Bismillahir rahman ir raheem
April 1, 2009
10 Steps to Improve Your Character—Sh. Muhammad Hassan
Asalamu alaikum wrt wb,
All praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, All praise be to the One Who did not take a child, and has no partner in dominion, the One Who has no helper, Whom there is no god except He, the Creator of all things, and there is no creator other than Him. Allah deserves all forms of worship, that is because Allah is the Truth, and what they call on other than Him is falsehood, and Allah is the Highest, the Greatest.
I bear witness that there is no god other than Allah, unique in His Actions, Names, and Attributes; He has no equal, no partner, no opposite, no wife, no parents, nor children. “Say: Allah is One, the Lord and Sustainer of the Universe, He has no children, no parents, and there is nothing like Him.”
And I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, the Leader of those who declare God’s Oneness, and His close Friend. He is the most knowledgeable of people from amongst Allah’s creation, who said about Allah: Indeed Allah does not sleep, and it is not befitting of Him to sleep. His veil is Light, if it were lifted, the vision of the onlooker would be set ablaze.
May Allah send peace and blessings on Prophet Muhammad, the Shining Sun, and Allah opened through him blind eyes, sealed hearts, and left us on a clear manifest guidance, its night like its day. He is the caller to the best of actions and speech and character, and may peace be on his companions, family, and all those who follow his guidance and Sunnah, until the Day of Judgment.
Welcome my noble brothers and honorable sisters, and may Allah reward you for your efforts. You have done well, and earned a place for yourselves in Jannah. I ask Allah the Loving and Generous, who joined us during this blessed hour in His worship, to join us with the Best of Callers, and Imam of the Prophets in the Gardens of Paradise.
My beloved: Jibreel asks, and the Prophet peace be upon him, answers. Lessons in Aqeedah and Tawheed, based on the Hadith of Jibreel, I present it to the beloved Ummah in a unique presentation, the questions and answers that take place between the Prophet pbuh and Jibreel. Why not, and the questioner is the Trustworthy one of the heavens, and the teacher is the Trustworthy one of the earth.
And we continue with this immense and noble means of teaching, Hadathani Abee, or ‘My Father Taught Me,’ but I repeat at each of our meetings, this hadith, so that we can memorize it, and what is more beautiful than us learning and memorizing the words of Allah, and then the words of the Prophet, pbuh.
In a hadith narrated by Bukhari in its abridged form, and Muslim, Ahmed, and others at length, and the version I chose for us: The first one who spoke of denying Qadr was Ma’bad al Juhani. We found Ibn Umar in a Masjid, and we said: Oh Aba Abdurahman, some people have begun to believe that all events happen spontaneously, and that Allah doesn’t know about them until they happen. Ibn Umar said: “Tell them that I am free from them and they are free from me. If they gave a mountain of gold in charity it would not be accepted from them. They don’t believe until they follow the way of the Prophet, pbuh.” Ibn Umar then said, ‘Hadathani Abi’ i.e. my father (Umar bin al-Khattab) taught me: “While we were sitting with the Prophet, pbuh, a man suddenly came upon us, his clothes were extremely white, and his hair extremely black, and he had no signs of travel upon him, and none of us knew him. He sat next to the Prophet, placing his knees next to his knees, and placing his hand on his thigh and said, ‘Oh Muhammad, Teach me about Islam…’
The Prophet pbuh said, ‘Islam is to bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is his messenger, establish prayer, pay Zakat, fast Ramadan, and perform Hajj if you are able.’ The man said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’ We were amazed that he asked him a question, and then told him he was correct! He then said ‘Teach me about Iman.’
The Prophet replied, “To believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Day of Judgment, and to believe in Destiny, its good and evil.” He said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’ He then said…’Teach me about Ihsaan…’ The Prophet said, “To worship Allah as if you see him, and if you aren’t able to see him, then He indeed Sees you.” He said, ‘Teach me about the Hour…’
The Prophet replied, “The one being asked does not know more than one questioning.” The man said, ‘Then tell me about its signs.’ The Prophet said, ‘A slave-woman will give birth to her master, and you will see barefoot, naked, herdsmen competing in constructing tall buildings.”
Then the questioner left. We sat for a while, and then the Prophet pbuh said: ‘Do you know who the questioner was oh Umar?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He replied, ‘He is Gabriel (Jibreel), he came to teach you your religion.’ ”
My honored friends, tonight is our 21st meeting, as we continue with this foundational means of Tarbiyya, or teaching, ‘hadathani abi’ or ‘my father taught me’, and I will continue to speak about the fifth foundational means of Tarbiyya.
