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Our Philosophy – Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr

The Message of Religion

Here, religion delivers its greatest message, whose burdens cannot be carried except by it, and whose constructive objectives and well-guided goals cannot be realized except on its bases and principles. Thus, religion ties together the moral criterion which it lays down for people and self-love which is centered in their nature. In other words, religion unifies the natural criterion of action and life – this criterion being self-love – and the criterion that must be laid down for action and life; so that it can ensure happiness, comfort and justice.

The natural criterion requires that the human being advance his personal interests over the interests of society and the elements of its solidification. [ But] the criterion that must be the judge and that must prevail is the criterion in accordance with which all interests are equal, and in accordance with whose notions, individual and social values are of equal weight.

How then can the two criteria be reconciled, and how can the two scales be unified, so chat human nature in the individual is once again one of the factors leading to the happiness and goodness of society, this nature having been a cause of tragedy with inclinations skilled ac producing different forms of selfishness?

The reconciliation and unification occur through a process that religion ensures for forlorn humankind. This process takes one of two forms. The first form focuses [on] a realistic explanation of life, and on spreading the understanding of life in its real form, as an introduction that prepares the way for the second life in which the human being achieves happiness proportional to his efforts in this limited life to attain God’s satisfaction. Hence, the moral criterion, or God’s satisfaction, be He exalted, ensures personal interest, while at the same time is achieves its greatest social objectives. Therefore, religion guides the human being to participate in establishing a happy society, and in preserving the issues in society chat are concerned with justice and that help attain God’s satisfaction, be He exalted. (p. 47) This is part of his personal profit, as long as every action and every activity in this area are compensated for by the greatest and most splendid rewards.

According to religious notions and explanation of life, society’s problem is the same as that of the individual. But this form of reconciliation cannot be held in a materialistic view of life. This kind of outlook views people as naturally not attentive to anything other than their present involvement and their limited life. This is contrary to the realistic explanation of life which Islam offers. The latter explanation broadens the horizon of a human being. It imposes on him a more profound view of his interests and benefits. In the last analysis, this profound view turns fast loss into real profit, and fast profits into real loss:

He who does right it is for his soul, and he who does wrong it is against his soul. [20]

He who does right, whether male or female, and is a believer will enter Paradise where he will be provided for, without restriction. [21]

On that day, people will proceed in scattered groups to see their deeds. He who does good an atom’s weight will see it then, and he who does evil an atom’s weight will see it then. [22]

That is because no thirst, hardship or hunger afflicts them on the path of God. They do not take any step that harms the disbelievers. And they do not gain anything from the enemy; but, by virtue of that, a good deed is recorded for them. God does not lose the wages of the good. They do not spend anything, be chat small or large, nor do they cross any valley; but it is recorded for them that God will repay them the best of what they had done. [23]

These are some of the beautiful images chat religion offers as examples of the first form that the above-mentioned process can take on, and that religion pursues in its attempt to reconcile the two criteria and to unify the two scales. Thus, it builds a link between personal motives and the paths leading to good in life. It also modifies the interest of individuals (p. 48) in such a way as to make individuals believe that their personal interests and the real general human interests – as defined by Islam – are interrelated. [5]

The second form that religion adopts for the purpose of reconciling personal motivation with social values and interests is its attempts to offer a specific moral education concerned with the spiritual nourishment of human beings and their emotional growth and moral sentiments. For, as we have mentioned earlier, there are in human nature capacities and dispositions for various inclinations. Some of these inclinations are of the material type, the desires for which open up naturally, such as the desire for food, the desire for drink, and the desire for sex. Other such inclinations are of the spiritual type. These sprout and grow as a result of education and commitment. Because of this, it is natural for people, if left to themselves, to be dominated by the material inclinations, for such inclinations open up naturally; while the spiritual inclinations and their dispositions that are latent in the soul remain concealed. By virtue of believing in an infallible leadership guided by God, religion entrusts the matter of the education of human beings and the growth of their spiritual inclinations to this leadership and to its branches. As a result of this, a number of noble emotions and sentiments develop. Human beings begin to appreciate moral values and the ideals that religion teaches them to respect, to desire defiance of death for their sake and to eliminate any of their own interests or benefits that stand in the way of these moral values and ideals. This does not mean that self-love must be eliminated from the human nature. Rather, action for the sake of such values and ideals would be a complete fulfillment of the will to self-love. For, due to religious teachings, values become desirable to people. The realization of the desirable object itself expresses a specific personal pleasure. Thus, the very nature of self-love dictates the pursuit of the desirable moral values, for the purpose of achieving a specific pleasure pertaining to moral values.

