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Calm is the Pinnacle of Virtue

First appeared at Islam Today web site –

There is an old saying that goes: “The calmer the ocean, the deeper it is.”

Another old saying goes: “An empty cart makes more noise than the full cart.”

These sayings point to the same thing: that calm is a virtue. There can be no doubt about the truth of this point.

The human mind works at its best when the surrounding environment is calm and settled. Likewise, it works at its best when the thinker’s temperament is calm. When the human mind is beset with external or internal commotion, its powers become weak and it more easily falls prey to rashness and reckless passion.

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It is a strategy of debate to get one’s opponent angry, since once the opponent loses his or her composure, his or her defeat is almost imminent, especially if one is able to keep one’s cool and a smile on one’s face.

Allah describes those who believe and rely on their Lord as being: {those who avoid the worst sins and shameful deeds, and, when they are angry even then forgive.} (42: 37)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) warns us that:

“Anger is a burning ember in the human heart that is stoked up.” (Ahmad)

We can draw a lesson from what happened when the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib was on his deathbed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) entered his room to find him in the company of Abu Jahl and Abd Allah ibn Abi Umayyah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“My uncle, declare that there is no God but God, so I may speak on your behalf before Allah.”

At this, Abu Jahl and Abd Allah ibn Abi Umayyah said:

“O Abu Talib! Do you desire something other than the ways of `Abd al-Muttalib?”

Abu Talib died, refusing to accept Islam though knowing it to be the truth, out of fear of public shame. Nevertheless, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“I will continue to seek Allah’s forgiveness for you as long as Allah does not forbid me from doing so.”

Thereafter, Allah revealed the verse:

{It is not fitting, for the Prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for Pagans, even though they be of kin, after it is clear to them that they are companions of the Fire.} (9: 113)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was in a heart-wrenching situation. He loved his uncle who had in turn loved him and done so much for him. The issue was the most serious issue that can be considered: the issue of faith in Allah and his Messenger and of worshipping Allah alone. The Prophet (peace be upon him) sought nothing more from Abu Talib than to declare his faith before he died.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was well aware that a person is all the more sensitive and unclear of thinking at the time of death. Therefore, he spoke to him calmly and clearly, saying:

“My uncle, declare that there is no God but God, so I may speak on your behalf before Allah.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not allow himself to get into an argument with his opponents when they taunted Abu Talib with the honor of the tribe of Quraysh and reminded him of the religion of his forefathers. He simply repeated to his uncle his calm request.

The Prophet’s conduct should remind us that just because we know we are in the right, this gives us no excuse to get angry. Indeed, if we are upon the truth, this should give us all the more reason to remain calm. Anger merely confuses things and makes it more difficult for us to think clearly and communicate our thoughts to others.

It is said that calm is the pinnacle of virtue. When we think about it, we see that a person who remains calm has the advantage under all circumstances – in agreement and disagreement, in acceptance and refusal. Calm enhances one’s good qualities and makes one’s bad qualities seem less serious. Even a wrongdoer, if he maintains his composure and good manners, is more likely to be excused for his wrongdoing.

We should remember the Prophet’s words:

“The strong person is not the one who can throw his opponent. The strong person is the one who can keep control when angry.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.