Piety—the Most Important Factor for Purification
In the Islamic School, piety has been assigned the most important position and the pious believers are regarded as the most distinguished and respectable persons in an Islamic society. The word ‘piety’ in the Qur’anic Verses and narrations, and especially in the glorious book of Nahj al-Balaghah (The Path of Eloquence) has been repeated quite frequently. The Holy Qur’an considers piety as the sole criterion for appraising the value and worth of individuals:
إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ.
“Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. 49:13”
Piety has been introduced as the best provisions for the Hereafter and the greatest means for achieving salvation:
لِلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا مِنْهُمْ وَاتَّقَوْا أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ.
“For such of them as do right and ward off (evil), there is great reward. 3:172”
فَمَنْ اتَّقَى وَأَصْلَحَ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ.
“Then whosoever refraineth from evil and amendeth there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. 7:35”
وَسَارِعُوا إِلَى مَغْفِرَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ.
“And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil). 3:133”
إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَنَعِيمٍ. فَاكِهِينَ بِمَا آتَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ وَوَقَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ.
“Lo! Those who kept their duty dwell in gardens and delight. Happy because of what their Lord hath given them, and (because) their Lord hath warded off from them the torment of hell-fire. 52:17‑18”
Also, in Nahj al-‑Balaghah and other books of traditions, piety has been assigned the most distinguished position in all ethical matters and the greatest means for achieving prosperity and salvation. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) has said:
التُّقى رَئيسُ الأخْلاقِ.
“Piety acquires the most prominentposition in all ethical affairs.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Saying No. 41)
The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
خِصْلَةٌ مَن لَزَمَها أطاعَتْهُ الدُّنْيا وَالآخِرَةُ وَرَبِحَ الفَوزَ فِي الجَنَّةِ… التّقْوى: مَنْ أرادَ أنْ يَكُونَ أعَزَّ النّاسِ فَلْيَتَّقِ اللهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ…﴿وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ.﴾
“There is a characteristic that whoever acquires will have the world and the Hereafter in his control… Piety! Whoever desires to become the most dearest person should become pious… ‘And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him and will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation.’” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 285)
Amir al-Mu’minin, Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
عَلَيكُمْ بِتَقْوى اللهِ فإنَّها تَجْمَعُ الخَيْرَ وَلا خَيْرَ غَيرها، ويُدْرَكُ بِها مِن الخَيْرِ ما لا يُدْرَكُ بِغَيرِها مِن خَيرِ الدّنيا وَالآخِرَةِ.
“Do not give up piety because it is the source of all benevolence and goodness; blessing without piery does not exist; and the blessing which is achieved by means of piety can never be obtained without it; be it blessing of this world or the Hereafter.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 285)
Imam al‑Sajjad (a.s) said:
شَرَفُ كُلِّ عَمَلٍ بِالتَّقْوى، وَفازَ مَنْ فازَ مِن المُتَّقِينَ. قالَ اللهُ تَبارَكَ وَتَعالى: ﴿إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا﴾
“The value and worth of each deed depend upon piety; only pious people may achieve righteousness and prosperity. Almighty God said, ‘Verily righteousness and prosperity belong to pious people.’” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 77, pp. 386)
In some traditions, piety has been introduced as the most important factor for self‑perfection and purification as well as the most effective medicine for curing the psychic diseases. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
فَإنّ تَقْوى اللهِ دَواءُ داءِ قُلوبِكُمْ وَبَصَرُ عَمى أفْئِدَتِكُمْ وَشَفاءُ مَرَضِ أجْسادِكُمْ وَصَلاحُ فَسادِ صُدورِكُمْ وَطهُورُ دَنَسِ أنْفُسِكُم وَجَلاءُ عَشَا أبْصارِكُمْ وَأمْنُ فَزَعِ جأشِكُمْ وَضِياءُ سَوادِ ظُلْمَتِكُم.
“Piety is the only cure for wickedness of your heart. It is the Divine Light to expel darkness of your heart; it is a remedy for your ailing mind; it is the only way of improvement for your corrupt soul; it purifies your conscience; it brings back sight to the eyes blinded by ignorance of truth.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Letter No. 198)
Piety: Objective Behind the Divine CommandS
In Islam, piety has been introduced as genuine moral virtue and the real aim for the explanation of the (Divine) Commandments. Almighty God has said in the Holy Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ.
