SELF‑REFINEMENT

At this stage, the following three acts should be performed:

   A. Refinement of self from all sort of false beliefs, evil thoughts and superstitious.
   B. Refinement of self from vices and moral indecencies.
   C. Quitting all kind of sins and transgressions.

False beliefs and superstitions are ignorance and deviations resulting in self’s darkness and deviation from following the straight path of perfection and God’s Nearness because the believers in false beliefs never recognize the straight path of human perfection and wander aimlessly being confused in the darkest valleys of deviations and vices never reaching to their undefined final destination. How come a heart that is full of intense darkness can witness the ever shining sacred Divine Illumination?

Moral indecencies strengthen the animalistic habits gradually silencing the light within the celestial human soul. Such a deviated person will never succeed in accomplishing the most exalted human objective of reaching the nearness of the supreme source of beauty and absolwe perfection—Almighty God. Similarly, sinning and transgressions make the human dark and contaminated causing him further to deviate from the exalted path of human perfection and God’s Nearness. Naturally, such a person will never reach to the cherished goal; therefore, self‑refinement determines our final destination and should be considered as an extremely important matter. We must, therefore, first identify the moral indecencies and sins and then take remedial actions for cleansing and purifying our self from these impurities

In the first part, we do not have any problem because the physicians of the self or God’s assigned human specialists—the Prophet and the Infallible Imams—have thoroughly defined moral indecencies, and even have given the prescription for their treatment; have counted various kinds of sins and taught us how to relinquish them. We all recognize moral indecencies and understand their ugliness. We know that hypocrisy, arrogance, jealously, revenge, anger, slander, treason, egotism, malevolence, backbiting accusation, ill‑speaking, wrath, oppression, fear, stinginess, greed, fault‑finding, lying, love of the world, ambitiousness, deceit, cheating, suspicion, cruelty, snobbery, self‑weakness and other such habits are bad and undesirable. Apart from the fact that by nature we understand and realize their ugliness, hundreds of Qur’anic verses and traditions also confirm their ugliness and indecencies. The traditions in this field are extremely vast, rich and comprehensive that there does not exist the least shortage. Also, all forbidden acts and sins and their relevant punishments have been explained explicitly and comprehensively in the Holy Qur’an and traditions. As the identification of minor and major sins is concerned, we do not have any problem at all but, at the same time, it must be frankly admitted that we all are captive of Satan and imperious self and unfortunately do not find the grace for purification of self from sins and moral indecencies. This is our real problem for which a solution must be found. In my conception, there are two important factors relevant to the above problem; first, we do not understand our moral diseases and do not have the courage to admit this sickness within ourselves and, secondly, we regard them minor and are negligent about the severe painful and catastrophic consequences arising thereof, and because of this reason, we are not concerned for their treatment. These are the two factors responsible for our negligence towards self‑refinement. Therefore, these should be discussed in detail and the method of treatment should be discovered.


Negligence of the Disease

 

We probably understand the moral sicknesses and do appreciate their ugliness but only in others, not within ourselves. If we encounter impoliteness and moral indecencies in others, we are quick to observe them immediately. While it is quite possible that the same moral indecency or maybe worst than that might exist within ourselves but we do not pay the least attention and ignore it completely. For example, we may regard transgression of others’ rights as bad and might hate the transgressor but, at the same time, it is possible that we ourselves might be transgressor not realizing it at all. We do not consider our own act as transgression and, on the contrary, it is quite possible that we may see it as glorious or virtuous act before ourselves making it justified. Similar might be the case with other moral shameful deeds, and in this manner we never think about our own improvement because if a sick person does not consider himself sick naturally, he will never worry about his treatment. Since we do not consider ourselves as sick, we are not concerned about our treatments either, and this happens to be our biggest problem. Therefore, if we care about our happiness and prosperity, we must think for the remedy of this problem and by all possible means must endeavor to identity for internal psychological diseases.


Diagnosis of Self‑Sickness

It is appropriate to describe the ways and means which could be useful for identifying the self‑sickness.
Strengthening of Reason

The most exalted, celestial distinction of human beings and the most perfect parameter of his existence distinguishing him over all other creatures, which in the terminology of the Holy Qur’an and traditions has been called by different names such as spirit, self, heart and intelligence—all are manifestations of one single reality, but because of their different considerations, they have been given different names. But the fountainhead and origin of all thinking, rationalization and intelligence have been named reason.[51]

In the books of tradition, the reason (`aql) has been treated with special distinction, and special chapters have been assigned for its detailed explanation. Reason in traditions have been entitled as the most noble existence which is the source of all obligations, rewards and punishments. For example, Imam al‑Baqir (a.s) has said:

لمّا أن خَلقَ اللهُ العَقلَ اسْتَنطَقَهُ. قال له: أقبِل! فأقبل، ثمّ قال له: أدبِر! فأدبر، فقال: وعزّتي وجَلالي ما خَلقتُ خَلقاً أحبُّ إليَّ مِنك ولا أكْمَلتُكَ إلاّ فيمَنْ أُحبُّ، أمَا إنّي إيّاكَ آمُرُ وإيّاك أنْهي وإيّاك أُثيب وإيّاكَ أُعاقِبُ.

