Allah Almighty has created the human soul with a predisposition to selfishness as a test. Unless he lives by the moral values of the Qur’an and tames his earthly desires, this feeling will come to dominate his whole moral framework.
Such a person generally thinks of himself alone, rather than everyone else. He always wants the best, finest and most perfect of everything for himself. He wants to have possessions and children and for his own family merely to be comfortable. In face of difficulties, he will expect the people around him to undergo all kinds of risks and troubles for him and to support him, even at the cost of their own interests. He seeks to protect his own whims and interests and to ensure his own ease and comfort.
When the situation is different he can forgo many things he values, for the sake of protecting his own interests and preventing any harm coming to him.
Allah has revealed this passionate selfish feeling in human earthly desires as follows in the Qur’an: “Truly man was created headstrong – desperate when bad things happen, begrudging when good things come.” (Qur’an, 70:19-21)
They are a major threat to modern societies. The materialist thinking that is widespread in modern societies that do not live by religious moral values, reinforces the selfish and egotistical spirit in human nature and disseminates a “me-first” philosophy. Indeed, the idea of “So long as I’m all right, who cares what happens to anyone else?” or “Looking out for number one” generally dominates such societies.
Thus, oppressed and poor people; their children devoid of education or food; are of no interest to such people. This social structure generally leads to a troubled and unhappy atmosphere.
Only people living by the moral values of the Qur’an can bring about any change in such a contaminated society; only they can change the people of selfish interest — those who protect their own interests and violate everyone else’s; and who have no love or fear of Allah.
Islam cultivates love of Allah and which is the only way to acquire such values of good conscience as compassion and helpfulness, which are at the root of the Qur’anic moral values.
Fear and love of Allah enables people to submit themselves to Him, to see the best in everything and to have compassion. In the verses Allah reveals how the only interest of concern to believers is His approval: “They fulfill their vows and fear a Day whose evil will spread far and wide. They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives: ‘We feed you only out of desire for the Face of Allah. We do not want any repayment from you or any thanks. Truly We fear from our Lord a glowering, calamitous Day.’ So Allah has safeguarded them from the evil of that Day and has made them meet with radiance and pure joy.” (Qur’an, 76:7-11)
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He who goes to bed full when his neighbor is hungry is not one of us.” It is an important warning to all those believers who desire to earn Allah’s approval. Therefore, anyone aiming to earn Allah’s approval will not just settle for a solution to his own problems; he will also assume responsibility for resolving the problems of others around him in need.
This may of course require people to give up things they love or to sacrifice their own comfort. The way that Muslims look to protect and watch over the poor by giving alms, help people in need by canceling their debts and spend their possessions on Allah’s path, rather than accumulating and hoarding them, are moral virtues bestowed by the ethical values of the Qur’an.
Responding to people’s needs and treating them kindly are forms of behavior that prevent atrophocation of the conscience. Empathizing with others, treating the needy with affection and showing respect and love make it possible to eliminate cruelty and selfishness. Verses reveal that the reward for good behavior comes in the Presence of Allah: “Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him. Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbors who are related to you and neighbors who are not related to you, and to companions and travelers and your slaves. Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful.” (Qur’an, 4:36)
Faith perfects people’s behavior, as it does so many other traits. A believer who constantly heeds his conscience as required by religious moral values will always behave in the best, most considerate, trust-inspiring and tolerant manner.
Someone possessed of these moral attributes has earned merit for his own life in the hereafter. At the same time, he is instrumental in freeing the world from its self-interested and selfish nature, and making it a place of the delights of Islam.
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.