The brilliant achievements of world's historic men as well as the amazing progress made by humanity in all the various technical, economic and social fields, have all been achieved through self- reliance and perseverance. Without self-confidence one cannot attain one's cherished goals and nothing worthwhile can be achieved without faith in one's capacities. Only with faith in one's success can goals be achieved, for this faith is the first step on the path of success.
Every undertaking is the result of one's determination, confidence, and ideas, and should these be deficient or inconsequential, the results would also be insignificant. One should not enclose one's mind within the confines of a single activity, big or small. Rather, every task, regardless of its magnitude, should be carried out with self-reliance and utmost care and sincerity. In every society there are self-made persons who, in the struggle of life, employ their inner merits and spiritual resources to pursue their high human goals. The more this original human-source is tapped, the more abundantly does it flow, and it is their timely use and the superior qualities of these individuals that put them in the rank of outstanding and great men, bringing them remarkable success in different stages of life.
The lack of hope and inner strength leads to personal stagnation and degeneration. Those who do not rely on their determination and effort and pin their hopes on others for securing material and spiritual happiness always need the support of some strong person. The doors of success remain closed for them and they are continually driven back by the advancing waves of life.
If the lack of self-confidence, which is the sign of belief in one's incapacity to perform tasks, were to take root in someone's mind, it would be rendered incapable of getting to the heart of anything. Such a person's power of thought would be paralysed and one cannot expect him at all to attain any kind of human perfection and sublimity.
How often it happens that outstanding capacities and talents die in their infancy as a result of lack of self-confidence, and how often edifying and brilliant aspirations remain sterile and unproductive for this reason! Someone with an average capacity but with an undefeatable determination and self- confidence can be many times more successful than one with outstanding abilities but possessing a shaky will and lacking self-confidence. That is because such a person is unable to mobilise his powers which might enable him to overcome obstacles and release the energies required for consistent effort and necessary for resolving complex and difficult situations.
There are many people who possess only an average level of abilities, but who advance in life and succeed brilliantly due to their spirit of self- confidence. In critical situations they take resort in their genuine inner powers in order to rescue themselves from dangers and thus remain unharmed by this means.
As a principle, difficult times of crisis become turning points in the lives of such persons, creating a positive and stable power within their minds, and anything that strengthens one's determination and will would undermine the negative forces that are harmful to one's self-confidence and activity.
Someone who reaches a firm decision with all his being will avoid negative thoughts with all his power, and he will resist any false idea of weakness and inadequacy. Nothing can make him abandon the correct path and goal that he has chosen and has faith in its being the right path. He has a firm faith that God does not deprive anyone from attaining the means of success and felicity, and he believes that deprivation and inability are products of the human mind. That is because it is a human right to attain success, and achievement of a goal is definite if pursued with a positive and constructive frame of mind and with faith and discipline.
Dr. Marden, a Western scholar, says:
Faith and self-confidence are a creative, constructive, and positive force while the lack of faith is a negative, retarding, and destructive force. Self-conscience removes doubt and vacillation and allows One to Advance firmly without halting and without spending extra energy. All inventors, reformers, explorers, discoverers, warriors and victors have had faith in their ability and power. On the contrary, if we were to study the personality of weak and defeated persons, we will find that most of them have lacked self-confidence and steadiness.
We do not know what kind of gifts God has bestowed upon persons who possess the ability to perform great tasks. All that we know is that the absolute confidence of a human being in the success of his work is a prominent sign of his ability. Those whom God has equipped with the weapon of absolute faith, He also assists them in succeeding in their efforts. Never lose your self-confidence, and do not permit others to shake it, because it is the basis of all your big achievements. Should this foundation be damaged, the superstructure will also collapse, and should it remain intact, the doors of hope will always remain open.1
One's way of thinking is contagious, and its reflections have a great effect on the lives of other people as well as on various social relationships. If courage and confidence were to prevail over one's thoughts, one would carry along one's self-confidence and self-assurance wherever one went. On the contrary, if doubt and uncertainty were to overshadow one's mind and should one's self-assurance be nil, one's weakness will also spread to others' minds.
Some people have the capacity to poison the entire atmosphere around themselves. They infuse doubt and uncertainty into the minds of other people who have the capacity to grow into free and happy human beings. Persons with a negative bent of mind are like weeds in society who do not perform any function except weakening the creative spirit of others. It is natural that when there are a large number of such people in an environment, not only happiness and success will not flourish in it, but also self-confidence and determination will be cast into oblivion and there will be a general lack of interest in anything vital.
