Meaning and Origin of Akhlaq, Moral Virtues and Vices, Diseases of the Soul and their Treatment, and Vices of Power and Passion.
One of the most important of the Islamic sciences is ethics. All along the brilliant history of Islam, great Islamic scholars have specialized in this field and have produced important and valuable books dealing with this subject.
One of the best and the most comprehensive of these books is the Jami` al-Sa'adat ("The Collector of Felicities"), written by the great Islamic scholar, mystic, and moral philosopher, Muhammad Mahdi ibn Abi Dharr al-Naraqi, who himself was a living embodiment of Islamic ethical and moral virtues.
The book was written in Arabic and published in three volumes. Al-Naraqi was one of the most brilliant thinkers of the late 12th/18th and early 13th/lath century. Besides Jami` al-Sa'adat, al-Naraqi was also the author of a number of other important books.
In order to revive Islamic ethics in a world drowning in a whirlpool of materialism and which seem to have all but forgotten the eternal spiritual human values, we thought the effort worthwhile to condense this valuable work into few short articles for the benefit of those who may not have access to the contents of the original Arabic text.
Man has a soul and physical body, each of which is subject to its own pleasures and diseases. What harms the body is sickness, and that which gives it pleasure lies in its well-being, health and whatever is in harmony with its nature. The science that deals with the health and the maladies of the body is the science of medicine.
The diseases of the soul constitute evil habits and submission to lusts that degrade man doom to the level of beasts. The pleasures of the 'soul are moral and ethical virtues which elevate man and move him closer to perfection and wisdom bringing him close to God. The study that deals with such matters is the science of ethics ('ilm al-akhlaq).
Before we commence a discussion of the main topics of our subject, we must prove that the soul of man is incorporeal, possesses an existence independent of the body, and is immaterial. In order to prove this, a number of arguments have been set forth amongst which we can mention the following:
1. One of the characteristics of bodies is that whenever new forms and shapes are imposed upon them, they renounce and abandon their previous forms or shapes. In the human soul, however, new forms, whether of the sensible or of the intellectual nature, enter continuously without wiping out the previously existing forms. In fact, the more impressions and intellectual forms enter the mind, the stronger does the soul become.
2. When three elements of colour, smell, and taste, appear in an object, it is transformed. The human soul however, perceives all of these conditions without being materially affected by them.
3. The pleasures that man experiences from intellectual cognition can belong only to the soul, since man's body plays no role in it.
4. Abstract forms and concepts which are perceived by the mind, are undoubtedly non-material and indivisible. Accordingly, their vehicle, which is the soul, must also be indivisible, and therefore immaterial.
5. The physical faculties of man receive their input through the senses, while the human soul perceives certain things without the help of the senses. Among the things that the human soul comprehends without relying on the senses, are the law of contradiction, the idea that the whole is always greater than one of its parts, and other such universal principles.
The negation of the errors made by the senses on the part of the soul, such as optical illusions, is done with the aid of these abstract concepts, even though the raw material required for making corrections is provided by the senses.
Now that the independent existence of the soul has been proved, let us see what are the things responsible for its well-being and delight, and what are the things that make it sick and unhappy. The health and perfection of the soul lies in its grasp of the real nature of things , and this understanding can liberate it from the narrow prison of lust and greed and all other fetters which inhibit its evolution and edification towards that ultimate stage of human perfection which lies in man's nearness to God. This is the goal of `speculative wisdom' (al-hikmat al-nadariyyah).
At the same time, the human soul must purge itself of any evil habits and traits it may have, and replace them with ethical and virtuous modes of thought and conduct. This is the goal of `practical wisdom' (al-hikmat al-`amaliyyah). Speculative and practical wisdom are related like matter and form; they cannot exist without each other.
As a matter of principle, the term "philosophy" refers to `speculative wisdom' and "ethics" refers to `.practical wisdom'. A man who has mastered both speculative wisdom and practical wisdom is a microcosmic mirror of the larger universe: the macrocosm.
The word akhlaq is the plural for the word khulq which means disposition. "Disposition" is that faculty (malakah) of the soul which is the source of all those activities that man performs spontaneously without thinking about them. Malakah is a property of the soul which comes into existence through exercise and repetitive practice and is not easily destroyed.
A particular disposition (malakah) may appear in human beings because of one of the following reasons:
1. Natural and physical make up: It is observed that some people are patient while others are touchy and nervous. Some are easily disturbed and saddened while others show greater resistance and resilience.
2. Habit: Which is formed because of continual repetition of certain acts and leads to the emergence of a certain disposition.
3. Practice and conscious effort: Which if continued long enough will eventually lead to the formation of a disposition.
Even though the physical make-up of an individual produces certain dispositions in him, it is by no means true that man has no choice in the matter and is absolutely compelled to abide by the dictates of his physical make-up. On the contrary, since man has the power to choose, he can overcome the dictates of his physical nature through practice and effort, and can acquire the disposition of his choice.
Of course, it should be admitted that those dispositions which are caused by the mental faculties such as intelligence, memory, mental agility, and the like, are not alterable. All other dispositions, however, may be changed according to man's will. Man can control his lust, anger and other emotions and desires, and channel them to edify himself and propel himself along the path of perfection and wisdom.
When we speak of man's capacity to bring about changes in his dispositions, we do not mean that man should destroy his instincts of reproduction or self-preservation. Man could not exist without these instincts. What we mean is that one should avoid going to either extremes in regard to them, and maintain a condition of balance and moderation so that they may perform their functions properly. Just as the seed of a date grows into a fruitful tree through proper care, or a wild horse is trained to serve his master, or a dog is trained to be the lifelong friend and a help to man, so also can man attain perfection and wisdom through self-discipline and intelligent perseverance.
Human perfection has many levels. The greater the amount of self-discipline and effort on the part of the individual, the higher the level of perfection that he would attain. In other words, he stands between two extreme points, the lowest of which is below the level of beasts and the highest of which surpasses even the high station of angels. The human movement between these two extremes is discussed by `ilm al-akhlaq or the science of ethics. It is the goal of ethics to raise and guide man from the lowest animal state to that exalted position superior to that of the angels.
The importance of ethics is thus revealed. And it is because of the reasons mentioned above that ethics is considered to be the most exalted and valuable of sciences; since the worth of any science is directly related to the worth of the subject with which it is concerned, and since the subject of the science of ethics is man and the means through which he can attain perfection. Moreover, we know that man is the noblest of creatures, the ultimate purpose of whose existence is to attain perfection; therefore, it follows that ethics is the noblest of all sciences.
In fact, in the past, the philosophers did not consider any or the other fields of learning to be truly independent sciences. They believed that without the science of ethics and spiritual purification, mastery over any other science is not only devoid of any value, but it would in fact lead to the obstruction of insight and ultimate destruction of those who pursue it. That is why it has been said that which means, `knowledge is the thickest of veils', which prevents man from seeing the real nature of things.
Moral virtues in man gain him eternal happiness, while moral corruption leads him to everlasting wretchedness. It is therefore necessary for man to purge and purify himself of all evil traits of character and adorn his soul with all forms of ethical and moral virtues. Moreover, without having cleansed oneself of all evil habits, it would be impossible to nourish and develop moral virtues in oneself. The human soul can be compared to a mirror in this regard.
If we wish to see something beautiful reflected in a mirror, we must first cleanse the mirror, so that dust and dirt do not disfigure the reflection. Any attempt to obey God's commands would be fruitful and successful only when one has purified himself of evil habits and tendencies; otherwise, it would be like putting on jewels on a dirty and unwashed body. When self-purification has been completed and one is completely rid of all evil habits of thought, speech and action, then the soul is ready to receive the unlimited grace of God. Such reception is the ultimate reason for which man was created.
In truth, God's grace and the Divine mysteries are always accessible to man. It is man that must purify his soul and develop within himself the necessary receptivity to benefit from the infinite grace of his Creator.
There is a tradition of the Holy Prophet (S) which says:
لا تدخل الملائكة بيتا فيه كلب
The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog.
How is it possible, then, for the rays of God's grace and Divine illumination to enter a heart filled to the brim with immoral, selfish, and bestial desires? The hadith of the Prophet (S):
بنى الدين على النظافة
"My religion is based on cleanliness", does not refer to outward cleanliness alone; more than that it alludes to the inner purity of the soul.
In order to attain ultimate and final perfection, it is necessary to traverse the path of struggle against selfish lusts and immoral tendencies which may exist within the soul, and thus to prepare the soul to receive the grace of God. If man sets foot on the path of self-purification, God shall come to his aid and guide him along the path:
And [as for] those who struggle in Our cause, surely We guide them in Our ways. (29:69)
At the time of its creation, the soul of man is like a clean tablet, devoid of all faculties (traits), whether good or evil. As one progresses through life, he develops faculties which are directly related to the way he lives, thinks, and acts. The speech and deeds of man, when repeated over a long period of time, produce a lasting effect in the soul which is known as a "faculty".
This faculty penetrates the soul and becomes the origin and cause of man's actions. In other words, the human soul becomes used to these faculties, establishes a union with it, and determines the human being's direction in accordance with their dictates. If these faculties (malakat) are noble, they manifest themselves as moral and wise speech and behaviour in man. If, on the contrary, they are evil and base, they are manifested through immoral and perverse behaviour.
These very faculties play the decisive role in determining the fate of the individual in the eternal world of the Hereafter. The soul shall be accompanied there by the same faculties that it was associated and united with in this world. If these faculties are virtuous, the soul shall have eternal bliss, and if they were wicked ones, it shall face eternal damnation.
This matter of malakat provides the answer to those who say how could the Compassionate and Merciful God condemn an individual to eternal damnation for a sin committed in a short span of time. The thing to keep in mind is that when a sin committed repeatedly leads to the development of a faculty in man, since this evil faculty is incorporated in the soul, the punishment and torture which accompany it will also afflict the soul. The Qur’an says:
And every man-We have fastened to him his bird of omen upon his neck and We shall bring forth for him, on the Day of Resurrection, a book he shall find spread wide open. Read thy book! Thy soul suffices thee this day as a reckoner against thee. ( 17:13-14)
And the book shall be set in place; and thou wilt see the sinners fearful at what is in it, and saying, `Alas for us how is it with this Book, that it leaves nothing behind, small or great, but it has numbered it?' And they shall find all they wrought present, and thy Lord shall not wrong anyone. (18:49)
The day every soul shall find what it has done of good brought forward, and what it has done of evil; it will wish if there were only a far space between it and its deeds. (3:29)
The soul (nafs) is that heavenly essence which employs the body and uses its various organs to attain its goals and purposes. The soul has also other names as spirit (ruh), intelligence (`aql), and heart (qalb) although these terms have other usages as well.
The most important faculties of the soul are:
1. The power of intelligence (al-quwwah al-aqliyyah)-angelic.
2. The power of anger (al-quwwah al-ghadabiyyah)-ferocious.
3. The power of desire (al-quwwah al-shahwiyyah)-animalistic.
4. The power of imagination (al-quwwah al-wahmiyyah)-demoniac.
The function and value of every one of these powers or forces of the soul is commonly well understood. If man did not have the power of reason, it would have been impossible for him to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, true and false. If he did not possess the faculty of anger, he could not defend himself against attack and aggression. If the force of sexual attraction and desire did not exist in man, the continued existence of the human species would be endangered. And finally, if man lacked the power of imagination, he could not visualise universals or particulars, and he would be unable to make any inferences based on them.
With this explanation, the characteristics mentioned for each of the four human faculties are made clear and comprehensible. Reason is the guiding angel of man. The power of anger and fierceness in man brings about ferocity and violence in him. His power of desire and passion propels him towards immorality and licentiousness.
And the imaginative power in man provides the preliminary material for the formation of demoniac schemes, plots and machinations. Now, if the faculty of reason is put in control of the other faculties, it keeps them in their rightful place and moderates their excesses; they will work for the welfare of man and shall perform useful functions; otherwise, nothing except evil and mischief will come of them.
The relationships of these four faculties of the human soul to one another are described in the following allegorical manner. Imagine a traveller on horseback accompanied by a dog and a man who is a spy for the bandits. The mounted traveller represents reason. The mount represents desire and passion. The dog represents the power of anger and fierceness.
And the spy represents the imaginative power. If the traveller just mentioned is successful in controlling his mount, the dog, and the spy, and in maintaining his authority over them, he shall arrive at his destination safely; otherwise, he will be destroyed. The human soul is thus a stage or a battlefield on which there is a continuous struggle between these four powers.
What would be the dominant characteristic and nature of an individual's soul is entirely dependent on the outcome of this struggle. In other words, whichever of the four powers emerges victorious, it shall determine the character and inclination of the soul. That is why some souls are angelic, some are animalistic and bestials and still others are demoniac.
In a hadith from Imam Ali (A), he is related as saying:
ان الله خص الملك بالعقل دون الشهوة والغضب, وخص الحيوانات بهما دونه وشرّف الانسان باعطاء الجميع ، فان انقادت شهوته وغضبه لعقله صار افضل من الملائكة لوصوله الى هذه المرتبة مع وجود المنازع والملائكة ليس لهم مزاحم
Surely God has characterized the angels by intellect without sexual desire and anger, and the animals with anger and desire without reason. He exalted man by bestowing upon him all of these qualities. Accordingly, if man's reason dominates his desire and ferocity, he rises to a station above that of the angels; because this station is attained by man in spite of the existence of hurdles which do not vex the angels.
