Important Causes of Success
Secrets of Success
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
The system of the universe is based on the law of cause and effect. Even the minutest happening is not an exception to this universal law.
The roaring of the ocean, the falling of the leaves, snowfall, rain, the difference in palm lines, variance in the faces, rise and fall of nations, social good and evil; in short each and everything is bound by this law of cause and effect. Sometimes the reason is apparent and sometimes it is hidden from us. Therefore there is no place for a ‘chance’. No philosophy of the world can prove the existence of ‘chance’. To rely on chance is, in fact, to repose trust in an imaginary thing, which is far from reality. Unwise and ignorant people think that good or bad luck is connected with this unbecoming imagination.
Luck, accident, chance and fortune etc. are, really speaking, superstitions. Only people who are unaware of the underlying causes of various happenings mention them. They tend to believe in such things just to please their condemning conscience by trusting such unreal causes.
If at all, we have to trust in ‘chance’ then we should say that only endeavor, work, struggle and activeness provide the basis of ‘chance’ and ‘good luck’. This invisible cause lies behind activeness and hard work.
Trust in luck is only an instrument for remaining idle and for misleading the mind. It is a tranquilizer for soothing the heart of idle and inactive persons. In other words, reliance on luck is a cover to conceal the conscience of sinners and wrongdoers.
If a player loses a game and the medal is awarded to someone else, he comes out of the playground with a dark face and a forehead wet with perspiration and, in order to retrieve his loss tells his friends something like, “The luck of my rival was better. Hence he won. This time my fortune was not favorable and therefore I lost.” What is pitiable is that, for avoiding a future defeat, he does not find out the real causes of his failure. Rather he resorts to imaginary causes, which have no basis from the viewpoint of knowledge, intelligence and philosophy or logic. He wants that he should not be held responsible for the defeat.
The fact is that there is an incorrect tradition in our society according to which they make luck or fortune the basis of life with regard to family affairs, educational matters and trade etc. Parents, teachers and traders create such conditions whereby people automatically attribute success and defeat to be the effect of chance and luck. The harmful effects of this wrong tradition fill the minds of people during childhood, youth as well as in old age.
A little verse in Quran, which is small in words but very great in meaning, has refuted all such imaginary things. It declares:
Man gets only that for which he strives.
Like lottery, gambling and such other things resorting to luck harms our society grievously by making our youths believe in such imaginary things and thus deprive them of an enthusiasm for work and struggle. Thereafter, instead of utilizing their mental and physical powers, they begin to rely on imaginary things, like luck, for attaining success, position and wealth etc. in life.
Only those ladies and gentlemen are successful in whose dictionaries there are no words like chance, star, palmistry etc. because they are like iron chains binding the hands and feet of people.
Youths who wants to attain progress and perfection and utilize their capabilities should know that the real reason and cause of the success of any student, inventor, military officer or diplomat is that he has realized the reality of life and has adopted the true tools of success the list of which is headed by work, endeavor, steadfastness and discipline. He must understand that no star, magic or chance can ever be the cause of any success or victory.
One of my friends has recently returned from Germany. Regarding the success of the German people he says, “Within a very short time, this community has, sparing very few things as memorials, destroyed every sign showing the devastation caused by the World War in such a way that now, it seems, no loss was inflicted on them by the enemy bombs a few years ago.”
The lively soul and strong mind of this community proved to be the cause of its success. They never relied on chance and luck. They relied only on their mental and physical abilities. They knew very well that if there is anything like luck it is hidden behind the mental and physical capabilities.
Luck, stars and predictions etc.
A wise man has said, “Only a nation which has not realized facts takes shelter behind futile and imaginary things.”
A loss-making businessman makes himself happy by dreaming success. A defeated nation hopes for victory by looking at palm lines and lucky draws. Sick womenfolk, instead of going to a physician, fall in the trap of magicians and fortune-tellers.
Superstitious and unwise ignorant parents fill the minds of their children with futile and imaginary things. They think that the Wednesday following marriage and the rituals performed on the fourteenth day after the Navroz festival are steps to success. On the thirteenth day after Navroz they take their children to a forest and ask them to tie knots on long grass leaves so that their ambitions may be fulfilled and the luck which has become angry at them may return to their lives.
