Religion’s object is to raise courteous, nice and sensitive people. Perfect believers are always in a state of greeting to the entire creation with their smiling faces. A window from their spiritual world is open to other creation; because, perfect believers are people who are courteous and sensitive like flowers and generous like fruitful trees.
Life in this world continues with its ups and downs. Human soul is like a guest house. Not just sorrows and afflictions but also happiness and goodness of this world are like its guests. None of them are permanent. This is why a believer should not disrupt the order and tranquility of this world by feeling too much happiness or sadness in the face of varied incidents of this mundane world.
The perfect life of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is full of manifestations of sadness and suffering. Further, he (pbuh) states this in the following saying “No one has suffered in the way of God as much as I have.” (Tirmidhī, Qiyāma, 34/2472)
However, none of his suffering hindered his balance and resolution. He (pbuh) confronted all of them with maturity and contentment. Even though his soul was full of sorrow, his face never went without a smile. Nobody ever saw him frown or with sullen face; because, he (pbuh) was always smiling in peace and tranquility for being in the presence of Allah the Almighty and manifesting the smiling face of Islam under any circumstances.
The goodness of the inner beauties of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and the friends of Allah, who were annihilated themselves in the Prophet (Fanaa fi al-Rasūl), has manifested in their faces. Umm al-Dardā (r.ha) narrates that:
“When Abū al-Dardā was talking, he always smiled. One day I told him:
“I am worried about that people might think your smile weird and admonish you” and he replied:
“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) certainly smiled, when he was talking about something.” (Aḥmad, V, 198, 199)
Constant smile of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is the best manifestation of his restful unity with Allah the Almighty.
Every human being feels pleasure from being happy; however, like in everything else, there has to be a balance and an appropriate limit in feeling happiness. Just like it is wrong to destroy one’s self because of the suffering faced in this world, it is also wrong to show too much joy and pleasure before the felicitous incidents of the world. Both of these states damage the human dignity and personality.
A believer should always have a sensitive and delicate heart. And he should always have smile on his face. Smile is the dignity of a believer in comparison to the levity of laughing. On the other hand it is also the charm of a believer contrary to the repulsiveness of a sullen face.
Jalal al-Dīn Rumī makes a subtle warning about that even an ordinary act like smiling may give clues about the character of a person and says that:
“From how he smiles, I understand the quality of his manners; and from what he smiles at, I understand his level of his intelligence.”
Excessive laugh sometimes impels a person to heedlessness and makes him forget that he is being tested in this world. Forgetting that the real happiness is in the Hereafter results in slavery to the mundane pleasures of the self. Long and continuous laughs poison the soul, darkens the heart, and causes it to lose its sensitivity.
Omar (r.a) makes the following warning about the dangers of excessive laughing:
“Those who laugh excessively lose their dignity. Those who make too much jokes are teased. Everybody gets to be known with the things they do most. Those who talk too much make too much mistakes. Those who make too much mistakes lose their shame. Those who lose their shame avoid the questionable things less. The hearts of those who avoid the questionable things die.”(Ghazālī, Iḥyā, III, 288)
Heedlessness, which is the most significant spiritual disease, deceives human by showing him that his happy life in this world is eternal. Heedlessness distracts his attention and makes him forget the main problems of a human being in this world like death, resurrection, judgment day, and afterlife. This characteristic of a human being is stated in the following verse:
“And will you laugh and not weep? While you are indulging in varieties.” (53; 61-61)
In this respect, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says that:
“If you but knew what I know then you would have laughed little and wept much.”(Bukharī, Tafsīr, 5/12)
Jalal-al-Dīn Rumī also explains this fact as follows:
“The wise, indeed, make lamentations at first and smile later; the foolish, on the other hand, smile at first and beat their heads at the last. O people! From the beginning of the affair discern the end (thereof), so that you may not be repenting on the Day of Judgment.”
In this regard Imam Ghazālī narrates the following story.
A man asked his brother, who was laughing exaggeratedly:
“What is the matter? Did you get news that you have been saved from Hellfire?” His brother said: “No, I did not.” The man asked again: “Then how can you laugh so much?” (Ghazālī, Iḥyā, III, 288)
None of the servants of Allah except His prophets are guaranteed to enter the Paradise.
