Three Gradations of Doing Good

PM-211x300We present extracts from the writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdias, on gradations of doing good to others. These are published from ‘The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’ and ‘Lecture Lahore.’
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2015-December-Arabic_Inserts-Finalised_Uploaded_pdf__page_2_of_3_This means that we are commanded to return good for good, and to exercise benevolence when it is called for, and to do good with natural eagerness as between kindred, when that should be appropriate. God Almighty forbids transgression or that you should exercise benevolence out of place or should refrain from exercising it when it is called for; or that you should fall short of exercising graciousness as between kindred on its proper occasion, or should extend it beyond its appropriate limit. This verse sets forth three gradations of doing good.

The first is the doing of good in return for good. This is the lowest gradation and even an average person can easily acquire this gradation that he should do good to those who do good to him.

The second gradation is a little more difficult than the first, and that is to take the initiative in doing good out of pure benevolence. This is the middle grade. Most people act benevolently towards the poor, but there is a hidden deficiency in benevolence, that the person exercising benevolence is conscious of it and desires gratitude or prayer in return for his benevolence. If on any occasion the other person should turn against him, he considers him ungrateful. On occasion he reminds him of his benevolence or puts some heavy burden upon him. The benevolent ones have been admonished by God Almighty:
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That is, O those who do good to others–good that should be based on sincerity–do not render it vain by reminding them what favours you have done them or by inflicting injury on them. The Arabic word for alms (Sadaqah) is derived from a root (sidq) that means sincerity. If the heart is not inspired by sincerity in bestowing alms, the almsgiving ceases to be alms and becomes mere display. That is why those who exercise benevolence have been admonished by God Almighty not to render vain their benevolence by reproaches or injury.

The third grade of doing good is graciousness as between kindred. God Almighty directs that in this grade there should be no idea of benevolence or any desire for gratitude, but good should be done out of such eager sympathy as, for instance, a mother does good to her child. This is the highest grade of doing good which cannot be exceeded. But God Almighty has conditioned all these grades of doing good with their appropriate time and place. The verse cited above clearly indicates that if these virtues are not exercised in their proper places they would become vices. For instance, if equity exceeds its limits it would take on an unwholesome aspect and would become indecent. In the same way, misuse of benevolence would take on a form which would be repelled by reason and conscience; and in the same way graciousness between kindred would become transgression. The Arabic word for transgression is baghi, which connotes excessive rain which ruins crops. A deficiency in the discharge of an obligation or an excess in its discharge are both baghi. In short, whichever of these three qualities is exercised out of place becomes tainted. That is why they are all three qualities conditioned by the due observance of place and occasion. It should be remembered that equity or benevolence or graciousness between kindred are not in themselves moral qualities. They are man’s natural conditions and faculties that are exhibited even by children before they develop their reason. Reason is a condition of the exercise of a moral quality and there is also a condition that every moral quality should be exercised in its proper place and on its proper occasion.[3]

Forgiveness is Better Than Retribution
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2015-December-Arabic_Inserts-Finalised_Uploaded_pdf__page_2_of_3_That is, God commands you to abide by justice and fairness. But if you wish to attain greater perfection, then treat people with compassion and do good even to those who have done you no good. And if you aspire to even higher perfection, then be of service to others out of personal sympathy and natural impulse, without any desire to win gratitude or to put anyone under obligation, and be kind to them just as a mother is kind to her children out of a natural urge. God also forbids you to commit excesses, to remind people of the good you have done them, or to be ungrateful to those who have been kind to you. This is further elaborated in the verse:
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That is, when the truly righteous feed the poor, the orphan and the captive, they do so selflessly, only out of love for God, and say to them: “We only serve you for the sake of God, from you we require neither gratitude nor reward.”

With regard to retribution or forgiveness, the Holy Qur’an teaches us:
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The retribution for an injury is an injury to the same extent. Tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye, and abuse for an abuse, but whosoever forgives—and the forgiveness results in reformation rather than mischief, and he who has been forgiven rectifies his behaviour and desists from evil—his forgiveness is better than retribution, and the forgiver shall have his reward [with God]. It does not teach us that, having been struck on one cheek, we should in all circumstances turn the other cheek also, for this goes against true wisdom.

Doing good to an evil-doer can be as unjust as doing evil to a good man. The Holy Qur’an further says:
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That is, if someone is kind to you, show him even greater kindness. All rancour between you will thus turn into a friendship so close that it borders upon kinship.[8]

 

Endnotes

  1. Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 91).
  2. Render not vain your alms by taunt or injury.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 265)
  3. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam (Tilford, Surrey: Islam International Publications Ltd., 2010) 64-67.
  4. Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 91).
  5. And they feed, for love of Him, the poor, the orphan, and the prisoner, Saying, ‘We feed you for Allah’s pleasure only. We desire no reward nor thanks from you’” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Dahr, Verses 9-10).
  6. And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Shura, Verse 41).
  7. And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Ha Mim Al-Sajdah, Verse 35).
  8. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Lecture Lahore (Tilford, Surrey: Islam International, 2008), 12-14.

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