Diseases of the Soul and their Treatment
Allamah Muhammad Mahdi ibn abi Dharr al-Naraqi
In diagnosis of physical ailments there are certain rules and procedures to be followed. First of all the disease must be identified. Secondly, the way of treatment must be determined. Thirdly, treatment must begin with the use of appropriate medications and avoidance of harmful things, and continue until complete recovery.
It has already been explained that the diseases of the soul are caused when its powers trespass the bounds of moderation, moving towards the extremes of either deficiency or excess. The way in which these diseases must be treated is the same as that used in treatment of physical illness, and must follow the three stages mentioned above until full recovery is attained. We shall continue our discussion, describe each disease and indicate its proper treatment. The diseases to be studied shall be divided into the following four categories:
1. Diseases of the Power of Intellect and their treatment.
2. Diseases of the Power of Anger and their treatment.
3. Diseases of the Power of Passion and their treatment.
4. Diseases relating to combinations of any two of these powers, or all three.
Before we begin our discussion of the diseases in these four categories, it must be stated that every one of these powers can exist in any of the three different states of moderation, deficiency, or excess.
In discussing every one of these powers, we shall first consider its deviation towards excess, which is a kind of illness, and indicate its proper treatment. This shall be followed by a discussion of its deviation towards the condition of deficiency and the proper method of treating it. Next we shall consider its state of moderation. We shall conclude our study of each power with an examination of various kinds of moral maladies which may afflict these powers, and their method of treatment.
1. Diseases of the Power of Intellect and Their Treatment
A- The Condition of Excess
Slyness: It is one of the vices of the Power of Intellect in its condition of excess or extremity. When afflicted with this disease, the human intellect is so immersed in meticulous examination and analysis that it loses temperance. In other words, the individual's mental activity, instead of bringing him closer to an understanding of reality, takes him farther and farther away from it, and may even lead him to deny reality -like the Sophists- and cause him to be bogged down in doubt and indecision in regard to religious laws and their application.
The way that this fatal disease is to be treated is that the individual must first become aware of its danger, meditate upon it, and then make an effort to force his mind to keep within the limits of moderation. With common sense as his guideline and the thinking and judgement of normal people as criterion, he should judge his own thinking and judgements, being constantly on his guard until he reaches the condition of moderation.
B. The Condition of Deficiency:
Simple Ignorance: This disease is caused by a deficiency of the Power of Intellect in the individual, and is said to exist when the individual lacks knowledge and learning, but is aware of his ignorance. This is in contrast to `compound ignorance'-a state in which one not only does not realize his ignorance but considers himself to be knowledgeable.
It is obvious that the treatment of `simple ignorance' is easier than that of `compound ignorance'. In order to cure `simple ignorance' all that is necessary is to examine the evil consequences of ignorance, and realize the fact that man's distinction over the rest of animals lies in knowledge and learning. In addition to this, he should note the importance of learning and knowledge as attested by reason and also Revelation. The consequence of such contemplation and reflection would be an automatic desire for learning. He must pursue this desire with the greatest ardour, and not allow the smallest speck of hesitation or doubt to enter into his mind.
C. The State of Moderation:
Knowledge and Wisdom: This condition is situated between the two extremes of `slyness' and `simple ignorance'. Undoubtedly, knowledge and wisdom are two of the sublimest qualities that man can possess, just as they are the most important and noblest of Divine Attributes. In fact it is this characteristic that brings man close to God. This is so because the more a man's knowledge and learning is, the greater is his capacity for abstraction (tajarrud); since it has been demonstrated in study of philosophy that knowledge and abstraction are complementaries. Therefore, the greater the degree of abstraction in the mind, the closer is man to the Divine Essence, whose idea in the human mind is the highest of abstractions.
In praise of knowledge and wisdom, the Holy Quran says:
....And whoso is given wisdom, has been given much good ....(2:269)
....And those similitude's-We strike them for the people, but none understands them save those who know. (29:43)
The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying to Abu Dharr:
Sitting an hour in a learned gathering is better in the eyes of God than a thousand nights in each of which a thousand prayers are performed, and better than engaging in battle for the sake of God on thousand occasions, or better than reciting the whole of the Quran twelve thousand times, or better than a whole year of worship during which one fasts on all days and spends the nights in prayer. If one leaves one's house with the intention of gaining knowledge, for every step that he takes, God shall bestow upon him the reward reserved for a prophet, and the reward accorded to a thousand martyrs of [the Battle of] Badr. And for every word that he hears or writes, a city shall be set aside for him in paradise .... 
