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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

9805-STRENGTHENING THE SELF FOR CONTINUING THE ISLAMIC MISSION

Fajr Talk at the Ta’aruf and Intellectual Discourse XII 15-18 May 1998 held at Guoman Resort, Port Dickson byProf Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Deputy Dean for Research and Post-graduate Affairs, Kulliyah of Medicine & Deputy Dean for Residential Colleges, Tarbiyat, and Training, Student Affairs and Development Division

1.0 PERSONALITY

The Qur’an expounds in very clear teams a distinct concept of individual growth and development. A human being is both body and soul, matter and spirit. It is the unique balance between the two contrasts that makes humans what they are, the highest creation. The original condition of the human being is that of fitra which is uprightness.

 

The essence of a person is the nafs and not the physical body. Thus personality or behavior are referred to the nafs. The Qur’an has described several stations of nafs (maratib an nafs):Nafs ammarah (tendency to evil), Nafs lawamah (conscience and concern with moral rectitiude), Nafs mulhamah (inspired to piety and taqwa), Nafs qanu’ah (satisfied with what it has), Nafs mutma’inna (calm), Nafs Radhiyah (appreciative),and Nafs Kamilah (perfect). The nafs can be purified by acts of ibadat, avoiding the forbidden, generally being conscious of the creator, and constant meditation about the creation.

 

Spirituality is a major component of personality.  Spirituality in Islam unlike other religions has practical manifestations at the individual and social levels because Islam is a practical religion. Spiritual development starts with close observations of all acts of worship. The second step is avoiding all immoral attitudes, tendencies, values, and sins (major and minor). The third step is promoting the moral and good at the individual or societal levels.

 

Intellectual development helps improve your personality. You must develop your mind continuously and actively. A mind left unused soon deteriorates. Get general as well as specialized knowledge. Observe phenomena of life carefully and try to learn from each as much as you can. Read as much as you can and as widely as possible. Visit other places to widen your knowledge. Always look and deliberate on the signs of Allah in His creation. You can learn a lot by mixing and exchanging views with people from other cultures. Listen to thinkers and knowledgeable people. Try to stay around them as much as possible. Discuss with others. Exchange ideas so that you make check your ideas or pick up new ideas. Try to concentrate your thinking about particular problems and try to work out solutions.

 

2.0 SELF-IMPROVEMENT

You can not improve yourself without effort. You must make the intention to be a better person and take action to achieve your goals. Life is not chance. Everything that occurs is pre-destined. You however do not know your predestination. You have to work hard, search for it, use your will power and choice that Allah gave you. Accept personal responsibility for mistakes. Do not blame others for your problems. Learn from your past experiences, positive and negative. Good manners or experiences should be reinforced while bad ones should be avoided.  Keep in mind always the three ultimate objectives: Ridha Allah, Hikmah, and Falaah (duniya and akhirah).

 

Develop a positive attitude. Be optimistic and develop positive behaviour. The world is essentially good and the hereafter much better. There is more good than evil. You can always succeed in the long-run if you do not become pessimistic and give up. Look at problems of life in perspective. What may look big may not be so in the long run. You may hate today what turns out to be good tomorrow. See and emphasise the positive in  any problem.

 

Happiness is not an objective in life. Pursuing happiness can be running after an illusion since happiness is not definable. The realistic objective is contentment and satisfaction with yourself and what you have. However contentment should not be understood in a negative sense of refusing to take active steps to improve some of the negative things in your character, behaviour, and material circumstances.

 

You should consider yourself as living in the future. Life on earth is just a transition. Always prepare for the future (both what remains of your life on earth and life in the hereafter). A futuristic outlook will enable you to deal with setbacks of life. You should always know that the future could always be better.

 

Integrity is when actions are in conformity with your values. Values are universal. Knowledge of what is bad is innate (al sharr ma haaka fi al sadr). Religious teachings of what is right and what is wrong only reinforce what good fitra already knows. Never utter an untruth. It is better to keep quiet even in situations in which silence makes you look a fool. There are no white lies. All lies are an untruth and should never be uttered. Your promises and commitments are sacred. Never make any if you are not sure of keeping them. Keeping promises indicates both integrity and efficiency. An organised person who knows what he can or can not do and who manages his time well is less likely to make promises he can not keep.