“When Almighty God created the reason, it was blessed with the power of speech. Then it was ordered by Him to come and it obeyed; then it was commanded by him to return and again it obeyed. Then Almighty God said, ‘By the oath of My Honor and Glory, I have not created any being that is superior and dearer than you. You will not be perfected in any one except the one who is dearer to Me. Be aware! Obedience and transgression of My Commands depend upon you, and you will receive the rewards and punishment accordingly.’” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 70)

The Holy Qur’an said:

كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ.

“Thus Allah expoundeth unto you His revelations so that ye may understand. 2:242”

أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا.

“Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel? 22:46”

إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ.

“Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah's sight are the deaf, the dumb, who have no sense. 8:22”

Those who possess ears, tongue and reason but do not utilize them in discovering the realities are introduced by Almighty God in the Holy Qur’an in the category of beasts and even worst because they have not used their minds. Almighty God said:

وَيَجْعَلُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ.

“It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no sense. 10:100”

Whatever goodness is possessed by a human being, it is due to his reason; he recognizes Almighty God by means of reason and worships him; accepts the Day of Resurrection and makes him readied for it; accepts the Prophets and obeys them; understands the good moral conduct and trains him accordingly; identities the vices and evils and avoids them. Accordingly, reason has been praised in the Holy Qur’an and traditions. Replying an asker, Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

العَقلُ ما عُبِدَ بهِ الرّحْمنُ واكْتُسبَ بهِ الجِنان.

“Reason is the means of worshiping the All-beneficent God and gaining Paradise.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 11)

مَن كانَ عاقلاً كانَ له دِينٌ، ومَن كان لهُ دينٌ دخَلَ الجَنَّةَ.

“Whoever is wise and intelligent religion, and whoever has religion will enter into Paradise.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 11)

Imam al‑Ka¨im said to Husham:

إنّ للهِ عَلى النّاسِ حُجّتَينِ؛ حُجّةٌ ظاهِرَةٌ وحُجّةٌ باطِنَةٌ. فأمّا الظّاهِرةُ فالرُّسُلُ والأنبِياءُ، وأمّا الباطِنَةُ فالعُقولُ.

“Almighty God has blessed the human beings with two proofs: One is apparent and the other one is hidden. The apparent proofs are the Messengers and Prophets; and the hidden proof is the reason.”  (Al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 16)

Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

أكْملُ النّاسِ عَقلاً أحْسَنُهم خُلُقاً.

“The most perfect human beings from the point of view of reason are those who are the best in moral conduct.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 23)

العَقلُ دَليلُ المُؤمِنِ.

“Reason is the guide of a believer.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 25)

Imam al‑Rida[52] (a.s) said:

صَديقُ كُلِّ امْرِئٍ عَقُلهُ وَعدُوُّه جَهلُه.

“Reason is the friend of man and ignorance is his enemy.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 11.)

Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

إعْجابُ المَرءِ بِنفْسِه دَليلٌ عَلى ضَعفِ عَقْلِه.

“Egotism is an indication of ill-mindedness.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 27)

Imam al‑Ka¨im[53] (a.s) said to Hasham:

مَن أرادَ الغِنى بِلا مَالٍ وَراحَةَ القَلبِ مِن الحَسَدِ والسَّلامَةَ في الدّينِ فَليَتَضَرَّعْ إلى اللهِ في مَسْألَتِه بأنْ يُكمِلَ عقْلَهُ. فَمَن عَقِلَ قَنَعَ بما يَكفِيهِ ومَن قَنَعَ بما يكْفِيهِ استَغْنى وَمَن لم يقْنَعْ بما يَكفِيه لم يُدرِكِ الغِنى أبداً.

“Whoever desires to become contented without possessing health and a tranquil heart free ftom jealousy and soundness in religion must cry before Almighty God and asking for perfection of his reason, for whoever becomes wise will be contented with the modest means of livelihood, and thus will become free from wants; and whoever is not contented with the modest means of livelihood will never become free from wants.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 18)

إنّ العُقلاءَ تَركوا فُضولَ الدّنيا، فَكيفَ الذّنوبُ! وَتَرْكُ الدُّنيا مِن الفَضْلِ، وَتَرْكُ الذّنوبِ مِن الفَرضِ.

“A wise person avoids even extra worldly affairs; what to say about sins! Quitting extra worldly affairs is recommended and avoiding of sins is mandatory.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 17)

إنّ العاقِلَ لا يَكذِبُ وإنْ كانَ فيهِ هَواهُ.

