بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala (Glorified and Exalted be He) has placed mankind on Earth with a purpose. In the course of attaining this purpose, or even figuring out this purpose, man is lead through various twists and turns, all promising success and a dream life.
As Muslims, we believe that the avenue of true guidance is based on the Qur’an and the sunnah. Islamic morality is comprehensive and it covers not only Muslims but also extends to wider society. It links all human beings to a single pair of parents and upholds the values of justice, fairness, and equality amongst all human beings regardless of race, color, etc. It covers all aspects of public and private life, including spiritual, physical, social, emotional, financial, and political matters. As a religion that endorses moderation, Islam rejects extremism and encourages tolerance and forgiveness.
The reform of society begins with the reform of the individual. Ideal Muslim character is composed of various moral attributes such as truthfulness, justice, co-existence, love, generosity, mercy/compassion, gratitude, and patience. This holistic personality is attainable and was exemplified to the highest level by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who was sent to perfect moral character. Therefore, Muslims already have a successful all-rounded personality to emulate.
In Islamic belief, a believer who lives by Divine guidance presents himself to eternal success through the mercy of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). This conclusion has been reached through a number of verses from the Qur’an that mention success. Hence in order to achieve Paradise, human beings must live this short life on Earth according to the commands and guidelines of Allah which were revealed to Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) through Angel Jibreel over a span of 23 years – a few verses at a time – 1400 years ago.
At every stage of life we are sent tests to establish who is better in deeds, who believes, who submits, who is obedient, and who lives with God-consciousness (taqwa). The complete reward or punishment can be expected in the Hereafter.
Al Manhaj Lil Falah / Islamic Methodology for Success in Dunya and Akhirah (iMFS) presents guidelines from the Qur’an for achieving the highest level of satisfaction, tranquility, freedom, prosperity, and security in worldly life and in the Hereafter.
تِلۡكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِۚ وَمَن يُطِعِ ٱللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۥ يُدۡخِلۡهُ جَنَّـٰتٍ۬ تَجۡرِى مِن تَحۡتِهَا ٱلۡأَنۡهَـٰرُ خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَاۚ وَذَٲلِكَ ٱلۡفَوۡزُ ٱلۡعَظِيمُ
“These are the limits [set by] Allah, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger will be admitted by Him to gardens [in Paradise] under which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein; and that is the great attainment.”
In our quest to extract guidelines for success, we found many roads leading to the same destination–that of sound moral character.
The word khuluq (خُلُق) denotes a comprehensive term that covers the moral and behavioral aspects of a person. It is sometimes used interchangeably with the word adab (أدب), which is often translated as etiquette. These terms are used when speaking of refined social manners, good character, sound moral values, decency, politeness, reverence, and high regard for people and perhaps even places or times. It has been defined by some as a deep-rooted instinct or faculty which enables a person to choose and adopt a course of action instantly, without having to weigh or consider and judge; or to reject immediately a course of action, without any rational consideration”. It is said to be “a garment for the soul, or the inner strength of the spirit that saves one from erring or doing inappropriate things.”
For a Muslim, good moral actions are actions guided by the laws of Shariah and the moral conscience bestowed by Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). Striving towards good adab, in essence, is striving to emulate the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Adab is also used interchangeably for recommended acts, supererogatory acts, or virtuous acts.
When Junayd al-Baghdadi set out on his pilgrimage, he saw that the disciples of Abu Hafs in Baghdad were extremely mannerly and polite. He said to the scholar, “You have taught your followers adab that is befitting of courtiers.” Abu Hafs replied, “No, their inner adab is reflected in their outward actions,” implying that their behavior arose from their heart.
Isn’t the heart just a muscle designed for bodily function? What does it have to do with character and behaviour?
“There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoiled the whole body gets spoiled and that is the heart.” [Sahih Bukhari]
This notion is carried in many traditions; not just Islam. Ancient Egyptians considered the heart to be an organ of truth. The English language carries phrases like “with all my heart”, “heartbroken”, “cold-hearted”, “heart swells with joy”, “follow your heart”, etc. to convey deep-rooted emotional states.
Research has shown that the brain is not the only place or source of emotions in the body, but rather a combination of the two. Through Islam, we know that our outward disposition is not only a combination of mind and heart, but also of body. This is made clear through prophetic teachings on the stomach, postures of prayer, and so on.
It is reported that it was the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to pray, “O Allah You have made my creation (khalq) perfect, so make my moral characteristics (khuluq) also be the best. [Bulugh Al-Maram]
The words khalq (creation) and khuluq (nature) are derived from the same root word. Khalq relates to the external form such as:
- the visible
- material, and
- experienced dimension of existence.
Khuluq relates to internal form such as:
- content, and
- spiritual dimension
An individual cannot be judged or known by his or her outer appearance, for one’s real identity lies in one’s character, temperament, and natural disposition. However many different images one may project; one’s true character or temperament eventually will reveal itself.
