Iman and Character
Our behavior and manners are supposed to be derived from the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Allah says in the Qur'an:
"And I created not jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (alone)." [al-Dhariyat, 56]
"Say, Verily, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds." [al-An'aam, 162]
"O believers! Enter perfectly and completely into Islam." [al-Baqara, 208]
When one thinks about these three verses, he will easily conclude that all of this life is ruled by our religion of Islam. To put it differently, there is a relationship between our belief in La Illaha Illa-llah and every action that we make in this world. If we have the correct and true concept of "There is no God by Allah", this belief will have a complete effect on us. It will change us into that person that reflects the belief in this shahadah. In fact, that is the goal that we must aspire to.
Unfortunately, many times we forget that vital fact. Muhammad Qutb once wrote that during a doctoral thesis defense in the Department of Aqeedah (Islamic Beliefs), a student was stressing the relationship between character and behavior (akhlaq) and aqeedah, faith and iman. One of the committee members, who, according to Muhammad Qutb, was very famous and supposed to be very knowledgeable, said, "What is the relationship between character and aqeedah (beliefs)? Aqeedah as we learned it in our studies deals with the concept of God, prophethood, and what has been transmitted. As for character and behavior, it is an independent subject."
If you think about what this college professor said you will understand why so many Muslims are having manners and behavior that are completely inconsistent with their belief in Islam. One reason for this, Allah knows best, is that they completely do not understand the relationship between their behavior and their claim to belief in La illaha illa-Allah. They simply think that this shahadah is something that they say with their tongues; it involves fasting and praying and that is about it. But if we look to some of the hadeeth of the Prophet, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, we can see the true relationship between character and iman. We can see the importance of proper behavior in Islam.
Note the following hadeeth of the Prophet, sallalahu allayhe wa salam: "I have been sent for the purpose of perfecting good morals."1 In this hadeeth, the Prophet, sallalahu allayhe wa salam has clearly stated that one of the important aspects of his being sent as a prophet was to show what the good morals and manners are. That is, he was to show the manners and the behavior consistent with the belief in Allah.
"I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Paradise for the one who makes his behavior good."2 This hadeeth clearly shows the reward for improving and perfecting one's behavior.
"Piety and righteousness are being of good character." (Recorded by Muslim)
"There is nothing heavier in the scales than good character."3
In fact, when Allah described the believers - those who will be the successful, Allah described them, after stating that they were believers, by their behavior. Allah says,
"Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their prayers with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from vain talk. And those who pay the Zakat. And those who guard their chastity except from their wives or (the captives) that their right hands posses - for then, they are free from blame. But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors. Those who are faithfully true to their trusts and to their covenants. And those who strictly guard their prayers. These are indeed the heirs. Who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise). They shall dwell therein forever." (al-Muminoon, 1-11)
On the other hand, when the Messenger of Allah, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, described the hypocrites, he described them by their actions and behavior. And he stated that whoever possesses any one of those characteristics has a characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. Those characteristics include lying while speaking, breaking one's trust and so on. (Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim).
Before we continue, it is important to first discuss the source of our akhlaq or behavior. Where do we get our manners and behavior? Do we get it from the disbelievers and their way of life? Do we get it from different jahili (non-Islamic) societies that are spread throughout the Muslim world? Do we get our behavior from our own desires and liking? Unfortunately, the ways of the disbelievers, the ways of the non-Islamic Muslim societies and our liking and desires is often the source of our behavior and manners. But, obviously, that is not how it is supposed to be.
Instead, our behavior and manners are supposed to be derived from the Qur'an and sunnah. Indeed, our life and our behavior should be an actualization and implementation of the Qur'an and sunnah. This is exactly what our example and model, the Prophet Muhammad, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, was like. When Aisha,the Prophet's wife, was asked about the character of the Prophet, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, she answered, "His character was the Qur'an." (Recorded by Muslim)
The Qur'an and the sunnah show us how to behave towards our wives, our neighbors, our friends, our enemies and even our own souls. The Prophet, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, has even given us guidance on how to behave to animals. I was outside the Inviolable Mosque in Mecca one day and I saw a "religious looking man" walking toward the entrance to the Mosque. In front of him was a small cat. Instead of easily going around the cat, or gently pushing the cat aside, this Muslim kicked the cat out of his way. I asked myself how could someone who believes in the shahadah behave in this manner? Is that how the Messenger of Allah, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, behaved? Did that man think that he was so great, since he is a Muslim and a believer, that he can do whatever he wishes to Allah's creation? Did he not think of the hadeeth in which the Prophet, sallalahu allayhe wa salam, mentioned that a woman was thrown into Hell because she neither let her cat out to feed itself, nor did she feed it? Did he not think of the hadeeth which states that a person was forgiven because he gave a dog some water to drink after he found it to be thirsty as the man himself was? In fact - and this is the question that the whole matter revolves around - did he even think at all that there was any relationship between his belief in "There is no god but Allah" and how he behaved toward that cat?
