CULTIVATING ONE’S CHARACTER

 

A believer plants a palm tree and fears that thorns will grow

We have to constantly search our behavior to insure its consistency with that of the believers.

While walking in the market not so long ago, I happened to see a group of foreign Muslim sisters heading my way. Needless to say I was very happy, because it is not often that I run across other Muslim women when out and about.

From the manners of giving the salams, I greeted them first. To my dismay, they all looked at me from the top of my khimar-clad head to where my Abaya (outer garment) pooled around my feet with a look of total disgust, and walked away without uttering a word in response. I was so hurt and shocked that all I could do was stand there with my mouth wide open behind my niqab.

It never ceases to amaze me how many of us claim to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah, yet our actions are in total contradiction to what we say we believe. It was part of the manners of those who lived with the Prophet, Sal-lallahu alayhe wasallam, that they would constantly search their thoughts, hearts and behaviors, to make sure they were consistent with those of the believers, and to discard those things which were characteristic of the hypocrites.

For Allah Ta’ala says, “They say, ‘We believe in Allah and in the apostle, and we obey:’ but even after that, some of them turn away: they are not (really) believers.” [24:47]

Along with this, Allah Ta’ala paints for us a complete picture of the believers when He says, “Those who turn (to Allah) in repentance; that serve Him, and praise Him; that wander in devotion to the cause of Allah; that bow down and prostrate themselves (in salah); that enjoin good and forbid evil; and observe the limits set by Allah – so proclaim the good tidings to the believers.” [9:112]

Also, Yahya ibn Muadh, rahimahullah, talked about the believers possessing the following characteristics in one of his essays:

“It is to be full of modesty, and to be harmless too. To be full of goodness and not to be corrupt. For the tongue to be truthful, for the words to be little and to be plentiful in good actions. To have little slip-ups and not be excessive. To be good to one’s relatives, building closeness between them. To be dignified and grateful, and to be full of contentment if Allah restricted some provision. To be forbearing and friendly to his brothers, and to be compassionate and chaste. Not to curse, swear, insult, backbite, nor to gossip. Not to be hasty, envious, hateful, arrogant, or vain, neither to lean towards worldliness or to extend long hopes and wishes. Not to sleep too much, nor to be absent-minded, nor to show off nor be hypocritical. Not to be selfish, but to be soft and cheerful and not servile. Loving for the sake of Allah, being pleased for His sake and being angry only for His sake. His provision is taqwa, and his worries are what will happen to him in the Afterlife. His friends remind him, his beloved is His Protector and Master, and his struggle is for the Hereafter.”

How many of us possess these qualities? How many of us are striving to cultivate these characteristics within ourselves? How can we profess to be true believers when we don’t even spread the salams, and protect each other from harm and hurt? We’re not, for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, said, “By Allah, he does not believe. By Allah, he does not believe. By Allah, he does not believe.” He was asked, “Whom, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “The one who does not safeguard his neighbor from his harms.” (Bukhari)

Allah Ta’ala also says about the believers that, “The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular salah, practices regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. [9:71]

As Muslims, we must remember that Islam is not a religion based on theories, but it is something that is alive and practical, and must be implemented into practice in every aspect of our lives. Since we are striving to achieve true success, our attitudes should be as Allah Ta’ala says, “The answer of the believers when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, ‘We hear and we obey;’ it is such as these that will attain felicity.” [24:51]

As it was the practice of those who came before us, let us then too search our hearts, souls, thoughts and actions on a daily basis in order to cultivate the character of a believer, and stamp out any weeds of hypocrisy before they can gain root. Let us remember what Fudayl ibn Iyadh, rahimahullah, said, “A believer plants a palm tree and fears that thorns will grow. The hypocrites plant thorns expecting ripe dates to grow.”

Sumayya bint Joan

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