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Piety and Cheating

While mass murders continue to take place in the name of religion, a report of grave consequences has shaken the faith of many in the country.

Some time back, Dawn carried the report of a massive fraud carried out by a group of clerics and no less than 40 prayer leaders who allegedly misled several people, including widows and orphans, to invest in a supposedly Islamic banking system of modaraba. This seems to have driven home the paradoxical phenomenon that those who profess piety and preach religion are usually the ones to lie and cheat most often.

One of the reasons for why the so-called believers cheat and lie with impunity is that they believe that the rituals they perform (prayers, fasts, Haj, almsgiving, etc) would far outweigh the sins that they have committed. They could not be more wrong in this misconception.

The Quran says very clearly that God will take His decision based on the weightage given to the deeds which shall be based on the intentions and inclinations, and not on the apparent acts of the individual. It is thus not the physical act itself, but the purpose and quality of the deed that will tilt the result one way or the other for the doer.

If a religious act is undertaken by a person to outweigh the ill effect of some harm he has inflicted on a fellow human being, or to show off to another, it is unlikely to carry any value in the eyes of God.

Secondly, those who claim knowledge of religion also hope that they will be interceded for by the Prophet (PBUH) which, of course, will be accepted. Such an understanding of intercession has been denied thrice in Surah Baqarah. On the Day of Judgement, no soul shall

come to the rescue of another soul, no friendship will matter, no intercession will be accepted, nor any other form of external help be entertained (2:48; 2:123; 2:254).

There is, however, only one exception. There will be a group of people whose performance in this world may not be absolutely clear cut so as to allow them to be admitted to paradise, and in such cases, God will allow some outstanding individuals to intercede on their behalf. Such a situation is not one that is meant for people who have committed sins that God has forbidden clearly and openly, such as usurping the rights of widows and orphans.

Certainly it does not give any of us an opportunity to become complacent and begin to cheat and lie in the hope that someone will intercede for us in the hereafter.

A third prevalent reason for the widespread tendency to cheat among those claiming to be religious is the claim itself. They believe that because they are Muslims, they are unlikely to go to hell, whatever sins they commit, while others whom they believe to be kafir would be punished.

Unfortunately, this is the same thinking that was common among the Children of Israel, who believed that because they were the chosen people of God, no punishment would ever come to them, or even if it does, it would be for only a short period of time.

Man is weak and is also tempted by Satan, so he will commit wrong. But God, who is infinitely merciful, will forgive provided man truly repents and asks for forgiveness. In Islam, repentance means an immediate realisation of one’s mistakes, a seeking of forgiveness, a commitment to correcting oneself, and a strong effort never to make the same mistake again.

Another unfortunate justification for lying that some people have come up with is to claim that even some prophets have not told the truth (God forbid).

They cite the examples of Hazrat Ibrahim when he had broken all the idols and told the people to ask the idol he had left untouched, and of Hazrat Yusuf, when a cup was found in the bag of one of his brothers, instead of the suspected royal bowl.

These are stories that have been bandied about without an understanding of the Quran, merely to support the lies that people tell. While in the first case it was an effective way to make a stubborn group realise how foolish their approach was, the other case was of Yusuf getting unprecedented help from God to keep his brother. There was nothing immoral about either episode.

If people read the Quran with an open mind, listen carefully to other views, and be tolerant, without believing everything others say about religion, our society can perform far better morally.

Published in Dawn News, April 25, 2014