The intellectual criteria of a Marja’ – Part 2 – Understanding Judicial Laws vs Understanding Religion

When we say that the problem of tradition and modernity can be solved through the process of ijtihad – bearing in mind that human development and modernisation comprises all aspects of life, including natural and intellectual dimensions – it is because the quranic meaning of fiqh is broader and more comprehensive than the mere judicial laws governing the relationship between God and the human being (as is commonly understood by contemporary scholars and the religious seminaries as a whole), but should also include the relationship between the human and his fellow human, and the human and his surrounding environment. Quranically, fiqh is not what is written in the books of practical laws (risalah ‘amaliyah), but should address all issues and problems in our daily lives, both on a personal level and in society as a whole.

On a religious level, this comprehensiveness must therefore include all aspects of ones belief, of which doctrines (aqa’id) should be at the forefront of a mujtahid’s specialisation. Aspiring scholars should ask themselves: should there be ijtihad in theology, philosophy, morals, etc?

This brings us back to the verse in the last postلِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ (‘to obtain understanding in religion’), where the word ‘fiqh’ linguistically means ‘to arrive at an unknown (piece of knowledge) through a known (piece of knowledge), so it is more specific than knowledge.’ [1]; since knowledge can occur by merely standing in front of an object, where that object is imprinted as a mental image in the mind, which is a piece of knowledge gained by the individual without any effort.

So ‘obtaining understanding in religion’ by necessity means to obtain understanding in all aspects of religion (in the absolute sense [2]) in order to answer and deal with all contemporary issues faced by muslim communities around the world. However, this isn’t generally the case when one investigates the current seminary system, or what is generally understood the role of the mujtahid to be (unfortunately and to the detriment of this respected establishment, however don’t be fooled in thinking that this has always been the case..! [3]).

Narrations supporting the Quranic definition of ‘fiqh’

1) ‘When a true believer dies the angels and the parts of earth where he worshipped Allah weep because of his death. Also the doors of the heavens through which his good deeds had been taken up weep and it causes an irreparable damage in the Islamic system. It is because the true believing Fuqaha, people of proper understanding in religion and its laws are the strongholds of the Islamic system just as the fortress around a city is a stronghold for it.’ [4]

So, if someone specialises in one aspect of religion, like judicial laws dealing with an individuals relationship with God, does that make him a protector of Islam? In fact, he is but one part of a larger ‘fortress’ that is protecting Islam, and not the entire structure.

And this is why we need to be more specific on who we class to be a specialist in lesser fiqh (in the commonly understood sense of the word), and those experts or mujtahids in greater fiqh (in the more general sense of the word, which includes doctrines and akhlaq, etc), since we will rarely find someone who will encompass and be knowledgeable in all aspects of religion.

2) ‘The scholars are the heirs of the prophets,…’ [5]

It is evident that the role of the Prophets wasn’t limited to explaining the judicial laws, especially considering that only 10% (or less) of the Quran deals with such matters. So for those who wish to become heirs to the Holy Prophet (s) and his pure progeny (as), should think deeply about these narrations and the preceding quranic discussion before taking on such a heavy burden…! Yet how easy it is to spend 5-10 years studying laws dealing with purity of water and doubts in salat…!! And yet even with such a limited and narrow view of the word fiqh, we find dereliction in dealing with contemporary issues of muslim communities living in the west.

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[1] Al Mufradat (arabic lexicon of quranic words and their meanings), by Ragheb al-Isfahani, pg 642, under the root word (f q h).

[2] ‘Religion’ or ‘deen’, is quranically defined to mean that way of life that brings mankind happiness in this world with spiritual perfection in the herafter. (for further info see blog posts under ‘Philosophy of Religion’)

[3] One example of a traditional understanding of fiqh can be seen in the words of Imam  al-Ghazali and Sheikh al-Baha’i, who considered this contemporary definition of fiqh to be a new phenomenon unheard of in previous eras of scholarly work. Al Ghazali considered the word fiqh to mean the science of the hereafter and to understand the issues dealing with the soul and those deeds that harm it, and with the ability to understand the material world vis a vis other realms especially the hereafter. He uses the verse of warning (Al Tawbah:122) as evidence in this regard, since warning involves knowledge of those aspects of religion dealing with doctrines in general, and the hereafter in particular. (see Al Mahajah al Baydha’, by Faidh al Kashani, Vol1, pg81).

