Awareness of Circumstances
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 Iranians 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.
The importance of high and holy aims is much more than physical comfort and material possessions in the eyes of the wise and intelligent people. Only he can get success in such aims that does not care for his life and other material things.
If one aims to attain holy goals for the benefit of his body or life or for material progress it would be a kind of madness, because holy aims demand sacrifice and sacrifice means being unmindful of life, and it is lunacy to sacrifice ones life for material things.
However if one has so much affection and love for a religious aim that it is dearer to him than his life and body and material gains then, in that case, sacrifice, that is the losing of life and money and family and material status will be considered a sign of success.
Those who view life from material angle and desire everything only for material benefit are unable to show the correct reason of the sacrifices offered by the prophets, pious leaders, Imams, great people, selfless diplomats and person having religious and spiritual aims.
It is possible that the materialists may look at those sacrifices as a legend, myth or fiction, and even brand those great persons as lunatics. But one who gives preference to his aim over his life throws himself in dangers with a smiling face and a heart full of lofty sentiments.
Prophet Isa (a.s.) suffered so many difficulties and tolerated the taunts of the Jews only for a Holy aim, which was dearer to him than his life.
Hazrat Ali (a.s.) slept on the bed of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on the night of migration (Hijrat). It was the same kind of sacrifice.
If the leader of the martyrs, Imam Husain (a.s.) colored the soil of Kerbala with his blood and that of his near and dear companions, it too was the result of the said love for a holy aim. In his eyes a respectful and honorable death was better than a life of dishonor.
His philosophy was: A red death is better than a black life.
In the battle of Naharawan, a youth, on his own, took a copy of the holy Quran from the Commander of the Faithful (a.s) and went to the battlefield only to be cut into pieces by the enemy, it was also because of his love for his aim. He wanted that truth should overcome falsehood.
If Columbus discovered America, it was his act of sacrifice. He was an expert seaman and had made several voyages of the Atlantic since the age of fourteen.
Columbus and started his voyage on 3rd October 1492 with a convoy of three ships. After tolerating many hardships, dangerous storms, ailments and harsh words of his companions, he reached the shore of America at last.
If, on 6th April 1909, Robert Edwin Perry reached the North Pole it was also his sacrifice. This American seaman, along with his five companions, had reached there only after suffering several difficulties. Perry himself was the captain. After reaching there he made many calculations to fix the exact position of the North Pole. Thereafter he rested for 36 hours continuously. The fingers of his feet had, due to the freezing cold, become useless. His companion, Methinan, amputated those four fingers while Perry was asleep. On the return voyage all the five fingers of his other feet too became useless.
Difficulties and Calamities
In the roaring sea of life there are storms as well as mountain high waves. The high-rise waves of incidents and accidents try to block the paths of great people. Success comes only those who pave their way by tearing the oceans of difficulties riding on the ship of wisdom and planning, and plough through the seas of hardships with the help of the oars of knowledge and intelligence. All this requires firmness as described before.
The remarkable point is that the existence of difficulties is one of the causes of success. Some people do not realize this easily, but if they think over it they would realize that just as the heat of fire strengthens steel, difficulties and hardships make the imagination and thinking of man more sharp and teach him the lesson of living.
Strong and powerful people are those who were brought up amidst difficulties and hardships because they alone knew how to cope up with adversities, but those who are nourished in comfort and ease are like delicate and tender flowers, which fall down even by a cold whiff of breeze.
The Master of the Pious, Ali (a.s), who was exemplarily strong physically, extraordinarily high spiritually and unparalleled in steadfast when in difficulties, in his letter to his governor in Basra, Usman bin Hamid, after describing a little about his own simple food, in a part of that communication, writes: I understand, some of you will say that when Ali bin Abu Talib takes so little food, he must have become extremely weak physically and too feeble to stand before the enemy. But, remember that the wood of a forest tree is hard, whereas, the skin of fresh and green tree is thin and delicate and that the forest tinder flares up sooner and keeps on burning longer.
The trees growing on riverbanks live at ease and are not habituated to storms. But the jungle trees are nourished in tough weather. They grow up in hardships and are fed by the scorching sun, hot winds and scant water.
