Returning Evil with Good

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

Wickedness is weak, even when it seems to be victorious. In fact, wickedness cannot escape the destiny of its ultimate destruction. Goodness, honesty, and righteousness are the conquerors of the heart, and they are powerful in and of themselves. When good and evil truly come head to head with one another, there are very few people who will not respect good and despise evil. This clearly demonstrates that goodness and evil cannot be one.

It is goodness to forgive a wrong. But to return evil with good on top of forgiveness is to win over the heart of the one who was against you.

And none are ever enabled to attain it (such great virtue) save those who are patient (in adversities and against the temptations of their souls and Satan), and none are ever enabled to attain it save those who have a great part in human perfections and virtues. And if a prompting from Satan should stir in you (when carrying out your mission or during worship or in your daily life), seek refuge in God immediately. He is the One Who is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (Fussilat 41:35–36)

In terms of the struggle between good and evil, Satan is grievously disappointed when believers respond to evil with good. For he wants the believers to do something wrong, even some small reaction, so that he can use it to create doubts in the believers. In fact, if the believers show even the tiniest bit of excess in their response to those who attack them, some might say that “they were influenced by Satan’s whispers.” This will cause the believers to lose a large part of their power. By reacting they cast a small shadow over their righteousness, even if they were completely in the right, and those who see this shadow will have, to some extent, an excuse. The following hadith provides a very useful commentary on the verse above:

One day a man came up to Abu Bakr and began to heap insults on him. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was also there. As the man insulted him, Abu Bakr listened but gave no reply. The Prophet was smiling. Finally, Abu Bakr could no longer stand it and gave a harsh retort. The Prophet’s countenance changed, and he left. Abu Bakr followed him out to ask him why he left. He answered, “When you were quiet, there was an angel answering on your behalf. But when you opened your mouth, Satan showed up. I cannot stay in the same place as Satan.” [Abu Dawud, Adab, 49, 4896–97.]

In relation to this issue of repelling falsehood with truth and responding with what is the best in conduct, the Qur’an says;

(But whatever they may say or do,) repel the evil (done to you and committed against your mission) with the best (of what you can do). We know best all that they falsely attribute to Us. And say, “My Lord! I seek refuge in You from the promptings and provocations of the satans (of the jinn and humankind especially in my relations with people, while I am performing my mission). I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they be present with me.” (Mu’minun 23:96–98)

Just as one must refuse to heed slights and wrongs, it is also important to respond to wrongs with the best possible positive action.

Adopt the way of forbearance and tolerance, and enjoin what is good and right, and withdraw from the ignorant ones (do not care what they say and do). And if a prompting from Satan should cause you hurt (as you carry out your mission or during worship or in your everyday life), seek refuge in God. He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (A’raf 7:199–200)

A believer is commanded to take refuge in God when they hear any whispers from within themselves that urge them to take an action that is against God’s commands and which will not please God. In every situation when a person is subject to such whispers regarding the essentials of faith, worship, prohibitions, or how to treat people — in short, any aspect of life—they must turn to God and seek His protection. On the surface, the verse above seems to be addressed to the Prophet, but it is in fact intended for all people.

Those who keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety: when a suggestion from Satan touches them —they are alert and remember God, and then they have clear discernment. Whereas their brothers (the brothers of the satans in the form of human beings)— satans draw them deeper into error and do not relax in their efforts.” (A’raf 7:201–202)

Those who refrain from setting themselves against God never feel completely secure that they will do no wrong. Satan also tries to influence them. He can cloud their vision and they are potentially susceptible to the images and ideas he puts in their heads. But before long they will perceive the truth, remembering that they must seek refuge in God; their understanding will become clear and thus they will be saved from doing wrong.

Consider the promise of reward announced by our Prophet for the person who avoids an argument, even if they are in the right: “For the person who avoids an argument, even when they are in the right, I guarantee a mansion in the corner of Heaven. And for the one who never lies, even in jest, there is a mansion in the centre of Heaven. And for the person of good morals, I guarantee a mansion at the highest level of Heaven.” [Abu Dawud, Adab, 7, 4800.]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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