A Muslim's Character
by Muhammad Al-Ghazali
PILLARS OF ISLAM AND MORAL VALUES
~ Purpose of Prophethood -- Perfection of Morals
The holy Prophet has stated the foremost purpose of his being sent down in this world and the method of his call to the people in these words: "I have been sent only for the purpose of perfecting good morals." --(Al-Muta)
That great message which has left an indelible impression on the history of life, and for propagating which and for bringing people under whose influence Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) worked ceaselessly. Its purpose was nothing else but to strengthen the moral character of the people so that the world of beauty and perfection may be illuminated before their eyes and they may try to achieve it consciously and with knowledge.
Worshiping has been made compulsory in Islam, and it has been included in the basic pillars of faith. But the Islamic forms of worship are not some sort of mystic exercises that link men with some unknown, mysterious being, and which subject men to perform useless acts and meaningless movements. All the Islamic compulsory forms of worship are designed as exercises and training to enable people to acquire correct morals and habits and to live righteously, and to adhere to these virtues till the end, whatever be the changes in their circumstances.
~ Prayer prevents commitment of Evil
Salat (prayer) is a compulsory form of worship, which is like an exercise towards which man is attracted with interest and willingness. He offers it continually, so that his life may be free from all diseases and the body may be healthy and strong.
The holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet-both are the open proofs of these realities.
When Allah commanded the compulsory prayers to be established, He stated its wisdom in this way: "Prayer prohibits obscenity and evil."
To keep away from evil, wickedness and to purify from bad deeds are also realities of the prayer. In a Hadith-e-Qudsi it is stated: "I accept the prayers of the person who adopts the policy of humility with it on account of My greatness, obliges My creatures, does not insist on sinning against Me, spends his day in remembering Me, and is kind to the poor, travelers, weak and the suffering people.
~ Zakat is a means of purification
Zakat has been made compulsory on the eligible 'scheduled' ( sahibe Nisab ) persons. It is not merely a tax that is collected from the pockets of the people, but its foremost purpose is to sow the seeds of kindness. sympathy and benevolence, and to provide a chance of introduction among the various sections of the society and to establish the relationship of love and friendliness.
The purpose of paying Zakat has been stated in the Qur'an in the following words: "O Prophet ! Take charity from their property so that if may clean them and purify them." --(Tauba: 103)
To clean the self of the worldly impurities and to raise the standard of the society to the heights of decency and purity are the wisdom behind the levy of Zakat.
For this reason the Prophet has taken it in a very wide sense, and to pay Zakat has been made compulsory for every eligible Muslim. The Prophet has said: "To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he can go astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.'' --(Bukhari)
The environment of desert and the Bedouin life--an environment which had its basis on internal bickerings and fights--in such an environment the teachings of Islam were presented to the world and they show what aims and purpose these teachings had, and it shows where these teachings led the Arabs in that dark and dismal environment.
~ Fasting is a stepping stone to Righteousness
Similarly Islam has made fasting compulsory. But it is not envisaged that men should keep away from their carnal desires and other prohibited things for a fixed period only. The Prophet has said: "Pasting is not the name of merely keeping away from eating and drinking, but it is keeping away from wicked and obscene things. If in the state of fasting, someone abuses you or picks up a quarrel with you, say: "I am fasting."
Qur'an states the purpose of the imposition of fasting in these words: "Fasting has been made compulsory for you, as it was made compulsory for those (followers of earlier prophets) who preceded you, so that you may become righteous." (Baqarah: 183)
~ Hajj is a compulsory pilgrimage to weaken the love for the world
Sometimes man thinks that to travel to the holy places and to perform pilgrimage, which has been made compulsory for every rich Muslim, and which is included in the basic pillars of Islam, is merely a form of worship that has no relation with the world of morality and character. This is a clear misunderstanding. Giving commands about this compulsory worship, Allah states: "The months of Hajj are well-known. In these months whoever intends to perform Hajj should not indulge in sexual act, wicked act, and Fighting during the Hajj. Whatever righteous act you will perform will be known to Allah. Take with you provision for the journey (for Hajj), and the best provision is righteousness. So fear me, 0 men of understanding !" -(Baqarah: 197)
This is merely the main outline of the forms of worship which are well known and generally practiced in Islam and they are its basic pillars. They show us what a deep relationship is there between religion and morality and how strong and lasting is this relationship. How varying are these forms of worship in their spirit and appearance from one another, but in those aim and purpose how close they are, which the holy Prophet declared his main objective.
Therefore, saint (prayer), sawm (fasting), zakat, Hajj and other forms of worship like these are the stepping stones for real perfection, and are the means of cleanliness and purity that make life secure and magnificent. On account of high attributes and noble qualities that are the inalienable parts and the consequences of these forms of worship, they have been given a very high and important place in Allah's religion.
If these forms of worship do not purify the hearts of men, if they do not nourish best qualities in those who observe them, and if they do not improve and make firm the relationship between Allah and His slaves, then there is nothing left for men but destruction and devastation.
