-What does overfamiliarity mean?
-What is overfamiliar behavior?
-How does overfamiliarity affect the person displaying it?
-What moral values are needed to escape overfamiliarity?
When people first encounter the proofs of Creation they realize there is something extraordinary in them, and this leads them to reflect on and research and investigate what they see. Some people, however, may soon develop a familiarity in the face of these things and start not to be affected by them. An entity or event they encounter every day becomes overfamiliar to them.
This is like a disease, that all Muslims must avoid and that prevents people giving thanks to Allah.
Human beings can easily become accustomed to any images if they do not use their consciences properly. Allah has created the human soul prone to conditioning as a requirement of the secret of the test. From the moment a person is born he acts in the light of the conditioning he receives from his surroundings. When he forgets that it is Allah Who creates all things and that a person has a duty to reflect on and grasp the sublime wisdom in Allah’s Creation, then he will continue to live with only a very superficial perspective. In the event he is conditioned with the idea that it is enough to go along with the majority and blindly believe in their superstitions, then a mist practically will settle around him. He sees everything through that mist. Since he never breaks through that mist that has been around ever since his childhood, he never sees the difference between it and a clear and sharp perspective. The mist that surrounds such people is “overfamiliarity.” This is like a screen that prevents people seeing the flawless details, miracles and beauty in their daily lives and the things around them, and that prevents them comprehending the omniscience and infinite artistry of Almighty Allah.
The Main Cause of Overfamiliarity Is Lack of Reflection
One of the most serious mistakes that people living in the society of ignorance make is failing to concentrate on a subject and think deeply about it. The reason for this is that they devote all their attention to minor issues during the day. They thus tire their minds on these matters and waste a great deal of time on them.
These people generally spend their time on thoughts limited to their homes, work school and family matters, and are only aware of and affected by the beauty and marvels in things the first time they encounter them. It is certainly a good thing for a person to set aside time for matters regarding the home or the family. But what is being referred to here is a person being taken in by the deceptive tempo of the life of this world and remaining unfeeling in the face of the proofs of Creation and the proofs of Allah’s omniscience all around him.
Being Able to See Allah’s Blessings upon Us
Someone who spends his life behind the veil of overfamiliarity may be affected the first time he encounters a proof of Creation. This may even, albeit for a brief time, be instrumental in his reflecting deeply and investigating the reality of what he sees. Eventually, however, he loses his initial excitement and sensitivity in the face of these beauties and begins to feel a sense of familiarity with what he sees. Later still, these will even begin to seem “ordinary” or “monotonous.” In the same way, he will regard many situations he has witnessed throughout his life and seen everyday as very “ordinary,” “familiar” and “bound to happen.” But the fact is that everything he sees and every situation he witnesses are exceedingly wise events specially created by Allah. Allah surrounds a person with countless beauties and marvels, and much goodness and wisdom lies hidden behind each one. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi set this out in these words:
“Wondrous truths are concealed behind the veils of overfamiliarity, custom and monotony. (Emirdag Addendum)
… Yes, the Being that administers this cosmos preserves all things in order and balance. Order and balance are the manifestation of knowledge and wisdom, of will and power. (The Tenth Word, Seventh Truth)
… All of this shows that matters are done in accordance with infinite wisdom. (The Tenth Word, Third Truth)
As Bediuzzaman says, there is great artistry and wisdom in the order and flawlessness that prevails at every moment of life. But only believers, who genuinely turn to Allah and can look at events through the eyes of wisdom, can properly appreciate this. Since such a person will regard everything he sees as a blessing created by Allah, the veil of heedlessness and overfamiliarity never descends over him. He feels an unending joy and fervor in the face of each and every one. Our Almighty Lord reveals in the Qur’an that only those servants who look through the eyes of wisdom can see the blessings and proofs of Creation on Earth:
“Have they not looked at the sky above them: how We structured it and made it beautiful and how there are no fissures in it?
And the earth: how We stretched it out and cast firmly embedded mountains onto it and caused luxuriant plants of every kind to grow in it, an instruction and a reminder for every penitent human being.” (Surah Qaf, 6-8)
A Striking Example of Overfamiliarity…
There are various reasons why people regard events as overfamiliar. One is that people come to attach more importance to material than to spiritual things. These words of Bediuzzaman, "The minds of those who seek all things in matter lie in their eyes. And the eye is blind to spiritual matters" (Letters, p. 457) once again remind us of this fact.
For example, the first time a medical student sees a dead human body brought into an anatomy class, it may have a huge impact on him. He realizes that the world is a temporary place and that sooner or later everyone must die. The way that a body that was once so magnificent and attractive starts to rot so quickly and becomes impossible to look at sets him to thinking for a long time.
However, if one does not evaluate such situations through the eyes of faith, then the passage of time and seeing increasing numbers of dead bodies begin to give rise to a sense of familiarity and a weakness of thought. If one fails to think properly, then even such a striking environment will eventually begin to be regarded as normal.