Pleasure is a condition experienced by the soul when it perceives something harmonious with its own nature. Pain and suffering is occasioned when the soul comes into contact with things which are in disharmony with its nature. Since the powers of the soul are four in number, it follows that the pleasures and pains of the soul must also be divided into four categories, each corresponding to one of the four faculties.
Pleasure of the reasoning faculty lies in gaining knowledge about the real nature of things, and its pain lies in ignorance and deprivation from such knowledge.
Pleasure of the faculty of anger and fierceness lies in the feeling of being victorious and in satisfaction at overcoming an enemy and taking one's revenge. Its pain lies in the feeling of being overpowered and defeated.
Delight of the faculty of desire and passion is enjoyment of foods, drinks, and sexual association while its pain lies in denial of such experiences.
Pleasure of the imaginative faculty lies in the visualization of particulars which lead to the appearance of carnal desires and demonic tendencies, while its pain lies in the insufficiency and inadequacy of these visions.
The strongest and the purest of pleasures is the pleasure experienced by the faculty of reason. This is a form of pleasure which is both inherent and natural to man. It is a pleasure which is constant, not subject to the changing experiences in his daily life.
It is unlike the other pleasures, which belonging to the body and being animalistic, are transitory in nature and without any lasting value. These animal pleasures are in fact so low and trivial that man is ashamed of them and tries to conceal them. If it were to be said of a man that he derives great pleasure from eating, drinking, and engaging in sexual intercourse, he shall be ashamed and upset about it. While, if such activities and pleasures were becoming for man, not only would he not be ashamed of them, he would in fact be glad if such a matter were published widely and be proud of it.
We can conclude, then, that the kind of pleasure that is becoming for man and could be said to be really gratifying, and not be such in appearance alone, is the kind 'of pleasure experienced by the soul's reasoning faculty. This sort of pleasure has many degrees, the highest of which is experienced in nearness to God. This most sublime of pleasures is attained through love and knowledge of God, and acquired through abiding effort to be ever nearer to Him. When one's whole effort is directed towards attaining this real and lasting pleasure, sensual pleasures will be overshadowed; they shall take their proper place in man's life, being pursued in moderation.
The ultimate aim of the purification of the soul and acquirement of a moral and ethical character is to attain felicity and happiness. The most consummate felicity and happiness for man is to be the embodiment and manifestation of Divine attributes and characteristics. The soul of a truly happy man is developed with the knowledge and the love of God; it is illuminated by the effulgence emanating from the God head. When that happens, nothing but beauty shall emanate from him; since beauty can emanate only from what is beautiful.
It should be kept in mind that true felicity can not be attained or retained unless all the faculties and powers of the soul are purified and reformed. By reforming some faculties of the soul, or all of them, for a short period of time, happiness will not be attained. It is similar to physical health. A body can be said to be healthy only when all its limbs and organs are healthy. Therefore, the individual who seeks to attain ultimate and perfect happiness, must free himself or herself from the clutches of demonic and animal forces and tendencies and step on the ladder of ascension to the higher realms.
In our last discussion, we stated that the human soul possesses four distinct powers. They are: Intellect, Anger, Passion, and the Power of Imagination (al-quwwah al-wahmiyyah or al-`amilah)1. The thing we should notice now is that the purification and right training of every one of these powers will result in the emergence of a particular faculty in the human being.
The purification and rightward training of the Power of Intellect will result in the development of knowledge, and subsequently wisdom, in a human being. The purification of the Power of Anger will result in the emergence of the faculty of courage, and subsequently forebearance (hilm).
The purification of the Power of Passion and desire will result in the development of the, faculty of chastity, and subsequently generosity. And the purification of the Power of Imagination will cause the emergence of the faculty of justice in a human being.
The moral virtues, therefore, are: wisdom, courage, chastity, and justice. The opposite qualities of these are: ignorance2, cowardice, concupiscence (gluttony and lust), injustice and tyranny.
Wisdom means possession of an understanding of the objects of the world which concurs with the reality of things. The presence of courage and chastity means that the powers of anger and desire are entirely at the command of the intellect and completely free from the bondages of concupiscence and egoism.
As for justice, it refers to the condition when the Power of Imagination is completely under the command of the Power of the Intellect. This implies the regulation of all the powers of the soul by the Power of Intellect. In other words, the presence of the faculty of justice in the soul necessitates the presence of the other three faculties of wisdom, courage and chastity.
An important matter must be pointed out here. In the view of Islamic ethicians, a person who has developed the four faculties within himself, is not praiseworthy unless the possession of these virtues benefits other people also. This is what reason tells us. That is, it tells us that purely internal and private virtues do not have much value, and their possessor does not deserve praise.
Every one of the four ethical virtues is to be practised to a certain degree and within definite limits, transgression of which would transform a virtue into a vice. If every virtue is thought of as the center of a circle, any movement away from the center would be considered as a vice, and the farther away it were to move from this point, the greater the vice.
For every virtue, therefore, there are innumerable vices; since there is only one center in a circle, whereas points all around the center are infinite in number. In regard to deviation, it does not make difference in which direction the deviation occurs. Deviation from the center, in whatever direction, is a vice.
To find the real center, which entails absolute moderation, is thus difficult to attain. To remain at this center and to preserve this balance is even more difficult. The Prophet (S) said:
شيبتني سورة هود لمكان ((فَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ)
The Surat Hud has made an old man of me because of the verse, `Remain as steadfast as you have been commanded'. (11:112)
As opposed to the real center, there is the approximate center, which is more accessible. Individuals who purify and develop their souls usually reach this relative center and acquire relative moderation. It is for this reason that moral virtues differ with different individuals, circumstances, and times. Relative moderation, like deviation, covers a wide area at the center of which lies the point of absolute balance and moderation.
We have already said that deviation from moderation and the mean causes vice. This deviation towards either of the two extremes on each side of the mean has infinite degrees. Here we will mention only the two extremes for every moral virtue.
There are, therefore, eight kinds of vices, for every one of which we shall give a brief description.
1. Stupidity is deficiency of wisdom; that is, not using the power of the intellect to understand the nature of things.
2. Slyness is the excessive use of the intellect; that is, using the power of the intellect in matters for which it is inappropriate, or using it too much in matters for which it is appropriate.
3. Cowardice is deficiency of courage; that is, fear and irresolution in cases where there is no cause for them.
4. Foolhardiness is the excess of courage; that is, reckless action in cases where it is inappropriate.
5. Lethargy is the deficient state for which the point of moderation is chastity; that is, failure to use things which the body needs.
6. Rapaciousness is the other extreme in opposition to lethargy; that is, excess in sexual activity, eating and drinking, and other sensual pleasures.
7. Submissiveness is the deficient state for which the point of moderation is justice; that is, accepting oppression and tyranny.
8. Tyranny is the other extreme in opposition to submissiveness; that is, oppressing either one's own self or others.
Every one of these eight vices possesses numerous branches and subdivisions, which are connected with the direction and degree of deviation from moderation represented by the four virtues. Since deviation can occur in a limitless number of degrees, it is not possible to enumerate all of them. We shall, however, mention some of the most well-known ones here, and later discuss the ways in which they can be fought against.
Vices are divided according to the powers they are related to, namely, Intellect, Anger and Passion.
1. The Power of the Intellect (al-quwwah al-`aqliyyah) can possess two kinds of vices, which are stupidity and slyness, the further subdivisions of which are as follows:
Simple ignorance: not knowing.
Compound ignorance: being ignorant, and being unaware of one's ignorance.
Perplexity and doubt: the opposite of which are certainty and conviction.
Carnal temptations: in opposition to which is contemplation of the beauty of Divine creation.
Deceit and trickery to attain ends dictated by Passion and Anger.
Shirk (polytheism): the opposite of which is belief in the Unity and Oneness of God.
2. The Power of Anger (al-quwwah al-ghadabiyyah) has two vices: cowardice and foolhardiness, the subdivisions of which are:
Fear: a psychological condition which is caused by expecting occurrence of a painful event, or loss of a favourable condition.
Lack of endurance and self-depreciation: This is one of the consequences of weakness of the spirit and indicates an incapacity to face hardships. The opposite of this characteristic is steadfastness, which means the capacity to endure hardship and adversity.
Timidity: this is brought about by a lack of self-confidence and a weak character, and indicates inability to struggle for the sake of attaining noble and worthy goals. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of fortitude; that is, courage and willingness to undertake great efforts to attain true felicity and perfection.
Lack of sense of dignity: this is also brought about by a weakness of character and indicates failure to take care and watch over matters which need to be looked after and watched over.
Hastiness: this is another manifestation of a weak character and means making decisions and embarking on actions without having given them proper thought. The opposite extreme of this quality is lethargy, which is the tendency to slackness and lack of alacrity in initiating action when required.
Suspicion about God, and the believers: this is another manifestation of a weak and timid character. The opposite of this is trustfulness towards God and the believers, which is a sign of courage and self confidence.
Anger: the opposite of which is patience and forbearance (hilm).
Revengefulness: the opposite of which is the quality of forgiveness.
Violence: this is caused by the Power of Anger and use of force to achieve an end. Its opposite is conciliation and compassion.
Ill-temperedness: the opposite of which is good-temperedness.
Envy and malice: it also results from the Power of Anger.
Enmity and. hostility: this is a manifestation of the power of anver and its opposite is friendliness; in other words, having the welfare of others at heart.
Self-conceit and vanity: the opposite extreme of which is having an inferiority complex.
Arrogance: the opposite of which is humility.
Boastfulness: which means talking about oneself with pride and satisfaction. This condition is brought about by arrogance.
Rebelliousness: disobedience towards someone who deserves one's
Obedience. This condition is also caused by arrogance, and its opposite is obedience to someone to whom it is necessary to be obedient.
Fanaticism: intense uncritical devotion to something.
Injustice and concealing of truth: the opposite of which is justice and steadfastness in the defense of truth.
Brutality: lack of mercy and compassion when these qualities are called for.
3. The vices of the Power of Passion and desire are lethargy and greed; and their subdivisions are the following:
Coveting the world and riches: the opposite of which is zuhd (self restraint).
Affluence and opulence: the opposite of which is poverty.
Avarice (tama): the opposite of which is indifference to possessions of others.
Greed (hirs): the opposite of which is contentment with what one has.
Coveting of things forbidden by religion, and engaging in illegitimate acts: the opposite of which is wara` (piety, caution), abstinence from forbidden things and activities.
Treachery: the opposite of which is honesty.
All kinds of debauchery: such as adultery, sodomy, wine drinking, and other forms of frivolous conduct.
Sinking into falsehood and believing in false things.
Indulging in frivolous and nonsensical talk and empty boasting as a matter of habit.
Thus we come to the end of recounting the virtues and vices belonging singly to each of the three powers. Now let us consider those virtues and vices which belong simultaneously to two or three of the powers of the soul. These virtues and vices are as follows:
Jealousy, that is wishing a decline in the fortunes of another person.
Insulting and degrading other people: the opposite of which is honouring other people and respecting them.
Not being sympathetic or helpful to others.
Breaking one's ties with family and kin.
Being undutiful to parents and earning their disavowal.
Sticking one's nose into other people's affairs in order to discover their faults.
Revealing other people's secrets: the opposite of which is guarding other people's secrets and concealing them.
Causing friction and disharmony among people: the opposite of which is to make peace and bring harmony among them.
Verbal argument and animosity.
Making fun of other people and ridiculing them.
Coveting fame and station.
Lover of praise and hatred of criticism: the opposite of which is indifference to both.
Simulation: which is doing something in order to attract favourable attention.
Hypocrisy: the opposite of which is being the same in one's exterior appearance and inward self.
Self-deception: the opposite of which is insight, knowledge and humility.
Rebelliousness: the opposite of which is obedience.
Impudence and shamelessness: the opposite of which is modesty and shame.
Having elaborate and far-flung hopes and desires.
Persistence in sin: the opposite of which is repentence.
Self-neglect and alienation from one's self: the opposite of which is self-attention and awareness of one's goal.
Apathy and indifference towards one's felicity and good.
Misplaced hatred: the opposite of which is appropriate friendship and love.
Inconsistency and disloyalty: the opposite of which is loyalty.
Isolation and seclusion from people: the opposite of which is being sociable and friendly.
Pique and peevishness: the opposite of which is calmness and selfcomposure.
Sorrow and remorse: the opposite of which is cheerfulness and joy.
Insufficient trust of and reliance on God.
Ingratitude and unthankfulness: the opposite of which is thankfulness and gratitude.
Anxiety, alarm and impatience.
Impiety: that is disobedience and transgression of Divine commands, the opposite of which is piety and obedient performance of the duties set by God, and also performance of acts which are recommended by God.
Now that we have recounted all the virtues and vices, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the true significance of the quality of justice, since all ethical virtues originate from this quality just as all vices emanate from injustice, which is the quality opposed to it. Plato says:
When the faculty of justice develops in man, all the other faculties and powers of the soul are illuminated by it, and these faculties and powers all acquire light from each other. This is the condition in which the human soul moves and acts in the best and the most meritorious manner possible, gaining affinity and reapproachment with the Source of creation.
