Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Scientific Hierarchy

In this post let us try to classify and understand scientific disciplines based on the degree of complexity. We get many exciting inferences and correlations by such a classification, and hence I thought of publishing this idea in this blog.

Let us define 'complexity' as the degree of involvement of fundamental units of nature, considering maximum functional efficiency. What I mean by fundamental units is that they are the basic units of nature which cannot be further simplified by any known measurable quantity. So what are these fundamental units? Can it be those units which are dependent on others for its own existence? For example time which is considered as a fundamental unit cannot exist by itself independent of space. This makes time and space dependent on each other to maintain the constancy of the speed of light. There is much to be thought in this line, but let us restrict this post to scientific hierarchy.

I do not know if we can start from the universal constants like speed of light (c), Avogadro's number and Boltzmann's constant which can be set to a fixed dimensionless number, say to unity. But prior to any attempt of theoretical justification of this philosophy, let me take it granted based on some intuitive grounds. So the hierarchy goes roughly like this,

Universal constants (eg. speed of light in vacuum) → Fundamental units (eg. time, space, mass) → Atoms → Inorganic Molecules → Organic Molecules → Genes → Cells (including unicellular organisms) → Multicellular Organisms (In the order of evolutionary hierarchy) → Animal Memes → Human Memes

This particular order is obviously rough and crude, but gives a broad idea of what I intend. It can be further simplified to this order,

Physical Hierarchy → Genetic Hierarchy → Memetic Hierarchy

There is much thought in such an attempt to unify all the natural science in the order of complexity, because, for example, human beings who are most complex in terms of memes (mental cognition and neurological complexity) may not be genetically most complex (as per our present understanding of genomic functions). But if such a linear order of complexity is justified in future, human beings must also be genetically most complex in terms of genetic efficiency (See C-Value Paradox).

Assuming such a linear nature of complexity, considering functional efficiency, let us try to highlight a few interesting inferences.

Classifying scientific disciplines based upon such a hierarchical classification roughly leads us to,

Mathematics → Theoretical Physics → Nuclear Physics → Inorganic Chemistry →Organic Chemistry → Genetics → Microbiology → Tissue Culture → Agriculture → Psychology

Again my confession for such a crude order, because just in the subject of psychology comes a vast area of study from personal to global behavior.

Observing such a classification closely, leads us to some important inferences which have high philosophical and scientific values.

1) Scope of Influence:

What I mean by the scope of influence, is the maximum limit a technology can influence a natural system. The lower we go in the scientific hierarchy the higher is the scope of influence. The influence may be either negative or positive. For example, the scope of Psychology in the negative side may be an organizational or political collapse which does not cause much harm to any units which are present in the lower scientific hierarchy. At the same time the destruction that can be caused by nuclear physics (eg. nuclear bomb) is capable of destroying everything in the higher level of the scientific hierarchy but not the fundamental constants of universe. This kind of influence is very well seen in our daily life too. For example the genetic contamination through improper use of rDNA technology may result in a more catastrophic impact than the negative impact caused by traditional agricultural practices. As the old saying goes, if the foundation is cracked the whole house falls. Thus if mathematics is destroyed, say when odd + odd is not equal to even, then the whole natural system will be destroyed according to our percent understanding. At the same time we can also understand the same philosophy on the positive side, on how we can modify the fundamentals for our own benefit.

2) Independent of size, lifespan and mass:

Our hierarchical classification is based on complexity (according to our definition) and thus independent of size, shape and lifespan. For example a tortoise may live longer, blue whale may have much larger brain, or a planet by itself may be billions of times heavier than human, yet humans stand higher in our classification. Similarly a planetary system is lower in order compared to any form of life. Another example that justifies this inference is C-Value paradox , which highlights the incoherency between genomic size and evolutionary hierarchy. This inference is purely a result of our definition of complexity.

3) Randomness:

The more complex we go, more irregular it is. What I mean by irregularity is that it is non-cyclic through space and time. One may argue that Brownian motion which must lie in the lower hierarchy is random and irregular. But the reason of its randomness is due to the motion of many atoms (and molecules) which is governed by a few laws of motions. At the same time imagine a box with hundred ants, its motion will be much more random and complex compared to the Brownian motion.

4) Predictability:

Predictability is basically guessing the nature of a system at a particular time in future. The precision of prediction decreases as the complexity of a system increases. For example we could precisely predict the behavior which involves just physics, but most difficult to predict the nature of psychological behavior. We could exactly predict the position of Titan around Jupiter a thousand year from now, at the same time we cannot predict the stock price of a company or the economic situation of a country or even the psychological behavior of a person an year from now. More evidence comes from the tendency to use pharmacological drugs, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering while compared to Ayurveda, organic fertilizers and Agriculture respectively.