“A wise person never tells a lie even if his self is tempted to do so.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 19)

لا دِينَ لمَنْ لا مُرُؤةَ لهُ وَلا مُرؤةَ لمِن لا عَقْلَ لهُ. وإنّ أعْظَمَ النّاسِ قَدَراً الّذي لا يَرى الدُّنيا لِنفْسِه خَطراً. إما إنّ أبْدانَكُم لَيسَ لَها ثَمَنٌ إلاّ الجَنَّة فلا تَبيعوها بِغَيرها.

“Whoever lacks compassion does not have religion; whoever lacks wisdom does not have compassion; the most valuable person is he who does not consider the entire world worthy of his self. Know that your bodies could not be traded with anything except Paradise; therefore, be careful never to trade yourselves for a price other than Paradise.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 19)

From the above traditions, the preciousness of the reason, its important role in acquiring higher learning and sciences, accepting faith, worshipping God, recognizing and utilizing good morals and quitting sins and other vices could be understood well. It should be emphasized that simply the existence of reason is not sufficient as long as the accomplishment of the above objectives are concerned; rather it is the commissioning and efficient utilization of the faculty of reason within human body which produce the cherished results. Within human body, the presence of reason could be compared to a righteous judge or expert but he could only issue the correct judgement if the required safe and peaceful environment has been provided in which the verdict issued by him will be accepted. In other words, we may compare reason to an intelligent, competent, sincere and resourceful governor of a region, but he could succeed only if his governance is officially certified and backed up by the ruling administration. The reason could be like a wise, trusted and sincere adviser but only if it is being allowed to advice and if the attention is paid to its words.

If reason becomes the ruling authority within a human body and can control the whims and passions of the self, it will govern it in an excellent manner, achieve equilibrium between the supply and demands and arrange everything in a proper order so that they may achieve perfection by ascending towards Almighty God. But are the whims and passions of the self going to surrender themselves so easily and accept the governance of reason? No! They will not. On the contrary, they will engage themselves into sabotage and other destructive work against it until the reason is forced out of the field of confrontation. There is no choice except that the reason should be strengthened because the stronger it is the better it recognizes the internal enemies and will be able to subdue and control them easily. Therefore, it is our utmost duty to endeavor and struggle for strengthening the faculty of reason.


Thinking before Action

In order to strengthen the reason, we must seriously decide that before undertaking each action, its worldly and eternal results and ultimate consequences must be thoroughly reviewed. This should be practiced until it gradually becomes a habit. It is because of this consideration that Islam encourages us to think about the ultimate consequences of our actions. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

نَبِّهْ بالتّفَكُّرِ قَلبَكَ.

“By means of pondering deeply, make your heart aware and knowledgeable.” (al-Kafi, vol. 2, pp. 54.)

إنّ التّفَكُّرَ يَدعو إلى البِرِّ والعَمَلِ بِه.

“Pondering invites a person towards good works and actions.” (al-Kafi, vol. 2, pp. 55)

التّدبيرُ قَبلَ العَملِ يُؤمّنُكَ مِن النّدمِ.

“Thinking about the ultimate consequences before action saves against feeling sorry later on.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, pp. 338)

A man approached the Holy Prophet (a.s) and asked, “O Messenger of God! Please advise me.” The Holy Prophet (a.s) replied, “Will you follow my recommendation?” “Yes, I will,” replied the man. This question and answer was repeated three times. Then the Holy Prophet (a.s) said:

فَإنّي أوصِيكَ إذا هَمَمتَ بأمْرٍ فَتَدبَّرْ عاقِبَتَهُ، فإنْ يَكُنْ رُشداً فَأمْضِهْ، وإنْ يَكُنْ غيّاً فانْتَهِ عَنْهُ.

“My recommendation is that whenever you wanted to decide to undertake an action, you must first ponder well about its consequences. In case you found it good, then go ahead and do it; but in case you realized that it is not good, then do not do it.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, pp. 339)

Also, he said:

إنمّا أهْلَكَ النّاسَ العَجَلةُ، ولَو أنّ النّاسَ تَثَبَّتوا لم يَهْلِكْ أحَدٌ.

“People were ruined because of being hasty. If they had pondered about their actions, none would have been ruined.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, pp. 340)

الأناةُ مِن اللهِ والعَجَلةُ مِن الشَّيطانِ.

“Delay and thinking about the consequences are blessings from Almighty God; while haste is from Satan.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, pp. 340)

The following has been quoted from a tradition by the Infallible Imams (a.s).

التَّفَكُّرُ مِرآتُكَ: تُريكَ سَيّآتِكَ وَحَسناتِكَ.