In Islam certain rules of etiquette are prescribed for both teachers and students, which have been treated in detail in other books, of which the best perhaps is the Adab al-muta'allimin by Zayn al-Din ibn `Ali al-`Amili (1495-1559 A.D.). Here we mention some points about the proper conduct for the student and the teacher:
1. The student must abstain from following his selfish and lustful inclinations and from the company of worldly men; because, like a veil, they prevent access to the Divine light.
2. His sole motivation for study must be to achieve God's good pleasure and to attain felicity in the Hereafter; not for the sake of gaining worldly wealth, fame, and honour.
3. The student must put into action whatever he learns and understands, so that God may increase his knowledge. The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying:
One who acquires knowledge from the learned, and acts according to it shall be saved, and one who acquires knowledge for the sake of the world shall receive just that [and shall receive no reward in the Hereafter].
4. The pupil must honour his teacher, being humble and obedient towards him.
The proper conduct for the teacher consists of the following:
1. Teaching should be for the sake of God, and not for any worldly ends.
2. The teacher must encourage and guide his student, be kind to him, and speak to him on the level of his understanding.
3. The teacher must transfer his knowledge only to those who deserve it; not to those who do not deserve it and who may abuse it.
4. The teacher must speak only of what he knows, and abstain from topics of which he is ignorant.
Here it is necessary to explain what we mean by knowledge and learning and the kind of learning we are talking about. In other words, the question arises whether honour and respect for knowledge and scholarship, which characterize Islam, apply to all the sciences or to only some of them? The answer is that fields of learning can be divided into two groups: firstly, the sciences which have to do with this world such as medicine, geometry, music etc.; secondly, the sciences which are concerned with man's spiritual development. It is this second kind of learning which is highly honoured by the holy teachings of Islam. However, the first group of sciences are also considered important, and their pursuit is wajib kifa'i for all Muslims. That is, all Muslims are obliged to pursue them to the degree necessary for meeting the needs of the Muslim community.
Those sciences whose learning is necessary for spiritual development of man are: knowledge of the Principles of Religion (usul al-Din or Islamic doctrines), ethics (akhlaq)-which was formulated to guide man to those things that bring about his salvation, and keep him from those things that lead to perdition-and the science of jurisprudence (fiqh)-which concerns itself with individual and social duties of human beings from the point of view of Islamic Law.
Other Vices Related to the Power of Intellect
1. Compound Ignorance
Compound ignorance is, as explained before, the kind of ignorance in which one does not know and is, moreover, unaware of the fact that he doesn't. This is a fatal disease the cure of which is extremely difficult. This is because the `compound ignorant' person does not see any shortcoming in himself, and so lacks any motivation to do anything about it. Thus he remains ignorant to the end of his life and its disastrous effects destroy him. In order to cure this kind of ignorance, we must explore its roots. If the cause of an individual's compound ignorance is a tendency for distorted thinking, the best treatment for him is to learn some exact sciences such as geometry or arithmetic, in which case, his mind is freed from muddle headedness and mental inertia, and led towards steadiness, clarity, and moderation. As a result of this, compound ignorance is transformed into simple ignorance, and the afflicted individual can then be stimulated into pursuit of knowledge. If the cause of the vice lies in his method of reasoning, the individual should compare his reasoning with that of men of research and clear thought, that he may discover his mistake. If the cause of his ignorance is some other thing such as blind prejudice and imitation, he should endeavour to remove them.
2. Perplexity and Doubt
Another disease which may afflict the Power of the Intellect is the vice of doubt and perplexity, which makes man incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. This disease is usually caused by appearance of numerous contradictory pieces of evidence, which confuse him, and make him incapable of reaching a definite conclusion.
In order to cure this disease, the individual must first consider the axiomatic principles of logic, such as the law of contradiction, the principle that the whole is always bigger than any one of its parts, the law of identity, etc., and base all his subsequent reasoning on them, realizing that truth is one and except the true one all other conclusions are false. In this manner he can cut through the web of contradictory thoughts that bewilder him.
