Friday, February 14, 2014

Righteousness is Good Character

Hadith  27: Righteousness is Good Character 

By Imam Nawawi

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger

On the authority of Al-Nawwās  ibn  Sam’ān (radiyallāhu 'anhu) from the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who said:

“Righteousness is good character. And sin is that which wavers in your soul and which you dislike the people finding out about.” 

(Recorded by Muslim)

The Narrator

Al-Nawwās ibn Sam’ān (radiyallāhu’anhu) was a famous Sahabi of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam).  Al-Nawwās ibn Sam’ān (radiyallāhu’anhu) belonged to the Arab tribe of Kalab He lived briefly in Madinah as one of the ahl al-Suffah, or the people of the verandah. The ahl al-Suffah were the Muslims who were so poor that they did not have their own homes and they resided permanently in the Prophet’s Mosque. Ibn Sam’ān ( radiyallāhu’anhu) loved to ask questions of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and a total of seventeen hadiths have been recorded on his authority, three of which are contained in Sahih Muslim. He settled in Syria after the death of the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam).

The Concept Of Good Character

“Righteousness is good character”

The Arabic word birr  is translated as ‘righteousness’ and can be used in two senses. The first is to mean treating others in a good fashion, in particular one’s parents, though more generally it means to behave well towards everyone. When birr is used in this fashion in the Qur’ān it is usually used in conjunction with tawqa or fear of Allāh.

Allāh Almighty says: “Help you one another in al-birr and al-taqwa” [Surah al-Māidah, 5:2]

The second sense in which the word al-birr is used to refer to acts of worship and obedience to Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ala) both inward and outward. Allāh says in the following verse of the Qur’ān:

“It is not al-birr (righteousness) that you turn your faces toward east or west [in solat]; but al-birr is [having] belief in Allāh, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, the prophets, and giving one’s wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, to the poor, to the wayfarer, to those who ask and to set slaves free; [it also includes those who] establish the solat, give the zakat, fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreeme poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of the truth and they are the pious.” 

[Surah al-Baqarah, 2: 177]

The Concept of Righteousness incorporates treating others in the best way possible, believing in Allāh Almighty  and all that He has revealed, giving in charity, keeping promises, being truthful, patient and performing acts of obedience and worship of Allāh Almighty.

The concept of character (in Arabic khuluq) in Islam incorporates a combination of understanding, intention and deeds with the last two aspects playing the most important role. If a person has good intentions followed by good deeds, it is said that they have good character. If a person has bad intentions followed by bad deeds it is said that they have a bad character.

The scholars have discussed the concept of good character, as it is understood in Islam, in great detail:

1. Good character with respect to the Creator is said to incorporate three necessary aspects: sincere belief in what Allāh Almighty  has revealed without any doubts; acceptance of the commands of Allāh Almighty  and striving to fulfill them; and accepting the Allāh’s decrees with pleasure and patience.

2.Good charcacter with respect to the creation incorporates being kind, generous, forgiving, refraining from harming others, greeting them with a smiling face and behaving in a way that brings them happiness. This also incorporates good behavior towards all the living things that Allāh Almighty  has placed on the earth. The one who is closest to Allāh Almighty  will be furthest away from causing any harm to His creation. Allāh Almighty  Says:“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein glorify Him. There is not a thing but glorifies His praise, but you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is ever forbearing, oft-forgiving” [Surah al-Isrā, 17:4]

3. Finally, good character with respect to oneself relates to how one deals with one’s own soul. One should nurture one’s soul, do what is best for it and treat it kindly. The ultimate pleasure of the soul comes from worship and obedience to its Creator, and this satisfaction can be deepened through attaining the knowledge necessary to follow the Straight Path.

The Islamic Concept of Character is all inclusive, and that incorporates good conduct towards the Creator, the creation, and oneself.  For a person to have good character, they must have righteous conduct in all of these areas. It is not sufficient to be kind to your parents, but neglect your Creator. One cannot worship Allāh Almighty  and neglect the creation, that is not considered good character. To have good character we must be righteous in all our conduct towards all living things.

