Prof. Dr. Ali Ulvi Mehmedoglu
University of Marmara Faculty of Ilahiyat
People are valuated with their kindness, and kindness is one of the strongest moral conducts for being. Goodness is everything that defends, protects and supports values. Values, is one of the oldest branches of understanding people. It has always been exciting in all circumstances to relate between values and the bond it has with human beings and how it guides them throughout their lives. For, values, only gain their value with the people living it. And likewise people are understood through their values.
So what are these values which are so significant in life? For a definition of the likes of this word, being important on one hand and old on the other, there really is no answer that’ll make everyone feel content. Then again values, generally, is what people would like to attain to guide them throughout life, or goals that will always be the number one priority. It is believed that the source of values is the individual, community, culture and religion.
As an outcome and a value, goodness, in the Islamic tradition, is used with many comprehensive and deep terminologies such as hayr, birr, ma’ruf, hasene, salih amel etc. With many more meanings it could be said that hayr is, intellect, justice, virtue and anything beneficent which people seek; birr is, all sorts of goodness, obedience and steadfastness; and ma’ruf is the happiness of people whether it be with words or actions. It is with virtue and the outcomes of it that the individual will gain merit. And as an emotion, an attitude, an action and also as a religious thought goodness is an essential virtue. It is because of this that all the religions have encouraged people to be virtuous, and the prophets themselves are the living examples of this. Likewise evil and whatever it produces such as tribulation, damage, harm, lies, corruption and sin have been forbidden and people were warned heavily of actions like this.
Just like the individual self can be an example of a good power and talent, it could also have the potential to lead one to that which is evil. The Quran states, “ and the self and him who made it perfect, then he inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it; he will indeed be successful who purifies it, and he will indeed fail who corrupts it.” Meaning goodness and its opposite, evil, are not things imposed from the outside, but rather are the preferences that people have within themselves. We are also informed of this situation in another verse where it states; “And I free not myself (from the blame). Verily the self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows his Mercy.” From this perspective the human life is an adventure where preferences revolve around good and evil. These preferences continue until the individual becomes perfect, and until he is in full harmony with himself, others, the world and finally with his creator. Just as Aliya Izzetbegovic states, “this freedom of choice that the human has been given, whatever the outcome may be, is the greatest form of existence in this cosmos.”
Goodness is the pinnacle of all virtues. But reaching that point is the outcome and only possible with long struggle and plenty of effort. For, there is plenty of deviants that lie about. Evil spreads faster, evil and wrong examples could be more appealing especially for those who have not yet found the balance they need. This is why before anything, good should be taught so that one could differentiate between the two and realise they cannot be one, then to rid evil with good, and finally to acknowledge that evil will only perish once it is met with good. The Quran emphasises the importance on this topic, sheds light upon it and wants the believers to be in this acknowledgement. In a verse it is also stated, “And by the mercy of Allah you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh hearted they would have broken away from about you.” Goodness is right beside us, right under our hands, not far away in the east or west. Only the one who does good can surpass himself and reach others, but he who cannot will block himself from good and only have time for himself. The Islamic tradition could be classified as a harmonious and caring tradition. From the beginning of the Islamic preaching the emphasis on goodness put forward by the Quran and the prophet made a significant change in the lives of Muslims and the places they lived throughout history and also allowed them to establish many institutions. Examples of this are foundations, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, almshouses, dormitories, mosques, schools, caravanserai’s/hotels, roads, bridges etc that were institutionalised throughout the centuries. With this manifested and became functional the idea of ‘racing one another in good.’
Goodness has many dimensions and branches to it. It assists in development, change, interaction and progression in the fields of psychology, sociology, politics and economics. No matter what the circumstances may be goodness helps to develop love, peace, trust, loyalty, compassion, mercy and justice between those who engage themselves with it. Likewise it rids and puts barriers between them against hatred, animosity, jealousy, pride, malice, grudges and injustice and stops them from manifesting. Goodness also helps in the development of positive emotions like hope, bravery and courage while at the same time it helps to diminish and extinguishes negative emotions such as fright, despair, misery and injustice. Goodness increases one’s ability to have empathy and to interact with others sharing their grief and sorrow instead of locking one’s self in their own world. In this sense it has a psychological effect on both parties; the one doing good and the one receiving it. On one hand it helps to unite people living in the same community and on the other it dispels evils like hoarding, materialism, squandering and the love of power and control which will then add to the circulation of money and wealth which concludes in social peace and serenity.
According to research, in the fields of psychology, health and wellbeing, psychology and sociology of religion, many virtues including kindness have a positive effect that could be seen psychologically, physically and between the bonds that people have. So it is understood that virtues, especially kindness not only helps one in self confidence but also effects one’s life in the sense that it helps in self progression.
The world could only be liveable and if there in kindness amongst people. The whole of humanity must persist in the establishment and continuity of kindness. Kindness is to be present not just in one’s self but also in someone else. When kindness is forgotten in the world, meaning, where people have forgotten one another and only work for their own benefits, that’s when the world gives birth to stingy, sick and selfish people. The cure for the depression people are living these days could only be wiped off when people live upon kindness. Not being able to give meaning to life or having no goal in life which then transforms into fright, worry, anxiety, anger and boredom could only be repaired by reconnecting the self with its creator who is the sole creator of kindness. Maybe this is the most important and valuable meaning in life: surpass yourself and reach beyond, and this could only become true with the virtue that protects, defends and supports all virtues; kindness.