Let us now turn to the third class of morals falling within the first division, namely the refraining from causing injury to others. This moral quality is that known as peacefulness. It consists in refraining from causing harm or injury of any sort to another person and thus living a peaceful life upon earth. Peacefulness is, no doubt, a blessing for humanity and must be valued for the great good which proceeds from it. The natural inclination, out of which this moral quality develops, is witnessed in the young of a human being in the form of attachment. A natural inclination towards submission and attachment so early witnessed in the young human is only the germ, out of which flows the high moral quality of peacefulness. It is plain that deprived of reason man cannot realize peacefulness or hostility. It cannot be called a moral quality that which is not consciously resorted to upon a recommendation of reason.
The directions of the Glorious Qu’ran may be briefly noticed:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allâh is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allâh has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” [49:13], “If they [the other party] incline to peace, do you also incline to it.” [8:61], “There is much good in coming to agreeable reconciliation, i.e. to live peacefully.” [4:128]. “And the servants of the Compassionate [God] are those who walk peacefully upon earth.” [25:63]
The guiding principle of peacefulness is that one should not be offended at the slightest opposition to one’s feelings. The word frivolous in the above teaching requires some explanation. A word or deed is to be frivolous when it causes no substantial loss material injury to its object, although it be said or done with a mischievous or bad intention. But if the injury is not trivial and causes material loss of life, property or honour, the Islamic moral quality required to meet this emergency is not peacefulness or meekness but forgiveness, which shall be treated later.
The Qu’ran also teaches us to: “Repel the evil deed which is vain or frivolous with such a better answer, as to make the person between whom and ourselves there was enmity or discord to become as though he was a bosom friend” [41:34].
In fine, the overlooking of trivial injuries is inculcated in the moral quality of peacefulness.
The fourth and last class of the morals is politeness or gentlemanliness. The preliminary stage of this quality as witnessed in the child is cheerfulness. Before the child learns to speak, the cheerfulness of its face serves the same purpose as kind words in a grown-up man, but the propriety of the occasion is an essential condition in classing politeness as “a high moral quality.” The teachings of the Qu’ran on this point are as follows: “Let not a folk deride another folk, who may be better than they, neither let women deride other women who may be better than they; neither defame one another, nor insult one another not even by calling him or her by nickname” [49:11]. “Avoid such suspicion, for some suspicions are surely sinful, neither backbite one another. Would any one of you love to eat the flesh of his brother, certainly not, ye abhor that: so abhor the other” [49:12]. “They are most honoured by God, who are the best in conduct,” i.e. those who are most dutiful to God and are fraternally polite with one another” [49:13].
In these fine verses, the Almighty God enjoins upon the believers to lead a polite life, to defame not one another, to avoid entertaining frequent suspicions, not to traduce any person in his absence and to embrace the best conduct in our social life. “To walk not in the earth exultantly or arrogantly” [17:37].
We now turn to the second heading of morals which relate to doing good to others as taught by the Glorious Qu’ran. The first of these morals is forgiveness. The person to whom a real injury has been caused has the right to compensate by bringing the offender to law for punishment or himself dealing out some punishment to him, and therefore, when he foregoes his right of compensation and forgives the offender he does him a real good. The Glorious Qu’ran contains the following injunction upon this point: “Praised are they who restrain their anger and pardon the faults of others; and God love those who do good to other.” [3:134]. “God loves those who shun transgression and indecencies, and whenever they get anger they forgive [him who caused their anger] [42:37]. The Glorious Qu’ran also teaches that: “The recompense of an evil deed is punishment proportionate to it, but whoever forgives [the injury caused to him thereby] and amends, he shall have his reward from God”: “Surely God does not love the wrongdoer” [42:40].
Here is a golden Islamic rule for forgiveness of evil. The rule laid down is that evil must be requited by punishment proportionate to the amount of wrong committed. This is a very just and necessary restriction. But the verse furnishes a guiding rule as to the occasions of forgiveness. There is in Islam neither the one extreme of “tooth” for tooth” nor the opposite one of “turning the left cheek when the right is smitten” or “giving away the cloak to one who has already taken the coat of his brother.” Forgiveness in Islam is highly praised, but it is preached in such a manner as to make it not impracticable; it is the beautiful means that forgiveness may be exercised if it will mend the matter and do good to the wrong doer himself. The object is to “reform” whether it may be attained by giving proportional punishment or by exercising forgiveness. The course which is calculated to mend the matter should be adopted. The offender would under certain circumstances benefit by the forgiveness and mend his ways for the future. But on other occasions, forgiveness may produce the contrary effect and may embolden the culprit to do worse deeds. The word of God does not, therefore, enjoin that we should go on forgiving faults quite blindly. It requires us to consider and weigh the matter first and see what course is likely to lead to real good. As there are persons of vindictive nature that carry the spirit of revenge to excess, there are other who are ready to yield and are too prone to forgive on every occasion.
Excess in mildness, like excess in revenge, leads to harmful consequences. The mere giving up of a claim to requital from an offender, whatever the circumstances and however serious the nature of the offence done by an attack upon the honour or chastity, is far from being a great moral quality to which men should aspire. The mere presence of this quality in person, therefore, does not entitle him to real credit unless he shows by its use on the right occasion that he possesses it as a moral quality. The distinction between natural and moral qualities should be clearly borne in mind. The inborn or natural qualities of man are transformed into moral qualities when a person does, or refrain from doing, an act upon the right occasion and after due consideration of the good or evil that is likely to result from it.
Many of the lower animals are quite harmless and do not resist when evil is done to them. A cow may be said to be innocent and a lamb meek, but to neither do we attribute the high moral qualities which man aspires after, for they are not gifted with reason and do not know right from wrong. It is only the occasion upon which anything is done that justifies or condemns a deed; and the wise and perfect Word of the Omniscient God has, therefore, imposed this condition upon every moral quality.
Please write: COMMENT in this box to verify that you are human