The Characteristic Sense of Worthiness
The Muslim's sense of worthiness is not related to any success in life and on account of living in ease and prosperity. Rather he has a feeling of worthiness and merit from the first moment that the light of faith is illumined in his heart. He is not moved by false and fake values fabricated by humans and is aware of the realities of life. Islam blesses him with a free spirit, a clear vision, and an inner moderation with the help of which he is able to rise above the abject level of corporeality and climb to the heights of human sublimity. He makes use of the material world without becoming bogged down in the mire of terrestrial pleasures.
It is not possible for fake values to overshadow his divine values and to dominate his spirit and perceptions, for they are too worthless to form the basis of his sense of worthiness. Furthermore, he does not bow his head before anyone and does not feel lowly and weak in front of any power. He refrains from any kind of undignified humility which may compromise his personal worth. His humility is exclusive to his relation with the Sacred Divine Being and Its Majesty, but he feels powerful and steady in all other states.
God exhorts the faithful to preserve this station in all situations and stages:
And you are the upper ones it you are believers. (3:139)
If a wound touches you, a like wound already has touched the heathen; such days We deal out in turn among men. (3:140)
In this verse, the Qur'an reminds the Muslims of their superiority at a moment when they had been defeated in battle and the enemy had been victorious. That is because this superiority arises from their faith in God and attachment to the Source of reality, and these qualities transform them into a dynamic force. This superiority is not obtained through victory against the enemy so as to be lost at the moment of defeat.
The Muslims enjoyed an upper hand over others because they believed in faith as the highest of human merits and assets. This infused them with an enthusiasm and zeal arising from faith. They had been emancipated from all the bondages that had bound them and had triumphed over them. This discovery was solely a product of the guidance provided by the Qur'an and the Prophet's teaching.
Pride and egoism are big hurdles in the way of progress and advancement in life. The complacency created by pride results in the stagnation and backwardness of the proud. In the same way, the lack of self- satisfaction and possession of higher aims in life lead to continuous progress and edification.
'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, makes this point in two of his aphorisms:
Pride and vanity are obstacles in the way of man's progress and growth. 11
One who is dissatisfied with his performance is prompted thereby to improve his work. 12
He also says:
One who is proud of his fair state and characteristics will fail to improve himself. 13
William John Reilly, the famous scholar, writes:
I have found that certain troublesome and harmful ideas and beliefs in my mind, which cause me mental pain and sorrow more than any other beliefs, are those which relate to myself! Now how did r discover this fact? Well, let me tell you something about my own opinion about my voice, for most people like their own voices. The only thing whose possession caused me satisfaction was having an exquisite voice.
I have made many public speeches and had even won a gold medal at the age of eighteen years. I imagined that I had a melodious, refined and pleasant voice.
One day I took a tape of one of my speeches on a topic made for the radio and listened to it carefully as any other listener. This was the first time that I was listening to my voice as any other listener. God, suddenly I was shocked. My voice was much poorer than what I had imagined it to be. It was like a moan, suppressed, inarticulate, colourless, flat and painful to the ears. What was worse, while I listened to it there were several other people in the room. I was upset. I explained to those present that I was not feeling quite well when I had made this speech, that I had no experience of the radio and sound recording when my voice was being recorded.
But while their attention was turned elsewhere I played other tapes of my raucous voice and the same kind of sounds that wounded one's nerves arose from them. Finally after listening to all the tapes of my speeches I had to admit that the belief that I had held for several years about my voice was wrong. For the first time I had to set aside my vanity and try hard to improve and refine my voice. It seemed a hopeless job at first, but whenever I remembered what Demosthenes had done I would cheer up. I am still working on it.
This experience with my voice taught me one thing, that it was possible to launch a prolonged struggle for my self-improvement. Until I could bear the humiliation of having to accept this defect of mine I did not begin to make any progress in improving myself.
A shattered pride and conceit make man realistic and lead to improvement and advancement. This reform and progress take place only when we attend to facts and set aside our vain ideas and beliefs about ourselves. Otherwise we remain in ignorance and darkness and keep our own cherished self from reform and progress. 14
Due to the aberrations in his outlook, the vain person at times imagines himself to possess certain merits that are in fact absent in him. Imam Sadiq, may Peace be upon him, said:
One who is proud of himself and his conduct is such due to deviance from the right path of guidance, and, contrary to reality, he claims to possess merits which he lacks. 15
The proud and egocentric person is like a silkworm wound up in the cocoon of his own fancies. He is so intoxicated with the liquor of egoism that he considers the whole world to revolve around himself.
Imam 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, said:
The intoxication induced by nescience and pride is more lasting and enduring than the intoxication produced by liquors. 16
11. Nahj al-balaghah ed. Fayd al-Islam, p. 1157.
12. Ghurar al-hikam, p. 668.
13. Ibid., p. 677.
14. Tafakkur-e sahih, pp. 50-53.
15. Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qummi, Safinat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 161.
16. Ghurar al-hikam, p. 440.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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