On the other hand, life become quite intolerable for the dynamic people who are forced into direct and continuous contact with such people. They feel light and relieved as soon as they get a chance to get away from them, as if a great burden has been removed from their shoulders.
You come across another group of people in society who have grown up to be such weaklings that they lack the determination to accomplish the simplest of tasks. Even at critical movements when they are required to take an irreversible decision in a situation which can give a new direction to their lives, they become so agitated and shaky that they immediately change their decisions at the smallest criticism from someone, however logical and correct it might have been.
Fears of failure and inability prompt them to give up and surrender immediately and unconditionally under the influence of others' remarks and suggestions without carefully examining them. As a result they leave unfinished even the tasks that they begin. Without doubt this great spiritual deficiency will not bring anything except retardation and stagnation in life, confining it within narrow limits.
The greater the degree of one's self-confidence, the more is the amount of confidence placed by others in one, as the influence one has on others depends on one's self-assurance and the strength of one's faith in one's capacities. If you have self-assurance and are confident of your abilities, you can acquire the confidence of those who come into contact with you. But as soon as your self-confidence is shaken and doubt and hesitation take hold of your mind, you will immediately find others losing their faith in you. Ultimately, any move on your part, whether it is inspired by self-assurance or doubt, will be echoed back to you in the form of others' reaction.
In the same way that self-assurance and reliance on one's efforts and perseverance for the sake of attaining one's goal are the biggest factors behind success, so also depending on baseless hopes and cherishing unrealistic aspirations in one's heart, instead of effort and action, are the result of distancing oneself from realities of life. Sometimes certain pleasing desires and sweet fancies leave such a deep impression on one's mind that one gets captivated by impossible dreams, becoming unable to perceive facts and see realities. Such persons never succeed in attaining perfection and felicity. 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, said:
Consider illusory hopes as false, and do not rely upon them. Such hopes are misleading and one who entertains them falls victim to their deception.2
One of the dangers of relying on inappropriate and illusory expectations is that when they are shattered due to obstacles they give rise to a psychological complex in people. In one of his precious sayings Imam 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, considers failed expectations as one of the factors leading to psychological complexes. He says:
The feeling abasement and inferiority in men arises due to failed hopes and expectations.3
The psychologists also consider defeat and failure as one of the important causes of an inferiority complex and a lack of self-assurance.
Perhaps no factor is more damaging to one's sense of self-respect than failure and blame for failure. Failure leads a person to consider himself inferior to others, and on facing defeat he begins to imagine that he is inferior to other people. Failure destroys self-assurance and as a result defeatism takes the place of self-confidence. Hence when children and young people face recurring failure. they feel humiliated and an inferiority complex is formed in them4
One of the man-making methods of the Prophet of Islam, may God bless him and his Household, was to develop the spirit of self-assurance and self- reliance in his followers. In the shadow of the guidance and teachings of the Prophet, Muslims acquired a profound sense of self-confidence, a sublime courage, a firm determination, and superior ideals, instead of being swept away by ill-founded hopes and falling victim to ruinous appetites. They would continually seek God's support in all their actions and activities by paying continuous attention to the Source of all virtue.
One of the companions of the Prophet (S) was once faced with great hardship due to poverty. One day he felt that could not bear it anymore and the cup of his patience was full. After consulting his wife he decided to visit the Messenger of God and tell him about his own destitute condition and ask him for help. Having made up his mind he went to the Prophet (s). However, before he could express what he had in his mind, he heard the Prophet (S) say: "We will not grudge our assistance to anybody who asks for help. But if one adopts self-reliance and abstains from making appeals of help to the creatures, God will fulfil his needs."
On hearing these words, he refrained from expressing his intent and returned home. However, his poverty and destitution made him impatient and the next day he set out again to see the Prophet (s) and carry out his resolve. But again he heard the Prophet (S) saying the same thing: "We will not grudge our assistance to anybody who asks for help. But if one adopts self-reliance and abstains from making appeals of help to the creatures, God will fulfil his needs."