“Pondering is like a mirror which shows your goodness and evilness.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, pp. 325)

Animals in their actions follow the passions of their instincts and do not have the power of thinking and reasoning, but since a human being possesses reason, he must ponder and review the consequences before undertaking any action. Nevertheless, man also possesses the same desires and animalistic passions; therefore, he immediately reacts and gets stimulated and absorbed as soon as he is faced with a desirable animal object of opposite sex from his own species. In this situation, animal passions do not allow resorting to thinking because once reason enters the scene, it will prevent the action taken in accordance with animalistic passions; therefore, if we become habitual of practicing thinking and rationalizing before undertaking each action, then in that case, we will be opening a gateway for the reason so that it could be present at the scene. Once it enters the scene, it immediately diagnoses our interest and benefits by subduing the animalistic passions, and will guide us towards the straight path of human perfection if it is strengthened and becomes ruler of the country (i.e. human body). It could diagnose the internal enemies and psychic diseases within his inner rself, and accordingly may take the preventive measure and necessary treatments for their cure. It is because of these considerations that thinking, pondering and reasoning have been assigned special emphasis in Qur’anic verses and traditions.


Being Pessimistic towards the Self

If a human being takes a correct and in‑depth review of his inner self and investigates his psychic characteristics, most probably he will be able to discover his psychic diseases because after all, one is more knowledgeable about his own self if compared to others. Almighty God has said:

بَلْ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ. وَلَوْ أَلْقَى مَعَاذِيرَهُ.

“Oh, but man is a telling witness against himself. Although he tender his excuses. 75:14‑15”

However, our problem is that while judging, we cannot be impartial because we are optimistic about our souls and consider ourselves, our characteristics, our actions and our opinions as faultless. The imperious self (nafs ammareh) makes the animalistic passions so charming, attractive and appealing before our eyes that the evil deeds committed by us appears as virtuous acts. The Holy Qur’an said:

أَفَمَنْ زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ فَرَآهُ حَسَنًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ.

“Is he, the evil of whose deeds is made fairseeming unto him so that he deemeth it good, (other than Satan's dupe)? Allah verily sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will. 35:8”

We thus do not realize our defects and faults so that we could take remedial measures. The solution of the problem is that we must continuously be pessimistic and suspicious about the self, presume or even be assured that we posses vices and plenty of diseases and with this reality, should investigate the self. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) has said:

إنَّ المُؤمِنَ لا يُصبِحُ وَلا يُمسِي إلاّ وَنَفْسُه ظنون عِندَه، فلا يَزال زارِياً عَليها ومُستَزيداً لها.

“A believer should be continuously pessimistic about his self, always criticize and demand better deeds from him.” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 176)

Praising the characteristics of the pious, he said:

فَهُم لأنفُسِهِم متّهِمون، ومِن أعْمالِهم مُشفِقون. إنْ زُكّيَ أحَدُهُم خافَ ممّا يَقولون وقال: أنا أعْلَمُ بنَفسي مِن غَيري وربّي أعْلمُ بِنَفسي منّي.

“Their souls before them are always blamed and criticized and they are always afraid of their deeds. If one of them is praised, he will be afraid of such praise saying, ‘I am more aware about my own self, and Almighty God is more knowledgeable as compared to me.” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 193)

One of the biggest obstacles which never permits us to discover our psychic diseases and to seek treatment is our being optimistic and having a favorable opinion about our souls. Therefore, if this obstacle could be removed and the self is reviewed honestly, it will be possible to diagnose the disease and seek its treatment accordingly.


Consulting Spiritual Physicians

In order to diagnose our hidden faults and defects, we may seek the assistance of a learned scholar of ethics who after having perfected his self has achieved a praiseworthy moral conduct. We must explain in detail the characteristics and internal behavior to him and should request him to remind us of our psychic faults and moral indecencies. A spiritual physician who is a psychiatrist as well as a scholar of ethics and whose belief and action coincides and is a true manifestation of higher moral excellence is extremely useful and influential for achieving self‑perfection and undertaking a spiritual journey towards Almighty God. If one succeeds in finding such a person, one must be thankful to Almighty God for such blessing.

Unfortunately, such persons are not available easily and are in shortage. Also, this point needs to be emphasized that the correct diagnosis of the self’s disease is extremely difficult; therefore, it is the patient’s duty to describe in details his deeds and internal characteristics without reservation before such a spiritual physician to enable him to diagnose his sickness correctly. If the patience does not cooperate concealing the fact, he will not obtain the appropriate results.


Consulting a Wise Friend

A good friend who is wise, intelligent and well-wisher is a great blessing of Almighty God and can be helpful in our efforts for achieving self‑refinement and identification of moral indecencies, subjected to his being competent to identify our good and bad characteristics. Also, he should be a confident and well-wisher because if he can not diagnose the good and bad characteristics he will not only be unable to help us but also regard our weaknesses as virtues and vise versa. In case he is not trusted and well-wisher, it is quite possible that for the continuation of friendship and not to hurt our sentiments, might conceal our faults and defects and even for flattering and appeasement will mislead us by branding our moral indecencies as our virtues.

