science has found that:
a. The whole universe is made of uniform material.
b. The whole universe obeys the same laws.
c. What is more, the universe cannot exist except "in a Universal Mind."
The discoveries at (a) and (b) above led even atheistic scientists to admit that the universe has a Creator and He is One. Where do you get the most perfect and the purest concept of monotheism except in Islam?
The discovery stated at (c) above, is again in confirmation of the truth revealed in the Holy Quran 1,400 years ago that Allah is Qayoom, i.e., He Who exists by Himself, and by Whom all His creation exists. In fact, He is the Rabb, i.e., the Fosterer unto perfection of all His creation. Therefore, He is constantly in command and control of His creation, and constantly associated with it. To carry out His great task, He is Omnipresent, Ever-seeing, Ever-hearing and Aware of even the innermost secrets of mans nature and heart with which He has direct links. As modern science says, this universe exists because it exists in the Universal Mind. So that Allah is constantly mindful of all His creation, of even the smallest atom and whatever it contains, of even the human heart with which He has communication by inspiration or revelation.
It is this faith in God, revealed in the Holy Quran 1,400 years ago, and confirmed by science now, which inspires man to do good deeds and to shun evil or that which is wrong even if there is no policeman or magistrate watching him. The practices prescribed by the Holy Quran reinforce this faith all the time. For instance, the Muslim prayer five times a day reminds man that Allah is with him wherever he may be (that is why the prayer can be said anywhere without an idol, a cross or any sign before one); that Allah is watching him (that is why one folds ones hands, bends and prostrates in the Muslim prayer); that Allah hears what we say (that is why part of the prayer is said aloud) and that Allah knows the secrets of ones heart (that is why the major portion of the prayer is said in ones heart). Similarly fasting induces the same faith because a Muslim goes without food, drink or sex during the fast even if no one is watching him. Similarly, fasting and other sacrifices required in performing the Muslim religious practices curb the animal desires and passions so as to make them subordinate to the moral and spiritual values expected of Allahs "vicegerent on earth", which is man according to the Holy Quran (2:30).
It is the living faith in a living God inspired by Islam and its religious practices, and it is the curbing of the animal within man taught by them, that lead to self-control and self-discipline. A man who has acquired these, does not need a watching policeman to obey the disciplines. The Holy Quran makes an appeal which appeals to reason and good sense:
"Co-operate with one another in doing good or the avoidance of evil. And do not co-operate with one another in sin or aggression" (5:2).
Now, all Divine commandments or man-made laws fit into one or more than one of the categories mentioned above. This is made clearer when the Holy Quran says:
"Obey Allah and the Messenger and those in authority from among you" (4:59).
There is a possibility that those in authority may be wrong. If so, the Holy Quran requires a reference back to Allah and the Holy Prophet [pbuh] (i.e., Quran and Hadith). If they do not overrule "those in authority from among you," then the latter have to be obeyed. Similarly, obedience to the parents is prescribed in the Holy Quran more than once, for they are the best well-wishers of their children for whom they make lifelong sacrifices of their earnings, their time and their own comfort, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives when the need arises; besides they know better, because of their experience and maturity, than the raw and impulsive children in whom the animal urges preponderate. Obedience to the parents, when the childs nature is pliant and mouldable lays the foundation of obedience to those in authority (i.e., all manmade laws) and obedience to Allah. And the last-named induces discipline from within as opposed to discipline from without sought to be imposed by modern society. Self-discipline is real discipline. The artificial discipline sought to be super-imposed upon a rebellious animal within man cannot last long.