Our Dealings With Our Friends
Friendship as the average person understands it is perhaps
little more than acquaintance; but in reality it is more sacred
than any other connection in the world. To a sincere person,
entering into friendship is like entering the gates of heaven;
and a visit to his friend is a pilgrimage to a true loving friend.
When, in friendship, a thought arises, 'I will love you as
you love me,' or, 'I will do to you as you do to me,' this takes
away all the virtue of the friendship, because it is a commercial
attitude, prevalent everywhere in the commercial world: everything
is done for a return, and measure is given for measure. Friendship
should be the contrary pole to the practical side of life; for
when a person is tired by the selfish surroundings of the world
he feels inclined to take refuge in the love and kindness of
a sympathetic friend. But if there is a question of selfishness
in friendship, where can a soul go who is tired and annoyed
with the selfish surroundings of the world?
Friendship is just like recreation after the toil of the
day. One can speak or be with someone who is different from
all others in life. But difficulty arises because everyone thinks
that his friend ought to prove worthy of his ideal, and this
in the end disappoints him. For the law of beneficence teaches
this: that goodness is worthwhile which can withstand even badness;
that kindness is valuable which can withstand tyranny. Every
soul is not ready to follow this ideal, and it depends to what
extent one is strong enough to withstand. By having an ideal
and keeping it before him, a person develops sooner or later
into that ideal.
A friendship used to carry out one's aims and objects in
life through the love and kindness of a friend is only business.
The unselfish friend is the pure one, and it is such a friendship
that will last; but a selfish friendship will vanish. For the
selfish friend will create selfishness in the heart of his friend,
and the unselfish friend will create unselfishness in the heart
of his friend.
Everyone gets, sooner or later, what he gives, for the heart
knows the condition of the heart. Therefore, there is no better
principle than wishing good to the friend, speaking good of
the friend, doing good to the friend, with all kindness and
love; having no thought for one moment of the friend's deserving
our goodness, kindness, or love.
OUR DEALINGS WITH OUR RELATIONS
Our love, kindness, service, and sympathy are due to people
in the world, and especially to those around us, according to
their expectation. A stranger naturally expects less than an
acquaintance; an acquaintance expects less than a friend; and
a friend, less than relations. Therefore, these have more right
to ask for our love and service, and it is our first duty to
give it to them. It does not matter if they do not give us the
same, or if they do not prove worthy of our ideal. It is a mistake
for wise people to expect the same from them or to expect everyone
to prove worthy of their ideal, when it is so difficult even
for ourselves to prove worthy of our own ideal.
However highly we may think of ourselves, in the end at the
examination we fail. Therefore the wise thing would be to do
all the good we can to those who expect it from us, and especially
to those who consider it their right to expect it from us, without
even thinking whether they will return it or whether they deserve
There are some who stand by their relations with pride. Taking
the part of the relation and standing by the relation with pride
is right, for this is the first step toward human brotherhood.
A person cannot jump at once to universalism. There are some
who have a sort of natural hatred of their relations, and they
love those who have no connection with them. But they are mistaken,
for a person who cannot love his own brother will never be able
to consider another person as a brother, because he has neglected
learning his lesson at home. Far from hating his relations,
a wise man will not even hate his enemy. By hating relations
for their unworthiness you make them more unworthy; whereas
by loving them, some day you will be able to draw out the worthiness
that you seek in them.
Harmony at home spreads out, and makes the world harmonious
for us; and inharmony at home spreads out throughout the world,
and builds an inharmonious world for us. For instance, a person
who has quarreled at home and gone to China, and settled there
to have peace, has taken the disharmony with him to China, and
can never be at peace all his life.
However badly situated we may be in life, if we try our best
to master the situation, it is far better and greater than wishing
to change the situation, for this is nothing but a weakness.
Among relations it is so wonderful when there is harmony between
brothers and sisters, a link of love and harmony between husband
and wife, and especially love and devotion between parents and
children. Verily, there is no greater light than love.
OUR DEALINGS WITH SERVANTS
We are so situated in life that whatever position we may
occupy we are never independent, we are never self-sufficient.
Therefore, every individual depends upon others for help, and
others depend upon him for help; only the position of the person
who is one among many who receive help becomes lower in the
eyes of those who count themselves among the few who can help.
This makes every person a master as well as a servant. Yet
everyone, in the intoxication of his mastership, forgets his
place as a servant, and looks upon the one who helps him as
his servant. The wise, whose feelings are awakened, think on
this question deeply, and do their best to avoid every possibility
of giving even an idea to a servant of his servantship, far
less insulting him in any way or hurting his feelings. We are
all equal, and if we have helpers to serve us in life we ought
to feel humble and most thankful for the privilege, instead
of making the position of the servant humble.
It is wise to avoid putting one's own burden on another,
however exalted we may be in our position in life. It is right
to share the work with the servant, however humble it may seem;
for there is nothing in life too humble to do. If a man can
do a certain thing, he need not leave it to a poor man to do
because he is higher in position. It is necessary to take help;
but it is right to do everything that comes in life, regardless
of one's riches, power, or position.
The moral of the ancients was that a servant was considered
as a child of the family, and he was never allowed to feel that
he was lower in any way than the members of the family. One
cannot commit a greater sin than hurting the feelings of the
one who serves us and depends upon our help. Once the Prophet
heard his grandson call a servant by his name. On hearing this
he at once said to his grandson, 'No, child, that is not the
right way of addressing elders. You ought to call him 'uncle.'
It does not matter if he serves us, we are all servants of one
another, and we are equal in the sight of God.'
There is a verse of Mahmud-i Ghaznavi: 'The Emperor Mahmud,
who had thousands of slaves to wait on his call, became the
slave of his slaves when love gushed forth from his heart.'
Nobody appears inferior to us when our heart is kindled with
kindness and our eyes are open to the vision of God.
OUR DEALINGS WITH MASTERS
It is natural for every person to have a master, from a beggar
to a king. There is no soul on earth who has not someone under
whose control and command he is expected to act: in school under
the teacher, in the army under the commanding officer, in the
workshop under the foreman, in a nation under the king or president.
There is no aspect of life that exempts man from this. Thus
it is wise to act towards one's own superior with the consideration
one would expect from one's inferior.
Faithfulness, respect, good manners, sincerity, and attention
should always be shown in our dealings with our superiors in
life; and he who lacks them will find that they are also lacking
in those from whom he expects them. A child who is insolent
to his parents will always see insolence in his own children;
a person who has been abrupt to his chief will always meet with
abruptness in his servants. It is the law of nature. Therefore,
a respectful manner and goodwill to one's master in any aspect
of life are always worthwhile.
OUR DEALINGS WITH ACQUAINTANCES
A man should always try to develop his acquaintanceship into
friendship, at least where it is possible; but where it is impossible
he should try at least to continue acquaintance, instead of
going from acquaintance to estrangement. A man always wonders
how he can make friends with everybody, for friendship is such
a rare thing; and so he waits with his high ideal perhaps all
his life, and does not meet his ideal friend. And as he passes
by all those with whom he becomes acquainted, in a way he avoids
the chance of friendship with them, thinking they are not worth
it. It is easy for anyone to say about another that he is not
worth making friends with; but he does not know how much he
is worth himself.
Therefore, the wise are thankful when they see anybody with
a more or less friendly inclination towards them, and make the
best of the opportunity by gaining three benefits from it: the
first, that by being friends with someone a person develops
in himself the spirit of friendliness; the second, that one
adds one more to the circle of one's friends; and the third,
the joy of exchanging love and kindly feelings, which is greater
and better than anything in the world. There is nothing but
benefit in widening one's circle of friends, and there is nothing
but loss when one loses a friend from one's circle.
One ought to look upon acquaintanceship as the sowing of
the seed of friendship, not as a situation forced upon one;
for those who turn their backs on a man and look at him with
contempt also do that to God. To think, 'That person is perhaps
of no value; that person is of no importance,' is impractical,
besides being unkind. As all things have their use, both flowers
and thorns, both sweet and bitter, so all men are of some use;
what position, what class, what race, what caste they belong
to makes no difference.
Friendship with good and bad, with wise and foolish, with
high and low, is equally beneficial, whether to yourself or
to the other. What does it matter if another be benefited by
your friendship, since you would like to be benefited by someone
else's friendship? He is wise who treats an acquaintance as
a friend, and he is foolish who treats a friend as an acquaintance,
and he is impossible who treats friends and acquaintances as
strangers; you cannot help him.
