Perfecting our Character

Good moral character - Islam

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “The best among you are the best in good moral character.” (Al-Bukhaaree)

Perfecting our character, however, requires a great effort and a strong determination. It requires rigorous self-discipline, struggle, exercise and a good education. What is good character? How can we acquire it? The best and the simplest way to answer these questions is to look at the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) as a role model. He is the perfect example of good character. The Quran says, “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for whoever hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Quran, 33:21)

The only way to live by the is to live as Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) lived by it. His life was the Quran in practice. The best way to understand the Quran and follow its message is to learn what the Prophet (pbuh) said and did. We must follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh). If you want to know what type of person the Quran wants you to be, you only need to study fhe life of the Prophet (pbuh) and copy his example in your life.

By only knowing, however, would not be enough. We need inner strength and drive to follow the teachings of the Quran. This strength will come out of the love that a believer must have for Allah and His Messenger (pbuh).

Some of the Prophet’s Qualities

One important aspect of the Prophet’s character was perfection. He sought perfection in everything he said or did. He was the best father, the best husband, the best leader, the best teacher and the best friend

He was the most honest, patient, trustworthy, gracious, compassionate and merciful person who has ever lived. The lesson for us is to seek perfection in whatever we do, however small it may be as best we can.

He was the most just, the most decent and the most truthful. He would visit the poor and the needy and entertain them. He would always sit among his companions as though he was an ordinary person among them. When he walked, he would walk as though he was going down a hill or a slope. He walked in a dignified manner and walked easily and swiftly. When he turned to address somebody, he would turn his whole body completely. He was the most modest and the first one to cast his eyes down. He would look downwards more than upwards. He spoke first to his companions. He was the first person to greet anyone he met. He only spoke when it was necessary. He spent long periods in silence. He began and ended what he said correctly. His words were comprehensive. He had a mild temperament. He was neither harsh nor stern. He valued a gift even if it was small. He never criticised food. If he liked, he would eat, but if he didn’t like it, he would leave it.

When he pointed at something, he would do so with his whole hand. When he was angry, he would turn away and avert his gaze. His laughter was no more than a smile. When he retired to his house he divided his time into three parts – one for Allah, one for his family and one for himself. Then he divided his part between his people and himself. Some people needed one thing, some needed two and some had many needs. He concerned himself with them and kept them busy doing things that were good for them and the community. He brought people together and did not split them up. He praised what was good and encouraged it. He disliked what was bad and discouraged it

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) always cheerful, easy-going, good-tempered and lenient. He was never rude or rough. He did not shout nor utter bad words. He never tried to find fault with people or flatter them.

He would not sit down, stand up or do anything else without mentioning Allah’s name. He would not reserve a special place for himself and he forbade others to do so. When someone asked him for something he needed, either he gave it to him or he talked to him with consoling words. He was the kindest of all the people and had the best behaviour.

He spoke only about things for which he expected a reward from Allah. When he spoke, the people sitting with him would b still as if there were birds on their heads. He would not interrupt anyone who was speaking until that person had stopped talking. He would laugh at what they laughed at and show surprise at what made them surprised. He was patient with a stranger who was rude to him. He said, “When you find someone asking for something he needs, then give it to him, and never ask for a reward from the reward-Giver (i.e. Allah).” (At-Tirmidhee)

Although Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was a leader of all the Muslims, he was always humble. He never belittled his companions. When he shook hands with someone, he would grip with his whole hand and never was the first to release the grip. When speaking to someone, he would never be the first to look away. When he walked into an assembly, he would never demand to sit at the centre or near the front. He would just sit wherever he found space.

The life of the Prophet (pbuh) teaches us that we should be kind to people, as much as we can, with sincerity even to those who are not nice to us.

The way to establish good moral character is to clear our hearts of bad ideas. We should teach ourselves better ways to analyse ideas and situations we come across in our life. This, however, requires intense training and effort.

Let us look at this situation. We are walking along a street and a homeless person stops us and asks us for money or food. Some of us will completely ignore this person or call him a habitual beggar. But enter our new and improved code of conduct: we can either give the person money for the sake of Allah andask him to buy food with it or we can go to the nearest fast food restaurant and buy this person a meal. The lesson is never to turn away a person who asks you for help. This was the character of our beloved Prophet (pbuh).

Let us consider another situation. Four pupils find a wallet with $500 inside it. There is also a slip of paper in it, which gives the name and address of the owner. The pupils know the man but don’t like him. Two from the group think they should return the wallet to the owner. The third thinks they should take it to the police station. The fourth says they should divide the money among them. Think about the incident from the owner’s point of view. Would it have made a difference to the fourth pupil if it had been his wallet?

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