وَإِنْ تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ
Wa-in tuti‘ akthara man fil-ardhi yudhillūka ‘an sabīlillāh
And if you obey most of those in the earth they will lead you away from Allah’s way
(Sūratul An‘ām No. 6, Āyat 116)
Human beings are often deluded by the majority. When a large group of people do something, or follow something, the numbers seem to declare that there must be truth in it. It must be right, we think, otherwise why would so many people follow it? The simple answer is that most people don’t make the effort to think for themselves. They follow what others do. They give in and succumb to the throngs behind the piper. It is so much easier to do that than to resist, separate, use the mind, and insist on a different path. That requires hard work, mentally and emotionally.
The above verse declares this truth. If you just follow others without determining the truth it is most likely you will be led astray. It is truth that must be followed, not people or trends. If most people are following the truth then join along. But if they are not, the path of truth must still be traversed.
This principle should apply to all aspects of life. Beliefs, actions, lifestyle . . . all must be what we believe is right, not what everyone else is doing. It is important to have a personal self- identity rather than simply blend into the group we belong. This is true for circles such as family, community, society, etc. Each might pull us towards different paths but we need to move only after careful thought and consideration.
If we don’t follow the majority, how can we be sure we are right? Referring to the following would be helpful in forming an appropriate self-identity that is not afraid to be different;
a).The inner voice – Each human being has an instinct that speaks to him from within. Almighty Allah says: Then set your face upright for religion in the right state– the nature made by Allah in which He has made mankind (Q 30:30). Sometimes we ignore it and it becomes quiet over time. Sometimes it is covered with veils of worldly attachments and distractions. Take time to listen to what you really want to do in life, to listen to the real you instead of the disguise you have put on to be part of the crowd.
b).The ‘Aql – The creator has endowed the human being with intelligence that must be used in conjunction with the laws He has sent. Imam Musa al Kadhim (a) said to Hishām bin Hakam: Allah has two proofs (hujjat) over mankind, one external and one internal. The external proof of Allah is the Messengers, Prophets, and Imams. And the internal proof is the intelligence of people. (Tuhafal ‘Uqūl, pg. 386)
c).Guidance – Almighty Allah has sent guidance through His chosen ones. They have brought us His words and His laws. The path that we choose in life must be weighed according to the guidance sent for us. If it fits well with it we follow. But if it goes against the guidance then we cannot conform to the masses that are following it. Allah says: Say: Surely Allah’s guidance that is the (true) guidance (Q 2:120).
Use this verse to remind you that you do not have to be like everyone else. It is okay to be different, even strange. That is the only way to ensure you are not just following others who may be on the wrong path.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;