Every Moment We Live Is a Great Blessing
Another cause of overfamiliarity is the way that, because of His great mercy on His servants, Allah creates every moment perfect and uninterrupted. But some heedless people ignore the fact that is our merciful Lord Allah Who bestows on them the countless blessings that ensure their survival and Who preserves them through the matchless systems that He created. They never reflect on the proofs of Creation that surround them. Allah reveals this in the following verse:
" How many Signs there are in the heavens and earth! Yet they pass them by, turning away from them.” (Surah Yusuf, 105)
There are very many more subjects that people regard with complete familiarity, as the verse says, in their daily lives. For example, the blood vessels under one’s feet are subjected to an average pressure of 70-80 kilos daily as people bounce up and down on their feet. But none of the very fine blood vessels in the feet is ever crushed or splits. This is just one of Allah’s countless blessings on His servants.
Our Lord Possesses Infinite Creative Power
The life of this world, which is so short, incomparably shorter than the eternal life of the Hereafter, is full of manifestations of Allah’s infinite mercy. He creates people and also places them in the most ideal location for their survival. And all that people need to do in return is to serve Allah. Reflecting on the manifest proofs of Allah’s existence ad seeing the truth by drawing the appropriate conclusions from those proofs, when Allah has made the life of this world an opportunity to do so, will bring with it great benefits in the life of the Hereafter.
By Allah’s leave, deep reflection is instrumental in lifting the veil of overfamiliarity from Muslims’ eyes. Someone with a clear mind and the power to think soundly always possesses the intelligence to think the best of all events. Wherever such a person looks, he sees the beauty, details and miraculous aspects of Allah’s Creation, and he not only takes pleasure from these, but also acquires a great depth of faith.
One important way of doing away with overfamiliarity is to set aside the idea of thinking in terms of natural causes that the materialist mindset has conditioned people with for many years in their homes, in the streets, in the papers and on the television. It is to look at everything in the world as if has been created that very moment and as if one is seeing it for the very first time. Such a person will not treat the things he encounters with overfamiliarity, but will feel a great excitement from everything. The Qur’an reveals that believers think deeply about every detail created for them in the life of this world, and that in this way they better comprehend the greatness of Allah, His infinitely lovely creative artistry and His infinite mercy on and affection for His servants:
"Those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the Creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Surat Al‘Imran, 191)
Lazy Thinking Gives Rise to Overfamiliarity
Some people never stop to reflect on how that flowers they pass by every day emerge from dark, muddy soil with such delightful fragrance and such bright colors and immaculately smooth petals. In other words, how did the inert soil, which decays all things, give life to those plants and their flowers?
As you walk along any street, you will see dozens of other people, none of whom resembles any other. Indeed, each of them differs from every other one, right down to their fingerprints. Those who regard all such sights as merely ordinary never reflect on how Allah has created so many billions of human beings to be completely different from one another, over many thousands of years.
These are a few examples of the proofs of the existence and power, reason and artistry of Almighty Allah. To lift the veil of familiarity, people need to do away with the barriers that prevent them from reflecting on “ordinary” things. They can then turn to Allah with a sincere and genuine heart at all moments, by considering the wisdom in all events and entities that He has created. The mercy that Allah has on His servants is revealed in these verses:
Any blessing you have is from Allah. Then when harm touches you, it is to Him you cry for help. (Surat an-Nahl, 53)
In the Qur’an, believers are commanded to say "... It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Allah..." (Surat al-Kahf, 39) when they enter their gardens. This is because they know that when they enter their gardens it is Allah Who created and maintains it. An unthinking person may be affected the first time he sees a lovely garden, but after that it may become increasingly commonplace to him. And since some people never think at all, they are unaware of such blessings right from the very outset. They regard the blessings bestowed on them as “commonplace” or “things that could not have been any different.” They are unable to enjoy these delights. And that is a state of affairs that believers should avoid.
One Must Never Forget That Every Blessing Is a Mercy from Allah
There is a danger of overfamiliarity in many areas of the great majority of people’s lives. For example, when someone living under harsh conditions is suddenly given a very easy lifestyle he will realize that everything he sees and enjoys is a blessing for him. His sleeping in a softer bed, his new home enjoying a delightful view, his being able to eat and drink whatever he wants, his having no problem heating his home as he chooses, his being able to get from one point to another very easily by car and many other things are all blessings for him. He experiences they joy of having them every time his former life comes to mind. But someone who has enjoyed these same luxuries from birth may not reflect on their worth so much. Or when someone suffering from a severe disease is treated and finally cured he realizes what a great blessing good health really is and constantly gives thanks to Allah. But someone who has never had a day’s illness in his life may not properly appreciate what a great blessing good health is, and because of that good health he may neglect to give thanks to Allah.
But for a deep-thinking believer it makes no difference whether he has enjoyed all these blessings from birth or only acquired them later in life. Because, by Allah’s leave, he never looks at what he has through the eyes of overfamiliarity. He knows that Almighty Allah created each one and can take them all back if He so chooses.