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Islam and Personal Independence

The quest for personal independence arises from the depth of man's emotional being. This natural desire can be realised only when one's behaviour and approach is based on this inclination.

Islam takes a frank, wholesome, and healthy view of the source of all human tendencies. It not only does not require the repression of man's genuine and constructive inner urges, it does not believe in inhibiting their appearance into the consciousness. Rather, it employs them for the sake of man's edification and his ascent towards sublime human goals. It pays a simultaneous attention to the dynamic urges as well as the principle that can control and discipline these urges.

With such a broad view it is possible to bring about a healthy state in the psyche which is balanced in all respects, so that each of its urges and faculties is properly employed, enabling man to make the ascent towards perfection with steady and firm steps. He can spend the energies accumulated within him in securing the basic goals of life and in attaining the outstanding and sublime station which is worthy of a genuine human being.

The desire for progress is a human aspiration. However, given his limited powers, it is impossible for man to spend all his energies in attaining base goals while still possessing the capacity to make the upward journey towards edification and to establish a relationship with the higher world.

Continual pampering of bases and degenerate motives and constant catering to their demands is the real factor responsible for human degeneration. In such a state it will be most difficult for a person to have the capacity to act in a worthy and self-edifying manner.

In order to overcome all the obstacles that lie in the way, Islam mobilises man's urge to become a positive being, so that he may remain steadfast in the face of shattering events and overcome every problem through an unrelenting struggle against obstacles, and remain firm and steady in confrontation with powerful individuals. This is how one's determination and courage develop and one comes to possess a wonderful and invaluable spiritual power.

Man's independence and dignity lie in facing the struggle of life with courage and fortitude and solving its problems by being self-reliant. This goal can be realised only when a person can stand on his own feet with all his power for the purpose of securing material and spiritual felicity. 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, said:

One who elevates his will and attains to its higher degrees is considered worthy of praise and honour by all nations. 11

One who lacks self-assurance and personal independence is after some refuge that may protect him in the hardships of life, like a creeper which with its soft and delicate branches winds its way up a tall oak so as to be secure from the wind and the vicissitudes of weather in the shadow of its strength.

A negative spirit can also turn into a debasing slavery to a powerful individual, and were someone to debase himself to that extent he would completely undermine his own personality and forfeit the power to govern his own affairs. He would be condemned to being always a follower and not a leader or master of his own self and its independence and freedom. And so long as such a frame of mind overshadows his being, it would be impossible for him to acquire human dignity.

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

You will feel debased in relation to someone on whom you become dependent. 12


11. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 661.

12. Ibid. p. 668.

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

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