Patience in Performance of Obligations (Obedience)
- :Seyyed Ali Khamene'i
All duties and compulsory obligations are accompanied with some headaches and inconveniences, or in other words, they demand some amount of efforts and involvements (positive or negative), which are at odd with the easy going and comfort loving nature of human beings. Starting from the personal compulsory religious obligations such as prayers and fasting till the financial obligations such as "Khums" 1 and "Zakat", 2 and collective social obligations such as Hajj, the separation from family and loved ones, sacrificing all the comforts and pleasures of life, and sometimes self-sacrifice itself becomes necessary. Of course, all this does not match with the easy going and comfort loving nature of man. This holds true for all the laws of the world whether heavenly or man-made, be they right or wrong.
Although in principle the law itself has been a necessity and for the same reason it is accepted by mankind, but generally nowhere, it has ever been accepted as something convenient, desirable and sweet by man. The same holds true for the most common international laws and regulations, whose benefits and advantages are explicitly clear for everybody, and their violation will result in serious consequences such as is the case with traffic laws.
Passing through a red light results in most horrible accidents sometimes leading to loss of lives. Although everyone is clearly aware about the consequences of traffic law violations, but in spite of the above it is very common that while awaiting behind a red light, the inner human nature is not comfortable and feels inconvenient. Similar is the case for not being able to drive through a short cut route because of a traffic sign, again one feels uncomfortable.
Although the compulsory religious obligations are based upon the inherent human nature, and without exception to meet its genuine demands, are in reality means and instruments to lead human beings towards perfection and exaltation, but in spite of that it must be said that in practice it requires efforts and difficulties of some sort. For example, in order to perform the compulsory daily prayers one has to spend some time, must clean his hands and face before prayers, and has to meet other preliminary requirements regarding the dress and place in accordance with the religious guidelines. It is obvious that all of the above are in conflict with the easy going human nature.
During performance of daily prayers, to control thoughts and to achieve the peace of heart and mind strictly for prayers, instead of getting preoccupied in worldly affairs other than Allah, is very important. In order for the prayers to be meaningful, and to be accepted by Allah, it is very important that the gates which allow all external ideas should be thoroughly closed during prayers.3
Of course achieving the above state of mind and heart requires lots of energy and efforts and is a difficult task.
Or fasting, which requires toleration of hunger and thirst for long periods. To resist and struggle against the appetite for eating and drinking, to restrain the eyes from looking at forbidden things of beauty and to resist sexual passions are difficult tasks requiring tremendous amount of resistance. In spite of possessing appetizing food and drinks, to be able to impose voluntary self restrictions, to spend a long hot summer day with empty stomach and dry lips of course, requires a lot of will power and strong determination.
Or Hajj for instance, which requires tolerating the inconvenience and hardships of a long distance journey, separation from home and relatives, and joining groups of unknown companions, and spending money and precious time. If Hajj is done only for the sake of pleasure of Allah, without any motives of leisure and profit-making, it will also require patience and self-sacrifice.
The obligations regarding encouraging whatever is good (Amr bil Ma'roof) and prohibitting whatever is forbidden (Nahi unil Munkar), as well as Jihad (Striving for truth), requires a lot of hardship, sacrifice, tolerance, and patience.
Proclamation of truth in front of the forces of falsehood and corruption is the most dangerous, unpleasant and bitter act, which is like standing against a tyrant whose unsheathed sword is ready to fall on the proclaimer's head. Or facing the enemies who are like savage beasts, the glint of whose electrifying eyes and swords stun the heart and soul of superficial observers. Or, to be able to offer resistance against the waves of corruption and diversion of a nation, a class, or mankind as a whole, is the most hardest, dangerous and menacing task.
Similar is the case with other Islamic obligations, which are accompanied with headaches, hardships and inconveniencies, but at the same time without exception, all of them are the most beneficial, and essential means and guarantees of salvation and prosperity for mankind. Of course, for those who have recognized the straight path and have tasted the sweetness of walking on the difficult road for the pleasure of Allah, and the sacred and exalted aims of humanity, all the above difficulties are desirable and tolerable.
The same prayer for men of Allah, who have tasted the sweetness of fervent prayer and remembrance of Allah is something sweeter than honey. The Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) at the time of prayers was so eager and restless that he used to tell "Bilal".4
"Oh! Bilal please recite the call for prayer (Adhan) and make my heart and soul peaceful".
The same struggle for the sake of Allah "Jehad fi sabil lillah" for the self indulgent people without any insight for ultimate consequences is extremIy harsh and undesirable, but for someone with a good spritual insight and power like Imam Ali (A.S.), is sweeter than honey. For him, all inconveniencies and hardships in this struggle result in strengthening his power of resistance and steadfastness. He himself describes about his astonishing state of morale in a sermon "Nahjul Balagha" as follows:
"Together with the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) we fought our own fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles, (but all these unpleasant events had the least influence upon us), except that these increased our faith to surrender ourselves completely to Allah and made the hard things tolerable for us."