The parents tell their children that if they sit on a tablecloth full of seven kinds of food while holding a red colored purse in hands would surely become wealthy.
Our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.) always opposed such beliefs in all the fields of life and at every stage.
One day, his foster mother sent him for a walk in the forest with her own sons and hung a small Omani green stone in his neck so as to protect him from calamities. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) removed it and said, Mother, what a superstition is this. My protector is someone else (Allah).”
Sometimes, a van driver, instead of taking care of the break, tires etc., and instead of replacing old parts with new ones, takes shelter behind superstitious matters. He fixes horseshoe at the back of his vehicle and believes that it would be safe from mishaps.
An armed dacoit gets ten years’ rigorous imprisonment. When he enters the prison he blackens the walls with couplets like this:
No astrologer could recognize the star of my luck. O God! What a kind of luck I am born with!
He is so unaware, and his own words show that while suffering the torments of the prison he is not prepared to understand the reality. In order to satisfy his chiding soul he attributes his crimes to stars and luck. He does not understand that he has misused arms and endangered public peace; that shops and business establishments closed down due to his mischief and that he deserves this punishment.
Instead of the above quoted couplet he should have written these couplets of Nasir Khusro:
Do not blame the blue sky. Drive out the wind of carelessness from your head. If you spoil your luck by your own carelessness, you should not hope for success from the sky. The wood of a leafless tree is being burnt down by people. This indeed is the punishment of not taking care of the tree of life. If the fruits of knowledge and intelligence grow on the tree of your life, such a tree can even bring down the sky.
He alone is successful who marches forward on the path of his aim and refrains from entertaining all kinds of superstitions and baseless things.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) strived hard, especially to free the people from the bonds of superstitions. Even if a baseless thought was in his favor he used to tell the people, “Such a belief is baseless.”
For example, the Holy Prophet’s son Ibrahim expired. There was a solar eclipse that day. Superstitious people went to the Holy Prophet and said, “The calamity, which has befallen you, is so great that the sun too is mourning. This eclipse is due to the death of your dear son.”
In response, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) uttered this historical sentence, “O People! Sun and moon do not mourn anybody’s death. Rather, the lunar and solar eclipses are the signs of Allah’s power. (Eclipse has a special reason. It should not be attributed to my son’s demise).”
Superstitious people of the West
Some Westerners are so superstitious that they are afraid of engaging a room numbered 13 in a hotel. Therefore the hoteliers do not use the number 13 but make it “12+1” or 14 and completely omit the figure of 13! It is said that in United Nations headquarters the lift reaches floor No. 14 after floor No. 12; that there is no floor No. 13; that in fact floor number 13 is called floor 14!!
These people do not think, or do not want to think at all that if the 13th floor is inauspicious and dangerous, that thing would not change merely by changing its name.
Shaikh Saadi relates a beautiful story in one of his poems:
The donkey of a villager died.
He cut off its head and hung it on a grapevine.
When an experienced old man passed by it, he told the gardener of the villager laughingly:
“O dear! Do not think that this donkey will protect the garden from an evil eye?
While alive, it could not prevent the charge of a stick on its head from the hand of a weak man.
So, how can it, after its death, save the garden from an evil eye?”
A same type of man had such deep belief in luck that he used to say, “I have come in this world with a bad fortune. It is so bad that if I been a cap-maker people would be born without heads!”
If such superstitions spread in any society, particularly among the youth, it should be considered as one of the causes of that society’s decline.
Blaming the Stars!
Some people keep on complaining against stars and some throw the blame of their bad conditions on the outer space. Some writers even blame the sky in their books!!
However the fact is that the sky has been helpful to man since Allah has created it for the benefit of mankind. For example, the sun nourishes the animals through its golden rays. The moon spreads freshness in the atmosphere and provides cool light. So the things, which serve man, should not be called oppressors.
There is no inauspiciousness in the sun, the moon, the stars or the sky because, God has sworn by them in the holy Quran thus showing us their importance.
We must keep in mind that if some authors and intellectuals have ever complained against the sky, they have, thereby, meant the men living under it. Otherwise the sky and the stars revolving therein are never at fault.