The opposite of ignorance, perplexity, and doubt is certainty, which is none other than lasting, certain conviction; which being in accordance with reality, cannot be shaken by any doubts however strong. This is especially important in regard to theology and its various branches. In other words, belief in the existence of God, His affirmative and negative Attributes, prophethood, resurrection, and whatever relates to them, should be so strong as not to be shaken by any doubts. The state of certainty is one of the highest states possible for man, and is attained by very few human beings. There is a tradition attributed to the Prophet that says:
Certainty is complete belief.
Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:
God, the Supreme, in His supreme justice, has associated happiness and comfort with certainty and contentment [that is, resignation to God's will], and coupled sorrow and pain with doubt and resentment [with respect to Divine will].
Signs of Men of Conviction
There are certain signs associated with the state of certainty against which anyone can measure himself to determine his own degree of conviction. These signs are:
1. Reliance on God in all one's affairs, and having mind only for His good pleasure. To put it succinctly, it should be one's firm belief that:
There is no power or might [in the world] except that [it is derived] from God, the Most High, and the Most Great.
2. Humility before God, both inwardly and outwardly, at all times and under all circumstances and obedience to His commands to the smallest detail.
3. Possession of extraordinary-almost miraculous-powers through being close to God-a condition that comes about after one has realized one's insignificance and weakness before His greatness and majesty.
Stages of Certainty
1. `Ilm al-Yaqin : Which is certain and permanent conviction. It is like the conviction of a man who when he sees smoke believes with certainty that there must be a fire too.
2. `Ayn al-yaqin: Which is beholding something with-either the outer or the inner-eye. Using the above example, it is like the conviction of a man who not only sees the smoke but fire itself.
3. Haqq al-yaqin: Which is the state of certainty acquired when a form of spiritual and actual union exists between the knower and the known thing. This would be the case, for example, if one should be himself in the midst of fire mentioned in the above example. This is called "the union of the knower and the known", and is discussed in its appropriate place. In order to attain haqq al-yaqin one must fulfill certain necessary conditions. These are:
1. The individual soul must have the capacity to receive and understand these truths; the soul of a child, for example, cannot understand the reality of things.
2. The soul should not be one defiled by corruption and sin.
3. Complete attention must be concentrated on the object in question, and the mind must be free of pollution of worldly and base interests.
4. One must be free of any kind of blind imitation and prejudice.
5. In order to attain the aim, relevant and necessary preliminaries must be covered.
3. Shirk (Polytheism)
Shirk is another serious disease of the soul, and is a branch of ignorance. It lies in believing that other forces besides God have a role in directing the affairs of the world. If one worships these forces, it is called shirk `ibadi (polytheism in worship), and if he obeys them, it would be shirk ita`i (polytheism in obedience). The first kind is also named shirk jali (manifest polytheism), and the second is also called shirk khafi (hidden polytheism). Possibly the Quranic verse:
And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners unto Him. (12:106)
is a reference to the second kind of shirk.
The opposite of shirk is tawhid (monotheism), which means that there is no power in the universe except that of the Almighty God. Tawhid has stages; they are:
1. Verbal admission or acceptance of tawhid; that is uttering the (there is no god but God) without believing in it sentence with the heart.
2. Believing with the heart when the above statement of monotheism is made with the tongue.
3. Realization of the unity of God through epiphany and numinous experience. In other words, one discovers that the vast multiplicity of creatures derive their existence from the One God, and recognizes that no power other than God's operates in the universe.
4. One sees nothing in the world except the Divine Being and perceives all creatures as emanations and reflections of that Being.
These stages of belief in tawhid guide us to recognize the cause of the disease of shirk. The root cause of shirk is immersion in the material world and forgetfulness in regard to God. In order to cure it, one must meditate upon the creation of the heavens and the earth and myriads of God's creatures. That may awaken within one the appreciation of the glory of God. The deeper his meditation and contemplation on the beauty of the universe and the mystery of its creation, the greater his faith in the existence and unity of God shall become. The Quran says:
Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): `Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain. Glory be to Thee! sane us from the chastisement of the Fire. (3:191)
Imam al-Reza (A) has been quoted as saying:
Worship does not lie in copious prayer and fasting, but in the amount of contemplation in the works of God.
4. Satanic Temptations and Consciousness
Whatever enters the human consciousness is either through the agency of the angels of mercy or the devil. If it is godly, it is called inspiration (ilham), and if it is caused by the devil, it is called temptation (waswasa). The human soul is a battlefield on which the army of angels and the army of devils are locked in battle, and man has the choice to confirm either of them. If the army of the devil is reinforced, he will become subject to demonic temptations, and his outward actions will mirror his internal condition. But if the Divine forces are strengthened, the individual becomes the embodiment of Divine attributes and characteristics.
