Appreciation: A Way to Make Abilities Flourish

Showing appreciation and respect for scholars, artists and virtuous people is important, just as it is for ordinary people. This is one of the ways of bringing out the beauty inside people.

Our Prophet (PBUH) and Appreciation

Appreciation means to give value to people, to know and express how valuable they are and to treat them accordingly.

Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was an appreciative person. He would give such a great sense of value to people around him that all his companions would think that “he loves me most”. He would not separate the poor from the rich.

He would offer something to anybody who visited him and spread his coat on the ground so that they could sit on it, and sometimes give the cushion on which he was sitting to the guest and he would sit on the bare ground.

He would listen attentively to anybody who asked him anything and would not leave the person as long as the questioner did not leave him. When a person stretched his hand to shake his hand, he would never pull his hand away first, as long as the person did not pull his hand away. He would not turn his face away when he was facing somebody, as long as the person did not turn his face away. He would not stretch his feet out towards anybody who sat before him. When he came across a person, he would salute them first and stretch out his hand to shake hands.

He would not interrupt anybody’s speech. He would maintain the conversation as long as the person stayed.

A child from Madina would come, hold his hand and take him to any place that he/she wanted so that he could meet the child’s needs. He would not hurt the child’s feelings and say “I will not come”.

Some companions said as follows: “When we spoke about the worldly matters in his presence, he would speak on the same matters. When we spoke the issues about hereafter, he would speak about these issues, too. When we spoke about the meal, he would join us in talking about that topic. He would laugh at what we laughed at, and he would get amazed at what we were amazed by.

***

We need to draw lessons from these ways that our Prophet (PBUH) behaved. Especially, people in the leadership positions should learn much from the relationship that our Prophet (PBUH) had with people around him and treat the people around them in the same way.

Saalibi, one of the scholars, says as follows in his book titled ‘Adab’ul Muluk’: “A king should give the tasks to those who deserve them and he should know how to treat them. It is not appropriate for a king to treat servants knidly when he needs them, and to scold and shout at them when he does not need them anymore. Naturally, the servants prefer to suffer a great amount of exhaustion to witness a little pleasure from their lord. They get upset when their lord gets into trouble. They get happy when their lord is successful. If the king protects them and does not let them be hurt in any way, and does not allow their honour to be blemished, then he will live in peace and tranquillity, since he obeys the most valuable counsels.”

One should appreciate everybody as much as they deserve

We have mentioned earlier that the custom is that “every person who has a right should be given his right”. Treating people according to their situation in the society is a sub-branch of fairness. Every man should be given value, but the value given to high ranks should be greater.

A beggar was passing by when A’isha (R) was having a meal. A’isha (R) gave the man a parcel of food and the man took it and went away. Then a wealthy man came by and A’isha (R) invited him to the meal. People asked her, “Why did you do this?” She answered; “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said “Treat people according to their positions”. Thus, I did so.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, Chapter 23) In another tradition, it is reported that she said, “This beggar is content with the little thing that I gave, but the rich man would not be content with that.”

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) treated people according to their state. He would make more compliments and show more appreciation when older people, the leader of a tribe or meritorious people came to him.

One of the companions says as follows; “A leader of a tribe had come into the presence of the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet made compliments about him, treated him well and gave him value. The companions said, “O the Messenger of Allah! We have seen that you have treated that man in a way that you did not do to anybody else.” The Prophet (PBUH) answered, “Yes, that man is a leader and elder of his tribe. When the leader of a tribe comes to you, give him appreciation.” (Ibn Maja)

What is meant by an ‘elder’ are the features such as the age, rank, knowledge and merit . We can give many examples of this fact from the life of our Prophet (PBUH).