If, luckily, we succeed in finding such an ideal friend, we must demand him to feel free in frankly pointing out to us all our defects and faults observed by him. We must appreciate his reminders, utilize them for improvement of the self and make him understand that his criticism is sincerely appreciated and that we are grateful and pleased. On the other hand, the person who has been trusted for this task is obliged to prove his honesty and sincerity through his practical actions. He must review the characteristics of his friend honestly without any reservations and let him know about his observations in a friendly and well-wishing manner in strict confidence. Also, pointing out defects and faults in the presence of others should be strictly prohibited. The aim should be to present out the facts and exaggeration should be strictly avoided because a believer is supposed to be like a mirror for another believer reflecting the latter’s beauty and ugliness the way they are without making any addition or omission.

Of course, such a friend who reminds a person of his faults and defects is rare; but if one luckily finds such an ideal friend, he indeed has received one of the greatest blessings. He must appreciate, be pleased for his comments, thank him and realize that a friend who criticizes for the sake of his improvement is one of the best and most valuable friends. If, instead, a person feels offended with his positive criticism, he will start thinking about taking revenge against him. If one reminds you that there are some poisonous scorpions upon your dress, will you feel offended with such a reminder and take revenge? In fact, you must be pleased and thank him. The undesirable characteristics are like scorpions and even worse because they sting and continuously strive their entries inside the soul. One who helps us against them has indeed done the greatest favor for us. Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

أَحَبُّ إخواني إليَّ مَن دَلَّني عَلى عُيوبي.

“One who points out my faults must be my best brother.” (Tuhaf al-`Uqul, pp. 385)
Learning from Other’s Faults

Most probably, a human being is unaware of his own defects, yet he sees them in others clearly and feels their ugliness very well. A proverb says, “They see a tiny piece of straw in the eyes of others and make it big like a mountain; but they cannot see the mountain of their own eyes.” Accordingly, one of the methods for identifying our psychic defects is to detect these faults within other people. Once a human being sees a default of others, instead of paying attention towards it or criticizing it, he should investigate his own inner self for being contaminated with the same faults. In case he finds it, he should try to heal it. In this manner, he can learn a lesson from the faults of other people in continuation of his efforts for achieving self‑refinement. The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:

السَّعيدُ مَن وُعظَ بِغَيرهِ.

“The ral fortunate is he who learns a lesson from others’ faults.” (Bihar al-Anwar, v. 71, pp. 324)


Learning from Criticism

Generally, friends decline to point out the defects of a human being but, opposite to that, his enemies are quite eager to criticize. Of course, they are not sincere in their criticism and are motivated with their feelings of jealousy, cruelty and revengefulness; yet, one might utilize their criticism to his best advantage. Being criticized by his enemies, a man has two options: firstly, he may take a defending position by taking the excuse that since the criticism is uttered by his enemies who are not his well-wishers, he will defend himself by every possible means, thus, silencing their voices. Such a person had not only corrected his defects but also he might contaminate himself by committing further mistakes; secondly, he may pay good attention to his enemy’s criticism, then with the aim of fact-finding may refer to his own self by reviewing him honestly. If he finds out that the enemy was right and his self was at fault, he will resort immediately to his own reform. In case it is feasible, he will thank his enemy whose criticism became a means of his self‑refinement; an enemy who is far better than those protecting friends who did not point out his defects and with their flattering and appeasement kept him in the darkness of ignorance.

However, after referring to his self and reviewing, if he finds out that the defect does not exist within his self, he must thank Almighty God and be careful in guarding his self, lest it becomes contaminated with this defect later on. In this manner, he could be benefited from the criticism of his enemies. Of course, this method of encounter will not be an obstacle as long as his utilization of other logical and legal means for dissipating the treacherous enemy plans are concerned.


Symptoms of Heart’s Sickness

One of the best methods for diagnosing a disease is to recognize its symptoms. The bodily sickness is generally identified by means of two indications—either feeling pain or the weakness of a particular part of the body in the discharge of its assigned function. Every part of the body is supposed to perform a special function, which in case of being fit performs it very well. Therefore, if a part of the body is not performing its assigned function well, this means that the part is sick. For example, the human eye in sound health under particular conditions sees the object and, therefore, if inspire of having suitable conditions does not see well, this indicates that it is sick. Similarly, other organs of the body like ears, tongue, hands, feet, heart, liver, kidney and others—each one of them is supposed to perform a particular function, which is performed by them in their being fit and their failure to perform their relevant functions indicate their sickness.

