The Principles of Transparency and Its Manifestations

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The Principles of Transparency and Its Manifestations([1])


The Meaning of Transparency


We often here the politicians and the people involved in social work mention the term: transparency. Everybody demands that work should be “transparent”. But we rarely see any of them truly explain for us the meaning of transparency and how could work be transparent. No one tells us what transparency “looks like”, and how can we train ourselves to be adorned with this quality, and what are the principles and features which should exist in the soul to “deal with transparency”?


As people who are actually involved in the social sphere, it is part of our job to diagnose the obstructions which prevent good social work, the problems with that work, and the components of its success.


In light of this vision, we found that one of that one of the main issues faced by social work, and suffered by most of those working in the Islamic movement is the lack of transparent dealing with others. This is a quality which is not particular to work, the law itself can be described as transparent, meaning that it is flexible and capable for accommodating exceptional cases, taking circumstances into consideration rather than being just a rigid enforcement. So transparency is one of the main foundations for the success of any work, and to guarantee the application of laws and responding smoothly to circumstances. This is a feature which distinguishes Islamic Law and its great leaders.


The principles of transparency in Islam:


We will point out the manifestations of transparency in Islam in this discussion and its principles and psychological basis based on a number of Noble Traditions. Our references will remain general leaving their details to other intellectuals in the hope that they would enrich our Islamic sources through those blessed Traditions:


1- Fairness with others even at one’s own expense: If the other view is correct, one must be brave enough to admit this, letting go of his erroneous view and admitting his error. For this reason they said that admitting one’s error is itself a virtue, and Allah (Exalted is He) scolded those who hold to their opinions even if they know in their hearts that the other opinion is correct and true, for He says: “When it is said to him, "Fear Allah., He is led by arrogance to (more) crime. Enough for him is Hell;-An evil bed indeed (To lie on)!” [Surah of the Cow: 206], and He says: “And they rejected those Signs in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof: so see what was the end of those who acted corruptly!” [Surah of the Ants: 14], and He called upon His servants to give others their due right without any injustice as He says: “Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due” [Surah of the Heights: 85].


This quality is most difficult for one’s ego, only one who has trained himself and disciplined it would be able to adorn himself with it. For this reason it is narrated from Imam As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) that he mentioned the following Noble Tradition: “The Messenger of Allah (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and upon the members of His Household): said: “O Ali, there are three things which are beyond the ability of this nation: For the one to console his brother with his own money, to be fair to people even at one’s own expense, and remembering Allah in all states. This is not to say: ‘Glory is to Allah, Praise is to Allah, no god by Allah, and Allah is Greater’, but if one sees something which is forbidden then he would fear Allah (Exalted is He) at it and leave it” ([2]).


2- Seeking council without enforcing one’s opinion and acting as if other people’s opinions and advice do not matter. Added opinions and perspectives constitute added strength as your mind joins theirs, it is as if you think with the totality of their minds which would perfect a perspective and bring it to maturity. Therefore, one of the advices given by the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and upon the members of His Household) to Ali (Peace upon him) was: “There is no aid better than council, and no mind better than arrangement” ([3]). The Prince of the Faithful (Peace upon him) said: “He who imposes his own view would be doomed, but he who seeks the council of men would share their minds” ([4]), As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) said: “Let nothing prevent the one of you of seeking the council of a man of religion and piety if something beyond your means befalls you”, then Abu Abdullah (Peace upon him) said: “If he does this then Allah will not let him down, but will raise him, and cause the best of things and the closest of things to Allah to befall him”([5]).


The Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and upon the members of His Household) and the Imams (Peace upon them) have given us practical lessons on the necessity of council. They are the most perfect of creations and their masters and the ones who are supported by Allah’s grace, but despite all this, Allah (Exalted is He) says: “and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast Taken a decision put thy trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)” [Surah of the Household of Imran: 159], and He described His successful servants in His saying: “who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation” [Surah of the Council: 38]. One of the companions of Imam As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) said: As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) said to me: “Give me advice about a person with virtue and honesty” I said: “Someone like me would give you council?” His reply was almost angry: “The Messenger of Allah (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and the members of his household) used to seek the council of his companions then resolve to do what Allah wills” ([6]).


3- Using the Principle of Dialogue: without imposing one opinion over others no matter how convinced you are of that opinion. The Messenger of Allah (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and the members of his household) knew that he was right, and yet Allah (Exalted is He) commanded him to hold dialogues with the others: “Say: "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah. That we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah."” [Surah of the Household of Imran: 64], and His saying: “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation)” [Surah of the Spider: 46].


