The Way to Rectify Character
There is an aspect of being born with characteristics, this is from Allah as a test. Then there is the effort required to develop it.
A person’s character is like their body:
- It needs nourishment and exercise. Must get into the habit, then you appreciate the results and value exercise and health even more. Develop hatred for lethargy and obesity.
- If it is healthy, it must be maintained. If it is ill, it requires treatment.
- The treatment for every illness is different. There is no magic pill.
- It is necessary to bear the taste of bitter medicine and treatment. Must have patience over the difficulties associated with hunger, humiliation, or less money remaining in your bank account. Wa inaahaa lakabiratan illa…[2:45]
Since most people are willing to take care of their bodies by applying those principles, they should also take care of their hearts since it is more important. For example, the physical pain suffered through not taking proper care of the body is infinitely inferior to the pain in the Hereafter suffered by not taking care of the heart.
People fail because they don’t see their defects. If they do, then they can’t bear the bitter medicine. If they are willing, then use the wrong methods and end up in another illness, like going from being a miser to a spendthrift. If they use the right approach, then they don’t maintain their health and these diseases return.
In order to change, though, you must have a firm resolve. Most people fail because their commitment is weak, the way that most people fail when attempting to diet. If you are hesitant about changing yourself, you will not change. If you are serious, then make sure you are patient during periods of difficulty where you lose motivation. Help prevent yourself from getting used to slumps by rewarding and punishing yourself with something. For example, if you catch yourself backbiting someone, you vow to fast for two days that week.
How to Know What Good Character Is
Immorality is marketed en masse and people are taught that the ends justify the means. However, Allah has taught us what is good and bad. If you assume your heart is clean, think again. The disease of arrogance or ignorance is most likely dominant. Do not be tricked into thinking that after you have put in a little effort and you avoid major sins that your heart is clean. That you attend classes and pray in the mosque, you are cured. Assume that the job is done and no more effort is needed.
Read the Qur’an and ask yourself: Do I concentrate in my prayer [23:2], Do I avoid vain talk [23:3], Do I give sufficient charity [23:4] Do I lower my gaze [23:5], Do I fulfill my commitments [23:8], Do I guard my prayers [23:9], Does my heart tremble when Allah is mentioned [8:2], Does my faith increase when the verses of Allah are recited [8:2], Am I humble [25:63], Do I avoid arguing with ignorant people [25:63], Do I really give in charity what I am able to [25:67]? Then look at the teachings of the Prophet and ask yourself: Do I really love for my brother what I love for myself, Do I remain quiet when I have nothing good to say? Can I be like the Prophet and have someone demand money from me, not use my respectful title, pull on my shirt, and then laugh it off?
People whose hearts have swerved from the path of Allah have lost even the ability to know what is a good quality and what is a bad one. By studying the guidance of Allah, they can be motivated and return.
How to Know Your Faults
Most people cannot see their own faults. It is said that people can detect a tiny spot on someone else’s clothing while ignoring the large stain on their own. It is like shoeing off a fly from someone while ignoring a poisonous insect on you. Being able to see your faults is a blessing from Allah because only then can those faults be corrected.
The diseases of the heart are hidden and remain undetected by most people. That is why it is important to test yourself regularly. See how you respond to a person when they insult you. Do you insult them back? See how you react when you are asked to spend in charity and compare it to the feeling you get when you earn some money. These tests can tell you a lot about yourself. The closer you get to Allah, the more you begin to accuse and criticize yourself. The ones who are content with their spiritual status are the ones with little understanding.
There are four other ways to become cognizant of your faults:
- Consult an expert who is well versed in the diseases of the heart and how to purify them. However, people of this caliber are very rare and you may never find them.
- Ask an insightful and knowledgeable friend to watch over you and inform you of your faults. This is what the righteous used to do. However, you must be prepared to bear the bitterness of this medicine.
- Umar: “May Allah have mercy on a person who gifts me my own faults.”
- Umar asked Salmān: “What bad thing have you heard about me.” Salmān asked to be excused from answering the question, but Umar insisted. “I was told that two different kinds of dishes are served to you and that you have two different outfits: one for the day and one for the night.” Umar asked, “Anything else?” “No.” “As for these, I have an excuse.”
- Umar used to ask Ḥudhayfah: “You know the secret of the Messenger [with regards to who was a hypocrite]. Do I have traits of hypocrisy?”
- It is rare to find friends who will sincerely point out your faults. That is because most friends boost your ego by flattering you or remain silent out of fear of you.
- It is even more difficult for people to maintain friendship with someone who points out your flaws, because people take it personally. If someone warned you that you have a poisonous spider crawling up your leg, they should focus on that. Not say, you have something crawling up your arm too, so don’t focus on me. Saving yourself is more important. Sign of diseased heart, cannot focus on what is more important, not interested in the truth.
- Learn from your enemies. They may insult you, but it is still useful, the way a strategist learns about the weak points of his base after an enemy attack. Similarly, security companies hire computer hackers to test their systems for weaknesses. A clever enemy might be more useful for you than a silent friend who is accustomed to praising you in this regard.
- Observe people and learn from their mistakes, the way a person remembers to check his shirt when seeing a spot on another’s. The believer is a mirror of another. People are not that different from each other, so it is likely you will be making many of the mistakes you see others doing.
