We often surround ourselves with the glittering things of this world and accumulate what we can, seeking some sort of betterment, but have you ever asked yourself this question: If you lost every material possession you had, would you have anything valuable left? What about your character and personality? Good character is an asset that a person has which transcends their physical existence, their financial circumstances, their age, colour and nationality and shines forth bringing goodness wherever it is experienced. Fatima Barkatulla prompts us to do some soul-searching.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, in a society where social status and wealth determined a person’s worth, Islam made God-consciousness and piety the determining factors of nobility – over and above any other consideration. Allah SWT says in the Qur’an, the meaning of which is:
“Indeed the most noble of you in the sight of Allah are those who are most God-conscious” (Al-Hujaraat: 13).
In the Prophet S we were given an ‘uswatan hasanah’ (Saba: 21) or a model of good character. In one Hadith he S said: “I was sent to perfect good character” (Malik). He encouraged us to cultivate and improve our characters, saying: “The best among you are the best in character (having good manners)” (Bukhari).
Think back to the Biography of our Prophet S and you will remember those countless instances where He S showed integrity and uprightness in the face of abuse - to a degree unmatched by any leader in history. Truly, his always greeting people with a warm smile, gentleness even when dealing with gross ignorance and his method of correcting people are confounding in their chivalry.
Your character even affects the world around you. Abu Qatada bin Rib’i Al-Ansari relates: “A funeral procession passed by Allah’s Apostle who said, ‘Relieved or relieving?’ The people asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! What is relieved and relieving?’ He said, ‘A believer is relieved (by death) from the troubles and hardships of the world and leaves for the Mercy of Allah, while (the death of) a wicked person relieves the people, the land, the trees, (and) the animals from him’” (Bukhari).
Allah SWT describes His servants, saying “The servants of The Merciful, who walk upon the earth lightly, and if the foolish people address them, they say ‘Salaama’ ” (Al-Furqan: 63). Ibn Kathir says in the explanation of these ayat: “… they walk with dignity and humility, not with arrogance and pride … If the ignorant people insult them with bad words … they forgive and overlook, and say nothing but good words. This is what the Messenger of Allah did: the more ignorant the people, the more patient he would be.”
There are many ahadith which indicate that on the Day of Judgement, Allah may forgive Muslims who were great sinners, for acts of kindness they did on earth: like the prostitute who had mercy on a thirsty dog and gave it water and the man who didn’t have any good deeds, but he used to be lenient towards those who owed a debt to him.
Developing our good character is considered to be worship if done with the intention of pleasing Allah and it can make us reach the level of great worshippers, for the Messenger of Allah r said: “By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day” (Abu Dawud).
This article was first published in SISTERS, the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. Visit the SISTERS website at www.sisters-magazine.com to read more articles - and download a complimentary issue!