Islam had educated its followers to express themselves freely, and to choose the faith freely, Allah (Exalted is He) says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” [Surah of the Cow: 256]. This principle reached its most complete and perfect form when Allah (Exalted is He) commanded the Muslims to offer security and protection to everyone in the other camp who wishes to listen to what this religion says before returning him safely to his country to choose freely: “If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. And then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge” [Surah of the Repentance: 6]. so, is there any encouragement for dialogue, or any transparency more than present in Islam?


4- Modesty: Because arrogance, indulgence in the ego, and self-admiration would prevent any human being from listening to the truth. Such qualities blind the insight and humiliate the one who has them. Modesty, however, has quite the opposite effect: it elevates the one who is adorned with it, for it is narrated in the Tradition: “He who humbles himself for Allah would be raised in station by Allah” ([7]). The supplication of the Noble Qualities by Imam As-Sajjad states: “Do not raise my station by one level between the people without humbling me by one level in myself, and do not cause for me any outward loftiness without creating an equal inward humility within myself for myself” ([8]). So do not be arrogant with others, be humble even to the lowliest of Allah’s creatures, for Allah may cause a beneficial word to be uttered from the tongue of someone whom you absolutely do not care for. It is narrated in the biography of Allah’s Spirit Jesus (Peace upon him) that he said: “O disciples, I want something from you, so do heed it. They said: Your wish will be heeded, O Allah’s Spirit. He stood up and washed their feet, they said: It should have been us washing your feet, O Allah’s Spirit. He said: The one most worthy of being served is the man of knowledge. I have humbled myself to you so that you would learn to humble yourselves to the people after I go just as I humbled myself to you. Jesus (Peace upon him) then said: Wisdom is built through humility not through arrogance just as grain grows in valleys, not in mountains” ([9]).


5- Tolerance: The Prince of the Faithful (Peace upon him) is reported to have said: “The tool of leadership is tolerance” ([10]). Tolerance here does not mean merely leadership is government positions. Each responsibility over a group of people is a form of leadership, so the teacher is the leader of his students, and the Sheikh of a clan is a leader over the sons of his clan, and the religious scholar and the Imam is a leader over his disciples and followers, and the mother is a leader in her house. All of those leadership figures need tolerance to succeed in their work, and their tolerance must be proportionate to the gravity of their responsibility. The more people each leader has responsibility over the more tolerance he would need to encompass them all. One of the advices of the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and the members of his household) was his saying: “You will not encompass people through your money, so do so with your good qualities” ([11]). So a human being may gain people through his tolerance and increase their trust in his leadership.


6- Love for all people: The believer has neither rancor nor hatred in his heart. For this reason, Allah (Exalted is He) informed us that one of His graces on the people of Paradise is that He will remove the rancor remaining in their hearts as He says: “And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury: (they will be) brothers (joyfully) facing each other on thrones (of dignity)” [Surah of Al-Hijr: 47]. Such rancor and hatred hurts first and foremost the people who have them. These qualities turn the lives of the people who have them into a grumpiness and torment, their mind would never be at ease as it tosses and toils in this turmoil of thoughts. This wastes plenty of time and energy which could be invested in successful work. But if the human being purifies his heart from such evils, then he would be happy, his mind would roam freely to perform more important responsibilities. People differ in the level of purification of their hearts, even the believers, and therefore some of them would enter Paradise without having completed the purification of his heart. This would cause even the pleasure life in Paradise to be disturbed by turbidities, so Allah (Exalted is He) completes His blessings on His servant and removed these evil qualities from his heart, but not without a long pain. So why not work on the removal of those qualities whilst in this world so that one would be adorned with happiness directly, filling his heart with love of all people, for no one gains full happiness “But only he that brings to Allah a sound heart” [Surah of the Poets: 89]. This is particularly true amongst the believers who work on a unified Islamic project even if they disagree in opinions and the mechanisms of their work, nothing would influence the spirit of such purity. As for the things we see now, such as the transformation of love into alienation, contempt for others, dissertation for their image, and all things which follow such as backbiting, gossip spreading, thinking badly in one’s brother, all of these are capital sins which are not from the manners of Islam and Muslims. Let us take in this the example of Imam Al-Hussein (Peace upon him) who wept for his enemy on the Day of Ashura’ saying: “They will all go into Hellfire on because of me” although all of them were gathered to kill him and exterminate his household. Allah (Exalted is He) spoke to His Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and the members of his household) by saying: “We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures” [Surah of the Prophets: 107], meaning to all worlds and all the creatures in them, not just for human beings, much less from his Muslim followers. Let us then carry this great heart which is filled with mercy and love and good will, and let us follow the examples set by the Prophet and the members of his household (Allah’s prayers upon all of them). 