[4] Usool Al Kafi, Vol1, pg38, H3.

[5] Usool Al Kafi, Vol1, pg46, H5.

The intellectual criteria of a Marja’ – Part 1 – The Quranic meaning of ‘fiqh’

The Shia School prides itself in opening the door for ijtihad from the first days of Islam, but I will not dwell on its importance here and the evidence for its need to keep up with the changing times, since there is no disagreement on this aspect (although there are different views in defining ijtihad [1]). Shaheed Al Sadr says: ‘Ijtihad allows the muslims to apply islamic theory to daily life, since pracitcal application cannot happen until ijtihad defines the theory and its details.’ [2]

The differences in opinion arose with differing views on the role of the mujtahid and the extent of his responsibilities (although the responsibilites are clearly stated in the Quran and narrations as we’ll see below..).

Imam Khomeini’s view on Ijtihad: ‘We have limited ourselves to a small part of juristic laws, and left many aspects untouched and therefore many aspects of ijtihad remain strange to us.’ [3] He saw that the ijtihad being performed at the religious seminaries was not enough to tackle all the issues faced by the muslim nations, due to the wrong understanding of ijtihad and intellectual standstill due to the focus on the individual and not the society as a whole. The solution he proposed was: ‘Islam deals with all aspects of life, and gave corresponding laws for each (aspect).’

This is where the correct understanding of fiqh becomes critical in understanding the correct purpose of ijtihad and the correct role of the mujtahid. And, as always, to establish the correct meaning of any religious concept, we must go to the Quran:

وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُ‌وا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ‌ مِن كُلِّ فِرْ‌قَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُ‌وا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَ‌جَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُ‌ونَ

‘And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?’ [4]

Before talking about the meaning of the word ‘fiqh’ or ‘tafaquh’ in this verse, another important phrase is ‘why should not’ (فَلَوْلَا), which is used as an exhortation to do a certain thing, in this case: ‘to obtain understanding in religion’, i.e. it is obligatory (for all or some) to obtain religious knowledge.

The verse then defines the role of those who obtained religious knowledge to be ‘that they may warn their people when they come back to them’, correlating understanding in religion with warning, deeming knowledge on its own to be insufficient without spreading it to those who lack it. But what does ‘when they come back to them’ mean? They must have gone somewhere to return to their people. It is evident, then, that migration of those tasked with obtaining knowledge and then returning to their people, having gathered all necessary information and experience, is fundamental to ‘warning’ them and providing themselves and others with the tools to counter any (intellectual) threat they might face.

Allamah al-Tabatabai’s view on the verse: ‘Hence it is clear that the intended meaning of ‘becoming learned’ (tafaquh) is to gain an understanding of all religious sciences, whether the roots of the religion or its branches, and not just the practical laws, which is the formal meaning of fiqh amongst religious people. The proof for this is first, to become learned in religion and second, and to warn their people… because they can only warn their people if they have an understanding of all aspects of the religion, including that which will occasion divine reward or punishment in the Hereafter.’ [5]

Knowledge in religion (tafaquh) in narrations

The narrations dealing with the importance of knowledge and the obligation of its acquisition are numerous, I will mention just one relevant to our discussion above:

Imam al-Sadiq (as) said: ‘Become learned in religion, for those who do not are desert dwellers (i.e. ignorant and lacking knowledge)’ [6]

The term ‘desert dwellers’ should not be taken as an insult, as the Quran has given a clear definition for this group in society:

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَ‌ابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَـٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ

‘The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts..’ [7]

The desert dwellers are far removed from the centres of knowledge and culture, which will have an effect on their spiritual and behavioural conduct.

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[1] See: ‘Ijtihad: its meaning, sources, beginning and practice of ra’y’

[2] Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr: ‘Future directions of the Ijtihad movement’, Al Ghadeer magazine, Dec 1980.