These are the two ways in which the linkage of the moral issue to the individual issue occurs. (p. 49) The former can be summarized in giving a realistic explanation of an eternal life, not in order that human beings lose interest in the present life, nor in order that they yield to wrongdoing and settle for what is unjust, but in order to regulate themselves by the proper moral criterion supplied with sufficient assurances by this explanation. The latter can be summarized in the moral education which produces in the human soul various emotions and sentiments that ensure the operation of the moral criterion by inspiration from the self. Thus, the spiritual comprehension of life and the moral education of the soul are, in the teachings of Islam, the two causes that together treat the deeper cause of the human tragedy.

Let us always express the understanding that the present life is a preparatory stage for an eternal life through the spiritual understanding of life. Let us also express the feelings and sentiments that moral education nourishes a moral sense of life.

The spiritual understanding of life and a moral sense of life are the two principles that are the ground of the new moral criterion which Islam lays down for humankind. This criterion is the satisfaction of God, be He exalted. The satisfaction of God that Islam erects as a general criterion in life is that which steers the human ship to the shore of righteousness, goodness and justice.

Thus, the basic distinguishing feature of the Islamic system is represented in its being based on a spiritual understanding of life and a moral sense of life.

A major point of this system is the taking into consideration of both the individual and society, and the securing of a balance between life of the individual and social life. The individual is not considered the central principle in legislating and governing, nor is the large social existence the only thing to which the state pays attention and for whose sake it enacts its laws. (p. 50)

Any social system not proceeding from such an understanding and such a sense is either a system that goes along with the individual and his personal inclinations -thus exposing social life to the harshest complications and the most intense dangers – or a system that confines the individual’s inclinations to himself, paralyzing his nature for the purpose of protecting society and its interests. With this, bitter and continuous struggle arises between the system and its laws [on the one hand], and the individuals and their inclinations [on the ocher hand]. Indeed, the social existence of the system becomes constantly exposed to relapses at the hands of its own creators, as long as they, too, have personal inclinations, and as long as these inclinations find for themselves – by virtue of suppressing ocher personal inclinations and by seizing total power – wide opportunity and a unique field for advance and exploitation.

Any spiritual understanding of life and any moral sense of life that do not result in a complete system of life in which every part of society is taken into consideration, and every individual is given the freedom that is rectified by this understanding and this sense, and that the state determines in the cases of deviation from this understanding and this sense, I say that any doctrine that does not produce this sort of system for mankind does not do anything beyond rendering the atmosphere amiable and reducing the [weight of] calamities. It is not a definite treatment and a derisive judgement of the illnesses and evils of society. A solid social edifice must be established only on a spiritual understanding of life and a moral sense of life, proceeding from both of them to fill life with the spirit of this sense and the essence of that understanding.

This it islam, expressed in the briefest and most beautiful statement. It is a spiritual and a moral doctrine from which a complete system for mankind proceeds, sketching for them their clear and well-defined advance, setting up for them the highest goal of this advance, and making known to them their gains from that goal.

As for terminating the spiritual understanding of life, stripping mankind of its moral sense of life, and considering moral notions as pure illusions created by material interests, and the economic factor as the creator of all values and ideals -and after that, desiring happiness and social stability for mankind – it is (p. 51) a wish that cannot be fulfilled unless mankind is transformed into mechanical systems, organized by a number of technical engineers.

Further, having people operate in accordance with the principle of this spiritual understanding of life and this moral sense of life is not a hard job. In human history, religions have fulfilled their mission in this domain. For all the spiritual notions, moral sentiments, and noble feelings and emotions, there is no clearer and more logical explanation than that which bases its principles and fundamentals on the great efforts that religions have made to educate mankind, to show them their natural motivation and the life and actions they must pursue.

Islam carried the torch that overflows with light after mankind reached a specific degree of awareness. Thus, it advocated spiritual and moral principles on the largest scale, and for the longest term. On the basis of these principles, it raised the human banner, and established an ideological state that seized the reins of world power for a quarter of a century. It aimed at uniting all people and rallying them around one ideological principle that offers a way and an order of life.

Therefore, the Islamic state has two functions. The first is to educate mankind in accordance with [its] ideological principle, and to impress its own character on their tendencies and feelings. The second is to observe them externally, and to bring them back to the principle if they deviate from it in practice.

Because of this, the political awareness of Islam is not limited to the formal aspect of social life. Rather, it is a profound political awareness due to a general and complete outlook on life, the universe, society, politics, economics and ethics. This comprehensive outlook is the complete Islamic awareness.

Any other political awareness is either a shallow awareness that neither views the world from a specific perspective, nor sets its notions on a specific focal point, (p. 52) or an awareness that investigates the world from the point of view of pure matter that provides mankind with struggle and misery of all forms and types.

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