Good conduct is an essential part of the religion as the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said, “I was sent to perfect good character.” [Adab Al-Mufrad]
Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) describes the character of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the Quran as:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ۬
“For, behold, thou keepest indeed to a sublime way of life;” [Quran; 68:4]
The word “sublime” here can be used to describe the character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as one of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe. It could be described as exalted, elevated, noble, lofty, awe-inspiring, majestic, or magnificent.
In his Quranic exegesis (tafsir), Muhammad Asad comments on this verse as follows:
“The term khuluq, rendered by me as “way of life,” describes a person’s “character,” “innate disposition,” or “nature” in the widest sense of these concepts, as well as “habitual behaviour” which becomes, as it were, one’s “second nature” (Tāj al-‘Arūs). My identification of khuluq with “way of life” is based on the explanation of the above verse by ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Abbās (as quoted by Tabarī), stating that this term is here synonymous with dīn: and we must remember that one of the primary significances of the latter term is “a way [or “manner”] of behaviour” or “of acting” (Qāmūs). Moreover, we have several well-authenticated traditions according to which [Prophet] Muhammad’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) widow Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) speaking of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) many years after his death, repeatedly stressed that “his way of life (khuluq) was the Qur’an.” [Muhammad Asad Tafsir on Surah Qalam; 68:4]
Muslim vs. Islamic
The popular saying goes, “Don’t judge Islam by the Muslims.”
Being Muslim by name or superficial practice alone does not lead to success. If we are to be honest, superficial practice has not shown much of an impact in improving people or societies. This is evidenced by so-called Muslim countries being globally perceived amongst the most corrupt.
Religions–not just Islam–have been hijacked for various worldly gains. Just as nuclear energy can be used for the benefit of mankind as well as be abused to cause destruction, there are element which completely distort and abuse religion to serve their own ambitions. These elements perhaps require more religious training rather than less, because they have a lack of understanding of it.
Hence in examining Islam for pathways to success, it is inevitable that the focus would be on the enhancement of character (Islamic ethics). While the modern world is plagued by many a crisis, our proposition is that the key to solving many of these is in reinstating the rein of good conduct, inwardly and outwardly, individually and communally, towards human beings as well as towards the planet and all creation within it.
Given the emphasis that Islam places on character, this approach is in congruence with the essence of our life purpose of worshipping Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) as He has commanded us to do.
Austere interpretations of Islam may lead to soul-less implementation of a beautiful religion sent to us by The Most Gracious. Indeed it is important to uphold revelation and implement it without distortion or personalizing it for one’s own convenience. However, one must understand or attempt to understand the wisdom (hikmah / maqasid) behind the given moral code (shari’ah) so that it can be applied with due diligence according to different circumstances (ijma’ / qiyas), without losing the flavor of grace and goodness that is so inherent to this religion.
The Qur’an was revealed piecemeal, but must be engaged with as a whole. It is a complete manual that has to be understood with all its verses together, and not by extracting portions whose correlating verses are perhaps in another portion. For instance, the response to Surah Al-Hijr:6 is in Surah Al-Qalam:2.
Accessing the Qur’an requires mastery over the Arabic language and Islamic sciences (ulum al-din). Traditional scholars have made this mandatory before a person can be allowed to comment on the Qur’an, as trying to access it without the proper tools can be dangerous. For instance, the universal principles must be in congruence with particular situations.
The relationship between universals and particulars is lost on those who are ignorant of the principles upon which we derive specific rulings. The rulings must be understood in connection with their means (asbab), conditions (shurut), licenses (rukhas), firmness (‘azaim), and those things that prevent it from being implemented (mawani‘).
Therefore a learned man would tend to analyse the costs and benefits before applying rulings. This is not to say that he withholds the law laid down by Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), but rather that he uses wisdom in executing it in the best way for each situation. This requires the amalgamation of deep learning of the Islamic sciences as well as sound understanding of place, time, and culture.
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “You are in a time when whoever abandons a tenth of what he has been ordered, then he is ruined. Then, there will come a time in which whoever does a tenth of what he has been ordered shall be saved.” [Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not compromise on his principles, yet he was flexible while upholding those principles. A popular example of this is the Treaty of Hudaibiyya.
Along with taking the holistic cure from the Qur’an and sunnah, we must also have patience for the remedy to execute. Islam addresses diseased hearts. A disease takes time to work its way into the heart and manifest itself. Therefore its reversal must also take time to root itself in the heart and bring about long-lasting change. It is not an overnight change agent in most cases, although Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is All-Able and The Turner of the Hearts (Muqallib al-Quloob) and can bring about immediate change of heart if He so wills.
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When completed, we hope that the content we have gathered here by the Grace of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) will be of benefit for people from all walks of life, whether in a personal, academic, or professional setting. Do take note, however, that we are fallible human beings. Despite our good intention and hard work towards making this site a valuable resource, we are prone to error. Thus we advise readers to consult reliable scholars on the matters presented here and to do their own research as well. As the scholars themselves are reported to have stated:
“Truly I am only a mortal: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah, accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it.” – Imam Malik
“If I say something then compare it to the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger and if it agrees to them, then accept it and that which of goes against them, then reject it and throw my saying against the wall.” – Imam Ash-Shafi’
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best.
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