Monday, 20 June 2011

The Mainspring of Inner Peace - Light of Islam

The Mainspring of Inner Peace




Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari



A. Q. Q.

Stormy Sea of Life

The Cause of Psychic Afflictions

Too Much Concern for the Unknown Future

Clinging to Deviant Means

The Profound Effect of Suffering

The Definite Role of Faith in Spiritual Peace

and Rida

Unlimited Expectations

in Immortality

The Benefit of Unburdening One's Sorrow

Maintaining Good Spirits


Stormy Sea of Life

Life is like a restless sea, full of wonders and
always in a state of perpetual turmoil caused by the
waves of events. No one is secure from the violent waves
on the surface of this deep ocean. Pleasure and pain in
this world, like positive and negative forces in nature,
together perform their function everywhere. Opposed to
joy and delight are grief and sadness and opposed to
youth and vitality are old age and weakness. Everyone who
is alive must bear the burden of affliction and
suffering. Everyone who sets out on this sea is bound to
be drenched by its waters and encounter in the course of
his life a series of unpleasant and painful events:
failure, privation, the death of dear ones and many other
afflictions of the kind. Who is it that has remained
unscathed by the arrows of time and secure from the
tempests of events? The type of hardships and calamities,
it is true, is different in every age, but the universal
principle of hardship and suffering is intertwined with
man's life in all its stages.

Certainly, the means of comfort and welfare have never
been so within man's reach in any era of history to the
extent they are accessible today. Similarly, he has never
attain the knowledge of nature's complex mysteries that
he possesses today and been never so successful in
subduing nature's unfriendly elements to the extent of
today. In the shadow of science and with the power of
technology, the civilized human being has overcome many
of his difficulties by employing nature's various forces
to his benefit.

However, despite these remarkable advancements in
science and its brilliant achievements, and in spite of
possessing all the different means essential for a better
life, man today not only does not possess the feeling of
mental peace and security that are basic for a happy
life, he is drifting further away from the goal of a
pleasant and wholesome life. From the viewpoint of peace
and happiness, the future prospects of this materialistic
life of today are not promising.

It cannot be denied that in most advanced societies
psychological stress and anxiety have constantly
increased in direct proportion to scientific, industrial,
and economic progress and with the expansion of civic
amenities and affluence. With the increase in psychic
problems, the corresponding increase in the number of
psychotherapists and psychiatrists has not at all helped
to meet the situation.

Dr. Schneider writes:

What is it that has a greater share of human
misery than anything else? I can answer this question
in my capacity as a physician. It is a chronic
disease. It will frighten you somewhat if you think
about it. For out of a thousand kinds of diseases to
which the human constitution is prone, one of them is
as prevalent as the remaining nine hundred and
ninety-nine of them. In the United States of America,
fifty percent of those who go to see a physician
suffer from this illness. Some claim that the figure
is even higher than fifty percent.

At the Oxis Clinic (?) in New Orleans a report was
prepared about five hundred patients who had
consecutively made a call to that place. It revealed that
seventy-five percent of them suffered from this illness.
A person could be affected by it irrespective of his age
and the stage of his life. Moreover, the diagnosis and
treatment of this disease are terribly expensive.

I will hasten to refrain from mentioning its name, for
that may lead you to a misunderstanding. Its first
characteristic is that it is not a real disease.
Traditionally it was referred to as 'mental illness' and
now they call it psychosomatic disorder. It is not an
illness in the sense that the sick person should really
consider himself to be ill. But the suffering that one
undergoes as a result of it is as severe as the spasms of
pain due to biliary colic.

Psychosomatic illness is not something produced by
bacteria, virus, or an unnatural growth of bodily tissue,
but is something caused by the conditions of daily life.
Whenever someone is enclosed within a thick and
impenetrable shell of anxieties, worries and problems
from which he cannot emerge into the world of joy and
peace, we consider him as suffering from psychosomatic

Freud says:

The primitive man satisfied his desires in a better
way than the civilized man. His life was free from mental
anxieties and cares, and he did not suffer from psychic
ailments. But since the advent of civilization, industry
and urbanization, man came to suffer from serious mental

The Cause
of Psychic Afflictions

One of the factors responsible for anxiety is
acquisitiveness. In a social environment where people's
thoughts revolve around the axis of materialism, where
wealth and passing material comforts are considered the
criteria of prosperity and misfortune, and where everyone
is constantly after the satisfaction of this inner urge,
life is undoubtedly full of perpetual stress and anxiety.
That is because no matter however extensive one's efforts
may be, he cannot satisfy his endless greed, fill his
mental vacuum, and realize all his desires and wishes.
Also, often there arise insuperable obstacles in the way
of his desires and goals, which lead him into various
kinds of misgivings and torments. His mind and nerves are
greatly disturbed as a result of this mental vexation.
Moreover, since his attachment is to unenduring things,
which are prone every moment to destruction and
extinction, their transitory charm cannot give
tranquillity to his tormented life. Such a person, no
doubt, will not feel happy within himself.

Another important factor that causes spiritual anguish
is the thought of death and absolute extinction. When
death is believed to be the last limit of life and the
end of everything, the awesome phantom of non-existence
darkens the soul and pours bitterness into every joy of
life. Psychic strain, despair and despondency, especially
in the later part of life, will put him in a state of
painful torture.

