24 March 2016

I GREW up with perhaps a heightened awareness of God. As a child I was told that if I ever told a lie, God would cut off my tongue.

If I ever fancied myself as well off, I was admonished that there was absolutely no one on earth richer than God.

If I tried to hide from my elders after doing something naughty, I should rest assured that even if they couldn’t see me, God always could.

Small wonder that I was mostly an obedient little girl, terrified of both my parents’ and God’s wrath. It took me many years to understand that God was not as terrifying as all that, that He will forgive you if you’re really really sorry and that the worst thing is to hurt someone by telling lies. But I never got over the belief that everything I do can be seen and judged by an Omnipotent Being who will one day ask me to account for it all.

Apparently not everyone believes this. Not counting atheists, there are people who claim to believe in God but seem to have no awareness of constantly being watched. They think that as long as other humans don’t see what they do, they’re okay. Until they get caught, of course.

It’s astounding to read that a ­government official recently got caught for siphoning off RM100mil to buy first class tickets and expensive handbags for his family. How come nobody noticed any of this for so long?

Or rather, and perhaps this is what this fellow counted on, people noticed but decided to mind their own business. There’s something to be said for respecting people’s privacy of course. But did they forget who else is watching?

In fact, sometimes people don’t even bother to hide anymore. It’s all out there for everyone to see, unabashedly. We all lap it up, buying magazines to read and gawk over all those diamonds and cars. But we rarely ask where they come from, or at most we might snigger a bit and then turn the page.

This turning-the-page attitude of ours is what allows all these things to happen. We look, we wonder and then we move on. Which is exactly what the corrupt want us to do. So we are really complicit in their crimes.

Why should we be surprised therefore that when we finally say something, they turn round and unleash all sorts of charges against us, including for disobedience? We had obediently turned our heads away all these years, how dare we look harder now! And the more we look, the tougher the backlash is.

Last week we were told that disobedience to our leader is akin to disobedience to God. Oh my, my! But isn’t our first duty to be ­obedient to the All-Seeing God?

In Chapter 4, verse 135 of the Holy Quran, God says to us: “O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them.  Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!”

Sounds very clear to me that ­obedience to our leaders is conditional on whether they are being just to us or not. Justice and upholding equity is meant to be our leaders’ main concern, as it is with all of us. So when we see them doing wrong, especially by treating us like naughty children, why should we not say something?

God repeats this in Chapter 5, Verse 8: “O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.”

My holy Book also repeatedly reminds us to never ascribe divinity to anyone other than God. This is the greatest sin in my understanding because it undermines the core belief in One God.

Yet there are people who keep equating their own human qualities and foibles to the Divine. We must never criticise them because that would be like criticising God, they say. Surely this must be the height of hubris.

But they get away with it because we are silent and look away. Who then do we fear more, them or the Almighty?