Towards Perfection

Definition

Our blueprint is the character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is said that his character was the Qur’an; meaning that if we want to live in accordance with the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) then we simply have to emulate the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ فِىٓ أَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِيمٍ۬

ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنَـٰهُ أَسۡفَلَ سَـٰفِلِينَ

 إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ فَلَهُمۡ أَجۡرٌ غَيۡرُ مَمۡنُونٍ۬

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature; Then We return him to the lowest of the low, Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward uninterrupted.” [Qur’an; 95:4-6]

Humans are the best creation in terms of physical design as well as spirituality and intellect. In addition, we are all born in a state of purity (known as fitrah). As we grow and mature, we make decisions that can either bring out our immense potential and grandeur or we submit to low inclinations that lead to disgrace.

Uswatun Hasanah 

Just as we learn the attributes of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) through the Qur’an, we learn how to represent those attributes at a human level (as the caliphs on Earth) through the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He is Uswatun Hasanah–the best example (beautiful pattern of conduct).

لَّقَدۡ كَانَ لَكُمۡ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسۡوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ۬ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرۡجُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلۡيَوۡمَ ٱلۡأَخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرً۬ا

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” [Qur’an; 33:21]

 

لَقَدۡ جَآءَڪُمۡ رَسُولٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَنفُسِڪُمۡ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيۡهِ مَا عَنِتُّمۡ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيۡڪُم بِٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” [Qur’an; 9:128]

Following the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) entails studying his life, his inner and outer characteristics, and working on ourselves in the light of his example (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) showed us how to be valiant in facing injustice, yet gentle with people in general. His anger was for that which truly deserved anger while his kindness was not a reason to be weak in the face of oppression, yet in every situation he would stick to the proper limits (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). There were even times when he was offended but would remain calm and humble (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) showed us how to operate with good character in personal life as well as in positions of leadership. His (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) example has been preserved in detail and passed down to us. It is not unattainable, but requires striving, as is the case with attaining anything worthwhile.

It is upon us to carry on the message of good character and the tradition of seeking to emulate our perfect example–the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)–towards future generations to come.

Since the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we have men and women in every period of time who have demonstrated high levels of consciousness and application with regard to life purpose and moral values. Although we do not place them at the rank of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), they serve as contemporary inspiration and evidence that striving for a higher state of being is not futile. Rather, it is amongst the most meaningful endeavours to engage in when living to fulfill our ultimate purpose of worshipping Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) with all our faculties.

On this note, we must be aware that the friends of Allah (awliya) are concealed amongst His creation. So it is not befitting that we look down on any believer as his/her true rank in the sight of Allah is not known to us.

It has been reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever possesses the (following) three qualities will have the sweetness of faith (1): The one to whom Allah and His Apostle becomes dearer than anything else; (2) Who loves a person and he loves him only for Allah’s Sake; (3) who hates to revert to atheism (disbelief) as he hates to be thrown into the Fire.” [Sahih Bukhari]

“There is no Muslim – or no person, or slave (of Allah) – who says, in the morning and evening, ‘Radiytu billahi Rabban wa bil-Islami dinan wa bi Muhammadin nabiyyan (I am content with Allah as my Lord, Islam as my religion and Muhammad as my Prophet),’ but he will have a promise from Allah to make him pleased on the Day of Resurrection.” [Ibn Majah]

Another narration reports, “Whoever is pleased with Allah as (his) Lord, and Islam as (his) religion, and Muhammad as (his) Prophet, then he has tasted the sweetness of faith.” [Tirmidhi]

An important seed to reaching the Al-Insan Al-Kamil state is being in a constant state of remembrance and spiritual connection with the Almighty (dhikr and fikr). A fruit of it is tasting the sweetness of faith (halawat al-iman).

The path to reaching this is not–as might be commonly misconstrued–blind following. Rather it is paved by rigorous training in academic, vocational, as well as spiritual disciplines.

Remembering Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) constantly in various ways as we go about our day ensures that we constantly keep ourselves in check.

Knowledge leads to love, which in turn should ideally lead to the implementation of that knowledge to the best of one’s ability in order to get closer to The Beloved. Herein lies the sweetness of faith, so much so that sacrifice becomes pleasing, and there is excitement in fulfilling the commands of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and even surpassing them with voluntary acts.

As this love is strengthened through further knowledge and practice, the sweetness increases. It brings about discipline in every aspect of life and creates a sense of balance so that one navigates this life successfully in accordance with the principles of Islam. It increases foresight, so one is able to enjoy life without necessarily getting attached to temporary pleasures.

“When you experience this, it will feel as if your inner self sings in silence, ‘I declare my pleasure with Allah as my Lord, with Islam as my religion, and with the Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu alaihi wasallam as the Prophet and Messenger of Allah.’” [Source]

We know from Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) who said when he was asked about how he survived the intense torture to turn back on his acceptance of Islam, “I mixed the bitterness of the torture with the sweetness of iman, and the sweetness of iman conquered.”

