Awareness of Circumstances
By: Ayatullah Jafar Subhani
Before starting any work it is necessary to understand the conditions and demands of the atmosphere and then to draw a program accordingly. Jobs done without first studying the relevant trends often end up in failure.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) said, “One who becomes aware of the conditions of his times is saved from a sudden attack.”
This is a very valuable principle. Had the Muslims and other backward communities of the world, paid attention to this rule in the matter of politics they would never have been subdued by the invaders. Many misfortunes are the result of ignorance of and carelessness toward prevailing conditions.
In western Rome Before the advent of Islam, there was no progress at all in arts and science, trade and industry and military affairs, because the people there were so unmindful of the world that when the Muslim army besieged Constantinople their wise men were discussing vain issues as: Can some angel accommodate them on the point of a needle?
History repeats itself. Muslims also fell to such idleness at a time when they were at the peak of their progress and advancement. The eastern states, particularly the heads of Islamic countries were pitiably unaware of the conditions of their masses. They woke up only after the west took control of all sciences and industries.
Even the recurring defeat of the Ottoman Empire did not awaken its rulers. The rulers remained in sleep even after being defeated by the Europeans. Suddenly when they saw enemy planes roaring over their heads they began to open their eyes wide with astonishment.
They could not imagine that it was the work of human beings. Perhaps they were thinking that the flying machines were the handiworks of angels!
The nineteenth century was very important from the viewpoint of discoveries and inventions. But in those days Iran was engaged in internal struggles. Those responsible for such state of affairs were in deep sleep. They were unaware of the conditions of the world.
For example it would not be out of place to mention here that during the reign of Fatehali Shah, Napoleon wanted to conquer India. He intended to snatch away that fertile land from the hands of the British East India Company. In this connection, in order to obtain the support of Iranian public and government, he wrote a letter to the Shah of Iran.
Strangely enough they could not find anyone in the court of the Shah of Iran who could translate the letter of Napoleon for the king.
It was considered inadvisable to get it translated from the embassies of other countries. They were thus compelled to send that letter to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad where there was a French-knowing person who translated it.
Such a dosing nation cannot preserve its political, economical and cultural independence and it has to live under the obligation of others.
A great Iranian poet has given vent to his burning feelings in this connection thus:
We are the ones who had collected tax from kings, then we took away their belt and crown.
We took their royal cap and their throne, which was decorated with pearls and ivory.
We emptied their treasures.
We did not fear storms and high-speed winds.
We were a dreaded topic in China and other countries.
Egypt and Oman were awed by our glory.
Our power was obvious in Spain and Rome.
Granada and Ashbila used to obey us.
Saqliya was under our flag.
Royal decree was our sign, which used to cover everything under the sun.
These couplets pertain to the era when Muslims and Iranians were awake. It can be said that the East was proud of the glorious past of the Islamic world. But what is our condition today? The same poet describes:
Alas! This field has been destroyed by flood.
The afflicted farmer went into deep sleep.
The blood of our heart took the color of wine.
The heat of fever burnt down our body.
The cool face turned into a burning one.
The eyes of intelligence too got covered with blood.
The wealth went away and health turned to illness.
Institution of the Pope
The Pope’s grand institution, after a long duration of oppressive rule, got disintegrated, because it had tried to remain in power by creating a cruel court called Inquisition. But it had erred seriously and was unaware of the changes, which had already taken place in the masses. Those changes in the thoughts of the people tended to destroy the wrong thoughts of the clergy and the priests. The church took no notice of those changing trends at all. It was of the opinion that it would be able to stem the flood with the help of oppression, use of force and torture. But this thinking was merely the result of their ignorance of the change in winds. If it had not, at the last moments of its life, prepared a new plan and had it not adapted itself to the new age, no sign of Christianity would have remained in the world today. It cleared its sleepy eyes, changed its course, started schools, colleges and universities and regained its past position through educational service to the society.
The Most Intelligent Man of the East
In the nineteenth century, an ordinary but a very intelligent person (Amir Kabir) rose up. He felt that the misfortune of the easterners was due to the changes, which had taken place in the west. Those changes had created a vast gulf between the people of the east and the west. So long as that gap was not filled the western communities would continue to monopolize Iran.
So he studied the circumstances carefully and realized that it was not the time to fight with swords and arrows. Modern technology has changed the method of production. Gas and steam have subdued all material treasures.
Therefore, Amir Kabir, in 1849 AD (1266 HE) established an institution named ‘Daral Funoon’ (House of Arts & Science). The eastern wing of this institute was completed by the end of the year 1267.
