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Honour, from the Islamic Viewpoint

Rising above the animal plane to the higher levels is something which is possible for everyone. That is because the desire to attain perfection is innate in human nature, and this inclination is deeply rooted in the human soul. But, it definitely stands in need of guidance and care. However, one does not need to be forcefully dragged in order to traverse the downward course of degeneration, because one's base inclinations automatically lead one down the steep path of moral decline.

The real development of man occurs when he has released himself from the grip of base animal desires to become acquainted with the expansive horizon of sublime thoughts. Thus the human being can fall to the low level of a beast, while possessing at the same time the capacity to cast away destructive motives before they become potent and to make the angelic ascent towards the higher world.

The harmony created by Islam between inward and outward factors in the sphere of spiritual development led to a conspicuous success, and throughout history there emerged many individuals who attained through perseverance the high station worthy of their humanity.

From the viewpoint of Islam, everyone's worth and station depend on the extent he partakes of the higher values. Otherwise one would not be worthy of being called a 'human being' in its real sense, and there is no criterion of personal honour and nobility except piety and God-fearing, other outward advantages being insignificant in this respect.

Imam 'Ali, may peace be upon him, said:

There is no honour greater than personal piety.

And the revered Prophet of Islam, may God bless him and his Household, declared: Whoever desires to be the most honourable of men, let him be wary of God, the Almighty and the Glorious. 3

From the first moment that the light of God-wariness shines into the heart of a human being possessing faith, he becomes conscious of its worth and significance. It is by virtue of this awareness and his far-reaching vision that he does not seek honour and merit in power and possessions, race and descent. Rather, he evaluates his own personal worth with the criterion of faith and conviction-a power that is truly and definitely effective in this world-and the merits that he has cultivated within. He feels himself to be superior to persons who are devoid of God-fearing and refrains from any kind of humiliating humility. That is because humility and modesty are proper only before God, Who created all the existents and the world of being with His Will, and human beings are His real servants. Basically, humility in front of the unequalled Creator of the world is itself the greatest source of human honour and dignity. The superiority and precedence attained by the pious human being through his relation with the real Source of the world inalienably accompanies him in all phases and situations of life. The light of piety and the purity of soul is so luminous and attractive that others also sense that there is something firm and enduring embedded within the spirit of such a person, which is not hollow or capable of being vanquished by a simple collision. The vital force that lies within a pious person keeps him aware of the realities of life and he never gets swallowed up by the deep and shoreless sea of mundane things for the sake of enjoying life. That is because his intellect and soul are infused with the truths of Islam and he views everything in the perspective of an Islamic world view. False values are never equated with real values in his realistic evaluation, and it is not possible for base motives to capture his mind and perceptive faculties and to invade his undefeatable spirit.

He courageously resists temptations and illusory desires, for he has understood that no matter how important and precious some things should appear to be, they are insignificant and worthless before God's greatness and majesty and his own higher feelings. With all their abundance they are after all transitory and passing. The Qur'an says:

That is, 'Do not view with eager eyes the insignificant things that a certain group or community may have been given to enjoy by Us, for the sake of a test, as a manifestation of the transitory life of the world, for your sustenance and provision, which is with your Lord, is much superior and enduring.' (20:131)

Islam attaches so much value to the affairs of the faithful that their station of honour is mentioned along with the majesty of God and His Messenger:

Yet honour belongs unto God, and unto His Messenger and the believers . (63:8)


3. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 17, p. 48.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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