Chapter 14: How To Reach Our Goal
Having understood our ultimate goal it is necessary for us in our journey to discuss the way to that goal. This topic needs an independent book. But here we shall try to review briefly the most important points assured that our readers who take their lives seriously will follow this journey through further studying and reflection.
Before anything we should pay attention to two points:
A) We should observe our goal constantly during our lives, day and night; otherwise we cannot utilise our power for our aim and the ordinary affairs will capture our attention and gradually it may make us doubtful about the necessity of following that aim. It is all too common for human beings who are not successful in their pre-decided program to try to get rid of their difficulties through a denial of that program.
B) We should pray and ask Allah seriously to help and save us. We cannot continue this spiritual journey without His special help. Yes, with His help there will be no obstacle and nothing can stop us. So in the relationship with Allah we should not feel self-sufficient, because we are completely and absolutely dependent on Him. However in the relationship with others we should trust ourselves and rely on our powers without allowing despair to capture our hearts. The Prophet (S) who was the bravest man and stood against all enemies and was able to change the world said:
إِلٰهِي لا تكلنى الى نفسى طرفة عينٍ ابداً
“O My God! Do not ever leave me by myself even for an instant.”1
Let's listen to Imam al-Sajjad (‘a) when he asks Allah for help:
سُبْحانَكَ ما أَضْيَقَ الطُّرُقَ عَلىٰ مَنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ دَلِيلَهُ! وَما أَوْضَحَ الْحَقَّ عِنْدَ مَنْ هَدَيْتَهُ سَبِيلَهُ! إِلـٰهِي فاسْلُكْ بِنا سُبُلَ الْوُصُولِ إلَيْكَ، وَسَيّـِرْنا فِي أَقْرَبِ الطُّرُقِ لِلْوُفُودِ عَلَيْكَ، قَرِّبْ عَلَيْنَا الْبَعِيدَ، وَسَهّـِلَ عَلَيْنَا الْعَسِيرَ الشَّدِيدَ، وَأَلْحِقْنا بِعِبادِكَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ بِالْبِدارِ إلَيْكَ يُسارِعُونَ وَبابَكَ عَلَىٰ الدَّوامِ يَطْرُقُونَ، وَإِيَّاكَ فِي اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهارِ يَعْبُدُونَ، وَهُمْ مِنْ هَيْبَتِكَ مُشْفِقُونَ الَّذِينَ صَفَّيْتَ لَهُمُ الْمَشارِبَ، وَبَلَّغْتَهُمُ الرَّغائِبَ، وَأَنْجَحْتَ لَهُمُ الْمَطالِبَ، وَقَضَيْتَ لَهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْمَآرِبَ، وَمَلأْتَ لَهُمْ ضَمائِرَهُمْ مِنْ حُبّـِكَ وَرَوَّيْتَهُمْ مِنْ صافِي شِرْبِكَ
“Glory be to Thee! How narrow are the paths for him whom Thou has not guided! How plain the truth for him whom Thou hast guided on his way! My God, so make us travel on the roads that arrive at Thee and set us into motion on the paths nearest to reaching You! Make near for us the far, and make easy for us the hard and difficult! Join us to Thy servants, those who hurry to You swiftly, knock constantly at Your door, and worship You by night and day, while they remain apprehensive in awe of You! You have purified their drinking places, taken them to the objects of their desire, granted their requests, accomplished their wishes through Your bounty, filled their minds with Your love, and quenched the & thirst with Your pure drink.”2
The right path towards our happiness is worship, servitude. Allah says:
أَلَمْ أَعْهَدْ إِلَيْكُمْ يَا بَنِي آدَمَ أَنْ لَا تَعْبُدُوا الشَّيْطَانَ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُبِينٌ
“Did I not charge you, O children of Adam, that you should not serve the Shaytan? Surely he is your open enemy” (36:60).
وَأَنِ اعْبُدُونِي هَٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُسْتَقِيمٌ
“And that you should serve Me; this is the right path.” (36:61).
The prophet Jesus (‘a) also told the children of Israel:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ هَٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُسْتَقِيمٌ
“Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serve Him, this is the right path.” (3:51).
Worship does not necessarily mean special kinds of worshipping. Every action or even thought which is done for Allah's pleasure is considered as a worship. The worship in this broad sense is able to occupy all our life. Our works or jobs, our speaking or listening, our eating or drinking and even our sleeping can be for His pleasure and can be helpful in our spiritual movement.
We studied during our discussion about the goal of the creation that human beings are created to worship Him and that it is to their own benefits. We knew that there is a hierarchy of goals and we understood the place of worship, as one goal within the hierarchy.
If we want to worship Him and get close to Him, it is not enough to practice some prayers or fasting and the like. It changes all aspects of our being. First of all, we should know Allah and His religion. Secondly, we should obey those laws (act according those laws). Thirdly, we should make our characters and spiritual qualities as He pleases. Thus, there are three realms of improvement: creeds, deeds and virtues.
What should we do in respect to our creeds? According to Islam every person is asked to investigate religion. One should think, reflect, study and discuss religion. Some religious beliefs are necessary for all people, such as the main principles and some are not necessary for all people. So it is not necessary nor expected, that every person must know all the details about, say, the resurrection through personal investigation.
To make an inquiry into religious beliefs one should first of all depend on one's reason. After realising the truth of the religion or the Prophet (S) one can use the guidance of the Glorious Qur'an and traditions of the Prophet for further studies. Moreover the Prophet (S) has wanted all Muslims to refer to his household for understanding the real interpretation of the Glorious Qur'an and his pure tradition. The Prophet (S) said:
تركت فيكم الثقلين, أحدهما أكبر من الآخر: كتاب الله وعترتي أهل بيتي, فانظروا كيف تخلفوني فيهما
“I leave two precious things among you that by grasping them you will never go astray after me: the Divine book and my Household. And they will never separate from each other until they come to me near the fountain (kawthar). Be careful how you behave with them after me.”
