Firm Determination and Awareness of Circumstances
By: Ayatullah Jafar Subhani
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 Mo-mineen 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.
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 Iranis had become only the suppliers of raw material to the industries of the west. They were pulling on their days like a daily-waged laborer. Amir put at the disposal of the artist enough capital for the expansion of manufacturing industries.
He established sugar factories in Saari, rope and cloth in Tehran, silk in Kashan and Horse-carriages in Isfahan etc. He gave much assistance to cloth manufacturers in Isfahan and Kashan, encouraged many experts for preparing new things and making inventions and had also arranged an exhibition of Iranian products in Iran.
All these services rendered by Amir Kabir were the result of his awareness about the existing trends and circumstances.
When roads were built in Iran and automobiles started rolling thereon, the joyful journeys on horseback and in horse and donkey carts came to an end. The carriers of mule-litters began to complain so much that, strangely enough, they even asked the government to cancel the licenses of pannier-owners! All this was the consequence of remaining unaware of the happenings in the world.
Sometimes our businessmen do things, which are disliked by people in today’s world. In fact such deeds of theirs are like waging war against progress. As a result they meet with sure defeat.
Here we become convinced of the importance of a great religious leader’s words who said: Do not fight with time otherwise time will fight with you.
Enemy: A Step-stone to Success
Only he is victorious who has recognized the world fully and who considers his enemy as the first step toward victory.
Intelligent people think that the enemy teaches him how to march towards success, because, the adversary is the best type of mirror with reflects our defects through pen or tongue. It decreases our pride and arrogance and, sometimes, helps in uplifting our hidden abilities.
The advances of the east and the west are the consequence of competition. If competitions come to end, capabilities would not flower. Thus, if there were no struggle between individuals or masses the progress in new inventions too would become stagnant.