I believe there may be much more inferences that can be driven from our model. At the same time I do not claim that our models as well as our inferences are completely right.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

And then He created Eve

This post is in continuation to the post  Wed-Lock, Wed-Lock was a story of a lady named Crap. She displayed her beauty with pride, taking her veil away and a thousand men got attracted to her. In Wed-Lock men are compared to muscles to emphasize their physiological superiority. Men are not susceptible to monthly menstrual cycles and the burden of pregnancy. The act of displaying the beauty by crap lead to her pregnancy, and after those painful months, she delivered the burden. In Wed-Lock blood is allegorical to the baby, and ribs to her breasts. The new-born baby couldn't speak, Crap was confused, anxious. She didn't know how to dispose it, she was confused. This totally helpless piece of flesh seems to be a bigger burden now. This emphasizes the helpless nature of human baby which is very strange while compared to the newborns of other species. The paragraph ends with a divine ordainment of chastity and modesty, which is logically feministic in nature.

The next section of Wed-Lock starts by mentioning a special situation where one of the muscles approaches Crap, and the tactics he uses to seduce her. It emphasizes the modern industrialized world where abortion and contraceptives are prevalent. Muscle for his own advantage asks Crap to be free, throw away  her veils, and gives a false statement of equality in strength. Wed-Lock mentions this condition to be a masculine trick to cover up the real feminism which aims for female security. Men always want women to fulfill their sexual desires. This desire may even lead to the extent of abandoning her when she is in most need, while she is in the state of pregnancy. Wed-Lock calls these tricks to be particularly evolved for muscles. Abortion, immodesty, encouragement of explicit female dresses and behavior, is nothing but what men need, and in no way an advantage to feminism. While modesty, chastity and marriage, are ritualistically feministic. This was the message of Wed-Lock, and the reason why it is named so.

Now coming to my personal emotions, I feel extremely sad when I see women in whichever condition they are. I do not justify my emotions but it may be a result of the prevalent slavery of women I see around. Emancipation leads to suppression, liberation leads to destruction. A perfect balance between emancipation and liberation may be a solution for healthier human society which justifies the biological weakness of women.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Suspended Animation and The People of Cave

This post may be considered as an extension to the post 'Are Miracles 'Religious' ?' Here we try to correlate the recent scientific discovery of 'Suspended Animation' and the story of 'The People of Cave' in Quran.

Here are two original materials one below another, which is self explanatory. The first one is a talk given by Mark Roth in TED regarding Suspended Animation. Suspended animation is the slowing of life processes by external means without termination. Imagine you can preserve your friend for as many years as you wish, and boom you can make him/her alive again! That sounds outrageous, but scientists are getting closer to that. 

When we think about it, there is a striking similarity between the story of the people of cave and the recent discovery of suspended animation. As illustrated by Mark Roth, Hydrogen Sulfide which is abundant in many 'caves' are one of the most important factors of for suspended animation. In Quran it is said that a bunch of youths retreated to a 'cave', where they were put into deep slumber. And when they woke up, lo! Years have passed along, while they were still youths. Till recently, there were no explanation to this miraculous incident, but now it seems to have. Would that have caused by the Hydrogen Sulfide usually found in caves?