“O mankind! worship your Lord, Who hath created you and those before you, so that ye may ward off (evil). 2:21”
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ.
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil). 2:183”
لَنْ يَنَالَ اللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَكِنْ يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَى مِنْكُمْ.
“Their flesh and their food reach not Allah, but the devotion from you reacheth Him. 22:37”
وَتَزَوَّدُوا فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُونِي يَا أُوْلِي الْأَلْبَابِ.
“So make provision for yourselves (Hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding. 2:197”
It can be seen that the aim behind explaining some of these comments or acts of worship is actually to encourage people to acquire piety by performing those particular acts of worships. Piety in Islam have been attached so much importance that it has been introduced as the sole criterion for the acceptance of other deeds so much so that a deed without piety shall be worthless and unaccepted. The Holy Qur’an has said:
إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللَّهُ مِنْ الْمُتَّقِينَ.
“Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil). 5:27”
The Holy Prophet (a.s) said to Abu-Dharr:
كُنْ بِالعَمَلِ بِالتّقْوى أشَدَّ اهْتِماماً مِنكَ بِالعَمَلِ، فإنَّهُ لا يَقِلُّ عَمَلٌ بِالتّقْوى وَكَيْفَ يَقِلُّ عَمَلٌ يُتَقَبَّلُ! يَقُول اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ﴿ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللَّهُ مِنْ الْمُتَّقِينَ.﴾
“Try your best to acquire piety, because nothing accompanied by piety shall be regarded smaller, and how come a thing accepted by Almighty God can be regarded smaller? The Holy Qur’an said, “Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil).” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 77, pp. 89)
Imam al Sadiq (a.s) said:
لا يَغُرَّنَّكَ بُكاؤُهُمْ. إنّما التّقْوى في القَلبِ.
“Do not let their crying deceive you, because piety exists only in heart.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 286)
Almighty God has said in the Holy Qur’an:
وَإِنْ تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ.
“But if ye persevere and ward off (evil), then that is of the steadfast heart of things. 3:86”
Piety in the Holy Qur’an and other traditions have been mentioned as genuine moral, virtue, best provisions for the Hereafter, important medicine for curing the heart’s disease and greatest means for attaining spiritual purification and self-refinement. In emphasizing its importance, it is sufficient to say that it has been mentioned as the real aim behind explanation of all the Divine Commandments and Regulations. Now let us discuss its meanings in details.
Definition of Piety
Generally, piety is defined as a negative program, i.e. refraining from and avoidance of sins and other transgressions. It is interpreted that with being pious, participation in social affairs is very difficult rather impossible because, naturally, human self is inclined towards sinning and in case of acceptance of social responsibilities, one will be forced to indulge into sins. Therefore, one should either acquire piety or refrain from the acceptance of social responsibility. On the other hand, one must accept social responsibilities and renounce piety, because they are not compatible with each other and their combination is not possible. The inevitable result of such thinking is that the more one lives an isolated and monastic live the better he will be prepared to acquire piety. However, piety in some Qur’anic verses, traditions and in Nahj al-Balaghah has been defined as a positive quality and not a negative virtue. Not only does piety mean renunciation of sins but also it consists of possessing an internal energy and power of self‑restraint, which are achieved because of undertaking continuous rigorous self‑discipline whereby self acquires a super strength, which makes it obedient to God’s Commandments. Self acquires such strength that it shows resistance and steadfastness against unlawful whims and passions. Also, the lexical meanings of piety include similar aspects.
Piety (taqwa) is derived from (wiqayah), which means protection and defense. Piety means self‑restraint and self‑control which is a positive quality bestowing an immunity upon the pious and not a negative act or program. It means commitment of a human being to obey the religious commandments. Every act of refraining from sinning is not called piety but the power of self‑restraint and self‑control responsible behind this refraining is called piety, which has been described as the provisions of journey for the Hereafter, and naturally making provisions for a journey is a positive act and not a negative one. Here, it is appropriate to quote few narrations from Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) in this regard:
أُوصِيكُم عِبادَ اللهِ بَتَقْوى اللهِ فإنَّها الزّمامُ وَالقِوامُ فَتَمَسَّكُوا بِوَثائِقِها وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَقائِقِها تَؤلْ بِكُمْ إلى أكْنانِ الدَّعَةِ وأَوطانِ السَّعَةِ وَمعاقِلِ الحَرْزِ وَمَنازِلِ العِزِّ.
