Egotism ‑the Root of all Evils

Egotism ‑the Root of all Evils


Scholars of ethics have defined egotism as the mother of corrup­tion and the root of all vices and sins and in order to attain self‑refinement, one must seriously struggle against it. Initially, its meanings shall be explained and then the evil influences of this characteristic and confrontation methods against them shall be discussed. Meanwhile, it must be understood that each living existence by nature is an egotist and shows keen interest about his essence, characteris­tics, actions, effects and perfection. Therefore, egotism cannot be con­demned as absolutely undesirable since it requires further explana­tion. Earlier, it was pointed out that a human existence consists of two stages and possesses two selves—animal self and human self. The human self consists of a Celestial Spirit, (blown by Almighty God), descended from Heavenly Kingdom to become God’s Vicegerent upon earth. From this point of view, it belongs to the category of knowledge, life, power, blessing, benevolence, perfection, goodness and by nature aspires towards these ideals. If one recognizes himself and discovers the values incorporated therein, he will consider them as honorable and strive to achieve the nearnas of the Fountainhead of Absolute Perfection resulting in his revival of moral decencies, virtues and goodness. Considering the above, this type of egotism cannot be regarded as undesirable but as good and praiseworthy because this characteristic is not egotism; rather in reality it is God‑seeking. This matter has already been explained earlier and a detailed discussion will be presented later.

The second stage of human existence consists of his animal self, and in this stage he is exactly an animal possessing animalistic desires and passions. Although in order to remain alive in this world and to sustain a living, a human being is supposed to provide his animalistic means of living up to a moderate limit and up to this extent there does not exist any prohibition and reproach, but the most important and determining factor is that whether the body should be ruled by reason and celestial human spirit or by the imperious self and his animal self.

If reason and human self rule, the animal self and passions will be adjusted, optimized and all of them will be mobilized for journeying on the path of exaltedness and perfection leading towards God’s Nearness. In this case, human self which is the same existence attached to God assumes his authenticity, whereby the revival of moral excellence in conduct and God’s Nearness become the primary goal and taking care of one’s animalistic requirement will become a secondary aim. Therefore, egotism and love for self has not been condemned, yet praised.

But if the imperious self and animal self take over control of bod­ily affairs, reason and human self will be subdued and isolated in which case a man gradually takes distance from God and human values, falling ultimately into deep and dark valleys of ignorance. He forgets his human self (i.e. humanism) and recognizes in his place his unconscious­ self (animalism). These are the meanings of egotism which is called the mother of all evils and is therefore undesirable.

An egotist sees only his own animal self and nothing else. All his actions, efforts, talks and character revolves around the axis of satisfying his animalistic passions and desires. He practically considers himself as an animal and does not recognize any goal in life except meeting his animalistic requirements. In order to accomplish these base animalistic objectives considers himself as independent or renegade and justifies all his actions. His animal self is the only thing which he considers sacred and immutable.

He demands everything, including truth and justice, for his own sake which should back up his animalistic desires, and if they are not on his side, he does not need such justice, rather gives himself the right to wage combat against them. He even interprets and comments religious commands and obligations as he pleases assigning authenticity to his own opinions and thinking, whereby the religious laws and obligations are supposed to adopt themselves in accordance with his whims and passions.

Since an egotist is deprived of real human dignity, virtues and moral perfection; he keeps himself amused with whimsical, false and futile affairs such as seeking false publicity, ambitiousness, covetousness, snobbishness, eating, drinking and sexual pleasures and remains totally ignorant from God’s Remembrance and self‑perfection.

Because an egotist is infatuated and obedient to his imperious self, he does not have any other aim except satisfying the demands of his passions in the best possible manner; and in order to rout this animalistic objective, he is not ashamed of performing the most shameful deeds considering them as justified and permissible. He wants to accomplish his animalistic goals and in order to achieve them, he does not refrain from indulgence into lying, accusing, oppressing, breech of commitments, deception, treachery and any other acts of transgression. Therefore, egotism is the mother of all evils that makes all acts of abjectness justified and permissible or, in other worlds, it can be said that all acts of transgressions are in reality the by‑products of egotism which we manifested in different manners on different occasions. For example, oppression and trampling over the rights of others cannot be anything other than self‑centeredness. Likewise, lying, backbiting, ill-speaking, fault‑finding, jealousy and revenge are the vices of egotism which have been manifested in these manners. Thus, self‑centeredness is called the root of all transgressions.

