Importance of Respect and Reverence
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
In the fifth rule of the Islamic concept of social relations, all comportments of kindness and favor are undoubtedly examples of courtesy, amicability, and endearment of oneself to people. More details and clarifications will be mentioned in the coming discussion of the superstructure of this fifth rule.
Respect and reverence fall under and are examples of acts of kindness and favor. However, because this topic is also related to the topic of meetings among believers, it is appropriate to mention it in this discussion of amicability and endearment of oneself to people, because it has been dedicated to this topic.
The special interest taken by the Holy Legislator in this topic can be noticed through the set of laws, regulations, and etiquettes set down by Him, some of which are as follows:
Veneration and Reverence
Confirmation on the necessity of deferring to one’s companions has been made through many traditions. For instance, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Abu-Ja’far (al-Baqir) (‘a) used to say, “Venerate and have respect for your companions, and do not assail each other.”¯1
In the previously mentioned discussion of special treatments, we have mentioned some traditions revealing the Ahl al-Bayt’s teachings about respecting and showing consideration for old people and celebrated personalities. In these traditions, the Holy Imams (‘a) have said that showing respect to such people is a sort of veneration of Almighty Allah.
Treating Muslims and Noble People with Deference
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have also instructed treating Muslims in general and noble personalities in particular with deference and to confer honor upon persons who join public meetings. Some aspects of this instruction have been previously cited in the course of the disapproval of rejecting acts of kindness. Besides, the approval of this manner can be inferred from the Holy Prophet’s behavior with ‘Adi ibn Hatam, as reported by Imam ‘Ali (‘a) who said: When ‘Adi ibn Hatam visited the Holy Prophet (S), he allowed him to enter his house which had no furniture at all except a rug made of palm leaves and a pillow made of skin. The Holy Prophet (S) offered them to ‘Adi to sit on.¯2
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: He who confers honor upon his brother-in-faith by a nice word and relieves his agony will stay under the shade of Almighty Allah that covers him with mercy as long as he is in that state.¯3
The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said: If an eminent person comes to you, you should confer honor upon him.¯4
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: If a person that is reputed among his people comes to you, you should confer honor upon him.¯5
Exegetes have explained that an eminent person intended in the previous traditions stands for the wealthy, the highborn stands for the doer of kind acts, and the honorable stands for the pious.¯6
Actually, this instruction is not limited to these persons; it is more expansive.
According to a validly reported tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has said: He who honors his brother-in-faith who visits him has in fact honored Almighty Allah.¯7
Using the Most Favorable Names
It is also recommended to call people with the most favorable names to them and to call them with their dearest surnames to them, because this involves veneration and endearment of oneself to them.
Shaykh al-Kulayni has reported through a valid chain of authority that Imam al-Ridha (‘a) said: When you want to refer to a present man, you may use his surname, and when he is absent, you may use his first name.¯8
This is so because reference to an absent person requires more accuracy than the present; therefore, to mention the name of an absent person makes the others know him better, while to mention the present with the surname does not require much introduction.
The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have called his companions with the dearest names to them as a sign of conferring honor upon them and making their hearts incline towards him. He would also give nicknames to those who did not have one. After that, all people would call them with these nicknames used by the Holy Prophet (S). He would also use nicknames for childless women and those who had not yet given birth to any child. Making their hearts incline towards him, the Holy Prophet (S) used to give nicknames to children, too.
In this regard, it is reported that ‘Umar, once asked Suhayb, “Why are you called by a nickname while you are childless?”
He answered, “It was the Holy Prophet (S) who nicknamed me Abu-Yahya.”¯9
Abu-Bakrah has reported that the Holy Prophet (S) nicknamed him so after he had ridden a young she-camel (bakrah) that led him to al-Ta'if.¯10
Kind Acts and Taking the Lead in Charity
In our discourse about the fifth rule in the superstructure of the Islamic concept of social relations; namely, kind acts and taking the lead to charity, we can touch on expansive horizons, because the majority of the previously cited items and details fall under this topic although some of them are possess other features as well.
For instance, we have referred to the topics of exchanging salutations and forbiddance of separation and alienation among Muslims within the first aspect of openness in social relations, because these topics act as two demonstrations of openness in social relations. Meanwhile, to begin with greeting others and to mend one’s ruptured relations are acts of kindness to the other party.