[3] Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government’, pg65.

[4] Al Tawbah:122

[5] Allamah Tabataba’i, Tafsir Al Mizan, Vol9, pg337.

[6] Usul al Kafi, Vol1, pg31, H6.

[7] Al Hujurat:14

Characteristics of the lovers of Imam Mahdi (afj)

بسمه تعلى

In His Name, the Most High

Below is a summary of a brief lecture I gave at the local community mosque.

Ramadan – If you look at the daily duas of Ramadan in Mafatih, the first dua talks about protection from laziness etc, and the 29th dua (last dua), talks about the believers request for infallibility!

 دعاء اليوم الاوّل :اَللّـهُمَّ اجْعَلْ صِيامي فيهِ صِيامَ الصّائِمينَ، وَقِيامي فيهِ قيامَ الْقائِمينَ، وَنَبِّهْني فيهِ عَنْ نَوْمَةِ الْغافِلينَ، وَهَبْ لى جُرْمي فيهِ يا اِلـهَ الْعالَمينَ، وَاعْفُ عَنّي يا عافِياً عَنْ الُْمجْرِمينَ

 اليوم التّاسع والعشرين :اَللّـهُمَّ غَشِّني فيهِ بِالرَّحْمَةِ، وَارْزُقْني فيهِ التَّوْفيقَ وَالْعِصْمَةَ، وَطَهِّرْ قَلْبي مِنْ غَياهِبِ التُّهْمَةِ، يا رَحيماً بِعِبادِهِ الْمُؤْمِنينَ

What does that mean? It means the believer is in a state of motion, and continues perfection towards an intended goal.

Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ

O mankind, indeed you are laboring toward your Lord with [great] exertion and will meet it.’ (Inshiqaq:6)

 قَالَ مَنْ أَنصَارِي إِلَى اللَّـهِ

“Who are my supporters for [the cause of] Allah?” (Al Imran:52)

  إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ

To Him ascends the good word, and righteous deeds raises it.’ (Fatir:10)

And that goal is to reach ‘Yaqeen’. Since in the Quran it says:

 وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. .’

And if you combine this with the verse (remember the Quran explains itself by itself),

 وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ

And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty ’, you see that our goal is to worship God until we reach certainty.

But the type of worship here, does it mean praying, fasting, giving zakat and enjoining good and forbidding evil? No! There’s a condition for all of the acts of worship to have any effect on the human being, and to elevate him towards nearness and perfection.

And this condition is that his knowledge is perfected, since in the Quran it says: Yunus:9 – Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – their Lord will guide them because of their faith.– believers are described as those who have faith and do good deeds. Faith = theoretical tawheed; good deeds = practical tawheed.

This is specific to those who want to journey towards Allah and be near to Him in this world and the next. And this special relationship has the effect that Allah guides them through their faith:

Al Ra’ad:27 and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]– their faith guides by God’s will towards Him, and everytime a believer is guided towards truth or the straight path, they are but tools and stages ending on the last day towards Him.

AlNajm:42 And that to your Lord is the finality – so it’s their faith only that leads to further guidance and truth and an increase in one’s spiritual station. Since it’s a person’s faith that elevates a believer towards the stations of nearness (qurb), whereas the good deeds only act as a support and helper to lift this knowledge.

Almujadilah:11 Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees.  – no mention of good deeds

Clearest indication of this divine truth is: Fatir:10 – To Him ascends the good word, and the good deed elevates it..’

In what kind of state of mind/spirit should we be in the time of occultation?

Amongst those who sin and cause fitnah, there are those who claim to love the Holy Prophet. There isn’t one who doesn’t claim to love him, but what kind of love is that? Without following his sunnah and emulating his character, there is no use for this love. The same applies to our love to Imam Mahdi.

Quran: ‘ if you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you.’

There are those who pretend they love,but they don’t really, they imagine (lazy student). There are those who sometimes love (sometimes studies sometimes doesn’t). We want a continuous love. How do we get to the point of continuous love?

