Consult your friends in social and political affairs.
The Holy Prophet was in the heat of the battle of Badr. The enemies far exceeded in numbers and also had modern and devastating arms and were bent upon wiping out Islam altogether. The Holy Prophet arranged a high level meeting of war experts, then he turned towards the people and said, “Let me have your opinion in the matter of fighting with the Quraish in this desert land. Is it advisable to go ahead to confront the enemy or should we return to Medina from here only?”
A companion named ‘Miqdad’ stood up and said, “Our hearts are with you. We will never tell you what Bani Israel had told to Musa (a.s.). When he had invited them to wage jihad the Bani Israel had replied: O Musa! You and your God may go ahead and fight. We will sit here. But we say: O Muhammad (s.a.w.a.)! You and your Allah may proceed further for war. We are also with you.”
Another companion from the Ansars, Saad bin Maaz, got up and pointing toward the Red Sea said: “O great leader! If you fling into this sea, we also will jump into it following you faithfully. None of us will ever turn his face from your honor. We are not at all afraid of the enemy. Perhaps we may, in this path, render services which might please you.”
Other companions also liked the opinions of these two companions. The Islamic army got motivated. Thus the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) made up his mind to move and march forward. Through such consultation he created a fresh feeling in his army and ordered to march forward.
The Holy Prophet took such advice not only in this holy war but he did similarly on other occasions also like the battle of Uhad and the war at Khaibar and obtained good results.
Young people should gain from the experience of the seniors as they have seen the ups and downs of life. It is likely that, due to inexperience, we may look only at the apparent aspects and remain unaware of the consequences.
The reason of great victories achieved during the days of the second caliph was ‘Consultation’.
The caliph of the time used to put his problems before Amirul Mo-mineen Ali (a.s.) who, in the light of his intelligence, used to tell the secrets of success in battles.
When the caliph of the time asked the opinion of Ali (a.s.) in the matter of fighting against the Sasanids and said, “If you so advise, I may participate in this battle myself.”
Amirul Mo-mineen replied, “In case the Muslims are defeated they will not have any shelter if you also go to war with the army. But if you remain in the Islamic capital, you will be able to send help if needed. Thus the people will have a refuge.”
History is the Best Teacher
We are fortunate because we are not the first ones to arrive in this world. The sky above us has seen the lives of millions of human beings on this planet through the ever-observing eyes of the star. Those people saw happiness and sorrow, brightness and darkness, love and hatred. They indulged in war and peace. In short, they saw thousands of aspects of human life.
Though, prior to us, many people went to their graves taking the secrets of their success with them without revealing them to others and they have been forgotten, yet different parts of the earth and apparently the silent deserted lands and the ruined structures have preserved noteworthy aspects of their lives for us and writers have noted them down for our benefit. Thus this world has become a great training school for us.
We obtain several lessons by studying the pages of history, by researching the lives of men in various parts of the world and by pondering over ancient remnants and can thus become wiser like our elders.
Is it not so that the product of a whole life is only a little ‘experience’?
Does history not make us conversant with the best of experiences? Is not human history a mirror showing the past people in their entirety? The misfortunes and mistake as well as the victories and reasons thereof are clearly seen in this mirror.
In the Holy Quran, the last edition of Divine Guidance for mankind, we find this ordinance of studying the life of past communities. We have been asked to take lessons from the special aspects of their lives.
The commander of the believers, Ali (a.s.) says, “O My son! Though I did not myself live with the people of the past yet I have studied their history thoroughly and attentively. Thus I have been aware of the ups and downs of their time and I know the relevant laws. I have comprehended their history so perfectly that, it seems I were living among them.”
History is the best guide for the present generation. Teaching history is much more difficult then teaching physics and chemistry. There are some formulas by which the teacher can teach these subjects nicely. But in case of history it is necessary to think deeply, make research and strive hard to reach the conclusion. Until history teachers do not get themselves satisfied regarding these requirements they cannot fulfill their obligation and cannot get the desired results. On this basis everyone who knows history cannot be called a historian.
A point, which is more minute than a hair, is that everyone who does not shave off his hair cannot be considered a sage.
We must make efforts to understand the secrets and truths of history. Otherwise it is no use just reading it or only memorizing it. Secrets and truths of history are those bitter medicines which man can obtain with much difficulty. Man can cure both individual and collective ailments by using those medicines.