The same thing is applicable to principles of social solidarity, supporting and helping each other, and enjoining the right and forbidding the evil. These three principles have been previously discussed under the rule of reinforcing the social structure. The same thing is also applicable to other items like thinking well about others initially, overlooking their maltreatment or abuse, behaving modestly, and enduring the malicious acts of the envious. Although the last two features have been previously mentioned under the rule of control over sentiments and emotions, they have something to do with acts of kindness and taking the lead in charitable deeds.
Besides, the totality of the manners of amicability, courteous behavior, and mannerliness, are also sorts of kind and charitable acts. So are the majority of religious and social duties and commitments, which are considered acts of kindness in the totality of man’s movement in the field of building good social relations with others.
In view of this fact, we will devote our discussion of the superstructure of this rule to mentioning four aspects related to the rule of kind acts and taking the lead in charity.
Regulations of Kind Acts
This aspect discusses the general guidelines and regulations of kind acts. In the coming points, a general glance will be taken at these guidelines and regulations.
Balance between Profit and Loss
It goes with saying that kindness is well-liked act that, in the majority of its applications, expresses altruism, because it is founded on the concepts of fraternity, justice, and equality among believers. Nonetheless, a doer of kind acts must take into account that he must not cause himself damage and loss more than the advantage and profit offered to his brother-in-faith.
For instance, when one offers an amount of money or a title in compensation of another amount or title, the advantage for oneself must be more than, or at least equal to, the profit that he offers to the others. This is in the field of transactions and financial compensations. This warning has been mentioned in traditions reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). In this connection, al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Tusi, in his book of al-Majalis, has reported through a valid chain of authority that Isma’il ibn Khalid heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying: Abu-Ja’far al-Baqir (‘a) gathered us (i.e. his sons) and said, “O sons, beware of exposing yourselves to violating the rights of the others, and act patiently towards catastrophes. When one of your folks asks you to engage yourselves in a matter that causes you bigger damage than the profit he gains, then do not respond to him.”¯11
Shaykh al-Kulayni, in his book of al-Kafi, has referred to the same in several traditions reported from Imam al-Sadiq and Imam al-Kazim (‘a): Do not engage yourself in an issue that causes you bigger damage than the profit it brings to your brother-in-faith.
Do not give from yourself to your brothers-in-faith things that cause you bigger damage than the profit they gain.¯12
Immediateness in Offering Kind Acts
An act of kindness should be done as immediately and secretly as possible and should be belittled in the eyes of the one to whom it is done, because this brings about spiritual, mental, and social outcomes to the doer of the kind act in particular and the people of favors in general. In this respect, Shaykh al-Kulayni, in his book of al-Kafi, and Shaykh al-Saduq, in his books of Man-La-Yahdhuruhul-Faqih and al-Khisal, have reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said: I have found that favors are worthless unless belittled, veiled, and provided immediately. If you belittle your favor, you will surely make it great in the eyes of the one to whom you have done it. If you cover it up, you will surely have accomplished it. If you offer it as soon as possible, you will surely have given it pleasantly; otherwise, you will destroy it and give unpleasantly.¯13
Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said: The settling of the others’ needs cannot be consummated except by three attributes: it must be belittled so that it will be great in the eyes of those to whom it was made. It must be given secretly so that it will be manifested. It must be immediate so that it becomes pleasant.¯14
Through a valid chain of authority, Hamran has reported that he heard Imam al-Baqir (‘a) saying: Everything has a fruit, and the fruit of doing a favor is to do it as immediately as possible.¯15
1. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 12:15, H. 5.
2. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:468, H. 4.
3. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 11:591, S. 31, H. 2.
4. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:468, H. 1.
5. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:469, H. 2.
6. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili has reported the following in his book of Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 12:100, H. 1: Al-Hajjal has reported that he said to Jamil ibn Darraj that the Holy Prophet (s) was reported to have said, “If a person that is reputed among his people comes to you, confer honor upon him.” Jamil confirmed this. “What is meant by a reputed person?” al-Hajjal asked. “I asked Abu-’Abdullah (Imam al-Sadiq) about this,” Jamil answered, “He said that a reputed person is the wealthy.” “What is meant by the highborn?” al-Hajjal asked. “A highborn is he who does kind acts,” answered Jamil. “What is meant by honor?” al-Hajjal asked. “Honor is piety,” answered Jamil. [translator]
7. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 11:590, H. 1.
8. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 2:671, H. 2.
9. - Sunan Ibn Majah 2:1231, H. 3738. [translator]
10. - Al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawa'id 6:190. [translator]
11. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:544, H. 6.
12. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:544, H. 1 & 2.
13. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:542, H. 1.
14. - Nahj al-Balaghah, Saying No. 101.
15. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:543, H. 2.