How to Attain Good Character
A person is born and grows with certain characteristics and qualities. If these are good characteristics, the person should be thankful to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) that He (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) has placed these characteristics in them. They should use these qualities for the sake of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).
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) Read the Qur’an in order to see the importance of having good character.
2) Read the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to see how he lived his life, in order to understand 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) Remember Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) and His (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) rewards and punishments.
7) Make dua to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) for Him (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) to help you change, because good character and its resulting actions are a gift from Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).
The Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) used to supplicate to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala):
“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 in Muslim]
Let’s follow the example of our beloved Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and do the same.
“And sin is that which wavers in your soul and which you dislike the people finding out about.”
Ithm or sin is defined as an act for which its performer is deserving of blame or censure. It is said to encompass every form of evil deed whether large or small.
In this hadith the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) gave us two very important signs of a sin. The first sign is a completely internal sign within the human being. It is a feeling that occurs within the soul with respect to the act. The human being is created with the internal mechanism to sense which acts are sinful and the soul is uneasy when it performs sinful acts.
The second sign is also internal but occurs in respect to how one is viewed by others. A sin is something we would feel ashamed of if the people knew about it. The commentators of this hadith stress that ‘the people’ here is not the wider population in general, but rather religious people. The soul has more shame in front of righteous people who respect the teachings of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).
There may also be acts that because of shyness, embarrassment, custom and so forth people may not want others to know about, but these are not the acts referred to in this hadith. Rather a sin is an act which one’s conscience feels bad about because the soul feels it to be morally wrong.
We can see that the soul is naturally inclined to feel pleased when people witness its good deeds, and ashamed when people witness its bad deeds. We can also see that we are created with a soul that has an instinctual sense of right and wrong.
Can you think of any act that you have performed that would meet this criteria of wavering in your soul and making you feel ashamed if righteous people were to find out that you had done it? If so, make time to turn to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) and ask for His (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) forgiveness and the strength to help you stop committing this act again. For verily, the doors of Allah’s (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) forgiveness are open no matter how large the sin is. The only time that the request for forgiveness is not granted is when the pangs of death are upon us, and we do not know when that will be.