The story is best described in Quran itself.
18:9 Or dost thou reflect that the Companions of the Cave and of the Inscription were wonders among Our Sign?
18:10 Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave: they said, "Our Lord! bestow on us Mercy from Thyself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!"
18:11 Then We draw (a veil) over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave, (so that they heard not):
18:12 Then We roused them, in order to test which of the two parties was best at calculating the term of years they had tarried!
18:13 We relate to thee their story in truth: they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We advanced them in guidance:
18:14 We gave strength to their hearts: Behold, they stood up and said: "Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth: never shall we call upon any god other than Him: if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity!
18:15 "These our people have taken for worship gods other than Him: why do they not bring forward an authority clear (and convincing) for what they do? Who doth more wrong than such as invent a falsehood against God?
18:16 "When ye turn away from them and the things they worship other than God, betake yourselves to the Cave: Your Lord will shower His mercies on you and disposes of your affair towards comfort and ease."
18:17 Thou wouldst have seen the sun, when it rose, declining to the right from their Cave, and when it set, turning away from them to the left, while they lay in the open space in the midst of the Cave. Such are among the Signs of God: He whom God, guides is rightly guided; but he whom God leaves to stray,- for him wilt thou find no protector to lead him to the Right Way.
18:18 Thou wouldst have deemed them awake, whilst they were asleep, and We turned them on their right and on their left sides: their dog stretching forth his two fore-legs on the threshold: if thou hadst come up on to them, thou wouldst have certainly turned back from them in flight, and wouldst certainly have been filled with terror of them.
18:19 Such (being their state), we raised them up (from sleep), that they might question each other. Said one of them, "How long have ye stayed (here)?" They said, "We have stayed (perhaps) a day, or part of a day." (At length) they (all) said, "God (alone) knows best how long ye have stayed here.... Now send ye then one of you with this money of yours to the town: let him find out which is the best food (to be had) and bring some to you, that (ye may) satisfy your hunger therewith: And let him behave with care and courtesy, and let him not inform any one about you.
18:20 "For if they should come upon you, they would stone you or force you to return to their cult, and in that case ye would never attain prosperity."
18:21 Thus did We make their case known to the people, that they might know that the promise of God is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour of Judgment. Behold, they dispute among themselves as to their affair. (Some) said, "Construct a building over them": Their Lord knows best about them: those who prevailed over their affair said, "Let us surely build a place of worship over them."
18:22 (Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth,- doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: "My Lord knoweth best their number; It is but few that know their (real case)." Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers.
18:23 Nor say of anything, "I shall be sure to do so and so tomorrow"-
18:24 Without adding, "So please God!" and call thy Lord to mind when thou forgettest, and say, "I hope that my Lord will guide me ever closer (even) than this to the right road."
18:25 So they stayed in their Cave three hundred years, and (some) add nine (more)
18:26 Say: "God knows best how long they stayed: with Him is (the knowledge of) the secrets of the heavens and the earth: how clearly He sees, how finely He hears (everything)! They have no protector other than Him; nor does He share His Command with any person whatsoever.
18:27 And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him.
18:28 And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; no obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.
18:29 Say, "The truth is from your Lord": Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it): for the wrong-doers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames), like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass, that will scald their faces, how dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on!
18:30 As to those who believe and work righteousness, verily We shall not suffer to perish the reward of any who do a (single) righteous deed.

'When it can live throughout their life,
And it splits up to form a new life,
And it sleeps millions of their age,
A life without life span,
Is it a life?'

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Entropy and Evolution

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the total entropy of any isolated thermodynamic system always increases over time, approaching a maximum value or we can say " in an isolated system, the entropy never decreases". This law is taken as a sufficient condition for argument against the hypothesis of evolution, thus supporting the hypothesis of spontaneous generation which is contradictory to the former hypothesis in many ways.

The implication of this argument is subject to many philosophical discussions. For example, what is the reason for this celestial configuration while the hypothesis of big-bang is an epitome of entropy? What is the reason for the hypothesis of evolution, sustainable ecosystems, the phenomenon of globalization, the self configuring nature of organs, proteins, molecules and atoms?

To understand this, we need to realize nature in a much more broader sense. When we look at the celestial configuration we often forget about the vast space surrounding it. When we look at evolution, globalization, and self-configuring nature of organs, molecules and atoms, we forget about natural constrains, geographical limitations, genetic constraints, entropy of water molecules surrounding protein molecules and similar forces around other molecules, and electromagnetic restrictions in atoms respectively.

Thus we can say that the entropy of a wider spectrum, is the driving force of evolution and other similar phenomenons of nature.

The consequence of understanding this philosophy is realization, but its application is not alien in human history. Use of external constraints for education, work, building an organization, rebuilding a nation, etc involves use of carrot and stick, paying salary, spending, and economic stimulus respectively which are all nothing but entropy. Celebrating a festival with fire crackers is a perfect example, it is destruction, it is entropy and the pleasure attained by doing so is nothing but a remembrance of this philosophy.

The complexity of understanding this phenomenon matures as we progress in the hierarchy of the hypothetical evolution. As we know, it is easy to predict the behavior of a complex physical system like a nuclear reaction, but the complexity of predicting a business outcome or a psychological behavior is beyond any current scientific means of understanding. This is illustrated in a previous post
On Science and Art - Illustrated with an Example regarding Security Analysis, but now we could further understand the meaning of 'art' as discussed in the mentioned post. Increase in the art factor is proportional to the degree of evolutionary hierarchy, which is again proportional to the contribution of entropy. The hypothesis of 'dark energy' which accounts for 74% of total mass-energy of universe may also be understood in this context. This external force, sometimes regarded as opportunity or luck is an integral part in all of our lives, the consequence of which is our own existence.  