Self‑centeredness consists of various degrees and stages the highest of which leads to the state of self‑adoration. If this ugly characteristic is not confronted strongly, it gradually becomes so intense whereby the imperious self becomes an object of worship and its commands must be obeyed absolutely making man submissive to his whims and passions to the extent of adoration. Almighty God has said about such a person in the Holy Qur’an:

أَرَأَيْتَ مَنْ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ أَفَأَنْتَ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِ وَكِيلًا.

“Hast thou seen him who chooseth for his god his own lust? Wouldst thou then be guardian over him? 25:43”

Does worship mean anything else except that a worshipper in front of his object of worship humbles and bows down being submissive to his commands absolutely without raising least objection? Similar is the case with an egotist person because he regards his self as object of worship and humbles and prostrates himself in front of it by obeying its commands without any question. Therefore, an egotist cannot be considered as Monotheist.

Worldliness—the Source of all Sins

In Islamic narrations and Heavenly verses, the world has been defined as a place of amusement and an object of arrogance which has been severely condemned; its attachment is not worthy of the lofty status of believers and, therefore, they should strictly refrain themselves from being attached to its adornments. Following are few examples. The Holy Qur’an has said:

وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ.

“The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. 3:185”

وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَلَلدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ.

“Naught is the life of the world save a pastime and a spot. Better far is the abode of the Hereafter for those who keep their duty (to Allah). Have ye then no sense? 6:32”

اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ.

“Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow, then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but matter of illusion. 57:20”

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

أمّا بَعدُ! فإنّي أُحَذّرُكُم الدُّنيا فإنَّها حُلْوَةٌ خَضرَةٌ حُفَّتْ بِالشَّهَواتِ وَتَحَبَّبَتْ بِالعاجِلَةِ وَراقَتْ بِالقَلِيلِ وَتَحَلَّتْ بالآمَالِ وَتَزَيَّنَتْ بِالغُرورِ؛ لا تَدُومُ حَبرَتُها وَلا تُؤْمَنُ فَجْعَتُها، غَرّارَةٌ ضَرّارَةٌ حائِلَةٌ زائِلَةٌ نَافِدَةٌ بائِدَةٌ أكَّالَةٌ غَوّالَةٌ.

“So now, certainly I warn you against this world for it is sweet and green, surrounded by lusts and liked for its immediate enjoyments. It excites wonder with small things and is ornamented with (false) hopes and decorated with deception. Its rejoicing does not last and its afflictions cannot be avoided. It is deceitful, hamfid, changing, perishable, exhaustible, liable to destruction eating away and destructive.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 111)

وَالدُّنيا دارُ مُنى، لها الفَناءُ وَلأهْلِها مِنها الجَلاءُ. وَهيَ حُلوَةٌ خَضْراءُ، وَقَدْ عَجلَتْ لِلطّالِبِ وَالتَبَسَتْ بِقَلْبِ النّاظِرِ، فَارْتَحِلوا عَنْها بِأحْسَن ما بِحَضْرَتِكُمْ مِنَ الزّادِ وَلا تَسْألُوا فِيها فَوقَ الكَفافِ وَلا تَطْلُبوا مِنها أكْثَرَ مِن البَلاغِ.

“The world is a place for which destruction is ordained and for its inhabitants departure from here is destined. It is sweet and green. It hastens towards its seeker and attaches to the heart of the viewer. So depart from here with the best of provision available with you and do not ask herein mere than what is enough and do not demandfrom it more than subsistence.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 45)

There are plenty of narrations[56] and verses in which the world has been reproached and people have been warned to refrain from being attached to its adornments. Especially, in the precious book of Nahj al‑Balaghah (the Path of Eloquence), the world and worldly have been reproached severely and it has been emphasized that people should not be attached to this perishable transient world and should pay more attention to the Hereafter. In this book, people have been divided into two groups: the worldly and those attached to the Hereafter. Each one of these groups follow their own special program. Almighty God has said in the Holy Qur’an:

وَمَنْ يُرِدْ ثَوَابَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَنْ يُرِدْ ثَوَابَ الْآخِرَةِ نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا.

“No soul can ever die except by Allah's leave and at a term appointed. Whoso desireth the reward of the world, We bestow on him thereof; and whoso desireth the reward of the Hereafter, We bestow on him thereof. We shall reward the thankful. 3:145”

الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا.

“Wealth and children are an ornament of the life of the world. But the good deeds which endure are better in thy Lord's sight for reward, and better in respect of hope. 18:46”

What is World?

