a community of lovers
Be kind, for when kindness is part of something it beautifies it; and when it is removed, it tarnishes it. ~Hadith
On the Sufi path, adab (courteous etiquette) is of central importance and I feel kindness is perhaps the appropriate adab to apply in the setting of spiritual community, family and wider community. To remember to be moved by kindness would surely be very helpful in such relationships.
I am familiar with the idea that beautiful actions and intentions adorn our physical being as well as other less visible aspects of our being. People have often spoken about a person’s warmth and generosity making that person attractive to them (beautifing them) and a person’s coldness or miserliness making that person unattractive to them (tarnishing them).
The hadith here is also referring to a deeper beautifying. The type that takes place at a deep level within us: seeds which are sewn in our spiritual heart and nurtured within us by our kind thoughts, words and actions and which if our kindness flows, sprout and grow, and spring into bud and then flower into beautiful roses. I often think of my good thoughts, words, and deeds, and indeed other forms of spiritual practice, as nourishing and beautifying my inner being which I imagine as beautiful flowers or trees. Perhaps this is inspired by the references to Jannat in the Quran. This is often translated as simply “heaven” or “paradise” but when one looks more closely at the root of the word in Arabic, one finds the meaning of a “garden within a courtyard” and it gives rise to images of inner ornate courtyards such as those one might find in the Alhambra with flowing fountains and exquisite plants, flowers and trees.
Kindness to others may not always be easy for us. Perhaps because we are not used to receiving it, recognising it or showing it. Perhaps because we find the words and behaviours of others challenging in some way, or due to the challenges we have experienced in our own lives which may have hurt us, we may be prevented from connecting with others. My personal sense is that in showing kindness to others, we offer a form of healing to them and ourselves. I have found acting with kindness to be incredibly self-healing and to result in a healthy sense of self-love also. In showing kindness to ourselves we also heal ourselves. From healing comes a wholeness that is of course beautiful.
Recently I found myself recognising a need in myself to be seen, acknowledged and accepted for who and what I am. As I was voicing this to myself, I found myself also asking, “How well do you see yourself for who you really are? Do you see your beauty and goodness? Do you accept yourself?” I have a habit of seeing mostly my shortcomings, the places I fail and fall. On the spiritual path where we are invited to be self-reflective and see those parts of ourselves which might need some refinement, it is possible that those of us who have a strong inner critical voice might end up focussing unfairly on what seems negative to us about ourselves rather than that which is positive.
This may be the case, even if at some level, it is clear to us that in the end even the darkness within us is in service to the light and what we see as negative qualities are often linked to a desire in us simply to be loved. These apparent negativities can be transformed, transmuted into gold. Therefore to show warmth, friendliness, generosity and compassion to our own selves – seeing ourselves fully – might well enhance the growth of our inner garden… when we touch others with kindness, the tree within us grows an inch higher and the roses within them also unfold further. I am reminded of some of my most favourite lines from Mevlana,
That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty,
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful.
[Mathnawi III, 4129]
I recall a dear friend telling me once that the love that we receive from others is God’s love. It is God’s love meeting us through these others. The kind words we whisper to each other and kind acts we exchange are God’s love working through us…creating beauty, wholeness, healing in our world.
~ Fatimah Ashrif