Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) revealed to us in the Qur’an:
قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ / ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ فِى صَلَاتِہِمۡ خَـٰشِعُونَ / وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَنِ ٱللَّغۡوِ مُعۡرِضُونَ / وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَـٰعِلُونَ / وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِفُرُوجِهِمۡ حَـٰفِظُونَ / إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزۡوَٲجِهِمۡ أَوۡ مَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَـٰنُہُمۡ فَإِنَّہُمۡ غَيۡرُ مَلُومِينَ / فَمَنِ ٱبۡتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٲلِكَ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡعَادُونَ / وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِأَمَـٰنَـٰتِهِمۡ وَعَهۡدِهِمۡ رَٲعُونَ / وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَٲتِہِمۡ يُحَافِظُونَ / أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡوَٲرِثُونَ
“Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive. And they who turn away from ill speech. And they who are observant of zakah. And they who guard their private parts. Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed. But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors. And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive. And they who carefully maintain their prayers. Those are the inheritors.”
ٱلتَّـٰٓٮِٕبُونَ ٱلۡعَـٰبِدُونَ ٱلۡحَـٰمِدُونَ ٱلسَّـٰٓٮِٕحُونَ ٱلرَّٲڪِعُونَ ٱلسَّـٰجِدُونَ ٱلۡأَمِرُونَ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَٱلنَّاهُونَ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنڪَرِ وَٱلۡحَـٰفِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ ٱللَّهِۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ
“[Such believers are] the repentant, the worshippers, the praisers [of Allah], the travelers [for His cause], those who bow and prostrate [in prayer], those who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and those who observe the limits [set by] Allah. And give good tidings to the believers.”
وَعِبَادُ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمۡشُونَ عَلَى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ هَوۡنً۬ا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ ٱلۡجَـٰهِلُونَ قَالُواْ سَلَـٰمً۬ا / وَٱلَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمۡ سُجَّدً۬ا وَقِيَـٰمً۬ا / وَٱلَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا ٱصۡرِفۡ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَۖ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا / إِنَّهَا سَآءَتۡ مُسۡتَقَرًّ۬ا وَمُقَامً۬ا / وَٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَنفَقُواْ لَمۡ يُسۡرِفُواْ وَلَمۡ يَقۡتُرُواْ وَڪَانَ بَيۡنَ ذَٲلِكَ قَوَامً۬ا / وَٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَدۡعُونَ مَعَ ٱللَّهِ إِلَـٰهًا ءَاخَرَ وَلَا يَقۡتُلُونَ ٱلنَّفۡسَ ٱلَّتِى حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَّا بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَلَا يَزۡنُونَۚ
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace, And those who spend [part of] the night to their Lord prostrating and standing [in prayer]. And those who say, “Our Lord, avert from us the punishment of Hell. Indeed, its punishment is ever adhering; indeed, it is evil as a settlement and residence.” And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate. And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse.”
The son of Luqman asked his father, “Oh father, which fine qualities in a man’s conduct are good?” Luqman said,
- Good conduct, and
When these five qualities are united in a person, he becomes
- A friend of Allah, and
- Freed from Satan.”
Humility, preferring others over yourself, courage, honesty, and such qualities are all part of good conduct, while bad character involves arrogance.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught us and demonstrated they way through his own good character. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would repay good with evil. He would smile and be cheerful and allow time for anyone who wanted to talk to him. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was concerned about people who were absent and would take into consideration the weak and the sick when he lead the congregational prayers.
An important formula to keep in mind:
خُذِ ٱلۡعَفۡوَ وَأۡمُرۡ بِٱلۡعُرۡفِ وَأَعۡرِضۡ عَنِ ٱلۡجَـٰهِلِينَ (١٩٩)
“Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” [Quran; 7:199]
Deal with the people gently and as they are rather than forcing them to change. Enjoin what is good but in a kind and humble way. Do not allow the foolish and ignorant to upset you.
Three action points on that note:
- Muhasabah (quiet personal reflection): Make it a part of your daily or weekly routine–ideally at bedtime or before every Friday prayer–to think over your actions. Pick out what is good and decide to maintain it, pick what is bad and resolve to leave it.
- Keep good company: Character is influenced by the company we keep–be that in the form of actual friends or in the form of the media and music we consume.
- Dua (supplication): The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would specifically supplicate for good character.
Ingredients of Good Character
The ingredients of good character are knowledge–for sound practice requires knowledge, and wisdom–for sound knowledge requires action. It helps to be in the company of those who are known for their good character (such as those from the family of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), known as the Ahlul Bayt). While outer appearances may be misleading, a person’s character becomes clear by travelling with them, by living in close proximity, or by engaging in trade with them.
It is said that character begins with the stomach and health. So remove from your heart whatever Satan eats, such as anger, appetite, desire, and putting passion in the driving seat. Do not allow Satan to graze in your heart by allowing these qualities to take over your heart.
The Sum of Prophetic Teachings
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and others relate that the sum of Prophetic teachings is that good character is manifest in five matters:
- Fulfilling the rights of others
- Avoiding hurting or harming others
- Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealing with others
- Recognizing the good of others and reciprocating
- Responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good.
A popular saying goes, “If you are only good to those who are good to you, then what good are you?”
Regarding the good character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), his wife Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) once said, “He was not obscene, nor uttering obscenities, nor screaming in the markets, he would not return an evil with an evil, but rather he was pardoning and forgiving.” [Tirmidhi]
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is also reported to have said, “I have not been sent as the invoker of curse, but I have been sent as mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]