How to Treat Adversaries

SubhanAllah, God has left no stone unturned and no subject untouched within the vast knowledge and wisdom of Islam.

I have often heard about Imam Zain al Abideen’s (as) treatise on rights and have put it on my list of things to look up when I got a chance.  His treatise on rights were written around 700 AD, long before any Western treatise on human rights (for instance, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written in 1948).  Well, I finally got around to looking it up to see what exactly he had to say.  And of course, I was not disappointed.  Although the imam (who was the son of Imam Hussain, who was the son of Imam Ali – as) covers every single thing that has rights (which makes it pretty lengthy), I wanted to share one in particular.

The Right of an Adversary:

“The right of the adversary (khasm) who has a claim against you is that, if what he claims against you is true, you give witness to it against yourself. You do not wrong him and you give him his full due. If what he claims against you is false, you act with kindness toward him and you show nothing in his affair other than kindness; you do not displease your Lord in his affair. And there is no strength save in God.”

So in other words, if someone accuses you of something and it is true, then you have to be honest and admit that it is true.  You do not try to do anything bad to him or attempt to cover the truth, but simply give him what is fairly owed.

In contrast, if someone accuses you of something and it is false, you should nevertheless be kind to him (not angry or spiteful), and don’t allow yourself to commit any sins because of this person.

Now of course, our adversaries are not only those who bring a complaint about us – sometimes we have complaints about others, and how we should treat them is mentioned as well.

The right of the adversary against whom you have a claim is that, if your claim against him is true, you maintain polite moderation in speaking to him and you do not deny his right. If your claim is false, you fear God, repent to Him, and abandon your claim.

In other words, if your accusation is true, then you should be polite (not arrogant or boastful) when dealing with them, and make sure that you are fair.  However, if you are wrong, you should retract your position out of respect and love for God.  Reputation,  face, honor, pride, dignity – none are important in the light of pleasing God and avoiding sin.

Whether we like it or not, the reality of life dictates that we will certainly find ourselves at odds with others.  An adversary isn’t only someone we barely know, as those we find ourselves in conflict with range from a rude clerk at the store, to a co-worker, a boss, a friend, or even a family member (i.e. a parent!).  Knowing how to deal with such individuals appropriately will ensure that you will be able to walk away with the knowledge that you did what was right, and even if the affair was not resolved peacefully (i.e. the other person is still unhappy), you know that you did your best before God.

Imam Zayn al-Abideen’s (as) Treatise on Rights can be found here: http://www.iec-md.org/IECE/religious/treatise_on_rights.html

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2 thoughts on “How to Treat Adversaries

  1. It astonishes me the relevance this has in the modern world. At a time when so many people want to insulate themselves or their children from consequences and responsibility, this document is all about responsibility–and REASON.

    Fantastic.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Absolutely… you should check out the entire document; it’s stunning. One of the biggest things that drew me to Islam was its emphasis on reason – and the fact that faith and reason actually complement one another, not contradict! It was so refreshing to be able to use my spiritual self and intellectual self together in harmony – something I never even dreamed could happen.

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