[Surah Al-Qalam 68:4]
The biggest hurdle in establishing good Akhlaq (character) is being overconfident or being less aware of your own character.
Three types of bonds are essential in order to establish good Akhlaq (character).
- A person’s bond with his own spirituality.
- His bond with Allah’s creations.
- His bond with Allah, his Creator.
Every offspring of Adam is prone to sin but the best sinner is the one who repents sincerely-(Sunan Tirmidhi 2499)
Shaytan hides your weaknesses and highlights weaknesses of others
A person should correct his own self before trying to correct others. The biggest hurdle in the path to excellence in conduct (good Akhlaq) is overlooking one’s own weakness and errors while exaggerating (magnifying) the weaknesses of others. Shaytan does not allow a person to become aware of and to rectify his own weaknesses and flaws. He keeps on assuring him that he has achieved excellence of character. He himself is correct, while all others are flawed. Such a person becomes overconfident about his own character, believing it to be excellent. The moment a person honestly checks his own weaknesses in his dealings and conduct, he realizes his shortcomings and his actual standing on the way to attain perfect Akhlaq.
Islamic teachings insist on refraining from being overconfident about one’s excellence or perfection (in dealings or Akhlaq), and direct you to make an honest self-analysis to find your own faults and sins. It is a mistake to think that any person, no matter how righteous he is, to be free from sin. Allah himself points out that:
“Say: O ‘Ibaadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily, Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful”(Surah Ghafir - 53)
Any righteous person is not completely incapable of committing sins, but he repents (and begs for Allah’s forgiveness), while the disobedient ones are not ashamed of their sins and are rather proud of them. The people with good Akhlaq (character) are appreciated by Allah in these words in Quran:
“Indeed Allah loves those who repent and those who keep themselves pure.”
He also said, “My pious worshippers are those who fear my punishment.”
The point to note in both the above verses: Allah is appreciating sinners who repent; People who commit sins but repent and correct themselves.
How do you react towards one who suggests corrections?
A believer is a mirror for other believers.(Al Adab al Mufrad -239)
A mirror shows your exact image; That is why we trust these images and view them before we leave for a gathering or meeting. The mirrors show our defects; whether the hair has been combed properly or not, the shirt has been properly tucked in or not, etc. The two mirrors in the barber’s shop show your face and as well as your back; a look at both of them would show if the hair has been cut properly or not. Your mirror will not hide any of your faults in your appearance, even if it is a button on your shirt that has not been buttoned up. The moment our mirror shows a defect, we correct it immediately. Nobody gets angry over a mirror that shows a flaw in your appearance. Rather, we take its help to correct the flaw.
Your believing brother is just like a mirror. He would not fawn over you but would honestly show and discuss your faults. He would point out the flaws in your creed, your behavior, and all aspects of your personality. One should be open to listen to the constructive criticism and be ready to accept suggestions to improve your character (Akhlaq) and this is only possible if you are not over-confident about your own character.
But this corrective work should be like a mirror. To show a clear reflection (image), the mirror needs to be clean, too. Similarly, the person who is on the mission to correct his fellow Muslims, should himself be exemplary in his own character (dealings and Akhlaq). One has to constantly dust the mirror to keep it clean; Similarly, a person needs to constantly monitor his own character and correct his flaws, too, before starting his mission to correct others.
Once Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) was asked, “Which person is considered to be the best?” She replied, “The one who considers himself to be the worst.” She was asked again, “Which person is considered to be the worst?” She replied,“ the one who considers himself to be the best.”
You should not advocate living in seclusion
You should not advocate living alone in the seclusion, without interacting with people; at home or in society. We find different types of people around us; short-tempered, lazy, backbiters, greedy, selfish or dishonest. It is not possible to have a society where everybody is at the top level of good Akhlaq (character). Your true Akhlaq (character) is displayed when you show exemplary behaviour, using polite and kind words with people who irritate you; who challenge your patience, are rude and harsh towards you. Forgiving such people, tolerating them and using kind words with them is the real display of good Akhlaq (character).
Allah likes a person who lives amongst people, observes Sabr while facing their shortcomings and tolerates their weaknesses instead of fleeing away from them. Allah does not like a person who isolates himself from others and believes that his quality of Akhlaq would suffer because of other people’s attitudes.
The good attitude towards Allah as a part of good Akhlaq (character) includes obeying Allah and abstaining from deeds that displease Him.