By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
Simple living, high thinking is a well-known formula. But it is very rare to find someone who sincerely follows this formula in letter and in spirit.
Although it seems to be a very simple formula, why is it that people fail to follow it?
The reason is that this seemingly-simple formula requires great sacrifice—possibly the greatest sacrifice. Most people are not ready to make this sacrifice. And so, they do not follow this formula, although it is the greatest—actually, the only–secret of success.
What is simple living?
Simple living is need-based living.
We all have some needs, and we seek to fulfill them. Our needs are limited. The problem arises when one doesn’t remain satisfied with one’s needs being fulfilled, and, instead, gets caught up in greed. Unlike need, greed has no limit. If you start chasing your unlimited greed, you will never be content.
Simple living means living according to your limited needs, and not according to unlimited greed.
Simple living saves you from all kinds of distractions. In this way, you save your time, energy, money and other resources, which you can then put to optimum use, to make you a well-developed person, well-equipped with all that is needed in life.
Distractions are a deadly killer. Today, people are surrounded with distractions—shopping, outings, movies, reading useless novels and everything else that is part of the ‘hoo-haa culture’. I have met many people who are wasting their lives in this way. Intellectually, I found them to be dwarfs. You cannot discuss any serious subject with them. They know only about their desires, their fantasies, the things that give them pleasure, their comforts and luxuries. They have great knowledge about these things, but not about serious subjects of life and death.
Everything that is more than a need gives you some temporary pleasure or comfort. But in the long run, it leads you to deviate from the right path. It distracts you from your goal. Hence, it is very important that you remain limited to your needs. Everything other than your need is greed. And satisfying your greed can give you, at best, only temporary pleasure.
Islam is a religion of simplicity. If you believe in Islam, you should lead a simple life. The Prophet of Islam laid great stress on simplicity. There is a Hadith, according to which the Prophet said that simplicity is part of faith.
I do not say that going out shopping or on outings or comforts and luxuries are Haram, or forbidden according to Islam. It is not a question of Haram and Halal (permissible), lawful and unlawful. Rather, it is a question of the management of resources—of your time, energy and money. You have limited resources. Therefore, you need to learn the art of the wise management of all these things. This art is reflected in simple living. Simple living makes you a wise person who can manage his resources in a proper manner.
To reiterate, I am not saying that the comforts and going on outings and things like that are Haram. That’s not the language I use. What I am saying is that these things are a source of distraction. And distraction is a giant killer of progress and a major obstacle in your development. It is an unwise step. Why? Because when you indulge in these distractions, you waste your time, your energy, and all other resources. Given that we have very limited resources, we cannot afford to waste them on distractions.
Simple living, therefore, is not a mere moral or ethical formula. Rather, it is a key principle for a successful life. It saves you from all kinds of distraction. And when you save yourself from distractions, you can save your energy, your time and your money and use them in a better way and thereby attain success, in this world and the next, after death.
So, simple living is the only sensible way of living. All other ways of living are simply disastrous.
And what is high thinking?
High thinking means to think beyond your desires, transcending your surroundings and immediate attractions. It makes you a wise person, and saves you from going astray in the jungle of trivialities.
People’s minds are generally entangled in trivialities. They don’t think about the serious issues of life and death.
Why does this happen?
It is because such people fail to develop their minds. Only someone with a developed mind can save himself or herself from getting bogged down in trivialities. When you are occupied with trivial matters, when you chase your desires, when you waste your time in amusements like reading useless novels and watching movies, how can you develop your mind? If you waste your precious time like this, how can you achieve the purpose for which God has sent you into this world?
The greatest achievement in this world is intellectual development. The Creator has blessed us with a mind. This mind has almost everything. It has great capacity. But all these things are in the form of a potential. It is for us to unfold this potential of our mind, to turn this potential into actual. We have to be busy in this task. This is the greatest task there is for us. We need to focus ourselves in this task of developing our mind single-mindedly.
Now, the question arises: How can we develop our mind?
The mind can be developed through study, through intellectual exchange on serious matters, and through thinking and contemplation. These are all tools for intellectual development, for developing the mind.
In the short span of time that we have in this world we simply cannot afford to waste ourselves in matters other than intellectual development.
This is what the formula of high thinking is about.
The very first word that was revealed to the Prophet was iqra, which means ‘to read’. So, reading is very important in Islam. This was the first lesson that was revealed to the Prophet. When you read or study serious books written by great thinkers, by great scholars, by great minds, you are learning great things, and this will enhance your intellectual development. With high thinking, you will search for knowledge. You will read the works of great minds, instead of wasting your life in trivial pastimes.
There is a hadith report, according to which the Prophet said to seek knowledge even if you have to go to China. The seeking spirit is the most important in Islam. When you are a seeker, you will try to find the Truth.
Simple living and high thinking are interrelated. When you adopt simple living, you cultivate high thinking. High thinking is a result of simple living. Without simple living, there is no high thinking. A truly wise person, a genuine scholar, necessarily leads a simple life.
Another aspect of simple living is that it conduces to good health—mental and physical. If you conduct a survey, you will find that people who enjoy good health have adopted simple living. This is the secret of the good health of healthy people. Simple living is an integral part of good health.
Simple living is also a natural way of living. Everything in nature is simple. It is free from complications. So, simple living means natural, complication-free living. Nature loves simplicity. Every person must follow his own nature. When you follow your nature, you will follow simple living, because simple living and following your nature are one and the same thing.
