Al Ghazali’s 20 rules for dealing with people 1-6
‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amr reported: I met the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said to me:
“O ‘Uqbah, reconcile with whoever cuts you off, give to whoever deprives you, and forgive whoever wrongs you.” (Musnad Ahmad)
This hadith does not mean you put up with abuse but that you return evil with goodness. Al Ghazali calls this the level of the siddiqeen. They are the ones who connect those who disconnect them, and give to those who prevent them and forgive those who wronged them.
The highest level of dealing with others – siddiqeen
A great example of this is during the affair of al ifk when Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was maligned by false rumours that she had been unfaithful to the Prophet (peace be on him) is mentioned in Surat al Nur. Allah cleared her name and her reputation. In the midst of this painful episode, Abu Bakr had a poor relative called Mistah, who was receiving regular charity from Abu Bakr. Like all people, he was weak and was not immune to passing on gossip and fanning its flames. When Abu Bakr learned of Mistah’s involvement in spreading the rumours, he stopped giving him charity. He was harming him, his daughter and the Prophet (peace be on him), so he no longer wanted to support him. Then Allah Almighty revealed a very beautiful ayah:
And let not those among you who are blessed with graces and wealth swear not to give to their kinsmen, al-Masaakeen [the poor], and those who left their homes for Allah’s Cause. Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Al-Ghafur (the Most-Forgiving), Ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful). [Surah Noor, verse 22]
This ayah was revealed, and Abu Bakr realised that Allah was addressing him and interceding on behalf of Mistah. We know that people will intercede for others and appeal to Allah to forgive them, but we never heard of Allah interceding on behalf of another person to be forgiven. Allah Almighty asked Abu Bakr to forgive Mistah for His sake. And Allah said, ‘Do you not love that Allah should forgive you?’ And Abu Bakr replied ‘bala ya Rabb’ Yes My Lord. No hesitation, not hard feelings. This was his level.
It is not easy, but look at the level. Allah is addressed Abu Bakr because of his level of goodness. In essence He is saying, Abu Bakr, you are not like ordinary people. You are better than that. So respond in a better way that a normal person would. And Abu Bakr said yes, if this is what you think of me then yes I will do it. Wow!
The rules of dealing with people
Ghazali then gives 20 rules of how to deal with others. Though there are many, these are first 6 rules which he thought were the priorities:
- Love for others what you love for yourself
- Be humble
- Respect elders and show mercy to youngsters
- Have a cheerful face
- Be easy going
- Reconcile people
Rule 1. Love for others what you love for yourself
Love for people what you love for yourself because you are not the centre of the universe. You live with others and you need to get along with them and accommodate them.
On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Polish your heart and your intention and you will never lose, even if the other person has a bad intention towards you. We do not know for sure that they have a bad intention. Only Allah knows their intention. What we have in our minds are assumptions, not facts. We like to believe that our assumptions are facts, but we fail ourselves and later we might discover that we were wrong about them. They never intended to harm us. It is the default position to love for others what you love for yourself and it is better have a good opinion of others.
Whoever is delighted by the thought of being far removed from hell, then his wish will come true if he testifies that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger and gives to people whatever he loves to be given to him.
There are numerous similar narrations. This boosts your level of imaan. You do not wish bad for others, and this reflects the purity of your heart. If you wish bad things for others, it is a symptom of disease in your heart. Therefore, always wish for goodness for others.
Rule 2. Be humble
Each point is manifestation of a pure heart. And its opposite is a symptom of a diseased heart, like envy. Kibr (arrogance) is the opposite of humility (tawadu). Do not look down on others. Do not think you are better than them. Allah does not like those who show off:
Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful. (4:36)
Allah Almighty says:
Take what is given freely, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant. (7:199)
Kibr is a major sin (kaba’ir). Kibr is deadly.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“No one who has the weight of a seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” (Muslim)
There are many verses which encourage people to avoid kibr either through the external manifestation, like how to walk and talk and interact with others, or the internal that you pass someone and you think that you are better than them. They might be the best person in Allah’s eyes. Do not judge others.