 

Moral courage is needed to know yourself, self-criticise, and decide to improve. Social courage is needed to stick to morally right choices in your life even though the society around you may behave differently. Physical courage is needed to stand up for your rights and face the consequences

 

Wisdom in the best good you can get. Learn the difference between ‘ilm and hikmat. ‘Ilm is knowledge. Hikmat is a higher level of understanding and using knowledge taking into consideration previous experiences and high moral guiding principles. You are better off with less knowledge and more hikmat. A lot of ‘ilm with no hikmat is positively dangerous.

 

Patience is needed to deal with problems of life. Problems must be met with inner strength and a sense of hope. Lack of patience is associated with wrong choices and moves. Endurance and perseverance are part of patience. It is the ability to stick it out and weather all adversities with a strong heart.

 

Humility is the beginning of wisdom. Know that you have limitations. Do not deceive yourself that you are superior whatever you may be endowed with. Always remember that there are others who may be your equals or actually better than you. Whatever you may have, you are insignificant infront of Allah the Almighty.

 

Modesty is a very important component of character and is considered part of iman. To be modest is to set limits beyond which there is immorality and sin. A modest person stay shy of those limits and will refrain from things that are clearly permissible but if done in excess can lead to transgression of the limits. Such transgression could also occur by mistake with no malicious intent.

 

Be balanced in your attitudes and actions. Avoid extreme positions because you can never have all the facts and full understanding of a particular situation. Taking a middle path gives you a chance to change positions and follow what is right and what is the best. You however should never be moderate where evil or immorality are concerned. You must take a clear and extreme position for what is moral and right. Stick your head up high to be counted among supporters of the good and the moral and among opponents of evil. Your actions regarding an evil situation should however be moderate to avoid creating new problems that may be worse than the original problem. Be moderate in expenditure; not wasteful and not miserly. Be calm and controlled in moments of emotional arousal, good and bad. Wrong and inappropriate decisions are likely at moments of anger or emotional excitement when the normal balance is lost

 

Make your daily life simple; you will get strength. Do not live in much luxury or crowd your mind with so much of dunia concerns. Consider your physical environment as an aid to fulfilling your mission and not an end in itself.

 

Always undertake good acts. Good actions wipe away or neutralize the bad. You should hasten to do good. While always engaged in doing good, there is little room for the bad. Never injure anyone with your tongue. Say good or keep quiet. Learn to work with others in doing good and forbidding bad. Sharing and helping others helps you become even a better human being. It gives you a sense of mission beyond your physical needs. Give charity continuously; it cleanses both your wealth and your soul. Putting interests of your brothers in front of yours helps you discover your humanity and conquers your egoistic tendencies. Ithhaar involves doing good for others at the expense of some inconvenience to yourself for the sake of brotherhood with no expectation of any reward

 

Look for and stay in the company of wise people. You will learn the good from them. Their company will reinforce the good in you. Time spent in such good company is time taken away from possible bad company or bad influences. Do not trust or deal with bad people except in trying to correct and lead them to the right. Ignore stupid and immoral company. They will have a negative impact on you however careful you are. The least they can do is to decrease your sensitivity to evil and increase your toleration for it.

 

 

3.0 ASSERTIVENESS

Assertiveness is self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth. It involves a lot of self control. Non-assertive people may end up being influenced by a bad environment or they may make wrong choices that they regret later. Non-assertive person can not interact well with others because they can not state their opinions or advance their interests or the interests of the group they belong to. A non-assertive attitude becomes in the long run a feeling of inferiority that could be exploited. Non-assertive persons may feel so bad about themselves that they eventually react in socially destructive ways by running amok.

 

Assertiveness is not aggression but is closely related. Do not cross the line between the two. You can show anger without being bad. Learn to state your opinion without being hostile. Learn to defend your position without being defensive.

 

Self-confidence is to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, to be comfortable with what you are and to be psychologically secure. Children are born with a lot of self-confidence. They lose it as they grow through various negative experiences. Others’ views and comparing one self with others are among the causes of loss of self confidence. True confidence is expressed and shows quietly. Many in-confident people make noise to hide their weakness.

