The world is full of friends. Someone is your actual friend; another is your potential friend. You are living in a world in which there are friends all around. This is one of the universal concepts given in the Qur’an in the chapter Fussilat (Revelations Well Expounded). We would like to quote some relevant verses from the Qur’an on this subject: Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend. (41:34)
These Qur’anic verses have a background. When the Prophet of Islam was in ancient Makkah, people became hostile to him and to his mission. The Makkan people used to abuse him and sometimes try to cause him physical harm in their show of hostility. Clearly, it was an undesirable situation for both the Prophet and his companions. At this moment of crisis, the Prophet and his companions were given the above guidance. It meant: Don’t show a negative reaction; don’t be resentful; don’t try to adopt the policy of tit for tat. Contrary to this, God Almighty revealed the above guidance, the essence of which was to keep one’s patience and to give a positive response in return for negative behavior. This formula worked very well. Very soon hostilities ceased altogether.
The majority of those who had been hostile became the friends of the Prophet—first in Makkah and then gradually throughout the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. If you read the Qur’an, you will find that almost all its verses convey the same positive message, either directly or indirectly. Why did this formula prove to be so effective? The reason is very simple, good behavior in return for bad behavior has a far-reaching effect; it touches the conscience of others. And it is a fact that when you are able to touch the conscience of the other person, you will successfully change his heart.
According to the law of nature, this behavior is like a psychological compulsion; no one can afford to go against his conscience. This Qur’anic teaching is based on a principle that may be called unilateral ethics. Bilateral ethics is not part of the social scheme of the Qur’an. There is no doubt that in terms of results, unilateral ethics is far more effective than bilateral ethics. If you read the Qur’an, you will find that almost all its verses convey the same positive message, either directly or indirectly. The Qur’an addresses establishing a society in which all its members, both men, and women, adopt this kind of positive behavior. Reactionary behavior forms no part of the scheme of the Qur’an.