Similarly, a haunting fear of encountering some
undefined danger - something one fears without being able
to express precisely what terrifies him - misgivings and
apprehensions cripple the soul and shatter man's
debilitated nerves like a sledge hammer. One becomes
constantly listless as a result of financial insecurity
or inadequacy; another is agitated on account of his
unmanageable wealth and is beset with a thousand
financial cares, some fret at the difficulty of meeting
their commitments due to unfavourable factors and justify
their always remaining in a state of consternation. Some
are so full of scruples about certain particulars that
they tire and exhaust everyone about themselves.

Such persons, as a matter of principle, are those
whose anxiety seeks an outlet in order to surface, and
they are constantly after some fresh pretext to start
lamenting and complaining. The problems of life take a
specially fearsome aspect in the evenings, for the
fatigue resulting from day's work draws a curtain over
the intellect and suppresses its power of rational
judgement. At such times it no longer possesses its usual
vigour, whereas the power of imagination is still active;
its figments and fancies, finding the arena empty without
a rival, torment the person severely.

If misgivings and futile apprehensives were to occur
to anyone as a result of some small mistake, he should
know that something that shouldn't have happened has
taken place and there is no use in getting troubled about
it. Moreover, he has no right to complain about what he
had to suffer as a result of his own act. Everyone must
reap what he has sown and if he has sowed a bad seed who
is to blame? If one becomes upset by his mistake and sees
its consequences to be much graver than they really are,
he would fail to make amends, for that would divide his

That which is certain is that one cannot succeed in
solving one's problems with agitation and vexation, for
agitation does not increase the capacity of one who has
made a mistake, and regret and sorrow cannot change what
is past. The only result that one obtains from his gloomy
thoughts is to make his life gloomy and paralyze his
activity. Peace of mind is necessary for one to
disentangle the issues through reflection, and then try
not to repeat the mistake. It is by correct reasoning
that man can bring a discipline in his moral conduct.

Much Concern for the Unknown Future

The extent of attention that one directs to the future
or the present greatly affects one's spiritual
well-being. There are some people who give an
extraordinary importance to the future; as a result they
miss the opportunity to benefit from the present. Even if
no danger should threaten them presently, they are afraid
that some unpleasant accident may befall them. They are
overwhelmed by a fear, which is as strong as they would
feel in the face of a real danger.

However, one must remember that the past has no
influence on the present and the future too is
unforeseeable. The future events that should make one
worried and concerned are those which are definite. But
it goes without saying that such events are few and
rarely do events turn out according to one's forecasts.

William John Reilly, a researcher belonging to the
Carnegie Institute, writes:

If you reflect you will see that amongst your
friends, and even within your own family, those who
have a positive way of thinking fascinate you more
than the others. You like to be with them most of the
time. Of course, there are also cynics amongst them
who create trouble and headaches for you.

Those who have a positive way of thinking are happier,
livelier and more active. They get things done and make
them work. They might make many mistakes, but then they
have the perspicacity to acknowledge their mistakes and
correct them. They have the determination to start all
over again. They don't waste time worrying or getting
upset over something that will never happen.

In every twenty-four hours about more than twenty
million meteorites enter the earth's atmosphere. But
there is no reliable record of any person getting killed
anywhere due to the falling of any of these meteors.

Mark Twain said, "I am an old man and I know many
calamities and misfortunes. But most of them have never

Life is a continuous stream of problems, and these
have to be confronted with a determination. Many of the
problems that engage out mind, which we allow to upset us
and spoil several hours of our life, and at times a whole
day, are actually insignificant and of no consequence.
The difficulty is that at the time we are not capable of
noticing their insignificance.[3]

And then whether these probable dangers really take
place or not, the present anxiety has no result except
diminishing one's physical and spiritual capacities. In
different stages of life one may encounter events that
block the way of success. These events are not
exceptional and happen for every one. We cannot alter the
eternal laws of nature and make things happen according
to our wishes.

That was in relation to external dangers. As to the
dangers that threaten man from within, they are no less
significant than the external ones and sometimes are of a
more serious character. There is a destructive force in
every individual that threatens his life. This danger
that accumulates within man's being is the same as
anxiety and anguish, and the person who carries it within
him may be unconscious of its presence.

Should the physical and mental energies that are
consumed by fear and anxiety concerning imaginary dangers
be spent in fruitful tasks, that can yield valuable and
brilliant results. Everyone can recall the amount of
precious time that he has spent musing about the ways of
encountering possible accidents. Exceptions aside, one
may say that the actual hardships and misfortunes that
most persons face are quite insignificant in comparison
to the imaginary calamities that torment them.

Kronin writes:

Make a list of the things that you consider the
causes of your worries and anxieties. When these
causes are down on the paper you will see that, in
general, most of them are vague, indistinct and
unimportant. Most of the time the balance sheet of
our worries and cares appears as follows. Forty
percent of them are such calamities as will never
take place. Thirty percent of them relate to the past
or the future sorrows, which not even the sympathies
of the whole world can alter. Twelve percent of them
consist of unfounded fear of loss of health. An eight
percent may really be causes for worry and anxiety. A
realistic examination will lead us further to drop
some of these latter causes. Then, we will see that
that which we usually fear most only happens rarely
in actual reality.

