Positive personal behaviour and social interactions for individuals, families and communities are the basis of moral health and a happy benevolent society and it is the Islamic tradition that provides us with the authentic framework of tools to teach Children of Adam the essential basics of manners, business dealings, charity, generosity, family values, marital wisdom, genuine human rights and how to act in all types of social situations with courtesy, mercy and decorum
True Sufi Muslims have always been merciful and compassionate to all those under their power. Even harmful people and criminals would be treated fairly by the Muslims and given no punishment other than that required by the law. God is kind and therefore the Sufis strive to emulate His good qualities as much as they can.
‘And Serve God, Ascribe nothing
as partner to Him
(Show) kindness to parents
and near kindred and orphans
and the needy and to the neighbour
who is kin (to you) and the neighbour
who is not of kin
and the fellow traveller and the wayfarer
and (the slaves) whom your right hands posses
lo! God loves not those
who are proud and boastful.’
(Surah an Nisa verse 36).
Good qualities such as charity, gentleness and manners are all essentials of good Islamic behavior.
‘It is not righteousness that you turn your faces
to the East and the West,
but righteous is he who believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Scriptures and the Prophets; and gives his wealth for the love of Him to kinsfolk and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to free slaves;
and observe proper worship and pay the poor-due
and those who keep their treaty when they make one and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere.
Such are the God fearing.’
(Surah al Baqara verse 177).
Sufis explain that the Prophets (may God bless them and give them peace) of God, Abraham, Moses, Jesus etc. and their righteous followers are the best examples of moral people who have ever lived on the earth and Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) is the pinnacle of this righteous tradition. As a boy he grew up in a degenerate society, but due to his innate purity he avoided all the vices of the age. Instead he always lived soberly, dressed modestly and avoided all doubtful activities, even controlling his blessed gaze and protecting it from sights of improper dress. Some of the Holy Prophet’s (may God bless him and give him peace) sayings on morality are listed below;
‘Righteousness is good morality,
and sinfulness is that which
wavers in your soul
and which you dislike people to know about’
‘The best among you are those who are best to their wives’
‘Imaan (Islamic Faith) consists of more than sixty parts and Haya (morality, self-respect, modesty, moderate shyness) is a part of faith’
‘On the Day of Judgement he who has been ruler over ten people will be brought chained, until the justice by which he ruled loosens his chains or his tyranny brings him to destruction’
‘Whoever is not merciful to others
will not be treated mercifully (by God)’
‘Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor, and anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should look after his guests generously and anybody who believes in God and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet.
‘God has Revealed to me that you (the people of the world) should adopt humility so that no one may wrong another and no one may be disdainful and haughty towards another’
As a young man Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) was known for his great honesty and morality and in his later life even as a powerful ruler he lived a pure simple life, and whilst others in a similar position would live as kings he lived as he always had done honestly and humbly, whilst giving away great sums of money to those who needed help. This is the example of Islamic morality.
In the society of Madinah the Blessed the Companions of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) lived in friendliness, mercy and happiness and they too exemplified all the good qualities, even under occasional hardships and trials, treating even those who attacked them but were vanquished with fairness and mercy.
When a person follows in the ways of the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and lets Divine Truth into their heart they may see the works of God all around them, in the natural phenomenon and the interaction of the opposites and variables within the world. They become aware of the beauty of the moral people and the ugliness of the harmful people, for even the harmful people with the most attractive physical forms are ugly in the eyes of the believer. As the great Sufi teacher Lady Rabia once explained, when she walked through the street she mostly saw pigs, dogs and donkeys in human clothes not Children of Adam (as this is how she saw the immoral people surrounding her). Today in a social environment of disorder and social harm the righteous Muslims are still a beacon of goodness, charity, friendship and family values and it is perhaps the Muslim mothers who perform the greatest role in inculcating these values.
The great scholar of Islamic Divine Law Imam Malik (ra) once explained that wisdom is a light by which God guides those whom He will, but how may wisdom; wise knowledge and understandings express themselves? Some wise truths that may be heard coming from the mouths of wise believers include;
Be content with what God has given you
and you will be the richest of people.
Trust in God, but tether your camel as well
(i.e. trust but don’t be reckless).
He who guides others to good deeds
is like one who has done them himself.
When thought of your
good deeds pleases you
and thought of your
bad deeds upsets you
then you are a believer.
And perhaps one of the most crucial of these wise sayings is;
Make the best use of your life
before you die,
Make the best use of your health
before you become ill,
Make the best use of your liberty,
before you become busy,
Make the best use of your wealth,
before you become impoverished,
And make the best use of your youth
before you become old.
Those people who remember and follow these sagely words of advice are likely to benefit from them greatly, as with the following; the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) is reported to have once advised the Companion Abu Hurairah (raa);
Abu Hurairah, be abstemious
and you will be
the most devout of men.
Be content with what you have
and you will be one of the most thankful to God.
Desire for others what you desire for yourself and you will be a man of faith.
Be good to your neighbour
and you will be a true Muslim.