They deputed a reliable person to Vienna who requested the Emperor of Austria to send a commander of infantry, a tutor of artillery, a teacher of mounted police, an expert of mining, two miners, a professor of medicine and surgery and a pharmacist for five or six years and paid each of them a monthly salary of 4000 Tomans.
But alas! Traitors of the nation came forward to put off this shining lamp and Amir Kabir was killed at the hands of the butchers of Qachar a few years after the establishment of Daral Funoon in the year 1268.
Observing closely the trends of the world, Amir Kabir had realized that a major cause of the backwardness of Iran and other counties was that their economy depended on the west. Iran had become a market of the west-manufactured materials and was only their consumer.
This reliance on the west, rather helplessness and beggary, had destroyed the capabilities of Iranians. The Iranis had become only the suppliers of raw material to the industries of the west. They were pulling on their days like a daily-waged laborer. Amir put at the disposal of the artist enough capital for the expansion of manufacturing industries.
He established sugar factories in Saari, rope and cloth in Tehran, silk in Kashan and Horse-carriages in Isfahan etc. He gave much assistance to cloth manufacturers in Isfahan and Kashan, encouraged many experts for preparing new things and making inventions and had also arranged an exhibition of Iranian products in Iran.
All these services rendered by Amir Kabir were the result of his awareness about the existing trends and circumstances.
When roads were built in Iran and automobiles started rolling thereon, the joyful journeys on horseback and in horse and donkey carts came to an end. The carriers of mule-litters began to complain so much that, strangely enough, they even asked the government to cancel the licenses of pannier-owners! All this was the consequence of remaining unaware of the happenings in the world.
Sometimes our businessmen do things, which are disliked by people in today’s world. In fact such deeds of theirs are like waging war against progress. As a result they meet with sure defeat.
Here we become convinced of the importance of a great religious leader’s words who said: Do not fight with time otherwise time will fight with you.
Enemy: A Step-stone to Success
Only he is victorious who has recognized the world fully and who considers his enemy as the first step toward victory.
Intelligent people think that the enemy teaches him how to march towards success, because, the adversary is the best type of mirror with reflects our defects through pen or tongue. It decreases our pride and arrogance and, sometimes, helps in uplifting our hidden abilities.
The advances of the east and the west are the consequence of competition. If competitions come to end, capabilities would not flower. Thus, if there were no struggle between individuals or masses the progress in new inventions too would become stagnant.
Failure is a ladder to success
One of the secrets of success is that we should not fear failures. Rather, we must pick up the sweet fruits hidden in defeat. Failure is like a mirror, which shows us our weaknesses and defects accurately.
Great and wise people consider failure as a bridge to victory. They endeavor to see that the causes of failure are not repeated. In fact they do not consider failure as defeat. What they really fear is that they should never be disheartened or demoralized.
History shows that many victories came after defeats. It is so because the failed person enters the field again with a new determination and spirit and achieves success as he is convinced that the distance between success and failure is very less.
Those who fail but do not get disappointed are the ones to give up so easily. They continue to march forward gradually with a strong will and rest only after reaching their goal.
In the battle of Uhad, Muslims had to taste defeat due to an act of disobedience. But that defeat was so educative that it cleared the road to future success.
Napoleon says, “I have seen so many defeats that I have now learnt how to defeat the enemy.”
And what an apt statement is made by someone else: For those with weak spirit defeat is a fatal poison but for powerful souls it is a ladder to success.
In the Islamic Law, despair is considered a great sin. An apparent effect of defeat is disappointment but since the days of old people have said: The brightness of dawn comes after the end of a dark night.
It is also said that sometimes hope remains hidden behind hopelessness and disappointment. Hope follows hopelessness.
The great Iranian military commander Nadir Shah was determined to conquer Baghdad after capturing Kirmanshah from the Turks. He also conquered Samarrah, Kerbala, Najaf and some other towns of Iraq and then besieged Baghdad. But very soon, Topal Shah reached there with eighty thousand selected warriors to break the siege.
That army of the Ottoman Turks was armed with heavy artillery and numerically too they were more than the Iranians. During the fighting the horse of Nadir Shah was hit by an arrow, which drowned that animal in blood. The Iranian soldiers imagined that Nadir Shah was killed so they disintegrated and anarchy spread. When Nadir Shah saw this he ordered retreat. Nearly 30,000 Iranians and 20,000 Turks fell in this battle. The Turks took control of the entire artillery and arms of the Iranians. Nadir Shah reached Mandali with surviving soldiers most of whom did not even have shoes on.