Many are the woes that trouble our hearts on account
of melancholic self-pity. There is only one remedy for
the disease of egoism. We should bring about such a
change in our world that we cease regarding ourselves as
its centre and axis. Rather, we should take others into
account and realize the fact that our being is a part of
the human society and that our life depends upon and is
subject to the welfare and misfortune of the family,
community, nation and group to which we belong.

After these difficulties are finally analyzed and no
solution is found, to immerse oneself in sorrow and grief
is a kind of faithlessness; for such a despair signifies
the absence of faith in the need for God's help. No
wisdom or philosophy, however sublime, can be of benefit
to a man who locks himself in the prison of sorrow and
grief. If we employ wisdom by following the lead of
reason, we will be able to elevate our lives to a height
beyond the reach of our inner number-one enemy, and
attain a real spiritual peace.[4]

Mental anxiety visibly affects all the tasks one
performs and sometimes lead one unconsciously into
deviant paths and to make irrational responses. Another
harm caused by mental worry is that it deprives one of

Many people make it their habit to constantly complain
regarding their ill fortune and fate and are never
satisfied with their life. They imagine that they cannot
prosper in life unless all their affairs are set in order
and unless they possess considerable wealth and all the
means of comfort. They look for happiness in the distant
horizons of the future while they squander the great
asset of life, the precious moments of today, for the
sake of the future's dream, whereas if they really care
for their happiness they would discover it in plain and
peaceful lives; because that which is of basic
significance in life is the present, and the future,
which appears to be a heaven in their eyes, would assume
the appearance of a frightful hell as soon as they reach

One who is tired and fed up with his present state of
life and awaits better days that lie beyond the dark and
uncertain horizon, must wake up from the slumber of
nescience and seek his lost ideal in these wearisome days
of today, not in an imaginary and unknown future. The
obstacles that he sees in the way of realization of his
goals may be the product of his own thinking, and his
success and triumphs may lie hidden in the present
itself. If the seed of today should remain unsown,
tomorrow will not yield its fruit. Life cannot be lived
twice so that one may make amends for his earlier

A wise human being derives the maximum benefit from
the passing moments of life, which pass quietly and
soundlessly like rain drops falling into the dark ocean
of extinction and annihilation. He does not let them go
in vain. As a result, with each day his situation
improves, the horizon of his life becomes more radiant,
and his soul becomes vaster.

He remains steady and unmoved like the centre in a
wheel in the face of accidents and unpleasant events.
Should the wave of a calamity pass over his head, he is
not swept off his feet. He draws benefit from pleasant
events and takes lesson from undesirable incidents. He
does not expect the world to change in order that events
happen according to his wishes. Finally, he spends the
hours of his life in such a way that at the end of the
day he does not have any regret or remorse.

There are some others who care neither for the present
nor the future. The today does not interest them and they
expect nothing from the future. Rather, they live in
constant agitation due to the regret of having lost the
opportunities offered by the past and which now lie
buried in the graveyard of nonexistence. Instead of
pursuing their way with earnestness and composure on the
plain of life, they always look behind themselves like
someone lost in a vast desert. They keep reviewing the
errors and inauspicious happenings of the past and waste
their lives. What is surprising is that while they let
the present slip, they regret for the moments of the

There is no doubt that ruminating over the mistakes
and unhappy episodes of the past and burning oneself in
the flames of sorrow and regret does not do any good.
Moreover, it exhausts and debilitates the soul and lets
one's vital powers go waste so that one remains no longer
capable of choosing the right course in life in
conformity with his interests.

What we have said concerning giving attention to the
present does not mean that one should do something today
without paying attention to its evil consequences in the
future. What we mean is that one should not let one's
peace of mind be disturbed by regret for the past and
fear regarding the future.

Clinging to
Deviant Means

Need and deprivation cause suffering, and for this
reason the mass of people are in perpetual battle against
need and deprivation. But the people all whose material
needs are satisfied become subject to a kind of spiritual
malaise and agony. In order to escape this state of
nervousness and agitation they often opt for methods and
ways that lead to destruction of their vital and
intellectual powers. For instance, they take refuge in
alcohol or drugs, which appear to them as the only
remedy, and become addicted to these destructive evils so
as to escape their anguish and inner torment for a short
time. They think that they can do nothing else except
seek refuge in alcoholism and drug addiction to obtain
relief from their pain and suffering; but in reality they
undermine their own personality. For everyone knows that
addiction to these things for relief from anxiety and
inner distress does not lead to good consequences; for as
soon as the effect of intoxication is gone, his anguish
returns to badly torment him again. Moreover, the effect
produced by drugs is gradually diminished due to
continuous use and they themselves give rise to many
diseases and afflictions.

Psychologists explain the causes of taking refuge in
alcoholism as follows:

Those who are used to alcohol are not capable of
satisfying their wants in a complex and complicated
world. Therefore, in order to evade difficulties and
delve in unrealistic fancies they take resort in
alcohol. Alcohol makes a drastic effect on the
nervous system and, in addition to that, enfeebles
the rational faculty. One who is drunk behaves in an
unnatural manner, and intoxication does an
irremediable harm to him. He not only injures his own
health, but achieves nothing by escaping problems by
taking resort in a harmful beverage. Ultimately, he
loses respect in the eyes of his friends, family and
relatives. When he returns to his ordinary state, his
capacity to confront his difficulties is further
diminished. The consumption of alcohol does not
afford any progress in the solution of problems, and
one who makes alcohol a means of evading problems
only makes his hardships graver. Then this
exacerbation of the difficulty induces him again to
turn to alcohol.

