Some Criteria for Warding off Evils

Some Criteria for Warding off Evils
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Question: What is the proper conduct for Muslims in the face of bad treatment and attitudes?

Answer: It is a known fact that grudge and hatred will only engender the same feelings in return. Responding to harshness and violence with the same will give way to vicious circles which nobody can escape; society will be struck by schisms and everybody will be lost in the turmoil. Therefore, the heart of a believer must be immense; he should be able to absorb even the most negative things, and struggle in such a way that redeems even those who commit evil.

Warding off in the Best Way

 The Qur’an reveals what kind of an attitude Muslims are supposed to adopt in the face of bad treatment: “These will be granted their reward twice over because they have remained steadfast (in following their religion, remaining free of falsehood, and so keeping themselves above all prejudices while believing in and following the Qur’an and Muhammad); and they repel evil with good, and out of what We have provided for them (of wealth, knowledge, power, etc.) they spend (in God’s cause and for the needy, and purely for the good pleasure of God without placing others under obligation)” (al-Qasas 28:54). It is narrated that this verse was revealed about People of the Book, but the particularity of its cause of revelation does not eliminate the generality of the judgment. Therefore the verse addresses everybody, including believers in our time.

As it is understood from the specification, “because they have remained steadfast,” those who gain twice the rewards will be the ones who put up with mistreatment and torment, who virtually melt the troubles and misfortunes that befall them into fireworks, and thus present dizzying spectacles to people. By turning even the most negative happenings into positive ones, they respond to evil with the words, “and they repel evil with good.” They respond to evil with goodness and good things.

If the ugly and unpleasant treatment he receives causes a feeling of grudge and hatred within a believer who realizes the truth of this verse in his life, he tries to wipe away and melt this anger with a feeling of mildness and peace. He does this in accordance with the verse, “…Surely good deeds wipe out evil deeds. This is advice and a reminder for the mindful who reflect” (Hud 11:114).

If a believer does something negative, and if this detracts from his worship and devotions, he immediately tries to eliminate the negative act with a consideration of atonement, and he also crowns this atonement by doing some good deed.

When a real believer commits some evil act, this pierces through his heart like a spear and triggers a bitter feeling inside him. If he commits something evil even with a single word, behavior, look, or allusion, he does some good deed to eliminate it right away and to erase the marks it leaves in his mind.

Such a behavior is actually a requirement of servanthood to God. In his advice to Muadh ibn Jabal, the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated, “Fear God wherever you are and follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out, and treat people with good behavior.”[1] As acts of goodness serve like spirals that ascend verbal deeds to God, they at the same eliminate evils. The end of the verse states that this is very important advice and a reminder for the mindful who reflect.

Actually, every positive behavior that erases evil from people’s minds is also a means for those evils to be erased in the Divine Presence. God Almighty’s mercy requires that those negatives not turn into a means of trouble, tribulation, and inner suffering in the next world. In the realm of infinite blessings, unlimited bestowals, and everlasting graces, it will be a means of inner suffering for a believer to think, “I should not have done this disrespect against my religion, Prophet, and essential values.” For this reason, as a manifestation of His mercy in a different wave of frequency, God Almighty will make them forgotten there and not let His servant experience that suffering.

However, it is not right for a person to forget the sins he commits in this world by erasing them from his mind. Even if he committed them fifty years ago, asking forgiveness from God every time he remembers them will save him from falling to the same sin again. It will also be a means for constantly increasing the record of his good deeds. Each time of you ask forgiveness virtually removes all evils. And when no evil to be removed remains, it will be a cause for the beautiful joyous things awaiting the believer in the Hereafter. Thus, a person should never forget his sin. He should always remember even the slightest mistake, and seek forgiveness from the Forgiver of sins by saying, “Forgiveness, I ask forgiveness a million times!” He should do this with the suffering he feels in his soul.

On the other hand, a believer must forget the good acts he performs—even if that good deed is a great conquest marking the beginning of a new era. He should eliminate his role in the issue, saying, “Strange, did I really do something like that? I don’t even remember.” If people are insistently saying, “It is you who did it,” then with a consideration of testifying to God’s Blessings, the person should express his feelings as such: “Then God made a sinner like me do certain good things also. These are manifestations of the immensity of His mercy.”

What Becomes a Magnanimous Person Is Responding to Evil with Goodness

Another verse related to our subject points out the following fact: “Goodness and evil can never be equal. Repel evil with what is better (or best). Then see: The one between whom and you there was enmity has become a bosom friend” (Fussilat 41:34).

Accordingly, if someone fixed on enmity, jealousy, and envy is foaming with rancor and hatred, continually provoking those he addresses and try to elicit rage from them, then it is necessary to respond by restraining one’s rage, as stated in the following verse, which describes genuinely pious ones: “…ever-restraining their rage (even when provoked and able to retaliate), and pardoning people (their offenses). God loves (such) people who are devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them” (Al Imran 3:134).

The original phrase for “ever-restraining their rage” (al-kazimin al-ghayz) refers to those who swallow their rage, anger, and violent reactions even though; this is mentioned by the blessed words of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, as a virtue. Responding with magnanimous forgiveness when someone commits a fault and doing good to a person who commits evil so that he does not repeat the same evil… These are examples of responding to evil with goodness.

In other words, while others keep committing evil with their hands, tongues, eyes, ears, and even gestures, a believer should not let these acts become a vicious cycle. He can do this by responding with goodness to all of them. As it is stated in a Turkish proverb, “Responding to goodness with goodness is expected from everyone; responding to evil with goodness takes a magnanimous one.” Hence, what becomes a believer is being a magnanimous one. Responding to vitriol with invective is the road to sin. Such an understanding will not help solve the issues of our time, either. Therefore, everybody—particularly the volunteers devoted to a lofty ideal—need to act very tenderly on this issue.

Responding with Goodness and Steering Securely

I disagree with the maxim “beware of the evil of the person to whom you did goodness,” and think that this is an arrogant and disrespectful remark. A kind act will make even a cobra dance, let alone a person. You must have seen this in documentaries—cobras dancing to the playing of the flute. Actually, cobras do not hear the music, but when they see that the player’s fingers are moving on a piece of wood and no harm is done to it, it causes a dance-like reaction. They probably bite if the charmer fails to act in the right way, but this should be rare. If it were a frequent incident for cobras to bite charmers, then it would not be such a common practice.  

To sum it up, if God even endowed animals with a feeling of giving a good response to goodness, a person must make good use of his human potential and act with the understanding, “Do goodness to those whose evil you fear.”[2] Surely, such an attitude should be taken for the sake of protecting peace and harmony in a society, and putting out the fires of hatred and discord. It only asks a person to sacrifice some of their personal rights. Otherwise, keeping silent against a violation of the public’s rights, and being a partner in crime, causes a person to be like a mute devil; this absolutely does not become a believer.

When necessary, however, we should respond, even to a person holding a spear or putting on bayonet, by saying, “Come brother, let me give you a hug,” and thus make him put down his lethal weapon. This is the attitude expected from a believer, and let me reiterate once more that this form of behavior is of vital importance in terms of solving the problems in our time.

[1] Ibn Kathir, Sirah, 4/194-195.

[2] Ali al-Qari, Al-Masnu, 1/45; Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa, 1/44.

This text is the translation of “Kötülükleri Savmada Bazı Ölçüler.”