The quality of justice saves the human being from the danger of deviation towards extremes, whether in personal or social matters, and enables him to attain enduring felicity and bliss. Of course, it should be noted that this quality can be successfully exercised only if the individual knows what the Golden Mean is, and can distinguish it from excess when he confronts it.
Such discrimination is impossible to attain except through the holy teachings of Islam, which contain elaborate instructions relating to all the things needed by human beings to attain happiness and felicity in this world and the next.
Justice is of three kinds:
1. The justice between the human being and God; that is, the penalties and rewards which God bestows on man in relation to his acts and deeds. In other words, for whatever acts he commits, whether good or evil, an appropriate reward or punishment is given to him by God. If it were otherwise, it would imply injustice and violation of rights on God's behalf and unfair treatment of His creatures -characteristics which God does not have.
2. The justice amongst human beings; which means that everyone must honour individual and social rights of others and act according to the sacred laws of Islam. This is called social justice. In a prophetic tradition, social rights are enumerated in the following manner:
إن للمؤمن على أخيه ثلاثين حقا لا براءة له منها إلا بالأداء أو العفو: يغفر زلته، ويرحم عبرته، ويستر عورته، ويقيل عثرته، ويقبل معذرته، ويرد غيبته، ويديم نصيحته، ويحفظ خلته، ويرعى ذمته، ويعود مرضته ويشهد ميتته، ويجيب دعوته، ويقبل هديته، ويكافأ صلته، ويشكر نعمته، ويحسن نصرته، ويحفظ خليلته، ويقضى حاجته، ويشفع مسألته، ويسمّت عطسته ويرشد ضالته، ويرد سلامه ويطيب كلامه ويبر إنعامه، ويصدق أقسامه، ويوالى وليه ويعادي عدوه، وينصره ظالماً ومظلوماً، فأما نصرته ظالما فيرده عن ظلمه، وأما نصرته مظلوماً فيعينه على اخذ حقه، ولا يسلمه، ولا يخذله، ويحب له من الخير ما يحب لنفسه، ويكره له من الشر ما يكره لنفسه.
Every believer has thirty obligations over his brother in faith, which he could not be said to have met unless he either performs them or is excused by his brother in faith from performing them.
These obligations are: forgiving his mistakes; being merciful and kind to him when he is in a strange land; guarding his secrets; giving him his hand when he is about to fall; accepting his apology; discouraging backbiting about him; persisting in giving him good advice; treasuring his friendship; fulfilling his trust; visiting him when he is ill; being with him at the time of his death; accepting his invitation and his presents; returning his favours in the same manner; thanking him for his favours; being grateful for his assistance; protecting his honour and property.
Helping him meet his needs; making an effort to solve his problems; saying to him: `God bless you', when he sneezes; guiding him to the thing he has lost; answering his greetings; taking him at his word (not drawing a bad interpretation of things he says); accepting his bestowals; confirming him if he swears to something; being kind and friendly towards him, not unsympathetic and hostile; helping him whether he is being unjust or is a victim of injustice [when we speak of helping him when he is being unjust, we mean that he must be kept from being unjust; when we speak of coming to his aid when he is a victim of injustice, we mean that he should be assisted in securing his rights]; refraining from feeling bored or fed up of him; not forsaking him in the midst of his troubles.
Whatever good things he likes for himself he should also like for his brother in faith, and whatever he dislikes for himself he should also dislike for his brother.
3. Justice between the living and the dead. This is the kind of justice that commands that the living should remember the dead with kindness, pay their debts, act according to their wills, pray for them, give alms seeking their forgiveness from God, and perform charitable acts in their memory.
At the end of this section, the conclusion that we draw is that justice means the complete mastery of the intellect overall other faculties and powers of the human soul, so that all are employed towards the ultimate goal of human perfection and the end of making oneself Godlike. In other words, the intellect is the sovereign of the body; if justice prevails within it, it will also prevail in the domain under its jurisdiction. Just as if the ruler of a society is just, justice shall expand throughout that whole society, whereas if the ruler is unjust, then there will be no justice in that country. This is expressed in a narration:
إن السلطان إذا كان عادلا كان شريكا في ثواب كل طاعة تصدر عن كل رعية، وإن كان جائرا كان سهيما في معاصيهم
Whenever a sovereign is just, he shares in the reward and merit of all the good works done by his subjects; but if he is not just, he will be considered an accomplice in all their sins and evil deeds.
Another conclusion that can be drawn is that one cannot reform others as long as he has not reformed himself. That is, if an individual is unable to make justice prevail within the domain of his own individual self, how can he put it into effect amongst his partners, family members, fellow citizens, and finally, the whole society? Therefore, self-development is necessarily prior to all else, and this is impossible except through the science of ethics.
In diagnosis of physical ailments there are certain rules and procedures to be followed. First of all the disease must be identified. Secondly, the way of treatment must be determined. Thirdly, treatment must begin with the use of appropriate medications and avoidance of harmful things, and continue until complete recovery.
It has already been explained that the diseases of the soul are caused when its powers trespass the bounds of moderation, moving towards the extremes of either deficiency or excess. The way in which these diseases must be treated is the same as that used in treatment of physical illness, and must follow the three stages mentioned above until full recovery is attained.
We shall continue our discussion, describe each disease and indicate its proper treatment. The diseases to be studied shall be divided into the following four categories:
1. Diseases of the Power of Intellect and their treatment.
2. Diseases of the Power of Anger and their treatment.
3. Diseases of the Power of Passion and their treatment.
4. Diseases relating to combinations of any two of these powers, or all three.
Before we begin our discussion of the diseases in these four categories, it must be stated that every one of these powers can exist in either of the three different states of moderation, deficiency, or excess.
In discussing every one of these powers, we shall first consider its deviation towards excess, which is a kind of illness, and indicate its proper treatment. This shall be followed by a discussion of its deviation towards the condition of deficiency and the proper method of treating it. Next we shall consider its state of moderation. We shall conclude our study of each power with an examination of various kinds of moral maladies which may afflict these powers, and their method of treatment.
Slyness: It is one of the vices of the Power of Intellect in its condition of excess or extremity. When afflicted with this disease, the human intellect is so immersed in meticulous examination and analysis that it loses temperance. In other words, the individual's mental activity, instead of bringing him closer to an understanding of reality, takes him farther and farther away from it, and may even lead him to deny reality -like the Sophists- and cause him to be bogged down in doubt and indecision in regard to religious laws and their application.
The way that this fatal disease is to be treated is that the individual must first become aware of its danger, meditate upon it, and then make an effort to force his mind to keep within the limits of moderation. With common sense as his guideline and the thinking and judgement of normal people as criterion, he should judge his own thinking and judgements, being constantly on his guard until he reaches the condition of moderation.
Simple Ignorance: This disease is caused by a deficiency of the Power of Intellect in the individual, and is said to exist when the individual lacks knowledge and learning, but is aware of his ignorance. This is in contrast to `compound ignorance'-a state in which one not only does not realize his ignorance but considers himself to be knowledgeable.
It is obvious that the treatment of `simple ignorance' is easier than that of `compound ignorance'. In order to cure `simple ignorance' all that is necessary is to examine the evil consequences of ignorance, and realize the fact that man's distinction over the rest of animals lies in knowledge and learning. In addition to this, he should note the importance of learning and knowledge as attested by reason and also Revelation. The consequence of such contemplation and reflection would be an automatic desire for learning. He must pursue this desire with the greatest ardour, and not allow the smallest speck of hesitation or doubt to enter into his mind.
Knowledge and Wisdom: This condition is situated between the two extremes of `slyness' and `simple ignorance'. Undoubtedly, knowledge and wisdom are two of the sublimest qualities that man can possess, just as they are the most important and noblest of Divine Attributes. In fact it is this characteristic that brings man close to God. This is so because the more a man's knowledge and learning is, the greater is his capacity for abstraction (tajarrud); since it has been demonstrated in study of philosophy that knowledge and abstraction are complementaries. Therefore, the greater the degree of abstraction in the mind, the closer is man to the Divine Essence, whose idea in the human mind is the highest of abstractions.
In praise of knowledge and wisdom, the Holy Qur’an says:
....And whoso is given wisdom, has been given much good ....(2:269)
....And those similitudes-We strike them for the people, but none understands them save those who know. (29:43)
The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying to Abu Dharr:
جلوس ساعة عند مذاكرة العلم احب إلى الله تعالى من قيام الف ليلة يصلى في كل ليلة الف ركعة و احب اليه من الف غزوة، و من قراءة القرآن كله اثنى عشر الف مرة و خير من عبادة سنة صام نهارها و قام ليلها، و من خرج من بيته ليلتمس بابا من العلم كتب الله عز و جل له بكل قدم ثواب نبى من الانبياء، و ثواب الف شهيد من شهداء بدر، و اعطاه الله بكل حرف يسمع او يكتب مدينة في الجنة.
Sitting an hour in a learned gathering is better in the eyes of God than a thousand nights in each of which a thousand prayers are performed, and better than engaging in battle for the sake of God on thousand occasions, or better than reciting the whole of the Qur’an twelve thousand times, or better than a whole year of worship during which one fasts on all days and spends the nights in prayer. If one leaves one's house with the intention of gaining knowledge, for every step that he takes, God shall bestow upon him the reward reserved for a prophet, and the reward accorded to a thousand martyrs of [the Battle of] Badr. And for every word that he hears or writes, a city shall be set aside for him in paradise ....
In Islam certain rules of etiquette are prescribed for both teachers and students, which have been treated in detail in other books, of which the best perhaps is the Adab al-muta'allimin by Zayn al-Din ibn `Ali al-`Amili (1495-1559 A.D.). Here we mention some points about the proper conduct for the student and the teacher:
1. The student must abstain from following his selfish and lustful inclinations and from the company of worldly men; because, like a veil, they prevent access to the Divine light.
2. His sole motivation for study must be to achieve God's good pleasure and to attain felicity in the Hereafter; not for the sake of gaining worldly wealth, fame, and honour.
3. The student must put into action whatever he learns and understands, so that God may increase his knowledge. The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying:
من اخذ العلم من اهله وعمل بعلمه نجا ومن أراد به الدنيا فهي حظه.
One who acquires knowledge from the learned, and acts according to it shall be saved, and one who acquires knowledge for the sake of the world shall receive just that [and shall receive no reward in the Hereafter].
4. The pupil must honour his teacher, being humble and obedient towards him.
The proper conduct for the teacher consists of the following:
1. Teaching should be for the sake of God, and not for any worldly ends.
2. The teacher must encourage and guide his student, be kind to him, and speak to him on the level of his understanding.
3. The teacher must transfer his knowledge only to those who deserve it; not to those who do not deserve it and who may abuse it.
4. The teacher must speak only of what he knows, and abstain from topics of which he is ignorant.
Here it is necessary to explain what we mean by knowledge and learning and the kind of learning we are talking about. In other words, the question arises whether honour and respect for knowledge and scholarship, which characterize Islam, apply to all the sciences or to only some of them?
The answer is that fields of learning can be divided into two groups: firstly, the sciences which have to do with this world such as medicine, geometry, music etc.; secondly, the sciences which are concerned with man's spiritual development. It is this second kind of learning which is highly honoured by the holy teachings of Islam. However, the first group of sciences are also considered important, and their pursuit is wajib kifa'i for all Muslims. That is, all Muslims are obliged to pursue them to the degree necessary for meeting the needs of the Muslim community.
Those sciences whose learning is necessary for spiritual development of man are: knowledge of the Principles of Religion (usul al-Din or Islamic doctrines), ethics (akhlaq)-which was formulated to guide man to those things that bring about his salvation, and keep him from those things that lead to perdition-and the science of jurisprudence (fiqh)-which concerns itself with individual and social duties of human beings from the point of view of Islamic Law.
Compound ignorance is, as explained before, the kind of ignorance in which one does not know and is, moreover, unaware of the fact that he doesn't. This is a fatal disease the cure of which is extremely difficult. This is because the `compound ignorant' person does not see any shortcoming in himself, and so lacks any motivation to do anything about it.
Thus he remains ignorant to the end of his life and its disastrous effects destroy him. In order to cure this kind of ignorance, we must explore its roots. If the cause of an individual's compound ignorance is a tendency for distorted thinking, the best treatment for him is to learn some exact sciences such as geometry or arithmetic, in which case, his mind is freed from muddleheadedness and mental inertia, and led towards steadiness, clarity, and moderation.
As a result of this, compound ignorance is transformed into simple ignorance, and the afflicted individual can then be stimulated into pursuit of knowledge. If the cause of the vice lies in his method of reasoning, the individual should compare his reasoning with that of men of research and clear thought, that he may discover his mistake. If the cause of his ignorance is some other thing such as blind prejudice and imitation, he should endeavour to remove them.
Another disease which may afflict the Power of the Intellect is the vice of doubt and perplexity, which makes man incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. This disease is usually caused by appearance of numerous contradictory pieces of evidence, which confuse him, and make him incapable of reaching a definite conclusion.
In order to cure this disease, the individual must first consider the axiomatic principles of logic, such as the law of contradiction, the principle that the whole is always bigger than any one of its parts, the law of identity, etc., and base all his subsequent reasoning on them, realizing that truth is one and except the true one all other conclusions are false. In this manner he can cut through the web of contradictory thoughts that bewilder him.
