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(bismillah) This was in the introduction to the book Polarization Around the Character of Ali Ibn Abi Talib. I found it interesting, made me think about what category I fit in and why, and thought I would share. ______________________________________________ In terms of attraction and repulsion in relation to other individuals, not all people are the same; indeed they can be divided up into various classes: 1. Individuals who do not attract and do not repel No one likes them, nor is anyone their enemy; they incite no one's love, affection or attachment, nor anyone's hostility, envy, hatred or odium; they go among men indifferently, just as if a slab of rock were to be among them. Such a creature is as nothing, produces no effect, a person in whom no positive thing exists either in terms of goodness or in terms of evil (the meaning of "positive" has to do not only with virtue - it has to do with wickedness too). He is an animal, he eats, he sleeps and walks among men. He is like a sheep which is no-one's friend and no-one's enemy, and if he is looked after, if he is given his water and grass, it is because his meat will be consumed after a while. He neither starts any wave of approval, nor any wave of disapproval. Such people form a group of worthless creatures, hollow and vacuous human beings, for man needs to love and to be loved, and we can also say that he needs to hate and to be hated. 2. People who attract but do not repel They get on well with everybody, they establish cordial relations with all people, they make people of all classes their admirers. In life, everyone likes them, and no-one disowns them, and when they die, the Muslims wash them with water from the spring of Zamzam in Mecca and bury them, while the Hindus cremate them. So accustom yourself to good and bad, So that after your death Muslims will wash you in the water of Zamzam, And the Hindus cremate you. According to the advice of this poet, in a society where half are Muslims and respect the corpse of a dead man, giving it ghusl (ablution for the dead), and maybe giving it ghusl in sacred water from Zamzam as a result of greater respect, and half are Hindus who cremate the dead and caste their ashes to the wind, one should live in such a way that Muslims accept you as one of theirs and want to wash you after death in water from Zamzam, and Hindus also accept you as one of theirs and want to cremate you after death. It is often imagined that excellence of character, civility in social intercourse, or, in the language of today "being sociable", consists of just this, making all men one's friends. However, this is not feasible for the man who has an aim, who follows a path, who, among men, pursues a particular way of thinking or ideal, and does not consider his own advantage; such a man, like it or not, has only one face, he is decisive and explicit in his behaviour, unless, of course, he is a hypocrite and double-faced. For not all men think in the same way, or feel in the same way, and not everyone's preferences are of one kind; among men there are those who are just and those who are unjust, there is good and there is bad. Society has its equitable members, and its despotic members; there are just people, there are iniquitous people. These people cannot all love one person, one human being, who seriously pursues one goal and thus collides with some of their interests. The only person who will succeed in attracting the friendship of all the various classes and the various idealisms is one who dissimulates and lies, and says and shows to each person what conforms to that person's liking. But if the person is sincere and follows a path, one group will automatically be his friend and another will similarly be his enemy. Any group which follows the same way as him will be pulled towards him, and any group which follows some different way will exclude him and will quarrel with him. Some Christians, who present themselves and their religion as messengers of peace, believe that the perfect man possesses nothing but love, thus he has nothing but the power of attraction, and perhaps some Hindus also believe the same thing. One of the things that are very striking in Hindu and Christian philosophy is love. They say that one must cultivate affection for all things and make one's love manifest, and when we come to love everyone what can possible prevent everyone from loving us - the bad will also love us, since they will have seen our love. But these gentlemen should understand that it is not enough merely to be a man of love, one must also be a man with a path, just as Gandhi said: "This is my religion." Love must coincide with reality and, if it coincides with reality it will have some path which it follows, and following a way creates enemies, whether we wish it or not. In fact, it is the power of repulsion which incites one group to struggle and excludes another group. Islam is also the law of love. The Qur'an presents the Holy Prophet as a mercy for all Being: (rahmatan li'l alamin ) وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ We have not sent thee, save as a mercy unto all beings (Anbiya', 21:107). This means that you (i.e., the Prophet) should be a mercy even for the most dangerous enemy, and should love even them. However the love which the Qur'an command does not mean that we should act towards everyone in conformity with what he likes and what is pleasing to him, that we should behave towards him in such a way that makes him happy and necessarily attracted towards us. Love does not mean that we leave everyone free to follow their inclinations, or still more that we should approve of their inclinations; this is not love, rather it is hypocrisy and double-dealing. Love is that which coincides with reality, it causes one to reach good, and sometimes those things which bring us to the good take a form that does not attract the love and affection of the other person. How many individuals there are to whom someone loves in this way and who, when they observe that this love is at odds with their own inclinations, become hostile instead of appreciative. Besides, rational and intelligent love is that in which is the good and interest of the whole of mankind, not the good of one individual or one special group. There are many things which can be done to bring good to individuals and to show love for them which are the very same things which bring evil to society as a whole and may be its enemy. We can find many great reformers in history who endeavoured to ameliorate the situation of society and smooth its sufferings, but who, in exchange, received no acknowledgement but animosity and persecution from people. So it is not the case that everywhere love attracts; indeed love sometimes manifests itself as a great repulsion which brings together whole societies against a man. `Abdu 'r-Rahman ibn Muljam was one of the most adamant enemies of 'Ali, and `Ali understood well that this man was a very dangerous opponent. Sometimes, even, others would say to him that he was a dangerous man, and that he should get rid of him. But `Ali asked in reply, "Should I punish before the crime? If he is my murderer, I cannot kill my own murderer: he is to murder me, not I him." It was about this person that 'Ali said: اُرِيد حياتهُ وَيَرِيدُ قَتليِ I want him to live; he wants to kill me.' (i.e., "I have love for him, but he is my enemy and has malevolent designs against me.") Secondly, love is not the only healing drug for mankind; roughness is also necessary for certain tastes and temperaments, and conflict, repelling and driving away are also necessary. Islam is both the religion of attraction and love and the religion of repelling and retribution (niqmah). 