‘Abdullah Ibn Umm-i Maktûm (r.a), a man blind from birth, was one of the first muezzins of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He would often visit the Prophet and plead: “O messenger of Allah! Teach me what Allah has taught you!” The Prophet Muhammad would never offend this pure hearted man; rather, he answered all his questions.

One day a few men from the tribe of Quraysh were with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet was hopeful that these members of Quraysh would accept the faith and so make it possible for those around them to learn and accept Islam as well. During the course of the meeting, ‘Abdullah Ibn Umm-i Maktûm came in. Due to his disability, he did not realize who the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was with; he thus began insisting to be taught. The Prophet was somewhat frustrated at being interrupted by questions whilst he in the process of explaining the religion to his guests. He thus turned his head and ignored ‘Abdullah. The blind man became upset at being ignored; this incident became the occasion of revelation for the following two verses:

“(The Prophet) frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man (interrupting).” (‘Abasa, 80: 1-2)

After this incident, whenever the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) saw ‘Abdullah Ibn-i Maktûm he would say jokingly: “Welcome to the one on whose behalf my Lord rebuked me!” This incident, without doubt, is a divine example of how Allah refined the divine character of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Not even the slightest harshness was left in the Prophet because he was continually reminded by Allah of his position, and his effect on those soft hearted ones around him. It also stands as an eternal example of how all believers should act in similar circumstances; that of protecting the feelings of everyone, even to the point of not frowning in front of one who cannot see,

The friends of Allah thus became very careful not to offend the feelings of others, not to brake hearts which were considered like a spiritual Ka‘ba of Allah; they knew that whoever harms the heart harms the owner of that heart. This is why they say: “Allah is with the broken hearted.” Indeed, Moses sought refuge in Allah and asked:“O Allah! Where should I search for you?” Allah Almighty said: “Look for me near the broken hearted ones.”

In the following story, related by Mawlânâ, this reality is explained most beautifully:

There was a dervish on a boat; he had no baggage or goods. With good manners, courage and humility he placed his head on a pillow to sleep. While the boat was sailing across the water a pouch of gold went missing. The men on the boat looked everywhere for the gold, but in vain. Then one of the men pointed at the dervish and said: “Search that sleeping crook.”

Due to his distress, the owner of the lost money awoke the dervish. He looked at the innocent dervish with accusing eyes and said: “A pouch of gold has gone missing; we’ve searched everyone but can’t find it. Now it’s your turn! Take off your cloak and get undressed; prove our doubts to be unfounded.” The dervish sought refuge in Allah and said: “O Allah! They accuse your innocent servant. I submit myself to you!”

Those on the boat had acted in a way that hurt the dervish’s feelings. Allah Almighty was not pleased that the pure heart of the dervish had been offended. Allah the Merciful at that moment commanded the fish in the sea to emerge from the water; in the mouth of each fish was a valuable pearl. Each pearl was the equivalent to the wealth of an entire nation. Each was a blessing from Allah and belonged to no one.

The dervish took a few of the pearls and threw them into the centre of the boat; he then jumped into the air and crossed his legs like a king. He sat floating in mid air. The boat continued sailing over the sea and the dervish said to those on the boat: “Continue sailing on your boat, let Allah be mine! He neither accuses me of stealing nor abandons me to those who falsely accuse me.”

The people on the boat asked: “O noble servant! Why have you been given this exraordinary power?” The dervish answered: “It has been given to me because I respect the friends of Allah and I never think ill about poor people. Ah, these respected poor ones. Surah ‘Abasa was sent to glorify them for their poverty. In their world they have nothing but Allah; this is why they embrace poverty.”

This has been elegantly expressed by a poet: “Whoever hurts the heart of the poor, the arrow of Allah will hurt him.”

Based on this story, Mawlânâ Rûmî wrote these lines:

He who offends a person does not realize that he has offended Allah. Such a person does not realize that the water in this jug (heart) has been mixed with the water of Allah”;

“Due to our ignorance and blindness we despise and want to harm the saints of Allah. This is an illness; a call on misfortune. The friends of Allah show sympathy for those who call on this misfortune, but our foolishness is such an illness that it hurts and harms others”;

“Foolish people show respect for those who are in the man-made masjid yet offend those who possess hearts.”

“If you know who dwells in the home of the heart, then why are you so ill-mannered when at the door of the owner of the heart?”

“But if a man of Allah, a messenger, or a pious one’s heart is not offended, then Allah would never disgrace or dishonour a nation.”

Tasawwuf places great emphasis on avoiding offending people. An example of one who understood this is Sâmi Efendi. He had just finished the Dâr al-Funûn, Faculty of Law. A saintly companion of Allah who liked Sâmi Efendi’s lovely ways and his gleaming soul said to him: “My son, this education is good, but try to complete the real training. Register with the school of wisdom; go and learn the knowledge of the heart and the mysteries of the Hereafter!” The wise man then said: “My son, I do not know how they educate or how they teach; the only thing I know is that the first lesson is not to offend, and the last lesson is not to be offended.”

To avoid offending others is relatively easy; as for not being offended, this is not so easy since it is the job of the heart. Not being offended is only possible if the poisonous arrows are blocked before reaching the heart. And this in turn is dependent on the level of purification and perfection of the soul. When the angels saw the Prophet Muhammad being stoned in Ta’if they said:

“O Messenger of Allah! If you like, we will strike these two mountains together and destroy the cruel people who live here.”

But the one who was sent as a mercy to mankind, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), did not accept the offer of the angels. In a state of compassion and mercy, he turned his face towards Ta’if and prayed that the community would find the straight path of Islam. It was for this reason that when a lover of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Hallâj Ibn Mansûr was being stoned, he prayed: “O Allah! They do not know; forgive them before you forgive me!”

Such a heart of perfection can only be achieved with true education and with spiritual discipline. When Abû l-Qâsim al-Hakîm was asked about the attribute of perfection, he said: “The perfection of the heart has three qualities: The first is a heart that offends no one; the second is a heart that is not offended, while the third is kindness, a heart that does everything for the sake of Allah and expects nothing in return. Such a believer will never harm anyone in the presence of Allah because they have true faith. When such a person turns to the Creator without having been offended by anyone they are loyal and when they refrain from telling people of their good deeds then they have a purified soul.”

A poet has explained this in the following beautiful way:“O wise man! If you want to be the favourite of human beings as well as the Jinns; do not allow yourself to be offended and do not let others offend from you.”

One of the most important aspects of not offending or being offendedis the covering up of the faults and misconduct of others. Hadrat Hâtem, from the elders of Balkh, achieved this level of understanding to such a degree that, even though he could hear perfectly, he was nicknamed esamm or ‘the deaf one’. The reason for this nickname is contained in the following story:

One day a woman greatly distressed came with a problem. She had just begun to explain why she had come when then she had a sudden cramp and accidentally passed wind. The woman was so embarrassed that she did not know what to do. So as not to embarrass the woman, Hâtem acted as if he had not heard anything, and, putting his hand to his ear, he said: “Sister, I can’t hear you properly. Can you speak bit louder?” Thus the woman thought that her breaking wind had gone unnoticed and relaxed; she was able to explain her problem from the beginning. It was after this incident that Hâtem became known as Hâtem-i Esamm (Hâtem the deaf).

It is not possible to apply with ease the covering of faults and similar such manners that are displayed in this story merely from reading them. The show of kindness and consciousness not to offend on Hâtem’s part was a feeling received from the compassion and mercy of Allah. Such acts of kindness, particularly in tasawwuf, are known as “imbibing the manners of Allah”.

The following hadîths are of relevance here: Abû Hurayrah reports that the Prophet said: “It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim.” (Muslim, 1167); in regards to not taking offence, the Messenger said: “It is not a virtue to do good to those who have done good or to do bad to those who have done bad; doing good to those who have done bad to you is true virtue.” (Tirmidhî, Birr, 63).

Indeed Allah Almighty says: The servants of (Allah) most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’” (Furqân, 25: 63)

Achieving these states requires awareness (firasah); people often hurt others without being aware. What is awareness? Awareness is one of the attributes of the Prophets; it means possessing sensitivity and acting, according to the intellectual and psychological level of the person we are talking to. An action that pleases one person could upset another. Therefore, a person achieves politeness by taking another person’s state of mind into consideration and by calculating events two or three steps ahead.

Mastering awareness starts when every effort to truly understand death has been made. Being truly aware of the mysteries and the truths of the world is only possible when we understand the meaning of ‘death before dying’. It is essential that we abandon the desires of the ego and of this world. The friends of Allah report this in the following code of rules:

Do not forget two things:

1- Allah

2- Death.

Forget two things:

1- Evil that you have encountered

2- Charity and good that you have done.

Forgetting the evil or bad things that have been done to us can be achieved with forgiveness; this is a greater virtue, because a human by forgiving others continuously will deserve the forgiveness of Allah. About such forgiveness, the Qur’ân states:

“Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” (A‘râf, 7: 199)

“Whether you do openly a good deed or conceal it or cover evil with pardon, surely Allah is ever pardoning Powerful.” (Nisâ’, 4: 149)

“…let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that Allah should forgive you?” (Nûr, 24: 22)

Ibn ‘Umar related the following to us: “A man came to Prophet Muhammad and asked: ‘How many times should I forgive my servant?’ The Prophet did not answer him. The man asked again: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I asked, how many times should I forgive my servant?’ This time the Messenger replied: ‘Forgive him seventy times every day!’” (Abu Dawud, 2451). When it was time for the Prophet to depart from this world, he said the following meaningful words: “The prayer! The prayer! And fear Allah concerning your slaves!”(Abu Dâwud)

In another hadîth, the Messenger (pbuh) said: There was a man of generosity who lent money to the community; he told his servant, ‘If you go to collect money that is owed to me from a poor person, but he has no means of paying back the loan, then forgive him (and donate what I gave). May Allah forgive us.’ This man was united with Allah and forgiven.” (Bukhârî, Anbiyâ, 54; Muslim, Musâqât, 31).

These are all explanations of awareness, and for us to act like this is a divine quality that has been placed in our hearts by Allah Almighty. Those who attain this quality become Friends of Allah (Awliyâ); this is why none of the Friends of Allah are foolish. No one who is foolish can rise to the level of being a Companion of Allah.

Whenever the Messenger of Allah praised anyone he would say: “how is his/her understanding/intelligence!” In many different verses Allah Almighty said: “Have they no intelligence? Will they consider not?” Allah the Merciful insists that humans use their minds and hearts together. Having the greatest awareness is the key to solving the puzzle of the future. Anyone who solves this puzzle can neither be offended by any mortal person, nor are they able to offend anybody; for in every incident they will be aware of the mystery, the Divine purpose of pre-eternity and post-eternity, and thus will act according to the approval of Allah.

Khâlid of Baghdad relates: “Always be polite to Allah! Never forget that all incidents occur with the permission and planning of Allah. The causes are only temporary vehicles of Divine Will. Sufis say: “Those who know themselves are those who have the following three qualities: 1) They would not even harm the wind; 2) They refrain from speaking of their own qualities; and 3) They approach all that are created by Allah with love and compassion.”

In short our level in not offending and not being offended should be;

“The one who comes to kill you should be revived by you.” However, the soul must be at a certain stage to be able to achieve this. May Allah Almighty grant everyone a refined and gracious heart of lofty characteristics!