Islam considers the world something as undesirable and it demands from its followers to practice asceticism. Here, it is appropriate to throw some light on the Islamic concept of this world and why it has been reproached. Does the world consist of worldly existence such as: earth, sun, moon, stars, animals, plants, trees, mines and human beings? Therefore, the life of this world can be defined as working, eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying and other related acts of living. Does Islam prevent from these things? Do earth, sky, animals, vegetables and trees are bad things that a human being should avoid? Does Islam prohibit earning a living, acquiring of knowledge, business and production and sexual relationship? Absolutely this is not the case, because all of the abovementioned things have been created by Almighty God, and in case they were bad, He would not have created them. Almighty God regards them as His Beautiful Bounties which should be conquered by human beings and utilized for their advantages. Wealth and property is not reproached; rather they are introduced in the Holy Qur’an as blessings:

إِنْ تَرَكَ خَيْرًا الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ.

“If he leaves wealth, that he bequeath unto parents and near relatives in kindness. 2:180”

Earning a genuine living by lawful means has not been reproached; rather it has been regarded as one of the best acts of worship. The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:

العِبادَةُ سَبعونَ جُزْءاً أفْضَلُها طَلبُ الحَلالِ.

“Worship consists of seventy parts the best of which is earning living through lawful means.” (al-Kafi, vol. 5, pp. 78)

Imam al‑Baqir (a.s) has said:

مَنْ طَلبَ الرِّزقَ في الدّنيا اسْتِعفافاً عَن النّاسِ وتَوسيعاً عَلى أهْلِه وَتَعطُّفاً عَلى جارِه لَقِيَ الله عزَّ وجلَّ يَومَ القِيامَةِ وَوجْهُهُ مِثل القَمرِ لَيلَةَ البَدْر.

“Whoever endeavors sincerely for earning a living (through lawful means) for being self‑sufficient in taking care of his expenditures, maintaining a reasonably comfortable standard of living for his family and showing benevolence to his neighbors will meet Almighty God in the Hereafter while his face will be shining like the full moon.” (al-Kafi, vol. 5, pp. 88­)

Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

الكادُّ عَلى عيالِهِ كانَ كَالمُجاهِدِ في سَبيلِ اللهِ.

“Whoever strives for earning a living for his family is tantamount to a warrior engaged in Holy War for the sake of God.” (al-Kafi, vol. 5, pp. 88)

The Islamic traditions emphasize the importance of work, farming, agriculture, trade and even marriage. The life styles of the Prophet and the Infallible Imams (a.s) indicate that they too have worked for earning a living. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) who is the leader of the pious made endeavors and worked hard for earning a living in his life. Then, what is really meant by this reproached world? In the opinion of some people, it is not the world which is reproached rather it is the attachment to the world which has been strictly condemned. The Holy Qur’an said:

زُيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ حُبُّ الشَّهَوَاتِ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ وَالْبَنِينَ وَالْقَنَاطِيرِ الْمُقَنْطَرَةِ مِنْ الذَّهَبِ وَالْفِضَّةِ وَالْخَيْلِ الْمُسَوَّمَةِ وَالْأَنْعَامِ وَالْحَرْثِ ذَلِكَ مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ حُسْنُ الْمَآبِ.

“Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring; and stored-up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), and cattle and land. That is comfort of the life of the world. Allah! With Him is a more excellent abode. 3:14”

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

إيّاكَ وَحُبَّ الدّنيا فإنّها أصْلُ كُلِّ خَطيئَة ومَعْدِنُ كُلِّ بَليَّةٍ.

“Be careful not to attach yourself to this (transient) world, because love of the world is the root of all sins and origin of all catastrophes.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 150)

Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

رَأسُ كُلِّ خَطيئَةٍ حُبُّ الدُّنيا.

“The attachment to the world is the basis of all sins.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 3, pp. 7)

From these traditions it could be inferred that what is condemned is the attachment to these worldly affairs and not the affairs in themselves. The question is now that whether absolute attachment and love for worldly affairs is condemned and accordingly, a man should not have any attachment to his wife, children, house, wealth and food? How could such a thing be expected? Because the attachment to these affairs is a natural thing for a human being; Almighty God has incorporated these attachments within his primordial nature and that is the way human beings have been created by Him. Is it possible for a man not to love his wife and children? Is it possible not to love clothing, delicious foods and other beautiful things of this world? If love of these things had been prohibited, God would not have created human being with these tendencies. A human being in order to keep himself alive requires thee things and accordingly he has been created in such a manner that he should feel a natural inclination towards these affairs. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

النّاسُ أبناءُ الدُّنيا، وَلا يُلامُ الرَّجُلُ عَلى حُبِّ أُمِّهِ.

