23. Persistence in Sin (al-'israr `ala al-ma'siyah)

This is an evil state, and its opposite is repentance (tawbah). Repeating sins makes them seem ordinary, insignificant, everyday affairs. Therefore, before this happens to one, it is necessary for him to contemplate the vicious outcome of committing sins and examine their harms both in this world and the next.

Such contemplation leads him to repent his sins and become genuinely sorry and ashamed that he ever committed them. On the other hand, tawbah or repentance is return from the state of sinfulness. An even higher state of repentance is 'inabah, which is turning away from and giving up even permissible (mubah) things.

In this higher state of repentance one seeks, in speech and act, only to please God, and remember God continuously. A necessary adjunct of tawbah is muhasabah and muraqabah, which means that a sincerely repentant person constantly takes an account of his deeds and gives thought to the moral quality of his actions. There is a tradition that says:

Take account of yourselves before you are taken to account.

24. Neglect (Ghaflah)

Ghaflah means indifference and lack of attention; its opposite is attention and resoluteness. If what is neglected is our ultimate felicity and well-being, it is a vice. However, neglect and indifference to baseness and wickedness is a virtue. That is, care and attention given to evil and base things is a vice, while care and attention given to things having to do with our well-being and felicity is a virtue.

Both negligence and resoluteness, or care, are derived either from the Power of Passion or the Power of Anger. For example, if one is intent on getting married, the motivation for such a resolution is rooted in the Power of Passion, and is a virtue. If one resolves on defending oneself against some enemy, that resolution is rooted in the Power of Anger and is also a virtue.

This was a general description of negligence and care or resoluteness. However, as a term used in Quranic verses and traditions, negligence usually refers to indifference to the real aims of human existence and the agents of man's well-being and happiness in this world and the next; and its opposite, resoluteness, is also interpreted as clarity of will and purpose in the same sense.

In this sense, therefore, negligence is always bad and resoluteness is always good. The Quran makes the following remark about the neglectful:

We have prepared for hell many jinn and men; they have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not they have ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray. Those-they are the neglectful. (7:179)

25. Aversion (Karahah)

`Aversion' refers to a state of abhorrence for all things entailing hardship and labour. Its extreme form is maqt or `hatred.' The opposite of karahah is hubb or inclination. Hubb consits of the soul's liking for pleasant and beneficial things. The extreme form of hubb is ishq (love).

Aversion can be either good or bad; for example, if one is averse to jihad for the sake of God or to self-defense, this is highly undesirable and reprehensible. If, however, one has an aversion to ugly deeds and sins, it is good and highly desirable. The same rule applies to hubb, in that if one likes good and beneficial things, it is a desirable trait; but not so if one likes evil things.

The point worthy of notice is that hubb must essentially be directed only towards God and whatever is associated with the Divine. This is the highest form of hubb. It should be kept in mind that the Real Beloved is God, and it is only when man loses his Real Beloved that he mistakenly adopts other objects for his love, such as wife, children, wealth, status, or any other worldly thing.

If man were to find his True Beloved again, he would also achieve deliverance from his endless, aimless wanderings. In order to find the True Beloved, first we must know all the various forms of hubb. Basically hubb may be directed towards nine different things:

1. The human being's hubb for itself; which is one of the strongest forms of hubb.

2. The human being's hubb for things outside itself for the purpose of deriving physical pleasure from them, such as various kinds of foods, clothes, and other things which serve to satisfy physical needs and desires.

3. Man's hubb for another human being on account of the kindness or service that the other has rendered him.

4. Man's hubb for something on account of that thing's inherent goodness, such as beauty and righteousness.

5. Man's hubb for another individual without his being able to find any particular reason for it; not because that individual has beauty, wealth or power or something of the kind, but simply because of the existence of some invisible spiritual link between them.

6. Man's hubb for an individual who has come from a far-off place, or whom he has succeeded in meeting during a long journey.

7. Man's hubb for his colleagues and fellow professionals, such as the liking of a scholar for another scholar, or a merchant's for another merchant, and so on.

