How Does One Learn Gentleness (Rifq)?

Answered by Shaykh Bassem Itani


How does one learn gentleness (rifq)?


Gentleness (rifq) is a high moral value, evident in a person through his tender heart, compassion, mercy, gentle words and actions, consideration for others, and accommodation for friends. It involves being lenient in interpreting matters in the best and easiest way.

Those characterized by these traits are easygoing, approachable, and beloved by people. They are not harsh, strict, or coarse in their speech or actions.

Natural and Acquired Gentleness

Before learning how to be gentle, it is essential to know two things:

Firstly: Some people are inherently gentle, a trait endowed by Allah without any effort on their part. You see signs of gentleness in all their actions. This is known as natural or innate gentleness.

Generally, most people acquire gentleness through effort, not by nature, but by striving to embody it and training until they become gentle by character. This is known as acquired gentleness.

Secondly: It is crucial for a person to discover themselves, which is only possible through introspection, contemplation, and recognizing their flaws. If one finds himself gentle, he should thank Allah. He must also understand the essence, limits, and techniques of gentleness through Quranic and Prophetic sources to elevate this trait in the realm of high moral values.

However, if, upon reflection, one finds oneself distant from gentleness, harsh in speech, tough in interactions, with difficulty in understanding and rigidity that breaks hearts and hurts others, one must take theoretical and practical steps to move from such harshness to the pure state of gentleness and kindness.

Steps to Master Gentleness

There are many steps to master the art of gentleness, but let us briefly mention four:

1. Reflect on Allah’s name “Al-Rafiq” (The Gentle)

Contemplating Allah’s gentleness in the universe deepens one’s faith and tastes the sweetness of certainty. Discipline yourself to be gentle so that you become beloved by Allah. Imagine entering Allah’s love, and consider this Prophetic statement: “Verily, Allah is gentle and loves gentleness in all matters.” [Ibn Hibban]

2. Get to Know the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)

Learn about his actions and his character, including his gentleness with Allah’s creation. Malik ibn al-Huwayrith (Allah be pleased with him) said: “We stayed with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) for twenty nights, and he was kind and compassionate. When he saw our longing for our families, he said: ‘Return to your families, teach them, pray, and let the eldest among you lead the prayer.’” [Bukhari]

Internalize how the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) applied gentleness in his words and actions. For instance, when Jews greeted him with a curse, Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) retaliated, but the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) urged gentleness and responded to them so that his prayers for them would be answered, not theirs against him. [Bukhari]

Emulate the Prophet’s practical example of gentleness, like when a Bedouin man urinated in the mosque, and he instructed the people to pour a bucket of water over it, teaching his companions to treat people gently. [Bukhari]

Studying the Prophet’s ethical situations (Allah bless him and grant him peace), especially his gentleness, inspires us to love and replicate this character. It allows us to follow the best of Allah’s creation.

3. Realize the Value of Gentleness

Reflect on the worldly and hereafter benefits of gentleness for a believer. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Gentleness beautifies anything in which it is found, and anything void of it is spoiled.” [Muslim]

Gentleness is a gateway to immense goodness. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) told Aisha: “Be gentle, for when Allah wants goodness for a household, He guides them to the door of gentleness.” [Ahmad]

Anyone characterized by gentleness is forbidden from Hellfire—a significant blessing in the hereafter. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Shall I tell you who is forbidden to the Fire and to whom the Fire is forbidden? It is forbidden to every approachable, soft, easygoing person.” [Tirmidhi]

A wise person, realizing the benefits of this trait, will eagerly apply it with all their spiritual strength to reap its rewards.

4. Associate with Righteous and Gentle Scholars and Friends

Company influences behavior. Being around those who embody gentleness and kindness improves one’s attitude and conduct.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) spoke about the impact of companionship: “The example of good and bad company is like a musk merchant and a blacksmith. The carrier of musk might give you some, you might buy from him, or you will find a pleasant smell with him. But a blacksmith will either burn your clothes or you will smell a repulsive odor from him.” [Muslim]

An environment (such as within a family) that is conducive to gentleness greatly influences the spread of this trait among all its members.

Following these steps helps acquire this noble character (gentleness), which will be evident in how you treat your parents, teachers, students, family, children, relatives, friends, the young, the elderly, and even animals. Gentleness will become a part of you in every place and time.

May Allah not deprive us of gentleness, for “He who is deprived of gentleness is deprived of all good.” [Muslim]

We ask Him to grace us with this beautiful character (gentleness) and adorn our words, deeds, and actions with it.
[Shaykh] Bassem Itani.

Shaykh Dr. Bassem Hussayn Itani was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1965. He earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies in 2005. Among his mentors were Shaykh Muhammad Taha Sukkar, Shaykh Adib al-Kallas, Shaykh Mulla Abdul ‘Alim al-Zinki, Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghouri, Shaykh Abdul Razzaq al-Halabi, Shaykh Dr. Mustafa Dib al-Bugha, Shaykh Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli, Dr. Muhammad al-Zuhayli, and others, may Allah have mercy on them all. 

Shaykh Itani has a rich background in both academic and administrative fields. He has held significant positions in many governmental and non-governmental institutions in Lebanon and abroad. This includes his role as a member of the Academic Committee at SeekersGuidance and a senior teacher with the free online global seminary.

From 2020 to 2021, he served as the Dean of the College of Da‘wa – University for Islamic Studies (Lebanon) – Postgraduate Studies. He was the Director of Dar Iqra for Islamic Sciences from 1998 to 2018. Shaykh Itani is a well-versed teacher in several academic subjects, including Fiqh, Usul, Aqida, and Tafsir. He has supervised and examined numerous Master’s and Doctoral theses at various universities and colleges in Lebanon.

His contributions to Islamic sciences are also evident in his writings and research. His notable works include “The Relied-upon Statements of Imam Zufar in the Hanafi School,” “Collective Ijtihad: The Sublimity of Thought in the 21st Century,” and “Custom and its Impact in Islamic Jurisprudence.” Shaykh Itani has actively participated in numerous scientific conferences and seminars, both in Lebanon and internationally. He is linguistically adept, excelling in Arabic, proficient in French, and comfortably conversant in English.