The Holy Quran relates how the Satan swore to misguide mankind and lead them into sin:
He said: `Now because Thou has sent me astray , verily I shall lurk in ambush for them in Thy Straight Path. Then I shall come upon them from before them and from behind them and from their right and from their left .... (7:16-17)
About the people who yield to the devil, the Holy Quran says:
....having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle-nay, but they are worse. These are the neglectful. (7:179)
And about those who are not influenced by the devil, the Quran says:
As for those who believe in Allah, and hold fast unto Him, them He will cause to enter into His mercy and grace, and will guide them unto Him by a straight path. (4:175)
The way to fight demonic temptations by deliberating about the Hereafter. If one contemplates the consequences of following the advice of the devil and the future such obedience holds in store for him, he will find the right path and be liberated from satanic temptations. When he finds the righteous path, God, too, will come to his aid and guide him to ultimate happiness and felicity-as has been clearly stated in the above-mentioned verse.
5. Trickery and Slyness
Slyness is another vice belonging to the Power of Intellect, and appears through the agency of satanic and evil wishes of the Power of Passion and Anger. Slyness and trickery is defined as conscious plotting against others and drawing of elaborate and detailed plans to harm them. This vice is a fatal one, because the individual afflicted by it is counted one amongst the party of the devil. The Prophet (S) has said:
Whoever plots against a Muslim is not one of us.
The way to cure this fatal disease is that the afflicted should wake up to the dangerous consequences of this vice, and realize that one who digs a pit for others will himself fall into it, getting his punishment in this world itself. He should also ask himself, why, instead of being kind and good to others, he should plot against them.
2. Diseases of the Power of Anger and Their Treatment
As already said, the Power of Anger has three states: deficiency, moderation, and excess; each of which will now be discussed in detail.
a. The Condition of Excess:
Foolhardiness: Foolhardiness, a disease of the Power of Anger, is reckless entrance into dangerous and deadly situations despite the warnings of both reason and religion.
The Holy Quran explicitly forbids it when it says:
....and cast not yourselves by your own hands into destruction ....(2:195)
The way to cure foolhardiness is to think carefully before embarking on any particular course of action to see whether reason and religion approve of it or not. If it meets their approval, one may act upon it, but he must abstain from it if disapproved by any one of them. It may even be necessary for him to abstain from actions in which the amount of danger is not great, so as to curtail his propensity for foolhardiness. He must maintain this course until he is certain that he has been completely cured of the vice, and until the condition of moderation, namely courage, has been reached. Once he has reached this state, he must try to preserve it.
b. The Condition of Deficiency:
Cowardice: Cowardice is timidity under circumstances which call for immediate violent action. Cowardice, the opposite of angry and violent temper, results in a feeling of inferiority, irresolution, melancholy, and lack of self-confidence. In a tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet, it is stated:
O God, I seek Thy refuge from miserliness and cowardice.
The way to treat the disease of cowardice is to stimulate anger and violent temper in oneself, and take a violent course of action when it is not too dangerous to do so, until the soul arrives at the state of courage, which is the moderate condition of the Power of Anger. He must then be on his guard not to move out of the state of moderation towards the condition of excess.
c. The Condition of Moderation:
Courage: Courage is the manifestation of the Power of Anger in its state of moderation, and is defined as subservience of the Power of Anger to the Power of Intellect. This subservience is a most admirable trait, and is the cause of numerous spiritual virtues. It is attained after successful struggle against foolhardiness and cowardice as the result of constant perseverance and exercise.
Other Vices of the Power of Anger
The Power of Anger may be afflicted with seventeen different vices, which we shall now describe in brief.
1. Fear (khawf)
Fear is an uneasy expectation that something unpleasant might happen. For example, one may be afraid of boarding a ship or sleeping all alone in a house. It is clear that there is a difference between cowardice and fear.
Fear is of two kinds. Firstly, there is the fear of God and fear of sins and Divine punishment. Secondly, there is the fear of things other than God. The first kind of fear is praiseworthy, and leads man to perfection; whereas the second kind of fear is an undesirable vice brought about by the disease of cowardice.
