Perfecting the Noble Qualities of Character
Noble character is a dire need for human existence on earth, especially in today's world. Sociologists, educators, and others talk about the need for ethical and behavioral education; and as Muslims, we find in the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon) a discipline of ethics and a code of morals, which - if practiced - provide humankind peace and happiness. In the tenth chapter of Ihya' 'Ulum Ad-Deen (Revival of the Religious Sciences) entitled "The Ethics of Living as Exemplified in the Virtues of the Prophet", Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali states,
The Prophet was the first intended for the function of disciplining and refining this world. Then, the light spread from him over the whole of creation, for he was disciplined by means of the Qur'an and he in turn disciplined the creation. For this reason, he said in the hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, "I was sent to perfect the noble qualities of character." Hence, humankind became desirous of the fine qualities of character.
When Almighty Allah perfected the Prophet's character, Allah praised him and said, (And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted (standard of) character.) (Al-Qalam 68:4) … Thereafter, the Messenger of Allah explained to humankind that Allah loves the fine qualities of character and detests the bad qualities of character.
Being as such, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spent a great deal of time educating the Companions about the importance of good behavior and manners. He gave glad tidings for those who will adhere to his teachings as he said, "The heaviest thing to be placed in the balance of a servant (of Allah) on the Day of Judgment will be good behavior. And Allah hates the obscene and the person who uses bad language" (At-Tirmidhi). Moreover, it is narrated that he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "The most perfect of the believers in faith is the one who is best in manners" (At-Tirmidhi).
In explaining this hadith, Al-Mubarakfori says, "He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "The most perfect of the believers in faith is the one who is best in manners," because perfection of faith implies a good character and good behavior toward all people."
Based on this, we understand that good qualities cannot be separated from Islam; in fact, they are Islam. Imam Al-Fairouz Abadi says in his book Basa'ir Dhawil-Tamyeez "It should be noted that religion is all character. Whoever excels over you in character will excel over you in religious commitment."
Also, Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah says in Madarij Al-Salikeen "Religion is all moral character, and whoever bests you in moral character will best you in religion."
Although there are numerous hadiths narrated in regards to behavior and manner, yet many people are not aware of them. These hadiths do not only tackle general rules, but also detail teachings that would inspire the life of any person willing to listen to the Prophet's words, whether Muslims or non-Muslims.
Imam Al-Ghazali named some of the qualities that the Prophet called for, some of which are: having pleasant social relations; doing noble actions; submitting to Allah's will; bestowing favors on others; feeding others; extending greetings; visiting the sick; escorting the bier of a Muslim; protecting one's neighbor whether Muslim or not; honoring the aged; answering the invitation to food and inviting others as well; bestowing pardon; making peace between people; being easygoing; being noble in character and forbearing; repressing anger; pardoning people; and shunning what Islam forbids (such as vanity, revenge, guile, slander, falsehood, avarice, niggardliness, rudeness, artifice, deception, calumny, forsaking blood kindred, ill-temper, haughtiness, boasting, self-conceit, arrogance, pride, immoderation, foulness of language, rancor, envy, levity, injustice, oppression and tyranny).
In conclusion, one can clearly say that the key to happiness is by following the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and practicing them in our daily life. Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali says, "Know that the key to happiness is the following of the Sunnah and the imitation of Allah's Messenger in all his comings and goings."
Thus, for those who pursue happiness in this life and the Hereafter, they are to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Non-Muslims also will gain from learning about his character, because he called for every good and forbade every evil.
Islamic Researcher. Holds several Ijazas in the science of Hadith. He is one of Islamonline.net Living Shari`ah staff.
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