Let it be known to you that in a man subjugated to the domination of lust and carnal desire, his servitude, servility and indignity increase in proportion to the intensity of their domination; for servitude means complete submission and obedience. The man obedient to lusts and subjugated to the carnal self is their obedient slave. He submissively obeys whatever they command and is a humble and obedient servant and slave in front of them. This obedience reaches a limit when he prefers obedience to them to obedience to the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He prefers their service to the service of the real King of kind.
In that state, honor, dignity and freedom depart from his heart on which then settle the dusts of indignity, destitution and servitude. He becomes humble before worldly people and his heart bows down in prostration before them and before the possessors of worldly power and glory. In order to achieve the objects of his carnal desires and to satisfy the craving of his belly and underneath, he submits to all kinds of disgrace and indignities.
As long as he remains in the bondage of lust and the carnal self, he does not abstain from violating the demands of honor, freedom and chivalry. He readily submits to the obedience of anyone, and is willing to accept favor from any insignificant person, as soon as he sees the probability of attaining his objective through his means, even if that person is the meanest and basest of all creation and even if the probability involved is something imaginary. And it is said that mere fancy is the proof of the greedy.
The servants of lust and mundane ambition have put on the shackles of slavery to carnal desire. They are ready to be slaves of anyone whom they know or imagine to be of worldly benefit to them. If verbally they declare themselves to be chaste and honorable, such lip service to honor is mere deception, for their words and deeds contradict such a declaration. This servility and captivity is a thing which always causes man to undergo suffering, pain, dishonor and distress. Hence a man with a sense of honor and dignity should seriously strive to cleanse himself of this abomination by all means and deliver himself from this bondage. Such purification and emancipation can only be attained through a fundamental treatment, which takes place through curative knowledge and action.
As to curative action, it consists of religious exercises and opposition to the carnal self. Over a period of time these free the soul from excessive love of the world and the pursuit of carnal lust and desire, until it becomes accustomed to virtues and moral excellences. As to curative knowledge, it lies in making oneself understand and causing this to enter into his heart that other creatures are as weak, needy, dependent and impoverished as himself. He should tell his heart, “Since all other creatures are, like me, dependent, in matters big and small, on Him Who is absolutely Able and Powerful, they are not capable of fulfilling anyone’s needs.
They are too insignificant to deserve the soul’s attention or the heart’s humbleness. The same Powerful Being that has bestowed honor, dignity and riches upon them is capable of bestowing these on anybody. In fact, it is a matter of shame that man should submit so much to dishonor and indignity for the sake of his belly and his lusts as to accept the favor of an insignificant, impoverished, powerless and lowly creature devoid of wisdom and vision. If at all you should seek anyone’s favor, then seek the favor of the Absolutely Self-Sufficient, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, for if you pay attention to His sacred Essence and make your heart humble in His presence, that will liberate you from both the worlds and emancipate you from the servitude of creatures, as it has been said:
العُبُودِيَّةُ جَوْهَرَةٌ كٌنْهُهَا الرُّبُوبِيَّةُ.
That is, the inner, invaluable essence of servitude to God is freedom and lordship. Thus servitude to God, attention to the unique focus of all being, and subjugation of all powers and dominations to the Sovereignty of God create such a state in the devotee’s heart that he comes to wield power and kingdom over all the worlds. His spirit rises to such heights of sublimity that he does not pay obeisance to anyone except the Sacred Divine Essence, and even if, accidentally, he should be under the domination and power of anyone, that does not shake his heart, which preserves its independence and freedom, as in the case of Joseph (A) and Luqman (A) whose apparent subservience and servitude did not harm their free and freedom-seeking character.
And there may be many a powerful despot and king, who having no trace of inner freedom, dignity and honor in their character, are base servants and obedient slaves of lust and carnal desire and who obsequiously ingratiate themselves to creatures.
Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (A) is reported to have said in the course of a discourse:
إنِّي لآنَفُ أنْ أَطْلُبَ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ خَالِقِهَا، فَكَيْفَ مِنْ مَخْلُوقٍ مِثْلِي.