I spoke about Tarbiyya by example, love, Aqeedah, worship, and I began last time about Tarbiyya through Akhlaaq.
I speak to the whole Ummah through this series, fathers, mothers, teachers, callers to the religion, I speak to all of them, not just the young people. And I will cover this topic extensively, and I don’t think there are any homes that are not in need of hearing these words of Allah and His Messenger, pbuh. This methodology may appear strange, since so many families have grown up on Western values, especially before the means of spreading knowledge such as television and internet came about, and this Western upbringing is in direct conflict with our values and teachings.
Tarbiyya by good character is extremely critical. It is as important as teaching true beliefs, in fact it permeates all forms of Tarbiyya. And it is not possible to teach worship without Akhlaaq. I cannot nurture true love of Islam in my children’s’ hearts while I don’t have good character.
Akhlaaq, it permeates all other forms of Tarbiyya, thus our children need to be exposed to good character and manners according to the means I laid down last time, from the very early age, as soon as a child can say: “mom” or “dad” or “Allah”, or “La illaha illa Allah” or “Muhammad”, from these early times it is critical to teach them.
Since, if this foundation is laid early, it will stay with him his entire life, like a shadow, it will be part of his soul, and perhaps a child might slip from his early foundation, but he will always go back to it if reminded, or he himself remembers.
It is like this example: A building is designed carefully and painstakingly, and it is equipped with the best furniture and inner decoration. Then some children come, and playing around harm the building, by painting on it, through graffiti, or any other means of harming the exterior of the building. But does this harm the foundations of the building? Does it cause it to lose its true strength and beauty? Someone, in a few hours, can restore it to its previous beauty by removing the graffiti and harm done to its exterior.
Like this, a child might slip away from the foundations you lay in his childhood, but if he is reminded, he will come back to the truth. If his mother or father reminds him, he will feel embarrassed about his sins and rectify his ways.
Yes, this is the benefit of raising a child on good character, for it will never leave his side, just like the soul never leaves the body, except when Allah decrees it.
This character, it will become second nature to the child, and I will explain later more about whether character is inherited or learned.
We will not know the true value of good character unless we look to the book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet, pbuh.
For all those who wrote about good character, from writers and thinkers and philosophers, East and West, if it were all gathered together and compared to the words of Allah and the messenger, it would be like a little sparkle compared to the shining Sun, like dirt compared to a sky filled with stars.
Yes, they may speak some truth, and wisdom is the lost property of the believer, but the Ummah has lost it true foundational source of Akhlaaq, which is our Messenger pbuh, this source that transformed shepherds and herders into leaders of nations, and they were able to deliver to the world civilization in its two greatest forms: material and spiritual.
For many nations excel in material progress, but they have no spiritual success. And others may have spiritual qualities, but they lack material progress.
But the Prophet, pbuh, he joined the good of the dunya and Akhirah. And the time has come for the Ummah to come back to this methodology of the Prophet pbuh.
For we know that our nation has lost its bearings, and the balanced character of the Prophet pbuh, and it has gone to extremes, in character, and in thinking. And the time has come to hold our Ummah to account for its excesses regarding character.
In most parts of the earth the true measures of character are not used. One might see a bearded person, and point at him accusingly without any reason, while at the same time a young man might wear western clothes, and he is treated kindly.
Or our young sisters, who wear chaste loose clothes and jilbaab, they are looked at accusingly, but a girl undressed is treated well and considered modern and contemporary.
“What a twisted way of considering things!” How many places are like this on the face of the earth?
Yes, we will not understand the importance of good character unless we refer to the true sources.
I mentioned last time, the great status of good character, and that the Message of the Prophet was to renew the character of the people and raise them on good character. Here is a short reminder of what we mentioned:
1.) The Prophet pbuh said: “I have only been sent to perfect good character.”
2.) Allah points to the good character of the Prophet, pbuh, and that he is our standard: Allah says: “You are indeed on a grand character.”
3.) The foundations of good character are: “Forgive, command to goodness and kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.”
4.) Good character is following the tradition of the Prophet, “Oh Muadh, be with others in good character.”
5.) Akhlaaq is the reason for Allah to love you, oh teacher, oh son, or beloved daughter, this is for you. Did you reflect on this? Allah loves you if you practice good character.
To continue, Allah loves high things, and noble things, and good character, and dislikes lowly behavior.
The Prophet pbuh said, “Indeed Allah loves high things and noble things, and dislikes base behavior and useless things.”
The Prophet said, in Tabaraani, “The most beloved servants of Allah, to Allah, are the best of them in character.” What a noble trait! The one who has good character is a beloved servant to Allah.
