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’.
Once, the Prophet appointed Imam Ali to confront three people who intended to kill the Prophet. During the battle, one of the three was killed and the other two were arrested. They were presented to the Prophet and received their verdict.
At this point, Gabriel appeared to the Prophet and told him to free one of them for he had a good nature. When he was, freed and realized that he has been forgiven God because of his good nature, he embraced Islam. The Prophet said about him, “He was one of the people whose good nature took them to heaven.” 25
On one occasion, one of Imam Sajjad’s relatives spoke to him in a rude manner and eventually swore at him in front of some bystanders. The Imam did not respond and the person left. Then, the Imam decided to go to his relative’s house, and he asked the onlookers to accompany him to see how he would respond. Certain that the Imam was planning on taking revenge, they instead heard him reciting the following verse on their way to his house:
The Pious [are those who] … suppress their anger, and excuse [the faults of] the people, and God loves the virtuous. (The Quran, 3:134)
When they arrived, the Imam called his name and asked him to come out. The relative came out prepared to fight, thinking that was the Imam’s intention. Instead, Imam Sajjad said, “My brother, moments ago you came to my house and said what you wished.
If what you said about me was true, I ask God to forgive me and if it was not, I ask Him to forgive you.” Moved by the Imam’s kindness, he kissed the Imam’s forehead and said, “What I said about you was wrong; it suited me more.” 26
Reinforcing good nature
Some people are gifted with good manners by nature, a blessing not everyone has. However, with practice one can reinforce good nature and manners to the extent that it becomes a person’s second nature.
With the firm decision to make positive changes, striving to practice good manners becomes a part of a person’s personality, and he or she will soon witness pleasant results. Just as exercising strengthens and builds muscle, practicing good manners fortifies and refines the soul.
In Ghazzali’s Ihya Ulum ud-Din, good nature is brought forth when a person’s mind is balanced by wisdom and when the two faculties of anger and lust are controlled by the intellect and religious rules. This can be achieved in two ways:
1. Through God’s blessing; to be born with a perfected mind and controlled anger and lust. This will naturally result in good nature. People who are given such blessing do not need a tutor. Prophets are examples of people who have such quality in their nature.
2. Through practice. This requires a person do what a good-natured person would naturally do, and gradually these actions will become easier to the extent that they become second nature27.
Also, in Ghazzali’s The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiyay-e Sa’adat), associating with well-mannered people is the third way to reinforce good nature:
3. To associate with those who have good manners and actions; Once a person is influenced by them, his or her actions and behaviours improve even without being aware of its effect28.
Additionally, considering that bad-temperedness and bad manners are caused by arrogance, anger, grudge, miserliness, and jealousy, it becomes clear that if one is to have good nature in all aspects one must get rid of all these negative qualities. Therefore, to gain this precious quality many other virtues are to be implemented and for without them good nature will not be manifested.
The causes of bad-temperedness
The opposite of good nature is bad-temperedness. It includes rudeness and bitterness, and it is a result of anger, just as good nature results from patience. Without a doubt, bad manners isolate a person by creating a gap between him and both God and society.
People naturally detest an ill- mannered person; he or she is never free of pain and despondency, as Imam Sadiq stated, “He who is bad-tempered will suffer.”
For anyone to eliminate his or her moral vices, the root cause should be discovered. The following discusses some of those causes:
Physical conditions and emotional pressure
Aggressiveness is one vice that may occur due to physical cases triggered by weakness, fatigue, tiresome work, and excessive activity. Furthermore, various physical illnesses also lead to changes behaviour. Aggressiveness can sometimes stem from living in unsuitable environments, causing mental and emotional complexes.
Another factor that leads to bad-temperedness is ill upbringing at home. Poor parenting or bullying at school can lead to mental disorders, eventually resulting in aggressiveness. It is important to note that acquiring virtues is only possible through divine assistance. A person should make as much effort as possible while simultaneously asking for God’s help.
The Prophet said, “Good morals is a divine blessing. When God loves someone [due to their acts and intentions] He gives them good nature, and when He detests someone He gives them bad manners.”