The opposite of ignorance, perplexity, and doubt is certainty, which is none other than lasting, certain conviction; which being in accordance with reality, cannot be shaken by any doubts however strong. This is specially important in regard to theology and its various branches. In other words, belief in the existence of God, His affirmative and negative Attributes, prophethood, resurrection, and whatever relates to them, should be so strong as not to be shaken by any doubts. The state of certainty is one of the highest states possible for man, and is attained by very few human beings. There is a tradition attributed to the Prophet that says:
اليقين الإيمان كله.
Certainty is complete belief.
Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:
إن الله تعالى بعله وقسطه جعل الروح في اليقين والرضا, وجعل الهم والحزن في الشك والسحط.
God, the Supreme, in His supreme justice, has associated happiness and comfort with certainty and contentment [that is, resignation to God's will], and coupled sorrow and pain with doubt and resentment [with respect to Divine will].
There are certain signs associated with the state of certainty against which anyone can measure himself to determine his own degree of conviction. These signs are:
1. Reliance on God in all one's affairs, and having mind only for His good pleasure. To put it succinctly, it should be one's firm belief that:
لا حول ولا قوة إلى بالله العلي العظيم
There is no power or might [in the world] except that [it is derived] from God, the Most High, and the Most Great.
2. Humility before God, both inwardly and outwardly, at all times and under all circumstances, and obedience to His commands to the smallest detail.
3. Possession of extraordinary-almost miraculous-powers through being close to God-a condition that comes about after one has realized one's insignificance and weakness before His greatness and majesty.
1. `Ilm al-Yaqin : Which is certain and permanent conviction. It is like the conviction of a man who when he sees smoke believes with certainty that there must be a fire too.
2. `Ayn al-yaqin: Which is beholding something with-either the outer or the inner-eye. Using the above example, it is like the conviction of a man who not only sees the smoke but fire itself.
3. Haqq al-yaqin: Which is the state of certainty acquired when a form of spiritual and actual union exists between the knower and the known thing. This would be the case, for example, if one should be himself in the midst of fire mentioned in the above example. This is called "the union of the knower and the known", and is discussed in its appropriate place. In order to attain haqq al-yaqin one must fulfil certain necessary conditions. These are:
1. The individual soul must have the capacity to receive and understand these truths; the soul of a child, for example, cannot understand the reality of things.
2. The soul should not be one defiled by corruption and sin.
3. Complete attention must be concentrated on the object in question, and the mind must be free of pollution of worldly and base interests.
4. One must be free of any kind of blind imitation and prejudice.
5. In order to attain the aim, relevant and necessary preliminaries must be covered.
Shirk is another serious disease of the soul, and is a branch of ignorance. It lies in believing that other forces besides God have a role in directing the affairs of the world. If one worships these forces, it is called shirk `ibadi (polytheism in worship), and if he obeys them, it would be shirk ita`i (polytheism in obedience). The first kind is also named shirk jali (manifest polytheism), and the second is also called shirk khafi (hidden polytheism). Possibly the Qur’anic verse:
And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners unto Him. (12:106)
is a reference to the second kind of shirk.
The opposite of shirk is tawhid (monotheism), which means that there is no power in the universe except that of the Almighty God. Tawhid has stages; they are:
1. Verbal admission or acceptance of tawhid; that is uttering the لا إله إلا الله (there is no god but God) without believing in it sentence with the heart.
2. Believing with the heart when the above statement of monotheism is made with the tongue.
3. Realization of the unity of God through epiphany and numinous experience. In other words, one discovers that the vast multiplicity of creatures derive their existence from the One God, and recognizes that no power other than God's operates in the universe.
4. One sees nothing in the world except the Divine Being and perceives all creatures as emanations and reflections of that Being.
These stages of belief in tawhid guide us to recognize the cause of the disease of shirk. The root cause of shirk is immersion in the material world and forgetfulness in regard to God. In order to cure it, one must meditate upon the creation of the heavens and the earth and myriads of God's creatures. That may awaken within one the appreciation of the glory of God. The deeper his meditation and contemplation on the beauty of the universe and the mystery of its creation, the greater his faith in the existence and unity of God shall become. The Qur’an says:
Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): `Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain. Glory be to Thee! sane us from the chastisement of the Fire. (3:191)
Imam al-Rida (A) has been quoted as saying:
Worship does not lie in copious prayer and fasting, but in the amount of contemplation in the works of God.
ليست العبادة كثرة الصيام والصلاة, انما العبادة كثرة التفكر في أمر الله.
Whatever enters the human consciousness is either through the agency of the angels of mercy or the devil. If it is godly, it is called inspiration (ilham), and if it is caused by the devil, it is called temptation (waswasa). The human soul is a battlefield on which the army of angels and the army of devils are locked in battle, and man has the choice to confirm either of them. If the army of the devil is reinforced, he will become subject to demonic temptations, and his outward actions will mirror his internal condition. But if the Divine forces are strengthened, the individual becomes the embodiment of Divine attributes and characteristics.
The Holy Qur’an relates how the Satan swore to misguide mankind and lead them into sin:
He said: `Now because Thou has sent me astray , verily I shall lurk in ambush for them in Thy Straight Path. Then I shall come upon them from before them and from behind them and from their right and from their left .... (7:16-17)
About the people who yield to the devil, the Holy Qur’an says:
....having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle-nay, but they are worse. These are the neglectful. (7:179)
And about those who are not influenced by the devil, the Qur’an says:
As for those who believe in Allah, and hold fast unto Him, them He will cause to enter into His mercy and grace, and will guide them unto Him by a straight path. (4:175)
The way to fight demonic temptations by deliberating about the Hereafter. If one contemplates the consequences of following the advice of the devil and the future such obedience holds in store for him, he will find the right path and be liberated from satanic temptations. When he finds the righteous path, God, too, will come to his aid and guide him to ultimate happiness and felicity-as has been clearly stated in the above-mentioned verse.
Slyness is another vice belonging to the Power of Intellect, and appears through the agency of satanic and evil wishes of the Power of Passion and Anger. Slyness and trickery is defined as conscious plotting against others and drawing of elaborate and detailed plans to harm them. This vice is a fatal one, because the individual afflicted by it is counted one amongst the party of the devil. The Prophet (S) has said:
ليس منا من ماكر مسلما.
Whoever plots against a Muslim is not one of us.
The way to cure this fatal disease is that the afflicted should wake up to the dangerous consequences of this vice, and realize that one who digs a pit for others will himself fall into it, getting his punishment in this world itself. He should also ask himself, why, instead of being kind and good to others, he should plot against them.
As already said, the Power of Anger has three states: deficiency, moderation, and excess; each of which will now be discussed in detail.
Foolhardiness: Foolhardiness, a disease of the Power of Anger, is reckless entrance into dangerous and deadly situations despite the warnings of both reason and religion.
The Holy Qur’an explicitly forbids it when it says:
....and cast not yourselves by your own hands into destruction ....(2:195)
The way to cure foolhardiness is to think carefully before embarking on any particular course of action to see whether reason and religion approve of it or not. If it meets their approval, one may act upon it, but he must abstain from it if disapproved by any one of them. It may even be necessary for him to abstain from actions in which the amount of danger is not great, so as to curtail his propensity for foolhardiness. He must maintain this course until he is certain that he has been completely cured of the vice, and until the condition of moderation, namely courage, has been reached. Once he has reached this state, he must try to preserve it.
Cowardice: Cowardice is timidity under circumstances which call for immediate violent action. Cowardice, the opposite of angry and violent temper, results in a feeling of inferiority, irresolution, melancholy, and lack of self-confidence. In a tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet, it is stated:
اللهم إني اعوذ بك من البخل وأعوذ بك من الجبن.
O God, I seek Thy refuge from miserliness and cowardice.
The way to treat the disease of cowardice is to stimulate anger and violent temper in oneself, and take a violent course of action when it is not too dangerous to do so, until the soul arrives at the state of courage, which is the moderate condition of the Power of Anger. He must then be on his guard not to move out of the state of moderation towards the condition of excess.
Courage: Courage is the manifestation of the Power of Anger in its state of moderation, and is defined as subservience of the Power of Anger to the Power of Intellect. This subservience is a most admirable trait, and is the cause of numerous spiritual virtues. It is attained after successful struggle against foolhardiness and cowardice as the result of constant perseverance and exercise.
The Power of Anger may be afflicted with seventeen different vices, which we shall now describe in brief.
Fear is an uneasy expectation that something unpleasant might happen. For example, one may be afraid of boarding a ship or sleeping all alone in a house. It is clear that there is a difference between cowardice and fear.
Fear is of two kinds. Firstly, there is the fear of God and fear of sins and Divine punishment. Secondly, there is the fear of things other than God. The first kind of fear is praiseworthy, and leads man to perfection; whereas the second kind of fear is an undesirable vice brought about by the disease of cowardice.
Inappropriate fear is caused by the possibility that something unpleasant might happen either to oneself or something or someone dear to one. For example, one may be afraid of death, fatal danger, dead bodies, demons, etc. The root cause of these fears is spiritual weakness, which can be removed by self-examination. For example, if one realizes that he can do nothing to avert a certain or probable danger of death and that fear is of no use .in averting it, he will gradually lose his fear. If his fear of death is caused by an inordinate love of the world and material things, he must reduce this attachment.
Some fears have imaginary causes, such as the fear of darkness and dead bodies. In such cases, one should put aside one's fancies and strengthen one's soul.
The appropriate and praiseworthy kind of fear is that of the majesty and greatness of God. This fear is also called khashyah or rahbah. It is also the fear of sins one has committed and their punishment. The greater such fear is, the greater the contribution it can make towards one's spiritual development and perfection. Moreover, the greater and the deeper one's understanding and knowledge of God is, the greater his fear of His power shall be. The Holy Qur’an says:
....Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge .... (35:28)
Thus in accounts of the lives of saints, we find that occasionally they would faint because of the intensity of their fear of God.
Intense fear of God is the best controlling force over human spirit; because it weakens lustful and selfish desires, keeps the self from rebellion and sin, and tames the human heart into submission to Divine commands. Furthermore, fear of God annihilates all other fears, making one strong in confronting injustice, tyranny, and oppression. Speaking of such people, the Holy Qur’an says:
....theirs is safety; and they are rightly guided. (6:82)
....So fear not mankind, but fear Me ....(5:44)
....God is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him; that is for him who fears his Lord. (98:8)
But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade his soul from lust, surely Paradise shall be the refuge. (79:40-41)
And the Prophet (S) is reported to have said:
من خاف الله اخاف الله منه كل شيء. ومن لم يخف الله أخافه الله من كل شيء.
Whoever fears God, He will make all things fear him; whoever is not afraid of God, He will cause him to be afraid of everything.
There are many Qur’anic verses as well as traditions about the merits of being in fear of God; however, for the sake of brevity, we abstain from mentioning all of them here.
It must be kept in mind that even in fearing God one must be careful to stay within the bonds of moderation, so that it should not make one lose all hope in the mercy of God; since losing one's hope in the mercy and compassion of God is itself a great sin. The Qur’an says:
....And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord save those who are astray? (15:56)
If the fear of God has been taken to such an extreme, then it must be counterbalanced with raja' or hope in the mercy of God; for, with the aid of the two wings of hope and fear an individual can ascend to the highest levels of human perfection. The Qur’an refers to this point in these words:
Tell My servants I am the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate, and that My chastisement is the painful chastisement. (15:49-50)
This vice, caused by cowardice, is a condition that results when an individual lacking courage to interfere positively in important matters fails to carry out his social responsibilities such as persuading others to perform righteous action and forbidding them from evil deeds.
Treatment of this disease is the same as that which was described in the case of cowardice. The individual affected by this moral vice should know that a true believer in God is never subjected to disgrace, and that God has bestowed honour and dignity on the believer. The Holy Qur’an says:
....honour belongs to Allah and to His messenger and the believers .... (63:8)
There is a tradition which says:
إن الله فوض إلى المؤمن كل شيء إلا اذلال نفسه.
God has assigned to the believer the duty to [suffer] everything except humiliation of his own self.
The characteristic opposite of self-depreciation is strength of character and self-respect; that is, one should acquire a temperament which is unaffected by anything pleasant or painful, either praise or blame. Imam al-Baqir (A) has been quoted as saying:
المؤمن اصلب من الجبل.
A true believer is firmer than a mountain.
In another tradition, he has been quoted as saying:
إن الله اعطى المؤمن ثلاث خصال:
العز في الدنيا والآخرة, والفلح في الدنيا والآخرة والمهابة في صدور الظالمين.
God has bestowed on the believer three qualities: honour in this world and the Hereafter, salvation in both the worlds, and fear of him in the hearts of the oppressors.
It means a feeling of inferiority which results in not making an effort to reach the heights of perfection open to the human being, and being content with lower and rudimentary attainments. This is one of the consequences of self-depreciation.
Its opposite is the trait of confidence, which is willingness to make effort in order to attain felicity in this world and the next and to attain perfection. The virtue of confidence is brought about by spiritual qualities of steadfastness, courage, and self-respect. Its treatment is subsidiary to that of the disease of cowardice, which is the mother of all vices in this class.
This vice consists of a lack of enough attention and failure to take care of matters which need attention and care, such as faith, honour, children, and property. This vice is caused by weakness of character and an inferiority complex. Its opposite is the sense of honour and zeal for it, which are praiseworthy virtues in man.
