Home Insights and Teachings The value of the mind in our life

The value of the mind in our life

By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Translated by: Ghassan Rimlawi

To discuss the topic of the value of the mind in our life, we cannot but go back to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah to determine the view of Islam from the mind; the mind that we have neglected and resorted instead to our instincts, which became the bases of our politics and relations. The mind, thus, is alienated in our societies, because we have opened up to the myth and abandoned the truth; we have opened up to backwardness and forsaken the prayers and we opened up to ignorance and ignored knowledge.

Imam Jaafar As-Sadiq (a.s.) narrated on the authority of Imam Ali (a.s.) that he said: “By the mind, I can reach the core of wisdom, and by wisdom, I can benefit from the core of the mind”. We also know that the Holy Quran couple wisdom with the Holy Book (Quran) and made the former a part of the Message of the Messenger: “To teach them the Book and the Wisdom” (62:02), and: “For God revealed to you the Book and the wisdom” (4:12).

Wisdom, in its linguistic meaning, is to put everything in its place. The term “wisdom” opens up to life in its entirety. This is because putting this word in its place is the function of the mind, while putting the mind in its place is based on proof and arguments, so that when you announce what you have reached, people will find that it is truthful and correct.

This also applies to putting everything in its place in our movement in life. When you venture into any project or follow any course, you will find that it is associated with many circumstances and people. Thus, if you are wise, you have to study how compatible your project is with the nature of the circumstances and conditions and with the nature of the results you wish to reach. You have to put everything in place, meaning that you ought, in one way or another, to envisage all the steps of the project so that it would turn into something productive and consistent with your aspired objectives in life. This project can be related to organizing either your family matters and the internal relations among them, or your political beliefs, for you have to study the reality of the lines you believe in. At the same time, you ought to keep an eye on the internal, regional and international situations so as to take all that into consideration and to act in a realistic manner that is not distanced from the principles. You also have to be wise when you are about to take a political step or engage in a security project or any issue in the general struggle… In all these matters, you have to be wise and not study one side of the project only; rather, you should take all the sides into consideration so as to ensure the safety of the project you are trying to realize.

The same thing is true regarding your personal and private life. You might come across what drives you to be pessimistic sometimes and optimistic in others… Certain events can drive you to feel desperate, while others would give you hope. In this case, we should not completely fall under the effect of either pessimism or optimism, since life is governed by limitedness and not absoluteness. Therefore, you have to mix optimism and pessimism together. You ought to be realistic and give optimism a certain a dose of pessimism so that you would act cautiously, and give pessimism a dose of optimism so that you will not fall under the former’s effect, which will lead you to desperation. Even when you face your inner problems or your psychological complexes, you should not fall, but try to study the reasons and consequences of each case or complex to know how to solve it.

That is why Allah, the Most Exalted, Who is our Lord, has described Himself as the Wise, since He has put all things in their proper places, whether in the cosmic or mobile systems or in the human system. He made everything move for a wise reason. He says: “We have created everything in due measure” (54:49) and: “for all things God has set a measure” (65:3). Thus, the universe is organized according to the laws embedded in each of its phenomenon, for Allah says: “You see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent Allah (67:3), since He has made it run in the best possible way in accordance to the laws He has set.

It is narrated that Imam Ali (a.s.) says: “By the mind, I can reach the core of wisdom,” meaning that this mind that Allah has granted us is the tool that distinguishes between good and bad and studies everything thoroughly. It is the mind by which one can reach the core of wisdom. This is because the mind says to man that he should strike a balance between the positive and negative factors and put everything in its place to succeed in his life and ensure that there are no mistakes that distance him from the nature of things and matters.

The Imam continues to say: “And by wisdom I can benefit from the core of the mind”, which means that if I possess wisdom, then this wisdom tells me to open up to the mind and not freeze it, give it a vacation or lend it to someone else. I should rather let it be open to the mind of the others. Wisdom advises me to use the mind, which according to Imam Ali, “does not cheat who consults it”. The mind is the balance that can balance all matters, whether theoretical or practical.

Reason and insight

and good guidance (politics) gives birth to good bearing and social decorum (good morals)”. When you live in a society, you ought to know how to guide it. In this respect, politics is the methodology that enables one to open to the entire reality and all people, to study their minds and the circumstances surrounding them, their psychological states that might be open [to the others] or closed, their habits and traditions and their education. You should study all that and try to improve the way you deal with them and respect them, so that their minds will open up to you and so that they will be attracted to you and you become attracted to them. This is what good morals that represent the ethical and spiritual values mean.

Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) also narrated on the authority of Imam Ali (a.s.) that he says: “Contemplation is the life of the heart of the one who sees”. The Imam here is talking about thinking that gives life to the heart, which, in this context, means the mind or the inner conscience that joins between the mind and the feelings. Thus, the Imam says that you have to open the “eyes” of your mind, if you want your mind to live. It is what enables life to develop and be open, for Allah has given the mind a freedom He did not give to any other organ in the body. He has ordained laws stating what is Halal and Haram for all the organs, such as the tongue, the mouth, the hands, the eyes and the ears, but He did not set any limits or barriers that would prevent the mind from thinking in what it could think of. He told the mind to think freely and shoulder the results of its thinking, for Allah will hold one responsible for the way the mind was used. But we have seen some people who are not ready to think or others who say that they do not have the time to think and they might ask others to think for them. This is wrong, for when someone thinks, he would do so in accordance with the basic elements (knowledge and methods) found in his mind. Thus, the correct thing to say is: think with us so that we will think with you. That is why the honorable Hadith has considered that consulting people amounts to sharing their minds.

Thus, Allah does not want man to freeze his mind. He wants him to think with the Infallibles who possess the highest degrees of knowledge and wisdom. As such, he would be guided by the faith, the doctrine and the Shariah. Moreover, all scientists in the various fields of knowledge have to teach the people, and they do not have a choice in that. The Honorable Hadith says: “Once innovation appears in my religion, it is incumbent on the scholar to make his knowledge public, otherwise Allah will condemn them”. Both the scholar and the thinker are responsible for the development of the nation’s mind, for a part of their minds is dedicated to the nation. That is why the Honorable Hadith says: “Allah had no commitment from the ignorant to seek knowledge before having a commitment from the scholars to give knowledge”. We have to bear our responsibilities by giving our mind its life through thinking, for if you do not let something move (i.e. work and perform), it will die, and thinking is what gives life to the mind and develops and innovates it. Actually, those who do not use their mind live in a state of mental death, although they are physically alive, for according to Imam Ali (a.s.), “light helps man to walk in darkness, with ease and without waiting for a long time”. One who walks in the darkness holding a light can reach his destination quickly and without problems, and he would be able to overcome all obstacles. He would not have to wait, for the road is open ahead of him aided by the light he holds. The same applies to the mind as you walk in the light of the thought that is broad, open and creative. Imam Ali (a.s.) then talks about the rational being who would respond to the needs of the society as he cannot be indifferent when he is faced with the intellectual, spiritual, social and political needs that he is able to respond to, for every scholar, regardless of his rank in knowledge or position, should take part in closing the gap of ignorance in the society. It is not as some say that the scholar is like a tree, you cannot eat from it, if you do not shake it. Scholars should take the initiative and give knowledge to the people to solve their problems in this field or the other.

Three are the signs of a scholar!

The first is “He would answer if he is asked”, meaning that if he is asked about something he has the knowledge of and there is nothing that prevents talking about it, such as being a public or private secret, he should answer. He also has to be up-to-date with any intellectual development. This means that he has to read and educate himself, so that he could answer the questions of the people, especially if he is in a cultural, political, social or religious position.

The second is “He would speak when others cannot.” This means that when he is in a society and there are certain issues that have to be studied and resolved and that others cannot talk about them although they are critical, he has to come forward with his solution. He should not say that since others are not talking I will not talk too.

A contemporary truth

Some people may study one side of the problem and neglect others, although each side affects the others and is affected by them. This is a problem we suffer from in the East. Nevertheless, we have to know an important fact: In politics or political planning, nothing is separate from the others. The local is tied with the regional and the regional is linked with the international, and the political problems are linked with the economic problems and the security ones are linked with both. That is why we always say that just as we need an Islamic culture and awareness, we also need a political culture and awareness, because people are deceived by many “consummatory” words. An outstanding poet from Iraq, Ahmad As-Safi As-Najafi, has reversed a saying by Imam Ali that calls for adopting the wise advice of someone regardless of who is saying it and called on the people instead to judge by looking at who is saying and not what he is saying, because what is said in our reality nowadays no longer represents the truth. Thus, you have to look at who is saying it and consider whether he is faithful, truthful and honest, since he might be saying something to fool and deceive people.

The third characteristic of a scholar, according to Imam Ali, is: “He imparts advice which is good for his people.” If you have experience in certain matters in life, it is your responsibility to take the initiative and offer advice, because your opinion is God’s trust, and you have to give the trust back to the One Who entrusted you with it.

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