Perception, being this ability to perceive, comprehend and understand, requires an in depth reflection, as it defines one’s view of reality. Perception makes fair-seeming one’s thoughts, beliefs and actions. Allah (swt) said about the hypocrites: “And when it is said to them: ‘Make not mischief on the earth,’ they say: ‘We are only peacemakers.’ Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive it not” (2:11-12). A deviated perception can lead one to lose his/her entire existence, like those Allah (swt) described in Surat Al-Kahf: “Say: ‘Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work’” (18:103-104).
In today’s world, submerged by a flood of confusing information, one’s perception is at risk, if it is not already corrupted and/or blinded. In a pure Islamic society, perception is protected by the system of Hisba which is enjoining good and forbidding evil. The strategy of the Hisba is to revive the action of a good that is starting to fade away from society, and forbidding an evil action starting to appear within it. This system protects one’s insight from being corrupted, and consequently helps safeguard the Eman (faith). In contrast, distraction from forbidding evil fuels the spreading of ill values all over. Gradually, then, desensitization starts to affect people's perception toward these ill values, to the point that wrong doings are seen as good or fun actions - having “happy hour” consuming spiritual drinks, attaining “ecstasy” with drugs, “coming out of the closet” to express one’s true identity and freedom!!
The Quran presented to us a case study of a society that lost its enlightened perception. It reached the utmost level of desensitization, to the point that purity became perceived among them as an odd and disgusted virtue. It is the society of the people of Lut (pbuh). Listen to their statement: “But the answer of his people was not except that they said, ‘Expel the family of Lut from your city. Indeed, they are people who keep themselves pure’” (27:56).
A close reflection on the story of Lut (pbuh) and his people helps us understand the types of societal diseases that caused the complete deformation of the perception of the reality, and a falling into an extreme violation of morality. Here, the Quran reports to us the admonition of Lut (pbuh) to his people. “And [We had sent] Lut when he said to his people, ‘Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?’” (7:80).
Knowing these diseases helps the sincere believer guide his/her focus and strive to protect the “enlightened” perception, meaning a perception guided by the balanced way of Islam – a kind of light with which one walks among people. “O you who have believed, fear Allah and believe in His Messenger. He will [then] give you a double portion of His mercy, make for you a light by which you will walk, and forgive you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (57:28).
These diseases are stipulated in Lut’s (pbuh) admonition to his people. In Surat Al Aaraf, he said: “’Verily, you practice your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people who are Musrifun (wasteful)!’” (7:81). In Surat As-Shuara, he said: “’Do you approach males among the worlds, and leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But you are a people who are A’doun (transgressing)’” (26:165-166). And, in Surat An-Naml, he said: “’Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people Tajhalun (behaving ignorantly)’” (27:55).
Lut (pbuh) addressed his people on various occasions over a period of time with first “Musrifun” (wasteful), then “A’dun” (transgressors), and then “Tajhalun” (ignorant). The study of the Ayat above, helps one conclude that the process of desensitization starts with the illness of being wasteful and extravagant. Indeed, wasteful behavior leads one to keep racing toward a mirage called ecstasy, while neglecting and ignoring his/her true purpose of life. For such people, the purpose of life becomes the satisfaction of desires and lusts. It never ends, because such people are trapped in the dark pit of selfishness, greed, lust and desires, seeking always what is next. This fatal disease of wastefulness does not limit its effect to the behavior. It corrupts, indeed, the Fitra, the inner human disposition, deforming consequently one’s perception. This disease grows to the transgression of all bounds, causing then wisdom and rightful thinking to disappear from society. What then remains are only hard hearts and corrupted opinions, reflecting in fact the disease of “Jahl” (ignorance).
Seeing these diseases spreading all over, the sincere believer must feel an urge to build a fortress in which he/she preserves the “enlightened” perception. This is achieved by following the path of “To you be your way, and to me mine” (109:6), and focusing on continually cleansing the heart, correcting behavior and enjoining good and forbidding evil, at least with the heart. Without preserving this sanctity, it will be then the death of the soul!!