It is known that Imam Umar (R) was sensitive on that issue, too. Umar (R) wrote a letter to Abu Musa al Ash’ari, one of his governors, “I have heard that you do not let a big crowd gather in your presence. As soon as my letter reaches you, accept first those people who have merit, honour and rank in your presence, and then accept the others!” (Kanz’ul Ummal, nu: 25754)

Leadership and Appreciation

“Have mercy for three types of people: a miserable man who was once the leader of a community, a poor man who was once a rich man, a scholar who was among the ignorant people (and his value is not known)”. (Kanz’ul Ummal, nu: 43299)

A leader should hold respect and give value to those who have an ability, knowledge, craft, and those who are of high rank or are elders. His appreciation of these people leads to appreciation of the other people for them. By that way, the number of people of high ability and craft increases.

There is great value of having appreciation for people in community life. The number of the scholars and people of art and craft in the communities in which they are shown appreciation increases. Thus those people work for their societies to develop and progress in every field. Those communities which do not know about appreciation and value get deprived of science, knowledge and art. These communities become corrupt spiritually and materially.

Saalibi says as follows; “When Muslim leaders conquered and dominated al-Andalus and the Maghrib (North-West Africa), these places became the centres of high civilization, excellent poetry and rare works of art. If it had not been for the Muslim leaders and the knowledgeable and skilful civil servants who worked under their supervision, the extraordinary thought in the hearts of the authors would have died before coming out in writing, the poets’ inspiration would have dried up, the minds of the philosophers and scholars would have rusted and the tongues of the most impressive orators would have been tied. These are the blessings and endowments of Allah (SWT) and He gives them to whoever He wishes.”

What Saalibi says about the sultans of al-Andalus also counts for the Ottoman sultans. Uthman Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman state, counselled his son Orhan Ghazi as follows before he died:

“Protect the statesmen who work faithfully for the pleasure of Allah (SWT)! Look after the children of such people after they die and meet their needs! Protect the men of the army! The scholars, virtuous people, artists and authors are the power of a body of state. Pay them compliments and offer them gifts! When you hear about a man of heart, get closer to him, and give him presents! Let the scholars, virtuous people and men of arts increase in your government and the works of religion and politics get in order!”

Orhan Ghazi remained loyal to these counsels. He appreciated the scholars, virtuous people and artists all through his life. That way of behaving was sustained by the sultans after him. This feature of the sultans contributed to the rise of the Ottomans. For example, the following event is known to everybody: When Sultan Selim the Grim was returning from the campaign to Egypt, some dirty water and mud splashed onto his clothes from the feet of the horse of a scholar, and the sultan’s clothes were messed up. The scholar was afraid of the sultan’s reaction,, but the sultan, who was known for his rage, said to him, “A little mud splashing from the feet of a scholar’s horse is an honour for me. When I die, put that robe on my grave” and he put off the robe and gave it to his men to put it away.

That scholar to whom Sultan Selim showed great respect was none other than Sheikh’ul Islam Ibn Kamal, one of the greatest scholars of the Ottomans.

Sheikh’ul Islam Ibn Kamal had first joined the army in his youth. But when he realized the value and high rank of the scholars, he gave up the army and preferred the academic life. Ibn Kamal explained how he came to the scholarly life in the following way:

“We had set out for a campaign with Sultan Bayazid II. There was a commander named Ahmad, the son of Awranos. None of the commanders could walk before him or sit in a place above him. I would stand to attention in the presence of this commander and the Vizier. Once, a scholar in some old clothes came up and sat in a place higher than these statesmen and nobody prevented him. I was surprised. I asked one of my friends about that man. He answered, “He is the teacher in Plodviv Madrasa (university) and he is a scholar. His name is Molla Lutfu.” I asked “How much is he paid?” He said “thirty drachma”. I asked “How could he sit in a higher place than those commanders whose ranks are higher than his?” He answered, “The scholars are paid respect and given appreciation because of their knowledge. If he sat down in a lower place, these commanders and the Vizier would not consent to that.” I thought to myself, “I can’t reach to the level of that commander, but if I work hard I could be like this scholar”, so I began to study the different branches of knowledge.”

Ibn Kamal became a great scholar and he took his position as one of the greatest scholars of the Ottomans. He became Sheikh’ul Islam after Abu’s-Suud Efendi. If it was not for the respect and appreciation shown for knowledge and for the scholars, a scholar like Ibn Kamal would never have appeared.

