The Quranic recipe to achieving perfection through good manners – Part 3

The author, Alireza Maktabdar (Qom, Iran), is a Philosopher and researcher at the Institute of Islamic Studies. He has written a number of books including ‘Sincerity for the sake of God’, ‘Inner and Outer Beauty in Islam’ and ‘Good-naturedness in Islam’.

Flattery

It is unfortunate that some take flattery as good behaviour and when they want to be amiable, they use flattery especially when they are dealing with the rich. They degrade themselves calling it good nature. The best sign of this is their mean expressions dealing with the poor. This negative quality is a heinous sin that calls for God’s wrath.

The Prophet said, “Whenever a sinner is praised, God’s Throne is shaken and He is angered.” It is necessary to distinguish between flattery and good manners to avoid falling for flattery when one lavishly compliments by mixing true and false qualities.

Humour

One sign of having a good nature is joking with others in a light-hearted manner, consequently making others happy and allowing them to temporarily forget their problems; of course, bearing in mind that it does not intentionally or unintentionally insult others. The Prophet said, “I may tell jokes although I will never say anything other than the truth.”

Once Imam Sadiq asked Yunus Shaybani, “How do you joke with each other?” and he replied “We rarely do so.” The Imam said “Don’t be afraid to joke. It is a sign of good-naturedness to joke with your brothers to make them happy. The Prophet also joked with people to cheer them.”

Overlooking sins and offences

As explained earlier, good nature is not the same as being indifferent towards sins. To build a decent society suitable for having a pleasant life, it is necessary to properly deal with wrongdoers given their harmful actions as a hindrance to society’s stability through supporting moral values and opposing their actions in a friendly manner, without anger and insult.

Tolerance comes into play in dealing with sinners, and not sins, by focusing on their merits to bring the best out of them; when we want the bright beam of hope to shine in their hearts once again for them to accept religious teachings. The Prophet said to Ibn Jundab, “O Ibn Jundab! To the sinners whom you would like to preach, say just good things.

Pray hard that God may guide them, and ask God for their repentance.”

Muslim scholars and mystics on good-naturedness

Ghazali counted good nature as one of qualities a good friend should have; to be good-natured, it is necessary to balance all four inner powers (or internal faculties), namely knowledge, anger, desire, and justice.

He believed good nature is an essential quality in friendship, because it is possible for a wise man who understands realities clearly to follow his temptations and oppose his knowledge when he loses himself to his anger, lust, fear, or stinginess. Once this happens, he cannot be a good friend.

Junayd of Baghdad said, “There are four things that help one reach the highest levels of perfection even when he lacks knowledge and good deeds: forbearance, modesty, generosity, and good nature. The last one is the sign of deep faith.

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