Some kinds of daydreaming and the use of alcohol are
similar in regard to the escape from problems. Of course,
the use of alcohol is physically more harmful. In these
two kinds of escape, the person does not attempt to solve
the difficulty by the means of reasoning. Rather, he
wants to evade it, and since the escape cannot be
permanent, he is forced to return to the real world in a
state of greater disharmony and anguish.[5]

A man's thoughts and ideas exercise a profound
influence on his spiritual well-being. His progress and
backwardness and, in a word, his spiritual qualities
depend on his way of thinking. Various factors have an
effect on one's way of thinking and looking at things.
One who enjoys an active intellect is not overwhelmed by
total despondency in his inability to obtain material
resources and derive benefit from the external world. The
world does not appear to him to be dark and frightful.
Rather, he immediately closes shut the windows of the
spirit that face external things and turns to the
enjoyment of spiritual pleasures. Thereby he takes
himself into a world free from the bondage of suffering
and where he can satiate himself with the cup of felicity
and peace.

However, those who are short-sighted seek refuge in
external means in order to seek freedom from the chains
of anguish. Because, on the one hand, man's wishes and
desires are in a state of perpetual change and, on the
other, there is nothing permanent and enduring in this
turbulent world. Should man's happiness depend on
external things, it would always be prone to destruction.
Therefore, such a person, like a drowning man, clings to
every thing that he can catch hold of but which cannot
save him. Ultimately, nothing that is transitory and
impermanent can give him true peace.

Carlos describes the wretchedness of this group of
people in these words:

One abandons his beautiful mansion in order to
escape monotony, and fruitlessly takes resort in
various means. Another speedily runs away from his
wife and children, like a fire engine hastening to
extinguish a fire, but as soon as he reaches his
destination he again comes face to face with his
pernicious enemy. spiritual boredom and malaise.
Thereat he goes back with the same haste that he had
gone forth, confounded and lost like a madman.[6]

Profound Effect of Suffering

Basically, man's creation is such that he is compelled
to bear a lot of physical and spiritual hardships in
order to satisfy the needs of his life. Because it is in
the course of this toil and endeavour for obtaining the
material means of life that his intellectual and
spiritual faculties acquire their vigour and growth.

Hardship and suffering has a profound and extensive
influence in life. The spiritual powers of great men
receive their burnish under the stress of calamities and
shine forth better in the darkness of adversity.

Had not man, since the first days of his existence,
not felt wretched on account of his ignorance and
nescience, he would not have made any effort to obtain
relief from this malady and would have languished in the
darkness of ignorance and savageness, and we would not
see today any trace of the manifestations of his
intellect, morality and spirituality. It is the painful
feeling of being ignorant that made him make an
unrelenting struggle against ignorance.

The all-round advancement of man and the foundations
of all his progress in civic and social matters are based
on this truth. Most of the great social movements that
were a point of departure for human progress and a leap
towards human edification were the consequence of
crushing hardships and difficulties. Although adversities
and vicissitudes are bitter and repugnant in appearance,
and pleasures and joys are pleasing and attractive, the
matter is in reality quite the opposite. Because the
pursuit of pleasures and lusts leads to decadence and
disaster, whereas adversities and hardships carry in
their bosom felicity and success. There is a definite
interrelation between experience of suffering and
attainment of felicity. There is a cause-and-effect
relation between hardships and adversities on the one
hand and felicity and achievement on the other.

Hegel, the German philosopher, says:

Life is not made for happiness, but for
achievement. The history of the world is not the
theatre of happiness; periods of happiness are blank
pages in it, for they are periods of harmony; and
this dull content is unworthy of a man. History is
made only in those periods in which the
contradictions of reality are being resolved by
growth, as the hesitation and awkwardness of youth
pass into the ease and order of maturity.[7]

Metals, in order to be separated from impurities, are
melted in hot furnaces. Hardships of life have similar
result for the human being. They purify him and purge him
of impurities, and prepare him for fulfilling his human
duties. Ultimately no individual can attain to felicity
and survival except in the shadow of suffering.

The Qur'an says:

Indeed We have created man in the cradle of
trouble and suffering.

Imam al-Sadiq, may peace be upon him, said:

Indeed, of all people the severest of sufferings
and afflictions are faced by the prophets, and after them
by others in proportion to their degree of merit.

In order to drive home the same point, Rumi says:

Cast was the wheat grain under the soil,

Then, ears of corn were gathered from its dust,

Then, it was ground between the millstones,

And lo, its worth rose and it became life-giving

Then the bread was crushed under the teeth,

And lo, it became intellect, soul and gainful

A European thinker says:

Hardships and difficulties make up the touchstone
of morality. In the same way as some plants must be
squeezed to give out their perfume, so also some
natures have to be subjected to hardship in order
that their essential talents and merits become

