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The Spirit of Self-Reliance

Self-reliance and high-mindedness are qualities of those who have truly perceived their human worth. If a Muslim inspired by the invaluable teachings of Islam faces a financial crisis, he would continue to endure this unhappy, and occasionally paralysing, condition, but he would never yield to humiliation and abjectness.

Although Islam lays abundant emphasis on effort and activity for earning a legitimate income so that one lives with a head held high, at the same time it warns people from aggravated greed which leads to the slavery of wealth. That is because the bondage of wealth and riches is as much a source of self-abasement and erosion of one's human dignity as dependence and reliance an others.

Imam 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon him, makes the following remark concerning the humiliation that results in both the cases.

Dependence on others and appealing for help impairs the speaker's tongue and vitiates the mind of the courageous and the heroic, and degrades a free human being to the level of an abject slave, besides tarnishing one's dignity and spoiling one's livelihood. 11

How often richness is more degrading than deprivation! 12

How often there are poor people who are actually rich, and how often there are rich people who are in fact impoverished and wretched. 13

The Noble Qur'an describes the people who are without means but dignified in these words:

The ignorant (who are misled by their dignified appearance) suppose them rich because of their abstinence (from asking others for help), but thou shalt know them from their faces; they do not beg of men importunately. (2:273)

Imam Sajjad, may peace be upon him, said:

I would not exchange my self-respect for the most precious thing in the world. 14

Islam considers the expression of gratitude and appreciation as a desirable and outstanding virtue, but it does not permit that one should resort to flattery in the garb of appreciation of others. No Muslim has a right to contaminate himself with a flattery contrary to the dignity and freedom of his self.

The basic condition for expressing gratitude is the spiritual independence and inner satisfaction of one who expresses gratitude and fulfils his human duty when required to do so. However, some people who suffer from moral inadequacy and inner weakness try to conceal their inner abjectness and self- contempt with humiliating and obsequious expressions of admiration. Without doubt, such a condition, which is a reaction prompted by spiritual weakness and is an evidence of inner degradation, does not possess any kind of ethical or educative value.

Imam 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon him, makes it explicit in one of his aphorisms that an appreciation mixed with flattery has two harmful and undesirable results; on the one hand it tarnishes the self-respect of the flattering person and on the other causes the other person to be afflicted with the vice of pride:

Excessive praise amounts to flattery, which, on the one hand, causes pride and haughtiness in the addressee and deprives the flatterer of his personal honour on the other. 15

Persons of a noble temperament do not lose themselves regardless of the status and fame they might attain, while persons wanting in self-respect are swept off their feet at the smallest success in attaining status and position.

Imam 'Ali, may peace be upon him, makes this point in an interesting manner:

An honourable person does not act like an insolent ingratiate no matter how high the position he may attain to, being like a mountain that remains unmoved by the gales. But a base person rises to insolence and ungratefulness on attaining the meanest position, like a plant that is shaken to its roots by the softest draft of wind. 16

11. Al-Amidi Ghurar al-hikam, p. 98.

12. Ibid., p. 4i4.

13. Ibid ., p. 552.

14. Al-Nari, Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, vol. 2, p. 364.

15. Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, p. 563.

16. Ibid., p. 407.

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

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