By Imam Khomeini
Once a man is afflicted with the disease of worshipping this world and desiring his own passions , and his heart is completely, immersed in love of this world, anything that does not pertain to this world will disgust him. He will (God forbid) become hostile to God, to God’s servants, to His prophets, awliya, and angels; he will feel rancor and hatred toward them. When the angels, upong God’s command, come to take his soul, he will feel strong disgust and repulsion because God and His angels are about to separate him from his beloved, this world and the things of this world. Thus he may depart this world in a state of enmity and hostility to God. One of the great men of Qazvin( may God have mercy upon him) related that he once went to the bedside of a dying man. In the last minutes of his life, the man opened his eyes and said: “No one has done me the wrong that God is now doing! What anxious care I lavished on my children while bringing them up, but now He wants to separate me from them! What wrong could be greater than this?” If man does not remedy his tate and detach himself from the world by ridding his heart of love for it, it is to be feared that he will surrender his soul with a heart full of resentment and hatred toward God and His awliya. Evil and dangerous consequences such as these await man, who, though the noblest of creatures, still may come to suffer an ignoble fate. Is the man who abhors all restraint the noblest of creatures or, in reality, the worst?
“By the Age! Verily man is in a state of loss, except those who believe and perform good deeds, and enjoin truth upon each other, and enjoin patience upon each other” (103:1-3). In this surah, the only persons exempt from a state of loss are those believers who performed good deeds; that is to say, deeds that are in conformity with the spirit. But you see that many of the deeds men perform are in conformity with their bodies instead, and there is no question of their enjoining truth and patience upon each other.
If it seems that love of the world and self-love are about to gain dominance over you and prevent you from perceiving truths and realities and devoting your deeds more fully to God, and about to hinder you from enjoining patience and trusth upon each other, then indeed you are in a state of loss; you will have lost both this world and the hereafter. For you have renounced your youth, you have nothing of this world, and in addition, you will be deprived of the blessings of paradise and the bounties of the hereafter. It is true that there are others who will not be admitted to God’s paradise; the gates of His mercy will be closed to them and they will remain eternally in hellfire. But at least they will have enjoyed this world and its goods. The same cannot be said of you.
Beware lest (God forbid) love of the world and self-love begin to increase in you to the point where Satan is able to take away your faith. It is said that all the efforts of Satan are devoted to this one goal; all his wiles and exertions, by day and by night, have as their purpose to snatch away men’s faith. No one ever gave you a guarantee that you would retain your faith permanently. Your faith may only have been given to you on trust, so that in the end, Satan will succeed in taking it from you and you will leave this world full of hostility toward God Almighty and His awliya. You will have enjoyed God’s blessings for a whole lifetime, seated at the banquet of the Imam of the Age (may God hasten his appearance), but when you surrender your soul, you will be (God forbid) without faith, and an enemy to Him Who has provided for you.
If you have any tie or link binding you to this world in love, try to sever it. This world, despite all its apparent splendor and charm, is too worthless to be loved, particularly if one is deprived of what it has to offer. What do you possess in this world that makes you so attached to it? All you have are these mosques, mihrabs, madrasas, and the corners of your cells. Is it true that you compete with one another for these mosques and mihrabs, creating division among yourselves and corruption in society? Even if you did enjoy a properous and comfortable life, like the worldly, and (God forbid) spent your life in enjoyment and pleasure, in the end you would perceive that it all passed like a pleasant dream, while the heavy penalties you incurred would remain with you forever. What values does this transient and seemingly sweet life (supposing that it is indeed spent pleasantly) have when compared to infinite torment? For the torment suffered by those attached to this world is indeed sometimes infinite.
Those attached to this world are mistaken when they imagine that they are in possession of it and its various benefits and advantages. Everyone looks upon the world through the aperture of his own environment and place of residence, and imagines that the world consists of what he possesses. But this corporeal world is vaster than man can even imagine, let alone traverse of possess. Despite all the adornments with which He equipped it, God has never looked upon this world with mercy, according to a certain tradition. We must see, then, what the other world is upon which God, Almighty and Exalted, did look in mercy, and what the “fountainhead of magnificence” is to which He is summoning man.