This Imam is special, he is alive, he sees our majalis, he attends Hajj, (we see him but we don’t recognize him as Imam), and on the day of judgement will end up under the banner of Imam of their time; ‘’the closest to my banner are those who love me the most’’; he carries our worries; be sure that the Imam worries about your problems and calamites more than yourself.

So, how do we reach continuous love? 3 meems (we might not realize this in this world):

  • Al Musanakha: usually love comes between close characters. (Eg of marriage with bad character woman. It’s better not to waste your time with her.)

If you want divine love, mahdawy love, muhammadan love, you must be at the same character as the Imam, (iswa hassanah); the more you become like him, the stronger the bond and the relationship. (Prophet was a slave, then became a prophet)

Those who sleep all night, are not like the Imam. Al maqam al mahmod. Those who don’t pray in the mosque on Friday, those who don’t make ziyarah, etc.

All the time, look at the dearest acts for the Imam, and do them.

  • Al Mu’azara: the Imam has needs, in the form of needs of the mu’mineen. Helping the mu’mineen of this world, is like you are an intermediary of the Imam.
  • Al Muthakara: continuous remembrance. Perfecting our salat, praying at night, etc. zakat for Imam, doing qurban for Imam. Naming our kids Muhammad and Mahdi.

If you want to know if someone is a mahdawy, check his remembrance of Imam on Friday afternoon. Dua zamaan al ghaybah. There’s a segment solves a lot of issues: ‘’make our hearts smooth towards your waliy al amr’’, ya Allah make our hearts in the hands of the Imam.

It is better to be a follower of his sunnah and not meet him, then waiting for a moment to meet him and not be following his sunnah.

In our daily prayers, we should remember him and request his re-appearance. Remember that he is praying the daily prayers as well, and in the most perfect sense. On time, perfect wudhu, perfect preparation, perfect recitation, etc. we should try to reach this level.

When trying to reach a good level of concentration and presence of heart during prayer, is to imagine you are praying in front of the Ka’bah, or maqam Ibrahim. There is no harm to imagine you are praying behind the Imam of your time, if this will perfect your salat.

The Imam’s prayer is raised to Allah first, because it is the most perfect out of all existent beings on this earth, therefore try to perfect your salat so that it’s next in line as it ascends. The closer your salat is to that of your Imam, the closer it is as it ascends.

Those who claim to be followers of the Imam, wake up at night when he wakes up, to pray salat al layl. When you do, pray for his re-appearance, and he might be praying for you as well. If you have a problem to do with this world or with some bad character traits or bad habits, he will pray for your success to overcome your difficulties.

There are instances where people have changed 360deg overnight. This could be a sign of such prayers.

Those who claim to be lovers of the Imam, should feel his pain towards the muslim communities. They should be aware what is going on, who is struggling, who is a good mu’min and spend time with him, who is a bad mu’min and try to bring him to the path. You’ll never know, one of those you are helping could be a waly of Allah, and that would be the greatest award. The faraj of this mu’min came through your hands and the prayers of the Imam. What bigger honour is there? And now imagine helping someone before he even asks (or without his knowing), what greatness exists more than this?

In ziyarat al Yaseen we read – ‘peace be upon you, oh the one who reads the book of Allah, and are his translator…’. Another character of the Imam is his close relationship to the Quran. You know that the Imams are the talking Quran, and the Quran is the silent Imams. They together are one rope of Allah towards Him.

Someone who doesn’t get pleasure out of the Quran, has something wrong with his heart. His heart is diseased. There’s something missing from his faith. When you feel sick, you go to the doctor, and he tells you what’s wrong and how to treat your illness. If you want to know the state of your heart, then test it against it’s attachment to the Quran.

Reading the Quran is part of his defining characteristics, and he is its translator and explainer. We spend years and years studying and learning different weird and wonderful subjects and specialisations, sometimes really irrelevant, sometimes we travel to the farthest countries, spending vast amounts of money on tuition fees, accommodation, travel, etc. Yet how much time do we give the Quran? Would we put the same effort to this divine book? The book where Allah says: ‘I have manifest Myself in this book’ (for those who have the eyes to see.

