II) The Mind and Repose
Do not listen to what other people say. Listen only to the Words of the Creator. That is the way to a completely sound mind and to perfect repose.
13. Anyone who believes himself safe from all criticism and reproach is out of his mind.
14. Anyone who studies deeply and disciplines his soul not to rest until it has found the truth, even if it is painful at first, will take more pleasure in criticism than in praise. Indeed, if he hears people praise him, even if it is well-deserved, he will become proud, and his virtue will be corrupted.
If he hears people praise him and the praise is undeserved, he will be pleased, but wrongly so, and this is a serious fault. On the other hand, if he hears people criticize him and it is deserved, he might be led to correct the behaviour that led to it. This criticism would be a piece of considerable good luck that only a fool would ignore. If someone is criticized unjustly and he controls himself, he will gain merit by his meekness and patience. Furthermore, all the good works ever done by his critic will be credited to him, and he will gain the benefit of them on Judgment Day when they will stand him in very good stead when he needs them, although they were not a result of his own efforts. And this is a supreme piece of good luck which it would be mad to disdain. If he does not hear peoples praise, what they say or do not say makes no difference to him. But it is a different matter with their criticism, he wins either way, whether he hears their criticism or does not hear it.
15. If it were not for the words of the Prophet (may Allâh be pleased with him) about “good praise” which “brings to the believers the express good news of the happiness which has been promised”, it might have been a sign of wisdom to prefer being criticized even unjustly to being praised with good reason. But these words were spoken. The promised happiness “will always arise from merit, not from absence of merit; it will reward only the object of praise, not merely the fact that praises were uttered”.
16. There is no difference between the virtues and the vices, between the acts of devotion and acts of rebellion, except in as far as the soul feels attracted or repelled. Happy the man whose soul finds pleasure in virtue and good deeds, fleeing vice and rebellion. And unhappy the man whose soul finds pleasure in vice and rebellion, fleeing virtue and good deeds. This is nothing less than the sacred order of things ordained by the providence of Almighty Allâh.
17. Anyone who strives after eternity is on the side of the angels. Anyone who strives after evil is on the side of the demons. Anyone who seeks fame and victory is on the side of the tigers. Anyone who seeks sensual pleasures is on the side of the [dumb] beasts. Anyone who seeks money for its own sake, not for spending on pious obligations and praiseworthy acts of charity, is too base, too vile to be compared with a beast. He resembles rather the waters which gather in caves in inaccessible places: no animal profits at all from them, [except now and then a bird; then the wind and the sun dry up what is left. And the same thing happens to possessions which are not consecrated to pious works].
18. A wise man has no satisfaction is a quality which sets him below tigers, dumb beasts and inanimate objects. He rejoices only in his progress in that virtue by which Allâh distinguishes him from these same tigers, dumb beasts and inanimate objects: this is the virtue of intelligence which he shares with the angels.
19. Anyone who feels proud of courage which is not applied in its normal directions, the service of the Almighty God, let him understand that the tiger is braver than him, that the lion, the wolf and the elephant are braver than him.
20. Anyone who glories in his own physical strength, let it be known to him that the mule, the ox and the elephant are physically stronger than him.
21. Anyone who glories is his ability to carry heavy weights, let it be known to him that the donkey can carry greater weights.
22. Anyone who glories in his ability to run, let it be known to him that the dog and the hare are faster runners than he.
23. Anyone who glories in the sound of his voice, let it be known to him that many of the birds have sweeter voices than he, and the sound of the flutes is more exquisite and charming than the sound of his voice.
How can anyone take pride or satisfaction in qualities in which these animals are superior?
24. But a man whose intellect is strong, whose knowledge is extensive and whose deeds are good, he should rejoice because only the angels and the best of men are superior to him in these matters.
25. Allâh says “Anyone who fears the majesty of God, and controls himself against passion, he shall have Paradise for his refuge.” [79:40] These words encapsulate all virtue: to control oneself against passion means in fact to turn away from ones natural tendency towards anger and lust, things which are both under the dictates of passion. Then all that is left for the soul to use is the intellect which God has given it, the good sense which distinguishes it from the beasts, from insects or vermin and from tigers.
26. “Never lose your temper,” as Allâhs Prophet (peace be upon him) said to a man asking advice, and, as he also said commanding him, “Do as you would be done by”, together encapsulate the whole of virtue. Indeed, the fact that the Prophet forbade all anger implies that although the soul has been given the ability to be angry, it should refrain from this passion, and the [Prophets] commandment to do as you would be done implies that the souls should turn away from the strong force of greed and lust and should uphold the authority or the means of justice which springs from the rationality which is part of the reasonable soul.
27. I have seen the majority of people - except those who God the Almighty has protected, and they are few - throw themselves into the miseries, the worries and fatigues of this world, and pile up a mountain of sin which will mean that they enter hellfire in the Hereafter and will have no advantage from the perfidious intentions which they nurse so carefully, such as wishing for an inflation of prices which would bring disaster upon the children, the innocent, or wishing the worst trials upon those they hate. They know very well that these bad intentions will not necessarily bring about what they desire or guarantee its advent, and if they clarified and improved their intentions they would hasten the repose of their spirits. They would then have the time to devote themselves to their own business and would thus profit a great deal in addition to the return of their souls to God, and all this without having at all hastened or delayed the realization of their desires. Is there any worse deception than the attitude which we warn against here, and is there any greater happiness than the one which we are promoting?
28. When we contemplate the duration of this universe, we see it limited to the present moment, which is nothing but the point which separates too infinities of time. The past and the future are as meaningless as if they did not exist. Is anyone more misguided than the man who barters an eternal future for a moment which passes quicker than the blink of an eye?
29. When a man is asleep, he leaves the world and forgets all joy and all sorrow. If he kept his spirit in the same state on waking, he would know perfect happiness.
30. A man who harms his family and his neighbors is viler than them. Anyone who returns evil for evil is as bad as them. Anyone who refrains from returning evil is their master, their superior and the most virtuous among them.
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