This time also he abstained from expressing his need and returned home. However, as he saw no hopes of any relief coming, for the third time he went again to see the Prophet (S). This time the Prophet (s) again repeated the same words. However, on this occasion he had a feeling of strength and self-confidence on hearing the words of the Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his Household. He felt as if he had found the key to his problem. As he returned, he walked with steady and resolute steps. He went into deep thought. He told himself that he would no more make appeals of help to creatures of God. Rather he would rely on the eternal power of God and make the utmost use of his own God-given capacities. He prayed to God to assist him in the work that he was about to take up and make him self- reliant. Then he thought for a while about what he could do. He came to the conclusion that he should set out for the desert, gather firewood and sell it. He set out to carry out his decision. He borrowed an axe and set out towards the desert.
Every day he would gather firewood, carry it to the town, and sell it. He had a pleasant feeling of satisfaction that he was making an earning with his own work. Several days passed in this manner and he continued until he made enough money to buy his own implements and an animal to carry the firewood. After pursuing this occupation for some time he came to possess sufficient wealth and even bought several slaves.
One day the Messenger of God, may God bless him and his Household, saw him and said to him with a smile: "Didn't I tell you that we would not grudge our assistance to anyone who asks us for help. But if someone adopts self-reliance and abstains from appealing to creatures for assistance, God will fulfil his needs?"5
Samuel Smiles, a well-known scholar, writes:
Self-confidence is the basis of every success and progress. Should the majority of people in a nation possess this virtue, it would become a great and powerful nation. The secret of its rise and power lies only in possessing this quality, because it strengthens one's determination which is weakened by dependence on others.
The help that a person receives from outside mostly weaken his power of perseverance and struggle; for in that case there is no reason for him to endeavour and make effort. This is especially true when the outside assistance goes beyond the bounds of necessity. At such times the mind becomes lethargic and the spirit of determination and the capacity for effort die in man.
The best laws and regulations give man the freedom in life to rely upon himself and to manage his own life. But men always think that it is laws which provide felicity and comfort, not their own conduct and effort.
If we look deeply, we will find that the vices that are attributed to a nation are actually the vices of a group of individuals. Should we want to check those vices by the means of laws, they will reappear somewhere else in another form1 until there is a basic change in the spirit and character of a nation.6
'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, said:
One who cannot raise himself and ascend to the ultimate height of which he is capable, will not be lifted by anything else.7
One who fails to make effort due to negligence or laziness will find his state deteriorate and decline.8
A Western thinker writes:
Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bent tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing and therefore self- relying soul ...
But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the arms of other men ...
If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. if the finest genius studies at one of the colleges and is not installed in office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years and always like a cat falls on his feet is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days and feels no shame in not "steadying a profession," for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear.9
Although self-assurance is one of the biggest and most beneficial of moral virtues, one should be careful lest this merit is not confused with pride and self-esteem. That is because there is a world of difference between a realistic outlook and self-conceit. One who has a greater confidence in himself than his abilities would warrant, being inordinately impressed by them and having an exaggerated view of his talents, is a victim of pride and conceit. Such a person commits many errors as a result of the illusions of pride, relying as he does on his imagined extraordinary powers. By failing to see the difficulties involved in a task, or by overlooking them or failing to judge their real importance, he fails to equip himself properly in order to confront them. Accordingly, he cannot prove himself at the time of necessity and the test of his ability and expertise.
On the contrary, the realistic person is wary of consequences and has a natural and healthy optimism. He makes a careful judgement of his powers and capacities at the outset and does not trespass their limits.
In the same way that talents and faculties develop in a person possessing self- confidence, making him progress and lead a free and happy life, so also a pessimistic individual under the influence of negative thoughts weakens his constructive faculties and undermines his capacity for action. Someone who constantly complains about the evil of the times, problems, and daily tensions only invites failure instead of making his own destiny. He becomes a captive of events and the waves of life would constantly drive him backwards without permitting him to approach his ideals.
This negative spirit is a typical and prominent characteristic of persons who are devoid of the sense of self-assurance. Accordingly to psychologists:
At times one finds pessimistic persons who are not confident of themselves due to their lack of self-assurance and the inadequacy they observe within themselves. That is, they are not sure that they would be able to carry out a task that is delegated to them or one they are requested to accomplish Accordingly, they refuse to carry out any demand that is made of them, fearing that if they give a positive response and fail to meet it others will discover their inability and that will bring them a loss of face. Therefore, by saying 'No' they draw a protective wall around themselves, for a 'No' simply ends the matter.
