The Islamic concept of Akhlaq

By: M. Ramadan

Al-Akhlaq [Good morals] is the great message of Islam: Morality occupies one of the greatest positions in Islam, so great that Rasul Allah [saas] said, “(I was sent to complement good morals) [Ahmad, Malik, Bazaar, Haithami and Ibn `Abd Al-Barr authenticated it. From Abu Hurairah.]. As if He (saas) restricted the duty with which he was commissioned to this matter alone. (I.E.: The prophethood of Muhammad [saas] and His whole message is encompassed within the Akhlaq [morality].

Among the Prophet’s (saas) authentic supplications are: “O Allah, guide me to good character, none guides to good character but You.” [Recorded by Muslim] “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from bad character, deeds, and desires.” [Recorded by Tirmidhi.] “O Allah, You perfectly created me, so perfects my character.” [Recorded by Ahmad] “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from disability and laziness; from cowardice and avarice; from decrepitude and harshness; from negligence and impoverishment from lowness and humiliation. And I seek refuge in You from poverty and disbelief; from sinfulness, disunity and hypocrisy; from notability and Riyaa’ [show].” [Recorded by Hakim]

Al-Akhlaq [Good morals] is the way to righteousness: In Surah Al-Baqarah, Allah (swt) said: (It is not Al-Birr [righteousness, piety, and virtue] that you turn towards the East or the West [in Salah], but the righteousness man is the one who: believes in Allah and the last day, in the angles, in the books and in the prophets. Who gives away of his wealth, in spite of love for it, to his relatives, to the orphans, to Al-Miskeen [the needy] and to the traveler in need [the wayfarer] and to those who ask and to set slaves free. Who establishes the Salah and pay the Zakah. Who keeps his treaty when he makes one and shows fortitude in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are the truthful people and such are Al-Muttaqun) [2/177]. In another verse: (Those [Muslim rulers] are the people who, if we give them power in the land, will establish the Salah, pay the Zakah, enjoin what is right [Al-Ma’ruf] and forbid what is evil [Al-Munkar] and with Allah rests the end of all matters of creatures) [22/41].

Faith and Akhlaq: Faith and morality are two inseparables. They are companions, when one is taken away the other follows it. It is for this reason that Rasul Allah [saas] says: (Faith is that which penetrates the heart and act confirms its truth) [Al-Diylamyy]. (On the day of Judgement, there will be nothing weightier in the balance of a Mu’min than the goodness of character) [Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi]. (Rasul Allah was asked: what is the Deen [Religion]? He replied: the Religion is good morals. Then He was asked: what is woe [affliction]? He replied: lack of good morals is the real affliction) [Ahmed].

Al-Akhlaq [Good morals] is the core of worship: And without morality, worship is meaningless and is considered to be no more than worthless custom and self-serving habit.

(1) Salah prevents commitment of evil: When Allah [swt] commanded the compulsory Salah to be established, He stated its wisdom in this way: (Verily, the Salah prevents from Al-Fah’sha [great sins of every kind] and AL-Munkar [every kind of evil wicked deed] [29/ 45]. It is said that Rasul Allah [saas] said: (If the Salah of anyone does not prevent him from Al-Fah’sha and AL-Munkar [all kind of evil, illegal and sinful sins] then his salah increases him but loss and to be far away from his Rabb [Allah] {Tafsir Al-Qurtubi}.

(2) Fasting is a stepping stone to righteousness: Rasul Allah (saas) said: (Fasting 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.” [Bukhari and Muslim].

(3) Hajj is designed as exercise to enable people to acquire correct morals: Allah [swt] has said: (The months of Hajj are well known. He that intends to perform Hajj in these months must abstain from sexual act, wicked act and fighting during the Hajj) [2/197]. And Rsaul Allah (saas) said: (He who performs Hajj without indulging in vain talk or committing any default returns from the Hajj as pure as he was on the day his mother bore him) [Bukhari and Muslim].