Inappropriate fear is caused by the possibility that something unpleasant might happen either to oneself or something or someone dear to one. For example, one may be afraid of death, fatal danger, dead bodies, demons, etc. The root cause of these fears is spiritual weakness, which can be removed by self-examination. For example, if one realizes that he can do nothing to avert a certain or probable danger of death and that fear is of no use .in averting it, he will gradually lose his fear. If his fear of death is caused by an inordinate love of the world and material things, he must reduce this attachment.
Some fears have imaginary causes, such as the fear of darkness and dead bodies. In such cases, one should put aside one's fancies and strengthen one's soul.
The appropriate and praiseworthy kind of fear is that of the majesty and greatness of God. This fear is also called khashyah or rahbah. It is also the fear of sins one has committed and their punishment. The greater such fear is, the greater the contribution it can make towards one's spiritual development and perfection. Moreover, the greater and the deeper one's understanding and knowledge of God is, the greater his fear of His power shall be. The Holy Quran says:
....Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge .... (35:28)
Thus in accounts of the lives of saints, we find that occasionally they would faint because of the intensity of their fear of God.
Intense fear of God is the best controlling force over human spirit; because it weakens lustful and selfish desires, keeps the self from rebellion and sin, and tames the human heart into submission to Divine commands. Furthermore, fear of God annihilates all other fears, making one strong in confronting injustice, tyranny, and oppression. Speaking of such people, the Holy Quran says:
....theirs is safety; and they are rightly guided. (6:82)
....So fear not mankind, but fear Me ....(5:44)
....God is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him; that is for him who fears his Lord. (98:8)
But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade his soul from lust, surely Paradise shall be the refuge. (79:40-41)
And the Prophet (S) is reported to have said:
Whoever fears God, He will make all things fear him; whoever is not afraid of God, He will cause him to be afraid of everything.
There are many Quranic verses as well as traditions about the merits of being in fear of God; however, for the sake of brevity, we abstain from mentioning all of them here.
It must be kept in mind that even in fearing God one must be careful to stay within the bonds of moderation, so that it should not make one lose all hope in the mercy of God; since losing one's hope in the mercy and compassion of God is itself a great sin. The Quran says:
....And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord save those who are astray? (15:56)
If the fear of God has been taken to such an extreme, then it must be counterbalanced with raja' or hope in the mercy of God; for, with the aid of the two wings of hope and fear an individual can ascend to the highest levels of human perfection. The Quran refers to this point in these words:
Tell My servants I am the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate, and that My chastisement is the painful chastisement. (15:49-50)
2. Self Depreciation or Inferiority Complex
This vice, caused by cowardice, is a condition that results when an individual lacking courage to interfere positively in important matters fails to carry out his social responsibilities such as persuading others to perform righteous action and forbidding them from evil deeds.
Treatment of this disease is the same as that which was described in the case of cowardice. The individual affected by this moral vice should know that a true believer in God is never subjected to disgrace, and that God has bestowed honour and dignity on the believer. The Holy Quran says:
....honour belongs to Allah and to His messenger and the believers .... (63:8)
There is a tradition which says:
God has assigned to the believer the duty to [suffer] everything except humiliation of his own self.
The characteristic opposite of self-depreciation is strength of character and self-respect; that is, one should acquire a temperament which is unaffected by anything pleasant or painful, either praise or blame. Imam al-Baqir (A) has been quoted as saying:
A true believer is firmer than a mountain.
In another tradition, he has been quoted as saying:
God has bestowed on the believer three qualities: honour in this world and the Hereafter, salvation in both the worlds, and fear of him in the hearts of the oppressors.
It means a feeling of inferiority which results in not making an effort to reach the heights of perfection open to the human being, and being content with lower and rudimentary attainments. This is one of the consequences of self-depreciation. Its opposite is the trait of confidence, which is willingness to make effort in order to attain felicity in this world and the next and to attain perfection. The virtue of confidence is brought about by spiritual qualities of steadfastness, courage, and self-respect. Its treatment is subsidiary to that of the disease of cowardice, which is the mother of all vices in this class.
4. Lack of the Sense of Dignity
This vice consists of a lack of enough attention and failure to take care of matters which need attention and care, such as faith, honour, children, and property. This vice is caused by weakness of character and an inferiority complex. Its opposite is the sense of honour and zeal for it, which are praiseworthy virtues in man. In regard to religion, it implies effort to keep it immune from deviations, zeal in its propagation, effort to comply with religious laws oneself, and making others follow them too.