Wahb b. Ward (may Allah have mercy his soul) gave the following advice to the people, when he saw them laughing on a holiday:
“If your sins are forgiven, this is not the manner of those who feel gratitude. If your sins are not forgiven, then this is not the state of those who are afraid of Divine Punishment.”(Ghazālī, Iḥyā, III, 288)
Muhammad b. Waṣī (may Allah have mercy his soul) says that:
“The laughs of those, who do not know whether they will be in heaven or in Hell are as weird as the cry who is already accepted in Heaven.”(Ghazālī, Iḥyā, III, 289)
This conduct consists of an important aspect, which Islamic ethics helps its followers to gain. Therefore even if a believer has great volcanoes boiling in his heart, his face should spread serenity like a peaceful harbor. He should neither be too relaxed with joy nor be pessimistic with extreme grief.
A believer should develop a moderate state in his heart between hawf and raja’. Hawf means not to be spoiled from good deeds and to be in a state of both continuous supplication and fear Allah’s punishment. Raja’, on the other hand, means to be hopeful of His mercy and not to be pessimistic.
Khalid al-Baghdādī explains this state of the heart to one of his disciples in a letter:
“I swear Allah that I do not believe that I have performed a single action which is acceptable by Allah and won’t be questioned before Him since the day I was born… (I only hope my Lord’s mercy)
…Please do not forget to pray for this poor servant’s success and for him to have a good last breath.”
A smiling face, which is an essential characteristic of a believer, also shows the level of this state of moderation. However, even a praised behavior, such as smiling, has calamities and the calamity of smiling is to do it with wrong intentions. Smiling out of wrong intentions such as pride, scoffing, looking down to brothers in Islam will have serious consequences in the Hereafter.
When Ibn Abbas (r.a) was interpreting the word “small or large” in the verse “They will say, “Woe to us. How come this book leaves nothing, small or large, without counting it?”…” (18; 49), he says that: “small means smiling when mocking with a believer, while large sin, on the other hand, is laughing meanwhile.” (Ghazālī, Iḥyā, III, 294)
A BELIEVER’S SMILE MUST BE ON HIS FACE; HIS SORROW SHOULD BE IN HIS HEART
According to all the above facts, a believer’s heart also needs to have certain amount of sadness and fear. However, even at the times of sadness and concern, his face should be lightened with smile.
Hazrat ‘Alī (r.a) says that:
“A believer’s smile is on his face and his sadness is in his heart.”
In other words, a mature believer becomes sad and pours his tears down in deserted places when he remembers his faults. Their tears are also the source of the light in their faces. Jalal al-Dīn Rūmī ÞÏÓ ÓÑå explains the wisdom of the light in a believer’s face as follows:
“O idolater (dualist), (if) I do not behold my own face (reality), I behold your face and you behold mine. He that beholds his own face (reality)—his light is greater than the light of the creatures (of God).”
In other words, one of the reasons of the light of a believer’s face is to be able to look carefully at one’s own face and see his own faults before seeing other people’s mistakes. This is the source of the light in the face of a gnostic, who comprehend the wisdom behind the saying “Those who know themselves know their Lord.” This is why it is said that “there is no wisdom like knowing one’s own mistakes.”
Abdulqadir Jīlanī says that:
“A believer pretends as he is joyful among people, but he is really sad… He contemplates, thinks, and weeps much, but laughs less. He hides the sadness in his heart through smile on his face. He looks like he works to earn his livelihood outside, whereas his heart is occupied with remembrance his Lord. He looks like he is with his children and family members, but his heart is really with his Lord.
Leave ambition, impertinence, unruliness and fondness to the world. Decrease your joy and pleasure a little! Be a little mournful! Know that our beloved Prophet (pbuh) smiled to enliven the people around him.”
Excessive laugh is a state of immoderateness. While having a sour face is the other end of extremity. Both are spiritual calamities for the believing souls. Smiling is the moderate and most acceptable manner.
THE PROPHET’S (pbuh) SMILE
Smile can be described as laughing by showing only a small part of the teeth. This was the smile of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). His smile never displayed extremities like laughs. In this regard, Aisha (r.ha) says that:
“I never saw the Prophet laughing to an extent that one could see his palate, but he always used to smile only.”(Bukharī, Kitāb al-Adab, 68; Muslim, Istisqā, 16)
According to many narrations of the Companions, the Prophet (pbuh) had the best character and was the most courteous of the people. He was always smiling and his face was always shining with the light of his smile.