In regard to religion, it implies effort to keep it immune from deviations, zeal in its propagation, effort to comply with religious laws oneself, and making others follow them too.
With regard to one's honour, it means safeguarding of one's self respect and effort to preserve one's honour. With regard to one's children, it means that one must attend to their right upbringing and sound ethical and cultural development, so that they receive an early moral training, which becomes a part of their personality. Islam gives great importance to parents' duties in training and upbringing of their children. This is discussed in detail in books on tradition.
In regard to one's property and possessions, it means that one should always consider them as a part of God's blessing and as a trust given to him by God. He must abstain from excessive consumption and waste, discharge his religious duties, and not forget to help the needy.
It is a state which impels someone to abrupt decision and action without due thought. This condition is also a consequence of weakness of character and an inferiority complex. Its opposite is the virtue of thoughtfulness in action and speech. The outcome of haste is detrimental, and accompanied by remorse and repentance. In many cases, the damage caused by hasteful actions may be irreversible.
In order to cure the vice of hastiness, one must understand its dire consequences, and accustom oneself to dignified behaviour and thoughtfulness.
This is a condition which arises when an individual harbours distrust and cynicism in regard to God, His creatures, and their works, interpreting everything in a negative manner. It is also a consequence of cowardice and product of an inferiority complex; because a weak charactered person acts according to impressions that his imagination may produce. In opposition to this trait is good will and trust with regard to God and men; which means having a favourable attitude towards every thing; unless there is a clear evidence to the contrary. The Qur’an says:
....and you thought evil thoughts, and you were a people worthless. (48:12)
Imam Ali (A) says:
ضع أمر أخيك على أحسنه حتى يأتيك ما يغلبك منه, ولا تظنن بكلمة خرجت من أخيك سوءا وأنت تجد لها في الخير محملا.
Think favourably of what your brother does, unless you find something that proves the contrary; don't distrust what he says as long as it is possible for you to consider it right and good.
The way to counteract this vice is to overlook whatever one may see or hear about his brother in faith, and to preserve a favourable opinion of him in one's heart, maintaining a respectful and loving attitude towards him.
Anger is one of the conditions of the soul, and possesses three states.
a. The state of excess, which is defined as what would put one outside the bounds of religion and its laws.
b. The state of deficiency, which is defined as the state in which one fails to take a violent action even though it is necessary for his self defense.
c. The state of moderation, in which anger is stimulated in appropriate and permissible circumstances. Thus it is clear that the first and the second states are amongst the vices of the soul, while the third is amongst ethical virtues produced by courage.
Excessive anger is a fatal disease, which can be considered as a type of temporary madness. When it subsides, it is immediately followed by remorse and repentance, which represent healthy responses of a rational person.
Imam Ali (A) has said:
الحدة ضرب من الجنون, لأن صاحبها يندم, فأن لم يندم فجنونه مستحكم.
Anger is a stroke of madness, since the afflicted later feels remorse and regrets. If someone does not feel any remorse after anger, it means that his madness has become fixed.
Moreover, absolute absence of anger is also a vice, which drags man into humiliation, subjugation and inability to defend his rights. In order to cure excessive anger, one must first remove its causes. These may be pride, selfishness, stubbornness, greed and other such vices. One must also consider how unseemly excessive anger is, and how evil its consequences may be. Secondly, he must examine the benefits of forbearance and self-restraint, and associate with people who possess these qualities.
He must also realize that God's power is supreme, and everything is under His command, which would make him realize his own weakness compared with the infinite power of God. Thirdly, he should know that a person in a state of anger is not loved by God; moreover, he may do something in anger, of which he will be ashamed later on.
The opposite of anger is mildness and forbearance-characteristics which count amongst perfect qualities of the soul. They make a person forgiving and merciful, although he may have complete power to take revenge. The Holy Qur’an says:
Keep to forgiveness, and enjoin what is fair, and turn away from the ignorant. (7:199)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
العفو لا يزيد العبد إلا عزا فاعفوا يعزكم الله.
Forgiveness raises a man's station; forgive so that God may honour you.
Violence consists of use of furious and destructive force either in word or action, and is one of the consequences of anger. Its opposite is the virtue of gentleness, which is a product of patience. Addressing the Prophet (S), the Holy Qur’an says in regard to this trait:
....for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart, they would have dispersed from about thee ....(3:159)
And in a tradition attributed to the Prophet (S), it is said:
إذا أحب الله عبدا أعطاه الرفق, ومن يحرم الرفق يحرم الخير كله.
When God loves one of His servants, He blesses him with the trait of friendliness, and whoever lacks this trait, lacks all other blessings.
Elsewhere, in a prophetic tradition, it is said:
المداراة نصف الإيمان
Consideration and kindness for people is half of the faith.
This vice is also caused by anger, and its opposite is good-temperedness. This vice causes people to shun someone who possesses it, and brings him ruin in this world and the next. It also destroys all of one's good works. The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying:
سوء الخلق يفسد العمل كما يفسد الخل العسل
Ill-temper ruins good works, just as vinegar ruins honey.
Addressing the Prophet (S), the Qur’an says:
Surely thou art of a mighty morality. (68:4)
Rancour is also caused by anger, and is a complex formed when anger is suppressed. It has evil consequences such as jealousy and severance of relations with someone against whom it is directed, and may result in physical assault, passing of illegitimate remarks about him, spreading of lies, backbiting, slander, divulging of his secrets, etc.
Sometimes rancour comes out into the open and manifests itself as outright hostility, resulting in confrontation, fighting, cursing and name-calling-all of which are fatal vices.
The way to cure this spiritual disease is that the afflicted individual must first understand that the feeling of rancour hurts one who harbours it in his heart more than the 'person against whom it is directed. Secondly, he must decide to adopt an attitude of friendliness and helpfulness towards the individual towards whom he feels rancorous, do good things for him even though his emotions pull him in the opposite direction, and continue his affectionate attitude towards him until he is rid of this disease.
This is another vice of the Power of Anger-a condition in which a man thinks highly of himself on account of some advantage, real or imagined. On the other hand, he fails to acknowledge the attributes of perfection of God, Who is the source of all things. A great number of traditions point out the evilness of this trait. One quotes the Prophet (S) as having said:
لو لم تذنبوا لخشيت عليكم ما هو أكبر من ذلك, العجب العجب.
Even if you do not commit any sins, I fear that you may fall into something which is worse: conceit! conceit!
The evil products of self-conceit and vanity are: arrogance; forgetfulness; negligence of one's faults, and, therefore, failure to correct them; falling of the worth of one's deeds in the eyes of men and God; absence of gratitude for God's blessings, and thus risking their loss; failure to ask questions about the things one is ignorant of, and, therefore, remaining in ignorance; and finally, holding and proclaiming of incorrect and unfounded opinions.
In order to cure an individual of this disease, it is necessary for him to turn his attention towards God and to know Him. When he realizes that only the omnipotent Creator deserves worship and praise, and that he is nothing in comparison with the majesty of God, and that there is absolutely nothing which he may call his own, and that even beings far more superior to himself, such as the prophets and angels, are nothing in comparison with God, he shall awake to the fact that it is absurd to be conceited and vain, and that he must consider himself what, in truth, he is: an insignificant creature of God.
When man contemplates his humble beginnings as a sperm-drop, his certain end as a handful of dust, and the brief interval of his life as a wretched creature prone to disease and dominated and driven by lust and instincts, he will forget not only his vanity but his very self, and devote his entire being to the worship of God. The Qur’an says:
Perish man! How unthankful he is! Of what did He create him? Of a sperm drop. He created him, and proportioned him, then the way eased for him, then makes him to die, and buries him; then, when He wills, He raises him. (80:17-22)
And we have the following couplet from a Persian poet:
بر مال و جمال خويشتن غره مشو كان را به شبى برند و اين را به تبى
Don't boast of your riches, vigour and elegance,
Since one of them can be taken away in one night by thieves, and the other can vanish at a single stroke of fever.
It must be kept in mind that vanity and self-conceit may also be caused when one is favoured with such Divine blessings as knowledge, devotion, piety, faith, courage, generosity, patience, an honourable ancestry, beauty, wealth, strength, high position, intelligence, and so on. In order to avoid such an outcome, one must always remember one's weaknesses and shortcomings; such remembrance will help him to avert conceit.
The opposite of self-conceit and vanity is modesty, which is a most worthy trait that brings about edification of the soul and man's perfection.
Arrogance is one of the consequences of vanity and self-conceit. When an individual thinks too highly of himself, it is self-conceit; and when he tends, moreover, to consider others as inferior to-himself, that is arrogance. In contrast to these states, when one thinks of himself as small and insignificant, that is called modesty; and when, in addition to this, he considers others as superior to himself, that is called humility. In any case, arrogance is one of the most fatal of moral vices. This is so because arrogance is a thick veil which hides one's shortcomings from his own view, and thus prevents him from removing them and attaining perfection. The Holy Qur’an says:
....Thus does Allah seal every proud, arrogant heart. (40:35)
I shall turn away from My Revelations those who magnify themselves .... (7:146)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
لا يدخل الجنة من كان في قلبه مثقال حبة من خردل من كبر.
One who has even a particle of pride in his heart, shall not enter paradise.
Jesus (A) has said: "Just as a plant grows in soft ground, not where it is rocky and hard, so also wisdom sprouts and grows in a heart which is humble and soft, not in the hard hearts of the arrogant. Don't you see that the man who keeps his head high bashes it against the roof, while one who holds his head low has the roof as his friend and shelter?"
The cure of arrogance is the same as that prescribed for the vice of self-conceit. Another remedy is to study the various Qur’anic verses and traditions which deal with this vice and condemn it. One must also persevere in the practice of humility towards God and men, associate with the poor and the weak, abstain from ostentatious dressing, put on simple dress, be on equal good terms with the poor and the rich alike, greet everyone regardless of his age, and abstain from seeking a seat at a high place of honour at gatherings. In short, he must resist all those selfish desires which contribute to make him arrogant.
The opposite of arrogance is humility, and is one of the most praiseworthy of moral virtues. The Holy Qur’an makes this statement about the virtue of humility:
The (faithful) servants of the All-Merciful are they who walk upon the. earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, answer: Peace. (2.5:63)
And lower thy wing (in kindness) unto those believers who follow thee. (26:215)
It should be noted that humility is the middle ground between arrogance and abjectness, and just as the former is a vice, so is the latter. The difference between abjectness and humility is also clear. Thus while it is praiseworthy for man to be humble, it is a vice to abase oneself.
A form of arrogance, it is also a fatal vice. It is defined as rebelling against all those to whom it is necessary to be obedient, such as: prophets and their vicegerents, righteous governments, teachers, parents, etc. In a prophetic tradition, we read:
إن اعجل الشر عقوبة البغي.
The sin quickest to be punished is that of rebelliousness.
The Prophet (S) has also said:
حق على الله عز وجل الا يبغي شيء على شيء إلا اذله الله.
It is the right of God to humble anything that rebels against anything else.
Imam Ali (A) has said:
ان البغي يقود اصحابه إلى النار.
Rebelliousness drives the rebellious towards the Fire.
The way to cure the vice of rebelliousness is for the afflicted to meditate upon his spiritual condition and refer to traditions in which rightful obedience is enjoined, and at the same time strive to promote the spirit of humility in himself.
This is another result of vanity and self-conceit. Its opposite is awareness of one's faults and shortcomings.
Fanaticism is another moral vice which leads to degeneration of the afflicted person's mind and understanding. Prejudice may exist in regard to one's religious beliefs, nation, tribe, family, or other such things, and may be manifested through one's speech or action. When fanaticism is in regard to appropriate things, it is called enthusiasm and zeal, and is most praiseworthy. If, on the other hand, it is in regard to inappropriate things, it would be a vice.
There is a prophetic tradition that says:
من كان في قلبه حبة من خردل من عصبية بعثه الله يوم القيامة مع اعراب الجاهلية
Whoever has the least amount of fanaticism in his heart shall be raised by God on the Day of Resurrection together with the pagan Arabs of pre-Islamic times.
The way to cure the vice of fanaticism is for the afflicted individual to engage in introspection, and to realize the fact that fanaticism blocks one's development and clouds his understanding of reality. Thus, if he seeks to know the truth, he must set aside blind .fanaticism and prejudice, and examine things in an objective and dispassionate manner.
The vice of misrepresentation and concealment of the truth is caused by fanaticism, cowardice or fear. It may also be caused by the desire for wealth or similar motives. In any case, this vice leads one to deviate from the straight path, and brings about moral degeneration. The opposite is revealing of the truth and steadfastness on the path of truth. There are numerous traditions and Qur’anic verses which condemn concealing of truth and praise the truthful. Some of the verses that most clearly and directly state this matter are the following:
....Why do you confound the truth with falsehood and knowingly conceal the truth? (3:71)
....And who is more unjust than he who hides a testimony which he hath received from Allah? ....(2:140)
Those who hide the clear signs and the guidance that We have sent down, after We had made it clear for mankind in the Book-they shall be cursed by God and the cursers. (2:159)
To cure oneself of this disease, one should note the fact that this trait earns Divine anger and may lead to kufr (infidelity). Moreover, he should meditate on the benefits of giving expression to truth, and then compel himself to follow it in action.