With regard to one's honour, it means safeguarding of one's self respect and effort to preserve one's honour. With regard to one's children, it means that one must attend to their right upbringing and sound ethical and cultural development, so that they receive an early moral training, which becomes a part of their personality. Islam gives great importance to parents' duties in training and upbringing of their children. This is discussed in detail in books on tradition.
In regard to one's property and possessions, it means that one should always consider them as a part of God's blessing and as a trust given to him by God. He must abstain from excessive consumption and waste, discharge his religious duties, and not forget to help the needy.
It is a state which impels someone to abrupt decision and action without due thought. This condition is also a consequence of weakness of character and an inferiority complex. Its opposite is the virtue of thoughtfulness in action and speech. The outcome of haste is detrimental, and accompanied by remorse and repentance. In many cases, the damage caused by hasty actions may be irreversible.
In order to cure the vice of hastiness, one must understand its dire consequences, and accustom oneself to dignified behaviour and thoughtfulness.
6. Ill-feeling Towards the Creator and His Creation
This is a condition which arises when an individual harbours distrust and cynicism in regard to God, His creatures, and their works, interpreting everything in a negative manner. It is also a consequence of cowardice and product of an inferiority complex; because a weak character person acts according to impressions that his imagination may produce. In opposition to this trait is good will and trust with regard to God and men; which means having a favourable attitude towards every thing; unless there is a clear evidence to the contrary. The Quran says:
....and you thought evil thoughts, and you were a people worthless. (48:12)
Imam Ali (A) says:
Think favorably of what your brother does, unless you find something that proves the contrary; don't distrust what he says as long as it is possible for you to consider it right and good.
The way to counteract this vice is to overlook whatever one may see or hear about his brother in faith, and to preserve a favourable opinion of him in one's heart, maintaining a respectful and loving attitude towards him.
Anger is one of the conditions of the soul, and possesses three states.
a. The state of excess, which is defined as what would put one outside the bounds of religion and its laws.
b. The state of deficiency, which is defined as the state in which one fails to take a violent action even though it is necessary for his self defense.
c. The state of moderation, in which anger is stimulated in appropriate and permissible circumstances. Thus it is clear that the first and the second states are amongst the vices of the soul, while the third is amongst ethical virtues produced by courage.
Excessive anger is a fatal disease, which can be considered as a type of temporary madness. When it subsides, it is immediately followed by remorse and repentance, which represent healthy responses of a rational person.
Imam Ali (A) has said:
Anger is a stroke of madness, since the afflicted later feels remorse and regrets. If someone does not feel any remorse after anger, it means that his madness has become fixed.
Moreover, absolute absence of anger is also a vice, which drags man into humiliation, subjugation and inability to defend his rights. In order to cure excessive anger, one must first remove its causes. These may be pride, selfishness, stubbornness, greed and other such vices. One must also consider how unseemly excessive anger is, and how evil its consequences may be. Secondly, he must examine the benefits of forbearance and self-restraint, and associate with people who possess these qualities. He must also realize that God's power is supreme, and everything is under His command, which would make him realize his own weakness compared with the infinite power of God. Thirdly, he should know that a person in a state of anger is not loved by God; moreover, he may do something in anger, of which he will be ashamed later on.
The opposite of anger is mildness and forbearance-characteristics which count amongst perfect qualities of the soul. They make a person forgiving and merciful, although he may have complete power to take revenge. The Holy Quran says:
Keep to forgiveness, and enjoin what is fair, and turn away from the ignorant. (7:199)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
Forgiveness raises a man's station; forgive so that God may honour you.
Violence consists of use of furious and destructive force either in word or action, and is one of the consequences of anger. Its opposite is the virtue of gentleness, which is a product of patience. Addressing the Prophet (S), the Holy Quran says in regard to this trait:
....for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart, they would have dispersed from about thee ....(3:159)
And in a tradition attributed to the Prophet (S), it is said:
When God loves one of His servants, He blesses him with the trait of friendliness, and whoever lacks this trait, lacks all other blessings.
Elsewhere, in a prophetic tradition, it is said:
Consideration and kindness for people is half of the faith.
This vice is also caused by anger, and its opposite is good-temperedness. This vice causes people to shun someone who possesses it, and brings him ruin in this world and the next. It also destroys all of one's good works. The Prophet (S) has been quoted as saying:
Ill-temper ruins good works, just as vinegar ruins honey.
