Avoiding an Evil Attitude Toward Others

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

The term hasad, which means that one is not comfortable with the blessings of another person, is a feeling of resentment that someone else has a particular possession, attainment, or endowment, wishing that they did not have it or that they lose it. [Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, 3/148.] This is one of the worst psychological and spiritual types of immorality that can be found in the human heart. Particularly when combined with ignorance and greed, such feeling of resentment can cause even worse things. In some people this feeling comes and goes in a moment. In others, it takes root, takes over the personality, and grows like cancer. The type of resentment which we will discuss is this latter, the most dangerous one.

Envy that is full of resentment is clearly wrong. But sometimes even ghibta, or admiration, can give way to a problematic degree of jealousy. For example, one may admire and esteem a scholar, but later start to think, “Why does he have knowledge and I do not?” If this feeling or thought arises, then the “admiration” has gone too far. There is a fine line between these feelings. It is critical to pay close attention and remain watchful about such feelings.

Feelings of resentment, if a person is aware of them, first damage the person in whom the feelings have arisen. If someone who is under the influence of this feeling understands that their resentment arises from seeing the other person receive something good, then they should feel bad about themselves, even if they are a selfish person. They also cause themselves pain because deep within themselves this feeling feeds the desire “not to be deprived”; this is a great burden on a person. Such a person will spend a large part of their energy on making needless comparisons between themselves and others. And what is more, resentment toward other people will strain relationships and act as an obstacle to friendship.

Resentment causes people to lose a healthy perspective on their own life and to neglect their own responsibilities and work. Depending on the degree, resentment can destroy one’s morality as well. An envious mind derails a person from the straight path, no matter how good they may appear. However, it is very hard for the person themselves to recognize this. One who nurtures such grudges resents the blessings of others merely because they do not possess the same. This sickness cannot coexist with true piety, righteousness, justice, good sense, and virtues.

Imam Ghazali defines hasad as a feeling that is opposed to the blessings of another person. Ghazali says that when God grants someone a blessing the people around them can react in one of two ways:

1. They think the blessing is excessive and want the person to lose it. This is hasad; the sign of such resentment is the desire that the person no longer has the possession in question or being happy when they lose it.

2. They may have no positive or negative feelings about the thing granted to the other person; they do not wish for it to be lost. The opposite of this is ghibta, that is, the desire that one is given the same thing without desiring that it should pass away from the other person who has it.

The first reaction, when one does not like to see others granted a blessing and wishes for it to be taken away, is designated as being haram (forbidden) and is decried in the strongest terms by Islamic scholars. There is one exception: it is not a sin to wish that a blessing be taken away if the immoral and sinful recipient is using it to instigate strife among people, or using it as an excuse to oppress people; the cause of dislike in such a case is not envy of the good thing that person has, but the desire that the ability to cause such injustice and strife should not be with such an evil person. [Ghazali, Ihya al-Ulum al-Din, 3/425–6]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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