“Men are the children of this world and they should not be blamed for loving their mother.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Qasar (Short Maxims) 33)

Traditions recommend that one must love and show affection towards his wife and children. The Holy Prophet and the Infallible Imams (a.s) showed affection towards their wives and children. Some of them liked food and showed interest in them. Therefore, sky, plants, trees, mines, animals and similar God’s Bounties are neither bad nor condemned. Similarly, wife, children, wealth, property and affection shown towards these things and life of this world are not condemned; rather in some traditions, the world has been praised. In reply to a person who has condemned the world, Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

إنَّ الدُّنيا دارُ صِدْقٍ لِمَن صَدقَها وَدارُ عافِيَةٍ لِمَن فَهِمَ عَنْها ودارُ غِنىً لِمن تَزَوَّدَ مِنْها وَدارُ مَوعِظَةٍ لِمَن اتَّعَظَ بِها. مَسجِدُ إحِبّاءِ اللهِ وَمُصَلّى مَلائِكَةِ اللهِ وَمهْبِطُ وَحيِ اللهِ وَمَتْجَرُ أوْلِياءِ اللهِ؛ اكتَسَبوا فيها الرّحْمَةَ وَرَبِحوا فِيها الجَنَّةَ.

“Verily, this world is a house of truth for those who look into it deeply and carefully, an abode of peace and rest for those who understand its ways and moods, and it is the best working ground for those who want to procure rewards for the Hereafter. It is a place of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for those who want to acquire them, a place of worship for the friends of God and for angels. It is the place where prophets receive revelations of the Lord. It is the place for virtuous people and saints to do good deeds and to be given rewards for the same. Only in this world could they trade with God’s favors and blessings and only while living here they could barter their good deeds, with His Blessings and rewards.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Short Maxims No. 130)

Imam al‑Baqir (a.s) said:

نِعْمَ العَونُ الدُّنيا عَلى الآخِرَةِ.

“The world is the best support for the Hereafter.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, pp. 127)

Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

لا خَيرَ في مَنْ لا يُحِبُّ جَمْعَ المالِ مِن حَلالٍ؛ يَكُفُّ بهِ وَجهَهُ وَيَقْضي بهِ دَينَهُ وَيصِلُ بهِ رَحِمَهُ.

“Anyone who does not like earning a living by lawful means to maintain his prestige, pay his obligations and take care of his relatives lacks any merit and goodness.” (al-Kafi, vol. 5, pp. 72)

What is the meaning of the condemnation of the world, love for it and attachment which is the roots of all evils? From the verses and traditions it could be inferred that what is condemed is the worldliness and becoming infatuated with it, not the creatures of the world, its life and the genuine liking of worldly affairs in themselves. Islam, demands people to recognize the world the way it is and then they should appraise its worth accordingly; they should also discover the exalted Divine Goal behind their own creation as well as the world and should move in that direction. If they acted in this manner, they belong to the Hereafter otherwise they belong to the worldly group.

World’s Reality

In order to explain this matter, we sould first discuss the reality and nature of world from Islamic point of view and then a conclusion could be reached. Islam believes in the existence of two worlds: the first is the same material world where we live and is called world. The other is where we will be transferred after death and is called Hereafter and the Next World.

Islam, believes that the life of a person does not terminate at his demise, rather he will be transferred after death to an eternal abode known as the Next World. Islam regards the world as perishable, transient and a temporary abode while considers the Hereafter as a permanent and eternal abode.

Man has not came to this world in order to live for a short while and finally die and be destroyed, rather he has come to achieve self-perfection through acquiring knowledge, good deeds and training and to live happily forever in his eternal abode in the Next World. Therefore, the world is like a farm for cultivation of fruits for the Hereafter, place for acquiring knowledge and a place for making arrangements for provisions of a journey. However, man for the sake of his survival and in order to live in this world has no other choice except to utilize Divine Bounties which have been created for his consumption. But the utilization of these Divine Bounties should be regarded as means and not an end in itself. The aim of creating human beings and world was not just to have comfortable luxurious life and to take the maximum advantage of the worldly pleasures; rather there was an exalted and superior goal behind it; that is the nourishment of the Essence of Humanity through attaining self‑perfection and ascending towards God’s Nearness. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

فإنَّ الدّنيا لَمْ تُخْلَقْ لَكُم دارَ مقَامٍ بَلْ خُلِقَت لَكُم مَجازاً لِتَتَزَوَّدوا مِنها الأعْمالَ إلى دارِ القَرارِ، فَكُونوا مِنها على أوْفازٍ وَقَرِّبوا الظُّهورَ لِلزّيال.

