Reflection No. 296 on Q 20:115 – Strengthening Willpower

وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا
Walam najid lahu ‘azmā
And We did not find in him any firm resolve
(Sūrat Tāha, No. 20, Āyat 115)

One of the keys to success is the determination to follow the intentions we make in life. When a human being knows exactly what he/she has to do to move towards perfection it is easy to make the intention to do it. Thus knowledge is followed by intention. But what torpedoes the process is not having the resolve to carry it out.

‘Azm is the word used in the Quran for the strong and firm will to carry out an action. The five Great Prophets, Nūh, Ibrāhīm, Mūsā, ‘Īsā & Muhammad, were known as Ulul ‘azm (people of strong resolve). To understand it better think of the following processes that occur when a human being makes an intention;
– The Mind: Knows that a certain action is desirable
– The Heart: Likes a certain outcome
– The Body: Produces energy to facilitate the doing of the action and removing of obstacles.
When all these faculties work together and are focused and resolute, the action is carried out.

Alas, humans often go through the above processes but fail to reach the goal. Some barriers emerge, weakening the resolve and blocking the path to success. Unless these barriers are identified it can be difficult to achieve much. According to Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī in Tafsīr Nūr, the biggest barriers to success of the human being are not understanding your potential as well as being heedless of your internal and external enemies.

Recognize your enemies:
1) The internal enemy. The Nafs that is weak and loves comfort and ease. It dislikes effort and hardships, both of which are required to carry out the good intentions we make. Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) says in the Munājāt of the Complainers: My God, I complain to You of a soul
Commanding to evil  . . .  many it’s pretexts, drawn out its expectations . . .  inclining to sport and diversion, full of heedlessness and inattention.
2) The whispering of Shaytān that seek to derail you are endless; You already do enough, many others don’t even do so much, other things are more important . . .  Imam says in the same Munājāt: My God, I complain to You of an enemy who misguides me and a Satan who leads me astray. He has filled my breast with tempting thoughts, and his suggestions have encompassed my heart.

It is necessary to be alert and on guard when you make an intention. Follow it up with action that is determined and gain resolve by turning to God and entrusting your mind and heart to Him. Only He can help you carry it out. If it is left to yourself it would be very easy to fail. The Almighty says: When you are resolved (on an action) place your trust in Allah surely Allah loves those who put their trust in Him. (Q 3:159). Also pray for success constantly. Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: When you decide on traveling or doing something important then increase your supplication and seeking of good [from Allah] (Bihār  v. 88, p. 234)

Remind yourself of this verse to help strengthen your resolve. Persistent effort is required to act on your intentions. Keep this in mind as you prepare for the New Year and plan to make it a better year than the ones that have passed. You will need more than good intentions to retain the resolve during the year.

Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya, Du‘ā No. 70;
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr;تقویت-عزم