This tradition is one of the traditions which expresses the authority of the Household of the Prophet in presenting pure Islam. Here is a list of books recording this tradition, but we should note that these are just some samples of Sunni scholars' works and there are many other books by Shi’s and Sunni scholars which include this tradition: Sahih Muslim, the Book of Fadhail (merits) of Ali ibn Abi Talib, Vol. 7, p.122, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Vol.5, p.328, Khasais a by Imam Nisa'i, p.21; Musnad by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal Vol.3, p.17; Kanz al-'Ummal, Vol. 1, p.154; Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra by Ibn Sa'd, Vol.2, p.194; Jami' at-Usul by Ibn Athir Vol. 1, p.187; AI-Jami' al-Saghir by Al-Suyuti, Vol.1, p.353; Usd al-Ghabah by Ibn Athir Vol.2, p.12; Tarikh al-Dimashq by Ibn 'Asakir, Vol.5, p.436.; Al- Tafsir by Ibn Kathir, Vol.4, p.113.
We should take care of our beliefs: basic ones and derivative ones. if a person is not expert or skilled in discovering Islamic thoughts and concepts through the Glorious Qur'an or the traditions he must not interpret them according to his desires or weak understanding and he must not rely on those people who are not of sufficient knowledge and expertise. To use their books or sayings is like taking medicine according to the prescriptions of false physicians. Thus, understanding the details of the beliefs is like understanding practical laws.
According to Islam our happiness is not only based on our faith or beliefs. Deeds as well as virtues bear on our happiness. Islamic practical laws are to guide us in the realm of actions especially when our intellect or conscience is uncertain. Every person can learn jurisprudence and the related sciences and become a mujtahid. Then he can rely on his own understanding of the laws. But it is a difficult process and needs much cleverness, long work and practice. Those who are not prepared for this job have two other possibilities.
They can exercise precaution. For example, when they are in doubt about whether something is obligatory or recommended they must do it, or when they do not know whether something is forbidden or allowed they must not do it. To behave in this way is very difficult and even impossible for those who are not learned in jurisprudence. The second possibility is to imitate or follow a person who is proved to be a mujtahid or the most learned and at the same time just, trustworthy, insightful and the like. This kind of reference, i.e., the reference of a non-learned to a trustworthy and learned person is advised by reason and approved by Islam. This is what we do in our daily life, e.g., we take the prescription of our physician or we ask some architect to make a plan for our house and so on.
There are also social duties for us especially in the present situation of the Islamic world. if we want to have respect in this universe and rewards in the other it is not enough' to perform our personal duties. Another role of that insightful, learned and just mujtahid is to declare the duties of the Muslims. Our intellect tells us that through obedience to this authority we can guarantee our material and spiritual happiness. Let's quote what Allamah Muhammad Rida al-Muddaffar has written in his precious book Aqa'id al-Imamiyah:
“We believe that a fully qualified mujatahid is a representative of the Imam, in the case of the latter's absence. Thus, he is an authority over Muslims and performs the functions of the Imam as regards judgement and administration among the people... Therefore the qualified mujtahid is not only one who issues fatwas, but he also has general authority over Muslims who must consult him if they require judgemen4 this being obtainable only from him. It is correspondingly wrong for anyone to give judgement except him or one who is appointed by him, as no-one can pass sentence without his permission.”3
After understanding our duties through taqlid (imitation) we should try our best to perform them. The first step is to perform the obligatory ones. If a person disobeys the obligatory duties he stops his movement towards Allah and even goes downwards. The second step is to perform the recommended affairs (mustahabbat)4.
Besides the performance of obligations we should take care of our spiritual qualities. This topic is studied in ethics, akhlaq. To speak briefly, first of all we should recognise our bad qualities. Then we should try to get rid of them. In this way we can clean our spirits from all badness and make our hearts capable of receiving divine illuminations. Besides general ways there are some special ways to treat moral weaknesses particular to each of them5. This process should be accompanied with acquiring good attributes and virtue.
These are outlines of the Islamic program for human beings to reach their happiness. We hope that the reader will allow these points by him or herself. It's nice to finish our discussion with two traditions of the Prophet (S):
اكثر ما تلج به امتي الجنّة تقوى الله و حسن الخلق [يعمر ان الدِّيار و يزيدان في الاعمار[
“Most of my people enter Paradise through piety and good behaviour. They improve cities and lengthen lives.”6
إنما بعثت لأتمم مكارم الأخلاق
“I have been sent to complete noble characters.”7
- 1. Bihar·al-Anwar, Vol. 86, p. 9.
- 2. The Psalms of Islam, pp. 245 & 246. The Whispered Prayer of the Devotees.
- 3. Allamah Muhammad Rida al-Muddaffar ,Aqa'id al-Imamiyah, The Faith of Shi'a Islam, p. 4. Online at: https://www.al-islam.org/faith-imamiyyah-shiah-muhammad-ridha-al-muzaffar
- 4. Please read the tradition on nawafil in the previous chapter again.
- 5. For a good discussion about different schools in morality and the Qur'anic one refer to Al-Mizan Fi Tafsir al-Quran by Allamah Tabataba'i on the verses 2:153-157. Online at: https://www.al-islam.org/al-mizan-exegesis-quran-volume-2-sayyid-muhamma...
- 6. Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 71, p. 375, No. 6.
- 7. Bihar·al-Anwar, Vol. 70, p. 372, No. 18.