There is no ease and comfort in the world that does
not change into pain and adversity. So also, there is no
hardship that does not ultimately lead to happiness and
felicity. In each of these conditions, the results that
we derive depend on our use or misuse of it. Complete
happiness and ease are not to be found in this world.
Even if, supposedly, they were to exist, they would not
be fruitful, nor would they offer any kind of good or
benefit. Among the teachings that have been delivered to
man to this day, the most worthless and hollowest is the
one that invites him to comfort and ease; for, under all
circumstances, defeat and hardship are wiser teachers
than happiness and comfort. Defeat reforms and
strengthens an individual's character; suffering and
hardship bring discipline and awareness to nature. They
initiate the person in the rites of patience and
forbearance, developing the most sublime thoughts and
ideas in his mind. Hipper says: "What is it that
leads to the development of man's profoundest thoughts?
It is not knowledge or science. It is not ability and
expertise either. Neither it is emotion or feeling. Only
suffering and hardship can fathom the depths of human
thought. Perhaps, that is why there is so much suffering
in the world. The angel charged with afflicting with
suffering and hardship has rendered a greater service to
this world's people than what the angel of well-being and
healing has brought to the world."[9]

Definite Role of Faith in Spiritual Peace

A study of the history of human progress proves that
the supports of man's civilization and culture have
always rested on the shoulders of those for whom the
power of faith had made it easy for them to bear the
heavy burden of hardship and pain whose negative effects
were neutralized by the faith present in their strong
hearts. Psychologists generally admit that the power of
faith is amazingly effective In the cure of psychic
diseases and creation of confidence and inner peace. In
cases where severe hardships shatter man's personality
and divest him of his hope and will power, trust in God
produces a profound and undeniable effect in a defeated
soul. Failure, adversity, and defeat can never create a
storm in the pure hearts of godly men and make them
suffer despair and loss of self-assurance and

Jung, the well-known psychoanalyst, writes :

Among all my patients in the second half of life
that is to say, over thirty five - there has not been
one whose problem in the last resort was not that of
finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to
say that every four of them fell ill because he had
lost that which the living religions of every age
have given to their followers, and none of them has
been really healed who did not regain his religious
outlook.... Here then, the clergyman stands before a
vast horizon.... It is indeed high time for the
clergyman and the psychotherapist to join forces to
meet this great spiritual task.[10]

The faith in God, like a relief valve, helps regulate
psychic urges which are themselves the mainspring of
man's spiritual afflictions. The faith in God gives a
visage of perfect beauty to life, because when one has
the conviction that everything does not come to an end
with this life it creates an inner peace and makes him
traverse the entire course of life with steadiness and

Acquisitiveness, greed and avarice, which are one of
the factors responsible for anxiety, are moderated as a
result of faith in God and observance of the moral
precepts of religion. The hope of great rewards and the
fear of severe punishments make man refrain from rapacity
and avoid unreasonable and uncontrolled fondness for
material things, glitter and ostentation. As a result, a
desirable and serene equilibrium worthy of man's humanity
is brought about within his soul.

Similarly, faith in resurrection and afterlife removes
the intolerable strain induced by the idea of absolute
annihilation and extinction from the human spirit, for
the person with such a faith is convinced that at the
threshold of death the door to another world will open in
front of him and he will enter an eternal life and its
everlasting bounties that cannot be compared with the
joys of this world. This faith results in eliminating
another agent of mental anxiety which is the anguish of
absolute nonexistence.

Faith not only removes anguish and anxiety from the
human heart, it can protect it from being overwhelmed by
agitation and agony. The Qur'an describes the preventive
role of faith in these words:

If you have faith, do not yield to fear and
sorrow, for you have an u p per hand over the others
on account of this asset of faith.

This verse drives home the point that faith is a firm
shield for the soul in its encounter with the agents of
anxiety, producing a certain immunity in the human being.
If one should lack a complete faith, and should the
agents of anxiety penetrate to the core of his soul, it
is again faith by relying on which he can free his mind
from the burden of agony and purge the effects of
suffering from the tablet of his heart. The Qur'an says:

...In God's remembrance and reliance upon Him
are at rest the hearts of those who have faith and do
righteous deeds.

It is He Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts
of the faithful...


The Qur'an considers steadiness and security to be the
characteristics of those whose hearts are full of faith:

Mental peace and security are qualities of
those who have faith and who have not drawn a veil of
wrongdoing over their faith.

Lo, fear and sorrow do not affect the friend of

In a sermon on the benefits of remembrance of God,
Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon
him, describes the characteristics of godly human beings:

God, the Exalted, has made His remembrance the
light and burnish of the hearts. It is by the means
of His remembrance that the hearts recover their
hearing after being deaf, regain their sight after
being blind, and become soft and tractable after
being savage and rebellious. It has always been the
case that in periods of spiritual torpor, from time
to time, God Almighty has confided His inspiration to
the thoughts of His sublime servants and spoken to
them through their intellects.[11]

The state of people possessing faith is not at all
comparable with the condition of materialistic and
irreligious persons in encounter with life's vicissitudes
and its bitter experiences, for the two are as apart as
the earth and the sky.

During the Prophet's times one of the Muslim women in
Madinah received the news of the loss of three of her
close relatives in the Battle of Uhud. She set out on a
camel to the scene of battle to bring the bodies of the
martyrs. Having laid the lifeless and bloody bodies of
her dear ones on the camel, she was returning to Madinah
when on the way she met one of the wives of the Holy
Prophet, may peace be upon him and his Family. The
Prophet's wife, who was concerned about the Prophet's
welfare, asked her if she knew anything in this regard.
That bereaved woman, as she held the reins of her camel
and blood dripped to the ground from the bodies that it
carried, answered with a peculiar serenity and calmness
that sprung from her firm and steady faith: "I have
a glad news for you: the Prophet hasn't suffered any harm
in the battle, and every lesser grief is tolerable in
front of such a great and precious blessing."

