Have you ever given someone a gift? Did you feel the pleasure of thinking about what they would enjoy and then share in a warm glow when you saw their delight? It’s almost as much fun giving a gift as receiving one; both the giver and the receiver benefit from the exchange. This is because there is a universal truth that everyone knows – it feels good to do good.
Whether we share a joke, pick up something that is dropped or cook someone a meal, we have all experienced the fun element of being kind and good. But why does this exist? Why do all people, regardless of race, religion, age or language, all feel happy when they help others? Simply put, being charitable and kind is fundamentally part of human nature and when we act upon those selfless and caring instincts – we feel better about ourselves.
In Islam, such service to others is known as Huqooqul Ibaad – duties towards mankind. Islam teaches that it is a foundation of faith to help others. The Holy Qur’an states:
“And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful” (Chapter 4 verse 37)
So here it is a direct instruction to all Muslims that they must be kind to others – look how long the list of those to whom we should show kindness is! It includes so many people: parents, relatives, needy, neighbours and those who are near you. It includes almost everyone with whom we might come into contact in our lives – certainly those whom we meet on a regular basis.
So what kindness are we supposed to show? We can look at the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) as an excellent example. One hadith narrates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said that even smiling is an act of charity (Tirmidhi). Nowadays, we often hear about well-being and mental health. Many people say that smiling more and making yourself smile is a good way to help yourself begin to feel more positive and it has been proven to have a positive effect on individuals. As well as that, the person who receives our smile also feels good – they feel noticed and cared for and a bond of friendship begins to form. It extends to create kindness in them so even this small act has a ripple effect. One good deed deserves another as the famous saying goes.
Islam is a beautiful religion because it offers practical advice and instructions to help us act in the best way and to guide us along the right path. For example, Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Zakat is the system whereby the wealth that we have unused – we give a portion of it to the poor and needy. This is a benefit to the whole of society because it means that the gap between rich and poor should not be endlessly increasing. It reminds richer people that they should look after those who have less and may be struggling. As a society, this system ensures that the poor are given provisions and are not neglected. What a peaceful society it would be to live in. In the same way, interest on a loan is forbidden in Islam because it increases inequality. So Islamic values cover both individual actions and explain how kindness is best, but also addresses situations arising in society as a whole and strives to reduce inequality.
On a personal level, kindness comes in many forms. It can be gift-giving, smiling, giving money to charity but it is also the kindness in the way we treat one another – the empathy and compassion we all need from each other. We’ve all been hurt by a cruel comment or an unkind action. It can sting. It can wound. Muslims are encouraged to try and avoid hurting others and are reminded to try and focus on improving themselves and their own conduct. It’s not about pointing out the faults in others, it’s about making sure we ourselves are doing the right thing.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (May Allah strengthen his hand) explained by saying:
How did the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) do good to others? Well, he not only forgave those who were extremely cruel, but he went so far as to assist them in their businesses and trade. For instance, some were given thousands of sheep, and that was not because they had become Muslim; on the contrary, they were given the assistance whilst they were still non-Muslims.
This is the standard of good works that can establish peace in society and can end enmities. And this becomes apparent from the next commandment, which is ‘giving like kindred’.
When somebody does good to someone else, he should not follow it up by reminding him of his past favours. Furthermore, treating the cruel as though they were your kindred is even more virtuous than the doing of good alone.
The best example of how to treat one’s kindred is the example of how a mother treats her child. A good mother serves her child continuously but never reminds her child of her favours. When she cares for her children, she is not doing it with the intention that when the children grow up, she will force them to look after her by reminding them of how much or what she did for them during their childhood. In fact, she cares out of love and compassion
And of course, this is not merely empty words. The principle of kindness and self-control is embedded within the 10 Conditions of Bai’at – the Pledge of Allegiance which every Ahmadi Muslim makes. The fourth condition is;
That under the impulse of any passions, he/she shall cause no harm whatsoever to the creatures of God in general and Muslims in particular, neither by his/her tongue, hands, nor any other means.
And the ninth condition is;
That he/she shall keep himself/herself occupied in the service of God’s creatures for His sake only and shall endeavour towards the beneficence of mankind to the best of his/her God-given abilities and powers.
So, there you have it in a nutshell… Islam instructs Muslims to be kind to everyone. It outlines systems which can create a just and caring society and it puts empathy and compassion at the centre of many of its teachings.
So next time you want to cheer yourself up – do something nice for someone else. I guarantee you will feel better because you will be doing acts to please God. If you do these acts in remembrance of God, they will turn into blessings and then you will see the benefits. It sure does feel good to do good to others.