When an individual is afflicted by the vice of callousness and cruelty, he is not affected or saddened by the pains and sufferings of his fellow men. Its opposite is the virtue of mercy and compassion. There are a number of Qur’anic verses which reproach this vice, and praise compassion and love.
Treatment and cure of this disease is most difficult, because cruelty and callousness sink into one's character, and become chronic and difficult to cure.
The best treatment for this disease is for the afflicted person to avoid, first of all, cruel actions, which are outward manifestations of this vice. Next, he should make an effort to share in the sufferings and difficulties faced by others, and consider their problems to be his own. Furthermore, he should try to react in an appropriate manner to such situations, until, gradually, he begins to taste the flavour of compassion, slowly making it permanent within himself.
The third of the four sections of the book deals with the diseases of the Power of Passion and their treatment. These diseases are of ten kinds, and we shall briefly discuss each of them.
The best definition of this vice and the "world" condemned therein is to be found in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:
Decked out fair to mankind is the love of lusts-women, children, stored-up heaps of gold and silver, horses of mark, cattle and tillage. That is the enjoyment of the life of the world; but God-with Him is the fairest resort. (3:14)
It must be kept in mind that all the things mentioned in this Qur’anic verse, being Divine blessings, may not be condemned. Moreover, proper use of Divine blessings is also not an unworthy thing to do. However, what is undesirable is becoming attached to these things, and giving them a fundamental significance in one's life-an emphasis which may exceed even that given to God.
But if these things do not take the place of God and were to be used as means of attaining self-development and acquiring nearness to God, not only this is not objectionable but highly desirable. Therefore, the condemnation and praise of the world that we come across in the Qur’an or hadith relate to the kind of use the world and its things are put to.
If someone makes the world his idol, and is engulfed in worldly hopes to such an extent that he forgets God and the Hereafter, or sells the Hereafter for the world (2:86)-to use a Qur’anic expression-then we can say that such a man has fallen victim to the disease of the "love of the world." One Prophetic hadith delineates the features of the lovers of the world in these words:
من اصبح والدنيا اكبر همه فليس من الله في شيء, والزم الله قلبه اربع خصال: هما لا ينقطع عنه ابدا, وشغلا لا يتفرع منه ابدا, وفقرا لا ينال غناه ابدا, واملا لا يبلغ منتهاه ابدا.
One who wakes up with his whole attention directed towards the world is cut off from God, and God shall make four qualities to accompany him: endless sorrow, never ending occupation, a neediness which is never relieved, and a hope which is never achieved.
In order to cure this disease one must meditate on the fact that the good things of the world are transitory, and what remains for man are spiritual attainments, nearness to God, and the efforts made in preparation for the Hereafter.
This vice is a branch of the disease of the love of the world, and whatever was said in praise and condemnation of the world could be said about riches. Some Qur’anic verses and traditions have praised wealth and riches, while others condemn it.
There is, however, no contradiction between them; because those verses and traditions that condemn it, are meant to condemn riches which alienate man from God and the Hereafter; whereas those which praise wealth and riches refer to the wealth that serves to uplift human character and brings man closer to God. In a Qur’anic verse we read:
O believers, let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. (63:9)
And in another verse, a nation is called to implore for God's forgiveness and the following favours are promised:
...And will help you with wealth and sons, and will appoint for you gardens,and will appoint for you rivers. (71:12)
And according to narrations, the Prophet (S) has been quoted as both praising and condemning wealth.
حب المال والشرف بنبتان النفاق, كما ينبت الماء البقل.
The love of wealth and position nourish Hypocrisy (nifaq) just as plants are nourished by water.
نعم المال الصالح للرجل الصالح.
How fair is rightly acquired wealth in the possession of an upright man.
In any case, the proper and right kind of wealth is one which has been acquired in a legitimate manner, and which is used in God's good pleasure-such as for hajj, jihad, helping the needy, and all other kinds of charities aimed at public welfare.
Zuhd (Abstinence): The opposite of cherishing the world is zuhd, which is abstinence from worldly affairs, both inwardly and outwardly, except for such things as are necessary for the purpose of acquiring the bounties of the Hereafter, and for attaining nearness to God. The zahid has been highly praised in Qur’anic verses and hadith; zuhd is considered as one of the traits of Divine prophets and saints.
Zuhd has different degrees, which are:
1. Abstinence from sins.
2. Abstinence from things which are "mushtabah," that is things which are not known with certainty to be forbidden, but which are suspect.
3. Abstinence from what is more than needed.
4. Abstinence from the pursuit of selfish desires.
5. Abstinence from everything except God;'i.e. confining one's attention to the Creator, being content with the minimum needed to meet one's physical needs, and giving away the rest in the way of God.
People practise zuhd for three different reasons:
1. In order to escape the Hellfire. This kind of zuhd is called "zuhd al-Kha'ifin," or the "abstinence of the fearful."
2. In order to gain God's good pleasure and to attain the joys of paradise. This kind of zuhd is called "zuhd al-rajin" or the "abstinence of the hopeful."
3. For obtaining Divine communion. This is the highest aim and the most worthy form of zuhd, practised neither out of fear of hell nor desire for the pleasures of paradise.
It means being in possession of life's necessities and it has many degrees, at times leading, to great amount of wealth and hoarding of riches. The opposite of it is poverty and neediness, which means lack of life's necessities.
Both affluence and poverty may either uplift man's character or destroy him.
If affluence is acquired through legitimate means, and the surplus wealth above his needs is spent for the sake of God and in the service of His creatures, it is considered as one of the virtues. If, however, it has been obtained through illegitimate means, through injustice and exploitation, and the affluent person is heedless of the needs of the deprived and the destitute, it will lead to his certain destruction. The Qur’an says:
No indeed; surely man waxes insolent, if he considers himself affluent. (96:6-7)
In the same way, poverty too, if accompanied by forbearance, resignation, and contentment leads man to spiritual edification; otherwise, it will also lead him to destruction. Thus, if we see that in Qur’anic verses and traditions sometimes affluence and poverty are acclaimed and condemned at other times, it is because if these states are accompanied by proper conditions they are desirable, otherwise undesirable and abominable.
Greed is a condition which makes man dissatisfied with whatever he possesses and makes him yearn for yet more. Greed is one of the worst of destructive vices, and is not limited to worldly possession, but also includes indulgence in food, sex and other things
The Prophet (S) said:
يشيب ابن آدم ونشب فيه خصلتان: الحرص, وطول الأمل.
As man grows in age, two of his characteristics become young: greed, and far fetched hopes.
Imam Abu Ja'far al-Baqir has said:
مثل الحريص على الدنيا كمثل دودة القز, كلما ازدادت على نفسها لفا كان أبعد لها من الخروج, حتى تموت غما.
The greedy man in his love of the world is like the silk-worm: the more it wraps itself in its cocoon the less chance it has of escaping from it, until finally it dies of grief.
The opposite of greed is the virtue of contentment, which enables man to control his desires and to be content with having the necessities of life. One who has this virtue always lives honourably and respectably, as a free man; he is immune from the vices of affluence in this world and the consequent punishment in the Hereafter.
In order to free oneself from the vice of greed one must meditate on its evil and harmful consequences and realize that greed is a characteristic of animals, who recognize no restrictions for gratification of their sensual desires, and use all means to attain it. It is thus necessary for the individual to free himself from this vice and bring his rebellious self under control.
Caused by the love of the world, avarice is another type of moral vice, and is defined as having one's eye on the possessions of others. The opposite of this vice is being independent of others and indifferent to what is in their hands. There are numerous traditions in praise of being independent of others and in condemnation of avarice. Here we shall quote two traditions in praise of being self-sufficient, which also condemn avarice. Imam al-Baqir has said:
بئس العبد عبد له طمع يقوده, وبئس العبد عبد له رغبة تذله.
What an evil creature is he who is led by his avarice. What an evil creature is he whose desire earns him ignominy.
Imam `Ali (A) says:
إستغن عمن شئت تكن تظيره، وارغب الى من شئت تكن أسيره، واحسن الى من شئت تكن أميره.
Whomever you are able to do without, you will be able to become his peer. Whomever you are fond of, you will become his captive. Whomever you are generous to, you will be able to become his master.
Miserliness is defined as being parsimonious where one should be generous, just as prodigality, which is its opposite, is defined as being lavish where one should practise frugality. The middle path between these two extremes is sakhd'; this is, being generous when generosity is called for. The Qur’an, describing the characteristics of the believers, who are also called `ibad al-Rahman"or "the slaves of the All-merciful," says:
...who, when they expend, are neither prodigal nor parsimonious, but between that is a just stand. (25:67)
Whereas miserliness (bukhl) is caused by the love of the world, generosity (sakha') is a consequence of zuhd. There are numerous verses and traditions in praise and condemnation of each of these qualities, which we shall leave unmentioned for brevity's sake. The highest degree of generosity is sacrifice, i.e. readiness to give to others what one needs oneself. Describing the believers the Qur’an says:
....and preferring others above themselves though poverty be their lot... (59:9)
In order to cure oneself of the disease of miserliness, it is necessary to pay attention to the Qur’anic verses and traditions in which this vice is condemned, and to meditate about its harmful results. If that proves ineffective, one must force oneself to be generous and liberal, even if such generosity be completely artificial; and this must be continued until generosity becomes one's second nature.
Generosity is necessary when carrying out such obligatory duties (wajibat) as paying khums and zakat, providing for one's wife and children, incurring expenditures for hajj (pilgrimage) and so on. It is also necessary in carrying out the recommended duties (mustahabbat), such as helping the poor, giving presents, giving parties in order to create or solidify ties of friendship or kinship, giving loans, giving more time to debtors in financial hardship, providing clothes and housing for the needy, spending what is necessary to safeguard one's honour or to alleviate injustice, and contributing to expenditures for such public facilities as mosques, bridges, etc.
This vice consists of amassing wealth in an illegitimate manner without caring to avoid haram and forbidden means of earning. This vice is caused by greed and the love of the world, and results in moral deterioration and the loss of human dignity. Several verses of the Holy Qur’an and many traditions severely warn about approaching haram means of income and remind of the dire consequences of it.
It must be kept in mind that wealth is of three kinds:
1. That which is purely halal (legitimately acquired).
2. That which is totally haram (illegitimately earned).
3. That which is mixed up of both haram and halal earnings.
What is halal is usable and what is either haram or of doubtful origin (mushtabah) must be avoided. Haram things are of many kinds, such as pork or dog's flesh, alcoholic drinks, all those things whose consumption may harm the body, anything gained through force, injustice, or theft, earnings made through unlawful practices, such as cheating in weight or hours of work, hoarding, bribery, usury, and all other illegitimate means which have been described in detail in the books on Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence).
The opposite of earning through haram means is abstinence from all forms of haram practices (wara` an al-haram). This virtue can gradually become a habit in the individual through the exercise of self restraint, so that he will ultimately be able to abstain from even those things which are mushtabah (i.e. of doubtful legitimacy). A prophetic tradition says:
من اكل الحلال اربعين يوما, نور الله قلبه, واجرى ينابيع الحكمة من قلبه على لسانه.
Whoever lives on halal earnings for forty days, God shall enlighten his heart and cause springs of wisdom to emanate from his heart flowing to his tongue.
Treachery is another type of the vices belonging to the Power of Passion. Treachery may occur in regard to money or as a violation of trust. It may occur in regard to honour, power, or position. The opposite of treachery is trustworthiness ('amanah), which also applies to all things mentioned about treachery; that is, one's property and possessions, which are Divine trusts; one's family, one's position, the authority and power one wields.
One must always remember that all of the things mentioned are blessings of God, accompanied by specific responsibilities, violation of which amounts to treachery. The wise Luqman has been quoted as saying:
ما بلغت الى ما بلغت اليه من الحكمة, إلا بصدق الحديث وأداء الأمانة.
I did not attain my station of wisdom except through truthfulness and fulfillment of trust.
These include such vicious practices as adultery, fornication, sodomy, intoxication, and all other forms of extravagance-all of which arise out of the Power of Passion, and drag man down into a beastly mode of life. There are numerous Qur’anic verses, traditions and narratives in condemnation of this sort of behaviour, mentioning of which is unnecessary since they are widely known.
This vice consists of discussing unlawful and haram actions, relishing such talk, and exchanging obscene jokes and stories not befitting human dignity and station. Since the haram and obscene is of many kinds, delving in them can also be classified variously.
In order to be freed of this vice, one must control and limit his talk, and speak only of such matters as would please God. The Holy Qur’an quotes the inmates of hell as saying:
And we used to plunge [in vain talk] with the plungers. (74:45)
And in another verse, it warns against organizing parties for such purposes:
...do not sit with them [who disbelieve and mock] until they plunge in some other talk ....(4:140)
One of the many forms this vice takes is delving in futile and frivolous matters-discussions which are of no benefit whatsoever either in this world or the next. Moreover, such talk involves waste of one's time and is an obstacle to useful contemplation and thought. This is why the virtue of silence has been upheld in opposition to this vice. And what is meant by `silence' here is not that one should be permanently taciturn, but rather that one should protect his tongue and ears from useless and nonsensical talk. In other words, one should be careful in speech, saying only those things that are beneficial to both our worldly existence and our Hereafter. The wise have said: "Two things can destroy a man: too much wealth and garrulousness. "The Prophet (S) said:
طوبى لمن أمسك الفضل من لسانه, وانفق الفضل من ماله.