Character is also from the greatest reasons to make you beloved to the Prophet, pbuh, and you will be the closest to him on the Day of Judgment!
The Prophet said, in Tirmidhi: “Indeed from the most beloved of you to me, and the closest of you to me on the Day of Judgment, are the best of you in character.”
Oh person of good character, congratulations! Oh you patient, good-natured, chaste one, the one who lowers his gaze, and controls his tongue, good news to you! Allah loves you, and the messenger loves you, and you will be closest to the Prophet alaihi as salam on the Day of Judgment!
By Allah, I know some brothers when I see them, I am amazed by their example. I never see any bad behavior from them like using harsh words, no, they are modest, like a virgin in her closed quarters.
Know that by your good character you will attain the highest levels with the Lord of the Heavens, and you will be saved from the Fire.
Narrated Abu Dawud, that the Prophet said, “I guarantee a home in the lower part of Paradise, (this is relative, there is no ‘low’ place in Jannah, there are 100 stations, between each one is like the distance between the heavens and the earth) for the one who gives up an argument, even if he was correct, and I guarantee a home in the middle of Jannah for the one who leaves lying, even in a joke. And I guarantee a home in the highest part of paradise, for one who perfects his character.”
Look at this! Good character brings one to the highest part of Paradise. The mansions of this world, if you have ever been to one, and saw its beauty, this is what man makes for another man. So what do you think would be the Mansion prepared by Allah for those who He chooses for them in Paradise?
This good character, while affirming the Oneness of Allah, will save one from the Fire.
The Prophet pbuh said, “Whoever is easygoing and flexible, Allah forbids the Fire for him.” Let the world hear this, so they know the value of good character in Islam, and let us cry over our state, as we see how far we are from what Islam teaches.
Do you pray? Yes, Do you fast? Yes, every Ramadan. Do you perform hajj? Yes, every year. That is good, but know that the heaviest thing in the scales on the Day of Judgment is good character? Can you imagine this, good character is greater than all those acts of worship?!
Listen to what the One of perfect character said: Umm Darda narrates from her husband, Abu Darda, (and this is so beautiful, a wife narrating and learning from her husband), that the Prophet said, “There is nothing heavier in the scales of a believer on the Day of Judgment than good character.”
By Allah, if you don’t leave today with anything other than this hadith, it is sufficient! I say, you will reach, with your good character, the level of a person who fasts all day, and prays all night. What benefit is it if you pray and fast, and you curse your wife, and your children, and your neighbors, and you have bad character. What is the benefit of worship, and I have bad character?
Listen to what the chosen Prophet said, that is narrated by Abu Dawud, “Indeed a believer will reach, by his good character, the level of a person who fasts the days and gets up regularly to pray at night.”
Why is this? A fasting person fights his own base desires to worship Allah, alone, but a person who perfects his character, he has to deal with many different people, so he is kind to one, and easy going with another, and keeps in touch with the one who cuts him off, and gives to the one who wrongs him, and repels wrong with kindness, so he struggles against his own self, and at the same time all those who harm him, and he keeps patient, so he deserves more reward than one who fasts and prays.
And it is even more beautiful if the person fasts and prays at night, and perfects his character, then no one can compare to him.
I tell you, my beloved brother, my noble son, good character is a proof of your perfect faith. Yes, in Islam we don’t differentiate between the outside and inside. This character, which comes out in good kind words, and kind behavior with others, it is proof of faith on the inside. For every container spills out what it contains, and the tongue reflects what is in the heart, and if the light of faith penetrates the heart, you will find this purity reflecting on the limbs, the tongue and the actions.
Ibn Abbas said, “Faith is light in the heart, and light in the face, and evil is darkness in the heart, and darkness in the face.”
The Prophet pbuh said, as narrated in Ibn Hibban, “The believer of perfect faith is the one with the best character, and the best of you are the best of you to his women.”
Good character is proof of the completion and perfection of faith.
Abdullah said, “The Prophet would never use bad words, nor come near using rough speech, and he said, “From the best of you are the best of character.”
I think these beautiful merits will inspire anyone with a sincere mind and heart to seek to beautify oneself with good character, and for this reason, you will be amazed if I tell you that the Prophet pbuh would turn to Allah to guide him to the best of character! Can you imagine, then, the importance of begging Allah to perfect our character?
Imam Muslim narrates that the Prophet pbuh said “Oh Allah! Guide me to the most perfect character, none can guide to it except You, and turn away from me bad character, and none can turn its evil away from me except You.”
How many times have you said this dua? By Allah, we should say it so often, for we are more in need of it than the Prophet, pbuh.
