How to Bear the Difficulties of Life?
By: Hojjat al-Islam Abdul Adheem al-Muhtadi al-Bahrani
Question: Please advise me how to bear the difficulties of life! I feel like I am about to perish
The answer: Imagining oneself as about to perish is in itself the beginning of perishment. First, keep this thought away from your mind and then ask yourself if you will not bear the difficulties, then what would you do! Do you have a better alternative?
Ponder on this question and be certain that life is difficult for all people, but the difficulties differ from one person to another. Now read the following advices:
1. You should know that the worldly life has been full of difficulties since our father Adam (a.s.) and will be until the last one of his children. The Wise Creator has determined life to be difficult for man so that he may think of the afterlife that he has been created for. Without being tried, man will not be given the eternal blessings of the afterlife.
2. Read the biographies of the patient and great people and see how they passed the difficulties of life to live in the bliss of Paradise and their names were not forgotten throughout the ages!
3. Make friends with those possessing a great deal of patience and tolerance.
4. Practice sportive exercises in the morning or at any other time of the day!
5. Rely on Allah and believe that He is the strongest supporter for those who rely on Him!
6. Ponder over the Qur’anic verses and the traditions of the Prophet (S) and Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) that discuss “patience” for they have undoubtedly taught us what makes us happy!
For example, Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) has said, ‘When Ali bin al-Husayn (Imam Zaynul Aabideen, the father of Imam al-Baqir) was about to die, he embraced me and said, ‘O my son, I recommend you to what my father had recommended to me when he was about to die and he said that his father had recommended him to; O my son, be patient with the truth even if it is bitter! (Wassa’il ash-Shia: Jihad an-Nafs, chap.19 trd. 3).’
We must submit to the truth and its requirements. Abu Abdullah (Imam as-Sadiq) (a.s.) has said, ‘Whoever keeps to the firmest handhold will be safe.’
The narrator asked, ‘What is it (the firmest handhold)?’
He said, ‘Submission. (Biharul Anwar, vol.2 p.204).’
Someone asked Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.), ‘With what is a believer known as a believer?’
Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, ‘With submission to Allah and being satisfied with what he gets of pleasure and displeasure (Al-Kafi, vol.2 p.63).
How do I practice patience and control my anger?
Question: I like to be quiet and always smiling because I hate sullen people who burst into anger and frown their eyebrows until their eyes come out and their faces redden. But unfortunately, I am not truly as I would like to be. Frankly, I am one of those whom I do not like, as some poet has said, ‘I like good people but I am not from them.’ Please, guide me to the way of patience and controlling my furious anger so that I may be like those I admire and I may like myself.
The answer: It is necessary for you to be aware of the problem that provokes your nerves in order to avoid it and keep yourself away from its effects. When you face this problem, try at first to recognize its causes and then try your best to avoid it. For example, someone may become angry at something and the cause may be the heat or that he has not taken a bath for a few days. If he takes off some of his clothes or if he takes a bath or pours cool water over his body, he may not become angry or excited with every trivial excitement.
It is said that using sweet perfumes eases one’s nerves, especially the perfumes of rose, jasmine and tea rose. An angry man should associate with the beauty of nature, ponder on the sky, the sea, mountains, and trees, and lie for sometime between the kind laps of nature. He should work only to the extent his body can tolerate and should not overburden himself with what exhausts him. He must be moderate in eating and not overload his stomach.
Dear brother, I advise you to practice sportive exercises in the morning, at least the Swedish exercises. Do not forget the mention of Allah in any case, and especially when being angry. You should remember the anger of Allah towards you. You should know that Islam considers anger as a soldier of the Satan. Therefore, an angry one is the one who carries this soldier on his back and protects him. Do you want to be like that? Certainly not! Then smile even if your smile is not real!
How can I become skilled by continuing higher studies, when my father asks me to work with him?
Question: How can I become skilled, or develop a high morale and liveliness, when my father, who is an ordinary man, frustrates my wish to continue my higher studies and asks me to work with him in the market.
The answer: Researches and experiments have proven that creative people have a high morale and a high self-confidence that cannot be shaken. It is they who have not wanted their first experiments to succeed and instead have prepared themselves to receive failure first for they have prepared themselves to snatch success from failure without submitting to failure. A creative man is he who offers his productivity and tries his best to develop it continuously until he reaches the top.