In the eyes of the ordinary people this defeat has finished the Iranian army. But what gave salvation to Nadir shah was that he did not accept defeat, as his spirit was till alive. After returning to Hamadan, he collected fighters from all over Iran and prepared a fresh army within two months. There were at least 2,00,000 men it. Then he went to Kirmanshah. From there he went to Karkook and gave a severe defeat to the Turkish army. Then he surrounded Baghdad once more and compelled the Turkish warriors to surrender. As a consequence the Turkish government had to promise that all the Persian lands would be returned to Iran within ten years.
The Persian King plucks Sweet Fruit from a Sour Tree
Behram Shah was very fond of hunting. But he was totally unaware of the conditions of his people. He used to become pleased merely by seeing his well-managed military and the flattering talks of his courtiers. He knew nothing about innocent prisoners languishing in his jails.
In such circumstances a war broke out on the borders of Iran. The king was compelled to ask help from the people. But they did not pay any attention to his call and did not cooperate with him, as he had not cared for them. The king was shocked to see this. He began to think about the reasons of his helplessness before his masses. He realized that there was some irregularity in the government administration, which he did not know, and that irregularity had turned the people against the regime.
One day, he went out of the city in disguise. There he suddenly saw that a man had hung the skin of a dog in front of his tent. The King of Iran went forward, said Salam to that person, introduced himself as a traveler and asked the reason for hanging the dog skin. After much persuasion the man replied, “I was maintaining myself with the help of some sheep that used to graze in this greenery. This skin is of a dog, which used to guard them. My shepherd and I were hopefully thinking of expanding our work. But after a few days the shepherd came and informed me that wolves had taken away a sheep. He brought similar sad news for two or three days continuously. So I became suspicious about the dog. Then the shepherd and I kept a vigil on the dog for a whole night. We observed that the dog had cultivated sexual relations with a female and his passion had allowed the wolves to attack our herd. So we have hung its skin here that people may understand that such is the end of those who accept a responsibility and then show dishonesty in their duty.
This story shocked the king who told himself, “Perhaps, the reason of my failure is that I had over confidence in my courtiers.” Thereafter he personally contacted different sections of the public without informing the yes-men of the court. He found that the unhappy people were not allowed even to complain and that a number of innocent people were imprisoned for not paying ‘illegal’ taxes.
He instantly brought about a kind of basic revolution. He transferred his courtiers, ministers and officers, punished the oppressors and thus regained the confidence of his masses. Soon thereafter he began to get support from all the sections of the society.
The Defeat of Hitler
Hitler had met defeat in the way Napoleon had suffered defeat. Napoleon had marched to conquer Moscow in a severe winter. So he could not succeed and this thoughtless gesture proved to be the cause of his downfall. Had Hitler learnt a lesson from Napoleon’s defeat he would not have repeated his mistake. Hitler invaded Russia in the scorching heat of summer on the 2nd June of 1941. He also saw almost what Napoleon had seen. Initially the German forces got some success and the allies had to retreat. Germans pursued them but thereafter the Germans had to suffer many difficulties in surrounding cities like Leningrad in a very hot season. Russians attacked them severely and the Germans were defeated.
Courage and fearlessness
Courage, valor, fearlessness and boldness are all synonymous words. They are recognized as the basic qualities of a successful personality.
Surely, boldness is different from carelessness and haughtiness or impudence or rudeness. Similarly there is a vast difference between bravery and indiscipline.
Courage and fearlessness are the signs of manliness and in many tasks these qualities serve as a bridge to success. Rather no achievement, progress and advancement are attainable without courage and gallantry. All social and intellectual revolutions too require these qualities.
Fearful and timid people hide themselves in corners like birds retreat in cold season. They do not undertake any task for fear of their opponents. Such people neither become reputable nor can they bring any change in life. At the most they can remain in their original condition.
But bold and courageous people first realize the importance of their aim, ponder over every side of the matter, weigh probable profit or loss, prepare a program and then begin their job without caring for anything.
Here there is a difference between haughtiness and madness and courage and boldness. Careless people jump in without pondering over related matters. They do not keep an eye on their benefit or loss. Even if they prepare a program, wise people do not appreciate it. Such people are deceived by their strength and they take undue pride in themselves.
Here we can further clarify by giving an example from history.
After the passing away of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a), a person named Musailima Kazzab claimed to be a prophet in Oman. The Muslim army went there to crush him. Musalima’s men scattered away but he himself and some of his companions took shelter in a garden. That garden had four walls and it was situated in the midst of a castle. There was enough provision for four months in that fort.
