Good Character in Islam
Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 138, Which means: Say (O you who believe), `We have adopted the religion of Allah; and who is better than Allah in teaching religion, and Him alone do we worship.’
Islam is built on three foundations; the foundations of Iman, Islam and Ihsan. The foundation of Iman is the key to the validity of a person’s faith in Allah. Does he believe in the One God, the Creator of all?
Does he also believe in the angels, the Revealed Books, the Prophets and the Messengers, the Last Day and Qada’ and Qadar?
Denying any of these tenets can make a person deviate from the path of faith, resulting in nullifying his faith in Allah.
And the foundation of Islam is shaped from our actions. Do we proclaim the Shahadah, perform Salah, give the Zakah, fast in the month of Ramadan and perform Hajj when affordable?
A person’s foundation of Islam will crumble if one of the pillars of Islam is not performed.
Iman can be viewed as the skeleton, like man. Without the skeleton, man will not be able to stand. Likewise, without Iman, a person cannot proclaim himself as a Muslim.
But the skeleton is not enough for a body to move. It needs muscles, likewise, the Iman; it does not show someone as a Muslim unless it is proven by actions.
The skeleton and the muscles work together to move the body. But what actually adorns it, is the attire and the accessories. And the Islamic attire and accessories are one’s good character.
From Abu Hurairah Rasul Allah (r) said: Which means: Indeed, I (Rasul Allah (r)) have been sent to perfect good character. It is clear from this hadith that Rasul Allah (r) was sent not just to eradicate transgression and to uphold Islam, but he was also sent to bring mankind to higher levels of good character. (Hadith narrated by Al-Hakim)
Rasul Allah (r) himself displayed good character, and was himself a manifestation of excellent character to the extent that he was praised by Allah; Which means: And you, surely, possess sublime moral excellences. (Surat Al-Qalam, verse 4)
Good manners and good character are very much demanded in Islam. In fact, it is one of the matters that can weigh heavily in our good deeds in the Hereafter.
Rasul Allah (r) said: Which means: There is none heavier in the scales of the Hereafter than good character, (Hadith narrated by al-Tirmizi and Abu Daud). And indeed, a person with good character can reach the degree of someone who prays and fasts, where as a person with bad character and who does not show good manners, will be in misfortune, as mentioned by Rasul Allah (r), Which means: Bad manners are a misfortune. (Hadith narrated by Imam Ahmad).
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam,
Islam requires us to be of good character because it is our inborn nature to feel calm and tranquil and to respect those who are of good character. Those with good character are also honored by all regardless of race or religion, and they will bring goodness to this world. This is because good manners as preached by Islam are the universal trait which is revered by every human.
Actually, we do not have to go around searching for the right qualities to be displayed. We just have to consider what is seen as good by man, and that is the good character which is taught in Islam.
Anything that is good is part of good character. As mentioned by Rasul Allah (r) in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim: Which means: A good act is good character.
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam,
Good character is divided into two levels: the basics, and the higher level characters. Basic good manners are well known and appreciated by all. Like helping others in doing good, as mentioned by Allah in Surah Al-Maaidah: Which means: And help one another in righteousness and in piety.
This includes smiling at our brothers and avoiding sullenness, as mentioned by Rasul Allah (r), Which means: Your smile to your brother is an act of sadaqah.(Hadith narrated by al-Tirmizi)
Similarly, by abstaining ourselves from all acts which may harm or upset other Muslims, be it in speech or act. Which means: A Muslim is one whom other people are safe from his tongue and his hand. (Hadith narrated by Bukhari).
This is the universal good character; the basics, whereas for higher level characters, most of them are taught only in Islam. This is what was meant by Rasul Allah (r) in his hadith: Which means: Indeed, I have been sent to perfect good character.
Imam Al-Ghazali in his eminent works of (Ihya’ ‘Ulum AD-Deen) succeeded in explaining in detail the categories of the higher level characters and their explanations, based on the Al-Quran and Sunnah. He divided it into two parts: Manners which will bring misfortune in this world and the next, and manners which will bring triumph in this world and in the hereafter.
Among the destructive characters are jealousy and resentment, the love for this world, the love for power and rank, Riyaa’, ‘Uj’b and takabbur. And among the characters which will bring us to success are sincerity, the habit of thinking, compassion, tawakkal, and many others.
How wonderful it will be if we can internalize the good characters as taught by Islam. Without good character, a Muslim will not be complete; his faith will not be complete.