A negative person generally sees everything from the wrong side and has a negative opinion on every matter that is under discussion. His conduct and attitude towards persons, things, and opinions is negative, and therefore he hardly every derives joy from persons and things. He is always critical, constantly finding faults and shortcomings. He puts on airs, dislikes old ideas, and is suspicious of the new.
Those who have a negative attitude have a hostile view of persons they do not know. Should they encounter people they have not met before in a gathering, they are hardly drawn to them. They are drawn only towards those that are like themselves, and that, too, because they imagine that their friendship will help in the propagation of their views.10
The quest for personal independence arises from the depth of man's emotional being. This natural desire can be realised only when one's behaviour and approach is based on this inclination.
Islam takes a frank, wholesome, and healthy view of the source of all human tendencies. It not only does not require the repression of man's genuine and constructive inner urges, it does not believe in inhibiting their appearance into the consciousness. Rather, it employs them for the sake of man's edification and his ascent towards sublime human goals. It pays a simultaneous attention to the dynamic urges as well as the principle that can control and discipline these urges.
With such a broad view it is possible to bring about a healthy state in the psyche which is balanced in all respects, so that each of its urges and faculties is properly employed, enabling man to make the ascent towards perfection with steady and firm steps. He can spend the energies accumulated within him in securing the basic goals of life and in attaining the outstanding and sublime station which is worthy of a genuine human being.
The desire for progress is a human aspiration. However, given his limited powers, it is impossible for man to spend all his energies in attaining base goals while still possessing the capacity to make the upward journey towards edification and to establish a relationship with the higher world.
Continual pampering of bases and degenerate motives and constant catering to their demands is the real factor responsible for human degeneration. In such a state it will be most difficult for a person to have the capacity to act in a worthy and self-edifying manner.
In order to overcome all the obstacles that lie in the way, Islam mobilises man's urge to become a positive being, so that he may remain steadfast in the face of shattering events and overcome every problem through an unrelenting struggle against obstacles, and remain firm and steady in confrontation with powerful individuals. This is how one's determination and courage develop and one comes to possess a wonderful and invaluable spiritual power.
Man's independence and dignity lie in facing the struggle of life with courage and fortitude and solving its problems by being self-reliant. This goal can be realised only when a person can stand on his own feet with all his power for the purpose of securing material and spiritual felicity. 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, said:
One who elevates his will and attains to its higher degrees is considered worthy of praise and honour by all nations.11
One who lacks self-assurance and personal independence is after some refuge that may protect him in the hardships of life, like a creeper which with its soft and delicate branches winds its way up a tall oak so as to be secure from the wind and the vicissitudes of weather in the shadow of its strength.
A negative spirit can also turn into a debasing slavery to a powerful individual, and were someone to debase himself to that extent he would completely undermine his own personality and forfeit the power to govern his own affairs. He would be condemned to being always a follower and not a leader or master of his own self and its independence and freedom. And so long as such a frame of mind overshadows his being, it would be impossible for him to acquire human dignity.
Imam 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, said:
You will feel debased in relation to someone on whom you become dependent.12
In the system of Islamic teaching the realisation of eternal and spiritual felicity also depends on one's personal conduct. Basically, personal responsibility constitutes the foundation of Islamic teaching. That is, man is expected to carry out all the duties that have been assigned to him in the spheres of religion and worldly existence through the various stages of life by reliance on his effort and action. The concept of retribution and recompense, which is one of the self-evident notions of Islam, is also founded on this basis. The Noble Qur'an teaches that man will not get any reward except for his effort and endeavour.
Every soul is a hostage of its own deeds. (75:37)
We will give a pure and wholesome life to everyone, man or woman, who acts righteously and has faith, and We will rewards them in accordance with the best of what they used to do. (16:97)
Aside from the reward and punishment of the Hereafter, man would see the outcome of his conduct in this world itself. The Prophet of Islam said:
Whoever commits an evil deed will receive its retribution in this world Itself.13
Whoever sows good will reap a good reward, and whoever sows evil will not gather any fruit except regret.14
Emerson, an American philosopher, writes:
The world looks like a multiplication table, or a mathematical equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself. Take what figure you will, its exact value, nor more nor less, still returns to you. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. What we call retribution is the universal necessity by which the whole appears wherever a part appears. If you see smoke, there must be fire. If you see a hand or a limb, you know that the trunk to which it belongs is there behind.
