Some vices looks like virtues. In facts, it is very difficult to distinguish vice and virtue. Therefore, one should know how they can be distinguished from each other.
Many people cannot differentiate between gold and brass because they are both yellow colored. Some may think a blue bead is a precious stone. Similarly, they may think a vice is a virtue. Hence, it is necessary to learn the knowledge of ethics and become proficient in order to distinguish deeds with secret deficiencies from good deeds, and goodness from evil in general.
1– First we will explain the vice which looks like wisdom. There are many people who pick up a few phrases of wisdom or a few words on scientific or spiritual knowledge from others or from newspapers, magazines or radio programmes and repeat them among other less learned people or engage in debates and arguments with others so as to give others a false impression about themselves. Taken in by their false pretenses, many people think of them as knowledgeable and wise people such as scientists, experts or (great spiritual guides called) murshids. In actual fact, people of this sort are quite incapable of solving the problems in the scientific branch they profess profound knowledge about and are totally unaware of the meanings of the ma’rifats in the science of Tasawwuf they claim mastery over. The similarity between them and the scholars, murshids and scientists under whose guise they try to steal the show, is identical with the similarity between men and parrots in the ability of speech. For, the faculty called hikmat (wisdom) is located in man’s head and soul. Its works and lights (nûrs) are outside the range of the senses. There is many a soidisant advanced personage who is a total stranger in the territory of wisdom and value. People of this sort are vulgarly ignorant and currishly ill-humoured. They have nothing to do with knowledge or ethics. They do not utter a single word sounding benign. Always smartly dressed and innately handy with the kowtowing business, they haunt dances, balls and cocktails, and serve drinks at convivial parties, ultimately turning up as a chief or a committee member or a councillor.
2– Vice which looks like chastity: People tricked with this vice do not commit evil deeds and do not run after satisfying their appetites. Outwardly, they are mature and virtuous people who possess knowledge and good morals. Therefore, they are praised and respected everywhere by everybody. They are treated well by people who possess wealth and position. They are bombarded with presents, and the income from (the obligatory almsgiving termed) zakât and from votive offerings fills their wallets. Remiss as they are in performing the (obligatory acts of worship called) farz as well as in (those virtuous and blessed acts of worship called) sunnat when they are alone, their bodies have been enervated with the assiduous steadiness they have displayed in the performance of supererogatory prayers, when in company. Their lower selves (nafs al-ammâra) are extremely vigorous. They are truthful in people’s view, but faithless in the sight of Allâhu ta’âlâ. False shaikhs of Tasawwuf and men of religion pursuing worldly advantages are current examples.
Some villagers abstain from meals cooked in city centers, and others do not purchase good food because of their stinginess. People who observe them think that they are dervishes, although in actual fact they are insatiable, unchaste and high-toned liars under the guise of contentment.
3– The vice which looks like generosity: A person who has this habit has earned his property quite easily by way of inheritance or smuggling or hoarding or lottery or lotto, instead sweating for it. Therefore, he does not appreciate how hard it is to accumulate wealth by permissible means. So he spends his money either for prohibited (harâm) purposes or on unnecessary things. He spends his money on things not approved by wisdom or Islam. Stupid people seeing him spending freely think of him as a generous person. In reality, he does not possess the virtue generosity. Earning and saving money or property is like going uphill with a heavy load on one’s back. Spending money is like letting a spherical stone roll downhill from a mountain top. Poverty holds back many people from being better people. Many people lose their belief because of poverty and become apostates (murtads). It is stated in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “Poverty is a blessing for my Sahâba. Being rich will be a blessing for Muslims who will live in later times close to Doomsday.”
It is very difficult to earn wealth through trade which is carried out in accordance to the rules of Islam. Generally very few people earn their wealth by following the rules of Islamic laws. Permissible wealth comes in drops. By contrast, forbidden wealth comes like a flash flood. It is a virtue to be generous in dispensing property, whereas squandering is a vice and a forbidden act. Generosity (sahâwat) means to dispense in order to form the habit of generosity and to get rid of the habit of stinginess. It is not generosity to give for the purpose of obtaining something worldly or satisfying a certain desire of the nafs.
