Post originally published (in slightly different form), on twitter 15th July 2021.
The worst crime beyond any other, is Shirk (worshipping other than the Creator, assigning to Him flaws, or associating others with Him or derogating His rights and claiming them for others).
Better to be a sinning antisocial Muwahid, than a sociable friendly Mushrik.
Some people have taken exception to this simple truth, and exclaimed how committing murder or other violations of persons or property could *ever* be not as bad or worse than Shirk. Indeed, they wonder ‘how could a sociable mushrik be worse than an anti-social muwahid?’ Here’s why…
Most people are born and socialised with desires and preferences they never choose or chose. Some are born as psychopaths (inability to emphasise with others), or born/raised with a sadistic streak (which involves pleasure or fascination at causing pain or watching living things die), and others are born really enjoying socialising with others or enjoying getting validation from helping others.
Now, Humans have been given nobility, which means we want to follow something higher than ourselves, a greater narrative, greater purpose than beyond simply existing – something that we can do of a higher value than merely accidental cause and effect.
The only real choice we have then, as humans, is what do we put as the basis for our principles (i.e. what do we worship). To this, we have three options…
We can choose to either worship:
1) ourselves [e.g. narcissism] where we believe we our the highest value in existence,
2) Other people, or whatever society tells us to do, where we give the highest value to our culture, group, nation or ancestors or
3) the Lord of all Creation, which everyone starts to know initially as ‘The Truth’ from the moment they can reason.
(The first two options are essentially, feed-back loops of human motivations)
Because all humans are motivated by seeking pleasure/avoiding pain a sociable person may only be sociable because they see benefit in it (e.g. accruing a social debt from society as favours in return), or because their genes/upbringing conditioned them to get pleasure from it as social validation- but had they been given different genes/upbringing, they would have taken equal pleasure in being sadistic.
Have you ever noticed, that among animals of the same species, or even litter, they have different personality traits? Some aggressive, others sociable? These are traits we also don’t choose.
*But* what we can choose, is whether we acknowledge there is something greater than ourselves upon which all of existence depends upon, but is independent itself of all things (Al-Samad). Being Creations of this Creator and fundamental sustainer of our existence, our very existence and therefore our purpose is defined as bearing witness to Him. There is no other purpose that we can serve, nor any other that could hold any sense.
Additionally, the Creator actively sustains our existence, and there is nothing that can be independent of Him. If we live, it’s because He sustains our continuance with His power.
So for any if us to choose to reject Him and deliberately choose not to bear witness to Him is the worst crime of all.
It is not just a crime of profound ingratitude, or abuse of another’s property (we being the property of Allah), but it is a crime against reality itself.
No ephemeral crime done by one human to another, whose consequence is temporary, and who’s effect is limited, can ever match the crime done against the eternal source of all creation!
Sure, we should expect that a worshipper of God refrains from crimes against fellow humans – but this should primarily be because these are crimes against the *owner* [and sustainer] of humans and all things.
But seeing as those who worship other than God, are only good or bad if it suits their ‘god’ (their whims and impulses, or society and pleasing other people), which could – under various circumstances – equally ‘command’ them to do evil acts (not all villains are comic book), these people are simply *wantons* [those who act according to whatever their whims and desires command].
The *good* deeds of people who are enslaved to their own passions, or desires to fit into society, are an illusion, because, as moral nihilists will admit about people: “their morals are bad joke, dropped at the tip of a hat…they’re only as good as society allows them to be…but when the chips are down, they’ll eat eachother.” [guess the reference].
They are wantons, because had this not been the case, they would’ve desisted from blindly following the commands and biases of the society they live in – upon which they get their tastes and ‘morals’ from, which motivated them to do Shirk against their very sustainer and Creator.
If they can be ungrateful to the very lord of Creation, and reject Him whom has the most right upon them, who are any of you for these individuals to truly respect? They will only *respect* you when it suits them, just as they only accept parts of the truth when it suits them.
How can people who do *sociable* things be truly moral, when their motivations to do so were only the result of accidents?
The impulses in them conducive to sociability were shaped and triggered by pure accidents in their genes, upbringing and circumstances they didn’t choose. If they have made the only real free choice they could have, and rejected the truth of reality because it goes against the very unchosen whims and desires they chose to follow, what real good exists in them?
So the ‘good acts’ of those wanton people who follow other than God, are ephemeral and illusions.
However, the one who chooses to recognise God, not because their society or ancestors told them to say some words to repeat, but because they realise through contemplation that He is the ultimate truth and the only One truly worthy of worship, even if the person doesn’t always obey, will always have a consistent basis upon which to straighten themselves – because they at least recognise who He is, and why He is the source of all value and meaning (i.e. worthy of worship). This is a basis based upon the foundation of all reality – the Creator.
The rejecter of truth, and of God, as many moral nihilists would admit, have no value in their morals actions, no good and bad in a material universe of randomness and accident empty of any value. And hence, the “good” deeds of the rejecter are merely accidents of the circumstances that triggered the (“commands” of the) desires they worship.
So better the person who struggles to bend their desires to the truth, even if they stumble frequently, than the one who walks gracefully down the path that bends the truth to their desires.
‘The good deeds of disbelievers are like a mirage seen in vast deserts. A thirsty person thinks from a distance that it is water. But when he comes up to it, he cannot find what he expects’
Surah An-Nur 39