First appeared at the author’s website- en.islamtoday.net
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Fasting is a shield – one who fasts does not use obscenities or act in an ignorant manner. If someone argues with you or insults you, say: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting’.” (Al-Bukhari)
When we fast this Ramadan, we should make the effects of our worship show up in our good conduct. As Muslims, we should always be well-mannered, respectful, modest, kind, and gentle. We should always show compassion to others. However, when we are fasting, we should be all the more conscious of our conduct and all the more ready to exercise self-restraint.
One of the most exemplary character traits that a person can have – in Ramadan and at other times – is that of clemency. We are sorely in need of this today. With all the problems in the world and in our daily lives, we often lose sight of the value of simply being nice to each other.
Clemency is our ability to retain our composure when we get upset or angry. It means that we hold back from avenging the wrongs and abuses that we suffer from others. If anger means our “blood boils”, the clemency means that we keep things under control in the heat of the moment and use good sense.
Clemency is a beautiful and balanced mode of conduct, one that is neither anger nor self-effacement. A person who cannot inculcate clemency into his character will be in either one or another bad state. He will either be angry and temperamental, or sniveling and debased.
It is important to distinguish between true clemency – which shows strength of character – and the forbearance that comes from weakness, disgrace, and inability.
Balance and poise are among the hallmarks of the Islamic faith. Clemency is a trait that exemplifies balance and the triumph of reason over our passions.
As human beings, we have a natural propensity to get angry. It is abnormal to never get angry. However, one whose anger is accompanied by clemency can come though his anger blameless and unscathed.
Indeed, some people have observed that without anger there is no meaning to clemency, since a person is only described as clement when people see how he conducts himself when he is angry.
A Muslim should endeavor to show this trait with everyone. The most noble of people are those who stand above tit-for-tat knavery. The person who responds to ignorance with kindness elevates himself above the other. This is not even the case when responding to kindness in kind, since that merely puts both parties on an equal footing.
This is why it is so important that a Muslim exhibits clemency with all people. If his heart is not strong enough to feel it, he should at least make an outward show of forbearance. This will, in time, grow into true, heartfelt magnanimity. Clemency is like any other character trait. A person is either naturally endowed with it, or he can learn it and make it part of his character with effort.
Ramadan is the ideal time for us to develop this quality. We need to translate the restraint we show regarding our desire to eat and drink in this month into the ability to restrain our tongues and our hands when we are abused. We must, indeed, use our fast a shield, protecting us from bad behavior.
We need to say to one who looks to fall into a dispute with us – “I am fasting.” We need to remind ourselves as well as the other party. Maybe this is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) specifically instructs us to say it twice.