It is incumbent upon everyone, especially upon the administrators and other managers, to make deep study and research in the history of England, history of the great revolution of France, and, especially the history of Islam and of the last part of the rule of Banu Umayyah and the revolution of the Abbasids and ascertain the causes of the failures of those who had ruled over the masses for centuries.
As a principle we should cultivate within us a zeal for reading books because it raises the level of thinking, strengthens the mind and offers the treasures of great people free to those who can obtain it. Today the standard of a nation’s progress is measured and its culture weighed by the use of paper by that community. It is said that in Switzerland, which is understood to be the cradle of civilization, taking into consideration its population, the quantity of paper used is much more than any other country. Experts have confirmed that paper used in Tehran is more than the paper utilized by all other provinces of Iran collectively.
Today it can be ascertained how many books are published in a year in a country and how many copies are printed in each edition. It is also calculated how many people benefit from the public libraries in a particular country.
In this way it is determined how much the level of public thinking has risen during the past year and how did it fare compared to other nations.
Secrets of authors are always hidden somewhere in their books. Once when Aristotle intended to publish his book Alexander put a hindrance so as to prevent others from reaching the level of his teacher’s accomplishments.
During the medieval centuries the Popes and Clergy had established an ‘educational society’ and had prevented the general public from reading books so that they (the clergy) might make maximum earnings from the ignorance of the masses and may continue to have total control on them.
A good book adorns morality, builds up the personality and teaches the secrets of life. However useless books should be discarded as harmful books impair ones intelligence.
A wise man has said, “Let me know what you are reading, so that I may tell you what you are.”
Shouphenhauer has said, “Life is more precious than the time spent in reading useless books.”
We must spare some time every day for reading useful books that increase our knowledge and we must consider the book as our best friend. There is no friend in the world better than a book. No one is more sympathetic than a good book in this house of sorrow. In moments of solitude there are thousands of bounties in the company of a book and not a single hardship.
Making Use of Opportunities
People do get enough opportunities and time but they do not take the advantage of this golden key to success and miss the chance due to procrastination. One should not only complete today’s work today but if possible also do the next day’s work today.
Once Abu Muslim Khurasani was asked, “What is the secret of your success?”
His response was, “I have never postponed today’s work for tomorrow.”
Sometimes it also so happens that energy spent in postponing a job proves enough for finishing the same work.
Some students who are not allowed to appear in the March-April examinations and who have to appear in October-November take the maximum advantage of this time and opportunity whereas some waste their time in repenting and in meaningless thoughts until the time of examination arrives. Such pupils not only face failure they also retreat a few steps backward. Some people only shed tears on the past and say:
“Had we purchased that garden we would have a earned much benefit. Had we enrolled in this university we would have become among the VIPs of the country today...”
Such people waste all their time in repenting and shedding tears on ‘yesterday’s grave’, though, if even now, they become wise and restart their jobs they can fulfill all, or at least, some of their aspirations. But they continue to cry on spilt milk.
You cannot repurchase time that is spent. Hence it is better not to sell it in the first place as time is a precious pearl.
Some people have the opposite nature. They think of the future but their worry is so much that in that anxiety, they are unable to do anything during the time that is at their disposal. We have seen students who are always afraid of being debarred from appearing in the examination and who keep on saying, “We are afraid our year will be wasted, we may not be allowed to sit in the examination.”
Such restlessness does not allow them to work and study and they lose the opportunity. How meaningful is this Arabic couplet:
Whatever time is gone is gone and what will come has not yet come so get up and take the maximum benefit of what is in between the two nonexistent moments.
O Saadi! Yesterday has passed away and the forthcoming tomorrow does not now exist. Hence appreciate the time between the two.
Youth is the most opportune time
Youth is the best time for working, learning and earning. The greatest opportunity in ones life is the youth. A young man is like the mountaineer who has reached the top of Himalayas and is full of joy. He has passion, aspiration, hope, zeal and ardor for work. He has numerous capabilities for inventing things. After some years these physical and spiritual powers begin to decrease. Nerves become weak, eyesight becomes feeble, and capacities lessen.
The Master of the Pious, Ali (a.s.) says, “Man understands the importance of his youth and health after losing them.”
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had given many admonitions to his great companion, Abu Zar. One of them was, “Realize the importance of your youth before the advent of your old age.”