The Prophet's wife asked her; "Whose bodies are
these?" She answered: "One of them is my
husband's, another is that of my son, and the third one
belongs to my brother, I am taking them to Madinah to
bury them."

What agent except faith could give such indescribable
serenity and calm to this bereaved soul?

Jean Jacques Rousseau writes:

If we were immortal we would all be miserable; no
doubt it is hard to die, but it is sweet to think
that we shall not live for ever, and that a better
life will put an end to the sorrows of this world. If
we had the offer of immortality here below, who would
accept the sorrowful gift? What resources, what
hopes, what consolation would be left against the
cruelties of fate and man's injustice? The ignorant
man never looks before; he knows little of the value
of life and does not fear to lose it; the wise man
sees things of greater worth and prefers them to it.
Half knowledge and sham wisdom set us thinking about
death and what lies beyond it; and they thus create
the worst of our ills. The wise man bears life's ills
all the better because he knows he must die.[12]

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 paralyze 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-a-vis the vicissitudes of life is our

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-a-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 unshakable 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.


The great extent of one's expectations leads one to
become a constant victim of sorrow and distress. Those
who are realistic in their outlook consider an immoderate
amount of wealth to be an obstacle to happiness and
mental peace. Happiness and wretchedness, peace and
anxiety have their own particular criterion in which
wealth, position and prestige do not play any role. There
are narrow-minded rich persons in this world who go
hungry despite all their riches and who do not know any
comfort, and there are many poor people who lament on
account of their poverty. As a subtle poet says:

Alas, that the golden cup of self-contentment,

Was turned into a beggars bowl by our

Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon
him, said:

No treasure is as plentiful as contentment and no
wealth can overcome the feeling of being wretched and
destitute to the extent of contentment (rida).
The one who is not greedy and is content with the
income that meets the needs of his life has procured
the means of his well-being and mental peace.[16]

Also in the opinion of researchers in the field of
man's psychic life, a high level of expectations is a
source of anxiety and dissatisfaction, whereas the
observance of moderation and contentment gives mental
peace and security.

In the field of mental health there is a principle
called 'the principle of contentment' according to which:

The lesser one's expectations are, the greater is
one's peace of mind, and the greater they are, the
lesser it is. To the extent that we minimize our
expectations, we will also reduce the probability of
defeat and failure. As a result, fear and hope,
anxiety and agitation, and the oppressive feeling of
expectation that besiege us prior to the achievement
of success are automatically reduced. In fact, the
principle of happiness is no other than the principle
of contentment.

However, one should remember that the meaning of the
principle of happiness and contentment is not that one
should sit idle and refrain from every kind of activity
and effort. What is meant by the principle of happiness
is getting to know of one's own limits, abilities and
means and becoming reconciled with one's capacities and
powers. It means that one should not extend one's
expectations beyond the ken of one's capacities and make
unrealistic and extravagant demands upon them.[17]

Faith in

Islam propels the human heart towards everlasting
life. Although faith in resurrection is a real and living
faith that raises man over the plane of the sensible and
vitalizes his faculties for the realization of sublime
human ideals, it does not restrain man from enjoying the
world's bounties. But it restrains the self from pursuing
these joys in an unruly, self-willed manner in the
expansive arena of life and counters wayward greed and
acquisitiveness by subjecting it to controls and

When one is really convinced that the world offers
scant and limited opportunities, that its joys are
insignificant and that its short days are devoid of real
delights, then enjoyments of this world lose their
glitter and glamour in his eyes and he does not regret if
he fails to obtain more than what falls to his lot. Thus
he does not become subject to anguish, sorrow and fear.
His attitude towards material benefits is not like that
of someone who is in a haste and perpetual agitation due
to the fear lest death should one day put an end to his
pursuit of joys. Rather, he possesses a peacefulness of
mind and tranquillity of conscience. This confidence and
serenity no doubt add to the pleasure that he derives
from the bounties of life, which he utilizes rationally
and with dignity. Accordingly, a person with faith knows
that these bounties are means for attaining to higher
ends, not the end and goal of life itself in whose
pursuit one should spend all his life and moreover lose
his spiritual equilibrium.

The painful stresses produced by anxiety also lead to
physical illness and the loss of physical vigour. In
order to safeguard one's physical health and well-being
and save oneself from the influence of self-destructive
forces within one, one must not allow anxiety and sorrow
to overwhelm his soul.

Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon
him, said:

Grief and anxiety have a destructive effect on the

Grief and agony have a wasting effect on the body.[19]

Drink up (i.e. suppress) your sorrow and resentment,
because it is the sweetest and the most pleasant of
drinks from the viewpoint of result and ultimate

Scientific investigations have revealed that some
physical ailments are the effect of psychic anxieties and
outbursts of emotion.

Munn, the well-known psychologist, writes:

Some of the physiological concomitants of emotion
are evident in everyday experience. Palpitation of
the heart, accelerated breathing, a sinking feeling
in the stomach, sweating, trembling and many other
organic phenomena are commonly-reported aspects of
emotion.... Milder forms and intensities of emotion
provide a motivational background to much that we do.
In emergency situations, largely through adrenal
secretions, we have energy in excess of that normally
present.... The emotionally aroused organism is
aroused all over. There is an overall interaction of
receptors, muscles, internal organs, and nervous
mechanisms, with resulting changes in blood
chemistry, in brain waves and in the physiological
reactions already considered...