(Ibn Majah, Sunan)
True wisdom expresses itself in many ways and it may provide deep insight about human nature and the worldly life. The wise believers have explained that through knowing the nature of oneself (a limited being) we can know our Lord (an unlimited one). A key element of Wisdom includes knowing one’s limits and it is said that Saeed ibn Abu Aroobah once explained that;
One who does not listen to criticism should not be classed amongst the learned.
(Ibn Abdil Barr (ra)
Often it is that the person with the loudest voice and most aggressive supporters is the one whose ideas are taken to be valid, yet it is said that the people who are most brazen in passing verdicts upon religious matters are those with the least knowledge.
Whenever a man disputes with one who is more learned than himself to make people know of his learning, they will know that he is ignorant.
If one better than yourself begins to speak,
Although you may know better,
contradict him not.
Knowledge is for the cherishing of religion,
not for amassing wealth.
He who sold abstinence, knowledge and piety
Filled a granary then burnt it clean away.
One key feature of wisdom is to prepare for the hereafter in this life and to live by the Divine Laws of the Last Revelation that God has sent down for human kind. The wise and true Sufi teachers have often explained this need;
He who follows Divine Law,
obeying its commandments
and avoiding transgression,
progresses in spiritual rank.
Progress depends upon
following Divine Law.
(Moinuddin Chisti (ra)
O contentment, make me rich, for besides thee no other wealth exists. Luqman selected the corner of patience.
Who has no patience has no wisdom.
A student of Sufism said to his Sheik: ‘
What am I to do?
I am troubled by the people, many of whom pay me visits. By their coming and going they encroach upon my precious time.’
‘Lend something to every one of them who is poor and ask something from every one who is rich and they will come round thee no more.’
If you want your father’s inheritance,
acquire his knowledge, because his property (however great)
may be spent in ten days.
The following metaphor is attributed to Prophet Jesus (may God bless him and give him peace). It explains the reality of the lives and differences between those with good hearts and good deeds and those with bad hearts and bad deeds.
The Kingdom of God is like this;
A farmer planted grain on his land
That night an enemy scattered the
seeds of weeds amongst the furrows
Later when the grain
and weeds weeds grew up
The farmer knew what had happened
The servants of the farmer offered
to pull up the weeds
But the farmer ordered that both were allowed to grow until time for harvest
At harvest the harvesters
put the grain in the barn
and the weeds were put on the fire.
(Purported Gospel of Matthew 13; 24-30).
Believers who sin should repent to God so that they may be valuable like the grain, not like the weeds that must be burned. Tauba is the term for repentance from sin and turning to God with apology and the firm intention not to repeat the sinful deed. One way a person may wash away their sins is through charity and good deeds.
It is recorded in al-Baihaqi al Sunan al Kubra that the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) explained that three saving graces are;
Being God-fearing both in public and private.
Being truthful whether calm or angry
Being moderate whether one is poor or rich.
Whilst three destructive traits are; Feeling satisfaction with ones lust, miserliness & conceit. It is said that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) explained that conceit was the worst of all three of these destructive traits.
There is nothing more beneficial for believer’s heart than to mix with the righteous people and observe their ways, whilst at the same time there is nothing more harmful for the heart than to mix with the sinners and observe their ways…
(Ahmad ibn Harb (ra)
Property is for the comfort of life,
not for the accumulation of wealth.
A sage, having been asked
who is fortunate and who is not,
‘He is fortunate who has eaten and sowed
but he is unlucky who has died and not enjoyed.’
If all stones were rubies of
The price of rubies and of stones
would be the same.
Even after falling into mud
a jewel retains its costliness,
although it may rise into the sky,
is as contemptible as before.
the world remains with no one.
Bind the heart to the Creator,
it is enough.
Rely not upon possessions
and this world
Because it has cherished
many like thee
and then slain them
When the soul is about to depart
What boots it if one dies
on a throne or on the ground?
I met a trader who possessed one hundred and fifty camel loads of merchandise with forty slaves and servants.
One evening in the oasis of Kish he took me into his apartment and taking all night no rest kept up an incoherent gabble, saying: ‘
I have such and such a warehouse in Turkestan, such and such goods in Hindustan; this is the title-deed of such and such an estate and in this affair such and such a man is security.’
‘I intend to go to Alexandria
because it has a good climate’,
and correcting himself continued:
‘No, because the African sea is boisterous.
O Saa’di, I have one journey more to undertake and after performing it I shall during the rest of my life sit in a corner and enjoy contentment.’
I asked: ‘What journey is that?’
‘I shall carry Persian brimstone
to China because I heard
that it fetched
a high price.
I shall also carry Chinese
porcelain to Rum
and Roman brocade to India…
and Indian steel to Aleppo…
and convey glass-ware of Aleppo
and then the striped cloth of Yemen
After that I shall abandon trading
and shall sit down in a shop.’
He had talked so much of this nonsenses that no more strength remained in him so he said:
‘O Sa’di, do you also tell me something
of what you hast seen and heard.’
‘you may have heard that in the plain of Ghur once a leader fell down from his beast of burden, saying: