By Amin Valliani
February 15, 2013
AT many places in the Holy Quran there is reference to the universe and its different phenomena. It invites us to reflect on the working of all celestial bodies and learn lessons in order to be successful in life.
All celestial bodies are governed by discipline — an organised and coordinated system with an invisible linkage.
We see the daily rising and setting of the sun, the moon appears and shines according to phases, the seasons change on a yearly basis and the days and nights occur according to their length fixed in every season.
Similarly on the earth we see green trees, colourful flowers, sweet and delicious fruits, towering mountains, gushing water channels, animals, birds, bees and insects and the oceans. All these are bound together by natural laws which allow them to exist with an integrated coherence.
Within the human body there are several systems, such as the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, nervous and reproductive systems working according to set patterns.
By studying all of this one can learn and discover the secrets of nature. Allah promises that “We will show them Our signs in the universe and in their own selves until it becomes manifest to them that this is the truth. …” (41:53).
Natural laws are inherent in the working of the entire universe. They are balanced, well-integrated and divinely enforced ever since the universe was created.
Islam, being a natural religion, has emphasised learning from nature. It has prescribed community practices like the daily prayers, fasting, Haj and other acts of worship synchronising with the movement of celestial bodies. Thus we learn many lessons but the most important lesson one can learn is discipline. It can be regarded as a major theme, a core value and a great secret of success in any area of human endeavour.
Every human desires success in life, but success depends on strictly following the path of discipline. To be disciplined means to follow the teachings of a guide, whether that guide is a person, an ethic, a community, a historical tradition or a set of ideas and to organise one’s behaviour and attitude according to those teachings, as per the Encyclopaedia of Religion.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) spent years in order to change the unruly Arab culture into a civilised society. Islam encourages Muslims to display responsible behaviour in life. It disallows drinking alcohol, gambling and other vices which take people towards indiscipline and laxity. The Holy Quran portrays a vivid picture of the Day of Judgment characterised by an extreme sense of discipline. It says “On the day when it comes no person shall speak except by His (Allah’s) leave. …” (11:105).
A human in this world is like a student in a school. He has to learn lessons of regularity, punctuality, mindfulness and attentiveness to what his teachers say. Discipline makes our lives easy and enables us to realise our goals. Overall, society becomes caring and law-abiding.
As far as our nation’s history is concerned, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah dreamt that Pakistan would be an egalitarian, progressive and peaceful society. He gave certain ideals like unity, faith and discipline. If the country had been run according to these ideals the nation would have progressed and would not be in the mess it is in now.
Discipline is one of the most important requirements if a nation is to progress. It leads man to the path of success, be it in any field or institution. Without adhering to a strict sense of discipline, achieving success becomes very difficult.
Discipline differentiates humans from beasts. For example a stray animal leads an irregular and undisciplined life. It sleeps wherever it finds a place, scavenges through garbage for scraps of food etc. Animals do not have a sense of right and wrong, nor a guide or directions to regulate their life. But humans are subject to discipline and their success lies in adherence to it.
A society without a strong sense of discipline in all areas of life has, time and again in human history, proved to be well on the way to decay. Unfortunately over the last many years many state organisations in Pakistan, as well as the public at large, have ignored the Islamic message of discipline.
For example we often read reports pointing out financial indiscipline in matters of public funds. Government officers running the public services have become lax. Major cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad present the worse scenario of indiscipline. Markets are plagued by rampant encroachments, traffic on the roads is hugger-mugger, people travel on the roofs of buses without realising the inherent dangers. Lack of discipline makes our main roads jam-packed causing irritation and friction on thoroughfares. Illegal parking and crumbling roads make urban life a nightmare. These are just a few examples.
This state of indiscipline is tied to the overall state of affairs prevailing in Pakistan.
Changing mindsets and the culture of indiscipline is much harder than changing the law. It needs proper planning with clear indications about where society needs to be headed. The media and the education system have to play a crucial role in this regard. As a suggestion, television channels can try and convince people to change their thinking, attitude and style of working. They can telecast short plays highlighting core values and Islamic messages based on discipline, regularity, punctuality and empathy for others. This may persuade people to lead more disciplined lives.
Amin Valliani is an educationist.