Abdullah b. Salām, a Jewish scholar, curiously asked for the Prophet (pbuh) during immigration from Mecca to Medina. When he saw the Prophet’s face, he said:
“The owner of such a face cannot lie” and converted to Islam. (Tirmidhī, Qiyāmah, 42/2485; Ibn Mājah, At’imah, 1: Iqāmah, 174)
A man’s face and apparel is his window. Every creature has a language of behavior and manners. In other words, a person is in a state of talking through his behavior, even though his mouth is shut. People carry signs of their inner world on their faces. Faces are the interpreters of inner worlds for the eyes, which can see. This is why a shining smile is the most beautiful reflection of inner world.
How nicely Jalal al-Dīn Rumī explains this in the following lines:
“If you would buy a pomegranate, buy (it when it is) laughing (having its rind cleft open), so that its laughter (openness) may give information as to its seeds. Oh, blessed is its laughter, for through its mouth it shows the heart, like a pearl from the casket of the spirit … The laughing pomegranate makes the garden laughing (gay and blooming): companionship with (holy) men makes you one of the (holy) men. Though you be rock or marble, you will become a jewel when you reach the man of heart (the saint).”
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) passed by people slowly and smiling. He listened carefully his companions’ talks in order to make them happy. He smiled them showing part of his teeth. And his companions followed his customs and imitated his manners.
Narrated by Jarīr b. Abdullāh (r.a):
“The Prophet did not screen himself from me (had never prevented me from entering upon him) since I embraced Islam, and whenever he saw me, he would receive me with a smile.”(Bukharī, Kitāb al-Adab, 68)
Abdullah b. Hārith said that:
“I have not seen anybody smiling more than the Prophet (pbuh).” (Tirmidhī, Manāqib, 144)
Here are some more sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding the virtue of smiling:
“Don’t consider anything insignificant out of good things even if it is that you meet your brother with a cheerful countenance.”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Birr, 144)
““Every act of kindness is charity. Part of kindness is that you offer your brother a cheerful face and you pour some of your bucket into his water vessel.”(Tirmidhī, Kitāb al-Birr, 45/1970; Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, III, 344; Bukharī, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no: 304)
When the Prophet (pbuh) could not find anything to give to the poor, he used to turn his face away feeling embarrassed. Then the following verse was revealed:
“And if you turn away from them to seek mercy from your Lord, which you hope for, speak to them a gentle word.”(17; 28)
After the revelation of this Divine command, whenever the Prophet (pbuh) could not find anything to give, he started to smile and talk nicely to the poor in order to win their hearts.
Therefore smiling, greeting and talking nicely should not be belittled. These are some of the social worships of every believing soul; because, smiling is a repeated and strengthened tradition of the Prophet (pbuh).
THE SMILE OF THE FRIENDS OF ALLAH
Righteous believers, who are adorned with the morals of the Prophet (pbuh), follow the footsteps of the Prophet in every aspect of their lives. They give people happiness and tranquility through their smiling faces. Their glance becomes a cure for the sick souls. Their lightened faces remind people Allah the Almighty and the life after death; since they continuously receive the blessings of the Prophet (pbuh).
To have a nature of rose like the Prophet (pbuh) and the friends of Allah is the befitting characteristic for the followers of Muhammad (pbuh). Because a rose endures the thorns on its branches, and in a way it is smiling through its nice scent and telling people “Think about me and be like me.”
Religion’s object is to raise such courteous, nice and sensitive people. Perfect believers are always in a state of greeting to the entire creation with their smiling faces. A window from their spiritual world is open to other creation; because, perfect believers are people who are courteous and sensitive like flowers and generous like fruitful trees.
Junaid al-Baghdādī says that the most important condition and manner in friendship with a brother in religion is to meet him with a smiling face and make him happy, while Abū Uthmān Hirī says in this regard that it means to smile him as long as he is not committing a sin. Abū Abdullah Sālimah states that nice talk and smiling face are distinctive characteristics of the friends of Allah.
Ḥarith al-Muḥāsibī says that:
“Good manners means four things:
To be patient before the tortures of heedless people.
Not to be angry very much (To be able to say peace to the provocations of the ignorant.)
