Human Nature from Viewpoint of Imam Khomeini

Human Nature from Viewpoint of Imam Khomeini

According to Imam Khomeini, curbing the instincts does not mean that their existence is not necessary. Instead, they must be endured. If it is so, there is no need then to preserve them, and the policy of eliminating them is the best one.

[Yet,] in the code of ethics of the Imam the existence of all instincts is deemed necessary, and all of them have advantages and uses.

In essence, from this aspect, nothing in the universe has been created inordinately and every integral part of the universe has its own particular function.

So, the existences of all things—even the apparently worst instincts—is beneficial and necessary. This reasoning has roots in the Qur’anic view of the universe. God Almighty says: “We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them in play.”

As far as creation is concerned it is the act of the All-Wise God; it has been created wisely and nothing therein is futile and vain.

In the same vein, since all beings are creatures of the One and Only God, they are in a state of harmony and concordance, and all parts are related to one another.

If in a certain level of existence disorder is noticeable, through a deeper analysis we would realize its intrinsic order.

To cite an example, a child who has seen the kitchen utensils in the cabinet every day and today he notices that all of them are apparently cluttered in different parts of the kitchen, he considers it as the result of his mother’s carelessness and confusion.

But once he understands that they are supposed to entertain visitors that night at home, he realizes that this apparent disarray has meaning and order.

Such is the creation. If at first glance the same impression is entertained in one’s mind, this notion will dissipate after a second and profound scrutiny.

That is why the Glorious Qur’an admonishes us, anytime we comprehend diversity and duality in the universe, to take a second and deeper look so as to discover our own misconception.

The corollary of this precept is for us to reckon the universe as orderly and purposeful, and not to think of any phenomenon therein as useless. God Almighty considers it an attribute of the learned and sages that they hold the passing of nights and days and all the phenomena in the universe significance, and say: “Our Lord! Thou createdst not this in vain. Glory be to Thee!”     

This all-embracing view on the universe also includes man’s self and instincts. Since there is nothing useless in the universe, it follows that human instincts are also meaningful and purposeful. If we view instincts from this perspective, we cannot on any account, talk about eliminating and suppressing them.

Instead, efforts should be made for them to act in accordance with their particular functions and not drift away from their own specific tasks; this is different from self-denial. This rule is applicable to all instincts.

The existence of even those instincts which have apparently negative functions is also essential and their absence would render man’s existence imperfect and deficient. For instance, one of the ‘negative’ instincts is anger, which is mentioned in the ahādīth [Prophetic narrations] as the key to all kinds of destruction and mischief.

Nowadays, numerous books have been written about this affliction, its negative effects, and ways of curing it.

There are hardly any who are immune to the side effects of this ominous phenomenon; all of us in different places drunk its hemlock and have poisoned our palates. Many psychologists consider anger as causing high blood pressure, cholesterol, and even untimely death, and say that anger deprives man of the powers of sound reasoning and judgment, making him blind to the realities.

According to Imam's views, Once such anger and hatred arises in you, the most important part of your mind, which is the center of judgment between right and wrong, fails to function, rendering you incapable of judging the short- and long-term consequences of your conduct and behaviour. In this condition, our power of judgment completely fails to function and there is no chance of its working.

This condition is exactly similar to that of a person when he becomes mad.     

We can thus continue to enumerate the destructive effects of anger and to cite the various opinions about it. The Imām himself has allotted a section in the Sharh-e Chehel Hadith to this destructive instinct. He discusses it in detail, indicating the way of release from it and the method of regulating it.

Well, now this question arises: Is not anger, with all these destructive effects arising from it, an example of the many instincts that must be uprooted? Is the existence of such an unpleasant instinct essential in man? Keeping in mind the Qur’anic precept that everything in the universe has a purpose and goal, the answer to the above question is positive.

Yes, anger is also necessary and if it were not for this instinct, humankind would never have endured and would have become extinct. It is enough to imagine this instinct to disappear overnight from man’s existence.

In that case, no danger, no matter how serious, will induce him to move, and the necessary energy to face unpleasant situations will be not available to him. We should not forget that the greatest specific function of anger is preparing us to deal with emergency situations and providing us with the power to respond quickly.

Most of the writings dealing with anger have also mentioned its specific positive function. Therefore, from this perspective anger is also a vital element for the continuity of man’s life. Anger becomes bad only when it strays from its original function.

While conducting an analysis of anger, Imam Khomeini also delves into all its dimensions and considers it in moderation to be necessary for individual and social life. Pertaining to its benefits, he says:                     

It should be known that the Power of Anger is one of the biggest favors of God conferred upon His creatures, which enables them to pursue activities constructive to their world and the Hereafter, assure the continuity of the species as well as the safety and survival of the individual and the family.

It also plays a great role in the establishment and maintenance of social order and civic life. If this noble faculty were not ingrained in the animal’s nature, it would not have been able to defend itself against natural adversities, and would have been subjected to destruction and extinction.

And if it were absent in man, then besides these, he would have failed to achieve most of his progress and perfection.

Moreover, even its deficiency and insufficient presence below the moderate level is itself considered a moral weakness and flaw which gives rise to innumerable vices and defects like fear; timidity; weakness; laxity; laziness; greed; lack of restraint, patience and tolerance; lack of constancy and perseverance when needed; love of comfort; torpor; lethargy; submissiveness to oppression and tyranny; submitting to insults and disgraces to which an individual or his family may be subjected; dastardliness; spiritlessness, etc. Describing the qualities of the believers God Almighty says:

(The believers) are hard against the unbelievers and merciful among themselves.

The fulfillment of the duty of to enjoin good conduct and forbid indecency, and the carrying out of other policies set forth by religion or guided by reason, would not have been possible without the existence of this noble Power of Anger.

On this basis, those who believe in eradicating the Power of Anger and consider its destruction as an accomplishment and mark of perfection are highly mistaken and in great error, ignorant as they are about the signs of perfection and the bounds of moderation.

Poor fellows, they do not know that God Almighty has not created this noble faculty in vain in all the species belonging to the animal kingdom. To the children of Adam He bestowed this power as the source of securing a good life in this world and the Hereafter, and a vehicle for procuring various blessings and felicities.

This nourishment and training should be coordinated and concordant; all the instincts and attributes of man should be so harmonious with each other as to constitute a coherent whole.

For example, instead of eliminating the sensual instinct it should be modestly moderated. Basically, moral virtues are understandable with the control of instincts, and without these instincts, they (moral virtues) would lose their meaning. Anyone who has no sexual instinct has no business talking about chastity.

Read more:

Imam Khomeini warned against selfishness and egoism

Imam Khomeini’s stressed moral approaches

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