The communities living in hills and vales are stronger than those who pass their lives in cities and towns. People living in mountains, though deprived of many comforts of life, are able to bear and tolerate more heat and cold as compared to the city-dwellers.
When calamity befalls one he uses his intelligence to find out ways of removing it. Really speaking hardships raise the capability of finding solutions of problems and treatments of ailments. Thus difficulties provide steps to climb the ladder to success.
Those who have earned name and fame in the field of science and industry have tolerated difficulties almost throughout their lives.
Therefore, Napoleon used to say, “Hardships sharpen man’s intelligence, which result in a better gain. Goethe says, “The storms of incidents strengthen the soul and morale of man.”
Parents who always want to save their children from every kind of hardship make them tender. They are suffering from a serious misunderstanding. Such tender children tremble like thin leaves in times of stormy weather and fear every breeze. The burdens of life break them down pitiably.
But those who have suffered hazards and tough times keep standing like mountains. Stormy winds cannot harm them at all. Similarly floods always digs up soft ground but hard soil remains intact amidst floods.
The deluge of difficulties proves ineffective in front of tough and sturdy men. Feeble persons cannot stand straight even on their own legs.
The calamities of life provide man with a treasure of experiences and become a ladder to climb up to success and progress. Man gains experience only through hardships. In the light of those experiences he does only those deeds continuously that give him advantage. He marches forward crushing the mountains of hardships under his feet. No calamity can ever come in the path of his advancement. When the arrows of distress hit his chest he tolerates the pain with a smiling face.
Nietzsche says: I love you so much; I wish you should see pains and sorrows. I show no mercy to you in this matter because I really love you. You already know, why? It is so because I wish that your hidden abilities should blossom and that you should combat hard times with an armed soul.
In the words of Nasir Khusro: Man never becomes perfect until he sees sorrow and difficulties. Can a flower spread fragrance without suffering the onslaught of winds and rains?
It would not be wrong to say that the success our children is hidden in hardships. If we say that steel becomes harder after entering fire, a knife becomes sharper only after being grinded on hard rock, it is the same truth.
A brave Persian named Nadir Shah was a great warrior. His wisdom, acquaintance with his job and his zeal are all recorded in books of history. He had undertaken his task in the most difficult condition. In those days a few Afghans had subdued the ancient Persians. Ottoman Turks had occupied the north-western part of Iran, England and Holland were holding southern Iran and the Persian Gulf was in their hands and they intended to make south Iran a second India.
Nadir Shah was finding it difficult to manage law and order due to the luxurious life of his predecessors. But then a brave man like Nadir Shah arose, who was brought up in scorching heat and on burning sandy lands and which had made him accustomed to face and combat all kinds of hazards and wars. The difficulties of life and the disgraceful condition of Iran had turned his body and soul as strong as the collective bodies of the Persian masses.
Employing his enraged soul and his rock-like determination, he cleared Iran of the enemies and thus his name began to be listed as the world’s most outstanding warriors.
Torments and tribulations polish man’s personality, because he uses his mental faculties for removing difficulties. Hence wise people say that games and sports raise the mental abilities of a child because in the course of games and sports he faces some sort of difficulties and uses his intelligence to remove them.
From this viewpoint, unless there are storms of difficulties many capabilities cannot grow. Hardships and calamities are like a strict teacher whose class scores the best marks.
Objection raised by Materialists
They say if God is Merciful then why has He engulfed man in calamities? What is the philosophy behind all these problems?
How are these hardships in conformity with God’s justice and Mercy as theists claim?
But these worshippers of the material world have ignored one point and it is that these difficulties and hardships too have an aspect of psychological advantage. It is a fact that man does not realize the importance of ease and health until he comes across calamities. Moreover, it is essential to stem the hardships because man requires a warning signal in his life that he may defend himself. If there were no difficulties, man would become selfish and proud. From this angle, these troubles wash off the rust deposited on hearts and fill them with compassion and mercy.
We must never hope that we can achieve a great goal without facing difficulties. Many scientists have succeeded only because of hardships and dearth of means. For example:
Ferguson manufactured a wooden clock with the help of a little knife.