Manifestations of Akhlaq {The Moral behaviour]:

(1) Al-Wara’ [piety]: it is to abstain from committing prohibited actions as well as abstaining from the things that are doubtful i.e.: things that could be Haram. Al-Nu’man Ibn Bashir relates that he heard Rasul Allah (saas) say: (That which is lawful is clear and also that which unlawful, and between the two is that which is doubtful of which most people are not aware. He who keeps off the doubtful secures his faith and his honour, but he who falls into doubtful falls into the unlawful, like a shepherd who grazes his flock in the vicinity of a protected pasture and runs the risk that some of his flock might stray into pasture. Mind, every king has a pasture. Be ware, Allah’s pasture is that which He has forbidden. Hearken! In the body there is a lump of flesh, when it is healthy the whole body is healthy and when it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted) [Bukhari and Muslim]. The highest stage of Wara’ is indicated in the saying of Rasul Allah (saas): (No One can attain complete righteousness [the level of Muttaqin = God fearing virtuous persons] till he gives up that in the doing of which there is no harm so as to safeguard himself against that which is harmful) [Tirmidhi].

(2) Modesty, By Guarding One’s Eyes Against Lust A Muslim should avoid looking at occasions of sin, such as at an improperly dressed woman, because such a sight tends to arise one’s desire and might lead to committing a sin. Allah [swt] has said: (Tell, O Rasul Allah the believing men to turn their eyes away from looking at forbidden things) [24:30].
The Prophet (s) said: You should guard your sight and protect your dignity, or Allah will cover your face with humiliation. [Tabrani]

(3) Wisdom By Guarding one’s Tongue Against Abuse One should avoid unkind words, useless talk, slander, and detraction. Imam Nawawi said: (Every legally responsible person should refrain from saying anything except when there is a clear advantage to speaking. Whenever speaking and not speaking are of equal benefit, it is Sunnah to keep quiet, for permissible speech easily leads to that which is unlawful or doubtful, as actually happens much or even most of the time, and there is no substitute for safety). ” Many ahadith of the Prophet (s) state that the tongue could lead to disaster and calamity. Some of these are given below:

(Is there anything that topples people on their faces [or He said on their noses] into Hell-Fire other than the harvests of their tongues) [Tirmizi].

(A believer is not given to accusing others or to cursing them nor he is immoral or shameless) [Tirmizi].

(Anybody who speaks a lot will have a lot of mistakes, and those who commit a lot of mistakes will have a lot of sins, and those who have a lot of sins will be in the Hellfire) [Baihaiqi].

(4) Hayaa’ [Modesty]: The feeling of shame when one commits evil deeds. The term [Hayaa’] covers a large number of concepts, which are to be taken together, amongst them are: to not meddle in other people’s affairs, to not raise your voice, to lower your gaze, to have contentment, etc.

Modesty is of two kinds, good and bad. The good Hayaa’ is to be ashamed to commit a thing which Allah has forbidden or not to do a thing which Allah has ordered to do. Abu Sa’id Al-Khtrii relates that Rasul Allah was more modest than a virgin behind her veil and that when something displeased Him we could perceive it from His face) [Bukhari & Muslim].

Every Muslim and Muslimah has to be always modest, but this Modesty does not prevent him or her from telling the truth. Modesty prevents one from meddling in other people’s affairs and from raising one’s voice. Modesty produces Infaq (the tendency to give rather than take in life) and contentment [Qana’ah] with what one has achieved after putting forth one’s best effort. Rasul Allah [saas] said: (Faith [Iman] has more than sixty or seventy elements [branches]. The greatest of them is the affirmation: there is no Ilah [God] but Allah, and the least of them is removal from a path of that which causes inconvenience. Modesty is also an element [branch] of faith) [Bukhari and Muslim]. ‘Aisha told that she heard Rasul Allah [saas] say: (By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day) [Abu Dawud]. truly modest person would always avoid evil and be careful regarding the rights of other people.

(5) Sabr and Helm

SABR [fortitude] AND HELM [prudence& perseverance]: Two important qualities for every Muslim and Muslimah to attain.

