Self-Purification, the Main Goal of Divine Messengers (1)

Self-Purification, the Main Goal of Divine Messengers (1)

The greatest aim of Divine Messengers was to emphasize the importance of refinement, purification, and training of human selves. God-Almighty said in the Holy Qur’an:

لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ.

“God did confer a great favor on the believers when he sent among them an apostle from among themselves rehearsing unto them the signs of God, sanctifying them and instructing them in scripture and wisdom, while before that, they had been in manifest error. (1)

Therefore, it is obvious that the subject of human education and training was of such vital importance that God-Almighty sent Divine Messengers especially for this purpose thus, conferring a great favor on the believers. The individual as well as collective personality, prosperity or cruelty (of this world and Hereafter) of a human being depends upon how much efforts he had already made or is still making for self-building. It is from this consideration that self-building is regarded something of such vital importance because it determines ones eventual destiny.

The Divine Messengers came to teach human beings regarding the path of self-building, nourishment, and perfection of self, as well as to accompany them as their guide and helper in this vital and determinant task. They came for cleansing and sanctifying human selves from their indecent moral characteristics and animal instincts, and bestowing upon them superior spiritual virtues. The prophets lectured human beings about the self-building program, acted as helper and knowledgeable guides in identifying the ugliness in their moral conducts, and showed them the ways and means for self-control against their selfish whims and passions.

By timely issuance of warning and intimidating they succeeded in sanctifying the human selves from the moral obscenities and indecencies. They came for plantation of sapling of higher moral virtues within human souls, nurtured and protected it for its eventual blooming, and in doing so acted as guides, friends, and helpers of the people by encouraging and pursuing them towards the desired sublime' objectives. The Holy Prophet (S) has said:

“I emphasize the importance of good morals for you because God-Almighty has sent me especially for this purpose.”(2) He further said:

عن النبي صلى الله عليه وآله انه قال: إنما بعثت لا تمم مكارم الاخلاق.

“I was appointed for the Prophethood so that I may accomplish the important task of moral perfection within human souls.”(3) Imam al-Sadiq(4) (a.s.) said:

قال أبوعبدالله عليه السلام: ان الله تبارك وتعالى خص الانبيا بمكارم الاخلاق, فمن كانت فيه فليحمد الله على ذلك, ومن لم يكن فليتضرع الى الله وليسيله.

“God-Almighty appointed prophets with good morals; therefore, whoever discovers these virtues within himself should be thankful to God for this bounty, whoever lacks these virtues must pray, cry, and shed tears before God Almighty asking for such blessing.”(5) The commander of faithful Imam ‘Ali(6) (a.s.) said:

قال امير المؤمنين عليه السلام: لو كنا لا نرجو جنة ولا نخشى نارا ولا ثوابا ولا عقابا لكان ينبغي لنا ان نطلب مكارم الاخلاق فإنها مما تذل على سبيل النجاح.

“Supposedly, if neither there was any desire for Paradise nor there was any fear of Hell, and also there would have not been any belief about the reward and punishment in the Next World; even then it would have been be fitting to strive for moral perfection, because, good morals are the path towards prosperity and victory.”(7) Imam Baqir (a.s) said:

عن ابي جعفر عليه السلام قال: ان اكمل المومنين ايمانا احسنهم خلقا.

“The most perfect believers from the point of view of faith are the ones who excel in moral conduct.”(8) The Holy Prophet (S) said:

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله: ما يوضع في ميزان امرى يوم القيامة أفضل من حسن الخلق.

“There is nothing better than good moral conduct which could be written on the “Letter of Deeds” on the Day of Resurrection.”(9) And said:

قال رسول الله (ص): اكثر ما تلج به امتى الجنة تقوى الله وحسن الخلق.

“My Ummah will enter into Paradise mostly on the basis of piety and excellence in moral conduct.”(10) And the following narration:

جاء رجل الى رسول الله عليه وآله من بين يديه فقال: يا رسول الله ما الدين؟ فقال: حسن الخلق. ثم اتاه من قبل يمينه فقال: يا رسول الله ماالدين؟ فقال: حسن الخلق. ثم اتاه من قبل شماله فقال: ما الدين؟ فقال: حسن الخلق. ثم اتاه من ورايه فقال: ما الدين؟ فالفتف اليه فقال: اما تفقه؟ هوان لا تغضب.

“A man approached the Holy Prophet (S) and asked: 'What is religion?' The Holy Prophet (S) replied: 'Good moral conduct.' The man asked the same questions from the Holy Prophet (S) alternatively by appearing from right, left, and behind the Messenger. Finally the Holy Prophet (S) took a deep look at him and said: 'Why don't you understand?' Religion is defined as never to get angry.”(11)

Islam has attached special importance for moral ethics, and because of these consideration the Holy Qur’an contains relatively more verses regarding ethics as compared verses related to obligation. Inside the books of narrations, one may finds thousands of narrations regarding ethics as compared to narrations dealing with other topics; if this number is not regarded greater in quantity, certainly it is not smaller either.