Addressing the Prophet (S), the Quran says:
Surely thou art of a mighty morality. (68:4)
Rancor is also caused by anger, and is a complex formed when anger is suppressed. It has evil consequences such as jealousy and severance of relations with someone against whom it is directed, and may result in physical assault, passing of illegitimate remarks about him, spreading of lies, backbiting, slander, divulging of his secrets, etc.
Sometimes rancor comes out into the open and manifests itself as outright hostility, resulting in confrontation, fighting, cursing and name-calling-all of which are fatal vices.
The way to cure this spiritual disease is that the afflicted individual must first understand that the feeling of rancor hurts one who harbours it in his heart more than the 'person against whom it is directed. Secondly, he must decide to adopt an attitude of friendliness and helpfulness towards the individual towards whom he feels rancorous, do good things for him even though his emotions pull him in the opposite direction, and continue his affectionate attitude towards him until he is rid of this disease.
11. Self-conceit and Vanity
This is another vice of the Power of Anger-a condition in which a man thinks highly of himself on account of some advantage, real or imagined. On the other hand, he fails to acknowledge the attributes of perfection of God, Who is the source of all things. A great number of traditions point out the evilness of this trait. One quotes the Prophet (S) as having said:
Even if you do not commit any sins, I fear that you may fall into something which is worse: conceit! conceit!
The evil products of self-conceit and vanity are: arrogance; forgetfulness; negligence of one's faults, and, therefore, failure to correct them; falling of the worth of one's deeds in the eyes of men and God; absence of gratitude for God's blessings, and thus risking their loss; failure to ask questions about the things one is ignorant of, and, therefore, remaining in ignorance; and finally, holding and proclaiming of incorrect and unfounded opinions.
In order to cure an individual of this disease, it is necessary for him to turn his attention towards God and to know Him. When he realizes that only the omnipotent Creator deserves worship and praise, and that he is nothing in comparison with the majesty of God, and that there is absolutely nothing which he may call his own, and that even beings far more superior to himself, such as the prophets and angels, are nothing in comparison with God, he shall awake to the fact that it is absurd to be conceited and vain, and that he must consider himself what, in truth, he is: an insignificant creature of God.
When man contemplates his humble beginnings as a sperm-drop, his certain end as a handful of dust, and the brief interval of his life as a wretched creature prone to disease and dominated and driven by lust and instincts, he will forget not only his vanity but his very self, and devote his entire being to the worship of God. The Quran says:
Perish man! How unthankful he is! Of what did He create him? Of a sperm drop. He created him, and proportioned him, then the way eased for him, then makes him to die, and buries him; then, when He wills, He raises him. (80:17-22)
And we have the following couplet from a Persian poet:
Don't boast of your riches, vigour and elegance,
Since one of them can be taken away in one night by thieves and the other can vanish at a single stroke of fever.
It must be kept in mind that vanity and self-conceit may also be caused when one is favoured with such Divine blessings as knowledge, devotion, piety, faith, courage, generosity, patience, an honourable ancestry, beauty, wealth, strength, high position, intelligence, and so on. In order to avoid such an outcome, one must always remember one's weaknesses and shortcomings; such remembrance will help him to avert conceit.
The opposite of self-conceit and vanity is modesty, which is a most worthy trait that brings about edification of the soul and man's perfection.
Arrogance is one of the consequences of vanity and self-conceit. When an individual thinks too highly of himself, it is self-conceit; and when he tends, moreover, to consider others as inferior to-him, that is arrogance. In contrast to these states, when one thinks of himself as small and insignificant, that is called modesty; and when, in addition to this, he considers others as superior to himself, that is called humility. In any case, arrogance is one of the most fatal of moral vices. This is so because arrogance is a thick veil which hides one's shortcomings from his own view, and thus prevents him from removing them and attaining perfection. The Holy Quran says:
....Thus does Allah seal every proud, arrogant heart. (40:35)
I shall turn away from My Revelations those who magnify themselves .... (7:146)
And the Prophet (S) has said:
One who has even a particle of pride in his heart, shall not enter paradise.
Jesus (A) has said: "Just as a plant grows in soft ground, not where it is rocky and hard, so also wisdom sprouts and grows in a heart which is humble and soft, not in the hard hearts of the arrogant. Don't you see that the man who keeps his head high bashes it against the roof, while one who holds his head low has the roof as his friend and shelter?"