"So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief:
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief." - Quran 94: 5,6

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Concerning Contentment [Rida]

A chapter from the book Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq (Sufficient Provision for Seekers of the Path of Truth) by 'Abd al-Qadir al-Geelani

As for contentment [rida], the fundamental guidance on the subject is contained in the words of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He): 

Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. (58:22) 

--and in His words (Blessed and Exalted is He): 

Their Lord gives them good news of mercy from Him, and good pleasure, and Gardens [of Paradise] in which they shall have lasting bliss. (9:21) 

Furthermore, according to a traditional report, transmitted on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father), Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said: 

The full flavor of true faith [iman] is tasted by one who is content with Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) as a Lord [Rabb]. 

[The Caliph] 'Umar ibn al-Khattab once wrote to Abu Musa al-Ash'ari (may Allah be well pleased with them both): 

"The point I wish to emphasize is this: All goodness resides in contentment [rida], so if you are capable of being content, [well and good]. If not, you must be patient [fa-'sbir]." 

It was Qatada (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) who said, in commenting on the words of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He): 

And if one of them receives tidings of the birth of a female, his face remains darkened, and he is inwardly furious. (16:58) 

--"This describes the attitude of those Arabs who attribute partners to Allah [mushriki 'l-'Arab]. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has thus informed us of the badness of their attitude. As for the believer [mu'min], he is worthily disposed to be content with whatever Allah (Exalted is He) has allotted to him." 
The judgment of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is better than a man's judgment on his own behalf. That which Allah has decreed for you concerning something you dislike, O son of Adam, may be even better for you than that which Allah has decreed for you concerning something you like. You must therefore observe your duty to Allah (Exalted is He), and be content to accept His decision. 

Allah (Blessed and Exalted is He) has told us: 

But it may happen that you hate a thing that is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows, and you know not. (2:216) 

That is to say, [He knows, and you do not know] what is in the best interest of your religion [din] and your worldly life, for Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has kept concealed from His creatures the things that are to their advantage. He has charged them with servitude ['ubudiyya] to Him, by requiring fulfillment of the commandments and observance of the prohibitions [of the Sacred Law], submissive resignation to that which is foreordained [maqdur], and contentment [rida] with the divine decree [qada'] in every respect, whether it be in their favor or to their disadvantage. He has appropriated the consequences and the benefits unto Himself exclusively (Almighty and Glorious is He). It is therefore necessary for the servant to be constantly engaged in worshipful obedience to his Master [Mawla], to be content with whatever Allah has allotted to him, and to harbor no doubts about Him. 

As you should also be well aware, the amount of trouble experienced by any individual creature is in proportion to his quarrel with destiny [qadar] over that which is foreordained [maqdur], his compliance with his own desire [hawa'], and his lack of contentment [rida] with the divine decree [qada']. Whenever someone is content to accept the divine decree, that person can enjoy rest and relaxation. Whenever someone is not content with it, on the other hand, his experience of misery and trouble can only be prolonged, and he will still obtain nothing from this world except that which has been allotted to him. As long as his personal desire persists in making its demands upon him, he cannot be content to accept the divine decree, because that desire is in contention with the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He), and so his troubles can only intensify and multiply. 

The procurement of ease and comfort is the result of opposition to personal desire [hawa'], because it is bound to involve contentment [rida] with the divine decree [qada']. The procurement of trouble and discomfort, on the other hand, is the result of compliance with personal desire, because it is bound to involve contention with the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). So may desire not be there, and if it is, let us not be! 

Should contentment [rida] be classed as one of the spiritual states [ahwal], or as one of the spiritual stations [maqamat]? On this point there are differences of opinion among the qualified scholars and experts in the spiritual path [tariqa]. 

According to the people of 'Iraq, it is one of the spiritual states [ahwal]. It is not subject, they maintain, to active acquisition [kasb] by the servant [of the Lord]. It is rather an occurrence or visitation [nazila], a condition that settles for a while within the inner feeling, like all the other spiritual states [ahwal], then changes and passes away, as another state arrives to take its place. 

According to the Khurasanis, on the other hand, contentment [rida] is one of the spiritual stations [maqamat]. They consider it to be the final stage of absolute trust in the Lord [tawakkul], so that it represents the ultimate degree to which the servant [of the Lord] can attain through his own acquisitive capacity [iktisab]. 