Blessed is he who is frugal in speech and generous with regard to his possessions.
This last section of the book deals with vices relating to combinations of any two of the Powers, Intellect, Anger, and Passion, or all three of them, and the methods of treating them. There are thirty-one of such vices. This discussion, which deals with a large number of vices and virtues and which contributes to the subject matter of most books on ethics, covers half of the total length of the Jami` al-Sa`adat. In order to keep ourselves within limits appropriate to this summary, we shall confine ourselves to a brief discussion of the points raised in this section of the book.
Hasad consists of a desire to see someone's advantage or blessing taken away from him. If one simply aspires to have the same advantage as someone else, this would be ghibtah (envy), and if one has the desire to see someone continue enjoying an advantage or a blessing, which he deserves, this would be nasihah. That which is a vice amongst all these states, is hasad, which makes man deserve chastisement both in this world and the next. The jealous person knows no peace, and is always burning in the fire of jealousy. Moreover his jealousy destroys the value of all of his good works, as mentioned in a prophetic tradition:
الحسد يأكل الحسنات, لما تأكل النار الحطب.
Jealousy consumes virtues as fire consumes wood.
However, both ghibtah and nasihah are virtues, which must be nourished by cleansing the soul from the vice of hasad. The fatal disease of hasad may proceed either from the Power of Passion or the Power of Anger, or both of them, depending on what motivates it. Thus, in order to cure it, we must concentrate our attention on these two Powers, and what we have already said about various diseases associated with these Powers also applies to the disease of jealousy.
What can best help the individual to cure himself of this disease is to contemplate the negative psychological and spiritual effects of jealousy, which affect only the jealous person himself, not him who is the object of jealousy. Moreover, the jealous individual should try to create within himself the virtue of nasihah (wishing the welfare of others), which is the opposite of jealousy. At the beginning, it may be necessary for him to impose upon himself the attitude necessitated by this virtue, notwithstanding his inner inclination to the contrary, until jealousy is overcome and nasthah becomes an established trait of his character.
This kind of behaviour is usually caused by jealousy and enmity, although it may also be rooted in greed (hasad), avarice (tama'), pride (takabbur), etc. Thus, its source is either the Power of Anger or the Power of Passion, or both. In any case, harassment and. insulting of other Muslims is a major sin, and has been repeatedly condemned both in Qur’anic verses and traditions:
And those who hurt believing men and believing women, without that they have earned it, they bear the guilt of slander and manifest sin. (33:58)
And in a tradition attributed to the Prophet (S) we read:
من آذى مؤمنا فقد آذاني, ومن آذاني فقد آذى الله, ومن آذى الله فهو ملعون في التوراة والإنجيل والزبور والفرقان.
Whoever hurts a believer, hurts me; whoever hurts me, hurts God: and whoever hurts God is the accursed of Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms, and the Qur’an. (from Jami' al-akhbar)
On the other hand, stopping someone from harassing and insulting others is a worthy act praised in several traditions, of which the following prophetic hadith is an example.
من زحزح عن طريق المسلمين شيئا يؤذيهم, كتب الله له به حسنة ومن كتب له عنده حسنة أدخله الله بها الجنة.
Whoever removes an annoying hurdle from the path of Muslims, God shall write for him a virtue, whose reward is Paradise.1
This kind of behaviour is a branch of the above-mentioned vice, and is caused by either anger, ill-temperedness, or avarice. Its opposite is making others happy and removing their cause of sorrow or anxiety. There are numerous traditions in praise of this virtue, such as the following from the Prophet (S):
ان احب الأعمال إلى الله عز وجل إدخال السرور على المؤمنين.
Indeed the most beloved action near God, the Almighty, is to make the believers happy.
Being indifferent to the affairs of Muslims is a moral vice caused by lethargy, spiritual weakness, or miserliness. This vice is condemned in numerous traditions, an example of which is the following wellknown statement of the Prophet (S):
من أصبح لا يهتم بأمور المسلمين فليس منهم ومن سمع رجلا ينادي يا للمسلمين فلم يجبه فليس بمسلم.
He who wakes up without any concern for the affairs of Muslims, is not a Muslim; and he who hears the cry, `O Muslims!' without responding is not a Muslim.
On the contrary, to meet the needs of the Muslims and to solve their problems is considered as one of the noblest forms of worship. The Prophet is reported to have said:
من مشى في حاجة أخيه ساعة من ليل أو نهار, قضاها أو لم يقضها, كان خيرا له من اعتكاف شهرين.
An hour covered on foot, at night or during day, in the effort to help one's brother meet his need, is better than two months of i`tikaf (spiritual retirement), regardless of whether or not one succeeds in one's effort.
Failure to carry out the duty of al- amr bil-ma`ruf wal-nahy `an il munkar is an unforgivable sin caused either by moral weakness or lack of attention to one's religious duties, and results in the spread of immorality, corruption, injustice, and other forms of indecency throughout society.
"Commanding others to do their Divine duties and forbidding them from committing illegitimate deeds" is an obligatory duty of every Muslim, and has stages and conditions which have been explained in detail in books dealing with Islamic fiqh.
Since what we are concerned with here are the individual's duties with regard to his relationship with others, this brief mention of this duty is sufficient.
This vice is caused either by hostility, vengefulness, jealousy, or miserliness, and, therefore, it belongs either to the Power of Passion, or the Power of Anger. It has been condemned in numerous traditions.
The opposite of this vice is the virtue of sociability, hospitality and friendliness, which is conductive to expansion of warm, brotherly relations throughout the community. This virtue is highly recommended by Islam.
This vice is a branch of unsociableness, but is far uglier and more harmful. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of maintaining close cordial family ties. A large number of traditions which can be found in the books on hadith deal with this subject.
This is the worst form that the vice of breaking off ties with one's family can take, and according to severely worded traditions, it is the cause of severe chastisement both in this world and the next. As opposed to this, kind and loving behaviour towards one's family is considered to be one of the highest of human virtues.
It is reported that Imam al-Sadiq (A) was asked: "What action has the greatest value before God?" And he reportedly answered: "Prayer at the very beginning of its appointed time, kindness to one's parents, and jihad in the way of God." This mention of kindness to parents by the side of prayer and jihad, which are two of the most important pillars of Islam, clearly demonstrates its importance.
Here it is also necessary to emphasize one's duties to neighbours and the neighbours' rights, since it also belongs to the category of interpersonal relations briefly discussed above, and there are many traditions condemning harassment of one's neighbours and undesirable behaviour towards them.
This vice is caused either by jealousy or hostility, and leads to the spread of corruption, animosity, and destruction of good relations between the people. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of covering up the defects and sins of others. This virtue has immeasurable merit, and here we shall mention one verse and a hadith in this regard, although there are a large number of traditions dealing with this subject:
Those who love that indecency should be spread abroad among the believers theirs will be a painful chastisement in the present world and the world to come ....(24:19)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
من ستر على مسلم ستره الله في الدنيا والآخرة.
He who covers up [the faults of] a Muslim, God shall cover up his faults in this world and the next.
Disclosing other people's secrets leads to social discord and at times to animosity. Therefore, it is considered a vice and has been condemned in a large number of traditions. This vice may take various forms, one of which is to recount to someone the derogatory remarks made about him by another individual, thus creating discord and hostility between them.
Another form is to recount to someone in power and authority something that another may have said or done against him, thus inciting him to the detriment of the victim. In general, the vice of creating conflict and discord among people and stirring up hostility between individuals can take various forms, and disclosing people's secrets is one of its forms.
The opposite of this vice is the virtue of working to create good feeling, harmony, and love amongst people, which is a quality of great value. In opposition to the vice of revealing other people's secrets is the virtue of guarding their secrets and concealing them.
In any case, all the various forms of 'ifsad bayn al-nas (corrupting mutual relations between people) are considered sins and condemned in many Qur’anic verses and traditions.
This vice consists of attributing the misfortunes befalling someone to his unsavoury acts, delighting in his misfortunes, and blaming him for his misfortune. This vice is usually caused by jealousy or the Power of Passion.
Shamatah has been severely condemned in a large number of traditions, and it has been said that, firstly, shamatah causes the culprit who engages in it to fall victim to the same misfortunes he so delights in when they befall others; secondly, his shamatah hurts the feelings of his brother in faith, and is therefore a cause for Divine punishment; thirdly, the fact that a misfortune has befallen someone does not mean that he has committed an evil act; it may be a Divine test which may occur even in case of those closest to God.
Taunting (tan) means saying something sarcastic with a derogatory aim, and disputatiousness mujadalah refers to engaging in futile disputes without really wanting to discover the truth. These two traits are considered moral vices, and lead to misunderstanding and bad feeling amongst friends. In opposition to those vices is the virtue of upright speech that aims at discovery of the truth through polite, sincere, and friendly discussion.
This vice has the same harmful effects as taunting behaviour and disputatious attitude.
Joking must also be avoided as a general rule, because it may cause bad feeling and hostility in some people. However, it should be kept in mind that what is bad is jesting in its extreme form; otherwise the kind of humour which delights the soul and lightens the mind without resorting to lying and slander, and without discomfiting others, is permissible.
Backbiting consists of saying something about an individual that he would not like. Backbiting is one of the major sins, about which much has been written, and which has been condemned in a large number of traditions and Qur’anic verses. A detailed discussion of its limits, characteristics and exceptions is undertaken in the book.
However, in order to remain within the limits set by the brief nature of our summary, we abstain from this elaborate discussion.
What is worse than backbiting (ghibah) is slander (buhtan), that is, false accusation. The opposite of backbiting is praising others, and the opposite of slander-which consists of falsehoods-honest mentioning of the actual good qualities of an individual.
Lying is a shameful vice and a great sin, which leads to personal and social corruption. There are a large number of traditions and Qur’anic verses regarding the evil of lying, and many works have been written to condemn it. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of truthfulness (sidq). Truthfulness is one of the most praiseworthy qualities of a human being and sidq is a word that recurs a great number of times in the Holy Qur’an.
Simulation means doing a good deed for the sake of ostentation rather than for the sake of God. It is a great sin, and causes spiritual deterioration and death. And the Qur’an says:
So woe to those that pray and are heedless of their prayers, to those who would be seen [at worship], yet refuse charity. (107:4-7)
In another verse we read:
...showing off to the people and not remembering God save a little. (4:142)
Here is a prophetic tradition about the vice of riya':
إن اخوف ما أخاف عليكم الشرك الأصغر, قالوا: وما الشرك الأصغر؟ قال: ((الرياء))
يقول الله عز وجل يوم القيامة للمرائين إذا جازى العباد باعمالهم: اذهبوا إلى الذين كنتم تراؤن في الدنيا ، فانظروا هل تجدون عندهم الجزاء.
[The Prophet (S) said:] "The main thing that I fear concerning you is `minor idolatry' (shirk)". They asked "What is `minor idolatry'?" He answered: "Simulation! On the Day of Judgement, when Allah the Almighty is examining the past deeds of His creatures, He shall say to the simulators, "Go to those to whom you showed off during your lives in the world and ask them for your reward."
There are different kinds of riya': riya' in worship, whatever form it may take, is always reprobate; riya' in other matters, which is sometimes reprehensible, but at other times may be permissible (mubah) and even desirable.
For example, if one is openly generous with the intention of encouraging others to be generous also, his action is not only without reproach, but in fact is highly commendable. The significance of simulation in each case depends on the intentions of the individual involved.
The opposite of riya' is ikhlas (sincerity), which means doing everything for the sake of God alone, without expecting any reward from anyone for what he does. The station of ikhlas is one of the highest that a believer may attain, but may be reached through persistent exercise and perseverance.
Hypocrisy, that is feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not, in religion or in social relations, is one of the most destructive vices. Throughout the Holy Qur’an, hypocrites are condemned in the strongest of terms. Also, there are many traditions in condemnation of this vice.
The opposite of hypocrisy is being the same in one's external appearance and inward self, or preferably, being better inwardly than what one appears to be. This latter trait is a characteristic of the mu'minun (true believers) and those who are close to God (awliya' Allah).
Pride consists of conceit based on selfish desires and fancies, and it may be in regard to the affairs of this world or that of the next. One may become proud of one's worship, or one's sons, wealth, position and power, or something else. All of these may lead to pride, and consequently to the spiritual and moral fall of man. And thus we see
that the Holy Qur’an warns man against all forms of pride, which is a kind of illusion and self-deception:
...Let not the life of the world beguile you, nor let the Deceiver (Devil) deceive you in regard to God. (31:33)
People from all walks of life may fall prey to the vice of pride. They may be believers or infidels, scholars, pious people, mystics, and so on, and each of them may be proud of some particular thing. Thus we see that pride can take numerous forms. Pride may be caused by the Power of Intellect, the Power of Passion, the Power of Anger, or all three of them together.
The opposite of pride-which as mentioned is a kind of self deception-is knowledge, wisdom, awareness, and zuhd; because the more a man is aware of reality the less he is likely to fall prey to pride. The following tradition of Imam al-Sadiq (A) suggests the true remedy to the vice of pride:
واعلم أنك لن تخرج من ظلمات الغرور والتمني إلا بصدق الانابة إلى الله والاخبات له ومعرفة عيوب أحوالك من حيث لا توافق العقل والعلم ولا يحتمله الدين والشريعة وسنن القدوة وأئمة الهدى وإن كنت راضيا بما أنت فيه فما أحد أشقى بعلمك منك وأضيع عمرا, فأورثت حسرة يوم القيامة.
