MaulanaWahiduddin Khan | Islamic Voice | 16 June, 2015
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 does not 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.