It is true that man is too petty a being to understand fully what the “fountainhead of magnificence” is. But if you purify the intention with which you perform your acts of worship, make your deeds truly righteous, rid your hearts of self-love and ambitiousness, lofty stations and elevated degrees will await you. Compared to the rank God Almighty has prepared for His righteous servants, the whole world with its false allure counts as nothing. Strive, then, to attain those lofty stations and if you are able, try to advance to such a point that even those lofty stations and elevated degrees become a matter of indifference to you, so that you do not worship God for their sake, but rather call upon Him as befits His glory, prostrating yourselves before Him. It is then that, penetrating the veils of light, you will have attained the “fountainhead of magnificence.”
Given your present conduct and deeds, and the path you are following, will you ever be able to attain that station? Will it be easy to escape divine punishment and evade the terror and the fire of hell? Do you imagine that the tears of the Imams and the lamentations of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin Sajjad (upon whom be peace) were merely for the edification of others? Despite all their spirituality and the high rank they have attained, they wept in fear of God and knew how difficult and dangerous the path was that lay before them. They were aware of the difficulties, hardships, and hazards that attend the crossing of the Bridge of Sirat, which joins this world to the hereafter and which passes over hellfire. They were conscious of the world of the tomb, the intermediate world, resurrection and its terrors. They were therefore never at peace, and constantly took refuge in God from the severe punishments of the hereafter.
What provision have you made against these overwhelming terrors and punishments? What path of salvation have you found? When do you intend to begin reforming yourselves? If you do not begin purifying yourselves now while you are young and possess the energy of youth, enjoying full control of your capacities without suffering from physical weakness, how will you be able to do so when you are old: when you are prey, body and soul, to weakness, apathy, and cold; when you have lost your willpower, resolve, and ability to resist; and when the weight of sin and rebellion against God has further blackened your heart? With every breath and step that you take, with every passing moment of your life, the task of self-reform becomes more difficult, and darkness and corruption increase. As man’s age advances, the obstacles to his happiness increase, and his strength to resist them decreases. So when you reach old age, your chances for success in purifying and reforming yoursleves and attaining virtue and piety are small. You will be unable to repent, for repentance is not accomplished simply by saying, “I turn to God in repentance”; it requires regret and firm sreslove to abandon sin, and such regret and firm resolve are impossible for persons who have engaged in backbiting and slander for fifty or seventy years, whose beards have grown grey in the commission of sin. Such people will be caught up in sin to the end of their lives.
The young should not neglect this task, for one day the dust of old age will whiten them and their beards ( I Have reached old age and know well what difficulties and miseries it brings). While you are still young you can accomplish comething. While you still have the energy and willpower of youth, you can ward off from yourselves passionate desires, wordly longings, and animal wants. Bit if you do not begin to reform yourselves in youth, it will be too late in old age.
The heart of the young is pure and subtle; the corrupt impulses within it are weak. But as man’s age advances, the roots of sin in his heart become firmer and stronger until it becomes impossible to pluck them out. According to a certain tradition, “the heart of man is at first like a mirrro, pure and luminous. Whenever he commits a sin, a black spot appears on it, and the more he sins, the more the black spots increase until the whole of the heart is blackened, and neither a day nor a night will pass without his sinning against God.” When one reaches old age, it is difficult for a man to restore his heart to its original state.
If (God forbid) you do not reform yourselves, and you depart this world with blackened hearts, with eyes, ears, and tongues polluted by sin, how will you meet God? How will you return to Him the divine trust, polluted and stained, that was given to you pure and spotless? These eyes and ears that you possess, this hand and tongue that are at your command, these limbs and members that enable you to live, were all utterly pure and whole when they were given you as trusts by God Almighty. If they have now been polluted by sin, made vile by the commission of forbidden acts, you will be asked when you wish to retun them, “Is this the way in which a trust is kept? Is this the state the trusts were in when We gave them to you? Is this the same eye that We gave to you, the same heart that We gave to you? Were all these other limbs and members so polluted and filthy?” What answer will you give to these questions? How will you meet your God after thus misusing the trusts He has given you?
You are young, but you have sacrificed your youth in order to study the religious sciences, even though it will not greatly benefit you from a worldly standpoint. If you devote your precious time and the spring of your youth to the cause of God and a sacred precise aim, you will not lose anything. On the contrary, your welfare in this world and the hereafter will be assured. But if you continue in the state I now observe among you, you will have wasted your youth, and the choice part of your life will have been squandered. In the next world you will be called to a severe accounting by God. If the punishment for your deeds of corruption is not confined to the next world, you will also suffer various grave misfortunes in this world and be plunged into a whirlpool of disaster.