The rewards and promises mentioned for good moral deeds are certainly not lesser than the rewards prescribed for other actions, and likewise the warnings and punishments described for indecent moral actions are certainly not less than the punishments for other actions. Therefore, in Islam, ethics constitutes the basics and should not be treated simply as secondary religious obligations or something related to the beautification and decoration of religious persons.

If religion has defined do's and don'ts for obligations, it has defined the same for ethics. If encouragement, persuasion, rewards, punishment, and warnings have been utilized for obligations, the same approach has been applied for ethics as well as. Therefore, there exists no difference between ethics and obligations as for as religious recommendations are concerned, and in order to achieve perfection and prosperity one cannot remain ignorant of ethical matters.

The moral obligations cannot be ignored by taking the excuse of treating them simply as moral obligations, likewise forbidden moral acts should not be performed either. If performance of daily-prayers is compulsory and their non-performance is prohibited and brings Divine-Punishment, equally important is the fulfillment of a promise and its breach is prohibited and brings Divine-Wrath. The real religious and prosperous is someone who is committed to his religious obligation as well as is honest in fulfillment of his moral commitments. On the contrary, ethics play an important role for achieving prosperity and spiritual perfection that will be explained in the book later on.

Continue in the next article: ( Self-Purification, the Main Goal of Divine Messengers (2) )

NOTES:

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1. (3:164)

2. Bihar al-Anwar vol. 69, p-375.

3. al-Mustadarak, vol. 2, p-282.

4. Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.): The sixth Imam, Ja'far, known as al-Sadiq (a.s.) was born in Medina on Monday, 17th Rabi-ul-awwal 83 A.H. The son of the fifth Imam, he lived in an increasingly favorable climate and was able to teach openly in Median. Large numbers of scholars gathered around him to learn, including such famous Sunni figures as Abu Hanifa, the founder of the one of the four Sunni schools of Law. Towards the end of Imam Ja'far's life severe restrictions were placed upon his activities, as a result of growing Shi'ite unrest. More traditions are recorded from him than from all the other Imams together. He is so important for Twelve-Imam Shi'ite law that it is named the Jafri School after him. He is buried in the Baqi cemetery in Medina. Ja'far's fame for religious learning was great, greater than that of his father or of any other Twelver Imam except for ‘Ali bin Abu Talib (a.s.) himself. perhaps the earliest historical reference presenting Ja'far as one of the most respected and highly esteemed personalities of his epoch, and as having profound knowledge and learning, is Ya'qubi's statement that it was customary for scholars who related anything from him to say: “The Learned One informed us”.Even the famous jurist of Medina, the Imam Malik b. Anas, is reported to have said, when quoting Ja'far's traditions: “The Thiqa (truthful) Ja'far b. Muhammad himself told me that. ...” Similar compliments for Ja'far are attributed to the Imam Abu Hanifa, who is also reported to have been his pupil. Al-Sadiq's (a.s.) knowledge was great in religion and culture, he was fully informed in philosophy, he attained great piety in the world, and he abstained entirely from lusts. He lived in Medina long enough to greatly profit the sect that followed him, and to give his friends the advantage of the hidden sciences. He died at the age of 65, in Medina on Monday, 25th Shawwal 148 H.; poisoned by al-Mansur ad-Dawaniqi, the Abbasid Caliph.

5. al Mustadarak, vol. 2, p-283.

6. “The Commander of the Faithful' ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.): Was the first perfect exemplar of the teachings of the Most Noble Messenger (S) ‘Ali was raised by him from early childhood and followed him like a shadow until the very end of the latter's life. He was like a moth before the prophetic flame; the final moment when he was separated from the Most Noble Messenger (S) was when he embraced his corpse and laid it to rest. ‘Ali (a.s.) was the first person after the Most Noble Messenger (S) to approach spiritual realities in the manner of philosophical reflection, that is, by free exercise of reason. He used many technical terms and laid out and organized the rules of Arabic grammar in order to protect the Holy Qur’an from copyist's errors. The exact scholarship, spiritual culture, and consideration of ethical, social, political, and even mathematical problems shown in' ‘Ali's (a.s.) discourses, letters, and other documents that have reached us are astonishing. The wealth of these documents makes ' ‘Ali (a.s.) the best known individual among Muslims to have a full realization of the sublime goals of the Holy Qur’an and the critical and practical concepts of Islam as they should be realized. They testify to the soundness of the Prophetic saying, ‘I am the city of knowledge and ‘Ali is its gate'. Furthermore, he combined this knowledge with action. In short, ' ‘Ali's outstanding character is beyond description, and his virtues are innumerable. Never in history has someone's character drawn the attention of the world's scholars and thinkers to such an extent. R. Compbell, ‘Allamah Sayyed Mohammad Hosayn Tabatabai, Islamic teachings pp. 123-127.

7. al-Mustadarak, vol. 2, p-283.

8. al-Kafi, vol. 2, p-99.

9. al-Kafi, vol. 2, p-99.

10. al-Kafi, vol. 2, p-l00.

11. Mohajateh al-Baiza, vol. 5, p-89.