 

You can raise your self-esteem by being secure psychologically about yourself. You must accept and appreciate what you are. You have to love yourself and know that whatever Allah endowed you with is the best for you. Look around you and identify people you admire. Try to emulate the qualities you admire in them. Stay with good people who radiate self-esteem and confidence. Congratulate and encourage yourself on any progress you make in emulating good behavior. Learn to compliment and congratulate others who have traits and behaviors that you admire. This will keep you from negative attitudes and diseases like envy and will push you along on the road to developing your own self-esteem. Avoid people with bad character and behavior. Others who do not know will consider you to be one of them. It is easier for a big mountain to move than for bad character to change. Do not repeat a mistake. Remember that character is consistent. Bad behavior is rarely an accident. It can be forgiven but can not be erased

 

You must be self-reliant. Self-help and self-improvement are very important for the individual. They are in essence taking charge of your life, relying on yourself in solving problems, and taking the initiative to improve. It is only emotionally mature individuals who can rely on themselves. Dependency is childhood. Self-help and self-reliance should however not be taken to the extreme. There are occasions when you need help and must have networks for providing this help. Refusing to ask for help when needed is a cause of stress and is not wise. Economic self-reliance is necessary in order not to be a burden on others and also to assert your self-esteem. However the need to keep your self-esteem should never make you refuse to seek help when you actually need it.

 

Self discipline is needed for success. Control your whims and emotions. Stickability is a good trait; do not accept defeat easily. Act according to long-term and not short-term interests. Do not act impulsively. Follow your head and not your emotions. Trust your instincts.

 

Projecting a positive image helps build credibility and leads to success. We are not talking about a phoney image that is discovered sooner or later with disastrous consequences. The image must be backed up by real achievements. It is better to under promise but over deliver. Self confidence and self-discipline are ingredients of a positive image. You have to start by discovering your strengths and enhancing them. You have to acknowledge your weaknesses and compensate for them. A positive image needs maintenance by regular self evaluation and taking corrective action where needed. A positive image must be maintained in difficult times; this will require extra effort. Keeping company with people who have a positive self-image will help you develop your own image. Positive thinking is contagious; it spreads to those around. Your communication with others (letter, fax, telephone, conversation) is an exercise in image projection. Physical appearance (clothes, hair, and cleanliness) also project image. Dress well but not for arrogance. Good manners, correct etiquette, and sensitivity enhance the image. Your voice, handshake, smiles, body language, and eye contact, can make or unmake your image.  Your posture and manner of walking can tell a lot about you. Solving your personal problems and keeping out of depression, anxiety or stress help maintain your positive self-image

 

You need to develop an entrepreneurial attitude. This requires developing initiative, optimism, and self-confidence in order to bolster your creativity. Take calculated risks. Look for opportunities and exploit them. Perseverance and determination are necessary for continued success.

 

NOTES:

"Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar : I heard Allah's Apostle ( may peace be upon him ) saying. " People are just like camels, out of one hundred, one can hardly find a single camel suitable to ride". Bukhari 8:334, hadith # 505

 

"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger ( may peace be upon him ) as saying: Verily Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds". Muslim 4:1362, Chapter 1060, Hadith #6221

 

Narrated Abu Huraira Allah's Apostle said, "The example of a believer is that of a fresh green plant the leaves of which move in whatever direction the wind forces them to move and when the wind becomes still, it stand straight. Such is the similitude of the believer: He is disturbed by calamities (but is like the fresh plant he regains his normal state soon). And the example of a disbeliever is that of a pine tree (which remains) hard and straight till Allah cuts it down when He will.". Bukhari 9:419, hadith # 558

 

"Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) said, " Faith ( Belief ) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts ). And Haya is a part of faith". Bukhari 1:18, hadith  #8

 

Abu Musa reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:  The similitude of good company and that of bad company is that of the owner of musk and of the one (iron-smith) blowing bellows, and the owner of musk would either offer you free of charge or you would buy it from him or you would smell its pleasant odor, and so far as one who blows the bellows is concerned, he would either burn your clothes or you shall have to smell its repugnant smell. Muslim 3:1383, Chapter 1095, Hadith #6361

 

Hudhaifah said: When anything distressed the Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) he prayed. Abu Daud 1:347, Chapter 432, Hadith # 1314

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule May 1998