‘Abdullāh bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As (radiyallāhu’anhum) reported: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not indulge in loose talk nor did he like to listen to it. Rasūlulllāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  used to say: The best of you is the best among you in conduct.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

This Hadith, apart from describing the refined behaviour and sublime morality, Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu .alayhi wa sallam), tells us that a person with the highest moral sense is in fact the best among people.

‘Abdullāh Ibn Mas'ud (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

"Truth leads to piety and piety leads to Jannah. A man persists in speaking the truth till he is recorded with Allāh as a truthful man. Falsehood leads to transgression and transgression leads to the Hell-fire. A man continues to speak falsehood till he is recorded with Allāh as a great liar."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Whatever attitude one adopts becomes his special trait and then he becomes known by it. Therefore, one should always adopt virtues and good conduct so that he may attain a high esteem with Allāh and be also remembered well by people. Truth is the way to salvation while falsehood is the way to destruction. Truthfulness is an essential aspect of good character which leads to paradise.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Indeed truthfulness is righteousness, and indeed righteousness leads to Paradise.” [Recorded by Muslim]

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The believers with the most perfect faith are those with the most perfect conduct and manners.  And the best ones amongst you are those who are best to their families.” [Recorded by At-Tirmidzi]

Righteousness is one with the most perfect conduct and manners; dealing fairly, justly and politely with one’s family.

Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) reportedMessenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.”[At-Tirmidzi].

This Hadith brings into light the corollary of faith and complaisant manners. We may put it in this way that the degree of a man's excellent behaviour determines the degree of his faith. Or the sublimity of faith calls for the sublimity of morals. Similarly, a man who is polite and courteous to his wife will be considered as the best.

Allāh says: “Those who suppress their anger, and forgive other people – assuredly, Allāh loves those who do good.” (Ali-‘Imran 3: 134).

Righteousness includes those that suppress their anger and forgive others.

Abud-Darda (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the Scale of the believer than good manners. Allāh hates one who utters foul or coarse language.”[Recorded by At-Tirmidzi]

The above hadiths are important as it sheds light on some of the more subtle aspects of righteousness and sin, helping to define them both.  This hadith also shows that one of the main consequences of correct and true belief is good character, and that it is an intrinsic aspect of the meaning of righteousness. 

In another narration Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam), said: “Let whosoever believes in Allāh and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent. Let whosoever believes in Allāh and in the Last Day honour his neighbour. Let whosoever believes in Allāh and in the Last Day honour his guest.” [Recorded byAl-Bukhari and Muslim]

This hadith contains the rulings concerning the tongue and the behaviour of Muslims towards his neighbour and guest. It also emphasizes that we are responsible for what we say.

‘Aishah (radiyallāhu’anha) reported: I heard Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying: “A believer will attain by his good behaviour the rank of one who performs solāt during the late night and observes fasting during the day.” [Abu Dawud].

The two practices are difficult. But those who manage to keep them will be richly rewarded by Allāh. There is a third category of men who fail to observe the above mentioned voluntary practices. Yet they are polite, and courteous in their behaviour towards others and by virtue of this sociable quality, they will also be graded up in the two other categories. And this highlights the significance and excellence of a polite and pleasing behaviour.

In another narration Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam), said: “Let whosoever believes in Allāh and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent. Let whosoever believes in Allāh and in the Last Day honour his neighbour. Let whosoever believes in Allāh and in the Last Day honour his guest.” [Recorded byAl-Bukhari and Muslim]

This hadith contains the rulings concerning the tongue and the behaviour of Muslims towards his neighbour and guest. It also emphasizes that we are responsible for what we say.

Abu Umamah Al-Bahili (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a home in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.”[Abu Dawud].

The withdrawal from one's right in order to end a dispute is a manly act of great merit. Likewise, this Hadith tells us that a man should avoid telling a lie even in a light vein. If he gives great importance to the rules of the Shari'ah (Islamic Law) and the Commandments of Allāh and His Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), he will definitely refrain from telling a lie even in a chat session or just for the sake of joke. Usually, people don't mind if one tells a lie in a jocular mood, rather some will perhaps approve it. Yet, Allāh disapproves of even the harmless or trivial form of falsehood and commands His slaves to keep away from it. From all considerations, however, moral excellence carries immense weight. Because no wrong or evil thing can be shunned without it. In other words, moral excellence surpasses all forms of goodness.

