Four Californian Lectures – Part 2

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.

(Toronto, Canada)

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.”

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About the author

He was born in 1957 in a family of ‘ulamã’ in Bihar, India. He comes from a region in Bihar (Siwan District, previously known as Saran) that has produced well-known Shi‘a scholars in the Indian sub-continent. Migrated to Africa with his parents where he received elementary education in English medium school. After that for two years, he studied Arabic and Farsi with his respected father and two other ‘alims in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania.

In 1972, at the age of fifteen, he went to the Hawza-e ‘Ilmiya-e Qum, Iran. During his ten years stay in Qum, he studied with various teachers; and moved from the levels of muqaddimãt to sutûh (equal to graduate level in secular universities) and, finally, attended the dars-e kharij (ijtihad lectures equal to post-graduate studies) of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaikh Wahid Khurãsãni.

In 1982, he returned to India where he stayed at Gopalpur for about a year.

In June 1983, at the invitation of the Shia Muslim Community of British Columbia, he and his wife moved to Vancouver where he stayed till June 1991 and served Shi‘a Islam through his lectures, writings, and teachings. Based on his publications and educational background, in September 1987, the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) admitted him in the post-graduate program at Masters’ level. This was even though he had no formal degree nor was he asked to sit for any exams. In 1990 he completed his thesis; and after successfully defending the thesis, was awarded the Master of Arts degree in History in 1991.

In July 1991, he moved to Toronto and till 1996 worked as the Director of Islamic Education & Information Center providing a variety of religious services to Shi‘as in North America. During this time, he was also involved in the founding of the As-Sadiq Islamic School, a full time Islamic school from KG to Grade 8 levels. Since July 1996, he has accepted the responsibilities of the Imam-e Jum‘a and Resident ‘Ãlim of the Jaffari Islamic Center / Jaffari Community Center.

He has traveled to most cities in Canada and U.S.A.; as well as to Australia, Guyana, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Dubai, Pakistan, Tanzania and Kenya for lectures.

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