By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by Fatema Makki The Glorious Quran mentions examples of certain scholars found in every time and place… When examining the past and the present experiences of these scholars, we infer that they have a vast erudition and a high religious awareness of what is permissible and what is not. Once an individual extends his horizons by means of the scholars’ knowledge, he might transcend and draw himself near Allah, the Most Exalted. However, these individuals might be subjected to pressures resulting from avarice cupidity, or the evil whispers of people. They turn a blind eye to all the knowledge they have attained, and give way to the evil whispers of Satan, and are, thus, herded by his calls. And instead of entertaining beneficent thoughts, they entertain satanic ones; changing lanes from uprightness to perversion. Their aspirations, which once sought God’s gratification and the admittance to His heaven, now seek to please oppressors lusting for some ephemeral possessions which they would relish only in this world.
In their case, knowledge did not cultivate their spiritual well- being. Knowledge was a mere transient notion perceived by their intellect, but not anchored in their emotions, sentiments, consciences, or lives.
There is a great difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Knowing God is one thing, and loving Him is another. In the same breath, acknowledging righteousness is one thing, but practicing it is another. In view of that, there is a difference between theoretical faith and practical one.
Thus, we need the kind of knowledge that would nourish our minds and furnish the way ahead of us with light, and an abiding faith rooted in our will and sentiment and extending to our whole existence. The Messenger of Allah (p.) symbolized the speaking Quran, with Quran being the silent book, and the same applies to the Members of the Household (a.s.), whose life was an embodiment of the teachings of the Quran. Their words and their conduct reflected the true Islamic behavior. In the same token, our sentiments, lives, and whole being must epitomize Islam.
We shall discuss the example of the man who did not cultivate his spiritual well-being by the knowledge he had attained, and eventually lost both this world and the Hereafter: (Recite unto them the tale of him to whom We gave Our revelations, but he sloughed them off, so Satan overtook him and he became of those who lead astray.) (7:175).
It was mentioned in Quranic interpretations that God granted a man, called Balaam bin Baouraa, the secret of the Great Name. However, he disregarded the Great Name, and instead, perused lust and cupidity. No matter who this person was, examples of such people are found in every time and place. Therefore, when encountering people who have such a vast religious knowledge, we must not be pleased by their knowledge and thus, approach them and follow their lead; instead we ought to observe how far the knowledge they have attained influenced their lives, and whether knowing Allah influenced their sentiment and soul. We must question: Do their actions reflect their knowledge? Are their relations with people ruled by the love of Allah and the fear of Him, or by the love of the devil and the fear of him? We must secure ourselves against those who do not practice what they preach drawing upon God’s saying:(O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do.) (06:01-02). Allah, the Most Exalted, detests he whose words contradict with his actions.
Going back to elaborate on the example mentioned in the Quran, through which we can determine the scale of truth and falsehood so that we are capable of judging people: (Recite unto them the tale of him to whom We gave Our revelations,) we have sent him the signs which lead to Allah and guide him to piety and uprightness. We have sent him the signs, (but he sloughed them off). The devil is similar to an enemy, in the sense that he remains distant when man is cautious, armored, and vigilant. However, the minute man becomes abstracted and drops down his armor, the enemy sneaks through this outlet to get back at man. Wherefore, the Quranic expression is: (so Satan overtook him,) rather than “he followed Satan”. This man, who sloughed off God’s sent revelations, was followed by the devil and was eventually taken by him, in the same way man follows another man and is led astray by his deception and perversity (and he became of those who lead astray), he has chosen falsehood and deceit, and has fallen into the devil’s trap.
An excerpt from the book: "Min Urfan Al-Quran."