Jabir bin ‘Abdullāh (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be one who is the best of you in manners; and the most abhorrent among you to me and the farthest of you from me will be the pompous, the garrulous, and Al-Mutafaihiqun.” The Companions asked him: “O Messenger of Allāh! We know about the pompous and the garrulous, but we do not know who Al-Mutafaihiqun are?” Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: “The arrogant people.”[At-Tirmidzi].

This Hadith lays emphasis on polite and polished behaviour. Besides, it teaches us to refrain from unnecessary, incautious and insincere talk intended to influence others and assert superiority over them. But to talk less and in simple words is a good thing. On the other hand, to talk much, showing off cleverness with a tinge of affectation, is detestable.

Sin Bothers a Righteous Person’s Conscience That He seeks to Hide.

“And sin is that which wavers in your soul and which you dislike the people finding out about.” 

In the second part of this hadith, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mentioned another subtle aspect of sin, which is that sin is anything which bothers a righteous person’s conscience and which a person seeks to hide from others. An array of actions comes into a person’s mind once they hear these words. Allāh Almighty  has inspired within each soul the ability, although limited, to recognize truth from falsehood.  Allāh Almighty  Says: “He inspired it (the soul) to know its sin and its piety.” [As-Shams, 91: 8]

As long as a person seeks righteousness, they will know when they have done something wrong through their conscience, even though they might find numerous ways to excuse themselves for what they are doing.  They would never like anyone to come to know of that thing, for they are ashamed of it; their religion is enriched with bashfulness and modesty (haya'). 

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: Modesty (haya') is from the perfection of faith.” [Al-Bukhari]; in another narration: “Haya' does not produce but goodness.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] The Messenger of Allāh, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said: “Haya' (modesty) and Iman (faith) are two that go together. If one is lifted, the other is also lifted.” [Recorded by al-Hakim]; The Hadiths indicates modesty or haya' leads a person to goodness and prevent from committing evil. 

Abu Mas'ud 'Uqbah bin 'Amr al-Ansari al-Badri (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allāh, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), said: “Among the things that people have found from the words of the previous prophets was: 'If you feel no shame, then do as you wish.'"  [This is recorded by Al-Bukhari]

The sentiments of conscience and modesty are a natural consequence to true belief and faith, and this is what the religion of Islam seeks to create within an individual, an Islamic conscience which guides humans through their lives. The inner conscience is what tells the state of the heart of the individual, whether it is alive seeking the truth, or dead, filled with the desires of this worldly life.  Lack of religiosity and indulging in sin caused a person to lose one’s conscience, and it can no longer be used as a source of guidance.

Allāh Almighty  Says: “…why then did they not believe with humility?  But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made fair seeming to them that which they used to do.” [Al-An’am, 6: 43]; and Allah says: “Have they not traversed through the land, and have they heart with which they perceive, or ears with which they hear?  Indeed it is not the sight which is blinded, but rather what is blinded is the hearts which are in the breasts.” [Al-Hajj, 22: 46]

The heart can be used as a guide, in conjunction with the intellect and revelation, in order to ease the search for the truth.  The heart of one who is searching for the truth is indeed one which is alive, for it is this life and yearning which causes them to search for it.  This type of person will never find peace at heart in any other religion except the religion which Allāh ordained for humanity, and as long as their yearning for the truth exists, their conscience will continue to bother them until they find the true religion of Allāh.  Indeed if the person is sincere, Allāh will guide them to the truth: “And those who desire Guidance, He (God) will increase them in Guidance, and inspire them with [the way to] piety.” [Muhammad, 47: 17]

Attaining Good Character

A person is born and grows with certain characteristics and qualities. If these are good characteristics, the person should be thankful to Allāh Almighty  that He has placed these characteristics in them. They should use these qualities for the sake of Allāh Almighty  .

If a person naturally has some bad qualities, such as a quick temper or stinginess, these characteristics can be changed. Bad qualities are not fixed and we must struggle to overcome them through patience, practice, effort and constantly reminding ourselves to behave in a way that is better.

