Spiritual Ailment and Wellbeing
By: Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
The sign of perfect soundness of the soul is fondness of God; to remember and glorify God is pleasant for it; and the soul loves anything and anybody who in one way or another is inclined toward the obedience and submission to Him. Meanwhile, the sign of the ailment and lack of wellbeing of the soul is that once there is talk about prayer, supplication, and religious discussion and gatherings, it resents them and deals with them unenthusiastically and out of compulsion. If a person who has not eaten any food for a couple of hours is not hungry, and a wholesome and delicious food does not stimulate his appetite, this is a sign of sickness and poor health.
We should know and be cautious that the heart has also diseases: “There is a sickness in their hearts, (2:10)” and if a sickness is found in the heart and is not treated, it will deteriorate: “Then Allah increased their sickness. (2:10)” And if its deterioration is not checked and it engulfs the entire heart, it will become incurable and there is no more hope for recovery and relief, just like one who is located at a very steep slope and cannot control himself from running down: Allah has set a seal on their hearts, and on their hearing and their sight [as well], and it is they who are the heedless. (16:108)
Sometimes, while our sickness is turning cancerous and incurable, we are still heedless and in many cases, we are instead very glad, imagining that day by day we are progressing and getting closer to perfection: Shall we inform you about the biggest losers in regard to works? Those who endeavor goes awry in the life of the world, while they suppose they are doing good. (18:103-104)
Our soul is in need of attraction and repulsion, and to choose which thing is to be attracted and which one is to be repulsed has also been delegated to us. Like the smokers and drug addicts, we may “inject” smoke and poison into our soul, and like the mountaineers and athletes, we may also provide fresh and clean air as the breathing space for our hearts and souls: Whoever desires this transitory life, We expedite for him therein whatever We wish, for whoever We desire. Then We appoint hell for him, to enter it, blameful and spurned. Whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it with an endeavor worthy of it, should he be faithful the endeavor of such will be well-appreciated. To these and to those to all We extend the bounty of your Lord, and the bounty of your Lord is not confined. (17:18-20)
Those who yearn for the transient life and enjoyment of this world and do not think of anything else will naturally strive to attain them, but they will not acquire everything they desire because in essence, desires of man are boundless, and whenever he attains a certain level, he will aspire for a higher level. In any case, God helps this group so as for them to attain some of their desires, but their final destiny will be perdition and hellfire.
There are also people who desire for the Hereafter and its blessings and pleasures. The description of this group mentioned in the Qur’an is noteworthy when it says: They are those who, firstly, “are desirous of the Hereafter” but it is not a desire for which they do not will to pay the price. In fact, they do not fail to exert efforts and pay the price worthy of what they desire, but again, it is not enough. Thirdly, action and endeavor should be supplemented by the proof of faith. Not only will these people obtain what they aspire for, but also God will appreciate them. Of course, as to what His appreciation is, only God the Exalted knows.
The most important and noteworthy part of these verses is this: To these and to those to all We extend the bounty of your Lord.
That is, “We will assist both groups to attain their desires and We will provide them with the necessary means and tools.” The choice of which thing is to be attracted or repulsed is your decision, and there is no difference whichever you choose good or bad. You will be provided with Our assistance in obtaining it. The Holy Qur'an also reads: Whoever brings virtue shall receive ten times its like; but whoever brings vice shall not be requited except with its like, and they will not be wronged. (6:160)
That is to say, “As to those who choose the perverted and noxious things, We shall make these things effective only to the extent of their capability, but We shall increase the effect of chosen good and desirable things up to ten times.”
Summary of the Discussion
In conclusion, apart from the physical dimension, man has spiritual and celestial life, in which, like the physical dimension, he is in need of attraction and repulsion. That is, he is in need of a power through the assistance of which he can attract elements such as faith, love for God and beneficial knowledge which are useful for his heart and soul and they strengthen and increase his humanity. Also, he needs a power through which he can keep certain things such as Satan, sin and love for the enemies of God and His religion, which are harmful to his spiritual life, away from his soul.
Of course, we should not forget that our main topic, as indicated at the beginning of this session, is attraction and repulsion in Islam, which can be tackled in three ways. One way is to ask: Does the totality of the teachings of Islam be they in the realm of beliefs, laws, or ethics persuade man only to attract certain things, or only to repulse certain things, or both? The second way is to ask: Is the totality of the teachings of Islam attractive or repulsive to all people? And the third way is to ask: In inviting people to Islam and training them, does Islam use attractive, repulsive, or both methods? Whatever we have said in this session is actually an introduction to the main subject, and our three initial questions still remain unanswered. God willing, in the next meeting we will deal with them.
Question and Answer
Question: Regarding the body, the issue is that it has a specific capacity in taking foods. If foods beyond that specified capacity are consumed, it will be harmful to the body and this state of affairs will become repulsive for it. Do the soul and its nourishment have the same limitations?
Answer: This is an important question and it has connection with one of the famous schools in the philosophy of ethics called “School of Moderation.” The proponents of this school believe that concerning moral virtues, the criterion of virtue is moderation, and extremism and profligacy are harmful. Naturally, this question comes to mind: Certain things have no specific limitation and the more there is the better; for example, love of God, worship, knowledge, and many others. Is moderation in this context also sensible? This question is similar to the previous one and its answer is also as follows: It is true that to acquire virtues has no bounds and limits, but the problem here is that in this world man has a limited power and capability, and if he wants to spend his entire power and strength in one aspect, he will lag behind in all other aspects. If we only engage in worship and not pay attention to food, rest and health, we will get sick and also lose the strength to worship. That is, our worship will be suspended and our body will become sick. Or is it that, for example, what God wants is the perpetuity of the human generation and this issue also requires family formation, sexual relations, rearing of children, and in sum, management of a family and meeting the needs of its members to which we should naturally spend much of our strength and time?
If man only thinks of his spiritual and moral growth, and not exert efforts for his family, wife and child, the human generation will become extinct or corrupt. Or, for instance, if a person wants to go to the battlefront and wage war, he cannot engage much in optional and supererogatory forms of worship.
Therefore, since man has various responsibilities in this world while his power and strength are limited, he is supposed to divide this strength among them and engage in every area as much as necessary and in such a manner that it does not infringe on other areas.
Of course, man can do something in that his entire life ranging from his prayer and reading of the Qur’an to eating, sleeping and the most trivial of his daily activities will become forms of worship, and from time to time, he can climb higher up the ladder of proximity to God.