The Lessons of Life
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Hajj ash-Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi
Thinking, reflection, meditation
Imam Ali (a.s) said: Be aware! Knowledge without thinking has no profit!1
Be aware! Recitation of the Qur’an without reflection is of little use!
Be aware! Worship lacking reflection has no effect!
Filling the brain with scientific formulas, logical rules and philosophical principles and other knowledge has little effect if it is not based on proper reflection, a clear world-view and familiarity with fundamentals of man’s life.
Reciting holy verses of the Holy Qur’an has little effect when it is not accompanied by reflection and thinking about them. Similarly, other forms of worship devoid of the light of thinking and wisdom are like a spiritless body and unable to impart their high educational value.
1. Al-Kafi, Volume One, Page 36 and Tuhaful Uqul, Maani Al-Akhbar, page 226; Bihar Al-Anwar Volume 2, page 48-49, Aalamu Addeen, page 100, Mishkat Al-Anwar 137-138, Muniat Almureed 162.
Measure of Deliberation
Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: Improving the situation of life and association is possible through using a measure, two thirds of which is vigilance and one third of which is negligence.1
No work project can be started without proper study, planning and vigilance, and yet a project cannot be completed in a timely manner without some bold decisions based on intuition, experience or outright risk-taking.
In other words, if we dive into endeavors without careful investigation, feasibility studies and work plans, we will not succeed. However, this should not mean that we get bogged down for months and years in trying to tie up all loose ends and going into unnecessary details to cover all possible uncertainties. In most cases, time is of essence for a successful outcome.
Hence the need to balance the vigilance for most part (two-third) with some non-vigilance or expediency (for the remaining one third).
1. From the book Tuhaful Uqul, page 267; Bihar Al-Anwar Vol 75, page 241
What About the Soul\'s Food?
Imam Hasan (a.s.) said: I wonder about those who think about their body’s food, but do not think about their soul’s food. They keep undesirable food away from their belly, but fill up their heart with destructive subjects.1
Our people are usually quite careful with their food and do not start eating unless they know what it is. They avoid anything that looks doubtful and some go to great lengths to ensure that the body receives good, clean, healthy diet.
Yet, when it comes to the food for the soul, these same individuals will throw caution to the winds. With eyes closed, unaware of the reality, they would have no hesitation in pouring down any mental food into their soul.
They harm their souls by accepting without question the speeches of unsuitable friends, misleading press reports and suspicious or poisonous propagation, and this is very surprising.
1. Safinat’ul-Bihar 84, article of taste. Bihar Al-Anwar, vol 1, page 218.
Role of The Pen
Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: I have not seen any weeper nicely smiling like a pen. 1
The pen divulges the feelings and interprets the wisdom of man.
The pen is founder of civilizations and rotates the wheels of society. The pen conveys the worries and pain of man through its continuous weeping. It can at the same time brighten the landscape with its smile when it touches upon life’s beauty and love, desire for life and its mysteries.
But it is regretful that when this pen is in hands of an incompetent person, its tears will change to drops of blood, and its smile is a snicker on the utmost human credits.
1. from the book Lataef wa Zaraef
Between Two Great Responsibilities
Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: A faithful believer is always anxious concerning two things: for his past sins and how God will treat him for these sins; and for his remaining life and the uncertainty about how he will spend it.1
The most manifest sign of belief is feeling responsibility, both for what has transpired and for the duties and obligations that should be fulfilled.
Those who possess these two feelings will always think about compensation for past negligence, as well as finding the best possible way for using future opportunities. These thoughts are instrumental in the continuous development and progress of a man or a nation.
The ones who are oblivious of their past mistakes and have no intention or plans to improve the future lead a poor and miserable life.
1. Usul al-Kafi, volume two, page 7
Causes for Destruction of a Society
If any one of the following four things enters a home it will ruin the home and divine blessing does not re-establish it: treachery, larceny, drinking, adultery1
This is true for homes as well as for the entire society.
When treachery penetrates into a society, the spirit of confidence disappears.
When larceny, in its different forms, appears therein, peace will not be found anymore.
When alcohol drinking becomes popular among people, they will have weak thoughts, disabled children and useless youth.
Lastly, when they are stained with adultery, the foundation of families will be weakened and their next generation will be mischievous.
1. from Nahjul Fasahah,
Indolence and Poverty
Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) said: The day in which everything married with one another, “indolence” and “weakness” mingled with each other, and their child was called “poverty and indigence”.1
Everything is earned through effort and endeavors and this is the reality that Islam has taught us.
Indolence, debility, weakness and escaping from hard work and difficult challenges are never compatible with the spirit of belief. They will produce nothing but poverty in all aspects, including economic, moral and spiritual poverty. The striving believers on the other hand shall be self-sufficient and contented in all respects.
1. Bihar al-Anwar, volume 78, page 59 and Tuhaful Uqul, p. 158
Rain of Knowledge On Hearts
Luqman, the wise, said: My son! God revives the hearts of men with the light of knowledge as he revives dead lands with blessings of rains from the sky!1
The land of man’s heart is like a garden in which all types of seedlings, seeds of flowers, plants and strong trees are dispersed. If it is irrigated on time, a pleasant and fruitful area will blossom.
The only means of irrigation for this land is the reviving drops of rain of science and knowledge. Hearts lacking knowledge have no light, no fruit, and they are dead. We should always, and in all conditions, keep alive our souls with the light of knowledge.
1. from Bihar al-Anwar, volume one
Source of Arrogance
Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: No one boasts to others unless he harbors a feeling of inferiority in himself!1
Recent psychological and psychoanalytic research has proved that arrogance and boasting is nothing more than an inferiority complex. Those who suffer from it resort to the practice of magnifying themselves artificially to compensate for their deficiencies. By doing so, they only add to their inferiority and dislike in the eyes of their community.
So clearly evident is this from the Imam’s saying . The faithful people are always modest before others due to their internal dignity.
1. Bihar al-Anwar, volume 73, page 225
Three Worthy Things Before God
The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: There are three things that remove the veils and approach God’s dignity:1
The sound of the movement of scientists’ pen when writing!
The sound of the paces of warriors in the cause of religion in the battle field!
The sound of the spinning wheel of chaste women!
What a strange and meaningful interpretation! There are three voices which penetrate into the depths of existence and their vibrations reach up to the everlasting nature of the world and approach God’s dignity: voice of knowledge and pen, although it may be low and slow, voice of holy war and self-sacrifice, and voice of attempt, endeavor and work although it may be seemingly small.
And actually, these three things, knowledge, holy war, and work constitute the foundation of an honorable human community.
1. from the book “Ashahab fil Hikam wal Adab”, page 22