It is possible to reconcile these two views, by stating the case as follows: 

The initial stage of contentment [bidayat ar-rida] is subject to active acquisition [muktasaba] by the servant [of the Lord], which means that it is one of the spiritual stations [maqamat]. But its final stage [nihaya] is one of the spiritual states [ahwal], which means that it is not subject to active acquisition. 

In simple terms, someone who is content [radi] is someone who does not object to the foreordainment [taqdir] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). 

It was Abu 'Ali ad-Daqqaq (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) who said: 

"Contentment [rida] does not mean that you are not affected by the experience of trial and tribulation. Contentment [rida] simply means that you do not object to the divine decision [hukm] and decree [qada']." 

The wise elders [mashayikh] (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon them) have often said: 

"Contentment with the divine decree [ar-rida bi'l-qada'] is Allah's most splendid gateway, and it is this world's Garden of Paradise. That is to say, when someone is blessed with the honor of contentment [rida], he has already received the most abundant welcome, and has been honored with the most exalted nearness." 

It is said that a pupil [tilmidh] once asked his teacher [ustadh]: "Is the servant aware that Allah (Blessed and Exalted is He) is well pleased with him?" "No," replied the teacher, "how can he know that, when His good pleasure [rida] is imperceptible?" But the pupil said: "Oh yes, he does recognize it," so the teacher asked: "How?" The pupil then explained: "When I find that my inner feeling is well pleased with Allah (Exalted is He), I know that He is well pleased with me." So the teacher said: "You have done very well, young man!" 

It is indeed true that the servant will not be well pleased with Allah, unless the Lord of Truth (Glorious is His Majesty) is well pleased with him. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has told us: 

Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. (58:22) 

--That is to say, because of His good pleasure [rida] with them, they are well pleased with Him. 

It is said that Moses [Musa] (peace be upon him) once had a request to make of his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He), so he said: "My God [Ilahi], point out to me a deed, such that, if I perform it, You will be well pleased with me." The Lord said: "You are not capable of that," so Moses (peace be upon him) sank to the ground, prostrating himself [sajid] in humble submission. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) then conveyed to him by way of inspiration [awha ilai-hi]: "O son of 'Imran, My good pleasure resides in your contentment with My decree [inna rida'i fi rida-ka bi-qada'i]." 

Let us also consider the following wise sayings: 

"If a person wishes to arrive at the stage of contentment [rida], let him stick to the course upon which Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has conferred His good pleasure [rida]." 

"Contentment [rida] is of two kinds, namely: (1) ready approval of Him [rida bi-hi], and (2) resigned acceptance of Him [rida 'an-hu]. There is ready approval of Him as a Manager [Mudabbir], and there is resigned acceptance of Him with respect to what He decrees as a Ruler [Hakim] and as a Judge [Fasil]." 

"When someone is content [radi], it means that even if Hell [Jahannam] were to be placed on his right side, he would not ask for it to be moved over to his left side." 

"Contentment [rida] means the expulsion of disagreeable feelings from the heart, so that nothing remains except happiness and joy." 

Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon her) was once asked the question: "When is the servant [of the Lord] content [radi] with the divine decree [bi-'l-qada']?" To this she replied (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon her): "When he is happy with affliction, just as he is happy with gracious favor." 

It is said that ash-Shibli (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) once uttered the expression: 

There is neither any power nor any strength except with Allah. [la hawla wa la quwwata illa bi'llah.] 

--in the presence of al-Junaid (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him), so al-Junaid (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) told him: "In saying that, you are prompted by a feeling of annoyance, and the feeling of annoyance is due to the lack of contentment [rida] with the divine decree [qada']." 

It was Abu Sulaiman [ad-Darani] (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) who said: 

"Contentment [rida] means that you do not ask Allah to grant you the Garden of Paradise, and that you do not appeal to Him for refuge from the Fire of Hell." 

Dhu 'n-Nun al-Misri (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) once said: 

"These are three of the symptoms of contentment [rida]: (1) the lack of personal preference in advance of the divine decree [qada'], (2) the absence of bitterness in the wake of the divine decree, and (3) the arousal of love in the midst of trial and tribulation." 

He also said (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him): 

"It is the happiness of the heart with the bitterness of the divine decree [qada']." 

When Abu 'Uthman [al-Hiri] (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) was asked to explain the saying of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace): 

What I ask of you is contentment [rida] in the wake of the divine decree [qada']. 

--he said: "That is because contentment [rida] in advance of the divine decree [qada'] is only the prior determination to be content, while contentment [rida] in the wake of the divine decree [qada'] is the actual experience of contentment [huwa 'r-rida]." 

