Good behaviour: a pre-requisite


The verses 261-265 in Surah Al-Baqra mention the charity and high standards it requires. It is here that Allah says: “Kind words and the covering of faults are better than charity.” (II:263)
In the above verse, Almighty Allah, places good deeds such as covering the faults of others at the same pedestal as charity, which is the third form of worship after Salat and Saum. This verse amply proves that there is no room for ritualistic worship in Islam; mere observance of Salat, Saum, Zakat and Haj is insufficient, these acts must be accompanied by revolutionary changes in the character of the individual.
The changes must induce taqwah (piety), mercifulness, forbearance, forgiveness and also the ability to bury the knowledge of misdeeds of others. In our day-to-day life, which we like to refer as ‘practical life’ to cover our own inadequacies, there is a tendency to completely ignore these important facets of the teachings of Islam. We openly talk and broadcast any misdoings we come to know of others. In fact the tendency is to add some spice to hearsay, to make it saleable and attractive. Such behaviour is in direct conflict with the dictates of the Holy Quran. Hazrat Ali once said, “One of the finest of a liberal man’s gesture is not to take advantage of what he knows of others.” A truly behaving soul always endeavours to hide faults, not with any mischievous intent, but in the overall interest of society. Even more damaging to social fabric is the bragging in public about one’s sins. We come across people who indulge openly in loud talking about their evil exploits.
Good manners and noble qualities of mind and character enjoy a place of crucial importance in the structure of Islamic teaching. Moral evolution and uplift was one of the main objects for which the sacred Prophet was raised up.
The Prophet himself has said: “I have been sent down by God to teach moral virtues and to evolve them to highest perfection.” At the core of each form of worship is the objective of developing human qualities in a person. The observance of Salat, Zakat or any other form of worship must initiate good manners and exemplary behaviour, otherwise, such worship is devoid of any station.
The Prophet in his life exemplified the aspects of qualitative change in personality that a Muslim must usher in his everyday life. An idea of the supreme importance Islam attaches to the cultivation of good manners and noble moral qualities can be obtained from the following traditions of the Prophet: “The best of you are those who possess the best manners.” “On the Day of Recompense nearest to me will be one who displays in one’s daily life the best of manners.”
“On the Day of Reckoning the most weighty item in the ‘Balance of Deeds’ will be good manners.” Once a companion asked the Prophet, “What is there that takes a Muslim to Paradise?” The Prophet replied, “Fear of God and good manners.”
The Prophet, again, is reported to have said, “A Muslim with good manners and good moral disposition gets the same reward as he who fasts (permanently) during the day and spends his nights in prayer.”
The last tradition tells that a believer who possess good manners and carries out scrupulously the moral duties imposed on him by God but does not engage himself much in supererogatory fasts and prayers attains the degree of excellence of the man who stands up in prayer all night and fasts all day long.
The prophet displayed his usual exemplary kind behaviour to infidels and non-believers. Once the Prophet was walking with his few companions, at a slow pace, which disturbed the companions. One of them remarked, ‘O’ Prophet, why can’t we walk a little faster?” The Prophet replied, “Don’t you see there is an old man walking ahead of us.” The companion said, “But he is a non-believer!” The prophet said, ‘Yes, he is, but then he is also old and therefore worthy of respect.
Yet again, a bier was once passing and the prophet stood up for it. The companions followed and one said, “‘O Prophet! Verily this bier is of a Jewish woman, we may not respect it.” The Prophet then said, “Verily death is dreadful, therefore, when ye see a bier stand up.” The Holy Quran bears testimony to his exceedingly modest behaviour: “Surely such a thing hurts the Prophet but he is too modest to tell you so, and Allah does not forbear to tell the truth.” (33:53). We have been warned by the Holy Prophet in an equally forceful manner against the curse of bad manners. “A man with bad manners and a bad moral conduct shall not enter Paradise.”
“No sin is more detestable to God than bad manners.”
SOME MORE IMPORTANT VIRTUES: Though in the Quran and the traditions we are taught to cultivate all good and noble moral and social qualities and to avoid everything that is mean or wicked, here we will take up only such virtues as are more important and without which no one can hope to be a good Muslim and a true believer. Gentleness of speech is a religious virtue in Islam and rudeness a sin. The Quran declares: Speak fair to the People. (II: 83)
We have it from the Prophet that: “To speak politely is piety and a kind of charity.” “To indulge in intemperate language and in harsh behaviour is to perpetrate an injustice and the home of injustice is Hell.”
“Rudeness in speech is hypocrisy.”
Humility is a virtue Islam wants its followers to practice as a distinguishing feature of their moral and spiritual conduct. The Holy Prophet has said: “He who observes humility God will make him so exalted that, ultimately, he will attain the highest grade in Paradise.”
On the other hand, pride is so greatly repugnant to God that the sacred Prophet has warned us, again and again, against it in such strong words: “Whoever has pride in his heart even of the weight of an atom shall be cast head-long into the Hell of God.” “Whoever has pride in his heart even of the weigh of the weight of a mustered seed, shall not enter Paradise.”
“Beware of pride! Pride was the sin which first of all ruined the Devil.”
Prophet’s entire life was characterised by sincerity and simplicity. He showed complete disdain to worldly comforts. He ate simple food, dressed conservatively and his apartments were simple blended exquisitely with cleanliness. He cared for his friends, was generous even to his worst enemies, dealt with justice towards all. He was extremely polite in speech, sympathetic to the oppressed, loving to the orphans and was fond of children.
Islam reached China in the East and to the gates of Vienna in the west not through sword; it was the exemplary behaviour of Muslims, which induced people to the fold of Islam. Good behaviour is the sine qua non of our religion and is the distinctive hall mark of a true believer.