The same thing can be applied to the human self or heart which in accordance to his primordial nature is assigned to perform a special function. He has arrived from the Celestial Kingdom with knowledge, blessing, power, mercy, justice, love, enlightenment, illumination and other moral virtues. By nature, he is curious to discover the reasons and realities and desires God. Belief, attention, love, attachment and worship of Almighty God are all symptoms of soundness of self and heart. Likewise, attachment shown towards knowledge and wisdom, benevolence and service for God’s Creatures for sake of Almighty God, sacrifice, generosity, seeking justice and other moral virtues are also indicative of the soundness of the self. If a person discovers such characteristics within him, this means that he possesses a sound heart; but if he realizes that he does not pay attention to God, does not enjoy prayer, supplication and worshipping, does not like God, is ambitious for power, wealth, wife and children, prefers sexual and carnal pleasures over God’s consent, does not have any other goal in life except to safeguard his own interests, does not enjoy sacrifice, generosity, kindness and service towards others and does not feel upset when seeing other people inflicted with calamities, such a person must know that he is certainly sick, and if he is interested in his prosperity, he must resort to his reform and treatment as soon as possible.


Decision for Treatment

After the psychic sickness is diagnosed correctly, we become sure that we are sick and then its treatment must he started immediately. The most important thing which matters at this stage is to be able to take the firm decision. If we really want and seriously decide that we must refine ourselves from the moral indecencies, it can be done. But if we treat it as insignificant and do not decide, then getting cured and achieving sound health will become impossible. It is at this stage that Satan and imperious self enter into action and by means of playing dirty tricks prevent us from taking the right decision. We must be careful and should not become victims of their treacherous deceit.

It is possible that he may justify the self’s ugliness by pointing out: Do you not want to live with people? Others possess the same characteristics. Look at so-and-so! He possesses the same characteristics and even greater than yours. Do you alone want to be good? “If you do not want to be insulted then better join the crowd.”

We must take a decisive and firm stand against their treacherous deceits and must say: The argument that others are also contaminated has nothing do with me; their being contaminated does not give me an excuse or justification. In any case, this defect exists within me; if I die in this condition, I will be inflicted with eternal doom and, therefore, I must endeavor for treatment and attaining self‑refinement.

Sometimes, it is possible that Satan will enter the field with time killing and delaying tricks preventing us from taking the right decision at the right time. He might tell us, “This is true! This defect exists within you and must be cured; but it is not late. Why hurry up? Take it easy and let the other important works first be completed and then with complete case, you may engage yourself in self‑refinement. Right now! You are too young. This is the time for fun and enjoyment. Wait until you become old. Then you may repent. God does accept repentance anyway. Then you may get yourself busy in self-perfection.”

We must, therefore, be intelligent enough to understand that these are satanic tricks. Who knows whether we will be alive to reach old age? Perhaps, death arrives before old age and we will then leave this world contaminated with psychic diseases. In that case, what will be our destiny? Anyway, even if we live until that time, will Satan and the imperious self quit their treacherous filthy tricks and leave us free to pay attention towards self‑refinement? Even at that time, by means of some other tricks they will prevent us from taking the right decision. Therefore, why not right now? We should take the action to subdue the rebellious imperious‑self.

Sometimes, it is possible that the imperious self will tell us, “You have become addicted to sinning and quitting this addiction is impossible for you. You are a prisoner of the whims and passions of your self. How can you free yourself from this imprisonment? Your self has become totally darkened by means of sins and, therefore, you do not have any chance for return.” Yet, we must better understand that the aforementioned argument is nothing but another treacherous trick of the imperious self.

In response, we must answer, “Quitting a habit is not only impossible; it is quite possible. Of course, it is difficult but I must take action and endeavor for self‑refinement. If quitting sins and bad characteristics is really impossible, then all the moral instructions regarding their quitting reported from the Prophet (a.s) and the Infallible Imams (a.s) would not be issued. The path of repentance is never closed and is always open; therefore, we must decide and get involved in achieving self-refinement. It is also possible that the imperious self reflects the psychic diseases and moral indecencies as insignificant and unimportant by saying, “You are committed to the performance of mandatory obligations as well as such and such recommended ones. Certainly, you will receive the pardon of the All-merciful and All-beneficent God and will be sent to Paradise. The moral indecencies which you have are not so important to be concerned, and they will be compensated with your performance of recommended deeds (Mustahabbat).

It is important to be careful and to understand that such justifications are nothing but delusions of Satan and the imperious self. We must tell them, “Righteous deeds are accepted only from pious people, and achieving piety without self‑refinement is impossible. If the self is not cleansed thoroughly from evilness, it will never be a place for goodness. Unless Satan is forced out, the angels will never enter. If by means of committing sins and other carnal desires the heart becomes contaminated and dark, it will remain without illumination and radiance in the Next World.

Serious attention should always be paid about the dangerous consequences of the psychic diseases which have already been summarized earlier. Apart from that, by referring to the literature of moral ethics and traditions, the dangerous effects and eternal punishments of any psychic disuse must be studied thoroughly; through these means the treacherous Satanic plans must be resisted by taking a definite and firm decision for starting a program of self-refinement. If we succeed passing through the decision stage, we will become closer to the stage of action.