4– The vice which looks like courage (shajâ’at): A person with this spurious courage is showing courage, in reality, not for the purpose of obtaining the virtue courage and for getting rid of the vices rashness (tahawwur) and cowardice (jubn). Instead, he is doing so either to earn fame or to obtain some worldly position or possession. He steals Muslims’ possessions, robs them of their livestock, and breaks into houses at the risk of his life in order to obtain more and more property. In some cases, people of this sort have proven to be so foolhardy as to consider it bravery not to inform against their accomplices despite torture and even at the cost of their property or lives when caught in the act. However, they do not even have a smell of bravery. A person with bravery will come forward with the sublime purpose of doing something which wisdom and Islam approve of. His ultimate goal will be to serve his government and his nation and thereby to earn thawâb. He will pine for attaining the beautiful faculty of bravery, which in turn will earn him the approval of Allâhu ta’âlâ. A wolf’s or tiger’s attacking its prey looks like a heroic act, although it has nothing to do with bravery. Strength and instinctive impulses to attack and destroy are inherent in these fierce animals. So their attacks are quite devoid of good motives such as charity and piety. They simply attack weaklings which are no match for them. So is the case with an armed and powerful person’s attacking someone who is unarmed, naked and hungry; which is not bravery at all. A decision reached after an estimation and reasoning based on wisdom, thought and knowledge in favour of attacking, a pure intention free from worldly interests, and altruistic motives such as beautifying one’s soul with bravery and freeing oneself from vices such as impetuosity and pusillanimity, are components essential in the meaning of bravery. A person with these intentions never wants to do evil deeds. He prefers dying to committing evil deeds. He considers dying honorably is superior to living in dishonor. He prefers to be remembered in an honorable way to living with a black stain on his face. Since bravery carries the risk of injury or death, it may not taste very good in the beginning, but in the end it will taste infinitely sweet owing to the ineffable pleasure in the victory it will bring, which, in fact, would prove only incidental in comparison with the fruits it will yield in this world and the next. All the greater, the gratification that will be felt for having sacrificed one’s life in the cause of protecting Islam and promulgating Rasûlullah’s brilliant faith is of especial flavour overshadowing all the other flavours which may ever be relished in this world and the next. As a matter of fact, the hundred and sixty-ninth âyat of Sûra âl-i-’Imrân purports: “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the Pressence of their Rabb (Allâhu ta’âlâ).” (3-1699) There are innumerable hadîth-i-sherîfs which praise the value of bravery. Neither running away from jihâd saves one from death or extends one’s life, nor staying and facing the enemy causes death. The hour of death cannot be expedited or postponed and one’s life-span cannot be changed. In many instances, running away from war causes one to die unexpectedly and resisting and fighting against the enemy causes one to enjoy victory.
Idiots who commit suicide because they have lost their property or position or they have become prisoners of war, prove their cowardice rather than bravery. Brave people will show perseverance at times of trouble and affliction. Those idiots, on the other hand, think that by dying they will not face any trouble or disaster. They must be very ignorant indeed! They do not realize that bigger troubles and disasters will be awaiting them in the next world. According to Islam, suicide constitutes a graver sin than homicide. They will be punished severely. Those who commit suicide in a state of insanity are not in this category. If and when one finds himself in such difficult circumstances, one should appeal to Allâhu ta’âlâ for health and mercy.
5– The vice which looks like justice: This habit is similar to the vice which looks like chastity (iffat). A wicked person who is devoid of the virtue of justice decorates his office or walls of his home by hanging framed inscriptions praising justice or he talks about justice or writes articles on the subject. Even worse, he occupies a position which is related to justice and associates with people who have true justice in order to give an impression that he is one of them. His inner nature brims with cruelty, hatred and revenge. The real meaning of justice is one’s habits and deeds being in accordance with wisdom and religion or one’s being an honest person whose inner nature is reflected on his deeds. In other words, one’s behaviour in company will be the same as it is when one is alone. Double-faced behaviour is a sign of hypocrisy, which runs counter to justice.
First of all, one should administer justice to oneself, to one’s behavior, and to one’s limbs. Secondly, one should render justice to one’s household, to one’s neighbors and acquaintances. Also, members of the judiciary and members of parliament should mete out justice to the people. Hence, for possessing the virtue of justice, a person should first have justice in his actions and limbs. He should use all the forces in his body and all his limbs in a manner consistent with the purpose of their creation, instead of using them for purposes counter to reason and Islam and thereby violating the divine laws enacted by Allâhu ta’âlâ. If he has a family and children, he should treat them compatibly with reason and Islam without any digression at the sacrifice of the beautiful moral values shown by Islam. He should refine his personality with beautiful habits. If he is a judge or a governor or a commander or a director of an institution, he should encourage his inferiors to be steady with their daily religious practices, himself setting an example for them. A person with these qualifications has become Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Khalîfa in the world.
If the government officials at a certain place are far from being compassionate, well-bred and just, and if –may Allâhu ta’âlâ protect us against such cataclysms– they violate people’s rights and perpetrate such iniquities as cruelty, depredation and persecution, they are, let alone people of justice, companions and friends of fiends and demons.
Do not be deceived by the villas and apparel of dictators,
Gardens of their villas are watered with tears of the oppressed!
People who govern other people cruelly will be treated mercilessly on the Day of Judgement by Allâhu ta’âlâ. There is a saying which goes as follows:
Man, lâ yarham, lâ yurham!
which means, merciless people will not receive mercy!
 Ref: This paragraphes are quoted from the book “Ethics of Islam” page 224, which is the translation of the book Berîka written by Abû Sa’îd Muhammad bin MustafâHâdimî ‘rahima hullâhu ta’âlâ’, who passed away in 1176 Hijrî, 1762 A.D. in Konya / Turkey and the book Akhlâq-i-Alâî written in Turkish by Alî bin Amrullah ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ,’ who passed away in 979 Hijrî, 1572 A.D. in Edirne / Turkey. You can find the whole book and the other valuable books in the web site www.hakikatkitabevi.com.tr and download in PDF format for Adobe Acrobat Reader, EPUB format for iPhone-iPad-Mac devices and MOBI format for Amazon Kindle device.