An important point to keep in mind when seeking the sweetness of faith and striving towards perfection is that one must begin by implementing the obligatory commandments and make them second nature before moving on to voluntary acts.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Allah the Exalted has said, ‘I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing nawafil (prayer or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks (something) from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection (refuge), I protect him'”. [Bukhari]

Beautifying the inner image is the first step to bringing inner peace, which then beautifies the outer landscape, and outer peace. The best shortcut to a beautiful character and inner image comes from the instructions from the hadith and the example of the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Self-development must be well-rounded. We must develop our knowledge of religious sciences as well as secular matters and, perhaps as the foundation for these, we must develop our reasoning skills in line with Islamic guidance. It becomes dangerous if one were to attempt to, for example, to interpret the Qur’an by himself, without being trained in the methodologies for doing so.

When holding one’s self accountable, it may sometimes be necessary to favor overall consistency with good habits rather than being rigid and unforgiving.

Narrated Abdullah bin Abi Qatada:

My father said, “One night we were traveling with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and some people said, ‘We wish that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would take a rest along with us during the last hours of the night.’ He said, ‘I am afraid that you will sleep and miss the (Fajr) prayer.’ Bilal said, ‘I will make you get up.’ So all slept and Bilal rested his back against his Rahila and he too was overwhelmed (by sleep) and slept. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up when the edge of the sun had risen and said, ‘O Bilal! What about your statement?’ He replied, ‘I have never slept such a sleep.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Allah captured your souls when He wished, and released them when He wished. O Bilal! Get up and pronounce the Adhan for the prayer.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) performed ablution and when the sun came up and became bright, he stood up and prayed.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Steps Towards Perfection

    1. Knowing yourself. This entails deep thought (in line with usul-ul-fikr).
    2. Knowing your Creator, living with the consciousness of Him and keeping our faith strong
    3. Learning the purpose of life and living based on it
    4. Submitting yourself to your Creator and following His guidance
    5. Perfecting your faith by believing in all prophets, angels, and books and trying to follow them. An important part of this is developing ardent desire to follow the example of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).[1]
    6. Continuously growing one’s self in beneficial knowledge, faith, and actions (3DS) and thereby becoming a resourceful person to others. The scope of one’s growth should include acquiring (academic, vocational, & spiritual) education[2], and learning about thought, and concepts/models.[3]
    7. Becoming a role model and good example to others and guiding them via proper knowledge, education, wisdom, etc. It is also beneficial to learn about Islamic diversity management concepts and the multiplex worldview of Islam | (Metaphysics, Islamic Philosophy[4] and the fatawa produced by previous ulama (scholars) on youth culture.[5].

 

Further Reading

Sweetness of Iman

Hardening of the Heart

Imam Ghazali on the Importance of Character

Ibn Hazm’s Philosophy and Thoughts on Science

Islamic World View

Worldly Matters

Book: Basic Islamic Dynamics; Dr. Siraj Mufti

Management Concepts and Application Management

Book: Diversity Management from an Islamic Perspective

Ibn Hazam

Imam Abu Hanifa

Truth and Islamic Thought

Abu Hafs

[Video] How Mental Models Boost Super Thinking

 

Resources

Character Lab

Coursera

Codecademy

Khan Academy

Girls Who Code

 

Footnotes:

[1] People who are constantly engaged in the remembrance of Allah (i.e. ihsan; worshipping Allah as if they see Him)–they experience Halawatul-Imaan (taste the pleasure/sweetness of faith)

[2] Ta’leem, Tazkiya, and TarbiyahIlm. Studying/learning for example:

a. Artificial Intelligence | AI Super-Powers | AI SuperpowersMIRI | AI Talent Report | WEF AI;

b. Technological Singularity | Future of Life | Life 3.0 | Future of Humanity | Superintelligence | AI2;

c. Energy; d. Science; e. Neuroscience;

f. Quantum Computing; g. Blockchain; h. Post-quantum cryptography;

i. Cryptocurrency; j. Information/Computer Security;

k. Islamic attitudes towards science | Islamic Golden Age;

l. Fourth Industrial Revolution | WEF 4IR | The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Professor Klaus Schwab;

m. Society 5.0 | To Overcome Chronic Social Challenges | WEF: Modern Society has reached its limits. Society 5.0 will liberate us

[3] Maratib Al-Wujud: Multiplexity of Existence (Ontology); Maratib Al-Ulum: Multiplexity of Knowledge (Epistemology); Maratib Al-Usul:  Multiplexity of Methodology; Maratib Al-Ma’ani:  Multiplexity of Meaning; Maratib Al-Haqaiq:  Multiplexity of Truth.

[4] Study Al-Isma Bil A’adamiya–upon which Islamic political thought, fikr, morality, etc. are based on.

[5] Culture produced for youth by ulama (adab and sacrifice being its most important principles) which were lost during colonization and modernization.