Control and Domination of Self

Human self is the origin and source of all actions, deeds, sayings, virtues and vices. If it is reformed, one’s success in both worlds is assured, but if it becomes contaminated, it will turn into a source of vices bringing catastrophe for this as well as the Next World. If man starts walking on the righteous path, he will even surpass God’s most favorite angels; but if he shows indifference towards the precious essence of Humanity and selects the animalistic way of life, he will become even lower then them falling into the darkest valleys of ignorance.

The ways and means for following either one of these two paths have been incorporated within human existence. He has reason and wisdom and in accordance with his primordial nature is inclined towards higher moral human characteristics, but at the same time, he is also a biological animal possessing animalistic passions, desires and energies. However, it is not so that all of these animalistic characteristics are evil and damaging responsible for his eventual doom; on the contrary, their existence is necessary for the continuation of his human life; if utilized properly they even might be helpful in his journey towards attaining self‑perfection and ascent towards Almighty God.

The problem however is that animalistic passions and desires do not limit or stop themselves at certain predetermined level and do not care about the interests of others. They offer neither explanation for human requirements nor care about other desires, and do not follow any other goal except to achieve a saturation point. The sexual passions strive to achieve their own absolute climax and pursue this single goal without pursuing any other objective. Other animalistic passions, such as pleasure of edible and drinks, ambitions for position, power and fame, attachment to wealth, property and other luxuries, power of revenge and wrath and all other characteristics which arise from them do not stop themselves at a certain desired limit; rather each one of them demands its own absolute domination. Hence, human self becomes a battlefield where various passions wage war against each other continuously. This battlefield is never silent until one of them gains victory taking self into its absolute imprisonment. Among them, reason possesses the most important position and power. By utilizing the religious guidelines might exert control over the passions and desires of self preventing their tendencies towards excessiveness or dissipation, may take control of the power center, maintain an equilibrium between desire and passions and in this manner might rescue self’s country from anarchy, disturbances and extremism, by guiding him towards the straight path of humanity and ascension towards Almighty God.

However, taking over the center of power by the reason is not an easy task because it is opposed by a powerful deceitful enemy called the imperious self that is not alone and is supported by many of his friends and partisans. Almighty God has said:

إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي.

“Lo! the (human) soul enjoineth unto evil, save that whereon my Lord hath mercy. Lo! my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. 12:53”

Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

العَقلُ وَالشّهوَةُ ضِدّانِ؛ ومُؤيّدُ العَقلِ العِلمُ، ومُؤيّدُ الشَّهوَةِ الهَوى. وَالنَّفسُ مُتَنازَعَةٌ  بَينَهما، فأيُّهُما قَهَرَ كانَت في جانِبِه.

“Reason and lust are opposite to each other; knowledge supports reason while the lust is supported by the passions and inordinate desires; self is a battlefield where a war is waged between reason and lust; whoever becomes victorious in this fight takes control of the self.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 1, pp. 96)

الشَّرُّ كامِنٌ في طَبيعَةِ كُلِّ أحَدٍ؛ فإن غَلَبَ صاحِبُهُ بَطنَ وإنْ لم يَغْلِبهُ ظَهَر.

“Evil and mischief are hidden inside every self; in case the master of self takes over his control, they remain hidden, but when the opposite happens, they make themselves manifested.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol, 1, pp. 105)

Therefore, reason is a good ruler but requires support and cooperation. If we support reason in this confrontation by attacking the forces of passions and lusts and handover the ruling of the body to reason, then we will accomplish a great victory. This is what have been desired by all the religious pioneers, Divine Messengers, guides, leaders and fact-finders throughout ages and it was to accomplish this objective that they had issued plenty of instructions to humankind. For instance, Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

إيّاكُم وَغَلبَةَ الشَّهَواتِ عَلى قُلوبِكُم، فإنَّ بِدايَتَها مَلَكةٌ ونِهايَتَها هَلَكةٌ.

“Be careful! Passions do not take over control of your hearts; because in the beginning they will take you as their possessions and will ruin you eventually.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 16)

مَنْ لم يمْلِكْ شَهوَتَهُ لم يمْلِكْ عَقْلَهُ.

“Whoever does not take possession of his passions and desires will not be the master of his reason. Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 2, pp. 702)

غَلَبةُ الشَّهوَةِ أعْظَمُ هُلْكٍ وَمِلْكُها أشْرَفُ ملْكٍ.

“The domination of passions is the worst kind of catastrophe, and triumph over them is one of the most precious possessions.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 2, pp. 507)

Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

مَن مَلَكَ نَفسَهُ إذا رَغِبَ وإذا رَهبَ وإذا اشتَهى وإذا غَضِب وإذا رَضِيَ حَرَّمَ اللهُ جَسدَهُ على النّارِ.

