THE FOUR FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD CHARACTER:
There are many ways to exhibit good character. However, it all goes back to four essentials.
1. PATIENCE: It takes patience to be obedient to Allah, and to be gentle and kind under trying circumstances. It takes patience to swallow back anger and exercise self-restraint. Patience is necessary for the qualities of forgiveness, pardon, and self-restraint.
“Let them pardon and overlook. Do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”
2. DECENCY: This is the quality that helps people abstain from base and ignoble behavior and turns their hearts to that which is noble and high-minded. A decent heart will be honest with the Creator and to those he or she deals with.
3. COURAGE: This is the quality that inspires people to greatness and generosity and prevents them from succumbing to anger and rash behavior.
4. JUSTICE: One needs to be moderate in one’s behavior. Every noble character trait stands between two ignoble traits at opposite extremes. For instance, gentleness is a good character trait, akin to kindness. However, taking it to an excess leads to indignity and humiliation, while being neglectful of it leads to harshness, cruelty, and severity. Generosity is another good and desirable character trait. Taking it too far leads to reckless spending and wastefulness, while neglecting it makes one a greedy, envious miser.
People naturally possess many good qualities and character traits, some of which they learnt from their parents or picked up from their social environment. These qualities become part of their personalities.
Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said to Ashajj Abd al-Qays: “You possess two qualities that Allah loves: gentleness and forbearance.”
In some narrations of this event, Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) goes on to tell Ashajj that Allah made these traits part of his natural disposition, to which Ashajj replied: “Praise be to Allah who placed within me two qualities that Allah and His Messenger love.”
HOW TO DEVELOP GOOD CHARACTER:
1. STRIVING: To strive within yourself to exhibit good character traits and refrain from bad ones. Allah says:
” Those who strive for Our sake, We will guide them to Our paths.”
Good character is part of Allah’s guidance.
2. SELF-ASSESSMENT: This means to look back on one’s behavior. Those who call themselves to account benefit from it in all aspects of their lives. This is why Allah swears by the “self-reproaching spirit” in the Quran. Al-Hasan al-Basrī explains that the self-reproaching spirit describes the spirit of the believer.
3. ASPIRING FOR THE BEST: We should aspire to be the best we can be, and this includes our behavior. We should seek out and even create opportunities to exhibit good behavior.
4. SUBSTITUTION: We should find alternatives to the bad behavior that we exhibit, alternatives that allow us to express and develop our good traits.
We are influenced by the people around us, by our families, classmates, colleagues, and friends. However, the greatest influence over us is the influence we have upon our own individual selves, in how we approach and understand ourselves, train ourselves and censure ourselves. This means we need to recognize our faults and our weaknesses as well as our virtues and strengths.
O Allah! Help us to see the weaknesses within ourselves and help us to overcome them. Do not leave us without Your assistance for a moment.