OUR DEALINGS WITH OUR NEIGHBORS
The word 'neighbor' is used traditionally for those who are
around us at home, or at the office, or in the workshop. Tulsidas,
the Hindu poet, says that the essence of religion is kindness.
Those who are inclined to do kindness in life must not discriminate
among the people around them, between those to whom they must
be kind and those to whom they need not be kind. However kind
and good a person may be to those he likes, to those he wishes
to be kind to, he cannot for this be called kind by nature;
real kindness is that which gushes out from the heart to the
worthy and to the unworthy.
There are some people who are kind by nature and yet do not
know how to express it; and therefore with all their kindness
they prove in life to be unkind. There are different ways of
expressing kindness, such as by being harmless, by being undisturbing,
and by being considerate to those around us. These three are
the first principles of kindness.
By harmlessness is meant that though man does not seem to
harm man in the way the animals of the forest harm one another,
yet by keen study one sees that man can harm man more than the
wild animals harm one another. For man is the outcome of the
development of the whole of creation; therefore the ego, which
makes one selfish, is developed in him more than in any other
creature. Selfishness keeps man blind through life, and he scarcely
knows when he has caused harm to another.
By not disturbing is meant that even a little crudeness of
thought, speech, or action can disturb another, and this man
easily does in life without considering. And the sense of man
has the delicacy of God. Crudeness on our part may disturb another
very much although we do not even notice it.
By consideration is meant that man's life in the world is
a life of poverty, poverty in some way or other even if he lives
in a palace. In the Quran it is said, 'God alone is rich, and
everyone on earth is poor.' Man is poor with his myriad needs,
his life's demands, the wants of his nature; and when one keenly
observes life, it seems that the whole world is poverty-stricken,
everyone struggling for the self. In this struggle of life,
if a man can be considerate enough to keep his eyes open to
all around him and see in what way he can be of help to them,
he becomes rich; he inherits the kingdom of God.
OUR DEALINGS WITH OUR fellow men
To be just and fair to our fellow men is not only a virtue
but a benefit to ourselves, even from the practical point of
view. Sometimes a man thinks, 'I have got the better of another,
and thereby I have profited; so, at the loss of virtue, I have
been benefited.' But the secret is that our benefit in life
depends upon the benefit of others. We are dependent upon each
other. The inner scheme of working is such that it gives to
all a share of the mutual loss and benefit, though outwardly
it does not seem to do this. Man is deluded and kept from realizing
this fact, because he sees that one is in pain while another
has pleasure, and he sees that one appears to be benefited by
another's loss. It is true that this is so on the outer plane,
but it is not so in the inner workings. The robber, after having
robbed, is as restless during the night as the one who is robbed.
Christ's teaching that man should be kind and charitable,
and that of all other teachers who showed humanity the right
path, seems to differ from what one sees from the practical
point of view which is called common sense; yet according to
uncommon sense, in other words super-sense, it is perfectly
practical. If you wish to be charitable, think of the comfort
of another; if you wish to be happy, think of the happiness
of your fellow men; if you wish to be treated well, treat others
well; if you wish that people should be just and fair to you,
first be so yourself to set an example.
OUR DEALINGS WITH WRONGDOERS
A man is always ready to accuse another of having done something
which he himself would not mind doing. There is another man
who would perhaps not commit the same fault of which he accuses
another, but he has committed it in the past. There is a third
person who accuses another of doing something wrong, which,
owing to circumstances, he himself is incapable of doing.
This is pictured by Hafiz in his poetry; he says, 'O pious
one, I would listen to you if you were young, and if it were
spring, and there were a garden and a fair one offering you
a bowl of wine, and you refused it at that time.' It is easy
to blame another for his wrongdoings, just as it is easy to
examine and difficult to be examined. The words of the Bible,
'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone
at her,' refer to this.
Often a man attaches great importance to an action done by
another which is only wrong by the standard of his own understanding;
whereas the right and wrong of every person is according to
his stage of evolution and according to his understanding. Often
a man accuses another of having committed some fault without
considering what has prompted him to commit that fault, what
is the real condition of his life, whether he did it willingly
or unwillingly, whether he was compelled to do it by his own
self, or by someone else, or by some unforeseen circumstance.