Newton analyzed light with the help of a binocular and a piece of paper and postulated the theory of seven colors.
When the laboratory of the physicist, Weston was visited, only a few bottles, some pieces of papers, a watch and a thermometer were found therein.
Ferguson used to walk out of the town during nights, lie on the open ground under the sky, gazing at the stars measuring the distance between them with the help of a rosary.
A famous space scientist Wittonhouse used to calculate details about solar and lunar eclipses with the help of a small farming implement.
Hardships adorn man with the virtues of manliness. All the high positions, be they material or spiritual, are the fruits of hardships. It is incumbent upon them to overcome the difficulties.
Saib Tabrizi says: Until polished, defects remain in a mirror. One who stubs his toes becomes an expert in his field.
This is really true. The possibility of victory is less for those who have enjoyed ease from the beginning of their lives and are afraid of difficulties. But the youth who has seen both hardship and comfort is more likely to lead his life successfully, because he has already learnt to face calamities right from his childhood.
Accepting the Reality
We must accept the reality or truth, as it does not matter whether it is in our interest or against us. We must never imagine the reality to be always in our favor.
Everyone should wear a spectacle, which can show him the facts honestly, and he too should view them honestly, without any prejudice.
Those who want to spread corruption in society always create rumors to satisfy their mean souls. So as a result of continuously deceiving their hearts they tend to believe their own lies making their minds blind.
On 6th August 1945, the first atom bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which has become the world’s unforgettable city due to this unfortunate event. The bomb afflicted 1,50,000. Its population, which was 3,44,000 in 1940, was reduced to only 286 in 1953. Three days later a bomb fell on another Japanese city of Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered a week later. The whole world condemned the beastly act of America, which had mercilessly massacred thousands of innocent men, women and children. This barbarous deed is unprecedented in world history. It was president Truman who had ordered this bombing, whose heart began to trouble his mind thereafter. All the peace lovers of the world condemned Truman whose status was reduced to dust. The world called him a killer instead of a diplomat.
Now, let us see, how Truman had viewed this event and how he was deceiving his soul, distorting the truth and trying to present poison as nectar. He says, “I had issued this order to save millions of American soldiers. If the bombs had not been deployed the U.S. army would have had to attack the shores of Japan, which was very secure with military arrangements. Thus it would have been a furious battle in which Japanese too would have suffered much.
These are the words of an ex-president of America, but even a layman can understand that Truman was deceiving himself through false arguments. He did not want to see the reality. Moreover, he has been thinking that his prestige has remained intact and also his popularity, but very soon he tested the fruits of his folly. Freedom lovers of the world threw him out of the field of politics and public life and this stain remained on him forever.
Businessmen, diplomats and other people can succeed in their fields only when they see their conditions truthfully and without any bias. It is necessary for a good trader to listen to the criticism made by the customer about his merchandise or about the way he conducts business with a cool mind and full attention and thereafter remove objectionable things. Similarly it is necessary for a diplomat to consider people’s objections properly. Without proper understanding he should not brand the people’s movements as self-motivated struggles. He should not try to suppress people by alleging that they are anarchists or lawless. Politicians should always remember that only by loving the truth and appreciating it can a nation be made stable, and their politics secure. Truthfulness is the first condition.
The student who loves progress tolerates the teacher’s scolding happily. When he gets fewer marks he never alleges that the teacher was partial. Rather he pays attention and examines his own self and his method of study. Possibly the truth was that he himself had made mistakes and faults. Such understanding of truth will serve him as a ladder to future success.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to assess the enemies and their power before waging a war against the polytheists and idol-worshippers. He used to gather relevant information before starting a campaign. The facts were sometimes unpleasant too but he never considered the strength of the enemy insignificant and worth ignoring. He never deceived himself or the Muslims through wishful thinking, saying, for instance, that we will finish the enemy with a single assault or will push them into the sea instantly.
In the battle of Badr, Muslim spies captured a soldier of the polytheist Quresh on the well of Badr and brought him to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). They had not, till then, known the number of the enemy forces.