As we learn from a traditional report, someone once told al-Husain ibn 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) that Abu Dharr (may Allah be well pleased with him) used to say:
"Poverty is dearer to me than affluence, sickness is dearer to me than health, and death is dearer to me than life." 

So he said: "May Allah bestow His mercy upon Abu Dharr. As for myself, I say: 'When someone relies upon the excellence of Allah's choice, he does not wish for anything other than that which Allah has chosen for him." 
[Abu 'Ali] al-Fudail ibn 'Iyad once said to Bishr al-Hafi ["the Barefoot"] (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon them both): 

"Contentment [rida] is more meritorious than abstinence [zuhd] from this world, because when someone is content [radi], he does not wish for anything above his actual situation." 

The view expressed by al-Fudail is the correct one, because it refers to contentment with one's actual condition [ar-rida bi'l-hal], and all that is good resides in contentment with one's actual condition. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) said to Moses [Musa] (peace be upon him): 

"O Moses! I have preferred you above mankind by My messages and by My speaking [to you]. So hold that which I have given you, and be among the thankful." (7:144) 

That is to say: "Be content with that which I have bestowed upon you. Do not go looking for another situation, and be among the thankful." In other words: "Be content with making the most of your actual condition [hifz al-hal]." 

Likewise to our own Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), He said (Exalted is He):
And strain not your eyes toward that which We have given for some pairs among them to enjoy-- the flower of this world's life, that We may thereby put them to the test. (20:131) 

As well as giving this instruction to His Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him), He also commanded him to make the most of his actual condition [hifz al-hal], and to be content with the divine decree and bestowal of provision [ar-rida bi'l-qada' wa 'l-'ata'], in His words (Exalted is He): 

And the provision of your Lord is better and more lasting. (20:131) 

That is to say: "That which We have bestowed upon you--in the way of Prophethood [Nubuwwa], knowledge ['ilm], satisfaction [qana'a], patience [sabr], authority in religion [wilayat ad-din] and the rĂ´le of exemplar [qudwa] therein--is far superior to that which We have bestowed upon anyone other than you."
All goodness therefore resides in making the most of one's actual condition [hifz al-hal], in being content with it, and in refraining from taking an interest in any condition apart from it, because the only possibilities, as far as that [other condition] is concerned, are the following: (1) it is your own allotted portion [qism], (2) it is the allotted portion [qism] of someone other than yourself, or (3) it is not a portion [qism] allotted to anyone, but something that Allah (Exalted is He) has caused to exist as a temptation [fitna]. 

If it is indeed your own allotted portion [qism], it is bound to come your way, whether you wish for it or not. It is therefore inappropriate for you to exhibit bad manners and greediness in its pursuit, for that would be judged unworthy by the standard of reason ['aql] and knowledge ['ilm]. 

If it is the allotted portion [qism] of someone other than yourself, you must not waste your time and energy on that which you cannot obtain, and which will never come your way. If it is not a portion [qism] allotted to anyone, but merely a temptation [fitna], how could any intelligent person be content, and how could any sensible person consider it worthwhile, to seek and attempt to procure a temptation for himself? 

Certain experts on the subject have said: 

"Contentment [rida] with the divine decree [qada'] means that there is no significant distinction, as far as you are concerned, between what you like and what you dislike about His decree (Almighty and Glorious is He)." 

One of them has said: 

"It means patience [sabr] in enduring the bitterness of the divine decree [qada']." 

Another has said: 

"It means laying the palms of one's hands on the ground [i.e., prostrating oneself] in the presence of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and submitting [taslim] to His rulings [ahkam]." 

Another has said: 

"It means leaving it to the Manager [Mudabbir] to select the best option." 

Yet another has said: 

"It means giving up personal preference [ikhtiyar]." 

One of them has said: 

"The people who really experience contentment [ahl ar-rida] are those who eradicate personal preference from their hearts. This means that they accord no special preference to any of the various things they may want for themselves, nor to any of the things by which they intend to please Allah. They make no requests of Him, and they do not try to find out about a ruling [hukm] before it comes down [from Him]. So, when a ruling [hukm] does come down from Allah, inasmuch as they are not eagerly awaiting it, and have not tried to learn about it in advance, they are content with it and take pleasure and delight in it." 

The same person has also said: 

"Allah has some servants who see it as a gracious favor, bestowed upon them by Allah, when the sentence [hukm] of trial and tribulation is imposed upon them, so they thank Him for it and accept it gladly. But then they come to realize, in the wake of their delight in gracious favors, that their preoccupation with the benefaction [ni'ma], instead of with the Benefactor [Mun'im], amounts to a shortcoming. Their hearts are now preoccupied with the Benefactor [Mun'im], instead of with the benefaction [ni'ma], and so the affliction runs its course over them, while their hearts are unaffected by it. 