The Muslim soldiers remained around the fort for some days but could not do anything. A meeting was held under the leadership of a famous commander Abu Dajana wherein, in the very beginning, it was decided that if Musailima were not captured at the end of the siege, the mischievous fellow would continue to mislead the people by his deceitful gestures and thus would prove to be great risk to Islam. So it would not be a matter of regret if some Muslims were martyred in an attempt to capture him. Then there was a discussion about the ways of arresting him. Abu Dajana said, “I want only ten persons who are ready to sacrifice their lives for this cause.”
At once ten people came forward as volunteers. Then Abu Dajana said, “These ten persons including myself will, one by one, sit on a shield. Other soldiers will, with the help of their spears, raise that shield upward until the hand of the man sitting on the shield reached up to the wall of the castle. Thus when all reach the wall they will enter the castle with the help of ropes. First of all I will hold the rope and go inside and try to open the gates from inside. If my companions see that I am killed, another will follow. If he too is killed, the third man will get in. In this way, as a result of the self-sacrifice at least one person will reach the gate and open it for the Muslim army.
Per chance, Abu Dajana, himself achieved the task. He lowered a rope, entered the fort, fought for a while and succeeded in opening the gate. Thus the last center of corruption was destroyed with the capture and killing of Musailima Kazzab.
Had Abu Dajana not shown this courage, the Muslims would have never succeeded.
At the time of victory over Spain, Moosa bin Nasir, who was the commander of the Muslim arm in Africa, determined to capture Europe. He sent his slave Tariq bin Ziyad with a small group of people to Spain for spying.
When Tariq reached Spain and observed the enemy from every angle he understood that they were bent upon attacking the Muslims. Tariq thought that if he sends a report to his chief and awaits his response the enemy might become alert. So he ordered his men to burn down the ships in which they had reached the coast of Spain. When the ships began to burn, some took exception to that act and said, “You have made us shelter less by burning our ships. Now we cannot return to our homes.”
Tariq replied, “The Muslim is not like a bird, which has a particular nest.”
Then he got up, stood in the valley which today is known by the name of Gibraltar. Before his eyes the sea was roaring loudly. He delivered such a forceful speech that the audience could hear only his words even in the midst of the lashing of the ocean waves. The sea had, perhaps, become silent.
Tariq said, “Brother! The roaring sea is behind you and the army of the enemy in front of you. Your enemy has heaps of foodstuff and arms whereas you have only that which you can snatch from them with the strength of your hands. You do not have any armor except the swords hanging on your waists.”
This forceful speech inspired much courage in the Muslim warriors. Their blood began to boil in fervor and they forced the enemy to surrender in a very short time as a result of their fearless fighting. Spain was conquered in this way.
The Courage of Martin Luther in Bringing about Religious Reform
Due to the fear of the Christian clergy the uneasiness of the masses could not be expressed by their tongues and they were feeling suffocated. No one dared to utter a single word of complain against the Pope and the clergy around him.
Martin Luther went to Rome in 1510 AD and saw for himself that those occupying high ranks in the church were careless in their duties regarding religion. So his determination to reform the religion doubled. Finally he put up a notification at the gate of the highest church informing the people that he had some points, which he wanted to discuss with knowledgeable persons.
Luther raised serious objections against the ways and manners of the religious leaders. He said that after becoming respectable in the eyes of the masses the priests claimed to get people’s sins pardoned. Martin said this gesture of the priests was a kind of misappropriation.
The clergy became very angry at this criticism. They warned Martin to refrain from his undesirable propaganda. But he took no notice of their threats and continued voice his criticism in public meetings.
The Vatican was then compelled to declare that Martin had become unbeliever. Martin burnt the Pope’s edict in public and took shelter with Frederick the third. Yet he continued his mission and at last, as a result of his courage he rested only after separating some wrong things of Christianity from religion and founded the Protestant order.
The examples quoted by us so far were related to courage in social affairs. But you can find many events of boldness in individual and personal matters too in human history. Whosoever wants to be successful must note that: Success is impossible in any sphere of life without courage and boldness.
If, today, our society is slow in accepting reforms its only cause is that the foundation of our life is based only on defense. We have no courage to go forward. Persons having courage and valor can be counted on the fingers of ones hand.
Those who have no courage or boldness move only to maintain their present status. They do not have any idea of progress or advancement. Even if they opportunities in their life they are unable to take any advantage from them. On the contrary, when courageous people find any possibility of betterment and change they take its full advantage even by suffering hardships.
We should know that every progress and every change demands hard work and patience. Pain is always present at every corner of life. When a baby wants to come to this world from its mother’s womb it has to struggle through a narrow passage.
Bold people, when they reach any crossroad in their life, they bear every hardship with a smiling face.
It has been observed that many people are not happy with their present position but since they have no courage they are unable to bear hardships and difficulties for improving their condition. Thus they remain where they are and continue lamenting throughout their lives.