To able to display the smiling face of Islam,
To have a nice and soothing language.”
Ḥasan al-Baṣrī summarizes the good manners as follows:
“The essence of good manners is to spread goodness, not to disturb anybody and to have a smiling face.”
The dough of the universe is molded with the yeast of love. When everything from micro to macro cosmos is observed through the eyes of soul, it can be seen that there is Divine love in the essence of everything. The manifestation of Allah the Almighty in this universe, such as gardens, springs, flowers, butterflies, birds, etc. all remind people the essential Divine smile. How sad is for a servant to be unaware of these realities. What a servant needs to do is to perceive this Divine smile and reflect it to the other creature through his face.
If a believer lives his life by performing good deeds, then he will face the best smile at his deathbed. This state is described in the following verse:
“(As for) those who say: Our Lord is Allah, then continue in the right way, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the garden which you were promised.”(41; 30)
Again it is stated in another verse:
“Now surely the friends of Allah– they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.”(10; 62)
Who knows what kind of blessings that mature believers, who are able to reflect the Divine smile to Creation, will receive in the Hereafter!
Sheikh Sādī narrates a story in his Bostān:
“Once there was a man with good manners. He was responding the people who did harm to him with goodness. After this righteous man passed away, someone saw him in his dream and asked him:
“Tell me what happened to you after your death.”
Deceased man smiled and started to talk like a hummingbird singing:
“I have never done harm to anybody in my lifetime and never put a frowning face. I have always smiled. This is why now I am being treated nicely here.”
You cannot see the friends of Allah to have a grim face. Looking at their faces make people feel peace and tranquility and take them to a spiritual world. These friends of Allah take the grieving spirits into their souls and relieve their sadness. Their souls are like centers of peace and rehabilitation.
The real wisdom behind this tranquility is that because they remind people Allah and the Hereafter, they save them from the concerns, ambitions, and excessive desires of self and the temporal world. And they show people that the real peace and tranquility can be achieved through efforts on the path of eternal happiness.
Another form of wisdom behind the friends of Allah having a smiling face is their responsibility to convey the message of Islam. Because having a smiling face and using kind and conciliatory words while conveying the message of Islam and warning people is a Divine command. Smile is a means of spiritual connection between people. This is why there is no other method of showing people the straight path of Islam better and effective than a smiling face. In fact this is stated in the following verse:
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust.”(3; 159)
About the significance of having a smiling face, using kind words, and being courteous in conveying message of Islam, Sādī narrates the following story in his book Bostān:
“There was a young man, with a smiling face and pleasant-spoken, selling honey. Everybody loved him and he had many customers. He was loved so much that if he had sold poison instead of honey, people would have still bought it.
A grim-faced man became jealous of his trade and he wanted to sell honey. He took a cart full of honey and started walk around the town. He shouted “honey, honey”, but his grim face was like selling vinegar. Let alone selling honey to people, even fly did not land on his honey.
In the evening he went back home. He could not even make a dime. He got furious and sat down in a corner of his house. His wife told him as a joke:
“A sour face’s honey would be bitter.”
Bad characteristics take their owner to the Hell, while good manners come from the Paradise.
My friend! Walk and if it is necessary, drink warm water from the river; do not drink cold and tasty honey syrup from the hands of a grimy face under a burning sun. It is spiritual waste eating bread from the hands of a frowned face.
Do not make things complicated by being obstinate; because, the stubborn people always become miserable. Let’s assume you own nothing; don’t you even have sweet talk?”
You see, a smiling face and kind talk are the most important capitals in showing the right path to people who are destitute of faith and good manners. Even a sullen face smiles while walking in a rose garden among colorful flowers because of the nice reflections in his soul. People who have the responsibility to guide others should be able to soften the hardest souls and make the sullen faces smile.
Mature believers are smiling, enduring, and patient people in shouldering the pains of other people. It is necessary to have a soul molded with the wisdom of the Qur’ān and Sunnah and a face reflecting the smiling face of Islam. In services of spiritual teaching, smiling and gratitude should become a natural quality.
Dear Lord! Make us all merciful, compassionate, smiling, courteous, and mature believers. Bless our hearts with the love of faith and our faces with the smiling face of Islam.
. Mathnawī, III, 1623-1624
. Mathnawī, II, 883-884
. Mathnawī, I, 718-719, 721-722