Waiting For a Chance
It cannot be denied that sometimes incidents do ease man’s difficulties and that everybody experiences such chances in his or her life. History has recorded many of such incidents and chances some of which are as under:
(1) Imadud Daulah occupied Isfahan and Fars and threw out the governor of Isfahan. Not before long his army’s provisions were exhausted. He was afraid that his men would loot the property of people and infuriate them. Thinking this he looked at the ceiling and saw a snake poking its head out of a hole and then withdrawing it. The snake repeated this action several times. He ordered the demolition of the roof to find out where the hole of the snake leads. When they reached the other end of that snake-hole they found some utensils full of golden coins stored for emergency by a former ruler of the territory. Imadud Daulah ordered they all be taken out. Thus he was saved from a big financial crisis.
(2) After defeating Amr Laith, Shah Ismail Samani met with financial crisis. Soldiers were likely to plunder public wealth. So he ordered the soldiers to vacate the city. While marching out the soldiers saw a crow flying over their heads with a necklace in its beak. They followed the bird, which dropped that necklace in a well. At the command of the king some soldiers went down the well to find therein a box full of precious stones. Slaves of Amr Laith had hidden it at the time of his arrest but could not take it out thereafter.
(3) Shaikh Muslihuddin Sadi Shirazi has narrated a story about a shooting contest: A prince had placed a narrow ring at a high place so that sharp shooters may try to pass their arrow though it and earn a big reward. All the expert archers failed. In the meanwhile a man who did not know even the basics of archery tried and hit the target and got the prize.
But can such stories guide people and can a man ever rely on such chances?
The proportion of success through chance is much less that that achieved by efforts and incidence of success by chance is very less. It also happens that chance gives a fruit bitter than poison. Wise men never sit idle waiting for a chance. They never ignore apparent causes and fall in a superstitious chance. Such chances are less than one in thousands.
Suppose 10,00,000 people live in a city. An airplane is about to drop two gold coins in the city. Can one leave his business keeping his eye on that plane?
If we do so and if our pocket is empty our stomach too would remain empty!!
Those nations, which do not rely on their own efforts and await favorable global conditions for drawing mercy from them, are sure to be destroyed.
A student who does not study and awaits an unusual happening bestowing him good marks by chance is never likely to succeed.
One of the religious leaders of Islam has said something which is very important in the eyes of the wise people: “A nation that has natural resources on land and in water but does not utilize these great divine blessings and becomes poor, the Almighty Allah would drive it away from His Mercy.”
No nation of the world has ever won nor any individual ever succeeded without utilizing the apparent natural causes. They must have taken the trouble to walk towards the goal with a strong faith in Allah’s Omnipotence, without waiting for favorable chances.
In the words of a poet:
A great man must have a greater resolution to solve his difficulties.
Freedom depends on the sword. So great people always rely on it.
It is a law of nature that those who get habituated to rest, ease and luxury,
Are sure to be weakened.
May be some people or nations get some success owing to chance. But success resulting through chance is as baseless as winning a gamble.
In the words of a wise man: “A short cut is most difficult and dangerous. Though long routes do take more time to pass through but man reaches his destination safely and easily.”
Sometimes man also reaches his destination via short cuts. But if a nation remains idle waiting for a short cut it is doomed.
Advanced societies never wait for chances, but idle and lazy people who do not even want to think always say: “Just see this chance! Man must be so lucky...”
However, a thing, which has never contributed to the success of the nations, is something called ‘coincidence’ or ‘chance’. If the advanced people have ever got a chance it was the chance to work and to strive.
Those who do not want to perspire and want to scale great heights via the imaginary staircase of ‘chance’ fall down before they could go any further.
It is said that an apple incidentally fell on Newton and he discovered one of the greatest laws of (the law of gravity). However there is misunderstanding here as people have seen such things several times but never discovered any laws from them.
The truth is that Newton possessed the necessary means for finding out the said law. He thought over it and had studied and any other man of thought and research too could have made such a discovery.
If a scientist analyzed light by observing the foam of soap it was not chance. He had done studied and worked on that subject earlier. Otherwise washer men see such bubbles every day but derive nothing from them and never discover any law.
Incorrect understanding of Destiny
When we say that luck is imaginary and illusory, it does not mean that Divine religions and the holy Quran has said so. What we mean is that some simple-minded people think that they are captives of luck and that someone else makes and unmakes their destiny.
