Joint Diseases of the Powers of Intellect, Anger, and Passion

The fourth section of the book deals with vices relating to combinations of any two of the Powers, Intellect, Anger, and Passion, or all three of them, and the methods of treating them. There are thirty-one of such vices. This discussion, which deals with a large number of vices and virtues and which contributes to the subject matter of most books on ethics, covers half of the total length of the Jami` al-Sa`adat.

In order to keep ourselves within limits appropriate to this summary, we shall confine ourselves to a brief discussion of the points raised in this section of the book.

1. Jealousy (Hasad)

Hasad consists of a desire to see someone's advantage or blessing taken away from him. If one simply aspires to have the same advantage as someone else, this would be ghibtah (envy), and if one has the desire to see someone continue enjoying an advantage or a blessing, which he deserves, this would be nasihah. 

That which is a vice amongst all these states, is hasad, which makes man deserve chastisement both in this world and the next. The jealous person knows no peace, and is always burning in the fire of jealousy. Moreover his jealousy destroys the value of all of his good works, as mentioned in a prophetic tradition:

Jealousy consumes virtues as fire consumes wood.

However, both ghibtah and nasihah are virtues, which must be nourished by cleansing the soul from the vice of hasad. The fatal disease of hasad may proceed either from the Power of Passion or the Power of Anger, or both of them, depending on what motivates it. Thus, in order to cure it, we must concentrate our attention on these two Powers, and what we have already said about various diseases associated with these Powers also applies to the disease of jealousy.

What can best help the individual to cure himself of this disease is to contemplate the negative psychological and spiritual effects of jealousy, which affect only the jealous person himself, not him who is the object of jealousy. Moreover, the jealous individual should try to create within himself the virtue of nasihah (wishing the welfare of others),

which is the opposite of jealousy. At the beginning, it may be necessary for him to impose upon himself the attitude necessitated by this virtue, notwithstanding his inner inclination to the contrary, until jealousy is overcome and nasthah becomes an established trait of his character.

2. Harassing and Insulting Others

This kind of behaviour is usually caused by jealousy and enmity, although it may also be rooted in greed (hasad), avarice (tama'), pride (takabbur), etc. Thus, its source is either the Power of Anger or the Power of Passion, or both. In any case, harassment and. insulting of other Muslims is a major sin, and has been repeatedly condemned both in Quranic verses and traditions:

And those who hurt believing men and believing women, without that they have earned it, they bear the guilt of slander and manifest sin. (33:58)

And in a tradition attributed to the Prophet (S) we read:

Whoever hurts a believer, hurts me; whoever hurts me, hurts God: and whoever hurts God is the accursed of Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms, and the Quran. (from Jami' al-akhbar)

On the other hand, stopping someone from harassing and insulting others is a worthy act praised in several traditions, of which the following prophetic hadith is an example.

Whoever removes an annoying hurdle from the path of Muslims, God shall write for him a virtue, whose reward is Paradise. (Ihya`ulum al-din, vol. II, p. 172)

3. Frightening and Bothering Muslims

This kind of behaviour is a branch of the above-mentioned vice, and is caused by either anger, ill-temperedness, or avarice. Its opposite is making others happy and removing their cause of sorrow or anxiety. There are numerous traditions in praise of this virtue, such as the following from the Prophet (S): 

Indeed the most beloved action near God, the Almighty, is to make the believers happy.

4. Indifference to the Affairs of Muslims

Being indifferent to the affairs of Muslims is a moral vice caused by lethargy, spiritual weakness, or miserliness. This vice is condemned in numerous traditions, an example of which is the following wellknown statement of the Prophet (S):

He who wakes up without any concern for the affairs of Muslims, is not a Muslim; and he who hears the cry, `O Muslims!' without responding is not a Muslim.

On the contrary, to meet the needs of the Muslims and to solve their problems is considered as one of the noblest forms of worship. The Prophet is reported to have said:

An hour covered on foot, at night or during day, in the effort to help one's brother meet his need, is better than two months of i`tikaf (spiritual retirement), regardless of whether or not one succeeds in one's effort.

5. Negligence in Carrying Out the Duty of "Al-amr bil ma'ruf wal nahy 'an al-munhar"

Failure to carry out the duty of al- amr bil-ma`ruf wal-nahy `an il munkar is an unforgivable sin caused either by moral weakness or lack of attention to one's religious duties, and results in the spread of immorality, corruption, injustice, and other forms of indecency throughout society. 

"Commanding others to do their Divine duties and forbidding them from committing illegitimate deeds" is an obligatory duty of every Muslim, and has stages and conditions which have been explained in detail in books dealing with Islamic fiqh.

Since what we are concerned with here are the individual's duties with regard to his relationship with others, this brief mention of this duty is sufficient.