When a man accuses another person without even having seen his
wrongdoing, but because he has been told of it by someone else,
it is a still greater mistake; it is not even a fact known at
When we see with the brain we see so many faults in others;
but when we see through feeling, we can only try to reason out
how we can justify their having done as they did, or at least
tolerate their having done so, through weakness or by mistake,
which is natural to every man since Adam, the father of humanity,
was liable to faults.
The more feeling develops in the heart of man, the more forgiving
he becomes. For to him the world's inhabitants appear as little
children, just as small as they appear to him who flies in an
airplane; and as one is ready to forget the faults of children,
so the wise are ready to forgive the faults of men.
OUR DEALINGS WITH ENEMIES
The difference between the law of reciprocity and the law
of beneficence is that in the former a person is justified in
giving measure for measure, and in the latter one is supposed
to tolerate and to forgive and to show kindness, so that the
enemy may grow to be a friend. There are cases where one cannot
show kindness; but yet one can be tolerant. There are cases
where one cannot forgive; and yet revenge, for a humane person,
is an unnatural thing. One can overlook the faults of another;
and by that one will give less occasion for disagreement and
still less occasion for enmity.
Then a person thinks, 'By being kind to our enemy we encourage
him in his tyranny.' But so long as we have kindness in our
heart, instead of hardening the nature of the enemy it will
soften it, since we receive all that we give out. A kind word
in return for a harsh word, a kind action in return for a cruel
one, a kind thought in return for an evil thought, make a much
greater impression than measure for measure.
The iron which cannot be broken by hammers can be melted
by fire. Love is fire; kindness is its chief expression; and
if a person has developed this sufficiently in his heart, he
can sooner or later change an enemy into a friend. It is mostly
unkindness on one's own part that causes enmity all around;
and one blames enemies and becomes horrified at their number,
then blames the world and its nature and its life; and when
the creation has been proved blameworthy in a person's mind,
then how can the Creator be kept free from blame? Then that
man feels that he alone is blameless, and all else is blameworthy;
and life becomes a torture to him; he thinks it is not worth
living. He becomes self-righteous, and everybody seems to be
It is always wise to avoid every possibility of causing enmity,
and to make every effort to turn any enemy, even a person in
the least degree offended, even a person who has slightly misunderstood
you, or perhaps has felt vexed with you, into a friend again;
nor for the sake of your own happiness or even of his, but for
the sake of the good principle, for material benefit. For however
slight an enemy he may be, he can cause you very great pain
or suffering, and however little friendship you have with a
person, he may become most useful some day. And apart from all
material benefits, to feel, 'That person is pleased with me,
he is well-disposed towards me, he is no longer my enemy,' is
in itself such a great benefit.
OUR DEALINGS WITH GOD
God is the ideal that raises mankind to the utmost reach
of perfection. As man considers and judges his dealings with
man in his conscience, so the real worshipper of God considers
his dealings with God. If he has helped anybody, if he has been
kind to anybody, if he has made sacrifices for anybody, he does
not look for appreciation or return for his doing so to the
people to whom he has done good; for he considers that he has
done it for God, and therefore, his account is with God, not
with those with whom he has dealt. He does not care even if
instead of praising they blame him; for in any case he has done
it for God, who is the best judge and the knower of all things.
There is no ideal that can raise the moral standard higher
than the God-ideal, although love is the root of all and God
is the fruit of this. Love's expansion and love's culmination
and love's progress all depend upon the God-ideal. How much
a man fears his friend, his neighbor, when he does something
that might offend him whom he loves, whom he respects; and yet
how narrow is his goodness when it is only for one person or
for certain people! Imagine if he had the same consideration
for God, then he would be considerate everywhere and in dealing
with all people; as in a verse of a Sufi which says, 'Everywhere
I go I find Thy sacred dwelling-place; and whichever side I
look I see Thy beautiful face, my Beloved.'
Love for God is the expansion of the heart, and all actions
that come from the lover of God are virtues; they cannot be
otherwise. There is a different outlook on life when the love
of God has filled a man's heart. The lover of God will not hate
anyone; for he knows that by doing so he will hate the Creator
by hating His creation. He cannot be insincere, he cannot be
unfaithful; for he will think that to be faithful and sincere
to mankind is to be faithful and sincere to God. You can always
trust the lover of God, however impractical or however lacking
in cleverness he may appear to be, for simply to hold strongly
in mind the thought of God purifies the soul of all bitterness,
and gives man a virtue that he could obtain nowhere else and
by no other means.