Every act rewards itself, or in other words integrates itself, in a twofold manner; first in the thing, or in real nature; and secondly in the circumstance, or in apparent nature. Men call the circumstance the retribution. The casual retribution is in the thing and is seen by the soul. The retribution in the circumstance is seen by the understanding; it is inseparable from the thing, but is often spread over a long time and so does not become distinct until after many years. The specific stripes may follow late after the offence, but they follow because they accompany it. Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it.15
Besides, Islam takes an original view of the real inner motives of human actions and makes intent the criterion for value judgements. Every action has two aspects, and each of these two aspects has to be treated separately from the viewpoint of good and evil. An action may be greatly valuable from one aspect and worthless from another. What is significant is the kind of inner moral motive that has prompted the doer to perform that act and the kind of goal that was envisaged in his mental perspective.
If in such cases our judgement relies on specific social and objective values the intents of the doer are not relevant. It does not matter whether a person's humanitarian act is performed with an ostentatious motive and for the pursuit of material interests, or if he is driven by a sublime motive and his act is inspired by a sacred intent. Hence from a social point of view a virtuous person is one which is beneficial to society. The individual's moral or spiritual maturity is not relevant, nor the motive that drives him to perform his action.
However, in a divine perspective the quantitative dimensions of actions are not important. That which makes an act worthy of acceptance by God is the quality of an action and the inner spiritual condition of the doer's person. Here, that which is significant is the kind of relation that exists between the doer and the act, as well as the aim and intent that have led him to perform it. If he performs a virtuous act to show off and to impress others, such an action not only does not elevate him towards the higher planes of being but also brings him down. In order to be considered righteous, it is not just sufficient that an act should be beneficial for society.
A socially beneficial action is useful from the viewpoint of spiritual growth when it takes a spiritual and angelic form and the soul transcends the confines of self-seeking motives and self-aggrandisement, to reach the frontiers of inner purity and sincerity.
The Qur'an declares:
And they were not commanded except to worship God with sincere devotion. (98:4)
The Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his Family, said:
The value of works depends on intentions.16
This is a definite and unchanging basis on the basis of which the worth and acceptability of deeds and actions can be determined. The basis factor that results in one's edification and the acceptability and sublimity of one's works is the honourable and sacred purpose that takes the Lord's pleasure into account.
The best sign of a steady faith in God is the moral and spiritual character of a person's intentions and motives. In that case his acts assume a special value and merit, and he comes to partake of Cod's support and His infinite grace. This firm and valuable-criterion does not lie beyond the domain of human conduct, capacity, cognition, and feeling.
One whose soul has not been lit with the rays of God's greatness and whose heart is devoid of sincerity and faith, the motives that drive him are those which derive from self-seeking desires and the love for a passing reputation. The tasks that such a person begins and brings to conclusion, being devoid of spirituality and truth, are performed, for instance, so that others may respect him and consider him a man of human merit. Such a worthless objective will have a degenerating effect on his character and fail him as a human being. The specious achievements of such a person will not possess any worth before Cod, and he will not receive any reward for his accomplishments except achieving the limited and insignificant purpose that he had in view.
The persons who are self-confident and reliant on their actions do not feel any need for ostentation and show. Ostentation is the conduct of those who lack action and confidence, and suffer from a spiritual malady.
Imam 'Ali the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, makes this remark about such a person:
The speech of an ostentatious person is pleasing, but there is a far-reaching disease in his heart.17
Self-conceit derives from the pettiness of one's values.18
Schachter, the well-known psychologist, says:
Another means that we employ in order to attract others' attention, despite personal failure and lack of success, is bragging and self- advertisement. We imagine that we have already achieved what we aspired to achieve and done what we wanted to do, and we attribute them to ourselves. Instead of the success that we could not achieve and the important tasks that we could not accomplish, we content ourselves with talking continually about what we have done and to magnify their own deeds no matter how much insignificant they might have been.
Such persons are so mislead by their own bragging and self- complaisance that they lose every opportunity to make any kind of achievement. If their self-advertisement provides them with a passing relief from the painful lack of success and inattention of others, and temporarily deceives their listeners, it does not solve the real problem.