“Whoewr at times of seduction, fear, lust, wrath and consent is in control of his self, Almighty God will make Hellfire forbidden for his body.” (Wasa’il al-Shi`ah, vol. 6, pp. 123)

Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

غالِبوا أنفُسَكُم عَلى تَرْكِ المَعاصي يَسهلْ عَلَيكُم مَقادَتَها إلى الطّاعاتِ.

“Take control of your selves and do not allow them to indulge in sins so that it will be easier to guide them towards (acts of) worship.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 2, pp. 5‑8)

Domination over the self and controlling one’s whims and passions is a matter of utmost importance and prerequisite for achieving self‑refinement. Human self is like a mulish horse; if by means of hard training it becomes disciplined, have control over its reins in your hands and is mounted upon its back, then you may be benefited from its commissioning. But if it is not disciplined and wants to run away freely here and there without any control, then there is no doubt that you will have a crash. Of course, to discipline the rebellious self is an extremely difficult task although in the beginning, it will offer resistance against you, but if you persist patiently, it will be subdued eventually.

Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

إذا صَعبَ عَليكَ نَفسُكَ فاصْعَبْ لها تُذَلَّ، وخادِعْ نفسَكَ عَن نفسِكَ تَنْقَدْ لكَ.

“If self show stubbornness and does not surrender against you, you should deal harshly until it becomes tame. Act deceididly against it until it becomes obedient.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 1, pp. 319)

الشَّهَواتُ أعْلالٌ قاتِلاتٌ، أفضَلُ دَوائِها اقتِناءُ الصَّبرِ عَنها.

“Lusts and passions of self are most fatal diseases; and the best medicines are patience and perseverance against them.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 1, pp.72)

 

 

 

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[51] For God’s worship, there is nothing superior than the reason. A believer is not wise until and unless he possesses the following ten characteristics: (1) People should expect goodness from him; (2) they should feel inmune from his wickedness; (3) he must evaluate the good deeds of others as too much even if they are small; (4) he should regard his good deeds as insignificant even if they are too much; (5) he should never be tired of acquiring knowledge throughout his lifetime; (6) he should never be annoyed while people approach him demanding fulfillment of their wants; (7) he should prefer seclusion and obscurity more tham outwardly fame and popularity; (8) poverty in his sight should be more dearer than richness; (9) he must rely upon only one single power in the world; and (10) more important than all, while seeing others, he must say, ‘He is better and pious than I am,’ because people belong to two categories: Either better or worse than him. While encountering the better ones,  he must show humility and be courteous so that he can be associated with him. Regarding the latter who outwardly does not appear good, he must say, ‘May his innerself be better than mine or my he become ashamed from his devotion and my return towards Almighty God through repentance and thus might attain a prosperous end.’ If one pays need to these dimensions, he has indeed discovered his dignity and exaltedness and will be successful over his contemporaries. Nasayeh, Ayatullah Mishkini, pp. 301.

[52] Imam `Ali ibn Musa al‑Ri¤a (a.s) was born in al-Madinah on Thursday, 11th of Dhu’l‑Qa`dah, 148 A.H. He lived in a period when the `Abbasids were faced by increasing difficulties because of Shiite revolts. After al‑Ma’mum, the seventh `Abbasid caliph and a contemporary of Imam al‑Ri¤a (a.s), murdered his brother al-Amin and assumed office, he thought that he would solve the problems by naming Imam al-Ri¤a as his successor hoping to insure him in worldly affairs and turn the devotion of his followers away from him. After encouragement, urging and finally threats, the Imam accepted on condition that he be excused from dismissals, appointments and other involvement in matten of state. Making the most of this circumstance, the Imam extended guidance to the people, imparting priceless elucidations of Islamic culture and spiritual truths, which have survived in numbers roughly equal to those reaching us from Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) and in greater numbers than those of any other Imam. Finally after al‑Ma’mun realized his mistake, since Shiism began to spread even more rapidly, he is said to have poisoned the Imam who died at the age 55 in Mashhad, Khurasan, on Tuesday, 17th of ¯afar, 203 A.H.. He is buried in Mashhad, Iran.

[53] Imam Musa al‑Kazim (a.s), the seventh Imam and son of Imam Ja`far al‑¯adiq, was born in Abwa’, a place between Mecca and al-Madinah, on Sunday the 7th of Safar 128 A.H. He lived during the reigns of four `Abbasid rulers; namely, al‑Mansur, al-Hadi, al-Mahdi and Harun al-Rashid. Because of the sever oppression, the necessity of taqiyya (pious dissimulation) grew more stringent and since he was under close surveillance, he admitted only a few elect Shiites. Finally, he was martyred—poisoned on 25th of Rajab, 183 A.H. He is buried in al-Kazimiyyah, Iraq. In spite of the stringent need for caution and taqiyya, he enjoyed in promulgating the religious sciences and made many sayings available to the Shiites to the extent that he left more teachings on jurisprudence than any other Imam with the exceptions of Imam al‑Baqir (a.s) and Imam al‑¯adiq (a.s). [Tr]