A young branch is the adornment of a garden. When it becomes old the gardener pulls it out and throws it away. A young branch produces a new fruit for every flower and the old branch is destined to wither away.
The great and successful people never repent over the past. At the same time no anxiety regarding the future prevents them from performing their jobs at the appropriate time.
Almighty God has given a natural wisdom to every man, which, increases with the passing of age. But, in addition to this natural wisdom, in the light of knowledge and experiments, we also get a sort of acquired wisdom. This acquired wisdom, in fact fosters the natural wisdom and raises it to perfection.
Suppose we have two trees of pistachio. Both are capable of giving nine kilo pistachio. But if we provide fertilizer to one of them, the treated plant would produce twice the pistachios.
Only those people are successful who always and in all available opportunities, be it childhood, youth or old age, polish their natural brainpower or intelligence with the acquired knowledge. And the best time for doing so is youth.
The Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) has said, “Opportunities pass away like the clouds of spring. Success is the right of a farmer who takes advantage of it.”
Those who have valued their time and age never waste their life in futile works. Some scholars have written their books during hours, which are not appreciated by the common people.
For example, Dr. Mardun Cud wrote one of his famous books during the time he got while traveling from one patient’s house to the other’s.
Dr. Borni learned French and Italian languages during the time he got while commuting to his office and back.
The great scholar, the late Mudarris Khayabani had written one of his famous books regarding Persian synonyms during refreshment breaks.
Napoleon had defeated the enemy in the event of ‘Arikula’ with the help of only 25 companions because the opponent was tired and Napoleon took the advantage of this opportunity and was victorious despite having lesser men.
Some people waste their life and time as if they are the enemies of their own lives and times. Today there are many pastimes that provide less recreation and waste more time.
Of course, tired nerves do require rest and recreation. One should never think that recreation is a waste of time. Because, lacking a stroll, breathing fresh air, viewing beautiful scenes, participating in joyful meetings and all such things give respite to our nerves from tension and add vigor to life.
But at the same time we should not squander our precious life by imagining that every vain and futile pastime is recreation.
Today’s youth mostly turns to television, cinema and magazines for recreation. They should realize that every film is not worth viewing. Nor is every book pleasing, educational, instructive and advantageous.
Crime, horror and sex films are not worthy of appreciation. Rather they turn youth into untimely old age.
Man, like other animals, also has the power of ‘determination’. In other animals it is controlled by their beastly nature, whereas man’s determination or will must be in control of his brain or wisdom.
In this chapter on determination we do not intend to say that we must hand over the reins of our will or wish in the hands of passionate desires and perform every deed according to beastly nature. In that case we will not rank above an animal and thus will lose our status.
Here our aim is that after giving proper thought if we come to a conclusion that such and such work is beneficial or desirable and that it should be done then we should make a decision to do it and should remain firm on that decision to the best of our ability. We must realize that the more the hardship or difficulty in any work the more is the demand to be firm and unflinching for its performance. Here the secret of success is firm decision or strong will. It removes difficulties and obstacles from the path.
The demeanor and the facial appearance of great people give an idea of their unyielding and firm determination, which pours success on them.
Men with firm decision are always respected in every strata of the society. Others cannot harm them. But people having a weak will power wander like stray dogs and are so frail and shaky that the enemy overcomes them easily.
Reluctance and hesitation is disastrous for success and it is a clear sign of moral debility. Indecision inflicts a fatal blow to carefulness and higher intelligence.
Alexander the Great had said, “One of the secrets of my victories is my strong will. After making a decision I do not like to hesitate in carrying it out.”
Timurlane, Napoleon and Nadir Shah were among the recognized military commanders. They used to delay their decisions but after making a decision they never changed it.
A man with a firm decision is like a soldier on duty who has already received alert orders. Such a man bears all circumstances and no hindrance can block his path. The difficulties in the path leading to his goal are unable to make anything appear impossible in his eyes.
Goethe says, “A man with firm decision and strong will can change the world to his liking.”
In the war of Qudisiyah, the commander-in-chief of the Persian army, Farrukhzaad called a delegate from the commander of the Muslim army. The Muslim commander, Saad bin Waqqas, sent Rabe bin Amir as his representative. The strong will of this Bedouin Arab made Rustom spellbound.
When he arrived in the court of Rustom, he saw that Rustom was sitting on a golden throne and rich carpets were spread on the floor with gold-threaded pillows on them.
