Tolerating lesser evil

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Sunday Guardian | Oct 7, 2018

Umair ibn Habib ibn Hamasha, a companion of the Prophet, instructed his son, saying: “O my son, he who refuses to tolerate the lesser evil of a foolish person will have to tolerate the bigger evil of such a person.” (Al-Muʽjam al-Awsat, al-Tabarani)

If a foolish person throws pebbles at someone, the latter may immediately react by doing the same thing to him. However, the best answer in such a situation is to exercise tolerance. By tolerating ‘pebbles’ you will prevent the situation from turning into a conflict that involves ‘rocks’. The fact is that not to be willing to tolerate the lesser evil of a foolish person will always mean that you will have to accept having to face a much bigger evil instead, sooner or later.

Suppose a situation arises that threatens to turn into violence between two communities. There are two ways to respond to this. One way is by exercising patience. The other way is to get agitated. If you get agitated, it is bound to only further escalate the conflict and degenerate into violence. On the other hand, if you control yourself and exercise patience, the problem will be nipped in the bud and be soon finished off.

Such situations should not be judged by trying to determine which party is right or which party is wrong. The wiser party is one which rises above this and tries to de-escalate the conflict, even if it involves unilaterally accepting the conditions of the other party.

What is required in conflict situations is to put an end to the conflict by whatever means possible, as conflict may turn to violence which would be to the detriment of both sides. Wise is one who does not make matters an issue of pride, but adopts the practical wisdom of putting an end to conflict so that time and energy can be spent on more constructive issues.