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’.
Wise people strive to achieve perfection and this in turn requires many attributes, the best of which is good-naturedness. Treating people kindly with a friendly and smiling face gives happiness. Good nature brings much more than the mere benefits one gains from society, for it also relieves and gladdens the heart, and it does not nest in anyone but those having strong roots of true humanity, philanthropy, and forbearance. Because of this, good-naturedness signals the presence of all these great virtues.
God embraces all virtues and therefore those who are virtuous are close to God, as if God embraces them. Good nature is the connection of different virtues, a criterion for judging personalities, and a key milestone on the road towards honour, glory, and charisma. Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) admired good nature and effusively praised those embellished with it and inspirited people by all appropriate means.
There are numerous concepts for moral virtues in Islam. The most comprehensive term is that of “Good nature” or “Husn al-Khulq,” used in many religious texts.
Husn refers to ‘goodness’ and is the opposite of Qubh or ‘badness.’ Khulq and Khuloq are singular words that refer to an “inner or spiritual quality” and have the same root as Khalq or the ‘Physical quality.’ Hence, Husn al-Khulq is an inner quality; it includes qualities such as gentleness, forbearance, affability, and courtesy. Good qualities are to become habitual to eventually shape good nature.
Most Islamic references deem Husn al-Khulq as that which includes affability and respectfulness. Imam Sadiq said, “Husn al-Khulq means to soften your behaviour, to purify your words (that is, not to use rude words), and to treat your brothers amiably.”
The opposite of Husn al-Khulq is Su’ al-Khulq, which stems from anger, causing a person to become bad-tempered. God and people both dislike these qualities. People distance themselves from those who are bad- tempered. Imam Sadiq said, “A bad-tempered person tortures himself.”
Good nature in the Qur’an
A person with a good nature touches people’s hearts and magnetizes them towards themselves. For this reason, as God perfected the prophets’ knowledge and gave them impeccable traits, God also bestowed mercifulness and kindness on them for their guidance.
Their good-naturedness allowed for them to treat people with kindness and mercy since they longed to guide people to fulfil God’s aims. Their noble way charmed everyone, melting the people’s hearts and guiding the truth- seekers. The Quran portrays Prophet Muhammad’s good nature:
“It is by God’s mercy that you are gentle to them; and had you been harsh and hard-hearted, surely they would have scattered from around you. So, excuse them, and plead for forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affairs.” (3:159)
The Prophet’s good-naturedness was a key factor in his attractiveness. His good nature was a blessing for him and all people. God says to the Prophet:
“And indeed, you possess a great character.” (68:4)
The Prophet’s excellent character shone brightly enough to be entitled “Great” by God Himself and certainly his good nature is a part of his great character. Moreover, as stated in the verse, people naturally keep away from harsh and hard-hearted people; both qualities are direct causes of loneliness. Thus, the essence of human relationships and friendships is the closeness of hearts provided by good nature. Social unity comes along with good nature. Some exegetes listed different qualities to explain good nature: Patience, generosity, running affairs and forbearance to guide people towards God, and refraining from greed and jealousy.
“Great character” is more than just “Good nature” – It is a combination of all human virtues. Since the Qur’an contains all moral virtues, in some hadiths “Great character” is defined as Qur’anic conduct. Most of Luqman’s guidelines for his son revolves around treating people and reflects some important aspects of good nature, such as modesty, geniality, and gentleness whether in words or actions:
“Do not turn your cheek disdainfully from the people, and do not walk exultantly on the earth. Indeed, God does not like any swaggering braggart. Be modest in your bearing, and lower your voice. Indeed, the ungainliness of voices is the donkey’s voice.” (31:19)
God also instructs people to speak kindly:
“Speak kindly to people, and maintain the prayer, and give the zakat.” (2:83)
Here, speaking kindly can also refer to treating others compassionately. The same style is found in the verse “He says no word but that there is a ready observer beside him”, in which “saying a word” refers to “performing any deed.” Similarly, in the verse “eating the possessions of an orphan” may also refer to “any kind of misuse”.
The following verses reveal the significant influence of good nature over people, especially foes. It is only with high standards of decent behaviour that one can respond to negative conduct with good ones. It is no doubt a difficult quality to have as it requires self-control and purity of heart, especially from desiring revenge. These qualities are achievable through a long process of self-purification:
- “Let the two of you go to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has rebelled. Speak to him in a soft manner; maybe he will take admonition or fear.” (20:44)
- “Repel [evil] with what is best. [If you do so,] behold, he between whom and you were enmity, will be as though he were a sympathetic friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except the greatly endowed.” (41:35)
Thus, the Qur’an praises good nature, gentleness, benevolence and soft- heartedness. The Qur’an also presents the character of the Prophet as the best example of these virtues, and such an excellent personality that could be considered one of his miracles.