We may be theists or materialists; we may be of the opinion that some ‘intellect’ controls the management of the universe thoughtfully and with a planning; or we may say that the universe has come into existence by chance through the coming together of innumerable atoms.
Anyway we cannot deny that ever since a young man has started drinking he has made his future dark for himself and ruined his luck. After some time he would end up in a hospital with a damaged kidney then either his heart would fail or his nerves break.
We are sure that a man who does not know how to control carnivorous animals should not start playing with the tail of a lion or a cheetah. Otherwise he would become a morsel for them within no time.
Surely when a gambler loses he himself is responsible for his bad luck.
Someone has said quite correctly: It is madness, not misfortune to lean out precariously from the terrace and then fall down. Work is the best wing to fly in the sky of knowledge. Art is the best wealth in the world. You should keep trying even if your aim is beyond imagination and you must continue walking even if your path passes through the mouth of a python.
A successful student who had studied day and night has improved his destiny ever since he entered the university.
To summarize, our efforts today construct our future. Worldly affairs are interconnected like the rings of a chain. If an intermediary ring breaks off the whole series or scheme of life is disturbed. Every ring is the cause for another.
Every happening is based on a series of causes and effects. For example, today’s events will become the cause for tomorrow’s events. Similarly the causes of tomorrow will be the reasons for the happenings of the day after. The story of future is inscribed on the forehead of the present day. Previous events themselves tell us that today’s happenings are the harbingers of tomorrow’s events. The relation between the two is unmistakable. If somebody ponders over the management of the Creator he can clearly predict tomorrow’s events.
If we read in religious books or in the holy Quran that man lives within the limits of destiny or if it is written in the holy Quran that whatever you do has been inscribed in the Lauhe Mahfuz (Protected Tablet) from the beginning, it does not mean that we are the prisoners of destiny and are bound to act accordingly. Rather what is meant thereby is that the Omniscient God is aware of all the events of the past and the future and knows who will work voluntarily for what and will consequently decide his own good or bad fortune.
Allah is aware of what man will do but man is absolutely free to shape his destiny.
A wrong notion about destiny
Some people deceive themselves and ignore the voice of their intellects. The mind, in the words of Rumi, says:
When you say I will do this or that, my dear!
It is the proof of your freedom of action.
Some people think that they are born helpless and that they have no freedom of action at all. In their opinion they are like stones dropped from above that cannot do anything except falling down.
Or they are like a plant, which grows and flourishes in a certain way by which it is bound. They think against the dictates of their intellect and that of the nature. Everyone knows that he is free to do what he likes. He himself shapes his own destiny.
Force of Environment
If, in earlier days, people used to blame destiny for the bad effects of their wrong deeds, people today say that environment is responsible for the adverse effects of their bad deeds. They are deceiving themselves and trying to cover up their own misdeeds.
Let us see what is the ‘Force of environment’, which is mentioned in some social and philosophical books.
What they mean is that it is in the interest of man to meet the demands of time and to live according to the times.
For example, today, people share the benefits of modern technology. They travel by airplanes; rest under the shades of electricity (air conditioning) and modern techniques are utilized in the educational field etc. Thus man has to walk with the society and has to act like others. We accept the ‘force of environment’ upto this limit.
However some people take undue benefit and blame the society and the environment for their own wrong ways and if the young generation is being spoilt they say, “The youths are not to blame because the environment is bad.” Such people make a mockery of reason and logic. They are themselves responsible for the consequences because were free to act rightly or wrongly.
Under the Shade of Allah’s blessings
It is necessary to mention here that though man is free to make or unmake his destiny, it does not mean that he needs no one else and that he can do everything without the help of Allah. Such a theory is neither accepted by the Divine scriptures nor by intelligence and logic. However strong a man may be, he is after all created by Allah----God has created him and he needs innumerable things to live. He uses the energy given by God for fulfilling his needs.
Man is like an electric bulb, which needs to remain connected with the powerhouse for remaining on. But he is free to light up either a mosque or a nightclub.
If man realizes that he is connected with the limitless power of Allah, he will never become lazy. Rather his working power will increase, because he will be aware of the fact that a great source of power is backing him, and that he has not been left alone to suffer the hardships of this world.
Soldiers who remain in the front ranks of the army for fighting the enemy can fight courageously only when they are confident that they are sufficiently backed. Without such assurance they would become nervous.
Giving instruction in a battlefield Ali (a.s.) had advised his son: My Son! Remember that real help comes only from Allah.
A friend of mine used to say about the children of rich people born with a silver spoon in mouth and who get a high position due to their family prestige: Some people are lucky right from the womb and they possess a very good fortune.
He thought that good luck depended on riches and luxuries and that a man born rich remains respectable in the eyes of the people for a period of time and that he need not make any effort.
I do not accept this opinion at all. It is true that a man’s progress is made easier by the honorable position of his parents and family wealth. Man can obtain considerable assistance from these things. But it should not be forgotten that if a boy born rich does not get proper guidance he becomes more helpless and degraded than a poor child.
Prestige and wealth of the parents can make their children lucky only when they do not indulge in immorality and vices owing to the inherited wealth. Alas! It seldom happens that God-given blessings are utilized in the right path. Most of the time the consequences are not good.
History testifies that prophets were born and bred in poor homes and that great men used to live in huts before scaling great heights in the social framework. It is even said that in special circumstances poverty proves to be the cradle of intelligence and History and experience prove this to be true.
The Seal of the poets, Abu Tamam has written Hamasah and other nice books. He was born in a poor home, and had to work as a water carrier to maintain himself.
The greatest book of Geography in the Muslim world, Mojamul Buldan was written in the seventh century of the Hijri ear. Its author, Yaqoob Hamawi was merely a slave. His master, Ibrahim Hamawi, used to send him on business tours to different cities and he used to note down the geographical conditions of each place. At last he compiled ten big volumes from his notes. Even today, this book is referred to whenever one wants to know the actual conditions of these cities in that era.
A great intellectual like Amir Kabir was the son of a cook born in a society, which had suffered many atrocities of oppressive rulers. Those experiences were so severe that they turned him into a courageous and a confident man.
Sir Thomas Lawrence was the son of an unemployed father but he had intelligence and other capabilities. He could learn poems by heart at the age of five. At sixteen he was awarded a prize for drawing a picture on the occasion of an annual festival by ‘The Association of Artists’.
Napoleon says, “Wealth is a deadly weapon in the hands of a youth by which he kills himself and his relatives.”
An Arabic language poet says: “Youth, unemployment and richness destroy a man badly.”
We had said earlier that unless these blessings are utilized in a wise way they prove harmful. Correct guidance is necessary in this matter.
Shaikh Sadi says: When Syria witnessed turmoil, all went into corners. Unwise sons of the minister went to the villagers begging and village beggars became the ministers of the king.
There is a Persian proverb: Poverty is the mother of inventions.
There was a time when Japanese markets were full of European goods till they halted the imports of foreign goods and the Japanese prime minister announced, “Until shoes are not manufactured in Japan all Japanese people should walk barefoot.” Then they started to progress in every field and consequently became self-reliant and produced all kinds of goods from their raw material.
The lineage of Shakespeare is not known exactly but all say that he was the son of a butcher and himself cleaned wool in his childhood. It is also said that he worked as a school peon. Thereafter be became a writer. But this very intelligent man possessed the essence of many experiences. He had worked in almost all the fields, which increased his knowledge, study and wisdom. He began to compose poetry and his poetic compositions are considered masterpieces of the literary world even today.
From a Tailoring Shop to the Presidential Chair
President Andrew Jackson was well known for his wisdom and knowledge. He gave a long speech in Washington and described various stages of his life and said that at first he was a tailor and then rose to presidency passing though many stages. When people looked astonished he told them, “People look at me with contempt as I was a tailor in the beginning. But I never felt ashamed to work as a tailor. When I was tailor I was well known as an honest and expert artisan. I used to give tailored clothes to my clients in time and all were pleased with my work.
We have also seen the children of great people who fell into bad times due to lack of proper guidance. But, contrary to it, we have also seen youths who have improved their conditions themselves and have scaled the ladder of progress.
History proves that whether in the field of education and morality or crafts and politics, only those have proved to be great who got some position due to their own learning, hard work and ability. No other factor has been responsible for their progress and success.