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Importance of discipline

Published Feb 15, 2013 12:20am


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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.

The writer is an educationist.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (13) Closed

Anup Feb 15, 2013 05:10am
Good One..
Mirza Feb 15, 2013 06:00am
What a lovely essay! And the conclusion is.... We have failed to observe any of the teachings of Islam as far as discipline is concerned. Our country has turned out to be simply chaotic and in disarray. And we have miserably failed to carry out the visions of our founder Mr Jinnah for an egalitarian, progressive and peaceful society.
AHA Feb 15, 2013 09:46pm
So true. Nothing is for ever. Life evolves, the humanity's ability to think and reason keeps increasing, the definition of what is right improves, the laws change, but our religion is frozen in time.
Mohammad Ali Khan Feb 15, 2013 04:42pm
We would think that mullas would emphasize the importance of discipline at all opportunities.Unfortunately they are ignorant, and their main goal is create schisms and fanaticism.
javedkhan Feb 15, 2013 04:10pm
I object your thinking about islam that Islam
Cyrus Howell Feb 15, 2013 02:52pm
"There are a few countries like Malaysia,Abu Dhabi and even partly Dubai and Indonesia that have bucked the trend " In addition, Indonesia has almost totally ended corruption in government.
raika45 Feb 15, 2013 12:30pm
Islam's problem is not one of discipline but the inability to change with times.All religions have adapted to it except Islam.Rulings set hundreds of years ago could not foresee the future.Granted some of them are relevant even now.So it is in other religions.The difference is that they keep the good and find ways around that are outdated.Your rigid Islam and vociferous objections to change by your mullahs and such has left you in a quagmire on the road to progress.Anything the modern muslim wants to do is objected by these people as against sharia.There are a few countries like Malaysia,Abu Dhabi [spelling] and even partly Dubai and Indonesia that have bucked the trend and doing well in this world.You people have to change your outlook to life and the future.Your children's well being depends on it.
Taqi Ramzan Feb 15, 2013 08:44am
very true..
nasreentufail Feb 15, 2013 10:20am
Absolutely this is right article at right time as Nation needs complete peace. Such articles encourage Nation. Certainly it has covered all important issues. Uprightness of a stable institution for the dialogue of peace among all political parties is urgently required at this time forever. It has no cost.
Waheed Riaz Paal Feb 15, 2013 11:21am
Writer has failed to correlate the subject matter with the successful life.
Monem Feb 15, 2013 11:14am
wonderful read!!!
Sue Sturgess Feb 16, 2013 01:54am
I disagree that animals do not have a guide or directions for their lives. Salmon swim upstream to spawn where they were spawned. Whales make annual migrations of thousands of kilometres to the same places each year, as do many African animals. In cold northern climates many birds fly south for the winter - how do they know it is warmer in the south? Animal herds have their own rules and heirarchies, and those who do not comply are ostracised. Each society, be it human or animal has its ways of dealing with things. You say animals have no sense of right or wrong. Have you ever scolded a pet cat or dog and watched its behaviour when it has done something wrong? Have you seen cat or dog jump off the forbidden lounge or bed as soon as it hears its owner enter the house - they know.
sri1ram Feb 16, 2013 02:52am
Change has to come from within oneself. If people as a whole, cannot learn from their myriad issues and repeat the same mistakes in the name of "unchangeable laws of God", they set themselves up for failure - that is also not discipline. Geert Wilders had one telling point in his Fitna video - till followers themselves burn inhumane pages from their book, there is no hope for the faith.