Abstinence from sins
In a world ridden with vices and allurements, one often comes across people who perform good actions, but do not exercise restraint in their sins. With the result, their sins far outweigh their good deeds. And in some extreme cases, their transgressions nullify all their good actions. And despite all their virtuous deeds, they are subject to Allah’s wrath and chastisement. It is for this very reason that, Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) has emphasized on abstinence from sins more than the performance of noble deeds. He narrates,
"Restraint in sins and transgression is preferable than performing good actions."
Obviously when a man exercises restraint in the matter of sins, he would, at the same time, be spurred towards goodness and virtue. E.g. mistreatment of neighbours is a sin. Then if one does not behave badly with them, indeed he has abstained from a sin. Avoiding mistreatment means he has treated his neighbours well, which is a virtuous action having enormous reward. Similarly abstinence from all other sins, drives one towards goodness and virtue. The biggest advantage of self-restraint in the matter of sins is that, one’s good actions are not tainted and soiled with the ugly blot of sins. As opposed to restraint from sins, performance of good deeds may bring with it the possibility of sins like pride and conceit (but this by no means implies that we do not perform good deeds for fear of pride). And we observe this in our daily lives. So out of the two options, abstention from sins is the more rational one, since with it, even the other option i.e. goodness is actualized. Also as per the tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), to resist one’s desires is the superior jihad.
RIGHTS OF A BELIEVER
A believer enjoys several rights over his brother-in-faith, and similarly his duties and obligations towards the latter are also too many to mention. However, we would like to mention one such obligation in particular, the observance of which will certainly prevent discord and disharmony among the believers. Today at least, the Muslims are guilty of negligence of this duty. Therefore, this obligation is particularly crucial and pertinent in this age. If the Muslims adhere to this duty strictly, all disputes and conflict between Muslims can be resolved very easily. The Muslims will then clasp ‘the strong rope of Allah’ with firmness and steadfastness and never separate from each other. Their faith and certainty shall also increase manifold.
Let us see what Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has to say regarding this crucial obligation. Imam narrates,
"Among the obligations that one believer enjoys over the other is that the latter does not falsify him."
(al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 171, H.7)
In fact, the most potent thing that makes a believer’s faith firm and steadfast, is entertaining good thoughts about another believer. If all people are united in their belief in Allah, His Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Day of Judgement, then these beliefs will link them together. They shall learn to trust each other, allowing for more reliance and confidence (on the other). In fact entertaining evil thoughts about a brother-in-faith, instead of good ones, is a sign of imperfect faith. A true believer is one who is only concerned about Allah and whose heart is pure and contented. When he is afflicted with adversities and calamities, he submits himself to Allah, and in the face of adversity seeks assistance only from Him. This is because the believer realizes that the Almighty Allah has power over everything. These are the traits that perfect one’s beliefs, improve one’s virtues, and purify the soul.
KNOWLEDGE FOR A BETTER SOCIETY
To censure modern technology and castigate its discoveries, is akin to impeding human progress and development. Obviously this mode of training is flawed and this indiscriminate resistance to change can only prove regressive for mankind. But it must also be borne in mind that advancement is good when its pros outweigh the cons. For man is likely to proceed with enthusiasm (towards advancements), only if he finds substantial benefits in it. However, these new discoveries and the recently introduced methods of training and instruction, are actually creating fissures between men, rather than removing them. Proximity between men that was so perceptible before, is now absent. Familial ties are fast deteriorating. Malice and spite is rapidly spreading between members of the family. The root cause of this deviation is ignorance, and a break from the teachings of Allah’s Book (the Holy Quran) and the Ahle Bayt (a.s.). If only we had taken benefit from the treasures of (the culture of) Ahle Bayt (a.s.) and maintained the equilibrium in our lives, the Shia society today, would have been better off. Then we could have benefited from all the technological advancements and at the same time, maintained our unity and harmony and served as a role model for other nations.
However, it is most unfortunate that we did not adopt this mode of live for ourselves. Consequently today we see no respect for relations, no regard for dignity and honour, no affection and concern for one’s brothers, heedlessness towards parents, no esteem for elders, so much so that all essential values of life are fast declining. All values that bring honour and dignity to our lives, are now replaced by selfishness, egotism and greed. As a result ties between men instead of being cemented are actually weakening. If relations between men are strained, then the family will suffer, and with it the society, and finally the nation. It is largely due to this that Islam has espoused training of children more than their education. Islam on the one hand instructs elders to deal kindly and gently with children and on the other hand explains (to the elders) that such gentleness will in turn beget gentleness, and these children will also be spurred to respect their elders. That is why the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) exhorts us thus,
"Respect and honour your elders and be kind and gentle to your children."