“O creatures of the Lord! I advise you to adopt piely, because piety is the safest way to salvation and the best support for religion. Keep yourself attached to it and never forsake it. It shall lead you to places of safety, positions of honor and pursuits bringing you peace and contentment.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon No. 195)
فإنَّ التَّقْوى فِي اليَومِ الحِرز وَالجَنَّةُ وفِي غَدٍ الطَّريقُ إلَى الجَنَّةِ. مَسْلَكُها واضِحٌ وَسالِكُها رابِحٌ وَمْستَوْدعُها حافِظٌ.
“Piety will act as your shield and defense and in life and Hereafter as your guide to Heaven. Its ways are clear and simple. Those of you who espouse it will be benefited by it. And the one who has imposed it upon you will guard it.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon No. 191)
إعْلَموا عِبادَ اللهِ أنَّ التَّقْوى دارُ حِصْنٍ عَزيزٍ والفُجورَ دارُ حِصْنٍ ذَليلٍ لا يَمْنَعُ أهْلَهُ وَلا يُحرِزُ مَن لَجَأ إلَيْهِ. ألا وَبِالتَّقْوى تُقْطَعُ حِمَةُ الخَطايا.
“Know, O creatures of God, that piety is strongly forfeited and a respectable Heaven, and sinful and vicious life is such an undependable refuge that it can neither protect nor guard those who take shelter there. Remember that fear of God can protect one against the evils of sins.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon No. 157)
فإنّ تَقوى اللهِ حَمَتْ أوْلِياءَ اللهِ مَحارِمَهُ وَألْزَمَتْ قُلوبَهُم مَخافَتَهُ حَيثُ أسْهَرَتْ لَيالِيَهُم وأظْمَأتْ هَواجِرَهُم.
“Piety prevents good people from indulging in sins and vices; it makes them God-fearing and persuades them to spend their nights in His Worship and to pass their days in fasting.” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon No. 114)
إنَّ التّقْوى عِصْمَةٌ لكَ فِي حَياتِكَ وَزُلْفى بَعدَ مَماتِكَ.
“Piety is shelter for you in this world and will be a source of prosperity and salvation in the Hereafter.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 222)
Piety has thus been introduced as a positive virtue, a powerful force introducing restrain and immunity and an important preventing factor. It should be compared to a bridle used for training a mullish horse for riding or restraining and controlling the whims and passions of a rebellious self. It is like a formidable fortress and firm fortification which protect man from the devutative attacks of internal enemies, i.e. the unlawful selfish whims and passions and Satanic whispers. It is like a shield which protects a warrior in the battlefield from the piercing of poisonous arrows and other Satanic devastating blows. Piety frees from the imprisonment of whims and passions and cuts off the chains of greed, prejudice, lust and wrath wrapped around the neck. It is not a limitation; rather it is the mastership and being in control of one’s own‑self. It bestows upon a human being prestige, honor, nobility, power, dignity and steadfastness. It protects the heart from satanic assaults making it readied for the descent of God’s angels, illuminating him with Divine Light and bestowing upon him peace and tranquillity. Piety for human being is like home and clothing which protect from natural calamities, cold and hot weather. Almighty God, in the Holy Qur’an, has said:
وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَى ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ.
“But the raiment of restraint from evil, that is best. 7:26”
Piety is a virtue, excellence, provision for the Hereafter and is not a negative quality. Of course, in the Holy Qur’an and traditions, piety has also been used in places of fear and avoidance of sins, but these are the requirements of piety, not piety itself.
Piety and Seclusion
Monasticism and declining acceptance of social responsibilities cannot be considered as manifestations of piety. In some cases, they are contradictory with righteousness. Islam does not believe in seclusion and monasticism and in order to refrain from sins, it does not recommend its followers to decline acceptance of social responsibilities and living a secluded life, rather encourages them to accept social obligations, while at the same time by means of piety should practice self‑restraint and self‑control for avoiding sins and deviations.