Rule 3. Respect elders and show mercy towards children
Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
“Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones, or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Musnad Ahmed)
We have all witnessed the way in which youngsters disrespect elders in society around us. We need to educate our children about the importance of showing respect. Since many schools introduced the practice of calling teachers by their first name, this decreased the esteem students felt for their teachers. It sent out the wrong message.
Islam taught us to be respectful towards our parents, elders and teachers and have mercy towards youngsters.
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Glorifying Allah involves showing honour to a grey-haired Muslim and to one who can expound the Quran, but not to one who acts extravagantly regarding it, or turns away from it, and showing honour to a just ruler.(Abi Dawud)
“No youth treats an elderly person with honour in their old age except that Allah sends someone to treat them with honour in their old age.”
Though the second hadith may be weak, the concept is in line with the principle in Islam of respecting elders.
4. Be cheerful
Imam Ghazali mentioned the importance of being cheerful. When the Prophet (peace be on him) was described in the Shamail they said he was always optimistic with a smile on his face.
Don’t be grumpy and say ‘This is the way I am!’ Learn to be Mr cheerful instead of Mr Grumpy. You can be Mr Optimistic rather than Mr Pessimistic. (Or Mrs Optimistic).
No one wants to be in the company of the one who is always frowning. Having a cheerful face is important. It is the first thing people see about you.
My friend once encountered a man who looked quite grouchy in the mosque and said to him, the pr said smile is charity to the grumpy man and he said ‘The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Smiling in your brother’s face is an act of charity” (Tirmidhi). The sour-looking man replied even more sullenly, ‘I don’t want to pay charity today!’
It is toxic to have a grumpy person around you. It poisons the atmosphere – whether it is in an office or in the home or in a shop.
Moods are contagious. Frowns and smiles can either make everyone feel miserable or happy. When you smile at others, they smile back at you. It creates a positive atmosphere and your feeling of cheerfulness is reflected back to you in others faces. Whereas if you frown, your misery is increased as it rebounds on you from the atmosphere you created around you.
Rule 5. Be easy going
In a beautiful hadith, the Prophet (peace be on him) described that hell was not permitted from admitting gentle people. He asked:
Do you know what is prevented from?
The companions said: Allah and His Messenger (peace be on him) are more knowledgeable.’
He said: ‘It is prevented from the soft, gentle, easy-going approachable person.’ (Ibn Hibban and Tirmidhi)
The Prophet (peace be on him) also said:
Allah loves the easy-going cheerful person. (Bayhaqi)
When you enter your home or your place of work or mosque, have a smile on your face, even beneath your mask! At least your eyes will be smiling, even if people cannot see your mouth. Look in the mirror, and assess if your expression looks approachable or unfriendly. The Prophet (peace be on him) was sahlan (easy going). And he was the best of Allah’s creation and he liked ease, within the boundaries.
Having ease in a meeting or in a transaction or communication facilitates it. The Prophet (peace be on him) made a dua for the one who shows mercy to others. Jabir bin `Abdullah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) said:
عَنْ جَابِرٍ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: رَحِمَ اللَّهُ رَجُلًا سَمْحًا إِذَا بَاعَ وَإِذَا اشْتَرَى وَإِذَا اقْتَضَى رَوَاهُ البُخَارِيّ
“May Allah’s mercy be on him who is lenient in his buying, selling, and in demanding back his money.” (Bukhari)
When you need to deal with a government department and you meet people, in any country, when they make things simple and straightforward you feel relieved but when they keep making simple things difficult it fills you with frustration and you exasperation. We have all experienced those moments when we are put on hold and go round in circles and get passed from department to department as if we are trapped in a nightmare. The Prophet (peace be on him) made dua for against those who utilise their position to create ease or difficulty.