“Certainly, this world has not been made a place of permanent stay for you; rather it has been created as a pathway in order that you may take from it the provision of your (good) actions for the permanent house (in Paradise). Be ready for departure from here and keep close your mount for setting off.” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 123)

أيُّها النّاسُ! إنَّما الدُّنيا دارُ مَجازٍ والآخِرَةُ دارُ قَرارٍ، فَخُذوا مِن مَمَرِّكُم لِمَقَرِّكُم، وَلا تَهتِكُوا أسْتارَكُم عِندَ مَن يَعلَمُ أسْرارَكُمْ، وأخْرِجُوا مِن الدّنيا قُلوبَكُم مِنْ قَبلِ أنْ تَخْرُجَ مِنها أبْدانُكُمْ فَفِيها اخْتُبِرْتُم وَلِغَيرِها خُلِقْتُم. إنَّ المَرْءَ إذا هَلكَ قَال النّاسُ ما تَركَ؟ وَقالَتِ المَلائِكَةُ ما قَدَّمَ ؟ للهِ آباؤكُم فَقَدِّمُوا بَعضاٍ يَكُنْ لَكُم قَرضاً، وَلا تُخَلِّفوا كَلاّ فَيَكونَ عَلَيكُم كَلاّ.

“O people! Remenaber that this world is a thoroughfare, a road upon which people are passing night and day, and the Next World is the abode of permanent stay. While passing along this road, make provision for the next where you will reside forever. Do not go with a harden of sins and vices before the One Who knows everything about you. Remove vicious ambitions from your mind before death removes you from your surroundings. You are being tried in this world and are created to be given a permanent residence in the Next World. When a man dies, people ask what he has left behind as a legacy, and angels want to know what he has sent forward (good deeds and good words). May God have mercy upon you! Send something in advance to the place where you will have to follow; it may be a sort of a deposit with God to be repaid to you on your arrival. Do not leave all of your’s behind, it will be a drag upon you.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 203)

ألا وإنّ هذِهِ الدُّنيا الّتي أصْبَحْتُم تَتَمَنَّونَها وَتَرغَبونَ فِيها وأصْبَحَتْ تُغْضِبُكُم وَتُرضِيكُم لَيسَتْ بِدارِكم وَلا مَنْزِلِكُم الّذي خُلِقْتُم لهُ وَلا الّذي دُعِيتُم إلَيهِ. ألا وإنَّها لَيسَتْ بِباقِيةٍ لَكُم وَلا تَبقُونَ عَلَيها. وَهيَ وإنْ غَرَّتْكُم مِنْها فَقَدْ حَذَّرَتْكُم شَرَّها. فَدَعوا غُرورَها لِتَحْذِيرِها وَإطْماعِها لِتَخْويفِها وَسابِقُوا فِيها إلى الدّارِ الّتي دُعِيتُم إلَيها وَانصَرِفوا بِقُلوبِكُم عَنها.

“Remember, that this world which you covet so ardently and attempt to acquire so earnestly and which sometimes annoys you and sometimes pleases you so much is neither your home nor a permanent destination. You have not been created for it nor invited to it as your resting place. It shall neither remain with you for ever nor will you remain in it eternally. If it has enticed you with its charms, it has also warned and cautioned you of real dangers lurking in its folds. Take account of the warnings it has given you and do not be seduced or deceived by its allurements. These warnings should desist you from being too greedy or too covetous to possess it. Try to advance towards the place where you are invited for eternal bliss and turn your face away from the vicious world.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 173)

As we can see, the reality or the nature of the world in these narrations has been described such as passage, a house of vanity and deception… etc. Human beings have not been created for this rather for the Hereafter, they have come here to nourish their humanism through knowledge and deeds and to arrange provisions for their eternal journey.