It is said that Edison, before testing the bamboo cane to discover the electronic light, had tested 256 things but without success. When he was asked why he had not given up his attempts in those many experiments, he said, ‘I have not failed, but with my experiments, I have come to know 256 things’.
This high spirit, which sees failure as a discovery and a means of learning something new, is worthier of success and worthier of being honored throughout history.
In order to continue on the path to your aim: First, think deeply of your aim and the ways that will get you to it!
Second, discuss what you think with reasonable people in order to discover the defects of your opinion and then decide correctly, without pride.
Third, do not ignore difficulties, for they are a part of the way to success and a motive that strengthens the will of successful people.
Fourth, seize any opportunity to strengthen your hope in success. And the best of opportunities is connection with Allah the Almighty. An Indonesian proverb reads, ‘Unless you raise your hand to the heaven, it shall not raise from the earth.’
Fifth, when vitality comes to you and your heart become delighted with work, keep to your project firmly and do not let this opportunity go in vain in useless doings.
But as for your father, with respect and calmness, you can understand one another. You can also send him some respectable persons to try to convince him. It would be better that he should not know that they are sent by you.
On the other hand, you can explain to him the future of your ambition and explain to him its advantages according to the way of his thinking in life. For example, if he is interested in the financial matters, you can say to him that when you become a doctorate, you will establish a scientific foundation or a clinic whose income will be more than you can earn by working in the market as an ordinary worker. Tell him that a reasonable person always looks forward to the far future and tolerates the difficulties of the present for that.
I am a confused young man, as I do not know my aim in life. Please help.
Question: I am a confused young man. I do not know what to do, where to go, what aim I should choose in my life, and what I shall be in my future. In other words, I am lost and aimless. I think of myself as created in vain. I do not think that there is someone who can save me from this state. I have written to you only because one of my friends asked me to do that, although I am desperate even of your solutions.
The answer: It is not important that you become satisfied with what I tell you, but what is important is that you must prevent despair from overcoming you. Now, read my answer and then do as your mind tells you!
Dear brother, people, in life, can be divided into four kinds:
1. One who is clear to himself and to others
2. One who is clear to himself but unclear to others
3. One who is unclear to himself but clear to others
4. One who is unclear to himself and to others
People of the first kind are good and successful people. They know themselves and their inward and outward powers and talents. They know their aims in life. They live naturally and others know them to be so, especially their close fellows. Therefore, the others neither suspect them nor do they fear any evil from hem.
People of the second kind are those with whom it is difficult to deal. There are some things inside them that they do not uncover to the others; therefore, the others live with them in difficultly. Many confusions and troubles happen when dealing with them.
People of the third kind are those who do not know what they do, where they are, how they move, and where they will end. They are unsuccessful in life and the others see them to be so clearly.
People of the fourth kind are introverted people. They are neither clear to themselves nor are they clear to others.
You should determine to be from the people of the first kind, who know themselves and whom people know clearly. Your despair is the source of your distress and the cause of your perishment. In history, there were many people whose distresses were greater than yours and who were nearer than you to perishment, but in one moment they defeated their despair and restored morale and confidence and Allah accepted their repentances and purified them.
Dear brother, tell me Whom you have disobeyed!
You have disobeyed Allah. Allah Himself says to you: I clear your past. Come and do good from this moment!
Allah the Almighty loves you if you repent to Him. He assists you so you can be successful in the rest of your life. Then what is this despair for?
Allah says, (O you who believe! answer (the call of) Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life). (Holy Qur’an, 8:24)
Dear brother, in responding to the call of Allah and His messenger there is your life. Come and cure yourself by associating with sincere, faithful, and pious people of understanding. Try to explain your state to them and tell them everything about yourself, after being certain that they will keep your secrets! Surely, they will guide you to the right way in which you will find your happiness.
It is necessary to prepare yourself to accept the advices of others. Let us suppose that you want the pleasures of this life and you do not think of the afterlife. Well, does this worldly aim not require you to accept some things that you do not like or get rid of some habits that may be difficult in the beginning?
