Rafed English

Taslim and Rida

One who does not possess the asset of faith is quite vulnerable against the unfavourable forces of nature. He considers himself a victim of its overwhelming and tyrannical forces. Even if he does not make a retreat in the first encounter with afflictions and hardships, ultimately, at some fearsome moment, the violent waves of events will drive him into a deep whirlpool. But one who relies on the logic of religion and does not consider anything except the will of God as being effective in the order of creation, believes that the unavoidable sufferings of life have been decreed by a beneficent creator for the purification of his heart and the disciplining of his soul. Therefore he does not allow hardship and affliction to paralyse his spiritual power. Rather, he maintains his serenity under all circumstances and in every eventuality steers the ship of his existence with the help of God's eternal power to the shores of purity, success, and felicity and even his spiritual joys and pleasures increase despite the burden of suffering. Jabir ibn 'Abd Allah was one of the personalities that had been brought up under Islamic teachings. Once when he fell ill, Imam al-Baqir, the Fifth Imam, may peace be upon him, came to his house to visit him.

When the Imam asked Jabir about his condition, the latter replied: "My condition is such that I prefer old age to youth, sickness to health, and death to life." The Imam, may peace be upon him, said to him: "Yet we, the Prophet's family, are not such. If God decrees sickness or health, youth or old age, life or death for one of us, we accept it most willingly. The principle of rida (satisfaction) vis-à-vis the vicissitudes of life is our custom."

Bertrand Russell says:

Resignation, however, has also its part to play in the conquest of happiness, and it is a part no less essential than that played by effort. The wise man, though he will not sit down under preventable misfortunes, will not waste time and emotion upon such as are unavoidable, and when such as are in themselves avoidable he will submit to it if the time and labour required to avoid them would interfere with the pursuit of some more important project. Many people get into a fret or a fury over every little thing that goes wrong, and in this way waste a great deal of energy that might be more usefully employed. Even in the pursuit of really important objects it is unwise to become so deeply involved emotionally that the thought of possible failure becomes a constant menace to peace of mind. Christianity taught submission to the will of God, and even for those who cannot accept this phraseology there should be something of the same kind pervading all their activities. Efficiency in a practical task is not proportional to the emotion that we put into it, indeed, emotion is sometimes an obstacle to efficiency. The attitude required is that of doing one's best while leaving the issue to fate. 13

Of course, in speaking of resignation and forbearance vis-à-vis fate what is meant are the mishaps and unpredictable events that lie beyond the range of human power and ingenuity; otherwise those misfortunes and ills that are products of a corrupt society and pathological social conditions, their roots must be sought within the social structure. To alter such a distressing state of affairs is within the scope of man's will. Hence one must not justify submission to violation of his rights as resignation and surrender to God-ordained fate. Dale Carnegie, a brilliant writer on topics relating to psychological subjects of popular interest, writes:

My father had lost his health due to debt, hardship, poverty and bad luck. The doctor told my mother that he would not survive for more that six months. Several times my father attempted to end his life by hanging himself with a rope or by throwing himself into the river. Years later he told me that the only thing that kept him from committing suicide at that time was the firm and unshakeable faith of my mother. She was convinced that if we love God and obey His commandments everything would be set right. She was right. Ultimately everything got right. My father lived for another forty-two years. Throughout those difficult years my mother never became upset. She placed her hardships and problems before God and in that little and lonely village cottage she would pray to Him not to deny us His love and support.

In the same way as the benefits of electricity, water and good food have been effective and important in my life, the benefits and advantages of religion have been of great significance. Electricity, water and food help me provide a better, more complete and comfortable life. But the benefit of religion is many times greater than that of any of these things.

Religion gives me faith and courage. It relieves me from trepidation, anxiety, fear and alarm. It gives a direction and goal to life. Religion completes my happiness to a great extent and bestows upon me an abundant peace. It helps me lead a calm and peaceful existence in the midst of the tempests of life. 14

Einstein, the famous scientist of the twentieth century, after offering a classification of religions and while explaining the third kind of religions which he calls 'cosmic religious feeling', describes the kind of feeling it produces in man. He writes:

The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as significant whole. 15

The cause of the anxieties and mental anguish of many people must be sought in their way of thinking and their view of life. They imagine that they have come into this world to enjoy its pleasures without any restraints and when they confront a reality that is contrary to their conceptions they often complain and blame the world, the order of things, and their own situation. In the same way as water extinguishes fire, our own misfortunes and hardships are forgotten when we pay attention to the miseries and misfortunes of others and reflect about them. But there are some people who imagine that they are the victims of all the misery and grief that there is and that hard times do not give them a moment's relief, where they have quite a different opinion about others and imagine that they are always prosperous and happy and face no hardship in life.

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13. Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (London: Unwin Books, 1975), pp. 180-181.

14. Dale Carnegie, Ain-e zindagi, trans. into Persian by Jahangir Afkhami, p. ?

15. Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1984), p.38.

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

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