6. Unsociableness

This vice is caused either by hostility, vengefulness, jealousy, or miserliness, and, therefore, it belongs either to the Power of Passion, or the Power of Anger. It has been condemned in numerous traditions. 

The opposite of this vice is the virtue of sociability, hospitality and friendliness, which is conductive to expansion of warm, brotherly relations throughout the community. This virtue is highly recommended by Islam.

7. Breaking Ties with One's Family and Kin

This vice is a branch of unsociableness, but is far uglier and more harmful. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of maintaining close cordial family ties. A large number of traditions which can be found in the books on hadith deal with this subject. 

8. Being undutiful to Parents

This is the worst form that the vice of breaking off ties with one's family can take, and according to severely worded traditions, it is the cause of severe chastisement both in this world and the next. As opposed to this, kind and loving behaviour towards one's family is considered to be one of the highest of human virtues.

It is reported that Imam al-Sadiq (A) was asked: "What action has the greatest value before God?" And he reportedly answered: "Prayer at the very beginning of its appointed time, kindness to one's parents, and jihad in the way of God." This mention of kindness to parents by the side of prayer and jihad, which are two of the most important pillars of Islam, clearly demonstrates its importance.

Here it is also necessary to emphasize one's duties to neighbours and the neighbours' rights, since it also belongs to the category of interpersonal relations briefly discussed above, and there are many traditions condemning harassment of one's neighbours and undesirable behaviour towards them.

9. Finding Faults with Others and Exposing Their Shortcomings or Sins

This vice is caused either by jealousy or hostility, and leads to the spread of corruption, animosity, and destruction of good relations between the people. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of covering up the defects and sins of others. This virtue has immeasurable merit, and here we shall mention one verse and a hadith in this regard, although there are a large number of traditions dealing with this subject:

Those who love that indecency should be spread abroad among the believers theirs will be a painful chastisement in the present world and the world to come ....(24:19)

And the Prophet (S) has said:

>He who covers up [the faults of] a Muslim, God shall cover up his faults in this world and the next.

10. Revealing Other People's Secrets

Disclosing other people's secrets leads to social discord and at times to animosity. Therefore, it is considered a vice and has been condemned in a large number of traditions. This vice may take various forms, one of which is to recount to someone the derogatory remarks made about him by another individual, thus creating discord and hostility between them.

Another form is to recount to someone in power and authority something that another may have said or done against him, thus inciting him to the detriment of the victim. In general, the vice of creating conflict and discord among people and stirring up hostility between individuals can take various forms, and disclosing people's secrets is one of its forms.

The opposite of this vice is the virtue of working to create good feeling, harmony, and love amongst people, which is a quality of great value. In opposition to the vice of revealing other people's secrets is the virtue of guarding their secrets and concealing them.

In any case, all the various forms of 'ifsad bayn al-nas (corrupting mutual relations between people) are considered sins and condemned in many Quranic verses and traditions.

11. Shamatah

This vice consists of attributing the misfortunes befalling someone to his unsavoury acts, delighting in his misfortunes, and blaming him for his misfortune. This vice is usually caused by jealousy or the Power of Passion.

Shamatah has been severely condemned in a large number of traditions, and it has been said that, firstly, shamatah causes the culprit who engages in it to fall victim to the same misfortunes he so delights in when they befall others; secondly, his shamatah hurts the feelings of his brother in faith, and is therefore a cause for Divine punishment; thirdly, the fact that a misfortune has befallen someone does not mean that he has committed an evil act; it may be a Divine test which may occur even in case of those closest to God.

12. Taunting and Dispute (Ta'n wa Mujadalah)

Taunting (tan) means saying something sarcastic with a derogatory aim, and disputatiousness mujadalah refers to engaging in futile disputes without really wanting to discover the truth. These two traits are considered moral vices, and lead to misunderstanding and bad feeling amongst friends. In opposition to those vices is the virtue of upright speech that aims at discovery of the truth through polite, sincere, and friendly discussion.

13. Making Fun of Other People and Ridiculing Them

This vice has the same harmful effects as taunting behaviour and disputatious attitude.

14. Joking

Joking must also be avoided as a general rule, because it may cause bad feeling and hostility in some people. However, it should be kept in mind that what is bad is jesting in its extreme form; otherwise the kind of humour which delights the soul and lightens the mind without resorting to lying and slander, and without discomfiting others, is permissible.

15. Backbiting (Ghibah)

Backbiting consists of saying something about an individual that he would not like. Backbiting is one of the major sins, about which much has been written, and which has been condemned in a large number of traditions and Quranic verses. A detailed discussion of its limits, characteristics and exceptions is undertaken in the book. However, in order to remain within the limits set by the brief nature of our summary, we abstain from this elaborate discussion.

What is worse than backbiting (ghibah) is slander (buhtan), that is, false accusation. The opposite of backbiting is praising others, and the opposite of slander-which consists of falsehoods-honest mentioning of the actual good qualities of an individual.