Next time, we will speak about lying, anger, arrogance, and other problems in character, and how to deal with them, and we will see how the Book and Sunnah teaches us to deal with these problems, for I don’t rely on the Western means of dealing with them. I have no problem taking wisdom from any source, but as long as it is really wisdom.
My beloved, reflect with me, on this dua. Then the Prophet pbuh used to say, as narrated by Ahmed: “Oh Allah, as you have perfected my outward creation, so too perfect my inward character.”
If you look in the mirror, then say, this dua.
And you will be amazed to knew that the Prophet pbuh used to seek refuge from bad character, as narrated by Tirmidhi, “Oh Allah, I seek refuge in you from despicable character, and desires, and actions, and illnesses (of the heart, tongue, soul, vision, and body.” The Prophet, pbuh, would seek refuge from these things, and we don’t?!
My beloved, don’t these hadith and verses inspire you to move to action, to perfect your character?
But how do we achieve this, what are the means to this? The answer, give me your heart, before your ears:
1.) Character is of two types, part inherited, and part that is learned. The proof for first type is what the Prophet, pbuh, said to Abdul Qays “Indeed in you are two things which Allah loves, easygoingness and modesty.” Abdul Qays said, “Was I created with these qualities, or did I learn them.” The Prophet pbuh, said, “No Allah created you with them.” Then he said, “All praise be to Allah who created me with two qualities that Allah loves.”
2.) The second type is what we learn, and Allah would not command us to do a thing unless we are able to do it. Allah says, “Those who purify (their souls) will be successful.” And if purifying one’s soul was not possible, Allah would not have commanded us to it.
Thus good character is achievable and attainable, and here are some steps we need to take to improve our character:
1.) The Prophet pbuh said, as narrated by Daraqutni, “Indeed knowledge is through learning, and patience is through struggling to keep patient.” A person continues to strive to attain good character until he eventually achieves it.
2.) Sincerity in asking Allah to give us good character, day and night, in dua.
3.) Struggle: Allah says, “Those who strive in Our way, We guide them to our paths.” And Allah will be thankful to you for your struggle, and grant you your goal.
4.) Strive against your nafs to leave lying, or saying bad words, and to leave bad environments. There are some places where people are taught evil, harshness, and ugly words and actions, and there are places where people learn manners and good character. What a difference! You could sit with a scholar, and hear about the Jannah, or go to other places where one sees smoking and evil.
5.) Strive against your nafs to be in the environment of religion, and obedience to Allah, for these environments will always be in the Ummah, as there will always be a righteous group on the truth in the Ummah of the Prophet, pbuh, so seek out their company.
6.) Take yourself to account: Say to yourself, isn’t it evil for me to be here? Leave the hypocrites and what they say aside. Measure yourself by the book of Allah, and the Sunnah, and the people of knowledge. Take yourself to account for all your words and actions, and be shy from Allah.
7.) Have high aspirations: Have piety in your heart, the Prophet would point to his heart, and say: “Piety is here, piety is here.” There are hearts attached to the heavens, to the Masjids, and others attached to evil and wickedness. You will never have high aspirations except that you beg Allah for it. Know that you are always traveling to Allah through your aspirations.
8.) Stay with the people of good character, they will affect you by their good behavior, and they will tell you: be righteous. Don’t hang out with a person who if he sees a girl, says evil things. No, stay with the pious, don’t let anyone eat your food except a righteous person. Be a man, be strong, and stay away from the evil.
9.) Accept advice, and seek pardon. If your mother says, my son, don’t say that. You should listen to her, and don’t be arrogant. Arrogance is rejecting truth, even if it is from your child, or your wife. “You will not enter Paradise if there is even a grain of arrogance in your heart.” Even if it is a disbeliever who corrects your mistake, accept his advice.
10.) Finally, read books about good character, about our righteous predecessors. And the Seerah of the Prophet is sufficient in this regard. He was a miracle in this regard. He was a human being, but he was the best of creation. I don’t beautify Muhammad by my words, rather he beautifies my words. He is the Leader of all of humanity. Anas said, “I stayed with the Prophet for 10 years, and he never said, “Ugh” or “Why did you do that, or why didn’t you do this…” and I never felt a hand softer than his hands, or smelled a scent more pleasant than his.
In the previous scriptures, he was described as one who doesn’t repel evil except with good. Allah says, “Indeed you are on the best of character.”
Oh Allah, guide us to the best of character, none guides to it except You! and turn away from us evil character, for none can turn it away from us except You.
May Allah grant you and me and our children the best of character.
And May Allah reward you, Asalamualaikum wrt wb.
Note: You have the right to copy this knowledge and spread it to your friends and family.