When my preschooler shared with me what another girl said to her in class, my mama bear instinct took over.
"She said, 'That shirt (navy uniform top with pink rose buds and glittery writing) is pretty but all the other clothes in your closet are not.'"
"What?!" I exclaimed. "You should have---"
"I told her all the clothes in her closet are pretty," my youngest said in between sobs.
Oooh, that was definitely not the response I had in mind. Sensing my baby had been hurt, a primal emotion had risen up from deep inside me. It wanted that girl put in her place--swiftly and permanently--even if it took a few strong words.
But my daughter's choice to repay with kindness is the way we are supposed to go, and it was at that moment that I realized how far I am from having inculcated those types of superior manners in myself.
Indeed, God teaches us that not only are we not supposed to stoop to the low manners of those who misbehave with us, but we are supposed to transform them (and society) through our response, which must always tread the higher moral ground.
God: "Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil) with that which is better. Then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate." (41: 34)
"It doesn't help by fighting fire with fire," says scholar Salim Yusufali.
Prophet Muhammad (S): "Shall I inform you of the best traits of this world and the Hereafter? It is condoning those who wrong you, associating with those who breach relations with you, showing benevolence to those who mistreat you and granting those who deprive you."
Such traits were exhibited by Ali ibn Hussain, grandson of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times. Once a man showered him with insults while he was leaving a mosque. Ali's slaves started to punish the man but he stopped them and said to the reviler: I am more than what you have said, and you have ignored more than what you know about me.
The man was shamed by these words. Ali proceeded to give him his shirt and 1,000 dirhams. The man then confessed: "I must declare that this is one of the Prophet's sons."
Activists clamoring for a more just and peaceful society have also demonstrated such behavior in recent history. During the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Imam Khomeini asked protestors to march peacefully in the streets and hand out flowers to Shah's military personnel, utilizing the most effective of nonviolent techniques. Egyptian protestors in Tahrir Square did the same last year [pictured above].
"Be like the flower that gives fragrance to even the hand that crushes it," said Ali, husband of Fatima.
My daughter's benevolence paid off, and that too, quickly. Later that day while laying out blankies for nap time, her classmate whispered to her:
"Actually, all the clothes in your closet are pretty too."