Such deceptive things never awe a man with firm decision and strong will. His determination did not flinch at all that pomp.
When he arrived near Rustom he did not alight from his horse, rather he pushed his animal forward and entered Rustom’s stable in a mounted position. When the servants of Rustom tried to stop him he retorted, “You had invited a delegate from us. I am the representative of the Muslims. If you do not want to see me I will go back.”
Then slowly and silently, with complete ease and seriousness, he approached the throne of Rustom. Walking over the pompous carpets he went forward and sat down on the floor. Then said, “We are not accustomed to such luxury.”
When the interpreter of Rustom asked him why the Muslim army had attacked he replied, “Allah Almighty has put a responsibility on us that we should release God’s slaves from all sorts of oppressions and from the evils of other religions and invite them to abide by and accept the just law of Islam. If they accept our invitation we have no enmity toward them. Otherwise we will fight with them and will either kill or be killed. Either way we reach paradise.”
Observing such a strong determination of this Bedouin, Rustom who was struck with awe, said, “Give us some time for corresponding and consulting our elders.”
“We can give you three days. More delay is not advisable,” said the Muslim representative.
Rustom said, “It seems you are the commander and thus you intend to sign a treaty with us.”
He replied, “No. I am merely a member of the Muslim society. Of course all the Muslims are limbs of a single body. If any one of them gives shelter to others, all the Muslims are bound to concur with it.
The Commander of the faithful, Ali (a.s.) orders his son to have firm determination
The Battle of Camel was fought between Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and the breakers of the treaty. For making an attack in this war Amirul Mo-mineen (a.s.) had given the flag to his dear son, Muhammad Hanafiyah and to fortify his determination he advised, “Even if the mountains around Basra give way, you should not budge from your place, to retreat. Lighten your teeth. Offer your head on loan to Allah. Keep your eye on the last rows of the army. Close your eyes for seeing any adversity and remove difficulties with the special strength of your firm will. Understand that the final victory is in the hands of Allah. Our responsibility is only to fight in the way as shown by Him.”
The Amirul Momineen sent one of his commanders (Malik Ashtar) as the governor of Egypt. In his letter addressed to the people of Egypt, Ali (a.s) had praised his emissary thus:
“O people of Egypt! I have sent to you a slave from among the slaves of Allah towards you. He does not sleep during the hours of danger. He does not fear the enemy in time of peril. For evildoers he is more devastating than fire…He is one of the swords of Allah, which does not blunt nor it misses its hit.
We can benefit from the precious pearls hidden beneath the ground of our intelligence, wisdom and alertness only if we have an unbreakable determination. Man can advance only in the light of his steel-like will.
What is self-confidence? Only that man may take a decision in the light of his brainpower and then act accordingly. He may regard himself able to perform that task and refrain from those matters, which can weaken his will.
People, who have toured the entire world, possessed positive thinking and who had founded educational institutions and industries had removed the words like ‘impossible’ from the vocabulary of their lives. They viewed everything from the angle of ‘feasible’ and ‘I can’. A man having negative thoughts and weak will not only loses the benefit from advantageous opportunities but he also becomes a hindrance in the way of others. He wastes his life in disallowing his inner potentiality and in creating roadblocks for himself.
One of the motives of strengthening the will is love for our aim and zeal in work. First of all man must try to cultivate interest and zeal for his work. Awake or asleep, he must always dream of his work. This should continue until his mind is occupied with that issue every moment.
The gigantic pyramids of Egypt, the lofty palaces of the czars, sky-high mansions, and multi-volume books are the results of unbreakable intention.
The expertise of Russians and Americans in astronomy is skyrocketing only due to their strong will.
Weak willed people are like papers flowing on the surface of the sea. They have no strength of their own. But men with firm determination are like expert swimmers who, with the power of their will and determination, rip the water currents and proceed in the direction of their choice.
Napoleon used to say, “The word, ‘impossible’ should be removed from the dictionary of life.” He used to become very unhappy on hearing words and like ‘cannot be done’, ‘I cannot do’ and ‘I do not know’. He used to say, “Just desire and it will be done.”
Nowadays many ailments are treated by strengthening ones will power. Many difficulties become easy before a firm determination.
In the words of Hafiz Shirazi: There are many dangers in the way to Laila’s house. For taking the first step it is necessary that you should be Majnoon.