Look at others who are proud, self-deceived, or who do not care for others, or those who do not take care of cleanliness, or whose mouths smell unpleasant…look at tens of those who consider themselves benevolent but, in fact, they are deviant and misleading. Do you not dislike such persons and hate their conducts?
In order to not be like them and in order to not be disliked by people, try to show your advisors your acceptance of their advice and your readiness to accept constructive criticism as a first step towards the way of happiness.
I invite you to save yourself so that you shall be in Paradise, in which are found every blessing and pleasure. Do you know that many desperate people have deserved to be in Paradise at the last hours of their lives when they drove despair away from them and gained the wide mercy of their Lord?
Why should you not be one of them? The Paradise of Allah has opened its gates for you to dwell in it and to forget all your pains. Is it not reasonable and wise to approach your eternal happiness? It is a determination of a moment that gives you happiness in your life and after your life when you will be resurrected.
How can we properly address the issue of illegal and harmful drugs?
Question: Narcotics…the beast that kills man and destroys families and society. They have spread everywhere and their target is our youth. Colonialism, Zionism, and their secret gangs in our countries are behind this.
We want you to discuss this dangerous subject. I am twenty years old. My sister has died because of an injection (of narcotics), my father is in prison because of narcotics trade, and my elder brother is a drug addict. My mother suffers from all these distresses, and I am angry about everything. About the future, I do not know what to say.
The answer: O dear brother, may Allah assist your heart and help your mother with patience! I pray to Allah to make your future better than your past, to guide your brother, forgive your sister, and reform your father.
It is clear to all that drug addiction is one of the most dangerous problems in a society. It has great and terrible effects on individuals and society, especially the psychological, physical, and economical harms. And the most important thing is the severe punishment of Allah that begins from the first moment of death and the night of burial. We do not think that the problems of narcotics can be solved only by legislating laws or rules or imposing severe punishments; rather, we must make an effort to ascertain the psychological and social motives that make the youth use narcotics and then try to find a comprehensive cure for this problem.
Good education, keeping the youth away from bad friends, showing them the dangers of narcotics and explaining their destructive effects, spreading religious teachings, and caring deeply for psychological and physical health will have great results in saving the youth from this plague, for protection is better than cure.
Parents have to know the reasons that make the youth liable to fall in the plague of narcotics. Here are the most important reasons:
1. The inclination of the youth to look for pleasures and amusements, especially with the absence of a good Islamic education
2. The wish to imitate others and to break the traditions of the family and the society. Especially when the youth are mistreated at home, they are bound to look for bad friends.
3. Incorrect propagandas and wrong ideas that narcotics traders promote
4. Imitating bad friends and being under their pressure
We say that the best resolution lies in protection. The most important ways of protection are the following:
1. Making people understand the dangers of narcotics via the media and through cultural and educational programs in order to avoid them
2. Showing documental films about the lives of drug addicts to show their distress and wretchedness
3. Keeping children and teenagers away from the bad habits of adults, like smoking for example, and this is the beginning of the way
4. Encouraging programs of amusement for the youth and encouraging the youth to establish local meetings and organizations
5. Improving the cultural, social, economical, and physical levels of the youth
6. Fighting against narcotics trade by all possible means
7. Encouraging scientific researches that help in solving this problem
As for the cure, after being involved in this problem, there are some points:
1. Medical cure: it depends on the kind of narcotics, the person himself, and his age. A person can be saved from the effects of narcotics by undergoing treatment to remove the effects gradually.
2. Psychological cure: it aims at strengthening one’s spirit and morale so that he may be able to stand against the problems he faces, and it helps him to solve them so that he may not look for wrong paths. This cure concentrates on strengthening one’s morals and forcing oneself to participate in the treatment.
3. Social cure: it aims at establishing social organizations or projects to help drug addicts become liberated from narcotics. This cure concentrates on the social environment in which drug addicts live and which has a great effect on making one go towards or away from narcotics. Encouraging one towards social association and mixing causes him to believe in the values of the society he lives in and keeps him away from deviation.
How can I help my father to be less materialistic?
Question: I am a young man studying in the first stages of the university. My father says that all happiness lies in studying until I obtain a doctorate degree and then I shall earn lots of money. He is not at all concerned about my religious affairs. He does not ask me about my prayer, fasting, or faith at all. I know that his mindset is incorrect, but I cannot say the truth to him. What should I do?