***

Ibn Sina says, “Knowledge and art migrate from the place where they are not appreciated and their worth is not known”. Throughout history, communities have been the recipients of great wealth when the administrators appreciated and showed respect for scholars, artists and virtuous people. When they did not, the number of the scholars, artists and virtuous people in these communities decreased and they suffered a lot of tribulations.” An event which confirms this argument of Ibn Sina is as follows:

Sultan Muhammad Fatih (the Conqueror), who paid great attention to artists and scholars, asked a scholar named Molla Ahmad, who was from the Crimea, to get information about his native land, “We have heard that there are 600 muftis and many scholars who have written 300 books in the Crimea, and that it is a great state which is prosperous with knowledge and good deeds”. Molla said, “I only caught the end of that era.” Fatih asked, “Why did the situation deteriorate there?” Molla responded, “A Vizier appeared there who despised and disdained the scholars, and so they were scattered around. That is why the good situation deteriorated, because the scholars are like the heart of the body. If the heart gets hurt, the whole body deteriorates.” Fatih related the incident to Mahmud Pasha, one of his Viziers, so that he would take note, “The corruption of the country was because of the Vizier.” Mahmud Pasha said, “No! It was because of Sultan.” Fatih asked, “Why?” Pasha answered, “Because it was the Sultan who made such a man the Vizier”. Fatih confirmed his opinion, “You are right” he said.

The poet Muhammad Akif says, “They say that history is repetition. If we draw lessons from history, does it have to repeat itself?” The incident told above shows that the country is damaged if the statesmen are not appreciative of the valuable men of the community. Since the necessary lessons were not drawn and learned from history, the collapse of the Ottomans took place in the same way.

Kochy Bey tells us in his treatise on the degeneration of the Ottoman state, that in the earlier Ottoman period, the Sultans were respectful to religion, sharia and the scholars, but later the situation degenerated and this led to the corruption of the system. He says as follows:

“The respect and prestige which were shown to the scholars have not been demonstrated better anywhere than with the Ottomans. As a result of this, these scholars produced excellent works, guided people with their activities and the people showed them great respect. However, after the era of Kanuni (the Lawgiver) relations with the scholars declined. Earlier, the scholars in the position of Sheikh’ul Islam would remain in the post until they died, but later they were dismissed and replaced. The true scholars were not given value, and so

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those who did not deserve it got prominence. Due to the spread of bribery, the system in the madrasas became corrupt, and people received diplomas when they had not merited them. The prestige of the scholars among people was shaken.”

All in all, giving value to the scholars, artists, virtuous people and elders is important in terms of the order and future of the society. It is especially important that people in positions in the administration of the country should have this understanding.

Saadi Shirazi tells as follows:

The son of a sultan fell off a horse and the bones of his neck interwined with each other. It was so terrible that his neck sank into his body like an elephant. To be able to turn his head, he had to turn his whole body.

None of the doctors in his country were able to cure him. Only a Greek doctor was able to bring his head into its previous form and rectify his bones and veins. If it were not for this doctor, the prince would have remained disabled and might have died.

After the prince recovered, the doctor who had cured him went to visit him and his father. The ungrateful Sultan and his son, who did not know how to show appreciation for favours, ignored the doctor. The doctor was upset because of the treatment that he received, and bowed his head from the shame that he felt because of the behaviour of the Sultan and his son. As he got up and turned to the door, he murmured:

“If I had not put his neck back into its previous form, he would not have been able to turn his face away from me today.” So the doctor sent a seed and a letter to the Sultan and his son to take his revenge because of the insult he had received:

“The prince should put this seed into the incense burner and light it. It is remedial incense.”

After the prince lit the seed that the doctor sent, he sneezed because of its smoke. Due to the violence of his sneeze, the prince’s head and neck got damaged again. People searched for the doctor everywhere by the order of the Sultan, but they could not find him. They would have apologised to him, but it was too late. (Bostan wa Gulistan – The Orchard and The Rose Garden)

 

 

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