When the fear of the consequences of our incorrect actions vanishes from the heart of the lover of self-reform, they become inattentive and complacent falling into serious maladies of the heart like arrogance, ungratefulness, and dependence on others going away from natural principles that we need to adopt to attain holistic success. It is one thing to reflect on the ideal way of life we find in books, and another to implement them by way of a systematic reform program so that we overcome and eliminate our shortcomings.
Having the desire for self-reform, realizing our mistakes, being remorseful for them, and correcting them while being vigilant that we do not fall into the same errors is the process of man’s repentance. How can a man be forgiven for an unrelated action such as the sacrifice of someone else? Would such a sacrifice bring the actions of the wrongdoer back to natural behavior and become harmonious with nature? This is not possible in natural religion.
Such shortcomings are actually deviations that only man has the power to pursue in the creation and unless they have the divine favor of recognizing them through epiphanies, consciously reigning them back to the natural trajectory, they will deviate, not only causing corruption in their own souls but also in their societies and the whole world. To them, the whole universe will seem against them. Nevertheless, if they manage to control themselves, they will fall back into the natural universal order and be propelled to success through all the natural forces.
One must pursue the program of self-reform in a positive mind frame rather than a negative one. Negativity is produced by undergoing severe trauma. The pain and emotion of the trauma might be so much that a person does not think through their action. It can be overcome by practicing gratefulness. If we sit alone a portion of the day and contemplate on so many blessings we continue to enjoy, reframing our minds to see even a difficulty as an opportunity we can be healed completely, God willing. We need to be pulled to success rather than being pushed by the fear of failure and that can only happen by being grateful for what has happened in the past.
We continue to make many mistakes because we have not learned those ideal design patterns of success for human behavior. This behavior can be learned by those teachers who were chosen to teach them to different communities throughout history until the final polished version was taught by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) to all humanity. This information is still intact with us today with a system of the chain of narrations that is so strong and foolproof that the modern bibliographical reference system is based on it.
Unless we dig into this resource and implement it little by little in our lives we will continue making those behavioral mistakes, unable to live “in the zone”. Sometimes our trauma is so strong that we overshoot the bounds of such ideal behavior patterns ending up in deviation. As soon as we realize that this has happened we need to have to courage to revert immediately to the natural equilibrium through the process of repentance. How can we repent by confession to a religious authority? Will that restore the natural equilibrium? How can we repent by paying some religious authority for our sins if their effects are still causing corruption in the natural order?
To live a life of self-reform, a person should be clean inside out, they should be independent of others, and they should seek out and adopt good character traits throughout their lives, to become what Dr. Muhammad Iqbal calls Mard-e-Momin – the believing man or Al Insaan Al Kaamil – the complete man as opposed to Neitzche’s Superman who does not need any morality but rather creates his values based on his own actions.
We can conclude that being religious is not only sitting in a corner saying some religious phrases. Rather it is striving against oneself by implementing good characteristics, reverting quickly to good behavior if we deviate, and modeling the divinely prescribed behavior we have from the prophets and messengers who were sent to teach us the natural way of life.