The answer: You should study and learn so you can be high in this life as your father wishes. If he sees you do so, he will not deny your prayer, fasting, or faith. The Holy Qur'an says, (And seek, by means of what Allah has given you, the future abode, and do not neglect your portion of this world) (Holy Qur’an, 28:77).
Do not give your father an excuse to persecute you in your religion as long as you can do both studying and performing your religious obligations. If there is a suitable occasion, try to explain to your father the meaning of this tradition when once Imam Ali (a.s.) was asked about goodness and he replied, ‘Goodness is not to have much money and many children, but goodness is to have much knowledge, to be magnanimous, and to be proud among the people of worshipping your Lord. (Nahj ul-Balaghah, sentence n.84)’
If you see your father deny your religion, even though you should do what he wants from you, do not submit to him because there is “no obedience to a creature if it means disobeying the Creator”.
In any case, you should be very polite in dealing with your father for Allah has ordered in His Book to worship Him first and to be dutiful and kind to parents second. You may, with Islamic morals, guide your father and save him from his moral poverty; and thus good morals are the best means to achieve success after success.
I have nothing more to say about your father and his likes except to offer this tradition of the Prophet (S) when he once looked at some children and said, ‘Woe unto the children of the last time (on earth) from their fathers!’ It was said, ‘O messenger of Allah, from their polytheist fathers?’ The Prophet (S) said, ‘No, from their faithful fathers. They do not teach them anything of obligations, and if their children learn, they prevent them and they become satisfied with them for little material things of the worldly life. I am free from them and they are free from me. (Jami’ul Akhbar, p.285)
How does one make the best use of the time during one’s youth?
Question: As you know, youthfulness is a great power that is full of vigor and activity. If we do not use it in a constructive way, it will explode to destroy what others have constructed of advantageous establishments. Most of us live idly and sleep more than required. We go out of our homes just to waste time in trivial things or boyish adventures. I hope that you can explain to us the correct way to use this great power in a manner that will please Allah and will benefit people, our society, and ourselves.
The answer: You know that when a driver loses control of his car, he throws himself and others into a bloody disaster. Do you know what prevents him from this disaster?
They are his knowledge of the art of driving and his will. Two things: one is knowledge and the other is will.
The same can be said about a young man who puts himself in a situation without knowledge or will. He will involve himself in a disaster the end of which is failure and fruitlessness.
Physical power and activeness is a Divine blessing that Allah has given to man in his youth to help him build the basis for his future ease, for a day when his power will weaken, his activeness will disappear, and diseases will attack him, and then the knowledge, wealth, position, family, friends and followers he has spared from his youth will benefit him.
You ask how to make use of the blessings of youth. It is a good and important question regarding building one’s future. The answers, as we said, are useful knowledge and will. The first is a light that illuminates one’s way and the other is a force that controls one’s power and prevents it from deviation and the occurrence of disasters.
The youth are in need of peace and not violence. This is the best fruit (patience) and patience is the best fruit of knowledge.
Imam Ali (a.s.) has said, ‘Good patience is a proof of abundant knowledge (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol.2 p.385).’
The youth have to seek out knowledge and sciences that will benefit them. They should not throw themselves into the laps of bad people from this material life because then they would become slaves in the circle of untruth.
Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, ‘I do not like (to see) a young man from you unless he is in one of two sates: either a teacher or a learner. If he does not do so, he wastes; if he wastes, he loses; if he loses, he is sinful; and if he is sinful, he will be in Hell, I swear by Him Who has sent Muhammad with the truth.’
The youth should seize opportunities to learn means of developing their powers in order to establish the first bases of future success. Who are the failed people in life but those who did not learn during their youth?
Then, what is the required knowledge?
It is to begin learning the Islamic beliefs, the legal laws, and the moral principles. Our scholars have written very good books about these three fields which you can read or ask one of the virtuous Ulama’ to discuss, or you can attend the lectures that are held in mosques, religious centers, houses, and the like.
Please, ponder on this word in which Imam Ali (a.s.) has described pious people by saying, ‘The Creator has become so great before their eyes, and therefore, everything else has become so trivial before them.’
