[Chapter 22] Interpersonal Relations: A Question of Character - Makarim Akhlaq

Dec 21, 2010

Or, put alternatively, all those 'Ibadaat are supposed to improve our relations with our fellow-Muslims and with the non-Muslims around us. Let me state the same thing differently: We want to have a great relationship with Allah? Let us build a great relationship with people. That means one should be an index and a measure of the other – our relationship with Allah and our relationship with people.

The problem is not new; nor will be the outcomes. Just imagine if people had treated the third Khalifah, Uthman, (May Allah be pleased with him) with greater respect and understanding – and had not killed him. Or imagine if only Ali and Talhah and Zubair – may Allah be pleased with them all – had been able to get along. Can you contemplate the kind of world we would have built if these differences and fights had not occurred?

Nothing has changed. We Muslims are still our worst enemies – in a number of ways and at a number of levels. Nothing and no one is immune – movements, organizations, associations, Jama’ats and communities. They all fall short when it comes to the question of interpersonal relationships – in different ways and to different degrees.

Koonu Ibadallahi Ikhwana! cries out the Hadith – O Allah’s slaves become brothers! Makes sense, doesn’t it? Everyone a slave of Allah, all working on the same plantation – shouldn’t they all work together, stand by each other and treat each other right?

Innamal Mu’minoona Ikhwah (49:10). That is how the Qur’an describes the believers – why, the believers are but brothers. But the truth is, mutual love and respect and the gift of working together is a boon that is granted by Allah – a special favor. It is he, Allah – and only he – who can and does unite human hearts – as an act of mercy from him. If he did not want to confer that boon upon us, we would not be able to achieve that goal even if we were to spend all the treasures of the world in its pursuit.

That is why we need to work to deserve that mercy and that boon – that gift – from Allah. And that is why we always need to work along the right lines.

I once wrote an article – in the early 1970s it was – on the question of Muslim Unity. It was published in the publication of the Muslim community in Trinidad called The Torch of Islam. I have been trying to get hold of a copy of it ever since – but I am yet to succeed in that effort. I am mentioning it here, because my recollection of that article is that it was a fairly thorough theoretical analysis – theory again! – of the concept of Muslim Unity from an Islamic point of view.

What Muslims need to understand is the fact that Allah has not left us entirely to our own devices. He has provided us some clues on how to go about working for – and deserving – that boon of unity, bonded hearts and kindred souls. One of them – and a critical one – is what is in that Aayah in Surah Al-Ahzab – speak the truth; say the right thing. That means, let us work on keeping our dealings straight – on keeping our words and actions straight – our relationships will have a chance to fall in place.

I saw that in the life of my father – May Allah give him Jannah! All my life, I never caught him in a lie or in fuzzy, woolly speech. He said and did the right thing – no matter what the time or the occasion. And that is how the people – far and near – knew him: as the man who said and did the right thing. Not as the man who went to multiple Hajj; or as a man who fasted or prayed more than everybody else; but as a man who said and did what was right.

So, Islam shows us how our relationships can become better. It provides a behavioral basis for them. Nothing illustrates this better than that AayahAayah 70 – from Surah Al-Ahzab. It asks the believers to say the right thing. Then it promises them two things: this world and the next world – all for saying the right thing and of course for having the fear of Allah in their hearts. What more could anyone want?

“O Those Who Believe!” says the Aayah in paraphrase. “Fear Allah and say the right thing. He will straighten out your actions and forgive your sins.”

Well, actions – everything in this world, would you say? And if sins are forgiven, what is waiting for us but Jannah in the next world? Thus, Dunya and Deen (Aakhirah) both promised by Allah for cultivating Taqwa and for saying the right thing – Qawl Sadeed.

It is important to note that loving your fellow-Muslims does not happen in a vacuum – even though I have often in my speeches advocated a unilateral surrender of your rights when it comes to dealing with Muslims. More than preach that to others, I have tried to hold that as a model for myself – within some broad bounds of endurance. But it is often a very hard thing to do – quite a serious test of your Iman as well as your basic humanity.

But Allah in this Aayah not only makes us the promise of a better life in this world, he also shows us how it is to become so – say the right thing, he says. That, as anyone can see, must also extend to doing the right thing. For, if you are a truthful person, your words will also be a mirror of your actions and vice versa. That means, you will say what you mean; and you will act what you say. Very much like my father, Rahimahullah, did, something that even as a child I did not fail to notice.

In Surah Al-Anfal, Allah directly talks about the need for people to straighten out their mutual relations. Paraphrase: “Fear Allah and straighten out your mutual relations” Qur’an (8:1).

This is a test and a challenge that we continue to face. And it is something that we need to work on continually. Among those who would need to devote considerable attention and energy to meet this challenge are Prime Minister Abdullah Gul of Turkey and the ruling party leader Mr. Erdogan. One is de jure – official – prime minister, while the other is the de facto leader not only of the party but also of the parliamentary group. How this situation is going to play out is going to depend largely on how they both resolve their interpersonal relations. Let us hope and pray Allah will make their mutual relations stronger and better through this experience.

That is where Nafs gets in the way of our success and happiness. Nafs among other things is a destroyer of interpersonal relations among Muslims – even among some of the so-called good people. So we need to be constantly on our guard in dealing with this thing called Nafs.

Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.

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