The Holy Prophet (s) asked him, “How many camels are being slaughtered by the Quresh daily?”
The captured man replied, “Some times nine sometimes ten.” The Holy Prophet said, “The enemy’s strength is between nine hundred and one thousand men.”
The 6-day war between the Arabs and the Israel in June 1967 ended in the defeat of the Arabs. It is painful to state that very few have confessed this bitter truth only because it is bitter. The fact is that the cause of the defeat was that the heads of the Arab states and their internal and external supporters, instead of making a correct and truthful assessment continued to sing and broadcast war songs. Had they done so they would have never faced such a humiliating defeat unparalleled in human history.
Indeed, doubt is a ladder to surety and trust. So long as a man does not develop doubt about anything he does not care to make inquires and act seriously.
Similarly objection and criticism also are ladders leading to perfection. Successful is one who listens to people’s criticism carefully. He takes into account every criticism, which has been made selflessly with an intention of improvement. The truth is that true reflection of man and his defects are seen in the mirror of public criticism.
Jamshed made the Jame Jahan Numa (world reflector cup) only because he was not aware of the truth that the world itself is a Jaam (cup) exhibiting itself.
We should remember that Imam Ja’far (a.s.) has said, “Dearest to me among my brothers is the one who presents to me my shortcomings and thus makes me aware of my defects.”
In the eyes of our great leaders the best gift is to show the defects of people to them in the nicest possible manner.
In today’s free world, criticism is the foundation of life.
The European world invites experts from other countries and entrusts governmental and other departments to them so that they may examine them and offer criticism.
One who feels bad hearing his criticism and who does not like to see the reality as it is and who dislikes to know people’s opinion about him, should be told: Break thyself, as it is wrong to break the mirror, which reflects real face.
There is a distinct difference between being flexible and being a weathercock. A flatterer and weathercock type man has no aim in life. He does not follow any true principle. He puts on different masks on his face and appears before others on the stage of life. He destroys all principles for his personal benefits and to satisfy his passions.
But a flexible person behaves mildly unless there is a danger to his principles or aims. He makes agreements even with his enemies when essential. He lets go many of his personal advantages in order to safeguard his principles and if need be, gives preference to the wishes of others ignoring his own liking.
The changing circumstances of the world are mostly like the storms, which uproot many. A windstorm starts and attacks trees. Green trees show some flexibility and allow the storm to pass overhead and soon thereafter become upright after bowing for a while. But dry and hard trees try to remain standing in the face of stormy winds. The hardness and stiffness does not allow them to be flexible and consequently they are uprooted.
The head of a state who is in charge of all affairs, the managing director of an organization who has to deal with hundreds of people, a trader or businessman who faces all kinds of consumers and buyers are such people that if they sacrifice their principles for gaining passing and temporary benefits, they are weathercocks.
But the same people, if they show a little flexibility, become somewhat soft and give some positive response to the demands of relevant people, and win over their hearts by suffering a little material loss then, we can consider them as people having a desirable flexibility.
In this connection, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) says, “In the face of the storms of events the position of a believer is like a flexible plant. When a stormy wind hits, it shows softness and does not remain stiffly erect. But an unbeliever is like a hard dry tree, which does not bend and consequently gets uprooted.
If these people are harsh in ordinary matters in dealing with different types of people it can harm their reputation. Such harshness creates hatred in the hearts of the masses and, therefore, such people cannot attain high status nor can they perform commendable deeds. Only one with some flexibility in temper can become popular in society.
If you see the Treaty of Hudaibiyah you will be surprised to observe the flexibility shown by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The treaty he signed in the 8th year of the Hijri Era with the idolaters of Quresh was even criticized by some ignorant and unwise persons, but with the passage of time it was proved that flexibility was necessary for future success.
The biggest hurdle in the advance of Islam was the idolaters of Quresh. They had, through their continuous attacks taken away the freedom of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a). Had there not been this hindrance, the Holy Prophet’s call was so effective and impressive that, by dispatching a few preachers and by propagating and spreading the message of the holy Quran, he could have brought the entire Arab Peninsula under the banner of Monotheism. However the idol-worshippers had deprived the Holy Prophet of this chance by direct and indirect attacks on him.