If the youth learn the beliefs of Islam, legal laws, and morals, and reach the degree of piety in their faith, they will never pant after the material life or fight for its transient pleasures. They will never feel sorry if they miss one of its pleasures. They will never make troubles for this and that. They will never think of destruction or violence as a solution if fate deprives them of a blessing or prevents them from reaching it.
Dear brother, in order to walk in this upright way, you have to do the following:
1. Know yourself well, promise yourself to be sincere in achieving happiness, and watch your fancy lest it troubles your sincerity. Nevertheless, you may fall into the trap of fancy, but in this case hasten to get out of it by repenting and asking Allah to forgive you. Then review the causes of your fall and be careful that they are not repeated.
2. Fill your mind with knowledge and true historical views! Let your first source be the Holy Qur'an, which has explained everything, and keep away from the Satan and his followers!
3. Be steadfast before difficulties and be patient in any case!
4. Open your heart to your high goal, for you have been created for Paradise!
5. Make your personality respectable and try to have positive effects on others!
6. Keep a thick curtain between you and material, reactionary, shallow, anarchic, selfish, and submissive ideas!
7. Take the Qur’anic intellect, as been interpreted by the Prophet (S), Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), and the virtuous Ulama’, to be the example of your intellect and conduct!
8. Read a lot about religious culture and concentrate on what you read!
9. Organize your time, order your daily tasks, and write down your appointments in your pocket notebook!
10. Trust in your own abilities and talents and complete them by cooperating with the abilities and talents of others who are like you in belief!
11. Learn how to speak appropriately with people and have influence over them!
12. Carry out the needs of whoever may ask you for help, and do not remind him of your favor to him someday!
13. Be ascetic in life! Do not wish for what there is in other people’s hands of wealth and beauty!
14. Find a job that brings lawful livelihood!
15. Hate idleness and laziness because Allah hates them, especially for the youth!
16. Take care of your physical and psychological health and do not ignore your share of amusement!
17. Get married early and always advise the youth to do so!
18. Do not stop at a certain limit in your good ambition because the way towards Paradise is open before you!
19. Be calm and plan for your future while thinking of good deeds and good rewards!
20. Do not forget the remembrance of Allah, supplication, and the love of those who have showed us the way to deliverance who are the Prophet (S) and his progeny first, and second all those who have followed them!
How can I deal with family gatherings that include namahram relatives not observing hijab?
Question: We, at home, are not ruled by the Shari’a. Lawful and unlawful rulings are disregarded, especially on Fridays when the whole family gathers together and my brothers’ wives come.
Every one shakes hands with each other. They exchange jokes and loud laughter while the wives are in their domestic clothes without veils as if they are all mahram.
As for my father and mother, they do not speak out to repair this state, which, undoubtedly, must displease the Lord of the worlds.
I do not know whether my speaking to them will have any influence or if they will just mock and scorn me! I am confused. Would you please guide me to a situation that will please Allah the Almighty?
The answer: As for them, they have turned in the disobedience of Allah; but as for you, you should either forbid them if you think that your speech will have any influence over them, even after some time, and then never mind if they mock you, for the prophets also have been mocked but they said their words and had great influences later on, or if you think that there is no benefit at all or that they may greatly harm you besides mocking, then you have to do one of two things for the family’s sake: either sit with them a little without participating in their unlawful behavior, or get out and leave their meeting.
Dear faithful brother, if you feel that you are strange among people, you should know well that you are close to Allah, and Allah is better than people!
How shall I deal with low self-esteem?
Question: I am a sad young man. I live with worry and boredom. Sometimes, I tell myself that I am a mistake in this existence. Why have I come? Who has brought me? And why does no one respond to my opinions?
The answer: You should change your way of thinking and life by doing various things:
1. Busy yourself with something like walking in the garden, for example!
2. Relax in a calm place, even if for a few minutes!
3. Observe the beautiful scenes of nature and ponder on the greatness of their Creator!
4. Practice swimming or some other sportive exercises!
5. Read some comic books or whatever else you think befits your state!
6. Assign an hour everyday for supplication, with reflection on the meaning of your supplication, and let this hour be after midnight or before sunshine!
7. Go out with your good friends!
8. Go visit your relatives!
9. Write the letters B and G in a little notebook and try, from the moment you awake, to watch yourself. When you commit a bad deed, Allah forbid, place a mark under the letter B, and whenever you perform a good deed, place a mark under the letter G. This personal vigilance will make you delighted with your good deeds and then you will decide to increase what pleases you and decrease what displeases you.