I am ashamed to ask anything of worldly things from their Creator, so how can I seek them from creatures like myself?4
My dear, if you are not ashamed of seeking the world, at least don’t ask for it of weak creatures like yourself. Do understand that creatures have no power to do anyone any worldly good. I admit that you might have succeeded in attracting someone’s attention through a thousand indignity and cajolery, but his will has no effect in the kingdom of God and no one has any role in the dominion of the King of kings.
Hence do not degrade yourself so much by flattering insignificant creatures for the sake of a passing world and for passing and paltry desires. Don’t forget your Lord and preserve your freedom. Remove the shackles of servitude and captivity and never forget Him under any circumstance, for, as stated in the noble tradition:
إنَّ الحُرَّ حُرٌّ عَلَى جَمِيعِ أحْوَالِهِ.
The freeman is free in all circumstances.
Let it be known to you that contentment comes from the heart and the absence of neediness is a spiritual state, unrelated to external matters that lie outside the human self. I have myself seen certain persons amongst rich and wealthy classes who say thins which no honorable poor man would say and whose statements are shameful. The hearts of those wretches were covered by the dusts of dishonor and destitution.
The Jews, who, in proportion to their number, are the richest and wealthiest of all people on the earth, have faces that manifest debasement, poverty, indigence, beggarliness, hunger and wretchedness. They spend all their lives in hardship, indignity, destitution and squalor. This is nothing but their inner poverty and spiritual abasement.
I have seen amongst pious and darvish-like persons some individuals whose hearts are so magnanimously free of want and need that they look at the entire world with indifference and consider none except the Sacred Essence of God Almighty as deserving of making a request. You too study carefully the conditions of worldly and ambitious people and you will find that their lack of self-respect and their degradation in flattering others is greater than that of others and their obsequiousness in front of people is greater.
Those (pseudo mystic masters) who are in pursuit of disciples and claim to guide others, suffer indignities and put up with degrading flattery and ingratiation for some day’s satisfaction of their carnal lusts. The heart of the seeker of disciples and adherents is humbler in front of the disciple than that of the latter in front of him. This is because of the difference in the character of their respect for one another. While the disciple’s humbleness and affection is of a spiritual and godly character, the master’s affection has a mundane and satanic character:
These that have been mentioned are the worldly forms of these evils and indignities. But were the curtains to rise, the real spiritual forms of these servitudes, bondages and chains of carnal lusts and desires will reveal themselves. Perhaps the seventy-cubit chain, of which God Almighty has informed us, a chain with which we shall be shackled and bound in that world, is the Hereafterly form of this very servitude and subjugation to the domination of Passion and Anger. And God Almighty declares:
﴿وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِرًا.﴾
And they shall find all they wrought present. (18:49)
And He also says:
﴿لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ.﴾
(God charges no soul save to its capacity;) standing to its account is what it has earned, and against its account what it has merited.(2:286)
That is, that which we obtain in the other world is a form of our own deeds.
Therefore, break away the lengthy chains of lust and desire. Remove the locks that bar the heart’s entrance and set yourself free from bondage. Live like a free human being in this world so that you may be free in the other world; otherwise, you will encounter there the intolerable Hereafterly form of this bondage. The hearts of the saints of God, despite their absolute and total freedom from bondage, were so much dreadful of the final outcome and so much full of lamentations that it amazes all minds.
I am aware that the matters mentioned in these pages are of a common and repetitive character. However, there is nothing wrong in such repetition, for constant reminding of the self and repetition of the truth is a desirable thing. This is why repetition has been considered desirable in prayers, supplications, worship and rituals. The main purpose is to accustom the self by means of repetitive exercises.