"Once they have settled into this spiritual station [maqam], and have made it their permanent residence, their Master [Mawla] will transport them to a level that is even loftier for them and more elevated than that, because there is no limit and no end to His gifts (Almighty and Glorious is He)." 

At the very least, contentment [rida] must mean that one ceases to yearn for anything apart from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), since Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has declared it blameworthy to yearn for anything other than Him (Almighty and Glorious is He). 

Yahya ibn Kathir is reported as having said: "I read the Torah [Tawrah], and in it I saw that Allah (Glory be to Him and Exalted is He) says: 

'Accursed is he whose reliance is placed upon a creature like himself.'" 

In one of the traditions [akhbar], it is reported that Allah (Glory be to Him) says: 

By My Might, My Majesty, My Generosity and My Glory, I shall cut off with despair the hope of anyone who pins his hope on anything other than Me. I shall cause him to wear the garment of shame among the people. I shall banish him from My proximity, and I shall cut him off from access to Me. Will he go on pinning his hope, in the midst of adversities, on anything other than Me, when adversities are under My control, and I am the Ever-Living [al-Hayy]? Will he go on appealing to others apart from Me? Will he go on knocking with his mind at the doors of others apart from Me, when they are locked and their keys are in My hand? 

In another tradition [khabar], it is reported that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) says: 

Whenever a servant holds fast to Me, rather than to My creation, that fact becomes known from his heart and his intention [niyya], so the heavens and the earth and all within them conspire to bring about his downfall, but I provide him with a means of escape therefrom. And whenever a servant clings to a created entity, rather than to Me, I cut away the cords of heaven from above him, and I turn the earth into a swamp beneath his feet. Then I bring him to ruination in this world, and I make him suffer misery therein. 

One of the Companions [Sahaba] (may the good pleasure [ridwan] of Allah the Exalted be upon them all) is reported as having said: "I once heard Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) say: 

"'If someone takes pride in human beings, he deserves to be treated with contempt.'" 

In the words of another wise saying: 

"If a person relies upon a creature like himself, he deserves to be treated with contempt. Because of his ambitious desire [tama'] to get whatever he wants, he is prevented from consulting his inner feeling, distracted from his true aspiration, and exposed to degradation and abasement. Two things are therefore stacked against him, namely, humiliation in this world and remoteness from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), without the addition of one single atom to increase his sustenance." 

One of the experts had this to say: 

"I know of nothing more harmful to spiritual aspirants [muridin] and seekers [talibin] than ambitious desire [tama']. I know of nothing more detrimental to their hearts, nothing more likely to make them suffer degradation, nothing more injurious to their inner feelings, nothing more likely to keep them far removed from their goal, and nothing more serious as a distraction from their true aspiration. 

"As for why this is so, the reason is simply that it amounts to a form of polytheism [shirk], wherever they may be, because one of them has attributed a partner to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), inasmuch as he has focused his ambitious desire [tama'] on a creature like himself, who is powerless to cause any harm or provide any benefit, and incapable of giving or withholding any gift. He has thereby assigned the power of the King [Malik] to His slave [mamluk]. So what of his claim to piety [wara']? His claim to piety will not be recognized as genuine, until he attributes all things to their Owner [Malik] (Almighty and Glorious is He), then seeks to obtain them from Him, and does not seek to obtain them from anyone other than Him." 

As someone else has explained: 

"Ambitious desire [tama'] has a root and a branch. The root of it is heedless neglect, while its branch consists of hypocritical ostentation [riya'], promoting an undeserved reputation [sum'a], pretense and affectation, and a fondness for acquiring prestige in the eyes of the public." 

Jesus ['Isa] (peace be upon him) once said to the Disciples [Hawariyyin]: 

"Ambitious desire [tama'] is the deadly enemy of inspiration [wahy]." 

One of the experts on this subject is reported as having said: 

"It happened one day that I felt a strong desire for something belonging to this world, but then an invisible voice [hatif] called out to me, saying: 'O you there! Since the free man with spiritual aspirations [al-hurr al-murid] can find whatever he seeks in the presence of Allah, it ill befits him to depend in his heart upon servile creatures ['abid]." 

You should also know that Allah has certain servants ['ibad] who are unconscious of the fact that ambition must be focused on the One who has the power to grant what they desire, until they receive the blessing of grace [baraka] from an unexpected source. Only then do they realize that the state of ambitious desire [tama'] is a defective condition among the spiritual states [ahwal]. It is a lower degree than all the degrees attained by those, among the people of absolute trust in the Lord, whose knowledge is based on direct experience [al-'arifin min ahl at-tawakkul]. 