Simple living opens the door to all kinds of success. It makes you healthy, wise and socially able, and is the secret of every kind of goodness. It gives you true joy. Happiness lies not in comfort, in luxury, but in simplicity. All those who have adopted simple living are living in happiness.
Simple living, high thinking is related to the art of de-stressing. All stress and tension is a result of not following this formula.
Simple living, high thinking is the easiest formula for de-stressing. It reduces all your anxieties and negative thoughts, because when there is simple living, there is no hate, no revenge, no anger, no lust, and no stress. And so, those who adopt this formula are living in complete peace. If you want peace of mind, adopt this formula. It gives you tranquility and a stress-free life.
This is by no means an exaggeration. Try it out and see for yourself. In that way, you will be convinced, through your own experience, that simple living, high thinking is the only formula for de-stressing. There is no doubt about it at all.
Simple living, high thinking makes you a better person in all respects. For example, it makes you a good, valuable, positive-minded member of society. It enables you to have enough time for worship, for remembrance of God, for reading the Quran, and for engaging in dawah work. Dawah work is the greatest work in Islam, and anyone who wants to become a dai, to do dawah work, must adopt the formula of simple living, high thinking. Without adopting this formula, you simply cannot do dawah work. Dawah work requires dedication, and dedication requires simplicity. All the prophets and all the great dais followed this formula.
The formula of simple living, high thinking is relevant in every aspect of life. It applies to one’s personal life as much as it does to one’s family life, social life, religious life, national life, professional life, and so on. I have followed this formula myself, and on the basis of my experience I can say that I have found it to be a source of great peace. It helps me grow spiritually. It gives me enough time for my spiritual work. For me, this formula is not some bookish or theoretical principle. It is my life pattern, my lifestyle. I can say with conviction, that this formula is the only formula that gives you success, both in this world and in the world of the Hereafter.
Simple living, high thinking is the best art of living. All of us need to manage our lives. The art of life management is every person’s need. Based on my experience, I can say that simple living, high thinking is the ABCD of the art of living, of the art of life management. Without adopting this formula, you cannot manage your life successfully.
This is my experience. I have no doubt about it at all. All great people throughout history have followed the formula of simple living, high thinking, including the Prophet of Islam. The Prophet is a model for us to emulate. His life is a model in every respect for us, including his simple living and high thinking. His lifestyle, his residence, his clothes—everything was very simple. He was able to do the great things he did because he led a simple life, saving himself from all kinds of distraction and dedicating himself to his mission.
If you want to achieve true success in life, there is no option but to adopt this formula, of simple living, high thinking. For me, this formula is like a religious or spiritual formula. I love this formula. This formula is the gist of spirituality. If you want to lead a spiritual life, you have to adopt this formula. It is the best formula for spiritual living.
Some people take spirituality as a mystery. Spirituality is not a mysterious discipline. There is no mystery in spiritual life. Spiritual life is nothing but simple living, high thinking. When you adopt simple living, high thinking, the result is spirituality.
This is the simplest definition of spirituality. I don’t believe in any mysterious kind of spirituality. Spirituality is a science, like other sciences. I can say that spirituality is nothing but a result of simple living, high thinking. When you adopt this formula, of simple living, high thinking, you will become a transformed person—and this is spirituality.
Spirituality ought to have the highest place in your life, and the formula for it is very simple—simple living, high thinking.
Why do I say this formula is actually very simple?
It is because spirituality is interwoven in your nature. It isn’t something that you need to import from outside. So, when you adopt this formula, your innate spiritual potential begins to unfold. It makes your inherent spiritual potential begin to express or actualize itself.
This is the gist of spirituality. Spirituality is not some mysterious discipline. It is a scientific discipline. You can define it in scientific terms, in logical terms, in rational terms. What I am saying is based on my own experience. It isn’t some bookish knowledge. It is my own experience, my finding, my realisation—that spirituality isn’t something mysterious, and that it is a very simple discipline. Adopt simple living, high thinking and you will become a spiritual person.
It is very important that you know what true spirituality is. There are some false kinds of ‘spirituality’—and you need to be careful to avoid them. I am a great believer in scientific spirituality. It is based on intellectual development, on the unfolding of your own potential. But this requires simple living, high thinking, which enables you to bring out the spirituality that is hidden inside you.
I can say this with complete conviction. I have discovered this kind of spirituality from my study of the life of the Prophet of Islam. The Prophet was a spiritual person—not in a mysterious sense, but in a scientific sense, in the Islamic sense.
The inner content of Islam is spirituality. According to my study and knowledge, spirituality is the gist of Islam, not in a mysterious sense, but in a scientific sense.
Some people take Islam as a political system. But this is wrong. Islam is not a political system. Islam is a spiritual system. Islam begins from spirituality, from spiritual experience. This is the crux of the religion of Islam. All those who take Islam as a religion of violence in the name of jihad and political revolution do not know anything about Islam.
Islam is a way of the spiritual life, based on simple living, high thinking. Simple living, high thinking is an integral part of Islam. The Prophet said that simplicity is part of faith.
Thus, simplicity is part of Islam.
Adopt this formula, of simple living, high thinking, and you will achieve success in both the worlds, in this world and in the world after death.