ثَلاثَةٌ هُنَّ المُرُوءَةُ : جُودٌ مَعَ قِلَّة ، وَ احْتِمالٌ مِنْ غَيْرِ مَذَلَّة ، وَ تَعَفُّفٌ عَنِ المَسْألَةِ
Nobility is three traits: being generous although you have little to give, tolerating without being humiliated, and abstaining from asking for favors.
The closest match to the Arabic word (المُرُوءَةُ) in English is nobility and magnanimity. Although modern dictionaries translate it to chivalry, it is not accurate in my opinion.
The quote summarizes what it takes to be a noble person:
- Generosity while having little to give. It is easy to give if you have a lot, but it is hard if you have little.
- Tolerance which doesn’t compromise self-respect or dignity.
- Staying away from asking others for favors (e.g. begging, borrowing money, etc…). This is mentioned in the Holy Quran in verse 273 Surat Al-Baqarah.
Ali bin Abi Talib has many quotes about this subject, you can refer to them here (Arabic version).
وقود النار يوم القيامة كل بخيل بماله على الفقراء وكل عالم باع الدين بالدنيا
The fuel of Hell in the day of judgment is every person who is ungenerous with the poor and every religious scholar who sold his religion for worldly pleasure.
In dictatorial regimes the dictator looks for justification for his evil actions. One of the best ways to do this is to employ or pay religious scholars to release a fatwa (religious decree) tailored specifically to justify those evil actions. In return, the scholars get money, secure job, and protection from the dictator’s police. The Imam tells us that those religious scholars will be in Hell.