My dear, don’t be deluded; understand that as long as man remains in the bondage of the carnal self and its desires and as long as the lengthy chains of Passion and Anger are around his neck, he cannot attain to any of the spiritual stations; the inward authority of the soul and the domination of its higher will shall not manifest itself. Also, the station of spiritual independence and dignity, which is one of the highest of spiritual stations, shall not be realized. Rather, this bondage and slavery restrains man from revolting against the authority of the carnal self. And when the authority of the carnal self and Satan becomes consolidated in the inward realm and all the faculties of the self become their obedient slaves, becoming submissive and humble in front of them, they do not remain satisfied with mere sins.
Little by little, they draw man from minor to major sins and from there to weakening of beliefs, from there to darkening of the intellect, from there to the constricted path of denial and contestation (of the truth), and from there to the hostility and enmity of the prophets and the awliya’. Throughout these stages, the self, which is their slave and under their domination, cannot disobey them. At last this obedience and captivity becomes so severe that it may take man to the most dangerous point.
Hence, the intelligent man with sympathy for himself must try by all means to liberate himself from this slavery, and as long as there is opportunity and his powers are intact and his life, health and youth are there and his faculties have not been totally subjugated (by Satan and the carnal self), he must rise to undertake this task. For some time he must exercise vigilance over himself, study his own inner states, reflect about the conditions of those who have passed away and faced an evil fate, and make his heart understand the passing character of worldly life. He must awaken his heart and inform it of the truth narrated from the Holy Prophet (S) who said:
الدُّنْيَا مَزْرَعَةُ الآخِرَةِ.
That is, if we do not sow the seeds of righteous deeds in the few days of our life here, the opportunity will be lost for ever. When we reach the threshold of the other world and death seizes us, deeds come to an end., hopes are extinguished. If, God forbid, we continue to remain in the slavery of lusts and the captivity of various carnal desires until the Angel of Death arrives, it is possible that Satan may achieve his ultimate objective of wresting away our faith. He may treat us in such a fashion and metamorphose our hearts to such an extent that we may depart from the world as enemies of God and His prophets and awliya’. If that happens, God knows what calamities, what darkness and what terrors await us.
So, O base self! O negligent heart! Awake from thy sleep and arise to confront this enemy who for years has subdued you and made a captive of you, who drags you whenever he wants and commands you to perform every ugly and destructive deed! Arise and break these bonds! Sever these chains! Seek thy freedom and throw away this disgrace and indignity. Wear the girdle of servitude to God, the Almighty and the Glorious, that you may be free from every kind of servitude and slavery, that you may attain to the absolute kingdom of God in both the worlds.
My dear, although this world - being the believer’s prison - is not the abode of Divine award and the place of the manifestation of God’s kingdom, but should you come out from the captivity of the carnal self and submit to the servitude of God, make your heart a true monotheist and clear the dusts of plurality from the mirror of the spirit, and turn your heart’s attention to the focal point of Absolute Perfection, you will witness its effects in this world itself and your heart will attain such an expanse that it will become the realm of the manifestation of God’s total sovereignty, thus becoming greater than all the worlds. Hence He has said:
لا تَسَعُنِي أَرْضِي وَلا سَمَائِي، بَلْ يَسَعُنِي قَلْبُ عَبْدِيَ المُؤْمِنُ.
Neither [the vastness of] My earth, nor [that of] My heaven can contain Me.
Such richness and contentment will then pervade your heart that all the outward and inward realms will become worthless in your eyes and your will, will become so mighty that it shall not attach itself to the corporeal and the celestial realms; rather it will not even consider them worthy of itself.
طيران مرغ ديدي توزپاي بند شهوت درآي تا ببيني طيران آدميت
You have watched the bird’s flight;
But should you remove the shackles of lust,
You will witness the flight of man.
One of the great results and precious fruits of this freedom and emancipation from servitude to the carnal self is patience in calamities and misfortunes. Now it remains for us to explain briefly the meaning of sabr, the kinds of its fruits and its relation to freedom.
As defined by the researcher of the righteous sect, the explorer of the subtleties of the confirmed creed, the perfect in knowledge and deed, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (Q)7 sabr means restraining the self from agitation when confronted with undesirables. And the famous, confirmed ‘arif (Khwajah ‘Abd Allah al-’Ansari), says in Manazil al-sa’irin:
صبر، نگاهداري نفس است از شكايت بر جزع مستور.