Sabr means: “Maintaining control of the Nafs in the face of such things which the Nafs dislikes”. Allah [swt] says: “O People of Iman.’ Adopt sabr (patience)”. Rasul Allah [saas] said: “A Believer is to be marveled because every condition of his is good. This is exclusive to the Believer. If he attains happiness, he makes Shukr (is thankful) and if calamity overtakes him, he adopts Sabr.”

There are three kinds of Sabr:

(1) Sabr ‘Alaa Al-A’mal: This means to be firm and constant in practicing righteous deeds.

(2) SABR Fii Al-A’mal: This means to have Sabr while engaging in the righteous deed. The Nafs is held in control and prevented from diversion while engaged in the act of virtue. Acts of ‘Ibadah have to be discharged adequately by the observance of the principles and rules pertaining to such acts. Full attention has to be directed towards the act.

(3) SABR ‘AN Al-A’MAL: This means to have Sabr in the non-commission of any act or to restrain the Nafs from indulging in the prohibitions of Allah [swt].

Hilm [perseverance] means to hold in check the [Nafs] in the face of events, which are distasteful to one [i.e.: patience against stimulants]. This quality of Hilm is acquired by the eradication of anger.

Significance of Sabr and Hilm: It is well known that the field of Islamic work and the way to preach Islam are full of many problems and are surrounded by pains and strains. So, every Muslim and Muslimah must be able to endure these hardships and sufferings patiently. So Sabr and Hilm will always keep the Muslim’s person agitated but steady in his struggle to make Allah’s Deen dominant in the society in which he is living. And the more the Muslim’s person improves these qualities [Sabr and Hilm] the more confidence he will gain in preaching to others. In his book [the spirit of Islam] Afifi Tabbarah said: (the patience, the Qur’an calls for, helps in moderating the hardships faced in the support justice, the elimination of falsehood, the endurance of harm from others as well as the hardships of poverty, illness or death of a dear one).

The duty and the responsibility of every Muslim and Muslimah are very challenging: And if the Muslim’s person is short of [Sabr and Hilm] against those obstacles, he may retreat from his commitment of Da’wah and may abandon his mission to preach the good news of Islam.

The duty of Tablgh [preaching Islam]: Every Muslim and Muslimah have to leave no stone unturned to bring the message of islam to every nook and corner of the country where he used to live. Rasul Allah [saas] said: (Deliver [communicate] to the people even if it is an Ayah). To accomplish this task, the Muslim’s person has to know well the people who are his addresses. But those people are of different ethnic backgrounds and varied cultures: the arrogant and knowledgeable, as well as the educated and the sensitive, the open minded and the narrow minded, the hard-hearted and the soft one. Therefore, Muslim’s brother and sister must know the inhabitants, to whom the message is to be delivered well: Their mood and temperament, their habits and tastes, their likes and dislikes, their fields of interests, the qualities of their character, Etc. All should be well known and understood by the Da’iah [the caller to Allah]. Ali Ibn Abi Talib said: (You should preach to the people according to their mental caliber). So, the caller to Islam has to present the message of Qur’an in a respectable manner with dignity and patient. He has to communicate its message in a manner most fitting to win people’s hearts. So, he has no choice except to put all his energy, talents, resources and his will to make Allah’s Deen dominant everywhere. And this task needs a high degree of [Sabr and hilm].

There are many Qur’anic verses, many traditions of Rasul Allah [saas] on this subject and numerous incidents occurring in the life of Rasul Allah [saas] testify to the fact that Muslims have to be encouraged to persevere in kindness and fortitude.

Evidences from the Qur’an:

(1) (The one who practices patience and is forgiving, these most surely are actions of great courage and resolution) [42:43].

(2) (So overlook O Rasul Allah their misbehaviour with gracious forgiveness) [15:85].

(3) (Only those who endure with patience shall be requited without measure) [39:10].

(4) (Let them forgive and forbear. Do you not wish Allah to forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful) [24:22].