But in general these difficulties and hardships exist for the common people with weaker spritual insight, and for those who are not possessed with the required determination and will power, are bitter and undesirable.
Now, what should be done regarding these difficulties which exist in dischargement of religious obligations? Since offering of daily compulsory prayers is difficult, presence of heart during prayers and chaining the roaming and wondering thoughts are even harder. Since Fasting, Jihad, Hajj, charity, encouraging good and forbidding evil and other social obligations require pains and inconveniencies, then all these should be declared as void. Therefore, we should be allowed to live according to the desires of our heart which is full of passions and a spirit which loves ease and comforts of life.
It is here that Islam tells us No! Instead patience must be practiced. Patience in obedience must be practiced against those passions which lure the heart away from the prayer carpet, mosque and altar, by getting it preoccupied with hundreds of kinds of amusements, and in turn make prayers spiritless and meaningless. Patience must be practiced against these kinds of desires and prayers should be offered completely with presence of heart and concentration, so that they are accepted by Allah and are fruitful for us. Patience must be offered against those extremist tendencies which tempt us to enjoy eating and drinking on a hot dry day instead of fasting.
Patience must be practiced in confrontation with the enemies in battlefield, where the danger shows its real and serious face, and where red death with dynamic speed confronts the man. The pleasures and sweetness of life, memories of children and relatives, and the faces of the loved ones become incarnated in the eyes, and all profit-oriented bussiness transactions in one way or the other attract his attention, and try to make his determination weak and shaky. Resistance should be offered against all these forces. All obstacles and barriers which interfere with the forward march must be removed from the road.
Patience must be offered against a proud tyrant whose eyes burn with anger and whose transgression and corruption has pushed a nation to the brink of catastrophe. Such a tyrant must be opposed by each responsible individual. In this situation it is a compulsory obligation for every one to try to overthrow such a despot.
Patience should be practiced against the whispers of Satan, who with thousands of colourful deceits will try to close charitable hands by reminding one of personal needs instead of helping others, by inciting desires for material profits and other worldly ambitions, and will ultimately prevent a person from righteous deeds. He will try to emphasize that the light in the own home is more important than the candle of the mosque's niche (Mehrab). Here, patience comes into picture by offering the necessary resistance to the above desires, to enable one to discharge his financial and religious obligations. Yes! Patience should be practiced. Yes! One should be patient in obedience and fulfillment of these religious commands. Resistance should be offered against the Satanic whispers and passions encouraging transgression.
Each case where such resistance is offered assumes a special meaning and special importance in proportion to the greatness of that particular situation. At one place, resistance means to be steadfast in facing the enemy in the battlefield, or it may be confrontation with the self, and sometimes it may be the struggle to remain indifferent while facing the pangs of poverty and other difficulties.
Therefore, patience means to be able to offer resistance in all the above circumstances. Patience never allows us to surrender with folded hands, to be insulted, to give up the initiative, and become prisoner of the events.
1 0ne fifth levy; a yearly tax upon one's personal savings.
2 Wcalth tax to be paid on certain items.
3 In his book "Sirr-us-Salat" the mysteries of prayers, Imam Khomeini, describes the presence of heart, as follows:
"During prayers one must try to completely cut off the heart's preoccupation with worldly affairs. If a person is submerged in love and desires of this world, naturally his heart is busy continuously from one involvement to another. The heart behaves like a bird jumping from one branch to another. So far we have this tree of worldly ambitions or desires ("Hubb-e-Duniya") in our heart, it will behave restless. If by struggle, practice, efforts, and thinking about the severe consequences and losses, if one could succeed in cutting this tree of worldly ambitions or desires, then the heart will become reposed and peaceful. It will achieve spiritual perfection.
At least the more one tries to free himself from worldly charms and temptations the more he succeeds in cutting the various branches of that tree in his heart, with the result, the presence of heart will be achieved in the same proportion."
Imam Khomeini further explains the term 'love of this world' "Hubb-e-Duniya". "There are people who do not possess anything at all of this mortal world, but still they could be the persons totally submerged in the love of this world. While on the contrary one may be like Prophet Sulaiman bin Dawood, (Solomon son of David) king of kings and possessing all the treasurers of this universe, but at the same time may not be a man of this world, completely detached from the lure of the world." (Tr)
4 "He was born in Mecca, the son of an Abyssiniar slave called Rabah; in a city of idol-worship, he was tortured for his belief in the One and Only Allah. He was made the first muezzin the caller to prayer in Islam the Prophet (p.b.u.h.).
After the Prophet's death Bilal's legs, in his grief, failed him. He could not climb up the steps to make the call to prayer again. He died in Syria, probably in 644, twelve years after the Prophet's death. The Black Muslims in America have renamed themselves the Bilali. Prophet (peace be upon him) called Bilal 'a man of Paradise'."
Adapted from the book: "Discourse on Patience" by: "Seyyed Ali Khamenei'i"
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