When Men Become Cattle
When does this phenomena occur in the life of man that he becomes like cattle or even lower? It happens when he stops using the senses His Maker has given him. What does this mean? Has he closed his eyes, put fingers in his ears and stopped thinking? It means he is not using the faculties for the purpose he must use them, the purpose of seeking guidance and following the truth.
We humans as living beings share many characteristics with other animals, but despite this there are certain human characteristics which form the fundamental difference between the two.
An animal sees and understands the world with its external and superficial knowledge. It does not have insight nor can it understand the relations which govern the interactions among different components of nature; the understanding and knowledge of animals is not complete. It is partial, limited to a particular time or object. Their knowledge is confined to a region; it does not go beyond the bounds of their living environment. Animals are only concerned about their present, their concerns are limited to present needs and they do not care about the future or the past. They do not have a sense of history nor do they plan for the future. The needs and knowledge of animals are purely material and limited to their material lives. They do not make attempts to understand the loftiness of their Maker. They do not worry about the questions of guidance or Heaven or Hell.
Man on the other hand, besides sharing the above characteristics with animals, has spiritual and intellectual dimensions as well. He is concerned about his past. He plans for future. He ponders upon the questions of life and death. He is a seeker of truth, he falls in love with beauty. He attains knowledge and thinks much beyond his material needs. He learns from history and decides about the times to come. He has goals and aims in life which may not be material in essence. Sometimes he is so much attached to his lofty ideas and ethical goals that he can sacrifice his all material pleasures or belongings for them. He is a deep thinker. He broods over nature, its laws, its beauty. He understands the relations and interactions among various components of nature.
But man, despite being the master of all other creatures on the face of the earth, sometimes falls in the ranks of cattle or descends even lower than that: “And certainly We have created for Hell many of the jinn and the men; they have hearts with which they do not understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear; they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse error; these are the heedless ones.” (7:179)
When does this phenomena occur in the life of man that he becomes like cattle or even lower? It happens when he stops using the senses His Maker has given him. What does this mean? Has he closed his eyes, put fingers in his ears and stopped thinking? It means he is not using the faculties for the purpose he must use them, the purpose of seeking guidance and following the truth. When man becomes inordinate in his deviations and does not heed guidance or counsel, he falls in the ranks of cattle or becomes even more deviated – he becomes heedless.
If man does not possess the right guidance and does not seek to purify himself, despite all his skills he will be like cattle. There have been several communities which were destroyed despite their skills because they did not accept the righteous way of life, and denied the message of their Creator: “And (We destroyed) Ad and Samood, and from their dwellings (this) is apparent to you indeed; and the Shaitan made their deeds fair-seeming to them, so he kept them back from the path, though they were endowed with intelligence and skill.” (29:38)
The grand creation by Allah is not in vain or for sport: “And We did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them for sport.” (21:16) The purpose of creation of man is to know His Creator and submit before Him: “And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.” (51:56)
When we use our senses and intellectual faculties for just material goals and forget the ultimate purpose of life, we fall under the category of cattle. The purpose of intelligence is nothing but to go forward towards Allah. Abu Abdallah (peace be upon him) has said: “Intelligence is the support for man. From intelligence comes intelligence, understanding, memorization and knowledge and with intelligence he gains perfection. Intelligence is his guide, his instructor and the key to his affairs. When his intelligence is supported with light he becomes a scholar, a keeper (of knowledge), an intelligent re-caller and a man of understanding. Through intelligence he learns the answer to how, why and where or when. He learns who helps and who harms him. When he learns these (facts) he learns the channels, the connections and the differentiating factors. He then establishes pure faith in the Oneness of Allah and acknowledges the need to obey Him. When he does so he finds the proper remedy for what he has lost and the right approach to whatever may come in. He knows well his present involvement, for what reason is he here, wherefrom has he come and to what end is he going. He will have all these because of intelligence.” (Al-Kafi)
It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) in a long narration: “The first, the beginning, the force and the structure of something is that without which something would be of no benefit. The thing that Allah has made beauty and light for His creatures, the people, is intelligence. With intelligence people come to know their Creator and that they are created, and that He is the one who has designed them and they are the ones who are being maintained. That it is the Creator who is Eternal and it is the creatures that are mortals. It is intelligence with which they reason from His creatures, like the heavens, the earth, and the sun, the moon, night and the day. In this way they learned that they and the creatures have a Creator and Maintainer who is Eternal. With intelligence they learn about good and bad and that darkness is in ignorance and light is in knowledge. These are facts that they learn with intelligence.”
People asked the Imam, “Can intelligence only be enough for people?” The Imam replied, “With guidance from intelligence that Allah has made him to depend on and it is his beauty and guide, a person of intelligence learns that Allah is his Creator and that He is his Lord. Through intelligence one learns that his Creator loves and dislikes certain things, that the Lord must be obeyed and that certain acts are disobedience to Him, and that nothing but intelligence shows him all these facts. One also (with intelligence) learns that only with knowledge and searching one may reach the Creator. That one may not benefit from his intelligence if he cannot learn the truth about Him through his knowledge. It is then necessary for a person of intelligence to acquire knowledge and proper moral discipline without which there is nothing else so dependable.” (Al-Kafi)
If we prefer our carnal desires over the advice of intelligence and divine guidance, we lose our human status and fall in the ranks of cattle.