We have lost the way

We become happy on getting materialistic pleasures of the world. If some material loss occurs we become sad and aggrieved. But we have no worry about the loss of the Hereafter. We do not even think of humanity and spirituality. That is why we do not worry about the well being of life in the Hereafter. Though there is no greater peril than the peril of sins and no harm greater than the harm of the Hereafter. The real asset of man is his faith. Thieves like sensuality and Satan continue to steal from it while he sleeps in carelessness. He doesn’t worry that due to his sins his faith is decreasing or getting destroyed. It shouldn’t be that at the time of death he becomes faithless.

It is surprising that in spite of this they lament their material conditions. In addition to physical sickness they also remain spiritually ill very badly. Hospitals are full with these patients in every era and no place is vacant; and the diseases are increasing day by day but people do not take lesson that they are giving more importance to physical ailments. They do not repent. They do not leave the satanic path. The remedy for all pains is remembrance of Allah. But they do not remember Him even for a moment. Their soul remains in restlessness and affliction but they do not find any remedy of it.

Now surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest.[235]

[A Miserable time]

Indeed the condition of a man is miserable. Imam Ali (a.s.) says in Nahjul Balagha:

You are in a period when steps of virtue are moving backwards, steps of evil are moving forward and Satan is increasing his eagerness to ruin people. This is the time that his equipment is strong, his traps have been spread and his prey has become easy (to catch).

Cast your glance over people wherever you like, you will see either a poor man suffering from poverty, or a rich man ignoring Allah despite His bounty over him, or a miser increasing his wealth by trampling on Allah’s obligations, or an unruly person closing his ears to all counsel.

Indeed surveying the society of today we realize that there are generally four kinds of people in it. Some are poor who remain very sad and lamenting, some are very rich but thankless to Allah. Third and fourth are the miserly and greedy; or inspite of not being rich or poor, miserly or greedy they have forsaken the obedience of Allah.

[Social life must also not be forsaken]

Shall we leave such a society and recede to the forest? No, Islam has prohibited the way of Sufis and ascetics. We have to live in this society. We have to remove the obstacles on the way of recognition of Allah and the Hereafter. We must not waste the capital of certainty and belief, and remaining in legitimate limits we have to enjoy the pleasures and comforts of the society.

[The Self of man, and Satan]

The self of man, and Satan are the greatest obstacles on the ways of recognition of God, humanity, intellect and Islamic law. The self of man tries to mislead him and Satan makes the beastliness of the self more disobedient. These two enemies try to mislead man whether he is in a society or in wilderness. Therefore man should oppose them while living in the society. These enemies also trick man by making bad deeds seem good to him.

If man want to flee, he should flee from following the self and Satan, and not from the society.

[Congregational prayer and Hajj]

The greatest religious duty incumbent on people is the daily Five-times Prayer. Congregational prayer is also emphasized. Almighty Allah clearly commands:

And bow down with those who bow down.[236] After Prayer, Hajj is a great Islamic duty. It is performed at a particular time in the company of others. Benefits achieved from society are not present in a life of solitude in the wilderness.

If someone preaches a life of solitude in wilderness, he is himself deviated. He is talking against Islamic law. How can one who is himself deviated, guide others? If a blind leads a blind, the blindness is doubled.

[Then, what to do?]

Allah is Wise and Knowing. He best knows the pain of His creatures and it remedy. That is why He has sent doctors like the Prophet and his successors. He has given a prescription of guidance for this. He has provided guidance for everything. What to do and what not to do, everything is explained in detail. Laws exist for uttering a single word and swallowing a single morsel. Where to sit and where not to sit. Whom to meet and upon whom not even to cast a glance. Rules governing all the big and small matters are present in Islam. Every act falls in any of the five categories: Obligatory, unlawful, detestable, recommended and permissible.

No act of man is such that one of the above five do not apply to it. Details of such laws are present in books of Islamic Practical Law. 

