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Rady Allahu ‘Anhu  


Chapter 24 from: Knowledge and Wisdom
By: Imam ‘AbdAllah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad
Rady Allahu ‘Anhu

Know that gentleness is required in all things. It is encouraged and approved by both Sharīa and reason. Things can be achieved through gentleness that cannot even remotely be done through severity and force. Gentleness is the attribute of the wise and the compassionate among those servants of God whom He has selected. God the Exalted described His Prophet, the master of mankind, may blessings and peace be on him, as thus:

It was by the mercy of God that you were lenient with them, for had you been stern and coarse of heart they would have dispersed from around you. (Quran, 3:159)

Keep to forgiveness, enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant ones. (Quran, 7:199)

And the servants of the All-Merciful are they who walk upon earth gently, and when the ignorant ones address them, they say, “Peace!” (Quran, 25:63)

The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be on him and his family, said, “God is gentle and loves gentleness in all things.” And, “Gentleness never enters into anything without embellishing it, and it is never taken out of anything without disgracing it.” Gentleness is to manage things with subtlety, ease, dignity, and deliberation. ‘A’isha said that [the Prophet], may blessings and peace be on him, was “never given to choose between two things but that he chose the easier, so long as it was not sinful, but when it was sinful, he was the remotest of people from it.”

Those who most particularly need to use gentleness are those who occupy high positions of either religious or worldly responsibility. With it they are to treat people well and win them over, and thus become supported by the majority and gain many followers, so that people are able to take from them in abundance. In contrast, leaders who set aside gentleness and take to harshness and force can never enjoy wide support. Even when some appear to have such support, it can be no more than superficial, while inwardly there will be hatred, revulsion, and feelings of oppression. Thus gentleness is entirely good, and intelligent men should apply it to all things, especially in dealing with people, first of all with one’s family and servants, then with everyone else. It should never be neglected, and it always yields the required results, even if not immediately. On some rare occasions, however, gentleness may be found ineffective, especially in dealing with certain mean and ignoble natures. To treat such people with gentleness would be harmful to them; they should be treated in an apparently harsh and severe manner, but with the intention of reforming them and correcting their behavior. A certain gnostic said, “Some people are only shells devoid of reason. If you do not overpower them they will overpower you.” Not far removed from this is al-Mutanabbī’s saying:

Generosity wins the loyalty of the generous,
but with the vile it breeds insolence.
For to place liberality where the sword should be
is as remote from excellence as the reverse.

But these are rare instances, involving deviant people of weak intelligence who have little good in them, being ignorant and foolish, with vicious natures and beast-like souls. They are the only ones to be treated harshly with the aim of reforming them and as a protection against their viciousness. In this way, one should understand why, on certain occasions and with certain people, great men of God are rigorous. Thus, gentleness is the essence and the rule except when it is feared that a worker of corruption may thereby step up his corruption and transgression, and it is felt that he can be stopped only by a certain amount of severity and harshness. The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family, enjoined gentleness and behaved gently in most situations. This is known to anyone familiar with his history, hadith, and his pattern in teaching the ignorant and dealing with the near and far. One example of this is the well-known hadith of the bedouin who urinated in the mosque. Another is that of the other bedouin man who when given a donation by the Prophet, may blessings and peace be on him, was discontented and uttered things that he should not have said, at which the Prophet’s Companions started toward him, only to be stopped by the Prophet, who then gave the man more and went on giving him until he was satisfied and spoke gracious words. The third is that of the young man who said to the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be on him, “O Messenger of God! Grant me permission to commit adultery!” The Prophet replied, “Would you like this to happen to your daughter?” He answered, “No!” So he said, “Likewise other people do not like it to happen to their daughters.” And he passed his hand over the young man’s chest and prayed for him, and from then on nothing was more abhorrent to [this man] than adultery. There are many other such stories that have been narrated about him, may the blessings of God be on him, as well as about the leaders after him, the scholars, and the virtuous among our rightly guided predecessors and those of their successors who emulate them. So be gentle, may God have mercy on you, in all matters; it is a blessing and its consequences are good.

But none are granted it save those who are patient, and none is granted it save one who is greatly fortunate (Quran, 41:35)

Source: Imam’AbdAllah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad, Al-Fusūl al-‘Ilmiyya wa’l-Usūl al Hikamiyya (Knowledge and Wisdom), translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawii, The Starlatch Press, Chicago, 2001, p. 63-35.