The cure of arrogance is the same as that prescribed for the vice of self-conceit. Another remedy is to study the various Quranic verses and traditions which deal with this vice and condemn it. One must also persevere in the practice of humility towards God and men, associate with the poor and the weak, abstain from ostentatious dressing, put on simple dress, be on equal good terms with the poor and the rich alike, greet everyone regardless of his age, and abstain from seeking a seat at a high place of honour at gatherings. In short, he must resist all those selfish desires which contribute to make him arrogant.
The opposite of arrogance is humility, and is one of the most praiseworthy of moral virtues. The Holy Quran makes this statement about the virtue of humility:
The (faithful) servants of the All-Merciful are they who walk upon the. earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, answer: Peace. (2.5:63)
And lower thy wing (in kindness) unto those believers who follow thee. (26:215)
It should be noted that humility is the middle ground between arrogance and abjectness, and just as the former is a vice, so is the latter. The difference between abjectness and humility is also clear. Thus while it is praiseworthy for man to be humble, it is a vice to abase oneself.
A form of arrogance, it is also a fatal vice. It is defined as rebelling against all those to whom it is necessary to be obedient, such as: prophets and their vicegerents, righteous governments, teachers, parents, etc. In a prophetic tradition, we read:
The sin quickest to be punished is that of rebelliousness.
The Prophet (S) has also said:
It is the right of God to humble anything that rebels against anything else.
Imam Ali (A) has said:
Rebelliousness drives the rebellious towards the Fire.
The way to cure the vice of rebelliousness is for the afflicted to meditate upon his spiritual condition and refer to traditions in which rightful obedience is enjoined, and at the same time strive to promote the spirit of humility in himself.
14. Blindness to One's Faults
This is another result of vanity and self-conceit. Its opposite is awareness of one's faults and shortcomings.
Fanaticism is another moral vice which leads to degeneration of the afflicted person's mind and understanding. Prejudice may exist in regard to one's religious beliefs, nation, tribe, family, or other such things, and may be manifested through one's speech or action. When fanaticism is in regard to appropriate things, it is called enthusiasm and zeal, and is most praiseworthy. If, on the other hand, it is in regard to inappropriate things, it would be a vice.
There is a prophetic tradition that says:
Whoever has the least amount of fanaticism in his heart shall be raised by God on the Day of Resurrection together with the pagan Arabs of pre-Islamic times.
The way to cure the vice of fanaticism is for the afflicted individual to engage in introspection, and to realize the fact that fanaticism blocks one's development and clouds his understanding of reality. Thus, if he seeks to know the truth, he must set aside blind .fanaticism and prejudice, and examine things in an objective and dispassionate manner.
16. Concealing Truth
The vice of misrepresentation and concealment of the truth is caused by fanaticism, cowardice or fear. It may also be caused by the desire for wealth or similar motives. In any case, this vice leads one to deviate from the straight path, and brings about moral degeneration. The opposite is revealing of the truth and steadfastness on the path of truth. There are numerous traditions and Quranic verses which condemn concealing of truth and praise the truthful. Some of the verses that most clearly and directly state this matter are the following:
....Why do you confound the truth with falsehood and knowingly conceal the truth? (3:71)
....And who is more unjust than he who hides a testimony which he hath received from Allah? ....(2:140)
Those who hide the clear signs and the guidance that We have sent down, after We had made it clear for mankind in the Book-they shall be cursed by God and the cursers. (2:159)
To cure oneself of this disease, one should note the fact that this trait earns Divine anger and may lead to kufr (infidelity). Moreover, he should meditate on the benefits of giving expression to truth, and then compel himself to follow it in action.
17. Callousness and Cruelty
When an individual is afflicted by the vice of callousness and cruelty, he is not affected or saddened by the pains and sufferings of his fellow men. Its opposite is the virtue of mercy and compassion. There are a number of Quranic verses which reproach this vice, and praise compassion and love.
Treatment and cure of this disease is most difficult, because cruelty and callousness sink into one's character, and become chronic and difficult to cure. The best treatment for this disease is for the afflicted person to avoid, first of all, cruel actions, which are outward manifestations of this vice. Next, he should make an effort to share in the sufferings and difficulties faced by others, and consider their problems to be his own. Furthermore, he should try to react in an appropriate manner to such situations, until, gradually; he begins to taste the flavour of compassion, slowly making it permanent within himself.