Here we have an Imam who’s whole life revolves around the Quran, and where are we from this? We don’t know even know the meaning of Surah Al Kawthar! What is al Kawthar? Why did He say ‘Inna’? Why did he say ‘a’taynakeh’, and not wahabna? What is the relation of prayer to al kawthar? 

We are so poor in relation to the Quran. Why don’t we specialize in the Quran? What’s stopping us from doing a course, even it’s just for a year?

The Imam is in continuous remembrance, where are we from that? Allah remembers us every single moment, we should work towards the same state. Every instant we are given the blessing of breath, let’s not be ungrateful by using this breath in haram. When we’re working we don’t remember salat, but when it comes to salat, all we do is remember work and worldly matters. Why don’t we try to take revenge on our thoughts by refusing to think about work during prayers?

The condition for continuous remembrance is Love. Where are we from this love? How do you know you love someone? When all you do is think about that person.

There was one man who lost the will to live due to his eagerness to see the Imam. He was told to be saved from this desperate state to do something day and night. He was told to remember Imam Hussein and to cry over him and his family. If you want special attention from the Imam, don’t wait for Muharram, or to go to Karbala, or even Thursday night. Who doesn’t pray on Ashura? Even Hindus and non-muslims remember Karbala and cry over Imam Hussein. If you want to stand out from the crowd, and if you want to the Imam to remember you and your worries to Allah, then remember Imam Hussein. If you want to stand out, remember him on your wedding night, or any other happy occasion.

Lastly, I want you to know that the Imam is hurting. He is seeing things that really hurt him. The conflict, the fitnah, the in-fighting. He says in one of his letters that if our hearts were beating as one heart, he would re-appear in an instant.

 

Who is a Nasibi (dissenter)?? – UPDATE: Video now added!

My latest video post dealing with the hypocrisy and contradictions of the wahabi scholars and those who follow them, with respect to their claim to loving Ali (as) and his Holy Progeny (Ahlul Bayt). Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari, as always, has the final say. 

Enjoy! Credit must go to ‘shiadefenceforce’.   

Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari: Difference between understanding the Holy Qur’an and interpreting it

My latest video post on Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari’s view towards scholars and religious authorities who don’t differentiate between qur’anic interpretation (exegesis) and understanding the meaning of the Holy Qur’an.

A new approach to Theology

The other day I read about a study (published about a month ago), which made me feel that today, more than ever, the importance of building strong and intelligent Islamic institutions, headed by a strong and intelligent Islamic leadership of scientists and scholars, is fundamental in facing contemporary challenges, both within the Islamic Ummah (nation), and external to it. This study found that:

‘European school books present a distorted image of Islam and Muslims, using stereotypes that breed mistrust of the faith and its people, …

This slanted view reflects “cultural racism,” concluded Germany’s Georg Eckert Institute for textbook research, which analysed 27 volumes used in classrooms in Britain, France, Austria, Spain and Germany. The report, which was presented at the foreign ministry in Berlin, was billed as the first of its kind in Europe. “Islam is always presented as an outdated system of rules which has not changed since its golden age,” Susan Krohnert-Othman, the institute’s project director, told reporters.’

and, more importantly (my emphasis):

‘The researchers called on schools to present information on reforms advocated by Muslim clerics and intellectuals as well as the modernisation process within the religion.’

So, scholars of the west view Islam ”as an outdated system of rules which has not changed since its golden age”. And if scholars think that way, one cannot blame anyone except oneself for the materialists and religion-phobes attitude towards religion and its followers.

Therefore, from this e-podium, I propose something our intelligent and socio-politically aware scholars, from the late Imam Khomeini (qs) (who in my view, was the first modernizer of this religion of his generation), to Martyr Muhammad Baqir Al Sadr, to our esteemed scholar and Marja’ Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari, have been advocating and dedicating their lives towards (and in the case of Al Sadr, were martyred in the process). They revolutionized Islamic thinking, revitalized interest in religion, and helped pave the way for scholars like Murtadha Mutahhari and Dr Ali Shariati to spread their genius to the masses.

