Article in brief: The author suggests that many societal issues stemming from post-oil culture are mainly due to a lack of sincerity. Through putting emphasis on 3 realms of sincerity, the author hopes these issues can be eradicated.
For those of you who are familiar with my column, you may have noticed that a lot of the topics I discuss revolve around the neo-culture introduced in the Arabian Gulf countries post-oil. The major contributors to the evolution of the region’s culture, I believe, are the sudden influx of wealth and the necessity to co-exist directly or indirectly with foreign cultures. I have touched upon many topics in the past such as the reversal of the reward and punishment structure, the lack of thought processes, marriage and its basis, and society worship in particular.
In my opinion, there is one crucial change that occurred over time; this I believe is the root cause of most of the issues we face today. This change is in the levels of sincerity prevalent in the people of the region. Sincerity, also known as “Ikhlaas” in Arabic, is defined in Merriam-Webster as “honesty of mind and freedom from hypocrisy”. Without sincerity, many important supporting pillars of a healthy society can collapse. The lack of sincerity can have a very strong ripple effect. Examples include wrong social/political/economic decision-making due to inaccurate information, the selection of an inappropriate spouse or business partner, and the lack of drive towards areas of responsibility. Many of you may already be nodding.
Rather than focusing on why and how sincerity has slowly changed, I would like to walk you through the 3 crucial realms of sincerity we need to be mindful of (in order of importance) and link them to concepts I have shared in my column before.
First, I believe we need to be mindful of the sincerity of our belief systems. For the Muslim reader, this would be the sincerity of the relationship with Allah. We need to formulate an opinion and attain knowledge of our creed. For example, not only must we trust God’s decisions sincerely, but we also must sincerely perform His orders such as performing prayers, giving charity, visiting the mosque, etc. All of these actions must be sincere towards achieving His approval and not in pursuit of status or social/financial gain.
(And among men there are some who say, “We believe in Allah and in the Last Day”, yet they are not believers. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they are not deceiving anyone except themselves, although they are unaware of it)
The Holy Quran [2:8-9]
Second, I believe it is important to be mindful of the sincerity towards oneself. This means we have to be honest to ourselves in different situations. We must understand when we are wrong and when we are right. We must be ready to accept criticism about ourselves. We must be sincere to ourselves about the way we feel about certain people who we enter into relationships with. We must know when we are liked and when we are despised. I believe this is one of the most difficult realms of sincerity as it requires having an aware and conscious mind.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
– Richard P. Feynman, in a commencement ceremony at Caltech 1974
Third, I believe it is important to be mindful of our sincerity towards others. This includes sharing feedback, relationships, agreements, evaluations, and even general interaction. We must make sure we say what we believe and we convey information appropriately and sincerely wishing the best for all parties in any interaction. We must be true to our spouses and not cheat. We must be fair in our business dealings and not deceive. We must give others sincerely. We must work sincerely and treat those under our authority fairly. We must sincerely make sure that we do not cause harm towards others.
“Every traitor will have a banner on the Day of Resurrection, and it will be said, ‘This is the betrayer of so-and-so.’” -The Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him ( Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
In summary, I believe a lot of the social and behavioral issues the region has faced in the post-oil era stem from the lack of sincerity. In my opinion, if we focus on and be mindful of the realms of sincerity in our beliefs, ourselves, as well as others, we may be able to reverse many of these issues. I’ll begin by being mindful today and I hope you do too.