Virtues are basic qualities for the well being and happiness of an average human being. Understanding virtues, in our lives, lead to better communication, understanding and acceptance between us and others around us.
King Frederick William I of Prussia (“soldier–king”) reformed the Prussian administration. His son Frederick the Great followed with more reforms and gave a solid structure to the Prussia. Which developed an advanced administrative and legal system. It had a structured and loyal officer corps and a kind of common-sense patriotism.
Prussian territory included Protestant, Catholic and Jewish subjects, Germans, Poles, Sorbs and Kashubians.
Walter Flex (1887–1917) wrote: “He who swears on Prussia’s flag has nothing left that belongs to himself.” And in the opening lines of the poem “The Old Farmer to His Son” by Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty (1748–1776): “Practice always fidelity and honesty until your cool grave. And stray not the width of one finger From the ways of the Lord.” This poem was set to music by Mozart to a melody adapted from the aria “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from his 1791 opera The Magic Flute. It was played daily by the carillon of the Potsdam Garrison Church where Frederick the Great was initially buried.
The 24 Prussian Virtues are:
- Austerity (Sparsamkeit)
- Bravery without self-pity (Tapferkeit ohne Wehleidigkeit) “Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen.” Translation: “Learn to suffer without complaining about it.”
- Cosmopolitanism (Weltoffenheit)
- Courage (Mut)
- Determination (Zielstrebigkeit)
- Discipline (Disziplin)
- Frankness (Redlichkeit)
- Godliness, coupled with religious tolerance (Gottesfurcht bei religiöser Toleranz) “Jeder soll nach seiner Façon selig werden.” Translation: “Everyone shall be blessed according to their own belief.”
- Humility (Bescheidenheit)
- Incorruptibility (Unbestechlichkeit)
- Diligence (Fleiß)
- Loyalty (Treue)
- Obedience (Gehorsam) “Seid gehorsam, doch nicht ohne Freimut.” Translation: Be obedient, but not without frankness.
- Punctuality (Pünktlichkeit)
- Reliability (Zuverlässigkeit)
- Restraint (Zurückhaltung)
- Self-denial (Selbstverleugnung) The German author and soldier
- Sense of duty (Pflichtbewusstsein)
- Sense of justice (Gerechtigkeitssinn) Jedem das Seine or Suum cuique
- Sense of order (Ordnungssinn)
- Sincerity (Aufrichtigkeit)
- Straightforwardness (Geradlinigkeit)
- Subordination (Unterordnung)
- Toughness (Härte) “Gegen sich mehr noch als gegen andere.” Translation: “Be harder against yourself than you are against others.”
Japanese virtues they are generally unwritten but are similar to Prussian:
- Having Integrity.
- Being Polite.
- Being Clean.
- Being Compassionate.
- Respecting Nature.
- Being Loyal.
- Willing to Self-sacrifice.
- Being Couragous.
- Living with Simplicity.
- Keeping Order.
- Showing Humility.
Prussian and Japanese virtues are the secrets of these nations successes. Both nations lost the Second World War and lay in ruins. A few decades later the German and Japanese nations became world economic powers.
- Tolerance and appreciation of differences
- Honesty, sincerity and decency in words
- Kindness to others and decency in action
- Kindness to animals and nature
- Justice, fairness and straightforwardness
- Modesty, humility and trustworthiness
- Understanding and controlling anger
- Respecting elders and those who are weaker than you
Islam is incomplete without Virtues:
Muslims knew and followed these virtues, and The Golden Age of the Muslim world – was due to these ‘Islamic Virtues’. As Muslims we believe that our faith is incomplete without having sense of values. A Muslim devoid of values or virtues is someone who has failed in the true significance of worship. Islam holds that strong qualities and good actions elevate the status of the human being.
The Prophet Muhammad said: “The best among you are those who have the best manners and character” and “I have been sent for the perfection of character”. Nations that succeed do so because of their people.
Germany and Japan succeeded after the Second World War because of duty of their people to their nations and each others success. The virtues that Germans and Japanese have in common with Muslims of the past is honesty and focus. The Germans and Japanese were able to confront the demons of what their governments did during the war honestly, learned from it and stood again. They did not excuse their histories nor hide away their negativity.
The Prophet of Islam valued honesty and diplomacy. Yet the Muslim leaders of the 12th Century after the death of Salahuddin Al Ayyubi became arrogant and complacent. The Shah of Persia Khwarazimian murdered and mutilated the ambassadors of the Mongols.
Genghis Khan didn’t wish to attack Persia – he wanted an alliance with Khwarazimian. When the Persians slaughtered the diplomats the Mongols wanted revenge. The Mongol invasion of Khwarezmia (Persia) from 1219 started the conquest of the Muslim states. And ended in the conquest of all Asia and parts of Eastern Europe with the exception of Japan, the Sultanate of Egypt, Siberia, and most of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. This is what arrogance in leaders can lead to.
The Prophet of Islam had character which earned him respect. Known as the truthful (al-Sidiq) and the trustworthy (al-Amin) even by his opponents. His ethical values early on enabled him to be a successful leader and teacher and then Messenger of God later on. When a parent passes on values to a child, the child becomes stronger in those values and his or life will show this as the child succeeds and becomes a much valued member of his or her community. After the death of the Last Prophet the Muslims kept increasing in knowledge and number. The Golden Age of Islam rose.
The Mongols knew about Salahuddin Al Ayyubi before they even thought of conquering the Muslims. Temujin – the boy who would one day become Genghis Khan was born in the 1160s, the Mongols and their relatives from other tribes had already for centuries been serving as guards for the trade caravans of Muslim merchants travelling along the Silk Road. Temujin knew of Salahuddin Al Ayyubi who was born in 1137 and it is said Temujin and the Mongols admired him. That is why he reached out to the Muslims with Ambassadors.
The lesson for us all us is that we must remain conscious of our flaws. Opponents or hostile forces will exploit flaws if we remain unconcious of them. We need to rise to the challenge of dealing with our weakenesses rather than respond in emotional ways.
The Muslims’ flaw (or sin) in the case of the Mongols was arrogance. That attitude is what the Mongols came to destroy, not Islam and if you are a Muslim and say that they came to destroy Islam – understand as Muslims we say that Islam is Gods religion and Gods religion cannot be destroyed. Otherwise it amounts to ‘shirk’ which elevates our enemies to the level of gods.
Was the Mongol invasion was a punishment from God for our sins? What were those sins the Muslims of the 12th Century were being punished for? And then use that self-questioning to improve ourselves in 2019 – rather than feel comfort in victimhood.
The 12 Islamic Virtues listed above and also the Prussian and Japanese Virtues we need to study and practice.