16. Lying

Lying is a shameful vice and a great sin, which leads to personal and social corruption. There are a large number of traditions and Quranic verses regarding the evil of lying, and many works have been written to condemn it. The opposite of this vice is the virtue of truthfulness (sidq). Truthfulness is one of the most praiseworthy qualities of a human being and sidq is a word that recurs a great number of times in the Holy Quran.

17. Simulation (riya')

Simulation means doing a good deed for the sake of ostentation rather than for the sake of God. It is a great sin, and causes spiritual deterioration and death. And the Quran says:

So woe to those that pray and are heedless of their prayers, to those who would be seen [at worship], yet refuse charity. (107:4-7)

In another verse we read:

...showing off to the people and not remembering God save a little. (4:142)

Here is a prophetic tradition about the vice of riya':

[The Prophet (S) said:] "The main thing that I fear concerning you is `minor idolatry' (shirk)". They asked "What is `minor idolatry'?" He answered: "Simulation! On the Day of Judgement, when Allah the Almighty is examining the past deeds of His creatures, He shall say to the simulators, "Go to those to whom you showed off during your lives in the world and ask them for your reward."

There are different kinds of riya': riya' in worship, whatever form it may take, is always reprobate; riya' in other matters, which is sometimes reprehensible, but at other times may be permissible (mubah) and even desirable. For example, if one is openly generous with the intention of encouraging others to be generous also, his action is not only without reproach, but in fact is highly commendable. The significance of simulation in each case depends on the intentions of the individual involved.

The opposite of riya' is ikhlas (sincerity), which means doing everything for the sake of God alone, without expecting any reward from anyone for what he does. The station of ikhlas is one of the highest that a believer may attain, but may be reached through persistent exercise and perseverance.

18. Hypocrisy (Nifaq)

Hypocrisy, that is feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not, in religion or in social relations, is one of the most destructive vices. Throughout the Holy Quran, hypocrites are condemned in the strongest of terms. Also, there are many traditions in condemnation of this vice.

The opposite of hypocrisy is being the same in one's external appearance and inward self, or preferably, being better inwardly than what one appears to be. This latter trait is a characteristic of the mu'minun (true believers) and those who are close to God (awliya' Allah). 

19. Pride (Ghurur)

Pride consists of conceit based on selfish desires and fancies, and it may be in regard to the affairs of this world or that of the next. One may become proud of one's worship, or one's sons, wealth, position and power, or something else. All of these may lead to pride, and consequently to the spiritual and moral fall of man. And thus we see that the Holy Quran warns man against all forms of pride, which is a kind of illusion and self-deception:

...Let not the life of the world beguile you, nor let the Deceiver (Devil) deceive you in regard to God. (31:33)

People from all walks of life may fall prey to the vice of pride. They may be believers or infidels, scholars, pious people, mystics, and so on, and each of them may be proud of some particular thing. Thus we see that pride can take numerous forms. Pride may be caused by the Power of Intellect, the Power of Passion, the Power of Anger, or all three of them together.

The opposite of pride-which as mentioned is a kind of self deception-is knowledge, wisdom, awareness, and zuhd; because the more a man is aware of reality the less he is likely to fall prey to pride. The following tradition of Imam al-Sadiq (A) suggests the true remedy to the vice of pride:

Know that you shall not be freed from the darkness of pride and desire unless you truly return to God in humility and penitence, and become aware of your faults and shortcomings-that is, those things which do not agree with reason and intelligence, and are not upheld by religion, Divine Law, and the tradition of the leaders of guidance. And if you are satisfied with the condition you are in, be certain that no one is more callous and wicked in regard to your own acts and none more indifferent to the wastage of your years of life than yourself, and this attitude will ultimately leave you with the inheritance of bitter despair on the Day of Resurrection (Misbah al-Shari`ah, chapter 36.)

20. Having Elaborate and Far-Flung Hopes and Desires

This vice is caused by the Power of Intellect and Passion, and is rooted in ignorance and the love of the world. It harms man by keeping him occupied with worldly matters and by retarding his spiritual development.

In order to cure oneself of this disease, one must constantly think about death and the Hereafter, with the knowledge that the world and worldly existence are transitory, and whatever one may acquire, one day one is forced to leave it behind and embrace death. He must keep alive this realization in his mind that the only useful things that he can carry across the abyss of death are his good works.

21. Rebelliousness (`Isyan)

Rebelliousness here means disobeying God's commands. This vice belongs to the Power of Anger and Passion; its opposite is obedience and God-fearing (taqwa).

22. Shamelessness

Belonging to the Powers of Anger and Passion, this vice consists of impudence and absence of shame in doing prohibited acts. Its opposite is modesty and shame (haya') which is a part of faith. Imam al-Sadiq (A) has said:

Modesty belongs to faith and faith is in paradise.