Dangers of Speech
The Power of Speech
The mouth and tongue are among the amazing creations of Allah and speech is a miracle in itself. There is tremendous power in words. Your ability to speak is more powerful than your ability to see, hear and smell, because the latter produce input whereas the former produces output.
There are many dangers associated with speaking, and that is why a person who is unable to control their tongue must remain silent. It is similar to a person unskilled in handling a weapon, they must refrain from using it out of fear that they might accidentally cause harm due to their ignorance and inability. This is why the Prophet said, “whoever is silent is successful.”
However, there are many times where a person must or should speak, and then he would be liable for neglecting that. Speaking good is one of the ways to prevent yourself from falling into saying harmful things. Nonetheless, the heart finds indulging in sinful and useless talk to be sweeter than honey. A person must resist these temptations and train themselves to watch what they say.
There are too many potential dangers when it comes to speech, so the most common will be mentioned. Once a person begins to engage in these evils, they are unable to stop, like a substance addict who tries to quit but fails. It requires a solid and consistent program, along with the help of Allah, to liberate oneself from these evils. Some people are naturally quieter than others and it may seem easier for them. However, due to their nature, it also becomes more difficult for them to use their tongue for beneficial things, and thus the tests of people are balanced out. Reflect on yourself: can you say that you haven’t spoken a word in years which you regret saying? If not, then you need work.
There are four categories of speech:
- Entirely harmful – silence is necessary
- Entirely beneficial
- A mixture of harm and benefit – silence is necessary
- Neither harmful nor beneficial
It is common for people to engage in all four types of speech, but only one of them should exist.
We will list out the most sinful dangers and then the least, ending with recommendations on what to avoid.
Qur’an: “Not a word does anyone speak but that there is a watcher recording.” 50:18
Prophet: “Whoever can secure for me what is between his jawbones and thighs, I can secure for him paradise.”
Prophet was explaining the principles of Islam to Muʿādh ibn Jabal and then said “Shall I not inform you about the prerequisite to all of that?” “Yes, Prophet of Allah” He grabbed his tongue and then said “Keep this in check” Muʿādh said, “Prophet of Allah, will we be held accountable for what we say.” “Of course, Muʿādh. Will people be thrown on their faces in the fire for something other than what their tongues have reaped?”
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say something good or keep quiet.”
Ibn Masʿud: “There is nothing more in need of lengthy imprisonment than my tongue.”
Abu ad-Dardā’: “You have been given two ears but one mouth, so that you listen more than you speak.”
Umar: Whoever talks a lot, makes a lot of mistakes. Whoever makes a lot of mistakes will have a lot of sins. Whoever has a lot of sins is more likely to enter Hell.
Al-Ḥasan Al-Baṣrī: The believer’s tongue is behind his heart. When he wants to speak, he first thinks about it with his heart and then utters it with the tongue. A hypocrite’s tongue is in front of his heart. When he does something, he does it with both [i.e. without reflecting].
Abu Bakr used to sometimes keep a pebble in his mouth to remind him to stay quiet. He would publicly criticize himself by pointing to his tongue and saying, “This is what ruined me.”
Ṭāwūs: My tongue is like a lion. If I left it, it would prey on me.
Al-Ḥasan: Whoever did not restrain his tongue did not really understand his religion.
Lying is unlawful due to the harm it causes to the person being lied to, as well as others who are affected by it. At minimum, telling a lie spreads false information and leads to ignorance within a community.
A liar is often forced to cover up with another lie – compounding lies
“Three characteristics of a hypocrite: when he speaks he lies…”
Prophet: “Beware of lying. It leads to sin, which leads to the fire. A person will lie so much that he will be written down as a liar. Be truthful. It leads to righteousness, which leads to paradise. A person will be so honest that he will be written down as an honest person.” AD
Prophet: “Allah will not speak to three people on the Day of Judgement…one who sells his merchandise with a false promise…” M
Prophet: “It is the height of treachery for you to speak to your brother as if you are telling the truth but you are lying and he believes you.” A
Prophet: “A severe torment for him who tells lies to let people laugh. Woe to him and woe to him.” AD, T, N
ʿAbdullah ibn ʿĀmir said: One day my mother called me when the Messenger of Allah was sitting in our house. She said, ‘Come, I will give you something.’ The Messenger of Allah said to her, ‘What are you intending to give him?’ She said, ‘I intend to give him some dates.’ The Messenger of Allah said to her, ‘If you don’t give him anything, a lie will be recorded against you.’ AD [ḥ]
Aishah said that there was no characteristic more repugnant to the Companions than lying.
Mālik ibn Dinar: “Truthfulness and lying battle each other in the heart until one of them overcomes the other.”
Be careful of exaggeration since that can lead to lying – common expressions or idioms are allowed “a hundred times”
Be cautious of white lies: make us insensitive to the sin of lying
 B #6474
 He used an idom which literally meant, may your mother be bereaved of you.
 T ḥṣ #2616, 5:12.
 B #6018
 Mukhtaṣar Minhāj al-Qāṣidīn, 171.
 Mukhtaṣar Minhāj al-Qāṣidīn, 171.