There are a number of ways in which can strive to improve our character:

1. Recite the Qur’ān in order to comprehend the significance of good character. Allāh Says: “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” [Al-Baqarah, 2:2] Allāh verified that the Qur’ān, is the guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious and righteous persons who fear Allah, abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds forbidden, and perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained.

2. Read the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to see how he lived his life, in order to understand and subscribe the best example of good character.

3. Keep good company. It is easier to have good character when one is surrounded by inspiring examples.

4. Consider the negative results of bad character, and its effects on family, society and one’s own soul.

5. Perform acts that go against one’s negative instincts, such as donating in charity if one is stingy.

6. Always Remember Allāh Almighty  and His rewards, rahmah and punishments.

7. Make du’a to Allāh Almighty for His Guidance and Blessing  for character of mahmudah, because it is  a gift from Allāh Almighty .

Good character is any trait that is beneficial to humans, both to oneself as well as to others, at the same time not being generally or specifically prohibited by Islam. As Islam is not a mere religion but a complete way of life, incorporating all of its various facets and aspects, good manners is actually regarded as a means of worship by which one may achieve the same reward of doing other more obvious voluntary acts of worship. It is through maintaining good conduct; one would become one of the beloved servants of Allāh

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The most beloved servants of Allāh to Him are those who have the best manners.”[Recorded by Al-Hakim]

When one realizes the importance of good character and its essentiality in defining righteousness, an aspect which is the goal of Islam, this exhorts Muslims to fulfill this aspect of faith as well, since one cannot become “righteous” through mere belief and devotion to Allāh in themselves without good character.

The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to supplicate to Allāh Almighty: “Guide me to the best of manners, no one [can] guide to the best of them but you. And turn me away from evil manners, no one [can] turn me away from them except You.”[Recorded by Muslim]

Mu’adz bin Jabal (radiyallāhu’anhu) narrated, who said: “ The Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) once held him by the hand and said: “O Mu'adz! I swear by Allāh that I love you. I advise you not to miss supplicating after every Solāt saying:  ‘Allāhumma a ‘inni ‘alā dzikrika, wa syukrika, wa husni ‘ibādatik.’ (O Allāh! Assist me in mentioning You, expressing gratitude to You, and worshiping You in the finest manner).” [Recorded by Abu Dawud; An-Nasā’ie]

Let’s follow the sunnah and guidance  of our beloved Prophet (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam) and do the same.

Allāh Almighty says: "Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah).And verily; the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell)." [Al-Infitar, 82:13, 14]

The Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught the ummmah to seek Allāh’s forgiveness, guidance, steadfast and hasānah.

‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhum) said: We counted Messenger's saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya innaka antat-tawwābul ghafūrur-raheem (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful). [Recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi].

Remember Allāh and say: Rabbanā-innna-samia’na-munadīyañ-yuna-dī-lil-imāna in āminu birabbikum-fa-āmannā (Our Lord! Verily, we have heard the call of one (Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) calling to Faith: 'Believe in your Lord,' and we have believed’.) Rabbana-Faghfirlana-zunubana-wakaffir-‘anna sayyiatina-watawaffana-ma-‘al-Abrār (Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and remit from us our evil deeds, and make us die in the state of righteousness along with Al-Abrār (those who are obedient to Allāh and follow strictly His Orders) [Ali-‘Imran,3:193] Rabbanama-wa-atina-ma-wa-‘attana-‘ala-Rusulika-wala-tuhzeena-Yawmal-Qiyāmah,Innakalātuhlifulmī ‘ād  (Our Lord! Grant us what Thou promised unto us through Your Messengers and disgrace us not on the Day of Resurrection, for Thou never break Promise.) [Ali-‘Imran, 3:194]

‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to say: "Allāh umma inni as ‘alukal-huda wat-tuqa wal-‘afafa wal-ghina (O Allāh ! I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency)". [Recorded by Muslim].

Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allāh  is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the do’a of the Prophet (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.

Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam):Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasānah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasānah, Wa-qina-‘ādzabānnār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi]. Tarmidzi (rahimahullāh) said: “Hasānah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this duā’” [Recorded in Jāmi’ At-Tarmidzi]

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

[Excerpted from a commentary on Hadith  27: Righteousness is Good Character”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam Nawawi, By Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]