[Islamic laws and acting on them]

On the basis of this every person is obliged to value the bounty of religion and act upon its rules. Its benefit would accrue to the man himself. The first step in this direction is learning the Islamic Law. Though it is obligatory first to learn those laws with which he is mostly involved. Of these, he must at least pay attention to the obligatory and the prohibited acts and exercise precaution in this regard. One should ensure not to miss a single obligatory duty and also that even a single unlawful act is not committed by him. The next step is that he should also perform recommended deeds depending upon his capacity and divine opportunity (Tawfeeq).

Indeed one who is acquainted with religious laws also acts upon them. In spite of living in this dirty society he remains clean and pure. Purification of soul, that is to keep oneself clean of evils and to mix with it the essence of Shariah would be definitely beneficial. Shariah is an alchemy that demonstrates how the self is heated in the kiln of trials and how impurities are separated from the pure. Since more discussion in this matter will prolong the book we content ourselves by presenting some examples of this alchemy.

For instance a religious command is to pray five times daily. Morning (Fajr), Noon (Zuhr), Afternoon (Asr), Evening (Maghrib), and Night (Isha). One who performs these five times prayers in proper way especially with a congregation, is cleaning himself of impurities five times?

The famous saying of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is, “One who regularly performs the five times’ prayer, is like one who immerses in water five times to clean his body.”

Would any dirt remain on the body of such a person? The same is the condition of the heart of one who performs the daily prayers. 

[Every act has a particular effect]

Like Prayer, each of the Islamic acts, like Fasting, Zakat (poor-rate) Hajj and other obligatory deeds have a special effect. Every obligatory act has a particular effect for purifying the heart, that is not present in others. If one performs all obligatory acts but forsakes one, he would be deprived of the benefit of this act. He would be involved in the disease of heart according to the act he has omitted and this cannot be compensated by performance of another obligatory act.

The same applies to avoiding prohibited acts. If one avoids all prohibited acts except one, his heart would remain impure from that aspect, and this impurity cannot be removed except by abstaining from this particular deed.

The same applies to the recommended deeds also. In connection with the purification of the self, the effects present in a particular recommended act are such that they cannot be obtained through any other way. Remembering death is among those recommended deeds that remove the obstacles from divine recognition and the purification of self. There are very few sermons of Imam Ali (a.s.) in Nahjul Balagha where he has not spoken about the remembrance of death. For instance he says:

“I advise you to remember death more and be less negligent about it. How can you be negligent about something (death) which is not negligent about you?”

Imam Ali (a.s.) states in a letter to the governor of Egypt:

“Whenever your self fights with you with regard to the sensual desires you must increase your remembrance of death. Death is sufficient as a sermonizer. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) used to regularly advise his companions in connection with remembering death and used to say, ‘Remember death more and more because it breaks the pleasure of the self and is an obstruction between you and lust.’”

In a tradition in Usul al-Kafi Imam Baqir (a.s.) says that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was asked who is the wisest and the most intelligent believer? The Prophet replied, “One who remembers death most and one who is most prepared for it.”

[Everything should be within limit]

Abstinence from detestable acts is similarly having particular effects. If one does not abstain from a particular detestable act, a particular ill of the heart would not be cured. However as much harm is not there in leaving a detestable act as there is in avoiding a prohibited deed. In the same way as much harm there is in leaving an obligatory deed is not there in leaving a recommended act. For example one of the detestable acts is to overeat. In the same way eating on a full stomach is also detestable. If one eats so much that it can become a cause of disease then it is not only detestable, it is unlawful too. In the same way to sleep too much, to talk too much is detestable to the point of being forbidden. However even if a sentence is uttered, that is prohibited, then it would not remain detestable but become unlawful.

It is mentioned in Surah Araaf:

And eat and drink and be not extravagant, surely He (Allah) does not love the extravagant.[237] Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “Surely Allah does not like one who sleeps and eats in excess.” The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is recorded to have said, “It is your duty to remain silent. Because silence is a weapon to chase away Satan and it is helpful to you in your religion.”[238]

There are many traditions of the Prophet greatly flaying excess of sleeping, eating, speaking and praising people. For the purification of the self, cleaning of the heart and fostering the effulgence of nature it is necessary to adopt moderation in sleeping, eating and speaking. Apart from traditions, practical experience and personal observations also prove our stand.