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Ulu-Ilir-Institute - Seni, Budaya, Spiritualitas

How To Be Kind? (In: Islamic Herald, Malaysia, 2019)


How To Be Kind?

Claudia Azizah Seise

The other day a young woman prayed next to me in the mosque and after the dua and dzikir we greeted one another and she asked some questions: where I was from and what I was doing. And then she asked me whether I can help her. And I said: inshaAllah. So, she asked me: “Please tell me, how can I be kind?”. I was surprised about her question and told her that I was still struggling myself to become a kind person. So, how can I advise her? But then I paused for a while and I could feel that she really searched for an answer. All I could think about telling her at the moment was to do abundant istighfar, seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Her question stayed with me and while I aim to become a kind person everyday, I often fail. Therefore, this little piece of writing is first and foremost a reminder for myself of the things I have learned from my spiritual teachers of how to become a kind person.

Do Istighfar
To do istighfar is a major element if one aims to become a kind person. Our beloved Prophet (may Allah shower blessings and peace upon him) used to recite istighfar at least 100 times a day despite the fact that he was ma’sum, unable to commit any sin. In another Hadith, the Prophet saw. stated that he seeks forgiveness more than 70 times a day. Why? He was unable to commit any sin and he was forgiven by Allah SWT. And in another Hadith, our beloved Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) explained to us that Allah SWT created us with the capacity to commit sin, so that we seek His forgiveness and He can forgive us. SubhanaAllah! Allah SWT. loves the one who turns to Him asking for forgiveness. He loves the one doing taubat, the one who repents. Therefore, to do istighfar, inshaAllah, can help us to become a kind person. By reciting istighfar, by feeling the istighfar in our heart, feeling remorse and regret for the sins we have done, for the time we wasted, for the wrong words we uttered, will inshaAllah attract Allah’s forgiveness and His mercy. And even if we, mashaAllah, did not commit any sin or mistake, we should still be doing istighfar because it was the practice of our beloved Prophet (may Allah shower blessings and peace upon him). And to emulate him, to try to be like him, to take him as our role model, can help us even more to become a kind person.

Don’t Feel You Are Better
How to be kind? This question did not leave me all day and I pondered about what other element is necessary in order to become a kind person. And I remembered my Shaykh’s lectures on being humble. We should try to never feel better than any other person or any other of Allah’s creatures. It is important to understand that Allah’s guidance is a huge and tremendous gift that He bestowed upon us. It is nothing we have achieved on our own. It is a gift. So, we should never see a person of a different faith or no faith of being inferior to us. We don’t have the right to feel better than that person because we never know whether Allah SWT will grant that person His guidance and raise her to much higher ranks than us. We never know whether we are destined to die as a Muslim. That is why we should always recite the beautiful dua that our beloved Prophet (may Allah shower blessings and peace upon him) has taught us: “O Turner of the hearts, keep my heart on Your religion.”
We should not feel better than another person because of our education, our societal status or our economic advantage. These are all gifts from Allah SWT. And oftentimes, Allah SWT loves the inconspicuous of his servants the most. We don’t know whether the cleaning lady in our company is the secret beloved of Allah SWT. or whether the person picking up our garbage everyday has achieved a high rank in the eyes of Allah SWT. That is why we should always try and be friendly to everybody. Give a smile. It is sunnah and sedeqah and people will like you too.

I remember a story my teacher told us once about not feeling better than any of Allah’s creatures and I would like to share that here as well. One of the great scholars of the past once walked on a small trodden path. On both sides of the path was mud. A dog came his way and the scholar said to the dog to please step aside, otherwise his clothes will be dirty. But the dog replied and Allah SWT made the scholar understand its words: “You should be careful that your heart does not get dirty when you think that you are better than me.” The scholar cried because of the dogs words and turned to Allah SWT. This short story shows us that we should be careful about our behaviour, even towards animals. Only through humility can we treat other people kindly and only through humility can we try to become kind.