7- Having lofty qualities with people and being close to them. It is one of the qualities of the believer than he is close and loved to the people as are people to him. This is one of the most important manifestations of transparency. There are a great number of Traditions which build sublime values and qualities and praiseworthy traits within the human being. Imam As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) said: “There is no deed the believer can offer more loved to Allah (Exalted is He) -after the obligatory acts- than encompassing all people through his lofty qualities” ([12]), and he also said: “Good manners kill sins just as the sun kills ice” ([13]), and he also said: “Allah (Exalted is He) would reward for good manners and conduct in the same manner He would reward the warrior for Allah’s word in his coming and going”([14]). The Messenger of Allah (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and the members of his household) said: “Showing people affection and love is half the good intellect” ([15]). So how beautiful would it be for you to meet the people with love and openness, showing them affection with a smile on your face even in the darkest of circumstances rather than being constantly grumpy and disenchanted.


8- Excusing others and thinking well of them if you do not like some of their actions. It is narrated in the Tradition: Find seventy good ways of understanding your brother’s actions. “Seventy” in the Arab tongue is used for indicating plentitude not for determination, so if you find seventy one ways then do so. The Imams’ education for their supporters has reached the extent that someone asked Imam Al-Kathim (Peace upon him): “May my soul be a sacrifice for you! I hear things which I hate about my brethren, I ask the one of them about it and he denies even though trustworthy people tell me about it. He said o him: O Muhammad, call your ears and eyes liars concerning your brethren. Even if fifty people swear the most solemn of oaths against him and he denies it, then believe him and do not believe them. Do not publicize against him something which would shame him and destroy his dignity” ([16]).


9- Preserving the Definitions of Friendship which were defined by the infallible Imams (Peace upon them). It is narrated that Imam As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) said: “Friendship can only take place through its conditions and definitions. If someone satisfies them or even some of them, then call him a friend. Otherwise, do not attribute any friendship to him if he has none of them:


First: What he says outwardly and think inwardly must be the same in relationship to you.


Second: He must maintain that what is good for you is good for him, and what is bad for you is bad for him.


Third: No worldly position or ownership of money would change him towards you.


Fourth: He does not deny you anything within his ability.


The fifth gathers all the previous qualities, which is that he does not abandon you during calamities” ([17]).


10- Aiding others, and even preferring them to one ’s self. It is narrated that one of the companions of Imam Al-Baqir (Peace upon him) said: Al-Baqir said to me: “Did you see among you a man who does not own a cloak, and one of his brethren had one and gave it to him? I said: No. The Imam struck his thigh with his hand and said: Those are no brethren”([18]).


The Holy Quran describes the relationship between the believers in a manner more perfect than this, for Allah (Exalted is He) says: “but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot)” [Surah of the Exile: 9].


This is a summary of the main manifestations of transparency. They require plenty of perseverance and self-discipline before they become a part of one’s character. We should not only utter words without any application, for this reason the Imam (Peace upon him) said to his supporters: “Aid me through piety, diligence, chastity, and guidance”. Piety, patience, high resolve and sincerity all aid in treading the path of perfection, Allah (Exalted is He) says: “Nay, seek ((Allah)'s) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit” [Surah of the Cow: 45]. We rely on Allah to take us by the hand to achieve these qualities so that we would deserve the intercession of the pure veracious one, Fatima Az-Zahra’ (Prayers and Peace upon her) and so we’d gain the nearness of the loved ones: Muhammad and his pure household, may Allah pray upon them all.





([1]) Statement made by Marja Al-Yaqubi (May his support be preserved) in the first general conference for Banat Al-Mustafa Association in 21-22 Jumada I 1426 A.H.


([2]) Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 72, p. 34.


([3]) Al-Kafi, Vol. 8, p. 20.


([4])Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 72, p. 104


([5])  Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 72, p. 102.


([6])  Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 72, p. 101.


([7]) Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 122.


([8]) As-Sahifah As-Sajjadiyyah, p. 92.


([9]) Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 37.


([10]) Nahj Al-Balaghah, Al-Hikmah 176.


([11]) Al-Wasa’il Vol. 12, p. 161.


([12]) Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 100.


([13]) Ibid.


([14]) Ibid. Vol. 2, p. 101.


([15]) Ibid. Vol. 2, p. 642.


([16]) Al-Wasa’il, Vol. 12, p. 295.


([17]) Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 639.


([18]) Al-Wasa’il, Vol. 12, p. 26.