Islam does not say, “Do not accept lawful positions of power,” rather it says, “Do accept them but for the sake of God’s Pleasure, serve the people, and do not be a slave of rank and position. Do not allow your position and authority as a mean of accomplishing your sole aim of satisfying selfish whims and passions and do not deviate from the straight path.” Islam does not say, “In order to acquire piety, close your business activities and do not make efforts for earning a living.” Instead, it says, “Do not be a slave and prisoner of the world.” Islam does not say, “Quit this world and live a monastic life to worship Almighty God in seclusion.” It in fact says, “Do live in this world and do your best for its development and progress but do not become worldly or infatuated with its charms. Instead, utilize it for attaining higher exalted spiritual stations and ascension towards God’s Nearness.” This is what piety is supposed to be in Islamic School which has been described as one of the most exalted human virtue or characteristic.
Piety and Insight
It may be interpreted from the Qur’anic verses and traditions that piety bestows upon man a sense of profound insight and intelligence enabling him to diagnose and follow up his genuine interests of this world and the Hereafter. In the Holy Qur'an, Almighty God says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَتَّقُوا اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ فُرْقَانًا وَيُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ.
“O ye who believe! If ye keep your duty to Allah, He will give you discrimination (between right and wrong) and will rid you of your evil thoughts and deeds, and will forgive you. Allah is of Infinite Bounty. 8:29”
Almighty God opens man’s esoteric eyes bestowing upon him a special insight to enable him to diagnose his prosperity, adversity, benefits and losses. In other verse, He says:
وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمْ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ.
“Observe your duty to Allah. Allah is teaching you. And Allah is knower of all things. 2:282”
Although the Holy Qur’an has been revealed from the Heavenly Kingdom for people in general, only can the pious ones receive its guidance and advice. It is in this background that the Holy Qur’an says:
هَذَا بَيَانٌ لِلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى وَمَوْعِظَةٌ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ.
“This is a declaration for mankind, a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil). 3:138”
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) has said:
فإنَّ تَقْوى اللهِ دَواءُ دائِكُم وَبَصرُ عَمى أفْئِدَتِكُم.
“Piety is the only way of improving your corrupt soul and bringing back the sight to your hearts.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon No. 148)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) quoted his father as saying:
ما مِنْ شَيءٍ أفسَدُ لِلقَلبِ مِن الخَطيئَةِ. إنّ القَلبَ لَيُواقِعُ الخَطيئَةَ فَما تَزالُ حَتىّ تَغْلبَ عَليهِ فَيصيرُ أسْفَلُه أعْلاه وأعْلاه أسْفَلَهُ.
The worst thing for the (evil) of the heart is sinning. When a heart is encountered with sin, it struggles against the sin becomes so victorious that it turns it up down. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 54)
It can be inferred from such verses and traditions that piety is responsible for enhancing the reason with insight and brightness as well as strengthening the power of comprehension. The faculty of reason, a precious Celestial Essence, has been bestowed to enable man to correctly identify and diagnose his gains and losses, prosperity and adversely, welfare and wickedness and finally the least do’s and don’ts. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
العَقْلُ رَسولُ الحَقِّ.
“Reason is like the messenger of the Truth.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 1, pp. 13)
Such an important mission has been assigned to reason and it is quite competent to discharge this responsibility only if self’s whims and passions accept its role, do not oppose, sabotage and create problems in its administration. Unfortunately, passions are bitter enemy of reason and do not allow it to perform his function in an excellent manner. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
الهَوى عَدُوّ العَقْلِ.
“Whims of setf are the enemies of reason.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 13)
العُجبُ يُفْسدُ العَقْلَ.
“Self‑conceit corrupts reason.” (Ghurar al-Hikam pp. 26)
اللَّجُوجُ لا رَأيَ لهُ.
“An obstinate person does not have correct opinion.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 31)
Although the ruling authority over human body has been assigned to reason (`Aql) which is quite competent for this job, self’s whims and passions are the biggest obstacles in its path. If one of the passions or all of them become out of control and revolt against it, how can the reason succeed in discharging its functions well? Such a person does possess reason but lacks the sense of comprehension and correct diagnosis. He possess a lamp but whims, passions, lusts and wrath like a dark thick cloud has covered it completely making him blind and unable to appreciate the realities. How can a lustful person appreciate his welfare and control his rebellious passions? When can an egotistic person find an opportunity to identity his faults and take the corrective action? How can he refrain himself from moral indecencies such as wrath, jealousy, greed revenge, stubbornness, ambitions for wealth, passion and power?