Initiate Salam
Another way to try and erase the feeling of superiority from our heart is by initiating salam when we meet our fellow Muslim brother or sister. No matter if they are our students, our teachers, our staff, our family or just a fellow Muslim we meet on the street. We should try to greet her/ him first because it erases the feeling of pride from our heart. A Hadith from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may Allah shower blessings and peace upon him) says that “The one who initiates the salam is free from pride”. When we say salam to our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, we also water the flower of love between fellow Muslims. We show that we care. We show that we notice them. When we give them a sincere smile it might make their day and our certainly, too.

Helping Others
The question of how to be kind and how to become kind is closely connected to our very Muslim identity. “The best Muslim is the one that is of most benefit to others”, it says in a Hadith of our beloved Prophet (may Allah shower blessings and peace upon him). Therefore, if we strive to become kind we need to be of benefit to others. We need to help and assist others in any possible way. There are several ways we can benefit others depending on our own personal situation and our own background. I always admired the women in my local mosque who prepared all the delicious cakes and cookies to be consumed after religious lectures or for iftar or on any other auspicious occassion. I always felt that they really benefited others because they spend their time, money, energy, knowledge and certainly love in making these goodies. No wonder, people loved them (both the cookies as well as the makers). During food bazars they would sell their cakes and the profit would go to the mosque. Well, I am, unfortunately, not the one who can make these delicious cookies. So, I have to divise some other means how I can be of benefit. But I think you understand my point. If you are a student, try to help your fellow classmates. If you are eating in a restaurant, try to keep your place as clean as possible, so the person in charge of cleaning does not have more work to do than necessary. Help your old neighbor carrying their shopping bags or take down the rubbish for them. Leave your seat to the pregnant lady in the bus. Cook for your sick friend or neighbor. Organize your friends to cook everyday for a period of two or four weeks for a lady who just gave birth to a new baby. Try to think of new ways, creative ways to be of benefit to other people.

Giving Sedeqah
A very important way to help others is to spend our money on other people. This we should do regardless of whether we have lots of money or little. Of course, if we belong to those people who Allah SWT. has blessed with abundant wealth, alhamdulilah, we should try to spend more. If we belong to those people who Allah SWT. has not burdened with too much wealth, alhamdulilah, we should try and spend whatever is possible for us. Feed a poor person. Cloth a poor person. Spend on a poor orphan. Help our needy neighbor. And first and foremost, spend on our own family that is in need. Maybe our parents are old and can’t work anymore and need some extra support. Maybe our brother is currently unemployed and has difficulties to make ends meet. We should try to help as much as possible. The poor have a right over some of our wealth. And, alhamdulilah, helping other people financially, helps us to become a better, a kind person, inshaAllah. Most important is our good intention, our niat, and that we are only doing it to seek Allah’s pleasure and not to ask the people to be thankful to us or praise us.

Always Remember Allah SWT
If we really want to become a kind person, we have to try to always remember Allah SWT. “Those who remember Allah while standing or sitting or (lying) on their sides and ponder about the creations of the heavens and the earth” (Surah Ali Imran: 191). If we remember Allah SWT we are aware that He is watching us at all times. When we remember Allah SWT and are aware of the fact that He is All-Seeing, All-Knowing, and All-Hearing, it becomes much more difficult to do sin, to be unfriendly to people, to behave badly or to be unjust. Nothing escapes Him. If we always remember Him in our hearts, on our lips, in our mind, it becomes easier to be kind and to become a kind person. If we are aware of Him, we can feel what is right and what is wrong. Our heart will be able to differentiate. And even if we do something that is not the right or good thing to do, we will feel that we are displeasing Allah SWT. and we will quickly turn to Him in repentance and istighfar. InshaAllah. And Allah SWT loves those who turn to Him in repentance (Surah Baqarah: 222).

There are many other things we can do to improve ourselves. When this young women in the mosque asked me how to be kind, these were the first actions I could think of and I wanted to write them down, first and foremost to remind myself and then to share with my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. If you can take some useful information, this comes from Allah SWT. and I thank Him for that. If there is anything unclear, wrong or expressed in an unpolite way, I ask Allah SWT. for His forgiveness. May He always guide us and make us leave this temporary world as Muslims. In need of your dua is the one writing this short article.