Sabr means restraining the self from complaint about hidden anguish.
And let it be known to you that sabr has been considered as one of the stations of those in the middle group (mutawassitun), for as long as the self regards misfortunes and calamities as detestable and feels inward anguish on their account, its marifah isdeficient. Thus the station of rida in regard to Divine destiny and satisfaction at the turning up of misfortunes represents a higher station, although we consider this also to be one of the stations pertaining to the mutawassitun. Soalso sabr in regard to abstinence from sins and in regard to fulfillment of duties (ta’at)isalso related to deficient knowledge of the secrets of ibadat and the Hereafterly forms of sin and obedience.
For if one were to understand the reality of ibadah and to believe in the purgatorial forms of worships and sins, sabr in regard to these has no meaning for him. Rather, the contrary becomes true here, and if a joy or comfort causes him to neglect worship or commit a sin, they (such joys and comforts) become detestable for him and his inward anguish becomes greater than that of those who bear misfortunes and calamities patiently.
The righteous servant and the knower of the duties of servitude, the possessor of noble stations and miraculous characteristics, ‘Ali ibn ‘Tawus (Q) is narrated to celebrate the first day of his becoming mukallaf. He gave feasts and festivated in commemoration of that day, for God, the Blessed and the Supreme, had blessed him with the permission to perform duties on that day. Can anyone say that that sublime spirit exercised sabr in regard to worship and duties considering them as inwardly unwelcome?
What a difference between us and those obedient servants of God! We think that God Almighty has burdened us with duties; we consider them troublesome and view them as a botheration. If one of us attempts to offer his prayer at the outset of its time, he says that it is better to be done with it and the sooner one relieves oneself the better! All our misfortunes are due to ignorance and foolishness and on account of the lack or absence of faith.
In any case, sabr isconcealed anguish. And that which has been said about the great prophets and the Righteous Imams - who have been characterized with sabr - thatcould mean forbearance in regard to physical sufferings, which are painful as a matter of human nature; or it could mean sabr in regard to separation from the Beloved, which is one of the great stations of the lovers --and to this we shall return later. Otherwise, sabr in regard to obedience or misfortune or sin is not only inapplicable in regard to them but also in regard to their followers (shi’ah).
The famous ‘arif ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Kashani, in Sharh Manazil al sa’irin, says:
The intent of the Shaykh, when he says that sabr means abstinence from complaint, is complaining to creatures. Otherwise, complaining to God Almighty and beseeching Him for relief is not opposed to sabr. Hadrat Ayyub complained to God and said:
﴿أَنِّي مَسَّنِي الشَّيْطَانُ بِنُصْبٍ وَعَذَابٍ.﴾
Behold, Satan has visited me with weariness and chastisement. (38:41)
And God yet praises him, saying:
﴿إِنَّا وَجَدْنَاهُ صَابِرًا نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ.﴾
Surely We found him. a steadfast man. How excellent a servant he was! He was penitent. (38:44)
And Hadrat Ya’qub (Jacob) said:
﴿إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّهِ.﴾
I make complaint of my anguish and my sorrow unto God, (12:86)
Although he was one of the forbearing. Rather, to quit complaining to God is a manifestation of the hardening (of the heart) and a sign of grudgefulness.
The accounts of the lives of the great prophets and the Infallible Imams - upon all of whom be God’s benedictions- reveal that although their stations were over and above the stations of sabr, rida and taslim (surrender), they never stopped supplicating lamenting and confessing their impotence before the Worshipped One. They expressed their needs to God Almighty and this is not contrary to their spiritual stations.
Rather, remembering God, cherishing the intimacy of solitude with the Beloved, and expression of servitude and humility in front of His absolute perfection and greatness is the ultimate end of the hopes of the mystics (‘arifun) and the final destination of the journey of the wayfarers (salikun)
By: Imam Khomeini