Know that you shall not be freed from the darkness of pride and desire unless you truly return to God in humility and penitence, and become aware of your faults and shortcomings-that is, those things which do not agree with reason and intelligence, and are not upheld by religion, Divine Law, and the tradition of the leaders of guidance.
And if you are satisfied with the condition you are in, be certain that no one is more callous and wicked in regard to your own acts and none more indifferent to the wastage of your years of life than yourself, and this attitude will ultimately leave you with the inheritance of bitter despair on the Day of Resurrection2
This vice is caused by the Power of Intellect and Passion, and is rooted in ignorance and the love of the world. It harms man by keeping him occupied with worldly matters and by retarding his spiritual development.
In order to cure oneself of this disease, one must constantly think about death and the Hereafter, with the knowledge that the world and worldly existence are transitory, and whatever one may acquire, one day one is forced to leave it behind and embrace death. He must keep alive this realization in his mind that the only useful things that he can carry across the abyss of death are his good works.
Rebelliousness here means disobeying God's commands. This vice belongs to the Power of Anger and Passion; its opposite is obedience and God-fearing (taqwa).
Belonging to the Powers of Anger and Passion, this vice consists of impudence and absence of shame in doing prohibited acts. Its opposite is modesty and shame (haya') which is a part of faith. Imam al-Sadiq (A) has said:
الحياء من الأيمان, و الأيمان في الجنة.
Modesty belongs to faith and faith is in paradise.
This is an evil state, and its opposite is repentance (tawbah). Repeating sins makes them seem ordinary, insignificant, everyday affairs. Therefore, before this happens to one, it is necessary for him to contemplate the vicious outcome of committing sins and examine their harms both in this world and the next. Such contemplation leads him to repent his sins and become genuinely sorry and ashamed that he ever committed them.
On the other hand, tawbah or repentance is return from the state of sinfulness. An even higher state of repentance is 'inabah, which is turning away from and giving up even permissible (mubah) things. In this higher state of repentance one seeks, in speech and act, only to please God, and remember God continuously. A necessary adjunct of tawbah is muhasabah and muraqabah, which means that a sincerely repentant person constantly takes an account of his deeds and gives thought to the moral quality of his actions. There is a tradition that says:
حاسبوا أنفسكم قبل ان تحاسبوا.
Take account of yourselves before you are taken to account.
Ghaflah means indifference and lack of attention; its opposite is attention and resoluteness. If what is neglected is our ultimate felicity and well-being, it is a vice. However, neglect and indifference to baseness and wickedness is a virtue. That is, care and attention given to evil and base things is a vice, while care and attention given to things having to do with our well-being and felicity is a virtue.
Both negligence and resoluteness, or care, are derived either from the Power of Passion or the Power of Anger. For example, if one is intent on getting married, the motivation for such a resolution is rooted in the Power of Passion, and is a virtue. If one resolves on defending oneself against some enemy, that resolution is rooted in the Power of Anger and is also a virtue.
This was a general description of negligence and care or resoluteness. However, as a term used in Qur’anic verses and traditions, negligence usually refers to indifference to the real aims of human existence and the agents of man's well-being and happiness in this world and the next; and its opposite, resoluteness, is also interpreted as clarity of will and purpose in the same sense. In this sense, therefore, negligence is always bad and resoluteness is always good. The Qur’an makes the following remark about the neglectful:
We have prepared for hell many jinn and men; they have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not they have ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray. Those-they are the neglectful. (7:179)
`Aversion' refers to a state of abhorrence for all things entailing hardship and labour. Its extreme form is maqt or `hatred.' The opposite of karahah is hubb or inclination. Hubb consits of the soul's liking for pleasant and beneficial things. The extreme form of hubb is ishq (love).
Aversion can be either good or bad; for example, if one is averse to jihad for the sake of God or to self-defense, this is highly undesirable and reprehensible. If, however, one has an aversion to ugly deeds and sins, it is good and highly desirable. The same rule applies to hubb, in that if one likes good and beneficial things, it is a desirable trait; but not so if one likes evil things.
The point worthy of notice is that hubb must essentially be directed only towards God and whatever is associated with the Divine. This is the highest form of hubb. It should be kept in mind that the Real Beloved is God, and it is only when man loses his Real Beloved that he mistakenly adopts other objects for his love, such as wife, children, wealth, status, or any other worldly thing.
If man were to find his True Beloved again, he would also achieve deliverance from his endless, aimless wanderings. In order to find the True Beloved, first we must know all the various forms of hubb. Basically hubb may be directed towards nine different things:
1. The human being's hubb for itself; which is one of the strongest forms of hubb.
2. The human being's hubb for things outside itself for the purpose of deriving physical pleasure from them, such as various kinds of foods, clothes, and other things which serve to satisfy physical needs and desires.
3. Man's hubb for another human being on account of the kindness or service that the other has rendered him.
4. Man's hubb for something on account of that thing's inherent goodness, such as beauty and righteousness.
5. Man's hubb for another individual without his being able to find any particular reason for it; not because that individual has beauty, wealth or power or something of the kind, but simply because of the existence of some invisible spiritual link between them.
6. Man's hubb for an individual who has come from a far-off place, or whom he has succeeded in meeting during a long journey.
7. Man's hubb for his colleagues and fellow professionals, such as the liking of a scholar for another scholar, or a merchant's for another merchant, and so on.
8. The hubb (affinity) of the effect for its cause, and vice versa.
9. The hubb of common effects of a single cause for one another; such as the love between members of a single family.
If we give some thought to this matter, we shall reach the conclusion that since God is Absolute Existence and all other things depend on Him, whatever other things man may love lack any independent existence of their own. In other words, since God is the Ultimate Reality, He is in fact the ultimate object of true love, and all other kinds of love directed towards things are figurative and imaginary. Thus it is that one must sublimate one's love and discover its real object; and this is not possible unless the following conditions appear in him:
1. He should have a fervent desire of meeting God (liqa' Allah); in other words, he should have no fear of death. His actions must be such as to reflect his assurance that he will meet God after his death.
2. He should give priority to God's wish over and above his own wishes and desires, since this is one of the requirements of love.
3. He should not forget God for even a moment, just as the lover is not forgetful of his beloved for even a second.
4. He must not be happy when he gains something, or sad when he loses something, since if all his attention is centered on God all other things would be unimportant for him.
5. He should be kind and loving towards God's creatures, since whoever loves God will certainly love His creatures also.
6. He should have fear of God at the same time that he loves Him, since these two states are not contradictory.
7. He should keep his love of God a secret.
Under such conditions God would also love His servant and fulfil His promise:
Say ( O Muhammad), `If you love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive your sins.'... (3:31)
Sakhat is being grieved at adversities and misfortunes which may befall one to the extent of complaining about them. The opposite of the vice of sakhat is the virtue of rida which is being satisfied and content with whatever God wills. Sakhat is a kind of karahah, and rida is a kind of hubb.
There are many traditions condemning sakhat and exhorting man to be patient in face of adversities and misfortunes; since they are for trials Divinely ordained. Basically, we must realize that life in this world is made up of suffering, difficulty, sickness and death, and without exception all men must undergo these things. So, we must teach ourselves to deal with these kinds of hardships. Such a preparedness is called rida, and its highest stage is complete contentment with Divine will. This is how the Qur’an describes such people:
...God is pleased with them and they with Him. That is the great triumph. (5:119)
And this is how it describes those who lack this quality:
...and they desire the life of the world and feel secure therein ....(10:7)
It should be noted that in books of ethics taslim (resignation) and rida (contentment) are usually used synonymously. This is because of their close meanings; because one who is content with whatever God wills for him is also completely resigned to God's will in all aspects of his life.
Huzn means grief and remorse for losing or failing to attain something cherished. Huzn, like sakhat, follows from karahah.
This vice consists of reliance on intermediate means, not God, for solution of one's problems. It is caused by insufficient faith, and originates from the Powers of Intellect and Passion. Reliance on intermediary means is a form of shirk (polytheism).
The opposite of this vice is tawakkul (trust) in God in all aspects of one's life, with the belief that God is the only effective force in the universe. This is the meaning of the famous dictum:
لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله.
There is no power or might except that [it is derived] from God.
And the Qur’an explicitly states:
...And whosoever puts his trust in God, He will suffice him .... (65:3)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
من انقطع إلى الله, كفاه الله كل مؤنة
Whosoever abandons hope in everything except God, He shall take care of his means of life.
It should be noted that the notion of tawakkul does not contradict the idea that man has to undertake endeavour in order to benefit from the bounties of God.
This is why Islam considers it obligatory for the individual to strive in order to make a living for his family, defend himself, and to fight for his rights. What is important is to consider all these intermediary means as subject to God's authority and power, without any independent role of their own.
This is the vice of being unthankful for Divine blessings, and its opposite is shukr (thankfulness). The virtue of shukr consists of the following elements:
1. Recognition of blessings and their origin, which is Divine Beneficence.
2. Being delighted on account of the blessings-not for their worldly worth or for having gained them, but for their value in bringing us closer to God.
3. Acting on this joy and delight by undertaking to satisfy the aim of the Giver, in word and in deed.
4. Praising the Bestower of the blessings.
5. To use the bounty given to us in a way which would please Him. By `blessings' are meant all those things which bring pleasure, benefit, and felicity, whether in this world or the next.
The Holy Qur’an says:
...If you are thankful 1 will give you more; but if you are thankless, My punishment is surely terrible. (14:7)
And in elaboration of the second part of the previous verse, the Qur’an says:
God has struck a similitude: A city that was secure and well content, its provision coming to it in abundance from every place, then it was unthankful for the blessings of God; so God let it taste the garment of hunger and fear, for the things that they were working. (16:112)
Jaza` leads to screaming, beating one's face, tearing clothes, and raising a clamour when faced with some misfortune or calamity. Jaza` is one of the vices of the Power of Anger. Its opposite is sabr (forbearance), which is one of the noblest virtues. In any case, jaza` is one of the vices which leads to man's fall, since it is essentially a complaint against God and rejection of His decrees.
Sabr, on the contrary, consists of preserving one's calm under all circumstances and doing one's duty in all conditions. Sabr has a different function in different situations; for example, sabr on the field of battle lies in perseverance in performing one's duty; in other words, it is a form of courage.
Sabr in the state of anger is self-control and synonymous with hilm (gentleness). Sabr in face of desires and lusts is `iffah (chastity). Sabr with respect to luxurious and opulent living is zuhd (abstinence). To sum up, sabr is a virtue related to all of the four Powers.
Sabr has been much praised in Islamic traditions, and the Holy Qur’an extols this virtue, its merits and its rewards in seventy different places. For example, it says:
...Yet give glad tidings to the steadfast who, when an affliction visits them, say: `Surely we belong to God and to Him we return;' upon those rest blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those-they are the truly guided. (2:155-157)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
الصبر من الإيمان بمنزلة الرأس من الجسد, ولا جسد لمن لا رأس له, ولا ايمان لمن لا صبر له.
The relationship of sabr to faith ('iman) is like that of the head to the body; just as the body cannot live without the head, so also faith cannot survive without sabr.
There are five kinds of sabr in relation to the Islamic Shari'ah: wajib (obligatory), haram (forbidden), mustahabb (desirable), makruh (reprehensible), and mubah (permitted). An example of `obligatory sabr' is abstinence from forbidden pleasures and desires. An example of `forbidden sabr' is patience in face of injustice such as oppression or cruelty. `Desirable sabr' is steadfastness in doing things which are desirable (mustahabb), while `reprehensible sabr' is related to toleration of situations which are reprehensible. Finally, mubah or permitted sabr is related to permitted things.
It follows, then, that sabr is not always a worthy trait, and its worth, or the lack of it, depends on its object. In general, the criterion by which the various kinds of sabr are judged is the same by which all other deeds and traits are judged, i.e. all those actions which facilitate man's spiritual development are considered worthy and laudable, while all other actions and traits are considered bad and harmful.
Fisq as a term means disobedience to the obligatory commands of Islamic Shari'ah or committal of acts forbidden by it; its opposite is ita'ah (obedience) to the commands of God, the Supreme.
A major part of the Divine commands consists of specific forms of worship which are considered either wajib or mustahabb in Islam. They are: taharah (purity), salat (prayer), du'a' (invocation), dhikr (remembrance of God), qira' ah (reciting the Holy Qur’an), sawm (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), ziyarat al-Nabi (pilgrimage to the Prophet's (S) tomb), jihad (fighting in the way of God), ada' al-ma'ruf (discharging the financial duties set down by Islamic Law, consisting of khums, zakat and sadaqah [voluntary alms-giving]).
At this point al-Naraqi-may God's mercy be upon him-centers his final discussion which is a treatment of the Divine commands just mentioned, their rationale,. and their beneficial role in the spiritual growth and development of man. Since this discussion is mostly concerned with fiqh, we shall forego recounting it here for brevity's sake.
In conclusion we hope that God grants us the strength to morally improve ourselves by putting into practice the advices set forth summarily in the preceding four sections. It is also to be hoped that a careful study and examination of this short discourse on Islamic ethics would motivate us to adhere to its principles, thus bringing joy and satisfaction to the spirit of its author. Amin.
Concluded; wal-hamdu lillah