One who can carry out his job correctly and successfully and win the hearts of others by his worthy conduct and speech, has no need to brag. By devoting himself to action instead of vainglory, every day he makes more friends and achieves greater success.19
Vainglory produces contempt and resentment, because it is on the one hand the sign of dishonesty and dissemblance, and, on the other, a product of stupidity and ignorance. One who continuously claims to possess a merit, is certain to be devoid of it. Those who ceaselessly talk of their achievements, the brilliance of their minds, their ingenuity and power, should know for sure that they lack all these merits. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that deception and vainglory cannot endure, and the truth will be ultimately revealed resulting in a total loss of face and repute.20
A vicious and base person interprets the conduct and character of others in accordance with his own filthy motives.
'Ali, may Peace be upon him, said:
An evil person does not have a good opinion of anyone, because he does not see anyone except through the medium of his own character.21
This subjective tendency to view others through the lenses of one's own motives is a scientifically established fact, and this is what psychologists have to say in this regard:
When our feelings, thoughts, and inclinations inordinately colour the world, it is certain that we would view everything in it from our subjective viewpoint, as if our feelings have cast their shadow on the universe. Storms arouse within us feelings of despair and forlornness, and a soft breeze makes us feel comfortable and satisfied. In this way we view nature only through the window of our feelings. Our feelings may lead us to regard the cat as a fine and loveable animal or as one that is troublesome and detestable. Emotions and feelings totally transform the world that we live in, or they create a new world for us.
A man once produced a sound with a sonometer and asked those who were present as to what sound they had heard. Every one of them had a particular answer. One said that he had heard the sound of a whistle, another that of a trumpet, a third had heard a human voice, and each of them said something different. Certainly, the sound that each person in the audience had heard related to his personal experience. Obviously, a single tune could not have all these different effects. Hence that which varied the effect of the tune on persons was their own experience. In the famous story of Edgar Allen Poe, the angry cries that come out of the throat of the murderous child were interpreted variously by the German, French, Italian and Russian listeners.
Prosecutors and lawyers know that it is a rare thing for witnesses who have seen a quite simple event from a very close distance to report in an identical manner. Even in matters which do not arouse emotions in us we observe clearly the extent to which our opinions and beliefs differ. In cases where emotions are involved our mental deductions are many times more suspect.22
Self-reliance is not only not contrary to trust in God, the reliance one places in the Lord of the universe and the faith one has in the eternal Divine power strengthen and develop one's personality.
The human being having faith, while possessing the assets of self- reliance and an independent personality, utilises all the available opportunities and means fully and carefully. He does not waste any opportunity, but, at the same time, he does not confine his spirit within the walls of material causes and factors. His humanity is not limited by them.
Rather, his horizons are always open, to ascend to newer heights, and the scope of his activity is wide and extensive. That is because a part of his spiritual vigour and activity are devoted to higher purposes of life.
The human being with a heart full of faith relies upon God, Who directs all affairs with His infinite power and has no partner or collaborator in any of His works.
Whatsoever mercy God opens to men, none can withhold, and whatsoever He withholds, none can release after His withholding it, and He is Almighty, All-wise. (35:2)
Where can man find a refuge that is beyond the realm of God's power? Taking refuge in something other than God will have no result except disappointment and humiliation. How can any creature be master and arbiter of others' affairs, while it itself stands in need of God for everything, and owns nothing that pertains to itself, and has no power that is its own, nor is capable of offering refuge to anyone?
Accordingly, there is nothing more appropriate for the human being than seeking to live under the shadow of support and grace of God, who regulates all matters with His might and wisdom. Humility before God, at all times, in hardship and ease, and the conviction that the infinite power of God is above all ordinary powers, causes, and factors, that it rules and governs everything, give a wonderful strength to the spirit. It creates such a confidence and peacefulness within man's heart and soul that one would not be swept away by events and lose one's human equilibrium and worth, or be oppressed by anything big or small.
When one surrenders one's soul and mind to God, to the degree that one is capable of, one becomes infused with a spirit of submission to God and resignation towards His decrees. Then he neither complains of unpleasant events nor is carried away or made proud by his success. He is not affected by things that bewilder others and leave an undesirable effect on them. Due to their steady determination and spirit filled with confidence they would not submit to despair and desperation, which are so often the source of defeat and failure.
Reliance upon God never leads to any kind of weakness or indifference. Rather, it gives a self-confidence that strengthens the will and removes all traces of doubt and vacillation from the heart.
