Man moves onward and onward from the beginning of his life to its end. Some of his movements are voluntary and others are involuntary. For instance, his movements from the human seed towards the clot of blood and from the clot of blood to the full fledged human babe are all involunatry. During this process he grows like plants.
When he comes out in the world in the form a human being his life is somewhat similar to the life of lower animals. The difference lies in this that the young ones of lower animals are born better equipped that the human babes. Unlike the human babes they stand in no need of help from their parents. The human babe is born as a bundle of flesh and bones which has to be carefully looked after by its parents; while the young ones of animals are born with a clothing, teeth, claws and everything else for self-defence in life. They find their food in plants and the flesh other animals. If they are thrown in water, with some exceptions such as monkeys they all struggle and manage to come out safe. If some one were to throw them down from some elevated place they will stick to whatever they can catch hold of and will try to escape the fall which they instinctively believe to be harmful. In short, this is the difference between the life of a human babe who has to depend on others for its growth and the life of the young ones of the lower animals who are born independent of the help of others. This is because the life in this world is the only thing and everything for them. Beyond this there is no other life for them.
Unlike the lower animals man is gifted with the mind which grows like the body. It is fed on knowledge and it is through knowledge that it takes its proper shape. Even the body he possesses depends for its growth on knowledge that he is supplied with food which agrees with him. It is through knowledge that he is provided with the clothing which protects the body against the heat and cold. The better the knowledge the tastier the food and the finer the clothing.
To improve his physique he needs a physical knowledge but to develop his mind he needs a different knowledge - a knowledge which sharpens his intellect and carries him forward to the place of security - a knowledge of which the Prophet is the ‘city' and the ‘wasee' is its ‘gate' - a knowledge of which the Imams from his progeny are the custodians.
There are some poeple who imagine that they can acquire this knowledge by themselves. They find faults with the Imams and turn away from their teachings. These people can never reach the goal. They will always be groping in the dark. It is to these people that the above verse, "They are the people who barter away guidance for error" is particularly applicable. The adjoining words of the Qur'an, "Their bargain will not thrive" need an explanation. The world is a trading place for us. If we carry on our transaction on the right lines we are sure to profit ny them. If we use foul methods in our dealings we are bound to suffer a loss. Good deeds are a commodity. It yields the profits which accumulate and are stored for us in heaven. The one who does good deeds does advance but his advancement is not the ordinary advancement in physical comforts but an advancement in spiritual life which is beyond one's imagination.
Every Prophet in his age and every Imam of the time does his best to lift up the people spiritually by the strength of his knowledge and makes them firm and steady in their faith by the force of his will. Every learned divine tries to help the people in flying upwards according to the power of his knowledge.
Physical power has its limitations but there is no limitation to the spiritual power. Physically if one were to lift up something which is equal to his own wieght or double his weight he is said to have performed a great physical feat. Spiritually, one Prophet or one Imam can lift up the thw whole world.
Spiritual things should not be mixed up with physical matters. The Prophet says, "The servant of God who believes in Him and lives a straight life will find for himself in heaven a ,palace as big as the skies or double the size of the skies." The palace in this Tradition is very often mistaken to be a material palace. Those who maintain this view touch the skin and not the kernel of the fruit. If we take the word ‘palace' in its material sense, a palace which is as big as the skies or even double their size will not be a source of comfort to a tiny creature. It will frighten him out of his wits and will turn the heaven into hell for him.
These people try to explain the Traditions according to their own whims and without the help of the Imam. God says, "They know only the external side of the life in this world. They are ignorant of the life in the next world."
As long as man continues to live in this world, if he accepts the invitation to truth he will sitting in the lap of the Imam and will be growing spiritually as steadily as the embryo does in the womb of its mother. The Prophet says, "Happy is the one who is happy in the stomach of his mother and unhappy is the one who is unhappy in the stomach of his mother."
These Traditons are used in an allegorical sense. If we do not take the help of "taweel" in understanding them, they will convey no sense to us. The mother in the above Tradition means our spiritual head, the Imam; and the lap means the lap of this spiritual mother of ours.
When a devotee comes out of the lap of his spiritual mother he enters a new world where he sees things which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has thought of. This world, compared to the world he leaves behind, will appear ti him as big as the physical world compared to his accomodation in the womb of his mother.
To enter a world of this type is certainly a profittable concern and a positive gain. But we must bear in mind that we can never enjoy this world unless we are brought up in the lap of the Imam. If any one of us withdraws himself from the lap of those who re-shape and re-form our lives and prepares us for perpetual life, he misses the purpose of his life. He makes his life topsy turvy and loses not only the profit on the capital, the eternal salvation, but even the capital of his physical life here. The holy Qur'an says, "Their transaction did not thrive and they were not properly guided."
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