If one of them or more succeed in taking over self’s control, they will prevent reason from truly apprehending the realities and in case it wants to take action against their wishes, they will oppose it by creating troubles and mobilizing their partisans for rebellion making the environment unfavorable for the role of reason and ultimately making it helpless to discharge its obligations properly. A person who is a prisoner of whims and passions cannot benefit by lectures and preaching; rather they may produce opposite reaction increasing his hardheartedness. Therefore, piety may be considered as one of the best and most effective factors of insight, enlightenment and conscientiousness. In the end, it must be clarified that when it is said that piety is responsible in enhancing the sense of insight, it means the practical aspects of reason, ability to diagnose the duties or in other words recognize the dos and don’ts. It has nothing to do with the theoretical aspects of wisdom since they are concerned; it is not so that an impious person will not be able to understand mathematical and scientific problems, however piety to a certain extent may be effective in enhancing the power of intelligence and comprehension in these matters.
Piety and Victory over the Difficulties
One of the most important effects of piety is the ability to dominate over the difficulties of daily life. Almighty God has said in the Holy Qur’an:
وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ.
“And whosoever keepeth his duty to God, He will appoint a way out for him, and will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation. 65:2‑3”
وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ يُسْرًا.
“And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, He maketh his course easy for him. 65:4”
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
فَمَن أخَذَ بِالتَّقْوى عَزبَت عَنهُ الشّدائِدُ بَعدَ دُنُوِّها وَاحْلَولَتْ لهُ الأمُورُ بَعدَ مَرارَتِها وانْفَرَجَتْ عَنهُ الأمْواجُ بَعدَ تَراكُمِها وَأسهلَتْ لهُ الصّعابُ بَعدَ إنصابِها.
“Piety wards off the calamities which have crowded round them and laid siege of them. It converts bitter disappointments of their affairs into pleasant achievements. It acts as a break water against the waves of disasters and destruction which want to dash against lives and ambitions.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon No. 198)
Piety thus helps solve problems and overpower the obstacles in the daily life. Now let us see what influence piety exerts in these matters. The life’s hardships can be divided into two categories: the problems of the first category consist of physical defects, incurable fatal diseases, unpredictable natural disasters and similar other calamities whose solution and prevention is out of our control. The problems of the second category consists of psychological, physical, family and social problems where our intentions and decisions can be influential in their solution and even prevention.
Of course, piety could play an important role in offering solutions for each one of the abovementioned problems. Although in the former case prevention may be difficult and total avoidance may be practically impossible, the technique of how to encounter these problems is in our control. A self‑restraint and pious person completely dominates over his passions and regards this world and its problems as transient and short lived and considers the Hereafter as real and permanent abode resting his trusts upon the Supreme and Absolute Power of Almighty God and treating the hardships and difficulties of this world as insignificant and temporary. He does not become desperate and anxious; rather offers his absolute surrender to the Divine Will.
A pious person is familiar as well as confident in Almighty God and the Hereafter. Calamities and hardships of day‑to‑day life do not disturb his state of ease and tranquillity because hardships, calamities and tragedies in essence are not painful; rather it is the anxiety and intolerance of self that makes a person uncomfortable and piety can be helpful in such cases.
Most of the severe problems and catastrophes of the second category which make the human life bitter like burning Hell are the result of moral indecencies, whims and passions and domination of Satanic desires. In majority of the cases, the family problems are created because of failure on the part of husband, wife or both of them in controlling passions burning and frightening in the fire which has been ignited by their own hands. Similar is the case with other problems. The moral vices such as jealously, revengefulness, stubbornness, prejudice, egotism, greed, lust, wrath, extravagance, arrogance and other similar rascalities are responsible for causing problems and hardships for human beings, creating pains and anxiety and turning the sweetness of live into bitterness. Such a person is a prisoner of his carnal desires and passions to the extent that he is even helpless to identify his disease and its treatment.
The best and most effective thing preventing such catastrophies is the same piety, self‑restraint or self‑control. In the life of a pious man, such painful horrible catastrophies do not exist at all; with tranquillity of heart and enlightenment, he lives a peaceful life as well manages to collect sufficient provisions for the Hereafter. The love of world is the roots of all evils but a pious person does not become infatuated with its allurements and charms.