(5) (And when the foolish people address the servants of Al-Rahman (Allah) with bad words, they reply back with mild words of gentleness) [25:63].

Evidences from the traditions of Rasul Allah [saas]:

(1) The Messenger of Allah (s) said: Verily, whoever has a character of kindness will achieve the same level (of righteousness) as those who fast and engage in constant prayer. Do you want me to tell you what will cause Allah to secure your future and advance your cause in heaven? They replied: “Truly, yes, O Messenger of Allah!” He said, “Behave politely to those who do not know you; forgive those who have oppressed you; give to those who have never given anything to you; and make brothers of those who have denied their brotherhood with you.” When all creatures are gathered on Day of judgement, a caller will announce: “Where are the privileged people?” The Prophet (s) said: “Then a group of people, consisting of a small number, will rise and go to Heaven.” Then the angels will say to them: “What are your privileges?” They will answer, “During the past, when we were oppressed, we were patient; when something bad was done to us, we behaved kindly.” Then the angels will say: “Enter Heaven and get the reward you deserve.”

Evidences from the biographies of Rasul Allah [saas]:

(1) After the Battle of Hunain, a man said, “By Allah this division of war booty is unjust and not for the sake of Allah.” When the Prophet heard this, he said, “May Allah be merciful to Prophet Moses. Indeed, he was tortured more than I am now, but he kept patience”.

(2) Anas ibn Malik narrated: “I was walking with the messenger of Allah (pbuh) and he was wearing a mantle of Najran with a thick border. A Bedouin met him and pulled the mantle so violently that I saw this violent pulling had left marks from it’s border on the skin of the neck of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). And he (the Bedouin) said: Muhammad!, command that I should be given out of the wealth of Allah which is at your disposal. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) turned to him and smiled, and then he ordered for him a provision.”

(3) Abu Hurairah narrated: “A Bedouin came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Muhammad give me two camels loaded with goods. Verily such a gift won’t make a dent on either your or your father’s wealth.” Then he approached the Prophet and yanked his cloth until a scratch was visible on his neck. The Prophet told his companions to give the Bedouin a sack of flour and dates.

(4) At-Tabarani narrated: “There was a woman who used to talk nonsense to men. One day, she passed by the Prophet while he was sitting on the ground eating bread and said, ‘Look, the Prophet is sitting and eating like a slave'”.

(5) Abu Hurairah narrated: “Aman said, ‘O Muhammad, I have relatives with whom I always try to keep good relations, but they break relations with me. I behave politely to them, but they behave badly to me. I behave kindly to them but they behave harshly to me,’ Then the Prophet said, ‘If this is true, it seems that you are too much for them, so Allah will help you with them if you continue such behaviour’.

(6) A pagan by the name of Zaid ibn Sa’ana came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in order to collect a debt. When he drew near Muhammad (pbuh) he wrenched him by his clothes violently, exposing his shoulder, and spoke rudely at him. Finally, he said: “You sons of AbdulMuttalib are all a procrastinating lot.” Immediately, Umar ibn Al-Khattab leapt at him chastising and rebuking him harshly, all the while the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) looked on smiling. Then the Prophet (pbuh) said to Umar: “He and I were in need of other than this O Umar; You should have commanded me to excel in my repayment, and have commanded him to excel in his request for repayment.” He (Muhammad, pbuh) said: “There [still] remains in his term three [days]” He (Muhammad, pbuh) then commanded Umar to see to his recompensation and to increase him twenty ‘saa’ (weights) as compensation for the terrorization he had endured (from Umar). This man later became a Muslim” (Narrated by Al-Bayhaqi, ibn Habban, and Al-Tabarani)

(7) It has been narrated that the Prophet Isa (s) always travelled from one place to another to spread his message with his disciples. He was constantly speaking well to his people but they replied with insults, jesting, and shouts. His companions were surprised to see this and asked him what was the cause. The Prophet Isa (s) replied, “Every person acts in accordance with what is in him.” All of these incidents prove the importance for the callers to Islam to behave kindly, patiently, and open-heartedly, especially in response to aggravation from relatives, friends, and loved ones. Such behaviour will generate love and can avoid divisions and argument. The caller to Islam need only act, as Allah wants.