Firstly, scholars (and their students) of theology and theosophy, should explain religious doctrines (Divine unity, Prophethood, Imamate, etc), both to their followers and be prepared to answer challenges and questions from outside of the religious seminaries.

The importance of correct inference (Istidlal) should be emphesized in the seminaries. There exists 3 ways to provide evidence: scientific (istidlal ‘ilmi), rational (istidlal ‘aqli/burhani), and scripture (istidlal naqli). Therefore the theologian/theosopher should understand the subject matter at hand, so that he/she can apply the correct method of providing evidence.

You see, this is where the materialists started confusing the two (knowingly or un-knowingly). They request evidence for a subject using the wrong methodology. They fail to understand (again knowingly or un-knowingly) that you cannot use the empirical scientific method to prove the existence of a non-material being. Just like you can’t use scripture to prove evolution or any other scientific theory. You have to specify the subject matter before deciding which method is suitable to establish the proofs.

One law established in the materialist school of thought, within their concept of logic, is that any subject that cannot be proven empirically (ie in the external visible material world) is not even worth addressing, or to prove its truth or falsehood is pointless. They calim the first question when dealing with the concept of a god, is not whether such a concept exists or not, but the question should be whether this concept has a meaning or whether it is nonsensical. And they believe that all concepts pertaining to religion have no meaning at all and are nonsensical, so it is pointless to investigate their truth or falsehood. So we ask them, what is the method to establish whether a concept has meaning or not? They say: a concept has meaning if you are able to establish the subjective reality of that concept by seeing whether the truth or falsehood of the concept changes the subjective reality of it. So for them, the existence or non-existence of God is the same, since there is no change in the subjective reality in either case.  So based on that, to the materialists the external reality equals matter, and it is the responsibility of the theologian to provide evidence that in fact this is not so, and reality does not equal (just) matter. This has to be established before debate can continue.

The importance of the theologian to be aware of the current scientific trends and contemporary problems, socio-political, economical, etc., is essential to keeping the religion up-to-date. Along with that, he should be aware of the limits of science, the limits of the intellect and the rational method, and the limits of scripture, and to avoid mixing the methods and subject matters. To the above example of materialists, the same must be said about those who have not understood the power of the rational argument and have limited themselves to scripture. When you ask them: is God One? They say: we don’t know, the scripture available to us says He is One, and that is our proof! They failed to understand that this is a rational subject matter and hence can only be investigated by the rational argument. Hence, the one who is knowledgeable in the sciences (in the general sense of the word) of his time, is immune from any source of confusion. And it is his utmost responsibility to spread his knowledge by all means available to him.

This is where the importance of ijtihad (in the branches of the doctrines of religion) becomes evident. Just like we have ijtihad in the branches of jurisprudence, we need to keep the doctrines alive and fresh with the changing challenges of our era. And this is done by making sure the laws governing these doctrines are up-to-date and in line with the changing trends of our generation.

Humanity’s need for Religion–Part 3

Now that we’ve answered some fundamental questions, here we commence with the Second Argument for the need for religion and prophets. This argument also requires several introductory points:

1) Man is composed of intellect and carnal desires – We tackled this fact in the First Argument, and proved that Man is made up of both material and spiritual dimension (which is true self and which gives him his human quiddity). Through this spiritual dimension Man is able to reach his intended perfection, feel enjoyment and pain, and achieve happiness or hardship. But this cannot happen without the material body and without passing through the world of trial and austerity.   

The words of the Holy Imams (as) is replete with both praise and condemnation of this world, since it is both a great blessing to allow us to reach our highest potentials of perfection, yet at the same time one must take heed from its temporality and deceptions.

