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The Visage of the Benevolent in Islam

Of the prominent signs of a Muslim are kindness and benevolence, a sincere kindness and generosity that are inspired by a special motive. It is a kindness that is done for the sake of God, even though the persons to whom it is done be strangers one does not know and with whom one has no acquaintance or kinship. His heart is full of love and affection for them and he does not expect any reward or gratitude. This conduct of his is motivated by a profound love that thrives in the depths of his heart and is replenished by a boundless, inexhaustible source: the bountiful and all- eenerous mainsDrine of Divine love.

Is it possible for any motive except faith and trust in the fair reward that God has prepared for the virtuous to induce man to perform acts of unalloyed and absolute benevolence free of every kind of personal interest?

Hence true benevolence and kindness is something whose mainspring is an inner Divine motive and ideal, whose sole end is the attainment of God's good pleasure. Islam strives to create this sublime ideal and Divine motivation in the depths of the people's souls, and by this means it creates a profound and expansive consciousness that is commensurate with the expanse and depth of the universe and which cannot be contained in any dry and limited teaching. With this expansive and all-inclusive consciousness and vision and the genuine bond of feeling between one's soul and the spirit of creation, the work of a wise Maker, as well as with the awareness of God's infinite power, the artificial and self-made blinkers are removed from the eyes of man's soul.

This sublime human consciousness is born as a result of sincere servitude to God and the eternal bond and relation with Him. The perpetual worship of the Creator, the effort to seek His favour, and the wish to live in the shadow of His grace and beneficence bring man to such a point that he can attain to the station of God's vicegerency. He can come to possess a love that can remove every suffering and obstacle from the path of humanity and wage a struggle against every form of evil and corruption.

With all its guiding precepts Islam nourishes this genuine feeling in such a fashion that it becomes amalgamated with the individual's nature. And when love becomes the mainspring of feeling and spreads its roots deep into the core of man's being, it gives rise to a yearning which, with voluntary zeal, is prepared to do benevolence and service to society. When that happens, enmity, malice, hostility and insolence cannot take roots in individuals but remain unstable, removable with a little of attention, for nothing else is better capable of eradicating these vices from the soul than this invaluable cure-all.

The profound concern of the Qur'an in regard to all the human beings in the world and the close attention paid to them has an extraordinary purifying effect on the soul. The consciousness of the firm and inalienable bond between oneself and the world, brings the order of one's being into harmony with the order of creation and makes man view all beings, except a group of harmful creatures, with benevolence and love.

Getting habituated to the feelings of benevolence, which reflect the greatness and sublime station of man's humanity, and a uniform feeling of tenderness for all living things, for the entire universe and its creatures, creates a healthy and balanced motivation in man that is indispensable for a fruitful life and removes darkness and violence from his soul and purges it of impurities.

It was the heavenly and refined consciousness of the Noble Prophet of Islam that made him say concerning his vicious kinsmen who had adopted a hostile and inhuman conduct towards him: "O God, be merciful and forgiving to my people, for they are ignorant."

The inexhaustible love and benevolence of the Prophet of Islam (s) not only extended to all human beings, in practice it taught Muslims the principles of kindness and benevolence on a very extensive level. One day the Prophet (s) told this story to a group of his companions. A man passing through a scorching desert was overwhelmed with thirst. Finding a well, he descended into it and quenched his thirst with water. On coming out he saw a dog that had lost all its strength due to thirst and in agony was rubbing its nose on the ground. The man saw that the poor animal was suffering as it could not find water. He felt pity and compassion for it and decided to give it some water. Thereupon, he again descended into the well and filling his shoes with water placed them in front of the dog which was about to perish out of thirst. God Almighty forgave that man as a reward for this act of kindness.

The Companions asked the Prophet (S): "Can we too seek God's reward by being kind to animals?" The Prophet (S) replied: "Yes. You will be rewarded for service to every living thing."

Every act must be judged by its motives and the source of any action should not be divorced from its consequences, exactly like a disease which is treated by taking into consideration its cause.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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