3. People who repel but do not attract They make enemies but they make no friends. These are also deficient people, and it shows that they are deficient in positive human qualities, for if they partook of human qualities they would have groups, even if they were small in number, who were their supporters and who were attached to them. There are always good people among humanity, however small their number may be. Even if all men were worthless and unjust, their hostility would be a proof of truth and justice, but it is never the case that all men are bad, just as they are never all good. Naturally, the bad in someone who has an enemy in everyone is to be found within himself, for otherwise how could it be possible for there to be good in the human spirit and then for this man to have no friends. There are no positive sides to the personalities of such individuals; even in their villainous aspects their persons are sour throughout, and they are sour for everyone. There is nothing in them which is sweet even if it be only to a few. 'Ali (as) said: أَعجَز النَّاسِ مَن عَجَزَ عَنِ اكتِسَابِ الإِخوَانِ, وَ أَعجَزُ مِنهُ مَن ضَيَّعَ ظَفِرَ بِهِ مِنْهُم. The most powerless person is he who is unable to find any friends, and more powerless than these is the one who loses his friends and remains alone.' 4. People who both attract and repel They are people travelling a path, who act in the way of their beliefs and principles; they draw groups of people towards themselves, they take a place in people's hearts as someone loved and wanted. But they also repel certain groups from themselves and drive them away. They make friends as well as enemies; they encourage agreement as well as disagreement. Such people are also of several kinds, for sometimes both their power of attraction and their power of repelling are strong, sometimes they are both weak, and sometimes there is a difference between them. There are some people with such a personality that their powers of attracting and repelling are both strong, and this is related to how strong the positive and negative degrees in their spirits are. Of course, strength also has degrees, up to the point where the friends that have been attracted will ransom their souls and give themselves up entirely for the cause; and the enemies will also become so head-strong that they will give their lives in their own cause. And it may become so intense that centuries after the death of that person their attraction and repelling will still be effective in people's minds and will exercise a wide influence. This three-dimensional attraction and repelling are among the particular characteristics of the awliya', (the "friends" of Allah), just as the three-dimensional invitations to the way of Allah are peculiar to the chain of the prophets. In this respect, it must be seen what kinds of people are attracted and what kinds repelled. For example, sometimes those with knowledge are attracted, and those who are ignorant are repelled, and sometimes vice versa. Sometimes noble and civilized people are attracted and the evil and the wicked are repelled, and sometimes vice versa. Thus, friends and enemies, the attracted and the repelled, each one is a clear proof of the essence of such a person. It is not sufficient merely to have the powers of attracting and repelling, or even that they should be strong, in order that a person's character should become lauded, rather the cause of this is the character itself, and no-one's character is a proof of goodness. All the world's leaders, even criminals such as Changiz Khan, Hajjaj and Mu'awiyah, were people who had both the power to attract and the power to repel. Not unless there are positive points in someone's spirit he can never make thousands of soldiers obedient to him, and subdue their wills; not unless someone has the power of leadership can he gather people around himself to such a degree. The Iranian king Nadir Shah (b. 1100/ 1688, reigned 1148/ 1736, d.1160/ 1747) was such a person. He cut off so many heads and had so many eyes gouged out of their sockets, but his personality was extraordinarily strong. From a defeated and plundered Iran at the end of the Safavid period he created an army at great cost, and, just like a magnet that attracts iron-fillings, fighting men collected round him who not only saved Iran from foreign powers, but went to the furthermost parts of India and brought new territories under the rule of Iran. Thus every person attracts his own kind, and drives away those unlike him. A just and noble person attracts towards himself benevolent people who strive for righteousness, and drives away from himself sensual, money-loving, hypocritical people. A criminal person attracts criminals around him, and repels those who are good. And, as we pointed out, there is another difference in the strength of the power of attraction. Just as is said about Newton's gravity, that the degree of pull and attraction becomes greater in proportion to the size of the mass of the body and in inverse proportion to the size of the intervening distance, so also among men there is variation in the power of attraction and pull which derives from the individual who has that attraction. 'Ali, one man with two powers 'Ali is one of those persons who have both the power to attract and the power to repel, and his attraction and repelling are extremely strong. Perhaps no attraction and repelling as strong as `Ali's can be found anywhere in any century or epoch. He has had remarkable friends, truly historical persons, ready to sacrifice themselves, forbearing, burning with love for him like flames from a bonfire, and full of light. They deemed giving up their lives in his way to be their aim and their glory, and they became oblivious of everything in their friendship for him. Years, even centuries, have passed since the death of `Ali, but this attraction still sends out the same rays of light, and people are still dazzled when they turn to it. http://www.al-islam.org/polarization-around-character-ali-ibn-abi-talib-ayatullah-murtadha-mutahhari
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