Just as pollution of the physical environment — air, water, soil, etc. — causes severe harm to one’s physical self, pollution of the social or spiritual environment with anti-Imaan elements is bound to harm one’s Imaan. If the exposure to such environments is excessive, it could paralyse one’s Imaan or even destroy it – Allah I forbid. It is thus vitally important that one remains in an environment that is not polluted by anti–Imaan elements. The environment in terms of this discussion is made up by what is in one’s surroundings and who is there. For instance, if one is in a Musjid and among pious people, the environment is clean. On the contrary if one is in a casino, rave club or immoral party, etc., and among people who are devoid of Deen, the environment is totally polluted.
The importance of being in the correct environment is clearly highlighted in the Qur’an and Sunnah. In surah Bani Israeel Allah I declares: “Say (O Nabi sallallahu alayhi wasallam) everyone acts according to his own way.” The commentators have explained this to mean that a person acts according to what has become his second nature due to the circumstances and due to the habits and customs of those he lives with (which is not always the correct way). From this verse Imaam Abu Bakr Al-Jassas (R.A) has highlighted the importance of refraining from evil surroundings and bad company since one’s surroundings and company will dictate what one does.
In a beautiful parable Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam has emphasised the effects of one’s surroundings and company. Allah`s messenger sallallahu alayhi wasallam declares: “The example of a good companion and an evil companion is similar to that of a musk-seller and a blacksmith. The musk-seller will either give you some musk, or you may buy some from him or (if he does not give you nor do you buy) you will at least get the sweet scent of musk (by being in his presence). As for the blacksmith, he will either burn your clothes (if a spark flies out of his fire when he blows into it to kindle it) or at the least you will smell the bad odours” (Mishkaat). The lesson is that one cannot escape the effects of one’s company and surroundings, whether positive or negative.
SABR AND SACRIFICE
Taking pains to remain in a pollution free environment can result in one’s forgiveness. In a well-known narration it is reported that a person of the previous nations committed one hundred murders. He decided to repent and went to some learned people for advice. They informed him that there was nothing that can deprive him from forgiveness if he repents sincerely. However, he was told to leave the place where he lived since it was a place of evil people and migrate to another town where the people were pious. He immediately left for the other town but passed away en-route. Since he was found to be closer to the intended place of pious people, he was forgiven (Mishkaat). It was surely a major sacrifice for this person to leave his place and migrate elsewhere. Yet the sabr (patience) he undertook in distancing himself from the environment polluted by vice earned him the forgiveness of Allah Ta’ala. Thus at times sacrifices of convenience, pleasure and even wealth may become necessary to stay away from sinful surroundings.
The danger and harm of being in evil surroundings, despite not having any intention of engaging in evil or sin, is clearly understood from another narration. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam is reported to have said: “An army (prior to Qiyamah) will march towards the Ka`bah to destroy it. When they reach an open field, every one of them will be swallowed into the ground.” “Why will everyone be swallowed in to the earth whereas some among them were merely traders or were there for some other purpose (i.e. Their intention for being among them was not to march against the Ka`bah)?” enquired the Sahabah (R.A). Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam replied: “They will all be swallowed in to the earth. Thereafter on the day of judgment they will be resurrected according to their intentions.” The message is clear. When a calamity befalls the evildoers, those in the surroundings will also be washed away by the tsunami of the wrath of Allah I. It is therefore obvious that one must totally refrain from places where vices are openly perpetrated.
Among the common surroundings which are heavily polluted with vice are the main beachfront areas, holiday resorts and other such places, especially during the holiday seasons. People dressed in a few scraps of cloth, who can only be described as naked, pack such places. Drunken hoards will be roam about all over the place. Illicit and immoral activities are the norm. “Beach events” which are gatherings of pure fitna add to the severe pollution. It would be a miracle if one can leave from such places with one’s Imaan unaffected.
Another generally very polluted environment is the market place. While this applies to any business area, the intensity of the pollution in modern-day shopping malls is far greater. The pollution of these places is evident from the Hadith of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam wherein he declared: “The most beloved of all places on the earth to Allah I are the Masaajid and the most detested of all places on the earth to Allah I are the bazaars” (Mishkaat).
The thought will naturally come to mind that one has to go to the shopping centres for one’s necessities. How can this be reconciled with the Hadith above? The answer can be easily understood from the following example. Supposing there are some toxic fumes in the atmosphere or thick smog all around town. However, one needs to urgently buy bread for one’s family. What will one do? Any sane person will take every precaution before venturing out. Depending on the severity of the situation, he will perhaps even wear a mask or at least hold a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. The route taken will be the shortest. The necessities will be bought as quickly as possible. Even if it is at a higher price around the corner compared to the shopping mall, one will most likely opt to pay little more rather than remain exposed to the thick smog for a longer time. Upon returning he will wash his eyes and face to rid himself from the effects of the smog. A sane person will certainly not go “bargain hunting” while breathing toxic fumes. He will also not walk about casually “just to look around.”
Nowadays the bazaars are choking with the toxic fumes of nudity, immoral and illicit activity and a host of other vices. One who has to venture into the bazaars either to conduct his business or buy his necessities will take every possible precaution. He will perhaps even perform two rakaats of nafil Salaah and beg Allah I to protect him from the toxic fumes. The bare minimum will be that he will earnestly make dua in his heart and seek refuge with Allah I. While going about completing the task as quickly as possible, his tongue and heart will be engaged in the zikr of Allah I. His eyes will be fixed to the ground lest any toxic particles affect his sight and heart. As soon as the work is done, he will rush out, earnestly engaged in istighfaar (seeking Allah I forgiveness) and thereby disinfect himself from the effects of the exposure. Thus one will obviously not venture into bazaars, fairs, fetes and the like to be “entertained” or “hunt for bargains”. The pollution of the intermingling of men and women and other vices will surely harm one’s Imaan.
Another polluted environment is often found at many popular eating-out venues. For one little ice-cream or meal, one is exposed to the harmful radiation of an environment that can cause cancer to one’s Imaan. Will one expose one’s physical self to cancer causing radiation from a nuclear fallout? The radiation of a sinful environment is far worse.
The above are just some examples that can be extended to many other situations. Of vital importance is to become very health conscious — mainly of one’s Imaani health. The door of repentance in the court of Allah I is open. It is time to repent and remain in pollution free environments all the time. May Allah I enable us to do so. Aameen