(6) Honesty And Sincerity:

A Muslim should be truthful, not dishonest, and speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Telling a lie is the worst kind of degraded behaviour and provides an opening to the devil. Such dishonesty and insincerity weaken the soul, depress the spirit and undermine the morality generally. Avoiding this behaviour will produce the characteristics of fortitude and endurance and will guard against self-doubt and the influence of the devil. The Prophet (s) said: Verily truth will lead to goodness and goodness will lead to heaven. A person who develops a habit of honesty will be accepted by Allah as an honest person. But lying leads to evil, and evil leads to the Hellfire. A person who lies until dishonesty becomes habitual will be written off by Allah as a liar.

(7) Humility:

The Muslim should be humble, especially toward other Muslims. There is no difference between rich and poor. The Prophet (s) always prayed for protection from pride. Once he said: “No one will enter Paradise who has even a little bit of pride.” [Muslim] In a qudsi hadith, Allah Says, “Pride is My attire, greatness is My robe, whoever competes with me in either of these will be cast into Hellfire.”

(8) Trust And Kindness:

SIDQ: Allah Ta’ala says: (Verily, the Mu’minen (Believers) are those who believe in Allah, and His Rasul. Thereafter they have no doubt and they strive in the Path of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Assuredly, they are the Sadiqun (the truthful ones). [49/15].

The following is narrated in the Hadith Sharef: Rasul Allah [saas] passed by Abu Bakr (raa) while he was cursing some of his slaves. Rasul Allah turned towards him and said: ‘People who curse and people who are truthful!” Abu Bakr (raa) said: ‘I will not repeat it.”

The nature of Sidq consists of developing a rank acquired until it attains perfection. The meaning of Sidq is firmness. In the Shari’ah, the conception of Sidq includes Af’al (actions), Aqwal (statements) and Ahwal (states and conditions).

(1) Sidq Al-Aqwal [Sidq in regard to statements]: It is that talk should be firm and true according to reality.

(2) Sidq AL-Af’al [Sidq in regard to actions]: It is that every act be in conformity with the Command of the Shari’ah and not in conflict with the Shari’ah.

(3) Sidq Al-Ahwal [Sidq in regard to one’s state or condition]: It is that all conditions should be in accordance with the Sunnah. Conditions, which are in conflict with the Sunnah are false.

Every Muslim should avoid undue suspicion, slander, detraction, teasing, and faultfinding. Allah [swt] has said: (Believers! avoid much suspicion, for suspicion in some cases is a sin. Do not spy on one another, nor should any of you backbite the other. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Surely you would abhor it. Have fear (Taqwa) of Allah, for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful) [49:12] (And those who speak evil things of the believing men and women without their having earned it, they shall bear the guilty of slander and a gross sin) [33:51] The Prophet (s) said: O you who believe with your tongue only, your belief does not yet enter your heart. Do not slander a Muslim or tell his faults nor even look for your brother’s faults, because whoever uncovers his brother’s fault, will have his own faults revealed by Allah even in his own house.

(9) Grace:

A Muslim should behave graciously, sacrificing self and wealth for the sake of Allah. We see many examples of status and high ambition demolished by the desire for wealth. Allah [swt] has said: (Believers are those) who spend (freely) out of what We [Allah] have given them) [8:4] (And whatever you spend in good shall rebound to your own advantage, provided that you spend them for the love of Allah. And whatever spend in good shall be repaid to you in full. And you shall not be wronged) [2:272] The Prophet (s) said. Not a day passes but Allah sends two angels to every servant of His, and the angel says, “O, Allah, reward those who spend their wealth for Your sake;” and the other says, “”O Allah, punish those who are stingy.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

(10) Good Example:

A Muslim must set a good example. Every action should portray Islamic principles in everyday life, in eating, drinking, dressing, speaking, in peace, during a journey, at home, in action, and in silence.



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