Allah, the Wise, has said:
اِنَّکّ لَعَلىَ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
(And certainly, you stand on sublime morality.)1
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
بُعِثتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ مَکاَرِمَ الْاَخلاَقِ
I have been sent (as a Prophet) to perfect the morals.2
For man, good morals bring grace and elegance in this world, and relief and happiness in the hereafter. They elevate a person’s status in proximity to God and aid him in the perfection of his religion. All the Prophets, auliya, and the chosen ones of God possessed exemplary morals and every believer ought to adorn himself with such morals, in order that his Scales of deeds become weightier on the Day of Judgement. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) has said: The Haatim of our time is one, who possesses good morals. Bad morals cause a person to suffer the squeezing of the grave and the (punishment of) hell (in the hereafter), and a lack of friends in this world.
Man should not be measured according to his knowledge, wealth or position, but rather, according to his commendable attributes, which make him acceptable in the eyes of God and distinguished and praised in the eyes of people.3
Noa’imaan Ibn A’mr Ansaari was one of the early companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and had a jovial and jocose nature. It has been reported that a tribal Bedouin once arrived in Madinah and, resting his camel behind the mosque, entered inside to be in the presence of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).
Some of the Prophet’s companions incited Noa’imaan by saying, “ If you kill this camel, we could distribute its meat amongst ourselves, and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) would have to pay its price to the owner.”
Following their advice, Noa’imaan killed the animal. When the owner came out of the mosque and discovered his dead camel, he was furious and decided to bring the matter to the attention of the Holy Prophet. Noa’imaan, in the meantime, had taken flight.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) came out of the mosque, saw the dead camel and inquired, “Who is responsible for this act?”
Those around him accused Noa’imaan so the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) despatched someone to bring Noa’imaan before him. Word spread around that Noa’imaan was hiding in the house of Dhubaa’h Bint Zubair,4 which was near the mosque. He had climbed into a pit and covered himself with fresh grass. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) was told about Noa’imaan’s hideout and he and his companions set out towards Dhubaa’h’s house. Once there, the envoy revealed Noa’imaan’s hideaway to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), who ordered him to uncover the pit. When it was done, Noa’imaan emerged, his cheeks and forehead covered with fresh grass. On seeing him, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) asked:
“O’ Noa’imaan! What is this that you have done?”
He replied, “O’ Prophet of Allah! By Allah! Those people who have led you to my hiding-place,were the same ones who persuaded me to kill the camel.”
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) smiled and brushed away the grass from Noa’imaan’s cheeks and forehead with his holy hands. He then paid the price of the camel to the Bedouin5 on Noa’imaan’s behalf.
Khuzaimah Abrash, the Arabian king, never embarked upon any task without first conferring with the Roman Emperor who was one of his closest friends. Once, with the intention of seeking the Emperor’s opinion regarding his children’s fortune, he sent a letter to him with his herald. In the letter, he wrote:
“I feel I should set aside great riches for each of my sons and daughters in order that they do not fall into bad times after me. What is your opinion in this affair?”
The Roman Emperor replied: “Wealth is a sweetener - unfaithful and impermanent! The best service for your children would be to embellish them with good morals and laudable attributes, which will lead to permanent leadership in the world and forgiveness (of sins) in the hereafter.”611
Once, a relative of Imam Sajjad (a.s.) approached the Imam (a.s.) and began to revile and insult him. The Imam (a.s.) did not utter a word in reply but, after the man had left the gathering, he turned to the people around him and said:
“You heard what this man said. Now I want you to accompany me andhear what I have to say in response to his abuses and insults.”
The companions complied, “We shall surely accompany you; in fact we had hoped that youwould reply to him at that very moment.”
The Imam (a.s.) set off towards the person’s house and was heard reciting the following Qur’anic verse:
And who restrain (their) anger, and forgive (the faults of) men; for God loves those who do good (to others).7
The narrator says: “ When we heard the recitation of this verse, we realized that the Imam (a.s.) intended to exhibit goodness towards the person who had just insulted him.”
When he reached the person’s house, the Imam (a.s.) called out to him and announced his arrival.
On seeing the Imam, the person immediately assumed that he had come to respond to his abuses.
However, as soon as the Imam (a.s.) saw the man, he said, “O’ Brother! You came to me and uttered things which were appalling and unpleasant. If what you have attributed to meis true, I seek forgiveness for myself from God, but if it is not so, then I pray that God forgives you.”
The man was shocked to hear these words and repented. He kissed Imam Sajjad (a.s.) between the eyes and apologised, saying:
“My insults and abuse were unfounded and cannot be attributed to your character. In fact, those insults befit me more than you.”813
Imam Ali (a.s.), during his Calphate, would often undertake tours to survey the markets and advise and guide the traders there.
One day, while passing through the date market, he noticed that a small girl was weeping. Imam asked her the reason for her tears at which she explained:
“My master had given me a dirham to purchase some dates. I purchased them from this trader here, but when I returned home, my master did not approve of them. Now I wish to return them but the trader refuses to take them back.”
Imam 'Ali (a.s.), turned to the trader and said to him, “This child is a slave-girl and has no authority of her own. Take back the dates and return her money to her.”
The trader stepped forward and, in full view of the other traders and onlookers, struck the Imam (a.s.) on the chest in an attempt to shove him away from the front of his shop.
The people who were witnessing the incident, rushed forward and said to the man:
“What do you think you are doing? This is Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.)!”
The trader’s face went pale as he stood flabbergasted. He immediately took the dates from the girl and handed back the money to her.
Then, turning to the Imam (a.s.), he implored, “O’ Amirul Mu'mineen! Be pleased with me and forgive me.”
The Imam replied, “I shall only be pleased with you when you change your behaviour for the better and pay close attention to morals and courtesy.”9
Once, Maalik Ashtar was passing through the market of Kufah looking very indigent. He was dressed in coarse canvas apparel and had placed canvas on his head instead of a turban. One of the traders was sitting in his shop when his eyes fell upon Maalik. He looked at him with contempt and scornfully hurled a lump of earth towards him.
Maalik disregarded him and proceeded on his way. However, a person who had recognized Malik and had witnessed the incident, reprimanded the trader:
“Shame on you! Do you know who you have just humiliated?”
“No,” replied the trader.
“He was Maalik Ashtar, the companion of 'Ali (a.s.).”
A shiver ran through the body of the trader at the thought of the evil deed he had committed. He immediately set off after Maalik in order to offer his apologies. He noticed that Maalik had entered a mosque where he was engaged in prayers and decided to wait for him. As soon as Maalik had finished praying, the trader fell at his feet and began kissing them. Maalik raised him and asked him what he was doing.
“ I am apologizing for the sin I have committed,” answered the trader.
Maalik explained, “There is no sin upon you. By God, I came to the mosque especially to seek forgiveness for you.”10