The Next‑Worlders

Islam requires that people should discover the reality, essence and nature of this world the way it actually is and, therefore, should adopt their deeds and behavior in accordance to their own perspective. Whoever has discovered the nature of such a world will never become infatuated or lose his heart for its sake. They will never be deceived by its power of wealth and other allurements. While living in this world and utilizing all of its lawful pleasures and bounties, they will never become slaves and prisoners of this vicious world. They will never forget Almighty God and the Hereafter even for a single moment and will endeavor continuously for the accumulation of provisions for their eternal journey through performance of virtuous deeds. While they live in this world, their esoteric hearts and eyes lock towards the sublime realities of the Upper Heavens. In all situations, at all times and in all their deeds, they do consider the existence of Almighty God and the Hereafter and, therefore, are able to take advantage of these opportunities for the enrichment of their eternal life. They regard the world like a land for cultivating fruits for the Hereafter—a plate for conducting business and endeavor to collect provisions for their journey to eternal abode. They commission all the resources of this transient world to the full advantage of their Hereafter, even their working, eating, drinking, marrying and other worldly deeds are utilized for the Next World. Such people are not worldly; rather they belong to the Next World. Ibn Abi-Ya`fur narrated that he said to Imam al‑Sadiq, “We like the world.” “What do you do with its wealth?” asked the Imam. He replied, “By means of this wealth, we get married, go for Hajj, take care of our family expenses, help our poor brothers and give alms for the sake of God.” “This is not world, rather it is Hereafter,” replied the Imam. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, pp. 106)

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

وَاعْلَموا عِبادَ اللهِ أنَّ المُتَّقِينَ ذَهَبوا بِعاجِلِ الدُّنْيا وَآجِلِ الآخِرَةِ فَشارَكوا أهْلَ الدُّنيا في دُنياهُم وَلَمْ يُشارِكْهُم أهْلُ الدُّنيا في آخِرَتِهِم. سَكَنوا الدّنيا بأفْضَلَ ما سُكِنَتْ وَأكَلُوها بِأفضَل ما أُكِلَتْ فَحَظوا مِن الدّنْيا بِما حَظِيَ بهِ المُترَفونَ وأخَذوا مِنها ما أخَذَهُ الجَبابِرَةُ المُتكَبِّرون، ثُمّ انقَلَبوا عَنها بِالزّادِ المُبَلِّغِ وَالمتجَرِ الرّابِحِ. أصَابوا لَذّة زُهْدِ الدّنيا في دُنياهُم وَتَيَقَّنوا أنَّهُم جِيرانُ اللهِ غداً في آخِرَتهِم . لا تُرَدُّ لَهُم دعوةٌ وَلا يُنقَصُ لهم نَصيبٌ مِن لَذّة.

“ O creatures of God! Remember that God fearing and pious persons passed away from this world after having led a respectable and fruitful life, and they are going to be well rewarded in the Next World (when compared with worldly people, they had equal opportunities of gathering fruits of this world and utilize them to the best of their abilities and at the same time kept away from all wicked and vicious way of life). They did not jeopardize their salvation like worldly minded persons. They led a more contended, more respectable and happier life than those who lived wickedly. They enjoyed the fruits of their labors and had more gratifying, sober and healthy experience of the pleasures of life than the rich and wealthy had. They regaled and enjoined the joys, the facilities and the bliss of this world as much as tyrant and vicious people desired to enjoy. Yet, while leaving this world, they carried with them all which will be of use to them in the Next World. While living in this world, they enjoyed the happiness of relinquishing its evil ways. They made themselves sure that in the life to come they will be recipient of His Grace and Blessings, their requests will not be turned down, and the favors destined for them in the Heaven will not be lessened or reduced.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, letter No. 27)

Working as an employee to earn a living, being involved in trade, business and agriculture and acceptance of positions involving social responsibilities are not the least incompatible of one’s being a pious or man of the Hereafter; rather these very acts can be utilized as means of achieving God’s Pleasure and accumulation of provisions for the eternal abode. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) with all those serious efforts and endeavors for earning a living was the most ascetic person, but simultaneously was the ruler over his people. In the darkness of night he cried at the alter of the worship saying:

يا دُنْيا يا دُنْيا! إلَيكِ عَنّي! أبِي تَعَرَّضْتِ أمْ إلَيَّ تَشَوَّقْتِ؟ لا حانَ حَينُكِ! هَيهاتَ! غُرّي غَيْرِي. لا حاجَةَ لي فِيكِ. قَد طَلَّقْتُكِ ثَلاثاً لا رَجْعَةَ فِيها. فَعَيشُكِ قَصيرٌ وَخَطَرُكِ يَسِيرٌ وَأمَلُكِ حَقِيرٌ. آهِ مِنْ قِلَّةِ الزّادِ وَطولِ الطّريقِ وَبُعْدِ السَّفَرِ وَعَظيمِ المَورِدِ.