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رضي الله تعالى عنها قَالَتْ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «اللَّهُمَّ مَنْ وَلِيَ مِنْ أَمْرِ أُمَّتِي شَيْئًا فَشَقَّ عَلَيْهِمْ فَاشْقُقْ عَلَيْهِ وَمَنْ وَلِيَ مِنْ أَمْرِ أُمَّتِي شَيْئًا فَرَفَقَ بهم فارفُقْ بِهِ» . رَوَاهُ مُسلم
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
O Allah, cause distress to him who has any charge over my people and made things difficult for them, and be gentle to him who has any charge over my people and made things easy for them. (Muslim)
It is some people’s nature, they don’t like to make things easy and some people go out of their way to help you and they remove your burden from your shoulder and dua for them comes from your heart to your tongue for them.
You are sinful for making things difficult for others. The Prophet (peace be on him) said Wa yasiru wa la tua’siru.
Abu Musa told that when God’s Messenger sent one of his companions to attend to some of his affairs he said:
عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى قَالَ: كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا بَعَثَ أَحَدًا مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ فِي بَعْضِ أَمْرِهِ قَالَ: «بَشِّرُوا وَلَا تُنَفِّرُوا وَيَسِّرُوا وَلَا تُعَسِّرُوا». متفق عليه.
“Gladden people and do not scare them; make things easy and do not make them difficult.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
Give good news, not bad news. Some people specialise in giving bad news, while others sprinkle sunshine on others.
Allah loves the person who is easy going and cheerful. Train yourself to be cheerful. It is hasanaat (good deeds) which are easy to acquire like al ghanimatul baridah (cold booty). Instead of earning them the hard way on the battle field, you can pile them up by simply being cheerful.
If you are not in the mood today, when will you be?
Rule 6. Reconcile those who have fallen out
Bringing together people who have fallen out is a huge service to them, society and humanity. Sulhu khair – reconciliation is better than having ongoing conflicts, grudges and hatred.
Even it takes a bit of exaggerating and tweaking of the truth to bring about a softening of hearts and reconciliation between people, it is worth more reward than nawafil salah and fasting.
Abu Darda reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
“Shall I not tell you of what is better in degree than extra fasting, prayer, and charity?” They said, “Of course!” The Prophet said, “Reconciliation between people. Verily, corrupted relations between people is the razor.”
You are not sinful if you pick the good things to relay to both parties rather than the bad to bring end their dispute. This is because it benefits the whole family. The goodness of this radiates out to the community.
There are so many social rulings are around bringing hearts together. Whether it is greeting one another with a smile, or saying salam or not messing up someone else’s deal – like gazumping their house purchase, or proposing to their fiancé- in all scenarios Islam encourages society to live in harmony with love, care and consideration for each other.
The very first khutbah delivered by the Prophet (peace be on him) in Madinah was to spread goodness, through establishing the pillars of a good society:
‘Abdullah bin Salam said:
“When the Prophet (peace be on him) came to Al-Madinah, the people rushed to meet him, and it was said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace be onhim) has come! The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) has come! The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) has come!’ Three times. I came with the people to see him, and when I saw his face clearly, I knew that his face was not the face of a liar. The first thing I heard him say was when he said: ‘O people! Spread (the greeting of) Salam, feed others, uphold the ties of kinship, and pray during the night when people are sleeping, and you will enter Paradise with Salam.” (Ibn Majah)
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – The Thursday Knowledge Circle on Al Ghazali’s Forty Principles of Religion. Kitaab Al-Arba’in Fi Usul ad-Din.
This book is the last book Ghazali wrote. Towards the end of this life, after he had accomplished and completed Ihya Ulum ad Deen, he summarised the Ihya in 40 principles.
Taken from chapter 8 on the rights of Muslims and good companionship with them. This is an interesting topic. He is talking about the main principles, without which we cannot live – wealth and people.
The number 40 is significant and holds a secret. Imam Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with him) and others collated collections of 40 ahadith and sticking to this number has been a popular choice among scholars. Ghazali of course, came long before Imam Nawawi. 40 is a middle number, not 5-10 not 100.
- The connection between sincerity and the best of people – the story of Ka’b bin Malik
- The balancing act – taqwa of Allah vs people’s rights
- Responding to attacks on Islam with wisdom
- Jumuah – the special offer you shouldn’t refuse
- Monopolies on basic necessities are un-Islamic
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