8. The hubb (affinity) of the effect for its cause, and vice versa.

9. The hubb of common effects of a single cause for one another; such as the love between members of a single family.

If we give some thought to this matter, we shall reach the conclusion that since God is Absolute Existence and all other things depend on Him, whatever other things man may love lack any independent existence of their own. In other words, since God is the Ultimate Reality, He is in fact the ultimate object of true love, and all other kinds of love directed towards things are figurative and imaginary. Thus it is that one must sublimate one's love and discover its real object; and this is not possible unless the following conditions appear in him:

1. He should have a fervent desire of meeting God (liqa' Allah); in other words, he should have no fear of death. His actions must be such as to reflect his assurance that he will meet God after his death.

2. He should give priority to God's wish over and above his own wishes and desires, since this is one of the requirements of love.

3. He should not forget God for even a moment, just as the lover is not forgetful of his beloved for even a second.

4. He must not be happy when he gains something, or sad when he loses something, since if all his attention is centered on God all other things would be unimportant for him.

5. He should be kind and loving towards God's creatures, since whoever loves God will certainly love His creatures also.

6. He should have fear of God at the same time that he loves Him, since these two states are not contradictory.

7. He should keep his love of God a secret. 

Under such conditions God would also love His servant and fulfil His promise:

Say ( O Muhammad), `If you love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive your sins.'... (3:31)

26. Sakhat

Sakhat is being grieved at adversities and misfortunes which may befall one to the extent of complaining about them. The opposite of the vice of sakhat is the virtue of rida which is being satisfied and content with whatever God wills. Sakhat is a kind of karahah, and rida is a kind of hubb.

There are many traditions condemning sakhat and exhorting man to be patient in face of adversities and misfortunes; since they are for trials Divinely ordained. Basically, we must realize that life in this world is made up of suffering, difficulty, sickness and death, and without exception all men must undergo these things.

So, we must teach ourselves to deal with these kinds of hardships. Such a preparedness is called rida, and its highest stage is complete contentment with Divine will. This is how the Quran describes such people:

...God is pleased with them and they with Him. That is the great triumph. (5:119)

And this is how it describes those who lack this quality:

...and they desire the life of the world and feel secure therein ....(10:7)

It should be noted that in books of ethics taslim (resignation) and rida (contentment) are usually used synonymously. This is because of their close meanings; because one who is content with whatever God wills for him is also completely resigned to God's will in all aspects of his life.

27. Huzn

Huzn means grief and remorse for losing or failing to attain something cherished. Huzn, like sakhat, follows from karahah.

28. Absence of Trust in God

This vice consists of reliance on intermediate means, not God, for solution of one's problems. It is caused by insufficient faith, and originates from the Powers of Intellect and Passion. Reliance on intermediary means is a form of shirk (polytheism).

The opposite of this vice is tawakkul (trust) in God in all aspects of one's life, with the belief that God is the only effective force in the universe. This is the meaning of the famous dictum:

There is no power or might except that [it is derived] from God.

And the Quran explicitly states:

...And whosoever puts his trust in God, He will suffice him .... (65:3) 

And the Prophet (S) has said: 

Whosoever abandons hope in everything except God, He shall take care of his means of life.

It should be noted that the notion of tawakkul does not contradict the idea that man has to undertake endeavour in order to benefit from the bounties of God. This is why Islam considers it obligatory for the individual to strive in order to make a living for his family, defend himself, and to fight for his rights. What is important is to consider all these intermediary means as subject to God's authority and power, without any independent role of their own.

29. Ingratitude (Kufran)

This is the vice of being unthankful for Divine blessings, and its opposite is shukr (thankfulness). The virtue of shukr consists of the following elements:

1. Recognition of blessings and their origin, which is Divine Beneficence.

2. Being delighted on account of the blessings-not for their worldly worth or for having gained them, but for their value in bringing us closer to God.

3. Acting on this joy and delight by undertaking to satisfy the aim of the Giver, in word and in deed.

4. Praising the Bestower of the blessings.

5. To use the bounty given to us in a way which would please Him. By `blessings' are meant all those things which bring pleasure, benefit, and felicity, whether in this world or the next.

