Imam Khomeini recommends reforming the self over reforming others

Imam Khomeini, may his soul be sanctified, gives preference to reforming the self over reforming others and reckons the interior as more important than the exterior.

ID: 56144 | Date: 2019/12/05
In this perspective, the essence is the interior and not the external conditions. If man be free from all external entanglements but has a feeling of inner bondage, he is then not truly free. If man possesses the whole world but internally feels indigence, he is still destitute. 

Basically, everything originates internally. So, while quoting a hadīth which expresses, “The freeman is free in all circumstances,” the Imam says: 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 among rich and wealthy classes who say things which no honorable poor man would say.

 This point is not restricted to wealth alone. All other conditions are like that.

For this reason, the Imam Khomeini invites all, particularly the theology students, to begin with and reform themselves, saying that: The first thing that the learned in religious sciences and the seekers of this perilous road must take into consideration is self-reform during the period of studies, counting it as far as possible to be the foremost of their duties, for this is harder and more obligatory than all the duties and obligations dictated by sharī‘ah and reason.
Non-recognition of the self springs from blindness of the heart and inner loss of sight, which is considered as the origin of all adversities. Hence, “one must be very fearful of this inner blindness of vision which is the main source of all kinds of darkness and wretchedness. The blindness of the heart is the source of all misfortunes.”  

Thus, self-cognition is the fountainhead of all human perfection while self-ignorance is the root of all deprivation and humiliation of man. So, knowledge of the self is superior to knowledge of the world, and appears to be even more important than many religious sciences.

As such, this knowledge should be accorded its own separate place and be developed and expanded. One should not be unduly confined to collecting and amassing terms of little use; rather, one should think of understanding one’s real self and the intricacies and subtleties of the soul.   

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