Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi is a researcher and a world-renowed author and speaker of the Shia faith. He is currently translating the 13th volume of Tafseer al-Mizan.
Lecture 1: Islam, Religion of Peace
A lecture delivered at the University of California Merrill College, Santa Cruz on 28th October, 1987.
Man as a Member of Society
Man in his life comes into contact with countless persons, groups and things; his relationship with some is amiable; with some others, antagonistic. Whatever the case, he has to base all his contacts, all his dealings, on justice — thus ensuring peace and happiness in society. But before that, he has to do justice to his own self, his own soul, and to all the powers and faculties which God has bestowed upon him. Unless and until he maintains a balance between his desire and anger, he cannot do justice to others.
Desire and Anger
There are two characteristics which man shares with animals. They are “desire” and “anger”. He is attracted to what he thinks is useful and beneficial to him; he wants to obtain or keep the things which give him pleasure and joy; he wants to remain near those people whom he loves. All these feelings are manifestations of the desire. Led by this factor, man is attracted towards food and drink, sleep and recreation; it is this factor that creates bond of love between parents and children, between husband and wife, between brothers and sisters, and between two relatives or friends. It is because of desire that man strives to achieve excellence in various fields of knowledge and arts; or to seek authority and power.
Anger is opposite of desire. Fear and courage are two manifestations of anger. It is because of this faculty that man repulses or tries to remove whatever he thinks would be harmful to him or whatever displeases him. Man shares these faculties with animals, A cow welcomes green grass and runs away from a lion. If these were the only characteristic of man, there would have been no difference between man and cow.
But God has bestowed upon man another especial faculty which distinguishes him from the animal world, and that is “Reason”. In Arabic language, reason is called ‘aql which literally means, a tie, a restraint. It is reason that puts restraint on our desire and anger. Reason is the rope that keeps these two faculties confined within permissible limits. You see, desire and anger both are essential for mankind’s safety of and continuity of human race. But they must remain on a middle course.
They should not be unnecessarily crushed, nor should they be left unfettered. They should be properly channeled, in order that they could achieve the goals for which they were created. This could be done only when desire and anger both are under the complete control of reason and divine law: in this way we would remain on the middle course, in the right direction. This medium path is called i’tidal in Arabic; i’tidal is a derivative of ‘adl — justice.
In this way, when man gives predominance to reason, and reason maintains the and on the middle path, keeping harmony and equilibrium between all his faculties and characteristic, man’s psyche in peace with itself. If, on the other hand, there is any deficiency in any of these faculties or if either exceeds the limit, then man loses his equilibrium, and becomes unjust to himself, and as a result inflicts injustice to other members of the society.
The equilibrium between various psychological traits creates inner peace, which in its turn brings peace in society. Of course, it is easier said than done. Our traditions say that this medium way of life, this middle path, is thinner than, hair, sharper than sword and hotter than fire. To proceed on this path without stumbling, without deviation, one needs God’s help. Thus we finally come to the concept of peace with God. “From You originates peace, and to You it returns.”