Piety and Freedom
It is quite possible that one may infer that piety restraints freedom and creates limitations making life difficult and unpleasant, but Islam rejects this belief and, on the contrary, considers piety as the source of freedom, comfort, dignity and exaltedness and regards an impious person simply as a prisoner or slave. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
فإنّ تَقوى اللهِ مِفتاحُ سَدادٍ وَذَخِيرةُ مَعادٍ وَعِتقٌ مِن كُلّ مَلَكةٍ وَنَجاةٌ مِن كُلّ هَلَكَةِ.
“Verily, piety is a key to the doors of righteousness, a provision for the Next World, a source of freedom from the slavery of evil desires and a wall of protection from every ill‑luck and misfortune.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermon No. 230)
لا شَرفَ أعْلى مِن الإسْلامِ وَلا عِزَّ أعَزُّ مِن التّقوى وَلا مَعقِلَ أحْسَنُ مِن الوَرَعِ.
“There is no distinction higher than Islam; no honor more honorable than fear of God and no asylum better than self‑restraint.” (Nahj al- Balaghah, Saying No. 371)
In the abovementioned traditions, piety has been introduced as the key for the solution of problems, bestower of freedom and dignity, rescuer from the waves of disasters and destruction and the most formidable shelter for human beings. Therefore, piety does not restrain or create limitations; rather it revives human personality and free man from the imprisoment of carnal desires, wraths, revengefulness, selfishness, selfconceit, prejudices, stubbornness, greeds, manummition, egotism, selfishness, ambitiousness, gluttony and desire for fame and publicity.
It strengthens wisdom and human personality in order to dominate over the passions and the rebellious self, adjust them in accordance to genuine inuirements and provide leadership to guide them properly preventing extravagance and dissipation of forces. The Holy Qur’an considers the persons who become prisoners and slaves of their desires, endeavor to satisfy their passions and do not recognize any limits in order to satisfy their carnal desires as idolaters and self‑worshipers:
أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنْ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَى سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَى بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَنْ يَهْدِيهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ اللَّهِ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ.
“Hast thou seen him who maketh his desire his god, and Allah sendeth him astray purposely, and sealeth up his hearing and his heart, and setteth on his sight a covering? Then who will lead him after Allah (hath condemned him)? Will ye not then heed? 45:23”
One who has surrendered himself absolutely to his whims in order to accomplish his passionate desires strives frantically, does not hesitate to indulge into most degrading acts and does not pay attention to the voice of wisdom and guidance of prophets—such a person is indeed slave and prisoner of his self. His passions have completely dominated and imprisoned his human personality and his precious core of wisdom, and in order to rescue them there is no other alternative except piety. Therefore, piety does not create limitations but blesses human beings with freedom.
Piety and Treatment of Diseases
Moral abjectnesses such as jealousy, hatred, revenge, fault‑finding, wrath, prejudice, greed, egotism, arrogance, fear, indecisveness, temptation and similar other things are psychological diseases. Hearts of such people are indeed sick. It has been confirmed that between man and his self there exists a firm connection. Moreover, they are united and because of this connection and communication, they exert an influence upon each other. Physical sicknesses make the self disturbed and uncomfortable and, opposite to that, psychological diseases effect human body and nerves. In majority of cases, psychological diseases and nervous disorders are the result of moral abjectness. Even some of the bodily diseases, like ulcer and swelling of intestine, indigestion, acidity, headache and stomachache are more likely the result of moral abjectness such as jealously, hatred, greed, egotism and ambitiousness.
It is indisputably proved that excessive indulgence into sexual activities results in dangerous fatal bodily diseases such as AIDS. Therefore, the sole curing medicine for such psychological diseases is piety, which plays the most effective role in the treatment of psychological and physical diseases, hygiene and fitness.
 An impatient (or impious) person can be composed to a soldier in the battlefield who is fighting virtually naked without amor. Such an ill‑equipped soldier is most likely to be killed and disappear from the scene during the very first encounter, with the same analogy a patient (pious) person can be compared to a soldier who is clad in a coat of mail from head to toe and is fully equipped with all the required armaments. Obviously, to defeat such a well-equipped soldier by the enemy is relatively difficult. (Discourse of Patience, Ayatullah Khamana’i, pp. 102) [Tr].