No trace of ambitious desire [tama'] can enter and settle in the heart of the spiritual aspirant [murid], unless it be on account of total remoteness from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), due to his having focused his ambition on a creature like himself, and because fear has not deterred him from doing so, even though he is well aware that his Master [Mawla] knows absolutely everything about him.

On the Two Conditions of the Self [nafs]

A Discourse by 'Abd al-Qadir al-Geelani (42nd Discourse from Futuh al-Ghaib (Revelations of the Unseen))

"The self [nafs] has two conditions and no third: The state of wellbeing and the state of tribulation. When it is undergoing tribulation, the signs are anxiety, complaining, resentment, protest and suspicion toward the Lord of Truth (Glorious and Exalted is He), and lack of patience, contentment and compliance. Indeed, there is likely to be ill-mannered behavior, the association of creatures and material objects with the Creator, and unbelief. When, on the other hand, it is in the state of well-being, the signs are greed, impetuosity, and the pursuit of carnal lusts and pleasures. As soon as it gratifies one desire, it goes after another, belittling the blessings it already possesses, such as food, drink, clothing, spouse, dwelling and means of transport. It finds faults and defects in each one of these blessings, wanting something superior and finer that is not part of its destined lot, while shunning what has been allotted to it. Thus the person gets into all kinds of trouble, and wades into many perils in a long and weary process that has no end or termination in either this world or the hereafter. As the saying goes: "Truly the harshest of punishments is the desire to have what is not one's allotted share."

When the self is undergoing tribulation, it wishes only to see it removed, forgetting all about enjoyment, lust and pleasure, and wanting none of them. Once relieved of suffering, however, it reverts to its frivolity, greed and impetuosity, to its recalcitrant disobedience of its Lord and its dedication to sinful rebellion against Him. It forgets all the trouble and pain, all the misfortune it went through previously. Now it is afflicted with even harsher trials and tribulations, because of the major sins it has perpetrated and committed, to wean it away from these and to restrain it from sinful acts in future, since well-being and comfort had failed to reform it, and its safekeeping lay rather in tribulation and pain.

If the self had behaved itself well when the affliction was removed, and had practiced obedience, gratitude and contentment with its lot, things would have been better for it in this world and the hereafter. It would have experienced increasing comfort, well-being, approval from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), pleasure, and help toward success.

Anyone who wishes for safety in this world and the hereafter must therefore cultivate patience and contentment. He must give up complaining to people, submit his needs to his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He), practice obedience to Him, wait for happiness to come from Him, and be devoted exclusively to Him (Almighty and Glorious is He), since He is better than any other and than His entire creation. His deprivation is actually a gift, His punishment a blessing, His trial a remedy, His promise ready cash, His word a deed, His will a state of being. Surely His word "and His command when He intends a thing, is to say to it 'Be,' and it is" (36:82). All His deeds are good and wise and beneficial, although He keeps knowledge of the benefits concealed from His servants and reserves it to Himself alone. For His servants, therefore, it is most fitting and proper to be in a state of contentment and submission, to be dedicated to servanthood by fulfilling commandments, observing prohibitions, and submitting to the decree of destiny, to abandon preoccupation and combat with Lordship, which is the source of destiny's decrees, to be silent on questions of why and how and when, and to give up suspicion of the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He) in all His phases of movement and repose.

All of this rests on the authority of the hadith of Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father), from whom it is transmitted by 'Ata'. Ibn 'Abbas said: "I was riding behind the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) when he said to me: 'My boy, take care of Allah and He will take care of you. Take care of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. So when you have something to ask, ask Allah, and when you seek help, seek help from Allah. The pen has already run dry from writing all that is to be, so if His servants were to strive to bring you some benefit not decreed for you by Allah, they would not be capable of it, and if His servants were to strive to cause you some injury not decreed for you by Allah, they would not be able to do it. So if you can relate to Allah with honesty and certitude [yaqin], do so; and if you cannot, there is much good in being patient with what you dislike. Know that help resides in patience, joy with sorrow, and "with hardship comes ease" (94:5).' "

It behooves every believer to make this hadith a mirror for his heart, to wear it as his undergarment and his outer garb, to treat it as his own hadith, on which he should act in all conditions, be he in motion or at rest, so that he may be safe in this world and the hereafter, and receive honor in both domains through the mercy of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He)."