One frequent outcome of prolonged stress, emotional or
otherwise, is the production of gastric ulcers. According
to Selye, this is due in part to the overactivity of the
adrenal cortex.

The first clear evidence that ulcers can be produced
by emotional stress came from observations of a man whose
stomach was exposed and whose gastric activities were
thus observable.... During two weeks of prolonged
anxiety, the subject developed small hemorrhages in the
lining of his stomach and also a heightened gastric
acidity. Something resembling a small ulcer finally
developed and the investigators were impressed with the
possibility that "the chain of events which begins
with anxiety and conflict and associated overactivity of
the stomach and ends with hemorrhage or perforation is
that which is involved in the natural history of peptic
ulcer in human beings." Since the above observations
were made, there has been additional direct evidence that
psychological stress produces ulcers.[21]

That which distinguishes the world of a realistic
person from the world of an immature one is imagination.
A superficial and shallow person who has seen only the
appearances of things is so much enchanted by his faculty
of imagination that his heart is swept every moment by
the waves of endless desire. As soon as he comes to see
the course of events as an obstacle in his way, his
spirit becomes submerged in a fearsome gloom and he is
put at a complete loss. If this crisis is accompanied
with a weakness of the soul that may lead him to commit

By contrast, the realistic person is free from the
bondage of childish and unrealistic notions. He views
things in a wide and extensive perspective. He does not
see things partially and does not allow delusions to
influence his practical life. Rather, he strives to
conform himself to his physical and social environment
and with the facts of his inner and external life.

One who has a genuinely balanced personality and a
spirit possessing equilibrium is not shaken by every gust
of wind. The reason that some people feel upset and
uneasy in times of leisure is their inadequacy of
spiritual strength and the absence of secure foothold.
Therefore, they turn to harmful and unwholesome modes of
entertainment in order to kill time.

But the stronger a person is in respect of his inner
powers, the lesser does he stand in need of the external
environment. A country that has lesser need of imports
has more steady economic foundations. One who has
adequate inner assets and is not in constant need of
outside assistance can deliver himself from dangerous
activities and destructive conduct. He can bring about a
state of moderation in his ethical qualities and alter
the impact of external factors on his soul.

Jean Jacques Rousseau says:

Prudence! Prudence which is ever bidding us to
look forward into the future, a future which in many
cases we shall never reach; here is the real source
of all our troubles! How mad it is for so short-lived
a creature as man to look forward into a future to
which he rarely attains, while he neglects the
present which is his? This madness is all the more
fatal since it increases with years, and the old,
always timid, prudent, and miserly, prefer to do
without necessaries to-day that they may have
luxuries at a hundred. Thus we grasp everything, we
cling to everything; we are anxious about time,
place, people, things, all that is and will be; we
ourselves are but the least part of ourselves. W e
spread ourselves, so to speak, over the whole world,
and all this vast expanse becomes sensitive. No
wonder our woes increase when we may be wounded on
every side. How many princes make themselves
miserable for the love of lands they have never seen,
and how many merchants lament in Paris over some
misfortune in the Indies!

...We no longer live in our own place, we live outside
it. What does it profit us to live in such fear of death,
when all that makes life worth living is our own?

Oh, man! Live your own life and you will no longer be
wretched. Keep to your appointed place in the order of
nature and nothing can tear you from it. Do not will
against the stern law of necessity, nor waste in vain
resistance the strength bestowed on you by heaven, not to
prolong or extend your existence, but to preserve it so
far and so long as heaven pleases. Your freedom and your
power extend as far and no further than your natural
strength; anything more is but slavery, deceit, and

Imam al-Sadiq, may peace be upon him, says:

Actually man's life in the world is like a fleeting
hour. Whatever that has taken place in it up to the
present is gone and you do not feel its pleasure or pain.
As to that which is to come, you don't know what it is.
All that remains in your hand of your precious life are
your present moments. Therefore use them for the purpose
of obtaining control over yourself and strive therein for
your self-improvement and salvation. Be steadfast in
obeying God and observing His commands and refrain from
sin and violation of God's ordinances.[23]

If one's involvement with the past or the future is
for the sake of escaping the problems of the present, it
is a psychic sickness or prelude to such sickness in the
opinion of psychologists, who say:

If one were to decide to pay no attention to the
present and should one fail to utilize the
opportunities that arise, and should one continually
go on saying to oneself and others, "It is true
that I am not good at my studies, but wait and see
what I will do upon entering life. All those who did
poorly in their studies nevertheless succeeded in
real life. I have certain ideas and dreams concerning
the future" - this kind of thinking shows that
one wishes to escape from real life and from his
present. The psychologist knows well that these
fancies do not accord with reality and are nothing
but fallacious reasoning. This kind of thinking
concerning the future is harmful, and that which is
almost certain is that the person with this kind of
thinking will fail to achieve success in the future
like the present. If thinking about the future and
the past occupies all one's time and energy and
causes one to neglect the daily problems with which
he is faced, such a person is definitely unhealthy
and poorly adjusted. If one cannot face his present
problems and constantly thinks about the future in
order to escape them, this thinking about the future
becomes a substitute for attention to the present.
Such a substitute, which does not help in the
solution of one's problems, is worthless and

The leader of world's free men, al-Husayn ibn Ali, may
peace be upon him, said:

When a wise man is visited by an affliction, he is
not enveloped by grief. Rather, with forbearance and
farsightedness he removes the rust of sorrow from his
heart and makes use of his intellect to find a

With the power at our disposal we can struggle against
the defeats and adversities that assault us from every
direction, and whenever there is a spell in this battle,
one's unused energies, like a heavy burden, torment him
who is forced to use them for futile ends.