إنّ الدنيا دار صدق لمن صدَقها، ودار عافية لمن فهم عنها، ودار غنىً لمن تزوّد منها، ودار موعظة لمن اتّعظ بها. مسجد أحبّاء الله، ومصلّى ملائكة الله، ومهبط وحي الله، ومتجر أولياء الله. اكتسبوا فيها الرحمة، وربحوا فيها الجنّة. فمن ذا يذمّها وقد آذنت ببينها، ونادت بفراقها، ونعت نفسها وأهلها، فمثّلت لهم ببلائها البلاء، وشوّقتهم بسرورها إلى السرور، راحت بعافية وابتكرت بفجيعة؛ ترغيباً وترهيباً، وتخويفاً وتحذيراً، فذمّها رجال غداة الندامة، وحمدها آخرون يوم القيامة؛ ذكرتهم الدنيا فتذكّروا، وحدّثتهم فصدّقوا، ووعظتهم فاتّعظوا

‘Certainly, this world is a house of truth for those who look into it carefully, an abode of peace and rest for those who understand its ways and moods and it is the best working ground for those who want to procure rewards for life in the Hereafter. It is a place of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for those who want to acquire them, a place of worship for the friends of Allah and for Angels. It is the place where prophets received revelations of Allah. It is the place for virtuous people and saints to do good deeds and to be assigned with rewards for the same. Only in this world they could trade with Allah’s Favors and Blessings and only while living here they could barter their good deeds with His Blessings and Rewards. Where else could all this be done? Who are you to abuse the world when it has openly declared its mortality and mortality of everything connected with it, when it has given everyone of its inhabitants to understand that all of them are to face death, when through its ways it has given them all an idea of calamities they have to face here, and through the sight of its temporary and fading pleasures it has given them glimpses of eternal pleasures of Paradise and suggested them to wish and work for the same. If you study it properly you will find that simply to warn and frighten you of the consequences of evil deeds and to persuade you towards good actions, every night it raises new hopes of peace and prosperity in you and every morning it places new anxieties and new worries before you. Those who passed such lives are ashamed of and repent the time so passed abuse this world. But there are people who will praise this world on the Day of Judgment that it reminded them of the Hereafter and they took advantage of these reminders. It informed them of the effects of good deeds and they made correct use of the information it advised them and they were benefited by its advice’. [1]

Since this earthly life is a place of transience and not a place of permanence, a means and not an end, Imam Ali divided people into two groups: one that took advantage of what it had to offer, and one that missed this opportunity.

And in light of this introduction, the need for religion is, how to benefit from this world, to achieve happiness in the afterlife.

2) Man loves his self innately – Man’s innate nature is a sort of divine blue-print [2] of unchangeable (due to external and internal factors) laws, evolving from potentiality to actuality with Man’s developing intellect. This innate disposition is, however, susceptible to being supressed by distractions, false doctrines and practices, etc. [3]

The clearest aspect of this innate disposition, is Man’s love for perfection, which is a feeling undisputed amongst all of humanity, since everyone tries to avoid deficiency and harm, be it physical, emotional, or intellectual. The source of this love emanates from his love for his self and the perfection of his being, as proven by his constant striving for knowledge and avoidance of ignorance, since he sees it as one aspect of perfecting his existence. This pursuit of personal satisfaction could reach a point, where suicide would seem like an easy way out for avoiding the pain and suffering of this world. Hence, a human being would not pursue the removal of pain and suffering if he did not love his self.

The problem arises in identifying the true perfections and deficiencies, since it could mean wealth and power for one, fame and a high position in society for another, or knowledge and respect to yet another, depending on several factors like culture, environment, traditions etc.

3) Man demands infinite perfections – Experience attests to this point, where we find that there is a feeling in the depths of every human being of his dislike for things that are limited and vulnerable to extinction, and a love for infinite happiness and life. He demands infinite knowledge, infinite abilities and unlimited beauty.[4]

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[1] Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as), Nahjul Balaghah, Short Saying #130.

[2] Qur’an (30:30)

[3] Qur’an (91:10)

[4] This point is one the most important proofs for the existence of the Necessary Being (God), since the concept of unlimitedness and infinity does not exist in the finite created beings, and that the finite cannot become infinite since one that is deficient of something cannot give it. Therefore a being must exist that is infinite, and that is the Necessary One, Creator of all (swt), One possessing infinite ability, infinite knowledge and infinite beauty.