The unrelenting struggles of men of God in the face of unfavourable circumstances and against the destructive elements and degenerate ideas in their communities, derived their strength from the infinite Truth. They sought the help of this invisible agent for pursuing their plans of reform and guidance of the people. That is because their souls had an unbreakable bond with the indestructible power of God and then pursued their goals resolutely to the very end.
A self-reliance that is devoid of reliance on God cannot deliver the human spirit from agitation and anguish under hard and debilitating circumstances. Hardships and unfavourable factors of life shatter the spirit of those who lack trust in God and whose vision does not go beyond matter and corporeal reality. A feeling of gloom builds up within them and in such an oppressive state they cannot make the ascent towards perfection and edification and perceive truths which are greatly sublime and luminous. A crushing feeling of anguish settles upon them at encounter with unwanted events of the smallest significance, or they are shattered by catastrophic hardships of life.
This point becomes clear when we observe the spirit and conditions of Muslims during the early era of Islam, for they were the best symbol and example of trust in and reliance upon God. One does not observe any impotence, lethargy, or a negative indifference in those who make sacrifices for the advancement of their faith and work for their goals. Relentless effort, under the most difficult and taxing conditions, for building a new, prosperous society was their patent method. Those who have been brought up in this dynamic school of thought never succumb to loss of confidence. It was this steadiness of resolve and a composed and confident spirit that paved the path of their progress and led to the emergence of such a unique and matchless society in world's history.
Everyone should evaluate his situation in life and identify the road he has chosen through the terrain of existence. He should find out whether he is going towards felicity and goodness or towards wretchedness and deprivation. By identifying one's spiritual needs, one can effectively resist the conditions and factors that disturb one's spiritual equilibrium, not allowing harmful elements to accumulate and consolidate their strength. However, when it becomes evident that someone's being has been overshadowed by some inadequacy or defect, it is not possible to devise a basic remedy until the source of that inadequacy has been traced within the depths of the victim's soul.
Those who are victims of lack of confidence are afraid of starting on any venture due to their fear of failure. The best remedy is to find the causes of this spiritual defect, for identification of causes of any disease is essential for its treatment. In this way one can explore the depths of one's being and discover the key to one's cure. Without doubt, the effort that is made to overcome one's inadequacies yields remarkable results, for man has the capacity to wage a consistent struggle against unhealthy spiritual factors.
Every bad habit is the sign of a weakness that comes about as the result of repetitive behaviour and takes the form of a harmful and chronic disease. Though at first it seems difficult to change a habit, but it is possible to alter one's habits through exercise and effort. Every harmful habit that is overcome is to be counted as a great victory on the path of attaining to human merit and sublime spiritual qualities. Imam Ali, may Peace be upon him, said:
It is by overcoming bad habits that man can rise to the higher stations.23
- 1. Marden, Orison Swett, The Victorious Attitude , Persian trans., Piruzl-ye fikr, p. 83.
- 2. Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 113.
- 3. Ibid., p. 405.
- 4. Marguerite Malm & Herbert Sorenson, Psychology for Living, Persian trans., Rawanshenasi baraye zistan, pp. 247-252.
- 5. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 139.
- 6. Samuel Smiles, Persian trans., E'timad beh nats, pp. 14-16.
- 7. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 642.
- 8. Ibid., p. G98.
- 9. Emerson, "Self-reliance," cf. Commins & Linscott, The Social Philosophers (New York: Modern Pocket Library 1954), p. 406-409.
- 10. Marguerite Malm & Herbert Sorenson, Psychology for Living, Persian trans., Rawanshenasi baraye zistan, p. 200.
- 11. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 661.
- 12. Ibid. p. 668.
- 13. Nahj al-fasahah, p. 592.
- 14. Ibid. p. 622.
- 15. Emerson, "Compensation," ef. Commins & Linscott, The Social Philosophers (New York: Modern Poeket Library 1954), pp. 442-443.
- 16. Nahj al-fasahah, p. 190.
- 17. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 610-
- 18. Ibid ., p. 106.
- 19. Rushd-e shakhsiyyat, p. 92.
- 20. Afkar-e Schopenhauer, Persian trans., by Mushfiq Hamadani, 1326 H. Sh. p. 92.
- 21. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 104.
- 22. Strecker, Wilkerforce & Appel, Rawanshenasi bardye hameh, Persian trans. by Mushfiq Hamadsini, p. 259.
- 23. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim