Maulana Muhammad Abu Rajab Asif Attari Madani (Islamic scholar, Member of Al-Madina-tul-Ilmiyyah: Islamic Research Centre Karachi)
An individual’s brand-new car collided in a street with a truck, causing damage to the headlight on the passenger’s side. In search for another headlight, he went to shops that sold used car parts. Despite visiting shop after shop, he could not find a headlight for the passenger’s side. Before returning home, he asked the owner of an old shop as to why it was so difficult to find a headlight for the passenger’s side. Based on his experience and observation, the shop owner informed him that the parts sold in this market were mainly from accident cars, and in most cases, the shop owners obtain working headlights that were for the driver’s side of a car. Conversely, headlights from the passenger’s side are usually found broken. The individual asked the shop owner the reason behind this, to which he replied that it seems as though when a driver becomes certain that a collision is inevitable, he instinctively swerves his car to the right (driver’s side). This leads to less damage being incurred on the driver’s side of the vehicle compared to the passenger’s side. Irrespective of whether it is the driver’s wife sat in the passenger seat or anyone else he holds dear, the selfishness stored in some corner of his brain manifests itself within seconds. Hence, without making a conscious effort to do so, the driver gives precedence to his own benefit, and in trying to save himself, he ends up doing that which may lead to regret for the rest of his life.
O devotees of the Prophet, we too go through many experiences in life where we only do that which benefits us; this is part of human nature. Such conduct is positive until it does not involve others suffering loss. Students sit exams, candidates attend interviews and contestants partake in contests such as Zehni Aazmaish [all of whom are involved in gaining personal benefit]. However, when the advantages we gain are contingent upon others suffering loss, this is called selfishness. People guilty of this are not concerned about benefitting others, as they only think, ‘What will I gain from this?’ Such people remain busy in thinking how they can exploit others. They only maintain relations with others for as long as they gain some kind of benefit from them, otherwise, they look in the opposite direction.
Harms of selfishness
None of us would like others to call us selfish. Selfishness leads people to becoming involved in other vices, such as: flattering others; committing fraud; oppressing people; violating rights; stealing; plundering; endangering the lives of others; selling counterfeit medicine; making patients undergo unnecessary medical procedures in order to gain commission; raising obstacles in the work of others to gain bribery; plotting against others to become successful yourself; accusing others; making false benefit claims; jumping the queue at a petrol station, bank or any other place; or becoming involved in the black market. In short, countless other examples of selfishness can be seen in our society. Just ponder, how can we live peaceful lives when selfishness is prevalent to such a degree? It is not the case that the world is void of altruistic people, albeit there are not many.
O devotees of the Prophet, our Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said: لَا يُؤْمِنُ اَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِاَخِيْهِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهٖ
Translation: ‘None of you is a complete believer until he loves for himself that which he loves for his brother.’ The beautiful teachings of Islam encourage us to be altruistic, well-wishing for others, condoling and sympathising with others.
The noble companions رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم—who were educated by the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم—thought of the wellbeing of others even when they themselves needed water to survive. Sayyiduna Huzayfah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ stated: ‘Many companions were martyred during the battle of Yarmuk. Carrying water in my hand, I was searching for my cousin amongst the injured. Eventually, I found him. He was in his last moments. I asked him: ’O my cousin, would you like to drink water?’
’Yes’, he replied in a low shaky voice. In the meanwhile, someone could be heard sighing. My cousin, taking his last breaths, gestured to give water to the other injured person first. I looked, and it was (Sayyiduna) Hishaam Bin ‘Aas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ. He was struggling to breathe. As I was asking him (Hisham) if he wanted water, someone else could be heard sighing nearby. Hisham said, ’Give him water first.’ When I approached that injured person, he no longer needed my water as he had quenched his thirst by attaining martyrdom. I immediately turned towards Hisham, but he too had embraced martyrdom. Then, I reached my cousin, and he too had embraced martyrdom (رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم اجمعین).’
The lamp was blown out and yet no one ate a morsel
The following account illustrates how our pious predecessors educated their followers:
Once, many guests came to Sayyiduna Shaykh Abu al-Hassan Antaqi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه. When it was time for the evening meal, there was not enough bread. Hence, the bread that was present was broken into pieces and put out on the dining mat, and the lamp was removed from the room. All the guests sat on the dining mat in the dark. After it was thought that everyone had eaten, the lamp was brought back into the room. All the pieces of bread that were laid out were exactly in the same state. Nobody had eaten even a single morsel due to their selflessness and altruism, as all the guests wished to sacrifice their portion of food so that their Muslim brother sat next to them could eat to their fill.
A message to the readers of the Monthly Magazine, Faizan-e-Madinah
To improve our social life, all of us need to control our negative conduct, including being selfish. To accomplish this, everyone should assess themselves to gauge how selfish they are. An effort should then be made to adopt noble traits such as altruism and selflessness.
May Allah Almighty make us people of good character in a true sense.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صَلَّی اللہ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلہٖ وَسَلَّم