“O world, O world! Get away from me. Wy do you present yourself to me? Or are you eager for me? You may not get that opportunity to impress me. Deceive some other person. I have no concern with you. I have divorced You thrice whereafter there is no restitution. Your life is short, your importance is little and your living is humble. Alas! The provision is little, the way is long, the journey is far and the goal is hard to reach.” (Nahj al- Balagha, Saying No 77)

Also he said:

إلَيكِ عَنّي يا دُنيا! فَحَبْلُكِ عَلى غارِبِكِ، قَد انْسَلَلْتُ مِن مَخالِبِكِ وَأَفْلَتُّ مِنْ حَبائِلِكِ واجْتَنَبْتُ الذَّهابَ فِي مَداحِضِكِ.

“Get away from me O world! Your rein is on your own shoulders as I have released myself from your ditches, removed mysey of your snares and avoided walking into your slippery places.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, letter No. 45)

Ibn `Abbas says that he visited Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) in Dhi-Qar while he was accompanying his soldiers and marching towards the battlefield and found him repairing his shoes. The Imam said to Ibn `Abbas, “What do you think the value of this shoe be?” “It is worthless,” answered Ibn `Abbas. The Imam said:

وَاللهِ، لَهِيَ أَحَبُّ إلَيَّ مِنْ إمْرَتِكُمْ إلاّ أنْ أُقِيمَ حَقّاً أوْ أدْفَعَ باطِلاً.

“If I cannot establish a regime of justice and truth and if I cannot eradicate tyranny and impiety, then the value of this government and caliphate is less to me than the cost of this pair of shoes.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon 33)

Such were and still are God’s most sincere servants; although they live in this very world, they lock towards the higher horizons and belong to the Hereafter. Like other people, they are engaged in making serious efforts for earning a living and sometimes accept the highest social positions; namely commandment, governorship and leadership. Still, they accept these responsibilities solely for the sake of seeking God’s Pleasure and dischargement of their duties. Within the lawful limits, they utilize God’s Bounties, but at the same time have divorced this vicious world absolutely and cleaned their hearts from its alurements. They wage war in order to take hold of the ruling power, but only for the sake of defense of truth and implementation of social justice and not simply for sake of enjoying being rulers.

The Worldly Beings

One who cannot identify the world—the way it is—is curled away and amused with its adornments considering it as the main goal of the creation after which there is no accountability or Hereafter. He also becomes prisoner of wealth and property, wife and children and position and power; takes hold of worldly life firm; forgets about the existence of God and the Hereafter; closes his eyes before spiritual values and makes sole aim of his life satisfying animal passions and taking the maximum advantage from worldly pleasures. Such a person is one of the worldly people, though he may be poor, destitute or monastic or may refrain from acceptance of positions involving social responsibilities. Almighty God has said in the Holy Qur’an:

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِرًا مِنْ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنْ الْآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ.

“They know only some appearance of the life of the world, and are heedless of the Hereafter. 30:7”

أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوْا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالْآخِرَةِ فَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمْ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ.

“Such are those who buy the life of the world at the price of the Hereafter. Their punishment will not be lightened, neither will they have support. 2:86”

أَرَضِيتُمْ بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ الْآخِرَةِ فَمَا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ.

“Take ye pleasure in the life of the world rather than in the Hereafter? The comfort of the life of the world is but little in the Hereafter. 9:28”

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا وَرَضُوا بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّوا بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ. أُوْلَئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ النَّارُ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ.

“Lo! those who expect not the meeting with Us but desire the life of the world and feel secure therein, and those who are neglectful of Our revelations Their home will be the Fire because of what they used to earn. 10:7-8”

Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:

أبْعَدُ ما يَكونُ العَبدُ مِن اللهِ إذا لَمْ يُهِمُّهُ إلاّ بَطنُهُ وَفَرْجُهُ.

“The worst condition for the relationship between man and Almighty God is the situation when a person does not have any other aim except satisfying the hunger of his stomach and taking care of his sexual lusts.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, pp. 18)

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

حَرامٌ عَلى كُلّ قَلْبٍ مُتَوَلِّهٍ بِالدّنيا أنْ يَسْكُنَهُ التّقوى.

“In a heart infatuated with world, presence of piety is forbidden.” (Ghurar al‑Hikam, pp. 383)

لَبِئسَ المتجرُ أنْ تَرى الدُّنيا لنَفسِك ثَمناً وَمِمّا لَكَ عِند الله عِوَضاً.

