Conscience is a spiritual quality that bids man good attitude and thought, and helps him think straight and tell right from wrong.
One of the important aspects of conscience is that it is common to all people. In other words, what feels right to the conscience of a man also feels right to the conscience of all others provided that the same conditions prevail. The conscience of one man never falls out with that of another. The reason lies in the source of conscience: it is the inspiration of Allah. Through the conscience, Allah lets us know the best and the most beautiful behaviour and manners which it will please Him for us to adopt.
That conscience is an inspiration from Allah is mentioned in the Qur’an, in Surat ash-Shams:
And the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity or taqwa, he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams: 7-10)
In the above verses, Allah declares that He has inspired the self with depravity (to act in a sinful manner, to disobey, to deviate, to lie, to turn away from righteousness, to stir up trouble, to decline in good manners). The opposite is taqwa (awe or fear of Allah which inspires a person to be on guard against wrong action and eager for actions which please Him). It is this very conscience that makes man guard against evil deeds and find the right way.
One of the most important aspects of conscience is that it helps man to find what is right of his own accord. Conscience will surely show man what is right, even if nobody else will. So, what matters for man is to take recourse to his own conscience, listen to what it says, and act upon it. For this reason, we can say that conscience is the main component of religion.
Above all, there is one point that must be borne in mind; every man, from the moment of gaining consciousness, is responsible for what Allah inspires him with and what his conscience tells him. From the moment he starts to conceive the events around him and becomes able to judge for himself, he is expected to possess and be able to exercise the ability to hear and distinguish the voice of his conscience, and to have the will to follow it. From this point forward, he will be questioned about the actions he takes in the course of his life. If he follows his conscience, he will be rewarded with an eternal life in Allah’s heaven, but if he follows his self, he will meet an eternal sealed vault of fire.
Death is not distant from any one of us. It is perhaps even closer than we think. That Allah did not create the life of this world for a vain purpose and that death is not an end is an undeniable fact. We all have to organise our life according to this great truth, because after death, we will be judged according to the life we lived, and we will either be welcomed in paradise, or thrown into hell. Even if one is not convinced by the truth of this, can he really afford to risk so much and not work for his life in the hereafter? The only solution is to obey the commands of Allah by listening to the conscience. If someone does not follow his conscience or use it fully, when he meets the angels of death, he will be plunged into an agony of remorse and hopelessness, which he will suffer for eternity.
Whatever we do, our conscience will not leave us until we die. Conscience is a power that works totally out of our will. It is Allah’s voice. We will all continue to hear this voice until we die, but those who do not follow this voice will taste the intense regret of it after they die. Accordingly, in the Qur’an, many examples are given from the conversations in the hereafter in which those in hell confess what they failed to do in life. Therefore, in truth, everyone knows what he must and must not do and evading the conscience does no good.
‘What caused you to enter into Hell Fire?’ They will say, ‘We were not among those who prayed, and we did not feed the poor. We plunged with those who plunged, and denied the Day of Judgement, until the Certain came to us.’ The intercession of the interceders will not help them. What is the matter with them that they run from the Reminder like panicked donkeys fleeing from a lion? In fact each one of them wants to be given an unfurled scroll. No indeed! The truth is they do not fear the hereafter. No indeed! It is truly a reminder to which anyone who wills may pay heed. (Surat al-Muddaththir: 42-55)
If man does not want to make the above speech, he must listen to his conscience, follow the Qur’an, follow the Messenger (saas) and follow the rightly-guided people. He must never turn his back on the truth once it has been shown to him, and try to turn off the voice of righteousness within him.