Sunday, July 15, 2007

Essence of Good Character

Description: Imam Al-Baihaqi in his book “The Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith” which wrote about the Good Character of the Prophet Muhammad which are of exemplary to Muslims.

Suppressing Anger, being Gentle and Humble.

Good Character includes suppressing one’s anger, and being gentle and humble. Allah the Almighty has said:

Surely, you are of tremendous nature, [68:4] and: Those who suppress their anger, and forgive other people – assuredly, Allah loves those who do good. [3:134

Bukhari and Muslim related that ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Amr, r.a said:

"The Messenger of Allah, SAW, was never immoderate or obscene. He used to say, ‘Among those who are most beloved to me are those who have the finest character.’"

They also narrated that The Prophet’s wife, ‘Aishah r.a said:

"Never was the Messenger of Allah SAW given the choice between two things without choosing the easier of them, as long as it entailed no sin. If it did entail sin, he was of all people the most remote from it. Never did he seek revenge for something done against him; but when the sanctity of Allah was challenged, he would take vengeance for His sake alone."

The meaning of good character is the inclination of the soul towards gentle and praiseworthy acts. This may take place in one’s personal actions for Allah Most Exalted, or in actions which involve other people. In the former case, the servants of Allah has an open and welcoming heart for His commandments and prohibitions, and does what He has imposed on him happily and easily, and abstains from the things which He has forbidden him with full contentment, and without the least dissatisfaction. He likes to perform optional good acts, and abstains from many permitted things for the sake of Allah Most High whenever he decides that to abstain in that way would be closer to perfect slave hood to Him. This he does with a contented heart, and without feeling any resentment or hardship.

When he deals with other people, he is most tolerant when claiming what is his right, and does not ask for anything which is not; but he discharges all the duties which he has towards others. When he falls ill no-one visits him, or when he gives a greeting it is not returned, or when he is a guest but not honoured, or intercedes it is not responded, or does good he is not thanked, or joins a group of people who do not make room for him to sit, or speaks and is not listened to, or when asks permission to enter, it is not granted it, or proposes to a woman, and is not allowed to marry her, or ask for more time to repay a debt, but is not given the time, or asks for it to be reduced, but is not permitted this, and all similar cases, he does not grow angry and or feel that he has been snubbed, or ignored; neither does he try to retaliate with the same treatment when able to do so. But instead tells him that he does not mind any of these things, and responds to each one of them with something which is better, and closer to goodness and piety, and is more praiseworthy and pleasing.

He remembers to carry out his duties to others just as he remembers their duties towards himself, so that when one of his Muslim brethren falls ill he visits him, if he is asked to intercede, he does so, if he is asked for a respite in repaying a debt he agrees, and if someone needs assistance he gives it, and if someone asks for favourable terms in a sale, he consents, all without looking to see how the other person had dealt with him in the past, and to find out how other people behave. Instead, he makes "what is better" the imam of his soul, and obeys it completely.

Good character may be something which a man is born with, or it may be acquired. However, it may only be acquired from someone who has it more firmly rooted in his nature than his own. It is well known that a man of sensible opinion can become even more sensible by keeping the company of intelligent and sensible people, and that a learned or a righteous man can learn even more by sitting with other people or learning or righteousness; therefore it cannot be denied that a man of beautiful character may acquire an even more beautiful character by being with people whose characters are superior to his own. May Allah Bless us Guidance and Hikmah!

Perfecting One's Character

Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah in his book “The Magnificent Journey" wrote that The Prophet SAW used to make a number of supplications related to good character.

1. "O Allah, guide me to good character, none guides to good character but You..." [Muslim]

2. "O Allah, I seek refuge in you from bad character, deeds and desires." [At-Tirmidzi]

3. "O Allah, You perfectly created me, so perfect my character." [Ahmad]

4. "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 off)..." [Ahmad, Malik, Bazaar, Haithami and ibn Abdul-Barr]

The followingl excerpt from "The Magnificent Journey" by ibn ul Qayyim explains three conditions needed to acquire good manners, meaning proper nature, controlling one's nafs and sound knowledge.

Three Conditions to Acquire Excellent Manners

This is one example of the excellent manners with which Allah SWT has equipped his Messenger SAW. He described him :

"Verily, You [Muhammad] are on an exalted standard on character." [68:4]

‘Aishah described him: "His character was just [a reflection of] the Qur'an." [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ahmad]

Such excellent character cannot be attained without three conditions:

1. The foundation must be good. In one has a rough and dry nature, it will be hard for him to submit to this [excellence of character] through knowledge, will, or practice. On the other hand, a mild and smooth nature will be ready and willing to receive the plowing and the seeds [to prepare it for character excellence].

2. The soul must be strong and capable of conquering calls of laziness, transgression, and desire. Those matters contradict perfection, and souls which cannot defeat them will always be defeated and conquered.

3. [One must possess] a discerning knowledge of the truth of matters, enabling one to put them in the rightful position, and to distinguish between flash and cancer - between glass and jewels.

If these three qualities are present in a man, and Allah's facilitation helps him, then he will be among those whom the best (Husna) has been decreed and for whom Allah's care has been secured.


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