One of the effective ways of relief from anxiety is to
engage in some profitable activity. Those who in times of
inner turmoil engage in some beneficial activity obtain
relief during the time that they are busy, and they are
delighted and satisfied when they see the fruits of their
work. For this reason, though certainly many of such
activities consist of a relative relief, they constitute
a beneficial and satisfying response and the mind, at the
least, obtains temporary relief from an apparently
insoluble personal problem. And particularly if the
activity involves a benefit for others it will be good
for him too, for it is impossible that someone who is
beneficial for others should not be such for himself.
Moreover, that will save him from resorting to
unwholesome and injurious ways of keeping himself busy.

Benefit of Unburdening One's Sorrow

Unburdening one's heart with loyal and sincere friends
is one of the means of obtaining relief from grief and
mental tension. Persons in a state of grief must be given
the opportunity to relieve their inward tensions by
talking about their hardships to close friends.

Similarly, fellow-feeling for suffering friends, and
helping them in relieving their inner tensions and
solving their difficulties to the extent of one's
capacity is one of the crucial as well as valuable duties
of every human being. Someone whose friendship rests on
real affection should not be indifferent to or oblivious
of his friends in times of crisis. This matter has been
given complete attention in the traditions of religious
leaders and it has been pointed out that the man of faith
is a source of comfort to others.

The Noble Messenger, may God's blessings be upon him
and his Family, said:

The best of works near God is to make happy a
brother in faith by relieving him of hunger, distress
and sorrow.[25]

Imam al-Sadiq, may peace be upon him, said:

Whenever one of you is affected by distress and
sorrow, he must bring it to the knowledge of his brother
so that he may remove the gloom of grief and agony from
your heart.[26]

Schachter, the well-known psychologist, says:

If you are unhappy and distressed by your own
conduct and condition and are unable to solve your
own problem, confide your difficulty to someone that
you rely upon and who is wise. Keeping a painful
thought, fear, or anxiety to oneself only makes it
more persistent and bothersome. Express your secret
thought and seek advice from a wise and experienced
person. Fear and bad thoughts dwindle and disappear
on confronting people. Don't refrain from unburdening
yourself before a psychiatrist or a wise friend; for,
troublesome thoughts that are consigned to the
unconscious will always remain an impediment between
us and our mental peace and happiness.

It should be known that the suppression of thoughts is
of two kinds. Either it occurs naturally without our
knowledge and will; that is, our ingenious mind
suppresses every troublesome thought without even our
noticing it and casts it into the depths of the memory.
Or sometimes, knowingly and voluntarily, we banish
painful thoughts and insist on not recalling them. This
action is called 'repression' in the jargon of
psychology. However, that does not ID the least diminish
the distress arising from that thought, and the more we
try to forget it, the more it oppresses us, causing us
greater pain and mortification.

In any case, a troublesome and distressing thought
that we suppress or repress, knowingly or unknowingly,
does not leave us alone. Secretly or openly, it continues
to torment us, and as long as we do not confide it to
some wise person and seek his help and advice, we will
not get rid of the suffering and torment.[27]

Good Spirits

One thing that is ,quite effective in diminishing the
impact of anxiety and grief is making an effort to appear
cheerful and happy:

Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon
him, says:

Keep your good spirits in adversities and maintain
a lively disposition in times of affliction.[28]

Always maintain an attitude of satisfaction and
conciliation in life in order to be pleasing.[29]

Present-day psychologists also consider sportfulness
and maintaining an appearance of gaity and cheerfulness
as an effective and beneficial way of alleviating painful
crises as well as an edifying factor of personality. They
offer the following advice: Try to maintain a pleasant
expression on your face. Make an effort to always appear
so lively and free of sadness and somberness that
everyone who meets you thinks that he has met the best of
his friends. If you feel dejected or nervous, try not to
manifest this dejection and sadness in your encounter
with others. Try to appear cheerful and satisfied.

When you are in good spirits and you impress upon
people as being jolly and hearty, others too will act in
a genial manner towards you. They will open up in talking
to you, and you all will derive pleasure from one
another's company. When you get into in a cheerful state,
there appears an effective behavioural mode in your
conduct that attracts others.

The first step for being happy and lively are the
expressions on one's face. Don't scowl; always keep a
smile on your lips. These expression will undoubtedly
produce an effect in you and will lighten your inner
heaviness. Otherwise sullenness will become a habit with
you. People try to avoid morose and gloomy persons. A
lively face attracts others, and there is nothing great
about looking stern and grim. Some people imagine that if
they always keep a stern look on their face, others will
be impressed or overawed by them. This is not true.
Whenever you feel sad, bring a smile on your lips and you
will see how quickly your sadness disappears.[30]


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