Concept of service in Islam—III
By Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi
It was actually the impact of these Islamic teachings and traditions that Islamic Sufis have developed a well defined system of philanthropy and articulated the exemplary principles governing this noble cause. There are copious sayings regarding the best morals presented by the Sufis found in Risalah-i-Qusihriya and other Sufi treatises.
To begin with Ghaylan b. Jarir told us on the authority of Anas [b. Malik], “Someone asked the Messenger of God (S.A.W), which of the faithful have the best faith? He answered: ‘Those of them who have the best moral character” (68:4). Thus, a good moral character is the servant’s greatest virtue, one by means of which the true essence of men is known. One who is hidden by his outward complexion reveals himself through his moral character. Abu Ali al-Daqqaq said: “God Most High favored His Prophet – may God bless and greet him – with many excellent qualities.
However, none of them is more praiseworthy than his good moral character, for God Most High said: “Surely, thou [the Prophet] art upon a good character.” Al-Wasiti said: “He [God] attributed a good moral character to him [the Prophet] because he gave away both worlds, while being content with God Most High.”
Al-Wasiti also said that “good moral character” means that one shows no enmity toward anyone, nor is shown any enmity by anyone due to one’s intimate knowledge of God Most High. While defining good moral character and kindness Abu Hafs [al-Haddad] said: “This is what God – may He be great and exalted – bestowed upon His Prophet – may God bless and greet him – when He said: Embrace forgiveness and bid to that which is honourable.”
Good moral character is that you be close to people, while being a stranger to what occurs among them. Good moral character is that you accept harsh treatment from your fellow creatures and God’s decree with neither vexation, nor anxiety. Luqman said to his son: “There are three men whose true character makes itself known on three instances: a prudent man at the time of anger; a valiant man at the time of war; and a brother at the time when someone is in need of him.” It is related that the Commander of the Faithful Ali b. Abi Talib (RA) was weeping one day. When asked what made him cry, he said: “Not a single guest has come over in the past seven days. I am afraid that Allah may have decided to humiliate me!” It is related that Malik b. Anas (RA) said: “The tax of any house is that [its owner] should set aside a room for guests [in it].”
Imam Ghazzali says: “You must know the matters which are in between you and your Allah if there is any weakness or lapses the forgiveness is easier in these matters but the matters regarding oppression against the creatures, will not be forgiven on the day of judgement. Since these matters are very dangerous therefore no ruler will get rid of the consequences of oppression and only those are exempted who deliver justice and treat their subjects very justly.”
Shaikh Imam Rabani says: “My Makhdum, to do good is desirable everywhere, especially on those who are relatives and also close neighbours. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) used to stress giving the rights to the close neighbours that the companions would feel as they are being made entitled in the inheritance.” Afterwards he explains the rights of the neighbours by showing the categories of neighbours and says that even a non-Muslim neighbour has the right to be taken care of by a Muslim.
According to a Sufi treatise Kitab-al-Luma the Sufis have to spend their personal strength in the service of their friends after leaving behind the wordily domains and territories and their prestige. Generosity according to Abu Bakr Raqaq is that the person who has lost something should give to a person who has found something and not vice versa.
The prophets and Sadiqin kept their relation with worldly provisions from the angle of rights of other people thus this relation is rights [of others] and not to fulfill their own desires. The objective of earning wealth should be only to help Muslims and after knowing that others have not earned they should give them surplus. Preferring ones ease for making others lives comfortable was a permanent trait of the Sufis. Every day Ibrahim (AS) went out to work for hire and laboured till night. He expended all his earnings on behalf of his companions.
According to Risalah-i-Qusihriya, Al-Sulami is reported to have said: “The master Abu Sahl [al-Suluki] never handed alms directly to anyone. Rather, he would cast it on the ground, so that the beggar would pick the alms from the ground, saying: “This world is of so little worth that, for the love of it, I do not want to see my hand putting anything into the hand of another man.” It is said that Ali b. al-Fudayl used to buy his goods from neighbourhood merchants. Someone told him: “You could buy [the same goods] cheaper if you shopped at the [city] market!” He answered: “These merchants have settled in our neighbourhood in the hope of serving our needs.”
The Sufis have borne the ill treatment of people happily but have sought revenge. It is related that Ali (RA) called a servant who did not respond to his call. He called him again and again but the servant still would not respond. So Ali went to him and found him lying down. Ali asked him: “Didn’t you hear me?’ The servant answered that he did. “Then what made you ignore my call?” He answered: “I feel safe from your punishment, so I [allowed myself to be] lazy.” Ali told him: “Go. You are now free for the sake of Allah” and respond to you [in kind]. Yahya b. Ziyad al-Harithi owned a troublesome slave. Someone asked him: “Why do you retain this slave?” He answered: “In order to learn temperance through him.”
It is related that Abu Uthman was crossing a street one day, when someone dumped a bucket of ashes on him. His companions were very angry and began to curse the person who dumped the ashes. However, Abu Uthman told them: “Don’t say a word! He who has deserved the [hell] fire, yet has managed to get away with just ashes, has no right to be angry!”
Al-Jurayri said: “When I came back from Mecca – may Allah protect it – the first thing I did was to go to Al-Junaid, so as to save him the trouble [of visiting me]. I greeted him and then went back to my house. When I was offering the morning prayers in the mosque the following day, I discovered that he was also praying in the row behind me. I told him: “Didn't I come to you the other day in order to save you the trouble?” He said: “That was your munificence, while [praying behind you after the hajj] is your due.”
Abdallah sewed clothes for him and the Magian paid him with counterfeit money. One day, when Abdallah left his shop on an errand, the Magian came with his counterfeit money and tried to give it to Abdallah’s apprentice. When the apprentice refused to accept it, the Magian paid him genuine money. When Abdallah came back to his shop, he asked the apprentice: “Where is the Magian’s shirt?” The apprentice told him what had happened. Abdallah exclaimed: “You have done a terrible thing! For a long time he has done business with me with [such counterfeit] money. I have been patient with him throughout and tossed his money into a well, so that he would not cheat other folk with it!”
A Sufi recounted: “On a very cold day I came to visit Bishr b. al-Harith. He had no clothes on him and sat there trembling [from cold]. I told him: “Abu Nasr, on a day like this people put on extra clothing! Why do you have so little [clothing on you]? He answered: I have remembered the poor and their plight. Since I have nothing to bestow on them, I have decided to keep their company in enduring this cold!”
Sari-e Saqati relates the following story. On a festival day I saw Ma‘ruf picking date stones. “What are you doing?” I asked him. “I saw this child weeping,” he told me. “I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ He told me, ‘I am an orphan. I have no father and no mother. The other children have new clothes, and I have none. They have nuts, and I have none.’ So I am gathering these stones to sell them and buy him nuts, then he may run along and play.” “Let me attend to this and spare you the care,” I said. Sari went on, “I took the child and clothed him, and bought him nuts, and made him happy. Immediately, I saw a great light shine in my heart, and I was transformed.”
One night a thief entered Junaid’s room. Finding nothing there but a shirt, he took it and fled. Next day Juniad was passing through the bazaar when he saw his shirt in the hands of a broker who was selling it to a customer. “I require an acquaintance who will testify that it is your property, before I buy it,” the prospective purchaser said. “I am ready to testify that it belongs to him,” said Junaid, stepping forward. The man then bought the shirt.
Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi is a Former Director, Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org