Section 3 : Diseases of the Soul and their Treatment

Introduction In diagnosis of physical ailments there are certain rules and procedures to be followed. First of all the disease must be identified. Secondly, the way of treatment must be determined. Thirdly, treatment must begin with the use of appropriate medications and avoidance of harmful things, and continue until complete recovery. It has already been explained that the diseases of the soul are caused when its powers trespass the bounds of moderation, moving towards the extremes of either deficiency or excess. The way in which these diseases must be treated is the same as that used in treatment of physical illness, and must follow the three stages mentioned above until full recovery is attained. We shall continue our discussion, describe each disease and indicate its proper treatment. The diseases to be studied shall be divided into the following four categories: 1. Diseases of the Power of Intellect and their treatment. 2. Diseases of the Power of Anger and their treatment. 3. Diseases of the Power of Passion and their treatment. 4. Diseases relating to combinations of any two of these powers, or all three. Before we begin our discussion of the diseases in these four categories, it must be stated that every one of these powers can exist in either of the three different states of moderation, deficiency, or excess. In discussing every one of these powers, we shall first consider its deviation towards excess, which is a kind of illness, and indicate its proper treatment. This shall be followed by a discussion of its deviation towards the condition of deficiency and the proper method of treating it. Next we shall consider its state of moderation. We shall conclude our study of each power with an examination of various kinds of moral maladies which may afflict these powers, and their method of treatment. 1. Diseases of the Power of Intellect and Their Treatment A- The Condition of Excess Slyness: It is one of the vices of the Power of Intellect in its condition of excess or extremity. When afflicted with this disease, the human intellect is so immersed in meticulous examination and analysis that it loses temperance. In other words, the individual's mental activity, instead of bringing him closer to an understanding of reality, takes him farther and farther away from it, and may even lead him to deny reality -like the Sophists- and cause him to be bogged down in doubt and indecision in regard to religious laws and their application. The way that this fatal disease is to be treated is that the individual must first become aware of its danger, meditate upon it, and then make an effort to force his mind to keep within the limits of moderation. With common sense as his guideline and the thinking and judgement of normal people as criterion, he should judge his own thinking and judgements, being constantly on his guard until he reaches the condition of moderation. B. The Condition of Deficiency: Simple Ignorance: This disease is caused by a deficiency of the Power of Intellect in the individual, and is said to exist when the individual lacks knowledge and learning, but is aware of his ignorance. This is in contrast to `compound ignorance'-a state in which one not only does not realize his ignorance but considers himself to be knowledgeable. It is obvious that the treatment of `simple ignorance' is easier than that of `compound ignorance'. In order to cure `simple ignorance' all that is necessary is to examine the evil consequences of ignorance, and realize the fact that man's distinction over the rest of animals lies in knowledge and learning. In addition to this, he should note the importance of learning and knowledge as attested by reason and also Revelation. The consequence of such contemplation and reflection would be an automatic desire for learning. He must pursue this desire with the greatest ardour, and not allow the smallest speck of hesitation or doubt to enter into his mind. C. The State of Moderation: Knowledge and Wisdom: This condition is situated between the two extremes of `slyness' and `simple ignorance'. Undoubtedly, knowledge and wisdom are two of the sublimest qualities that man can possess, just as they are the most important and noblest of Divine Attributes. In fact it is this characteristic that brings man close to God. This is so because the more a man's knowledge and learning is, the greater is his capacity for abstraction (tajarrud); since it has been demonstrated in study of philosophy that knowledge and abstraction are complementaries. Therefore, the greater the degree of abstraction in the mind, the closer is man to the Divine Essence, whose idea in the human mind is the highest of abstractions. In praise of knowledge and wisdom, the Holy Quran says: ....And whoso is given wisdom, has been given much good ....(2:269) And ....And those similitudes-We strike them for the people, but none understands them save those who know. (29:43) The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying to Abu Dharr: Sitting an hour in a learned gathering is better in the eyes of God than a thousand nights in each of which a thousand prayers are performed, and better than engaging in battle for the sake of God on thousand occasions, or better than reciting the whole of the Quran twelve thousand times, or better than a whole year of worship during which one fasts on all days and spends the nights in prayer. If one leaves one's house with the intention of gaining knowledge, for every step that he takes, God shall bestow upon him the reward reserved for a prophet, and the reward accorded to a thousand martyrs of [the Battle of] Badr. And for every word that he hears or writes, a city shall be set aside for him in paradise .... [1] In Islam certain rules of etiquette are prescribed for both teachers and students, which have been treated in detail in other books, of which the best perhaps is the Adab al-muta'allimin by Zayn al-Din ibn `Ali al-`Amili (1495-1559 A.D.). Here we mention some points about the proper conduct for the student and the teacher: 1. The student must abstain from following his selfish and lustful inclinations and from the company of worldly men; because, like a veil, they prevent access to the Divine light. 2. His sole motivation for study must be to achieve God's good pleasure and to attain felicity in the Hereafter; not for the sake of gaining worldly wealth, fame, and honour. 3. The student must put into action whatever he learns and understands, so that God may increase his knowledge. The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying: One who acquires knowledge from the learned, and acts according to it shall be saved, and one who acquires knowledge for the sake of the world shall receive just that [and shall receive no reward in the Hereafter]. 4. The pupil must honour his teacher, being humble and obedient towards him. The proper conduct for the teacher consists of the following: 1. Teaching should be for the sake of God, and not for any worldly ends. 2. The teacher must encourage and guide his student, be kind to him, and speak to him on the level of his understanding. 3. The teacher must transfer his knowledge only to those who deserve it; not to those who do not deserve it and who may abuse it. 4. The teacher must speak only of what he knows, and abstain from topics of which he is ignorant. Here it is necessary to explain what we mean by knowledge and learning and the kind of learning we are talking about. In other words, the question arises whether honour and respect for knowledge and scholarship, which characterize Islam, apply to all the sciences or to only some of them? The answer is that fields of learning can be divided into two groups: firstly, the sciences which have to do with this world such as medicine, geometry, music etc.; secondly, the sciences which are concerned with man's spiritual development. It is this second kind of learning which is highly honoured by the holy teachings of Islam. However, the first group of sciences are also considered important, and their pursuit is wajib kifa'i for all Muslims. That is, all Muslims are obliged to pursue them to the degree necessary for meeting the needs of the Muslim community. Those sciences whose learning is necessary for spiritual development of man are: knowledge of the Principles of Religion (usul al-Din or Islamic doctrines), ethics (akhlaq)-which was formulated to guide man to those things that bring about his salvation, and keep him from those things that lead to perdition-and the science of jurisprudence (fiqh)-which concerns itself with individual and social duties of human beings from the point of view of Islamic Law.