“What a bad trade it is that one exchanges his self for this world instead of trading it with whatever is available with Almighty God (in the Next World).” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Semon 32)

The world has been condemned because of its being a place of vanity and deceit which makes people its prisoners. It manifests itself sweet and attractive keeping people amused with its pleasure and preventing them from God’s Remembrance and collection of provisions for their journey towards the eternal abode. The world has been reproached, and this act has been so explicitly publicized so that people become cautious not to be deceived by its deceitful manners and not to allow themselves to become infatuated with its charms or becoming its prisoners forever. What has been condemned is the attachment to the transient world forgetting the real aim of the creation and becoming totally negligent about the eternal life.

The Worldly and Next Worlders

One who works in this world for the Hereafter is man of the Next World and one who works for this world will join the worldly group. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:

النّاسُ في الدّنيا عامِلانِ: عامِلٌ في الدُّنْيا لِلدُّنيا قَد شَغَلَتْهُ دُنياهُ عَن آخِرَتِهِ يَخْشى عَلى مَن يَخْلُفُهُ الفَقْرُ وَيأمَنُهُ عَلى نَفسِهِ فَيُفْنِي عُمُرَهُ في مَنْفَعَةِ غَيرهِ. وَعامِلٌ عَمِلَ في الدُّنيا لِما بَعْدِها فَجَاءَهُ الّذي لهُ مِن الدُّنيا بِغَيرِ عَمَلٍ فَأحْرَزَ الحَظَّينِ مَعاً وَمَلَكَ الدّارَينِ جَميعاً فَأصْبَحَ وَجيهاً عِندَ اللهِ؛ لا يَسأَلُ اللهَ حاجَةً فَيَمنَعُهُ.

“There are two kinds of workers in the world. One is a person who works in this world for this world and his work of this world keeps him unmindful of the Next World. He is afraid of destitution for those whom he will leave behind but feels himself safe about it. So, he spends his life after the good of others. The other is one who works in this world for what is to come in the Hereafter, and he secures his share of this world without effort. Thus, he gets both the benefits and becomes the owner of both the houses. In this way, he is prestigious before Almighty God. If he asks him anything, He does not deny him.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Saying No. 269)

الدُّنيا دارُ مَمَرٍّ إلى دَارِ مَقَرٍّ وَالنّاسُ فيها رَجُلانِ: رَجُلٌ باعَ فِيها نفْسَهُ فَأَوْبَقَها وَرَجُلٌ ابْتاعَ نَفْسَهُ فَأعْتَقَها.

“This world is a place for transit, not a place to stay. The people herein are of two categories. One is the man who sold away his self (to his passions) and, thus, ruined it, and the other is the man who purchased his self (by control against his passions) and freed it.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Saying No. 133)

The difference between the worldly and Next Worlders does not consist in their being rich or poor; occupied in worldly affairs or being without job; being social or living a monastic life; holder of worldly positions or not; being a business man, a religious scholar, preacher and writer; consumer of worldly bounties or otherwise; rather, the real difference consists of one’s being attached to the life of this world or the next one; paying attention towards Almighty God or the world; considering the goal of life simply satisfying the animalistic passions or pursual of superior goals of attaining self‑perfection and nourishment of human virtues. Everything that keeps a man occupied in himself preventing him from God’s Remembrance and pursual of affairs related to the Hereafter is considered as world though it could be acquiring education, teaching, writing and being a preacher or leader. Even living a monistic life, being an ascetic and being continuously engaged in worship if is done for the sake of other than God, will be considered as world. Therefore, it becomes explicitly clear that all the worldly people do not possess the same position; similar is the case with the Next Worlders; some of the worldly people are completely attached to the world and are totally neglecting God and the Hereafter; such people are called the servants of the world or worldly. Opposite to that, there we pure sincere servants of Almighty God who are totally committed to Him and to the Hereafter and do not have any other goal except seeking His Pleasure. Among these two opposite groups, there exists various ranks and positions. The degree of worldliness of each one depends on the extent of his being attached to the world and is being away from God’s Nearness in the same proportion. On the opposite side, as much as one is busy in God’s Remembrance and the Hereafter, he will be considered abandoner of the world in the same proportion, or in other words, it can be said that being worldly or being Next Worlder are two relative acts.

[56] The dryness of eyes is the result of hardheartedness, hardheartedness is caused due to excessive sinning; excessive sins are the remit of consumption of food which is arranged through forbidden and unlawful income; earning through forbidden and unlawful means is due to forgetting death; forgetting death is due to lengthy desires; lengthy desires are caused because of attachment to the world; and world’s attachment is the root of all evils. [Tr]