The high aim and noble intention of the Holy Prophet was to get secure freedom for propagating Islam. With this aim in view he signed the peace treaty with the Quresh and showed a high and uncommon measure of flexibility.
In order to explain our point we mention hereunder some points:
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had entrusted the writing of the treaty to Ali (a.s.) who wrote on the first page: “Bismillahirrehmaanirraheem” (In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful), but at once the delegate of the Quresh said, “We do not know the words Rahman and Rahim. According to Arabian customs, you should write ‘Bismika Allahumma. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) accepted this proposition. Then Ali wrote, “This is an agreement, which has been entered into, by God’s Messenger Muhammad with the representative of the Quresh.” Immediately the Quresh said, “We do not recognize Muhammad as the messenger of God. Had we recognized him as the prophet of God, we would not have fought him.” The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) asked Ali to erase the words “Messenger of God”.
One of the conditions of this agreement was that if any polytheist flees Mecca and reaches the Islamic capital of Medina, it would be the responsibility of the Islamic state to return that man to the authorities of Quresh. But if any Muslim runs away from Medina and takes shelter in Mecca the Quresh will not be responsible for returning him to the Muslims.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) accepted this condition too so that he and his followers may get some relief from the Quresh, and a path may be opened for propagation of Islam. The advantages he obtained in connection with the propagation of Islam were more important than the allowances he gave to Quresh.
One of the defects of our way of working is that when we calculate our profit and loss, we forget to maintain a balance. If we cut off relations with some people, we do so forever continuously and never think that the relations can be restored under some special conditions. In other words we consider flexibility as a sign of defeat and disgrace. But both wisdom and Shariat say that it is a principle of success to show flexibility to an extent, which does not harm our original aim.
The Correct Way
One of the great economists says, “Financial institutions and factories manufacturing various items decline due to their tendency of maintaining their original position.”
Intelligent people believe that to remain in the same condition is a kind of downfall. But is this law only for factories? Or is it a common law applicable to all categories of every kind and every field?
In this respect Ali (a.s.) says, “If a man passes two continuous days in such a way that from the material and spiritual viewpoint the latter day is just like the former one, then that person has suffered a great loss in his life.”
Man’s greatest capital is the life span gifted to him. This precious capital is being spent gradually. If its return is not of the same value then it means that we have lost our capital and have not been able to make any profit by it.
As a principle doing new things is a part of human nature. Man becomes bored doing the same work continuously for a long time. Even the most delectable things lose their taste if they are consumed daily.
Shopkeepers and departmental stores owners, in order to avoid monotony, rearrange their materials every now and then even if the profit from both the settings is same.
Newspapers having large circulations, in order to avoid similarity, change printing or color every day or every week, so that it may not appear awkward.
Similarly the decorations of dining halls in big restaurants are changed often so that they appear attractive and people may not be bored.
But is every kind of change and novelty a sign of progress? Is it so even if good thing turns into bad ones? Never!
While the great economists consider changelessness a kind of decline they also consider it suicidal to change a good thing into a bad one. From this viewpoint, every change should be proper and it should be better than earlier. When we make an improvement we should not concentrate only upon its outer change, but we must also pay attention to the original aim and make changes accordingly.
The main defect of our eastern factories is that when once the masses like their products they never think of making any changes and if they ever do so they do not do it in a nice way.
The Holy Prophet always liked regularity, discipline and aptness in every work.
When a military officer Saad bin Maaz died and his coffin was lowered in the grave, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) observed that people are dropping dust in it in an inappropriate manner, which made him sorrowful. He sat down near the grave, leveled the earth of the grave with his own hands and then said to his companions, “I know that this grave will soon become old. But God likes a slave who performs his work nicely and perfectly.”
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) knew that this mismanagement and irregularity could enter every walk of life. He did not like that even a minor and ordinary work should be done haphazardly even if it was not to last long.
Any young man or woman that desires appreciation of his deeds and one who aims for permanent success should perform today’s work in a way better than yesterday.