Try to form some resolutions:
1. Decide to be humble in your life! Do you know that without humbleness, the clouds, the seas, the trees, the plants, and the flowers would not give us delight or pleasure?
2. Love knowledge and scholars, for knowledge is light, and without scholars, life would be dark!
3. Be pious! Do not approach sins for sinners expose themselves while unaware!
4. Always smile even if your smile is not real in the beginning!
5. Love goodness! Love was and is still the greatest excuse of a good life. Why do we not love what enlivens us? Are religion and faith not based on the love of good and the purity of heart?
When you decide to be humble, to love knowledge and scholars, to refrain from unlawful things, to smile at people, and to love goodness, surely you will be happy because you will then know the purpose of your existence.
Do not ignore the prayer with full concentration! If your heart is not awake while offering the prayer, your prayer will just be a series of meaningless movements. The heart is the greatest airport in your existence, so let the plane of faith land in it safely! The heart is a way to Allah; if you put other than Allah in it, it will get you nowhere.
You have to reach, with your attentive heart, a state where you feel what you say when you raise your hands and read this supplication, ‘O my Lord, to You I offer my existence which is from You.’
After these steps, you will reach a degree where you will say in your supplication as Imam Ali (a.s.) has said, ‘O my Lord, it is enough honor for me to be Your slave and enough pride for me that You are my Lord. O my Lord, You are as I like, so make me as You like!’
Dear young man, your existence is not a mistake of any one. It is the gift of Allah, the One and Only. I hope you can, by the assistance of Allah, victoriously and happily resist your melancholy and leave behind your pains and boredom. When you win, please guide the people of melancholy with you because rescuing them is a good and great deed.
How shall I help a friend who has psychological problems and suffers absentmindedness?
Question: I have a friend who is psychologically confused and absent-minded. I do not know how I can help him. I suffer a lot for his state. Would you please help me save him?
The answer: First of all, I want to tell you that I am pleased to see your love for your friend and your concern to save him. You have a quality that Allah loves for the believers to have. I suggest that in order to save your friend, after relying on Allah and asking His assistance, you should do the following:
1. Be gentle and kind to him that he may trust you!
2. Try, by means of his relatives, to discover his actual problem!
3. To make him trust in you, tell him about similar conditions that you have treated or read about and their treatments!
4. Explain to him the harms of disobedience and the merits of obedience of Allah the Almighty. Perhaps he is melancholy because of remorse for committing a hidden sin. If it is so, ask him to repent and pray to Allah to forgive him, because one who repents of his sin becomes as pure as at the moment when he was born.
5. Inspire in him the spirit of hope, aim, and activeness!
6. Arrange, with your friends, a trip and take him with you and skillfully try to make him participate in group activities and amusements!
How to defeat laziness
Question: Most youth suffer from idleness, which is the source of corruption, melancholy, and boredom. What is the way to get out of this impasse?
The answer: The case, in its first point, is connected with the economic state of countries and this is not in our hands. As for the remaining points, they are connected with the culture of the youth. In this concern, we say:
1. Everything can be subjected to man’s will if he only knows how to do that.
2. The youth have to create opportunities of work by themselves to the extent that the law will permit them. This requires them to be acquainted with the law.
3. The youth have to reject laziness, extra sleeping, and living based on their desires.
4. They have to know the disadvantages of idleness and leisure for they bring man meanness, cause him to become involved in unlawful things, and lead him to failure in life.
5. A young man should know that life is a responsibility. First, he should be responsible for himself and then for his close relatives.
6. Man should be humble and not disdain to accept a lawful job with the excuse that it is an ordinary job or it does no befit his position or rank. Many are the people who have become wealthy whereas they were poor at the beginning of their lives; and many are the people who have become presidents and high chiefs whereas their beginnings were simple.
7. Creativity is a quality of successful people. Let the youth try to create jobs by which they will be prosperous and live well.
8. Thinking, reading, activeness, joyful spirit, optimism, satisfaction, supplication, and praying are among the main qualities that prepare for opportunities of work and then free time will be occupied and idleness will be treated.