Have you ever wondered why Pepsi plays its ad on TV so many times a day? Who doesn’t know Pepsi exists? Today even if you go to far flung villages in Pakistan, you find the logo of Pepsi painted on the half broken mud and brick wall on the dirt-roadside. People who live in the most deplorable conditions imaginable and who can’t even spell their own name, know about Pepsi. It’s not just Pepsi, take anything. Take Lays or Ufone, for example. The rich, poor, educated, uneducated, elderly, kids, everyone knows about these products. What is the need then to tell us every 15 minutes in a cricket tournament on TV that this product is so cool?
Let me tell you why! Because if they stop advertising, in a few years no one would even recognize the name Pepsi or Lays or whatever. Such is the human brain. Constant exposure to things makes us familiar with them and we end up believing in those things. If you know for sure that something is a blatant lie and people keep telling you it is the truth, constantly and actively, you’d eventually start believing it is the truth. Just like, if you’re feeling well and healthy in the morning but everyone who you meet throughout the day tells you that you look pale, your eyes are yellow and you must be suffering from jaundice, by the end of the day you’d be taking a doctor’s appointment.
This is considered a psychological phenomenon, the mere-exposure effect, a concept developed by Robert Zajonc and others. It states that people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. This phenomenon is most actively used in advertising. Which is why if you keep watching the ad of a specific shampoo, on going to the market, you’d end up buying that same shampoo for no particular reason.
This is also the reason why if today someone says “the religion of terrorism”, sadly and unfortunately, Islam comes to our minds. We have associated these concepts in our minds subconsciously due to over exposure to the media. And this is why, the concept of hereafter today seems so alien to most of the Muslims even. The materialism that has seeped in our very blood today is because of the crazy run-after-money-till-you-die ideology injected in us through our surroundings.
Allah is our Creator and He understands us best, which is why He tells us again and again to watch our company, to stay with good people, to be connected with the Quran constantly. Because reminders have a great influence on us humans. Our companions make us or break us. The things that we read or watch, shape our mind and personality.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the best teacher, mentor and life coach to have ever walked on the planet. He dealt with the people around him according to their psyche. He cashed small moments to teach big concepts to his students. His expert training of his companions is the reason why they turned out to be so remarkable. Here’s a great example of this:
We find in Sahih Bukhari, 3249:
Narrated Al-Bara bin Azib:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was given a silken garment, and its beauty and delicacy astonished the people. On that, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “No doubt, the handkerchiefs of Sa`d bin Mu`adh in Paradise are better than this.”
Just when there was a danger of those people about to lose themselves in the materialistic gains, he brought them back with a bang! No lecture, no long speeches, no harsh words. Just a simple and clear statement having a multifaceted effect. It’s beautiful! Look at the wisdom!
He did not say, “hey, stay away from this, this might make you forget that this world is temporary, you’re getting too much attracted, you know” or “hell awaits those who get too involved in this world”. He did not say, “do good deeds and you might get better”.
He reminded them of the hereafter so they don’t lose their focus, he mentioned Paradise so they feel good about the blessings there, he mentioned their companion so they can relate to him, so they get ideas what do we have to do now. Humans have a competitive nature, they like to beat others. He gave them that spark indirectly, Sa’d has this, do more than him and you might get more.
This is what we need to learn. Exposing people to the right kind of knowledge, setting their focal point. Reiterating! Teaching and reminding but gently, wisely and simply. How beloved and great is my Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
P.S. If you feel curious as to who Sa’d RA was and what was so special that he did, search for his story, extract the gems, and learn by example. :)