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The Iron Rules, Numbers Nine and Ten

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

My Conscientious Self:Marketplace in Delhi, 2006
Seek not profit by putting someone in straits.

My Conscientious Self:
Harm no one for your own benefit.


Though we live in a world that habitually conflates them, money and happiness are two different things. Money is an object—a useful object often, but still only an object. Happiness is a state of being.

Much of our energy is devoted to the acquisition of money. A certain amount of money is needed to meet the basic needs of our life. Above and beyond that, we have various reasons for wanting money: to support good causes, to provide for family members, to travel, to be surrounded by beautiful things, to enjoy power and prestige.

In the marketplace, people hawk goods and services for money. With the money earned, they buy the goods and services they in turn require or desire. Thus we humans meet our needs and satisfy our wants by means of continuous exchange. 

But the marketplace is not only a place of cooperation; it is also a place of competition. The spirit of competition can motivate innovation and excellence, but it can also encourage ruthlessness.

Worldly success is sometimes the result of talent and honest hard work. Often, however, it is the outcome of the success-seeker’s shrewd and dogged loyalty to his or her own self-interest. When shrewdness becomes guile and doggedness becomes cold-heartedness, people, communities, and entire ecosystems are readily sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. 

Most of us want success—but what price are we prepared to pay? Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.”

The health of one’s soul is based upon the integrity of one’s life transactions. When that integrity is damaged one’s soul suffers, whether or not the mind yet knows it. “Business is business” the business-like saying goes, but business is about much more than money—it’s about relationships.

Worldly success is one kind of greatness. It’s the lofty station the whole world admires and strives to attain. But there is a greater greatness. Its sign is the choice quietly taken, at cost to oneself, for another’s sake.

Self-effacement is more or less invisible to the eyes of the world. The seraphs see it though, and coo their delight. The soul shares in their happiness.

This commentary was originally presented during a session of Suluk Academy and is printed with permission from the Sufi Order International.

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan is a scholar and teacher of Sufism in the lineage of his grandfather, Hazrat Inayat Khan. He received his B.A. (Hons) in Persian Literature from the London School of Oriental and African Studies, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University. Pir Zia is founder of Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, and also of Sulūk Academy, a school of contemplative study with branches in the U.S. and Europe. His most recent books are Saracen Chivalry: Counsels on Valor, Generosity and the Mystical Quest and Caravan of Souls: An Introduction to the Sufi Path of Hazrat Inayat Khan, both published by Sulūk Press, an imprint of Omega Publications. www.pirzia.org

Read more about Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

14 June 2011


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