The Holy Quran says: 

...If you are thankful 1 will give you more; but if you are thankless, My punishment is surely terrible. (14:7)

And in elaboration of the second part of the previous verse, the Quran says:

God has struck a similitude: A city that was secure and well content, its provision coming to it in abundance from every place, then it was unthankful for the blessings of God; so God let it taste the garment of hunger and fear,for the things that they were working. (16:112)

30. Jaza ` (Restlessness)

Jaza` leads to screaming, beating one's face, tearing clothes, and raising a clamour when faced with some misfortune or calamity. Jaza` is one of the vices of the Power of Anger. Its opposite is sabr (forbearance), which is one of the noblest virtues. In any case, jaza` is one of the vices which leads to man's fall, since it is essentially a complaint against God and rejection of His decrees.

Sabr, on the contrary, consists of preserving one's calm under all circumstances and doing one's duty in all conditions. Sabr has a different function in different situations; for example, sabr on the field of battle lies in perseverance in performing one's duty; in other words, it is a form of courage.

Sabr in the state of anger is self-control and synonymous with hilm (gentleness). Sabr in face of desires and lusts is `iffah (chastity). Sabr with respect to luxurious and opulent living is zuhd (abstinence). To sum up, sabr is a virtue related to all of the four Powers.

Sabr has been much praised in Islamic traditions, and the Holy Quran extols this virtue, its merits and its rewards in seventy different places. For example, it says:

...Yet give glad tidings to the steadfast who, when an affliction visits them, say: `Surely we belong to God and to Him we return;' upon those rest blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those-they are the truly guided. (2:155-157)

And the Prophet (S) has said:

The relationship of sabr to faith ('iman) is like that of the head to the body; just as the body cannot live without the head, so also faith cannot survive without sabr.

There are five kinds of sabr in relation to the Islamic Shari'ah: wajib (obligatory), haram (forbidden), mustahabb (desirable), makruh (reprehensible), and mubah (permitted). An example of `obligatory sabr' is abstinence from forbidden pleasures and desires. An example of `forbidden sabr' is patience in face of injustice such as oppression or cruelty.

`Desirable sabr' is steadfastness in doing things which are desirable (mustahabb), while `reprehensible sabr' is related to toleration of situations which are reprehensible. Finally, mubah or permitted sabr is related to permitted things.

It follows, then, that sabr is not always a worthy trait, and its worth, or the lack of it, depends on its object. In general, the criterion by which the various kinds of sabr are judged is the same by which all other deeds and traits are judged, i.e. all those actions which facilitate man's spiritual development are considered worthy and laudable, while all other actions and traits are considered bad and harmful.

31. Fisq

Fisq as a term means disobedience to the obligatory commands of Islamic Shari'ah or committal of acts forbidden by it; its opposite is ita'ah (obedience) to the commands of God, the Supreme.

A major part of the Divine commands consists of specific forms of worship which are considered either wajib or mustahabb in Islam. They are: taharah (purity), salat (prayer), du'a' (invocation), dhikr (remembrance of God), qira' ah (reciting the Holy Quran), sawm (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), ziyarat al-Nabi (pilgrimage to the Prophet's (S) tomb), jihad (fighting in the way of God), ada' al-ma'ruf (discharging the financial duties set down by Islamic Law, consisting of khums, zakat and sadaqah [voluntary alms-giving]).

At this point al-Naraqi-may God's mercy be upon him-centers his final discussion which is a treatment of the Divine commands just mentioned, their rationale,. and their beneficial role in the spiritual growth and development of man. Since this discussion is mostly concerned with fiqh, we shall forego recounting it here for brevity's sake.

In conclusion we hope that God grants us the strength to morally improve ourselves by putting into practice the advices set forth summarily in the preceding four sections. It is also to be hoped that a careful study and examination of this short discourse on Islamic ethics would motivate us to adhere to its principles, thus bringing joy and satisfaction to the spirit of its author. Amin.