Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Secrecy or punishment|
|09/11/01 at 00:22:07|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]Secrecy or punishment
By Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef[/center]
Numerous studies have been carried out in departments of psychology to ascertain the practical influence of behavior models on one's own behavior, and whether human beings are influenced by seeing other people acting in a certain way. All these studies have confirmed that human beings tend to imitate the behavior of others, unless they find out that a certain behavior is penalized and the person concerned has suffered as a result of his or her behavior. On the other hand, when we see that a certain person has made a gain or enjoyment as a result of a particular behavior, we try to emulate that person's behavior in future.
Psychologists call this type of following other people's suit "learning by emulation." It is different from a monkey imitating a human being's behavior, as this latter case is more of a mechanical imitation than learning a certain behavioral pattern which then becomes a question of choice in similar circumstances. Human behavior emulation is not normally immediate or instant. It often comes later than the action itself, and the time interval may take years. Nevertheless, it is essentially the result of a process of learning and emulating what we see at one point or another. It is a fact that when a human being experiences pleasure or relief of pain as a result of a certain action or behavior, he or she tends to repeat that behavior. Similarly, people tend to copy others when they see them doing something that ensures pleasure or relieves pain; as though they have themselves experienced those results.
The influence of a role model and gain-making behavior on people's actions is something that has been causing scientists much worry, particularly with television showing too much violence and permissiveness. Actors and actresses become role models, particularly for teenagers.
It is important to realize that a role model need not be seen in order to be imitated. In fact, people are similarly influenced by reports they hear of behavior and action that bring pleasure or enjoyment. They feel they would like to imitate such action, unless they realize that the pleasure or enjoyment have been counterbalanced by pain or punishment.
For this reason, publicity of stories of crime and free sex tend to increase crime and promiscuity in society. Their effect is even multiplied when they are true stories rather than fiction. This shows us the wisdom behind the prohibition of accusing a man or a woman of committing a particular crime or indecency, without producing sufficient evidence in support of such accusation. In fact, a person who makes such an unsupported accusation is punished by flogging (80 lashes), and disqualification from being a witness in any case for life. To avoid such a punishment, the accuser must provide four witnesses to testify to having seen the action being committed.
An accusation is considered false, even though the action had taken place. The accuser is guilty of giving publicity to the offense, unless he can support his accusation with four witnesses. The point here is that the accuser who cannot produce the required evidence in support of his accusation actually destroys the reputation of a believer and publicizes a story that could provide a negative role model. In this way the publicity serves as encouragement for imitation. On the other hand, providing the necessary evidence to prove the offense will ensure punishment of the perpetrators. Thus when the offense is mentioned, the punishment is also mentioned, providing a counter effect of deterrence. The total sum of publicity in this case becomes positive.
The Qur'an was far ahead of modern psychology when it drew attention to the detrimental role of giving publicity to permissiveness and promiscuity. At the time of the Prophet, some hypocrites publicized a false story speaking of fabricated indecency. God makes it clear that their motive was to help spread immorality among the believers. He says: "Those who like to see immoral conduct spread among the believers will have grievous suffering in this world and in the life to come. God knows (the full truth), whereas you do not know (it)." (24: 19)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) urged believers to keep secret any faults or misdeeds committed by their brethren. He also threatened hypocrites who were always slandering and backbiting believers with punishment inflicted by God. In this connection he says: "To those who pay lip service to Islam, while faith has not gone into their hearts, I say: Do not slander believers or cause them harm. Do not search for their faults, because when someone searches for his Muslim brother's faults, God will look out for his own faults, and when God is looking out for someone's faults, He is certain to expose him even though he may be in his most private quarters." (Related by Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah).
The Prophet also says: "Whoever keeps his brother's secret, God will keep his own secret both in this world and in the life to come." (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawood, at-Tirmithi and Ibn Majah).
The Prophet also teaches us that should we weaken and succumb to the temptation of sin, then we should keep that sin secret. We must not boast about any sinful action or the enjoyment we may derive from it. The benefit of such secrecy is two-fold. Firstly, our sinful action does not become an example for others to follow. Secondly, when we conceal sin and try to maintain our good image in public, we will continue to have the urge to repent and refrain from repeating our sin. A person who boasts about his sinful exploits will soon lose all his sense of shame and become conceited. That will make it easier for him to repeat his sins, finding excuses for himself so that he can easily dismiss other people's blame. That makes him hardened in sin, keeping any thoughts of repentance away from his mind.
The Prophet says: "All my followers are safe except boasters. It is boasting for a man to do something wrong at night, and then realizes in the morning that God has given him a shroud of secrecy, but he calls out to someone and says: I did this and that last night. The irony is that his Lord covers him, but he determinedly exposes himself." (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Al-Bukhari also relates that Abdullah ibn Umar said in answer to a question about a private conversation with God: "I heard God's Messenger saying: 'God draws a believer close to Himself and gives him a shroud of secrecy. He then says to him: Do you recognize these sins of yours?' He says: 'Yes, I do, my Lord. When He obtains a full confession of all his sins, and the man is certain that he is doomed, God says to him: 'All these I kept secret for you in your first life, and I am today forgiving you what you have done.' He will be given his record of good deed. As for disbelievers and hypocrites, witnesses shall say: 'These are they who lied against their Lord. The curse of God is upon the wrongdoers'."
We pray to God to conceal our faults and keep them secret, forgive us and bestow on us His grace.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 25 December 2000[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Haniff (with double 'f')
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