If, this two letter word is a conjunction that does what conjunctions do, that is, connect words, sentences, phrases or clauses. If introduces a condition.
I don’t want to give you a grammar lesson but if you keep this stuff in mind, what is to come will give you much delight.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
This poem has fascinated me, I heard it couple of years back, though it seems to be a standard poem that is taught in schools. I don’t remember learning it in school but that does not tell much as no one remembers much of what they learn in school.
Before we go any further, I would like you to recite the poem and I will be doing the same.
How does it feel? I can tell you how it feels to me, Splendid.
As you would have understood by now, in the poem a father is giving advice to his son. One can also say that a wise elder is giving advise to someone who would be the age of his son. The sublime wisdom that is contained in the words after every If is sheer genius.
Every If as I mentioned above introduces a condition. Are the conditions easy to meet or hard? Hard. To meet them one must develop a certain amount of self-control and as you may already know, this is not easy.
First of all, in this day and age, not many people care about what all Kipling mentioned above. The thought that one needs to control the Self, to put a check on one’s emotions and desires, for many is not worth their time and some may even take offense as they would find it to be an intrusion in their way of life.
Secondly, it is a difficult path to tread. For people suffering from the shortsightedness of instant gratification, those who are accustomed to choose now over tomorrow will not go far on this road.
But If you stay on this path, no matter how many times you slip, you fall, you give into your weaknesses but you hold on, you get up and walk, and if you can’t do that you still crawl, then truly as the poet said, ‘Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.’.
To begin and live each day with the intention that you will become a better person than what you were yesterday, that is the meaning to be alive, a life worth living.
Controlling one’s desires is not easy but I would like to mention what Ibn al-Jawzi said in his book Disciplining the Soul:
Chapter Two: Dispraise of Hawa (desires)
“Desire or Hawa is the inclination of one’s nature to what suits it. This is not a matter for concern when what is sought is lawful. However, it must be dispraised when it is used to pursue impermissible acts or indulge in excess.
We should know that part of our inner self is intellectual, the virtue of which is wisdom, the vice of which is ignorance. Part of it is elicited, the virtue of which is poignancy, the vice of which is cowardice. Part of it is lustful, the virtue of which is chastity and the vice of which is unrestrained Hawa.
Restraining oneself and practicing patience in the face of vice is a merit of the inner self, and through it a person can endure both goodness and evil. Whoever lacks patience and allows their Hawa to lead their mind has been made the subject of their own desires. Ultimately, even if they were to get all the things that they desire, they will be harmed by them instead of benefiting from them, and experience sadness where they expected happiness to be.
Human beings are favoured over animals because of the intelligence or their mind. The mind is designated to enable us to retrain ourselves from following our desires. Therefore when one rejects both Divine commandments and the better judgement of their own mind in order to follow their desires, they become no better than animal.
A person of sound mind should comprehend that enduring hardship when contradicting their Hawa is easier than enduring what comes from following it. Know that the example of Hawa is like a rampant flowing water leading the ship of one’s nature. If we allow Hawa to lead our actions it will take us into troubled waters. Contemplating these matters makes it easier for us to reject the callings of our Hawa.”
In case you would like to read a brief explanation of the poem, check this. I hope that you found this article interesting and beneficial. I make dua that first and foremost I am able to take benefit from it and apply it to myself, May Allah (God) make us sincere in our effort and forgive us for our shortcomings, Ameen.