And that is our problem. We go through life and we do things without ever thinking about the acts we do and their relationship to our belief in the Oneness of Allah and our testimony of faith. We have our goals in life, we take jobs, we study different fields in school, we have hobbies, we have certain friends and we never view these things in the light of La ilaha illa-Allah.
The shahadah is something that covers all of our lives: whether it is our prayers, our behavior in general, our sustenance, whatever the case might be, there is some relationship between that act and our belief in Islam. This fact must be ever-present in our minds.
Allah says in the Qur'an, "Verily the believers are but one brotherhood." (al-Hujurat, 10) The believers are but one brotherhood. This, again, is demanded by and related to their belief if La ilaha illa-Allah. By being brothers, their behavior towards one another must be something special, something beyond the ordinary.
Related to this aspect I would like to discuss a phenomenon that is occurring throughout the world and which must come to an end. This is the phenomenon of Muslims treating the disbelievers better than they treat their own Muslim brothers and sisters. This very strange phenomenon, as I mentioned, is widespread throughout the Muslim world - some of this is no doubt the result of colonialism and neo-colonialism in which the Muslims are filled with propaganda showing them that the disbelievers are superior to them because of their material progress, scientific approach, better manners, culture, and so on.
Therefore, this phenomenon has at least two reasons for it:
1) Many Muslims, especially those from "Third World" countries, have some kind of deep-rooted admiration for the disbelievers and will bend over backwards to please and satisfy the disbelievers. How many times have we heard of the mosques in Muslim countries not making the call to prayer for the Fajr prayer because it bothers the non-Muslims who live there? In how many place throughout the Muslim world are the disbelievers allowed their alcohol, pornography and other forbidden items simply to please them? Although many factors may have led to this, it is something completely wrong.
If a Muslim gets to the point where he admires, cherishes and relishes the way of life of the disbelievers - although that way of life clearly is un-Islamic - then he has committed an act of kufr (disbelief). This is something agreed upon and well-established in the relevant books.
2) A second reason why many Muslims treat the disbelievers better than they treat their own Muslim brothers is because they believe that they are making daw'aa (propagating Islam) to them. They want to set a good example for the non-Muslim. If, for instance, they have an appointment with a non-Muslim, they will do their best to show up on time. If the appointment is with a Muslim, on the other hand, they will not care when they show up. If their neighbors are non-Muslims, they will make sure that their children are quiet and respect their neighbors. But, if their neighbors are Muslims, they will not bother about how much their children might be harming their Muslim neighbor.
Daw'aa is extremely good and very important. But what about your Muslim brother, isn't he more deserving of your good contact then these disbelievers who see Allah's signs around them every day and never care even to remember God? Doesn't your Muslim brother have more rights upon you by virtue of his being part of this Muslim brotherhood?
And what about making daw'aa to your Muslim brother? Isn't he sometimes also in need for being reminded what proper Islamic behavior is? Shouldn't you also set a good example for him? Allah knows best, but perhaps you will be more effective with your good example to your Muslim brother than with the disbelievers.
In any case, our belief is La ilaha illa-Allah requires us to treat the disbelievers in a proper manner according to Islamic teachings and it also requires that we treat our Muslim brother in the proper manner according to Islamic teachings. We are not free to exemplify the teachings of Islam in one case and not in the other. Instead, all of our life should be ruled by Islam. This is just part of what our testimony or shahadah is all about.
"Say: Verily my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds." (al-An'aam, 162)
1. Recorded by al-Hakim and others. Graded saheeh by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jami al-Sagheer, number 2349.
2. Recorded by Abu Dawood. Graded hasan by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jami al-Sagheer, number 1464.
3. Recorded by Ahmad and Abu Dawood. Graded saheeh by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jami al-Sagheer, number 5721.