An Arabic poet once said: which means, Indeed the Ummah with good character will last. But when their good character is lost, they will also be lost. Allah says: “Surely, he who appears before his Lord as a criminal, there is hell for him, in which he will neither die nor will he live. And he who will appear before Him as a faithful, who has performed good deeds–for all such people there are high positions, ever green paradise, beneath which canals will be flowing; they will live in them for ever. Who adopts purity.” This is the reward for him (Taha: 74-76).
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam:
All the Islamic compulsory forms of worship are designed as exercises and training to enable people to acquire correct morals and habits and to live righteously, and to adhere to these virtues till the end, whatever be the changes in their circumstances.
(1) Prayer prevents commitment of Evil
Salah (prayer) is a compulsory form of worship, which is like an exercise towards which man is attracted with interest and willingness. He offers it continually, so that his life may be free from all diseases and the body may be healthy and strong. The holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, both are the open proofs of these realities.
When Allah commanded the compulsory prayers to be established, He stated its wisdom in this way: “Prayer prohibits obscenity and evil.”
To keep away from evil, wickedness and to purify from bad deeds are also realities of the prayer.
In a Hadith-e-Qudsi it is stated: “I accept the prayers of the person who adopts the policy of humility with it on account of My greatness, obliges My creatures, does not insist on sinning against Me, spends his day in remembering Me, and is kind to the poor, travelers, weak and the suffering people.
(2) Zakah is a means of purification
Zakah has been made compulsory on the eligible ‘scheduled’ (sahibe Nisab) persons. It is not merely a tax that is collected from the pockets of the people, but its foremost purpose is to sow the seeds of kindness, sympathy and benevolence, and to provide a chance of introduction among the various sections of the society and to establish the relationship of love and friendliness.
The purpose of paying Zakah has been stated in the Qur’an in the following words: “O Prophet! Take charity from their property so that if may clean them and purify them.” Tauba: 103)
To clean the self of the worldly impurities and to raise the standard of the society to the heights of decency and purity are the wisdom behind the levy of Zakah.
For this reason the Prophet has taken it in a very wide sense, and to pay Zakah has been made compulsory for every eligible Muslim.
The Prophet has said: “To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity.
To guide a person in a place where he can go astray is charity.
To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.”(Bukhari)
(3) Fasting is a stepping stone to Righteousness
Similarly Islam has made fasting compulsory. But it is not envisaged that men should keep away from their carnal desires and other prohibited things for a fixed period only. The Prophet has said: “Pasting is not the name of merely keeping away from eating and drinking, but it is keeping away from wicked and obscene things. If in the state of fasting, someone abuses you or picks up a quarrel with you, say: “I am fasting.” Qur’an states the purpose of the imposition of fasting in these words: “Fasting has been made compulsory for you, as it was made compulsory for those (followers of earlier prophets) who preceded you, so that you may become righteous.” (Baqarah: 183)
(4) Hajj is a compulsory pilgrimage to weaken the love for the world.
Sometimes man thinks that to travel to the holy places and to perform pilgrimage, which has been made compulsory for every rich Muslim, and which is included in the basic pillars of Islam, is merely a form of worship that has no relation with the world of morality and character. This is a clear misunderstanding. Giving commands about this compulsory worship, Allah states: “The months of Hajj are well-known. In these months whoever intends to perform Hajj should not indulge in sexual act, wicked act, and Fighting during the Hajj. Whatever righteous act you will perform will be known to Allah. Take with you provision for the journey (for Hajj), and the best provision is righteousness. So fear me, 0 men of understanding!” (Baqarah: 197)
This is merely the main outline of the forms of worship which are well known and generally practiced in Islam and they are its basic pillars. They show us what a deep relationship is there between religion and morality and how strong and lasting is this relationship.
How varying are these forms of worship in their spirit and appearance from one another, but in those aim and purpose how close they are which the holy Prophet declared his main objective. Therefore, saint (prayer), sawm (fasting), zakat, Hajj and other forms of worship like these are the stepping stones for real perfection, and are the means of cleanliness and purity that make life secure and magnificent. On account of high attributes and noble qualities that are the inalienable parts and the consequences of these forms of worship, they have been given a very high and important place in Allah’s religion.
If these forms of worship do not purify the hearts of men, if they do not nourish best qualities in those who observe them, and if they do not improve and make firm the relationship between Allah and His slaves, then there is nothing left for men but destruction and devastation.
May we be able to improve our character and be an example to other communities, Amen!