Allah says: "Surely, he who appears before his Lord as a criminal, there is hell for him, in which he will neither die nor will he live. And he who will appear before Him as a faithful, who has performed good deeds--for all such people there are high positions, ever green paradise, beneath which canals will be flowing; they will live in them for ever. who adopts purity." This is the reward for him (Taha: 74-76)
WEAKNESS OF MORALS--PROOF OF LACK OF FAITH
~ Faith is imperfect without morality
Faith is such a power that it keeps men away from low attributes and mean acts, and encourages him to achieve high attributes and clean morals. That is why whenever Allah called his slaves towards virtue or whenever He wanted them to hate evil, He declared it as an essential requirement of the Faith in their hearts. For example when He, in Surah Tauba, commands men to adopt righteousness and to speak truth, He addresses them as ''0 you who have faith" (or "O you who believe"): "0 you, who have faith ! Fear Allah and be with the truthful people." (Tauba: 119)
Allah's Messenger has nicely explained it that when faith is firm and belief is strong, then strong and lasting moral will be developed, and if the moral character is low then faith will accordingly be weak.
A man, who is immodest and ill-mannered and who adopts bad habits without caring for others, is like the person about whom the holy Prophet has said: "Modesty and faith are twins. One who gives up one has to lose the other too."
Once the Prophet passed by an Ansari who was scolding his brother about his immodesty. The Prophet advised him to let him go as modesty was a branch of faith.
A man who harasses his neighbor and makes him suffer any kind of damage is called cruel and stone hearted by the religion. In this connection the decision of the Prophet is:
"By God, he cannot be a Momin ;by God, he cannot be a Momin; by God, he cannot be a Momin. He was asked: 'who"? He answered: 'He from whose misdeeds his neighbor is not safe." --(Bukhari)
The holy Prophet advises his companions to keep away from the talk that is trash, the acts that are wicked, and the deeds that are senseless. He says: "A person who believes in Allah and the Hereafter should speak about good things or else should keep quiet." --(Bukhari)
In this way through the truth of faith and by means of its perfection noble qualities are nurtured and developed and they are guarded and kept secure till they bear fruits.
Rows disrupted, hearts sad, prayers tasteless
However, you will also find such people, who will be calling themselves Muslims, yet they will be lazy in offering compulsory prayers, and will be posing in the public as if they are very keen on establishing these prayers. But they will not lag behind at the same time in acting in such a way that will be contrary to the demands of the noble character and perfect faith. Such people have been warned by the holy Prophet and the Ummah has been asked to be careful of them.
A man who commits the mistake of performing the various forms of worship without understanding their significance can only be a man who had not understood the spirit of the worshiper has been unable to rise to that standard.
Many times even a child can copy the movements of salat and is able to repeat what is recited during the prayer. Sometimes an actor also offers prayer with all humility and concentration, and performs all the necessary rites.
But these kinds of movements do not benefit belief or meet the purpose. There is only one way of offering prayers in the best manner or performing other forms of worship that will never bring out wrong results, and that is: high moral character. Any person who has this attribute in him, his prayer is useful. But one who is deprived of this attribute, his worshiping is useless.
It is narrated by Imam Ahmed: "One person asked the Prophet: 'O Messenger of Allah ! a certain woman is very famous for her prayers, fasting and many charities, but she talks rudely with her neighbors. Tell me, what will be her fate ?' He replied that she would go to Hell. Then that person asked: "O Messenger of Allah! Another woman does not do much by way of prayers and fasting ; gives pieces of cheese in charity and does not harm her neighbors. He replied: 'She is of the Paradise.' "
This reply gives an idea of the high value attached to good character. It also shows that charity is a collective prayer whose benefit reaches the society. For this reason there is no room for any reduction in them. As salat and fasting are apparently individual forms of worship, a little relaxation--to a very little extent--is allowed in not making very elaborate arrangements about them.
The holy Prophet did not merely answer a casual question that explains the relationship between morality and the religion, shows its connection with the correct forms of worship, and forms the basis of reform and improvement in the world and salvation in the next world.
The problem of morality was much more important. It was necessary that he should have continually provided guidance to his followers. He should have persisted in giving good advice to them so that its importance takes root in the mind and heart and it becomes quite clear that faith, goodness and morality are all dependent on each other. They are connected with each other and none can separate them.
Who is poor?
One day the Prophet asked his dear companions whether they knew who was poor. They answered that poor was one who had no dirham or dinar (money)' He said: "In my Ummah, the poor is that man who would appear on the Day of the Judgment before Allah; he had offered prayer; he had paid Zakat ;he had observed fast; but he would have abused somebody, he would have falsely accused some one; he would have unauthorizedly taken some one else's property; he would have murdered some one; would have hit some body. All his virtues would be given to his victims. If his Virtues are finished before his wicked deeds are finished, then the errors and sins of the victims would be given to him and he would be thrown into the Hell.'' (Muslim)
Such a man is really poor. His condition is like that trader who has goods worth one thousand rupees but he is a debtor for two thousand rupees. How can such a man be called rich ?
A religious man who offers certain prayers or performs certain forms of worship, but even after that performs certain evil deeds, behaves rudely with the people, treats poor and helpless people cruelly, how then such a man will be called righteous?
The Prophet has explained by quoting an example. He said that the best moral character melts errors like water and bad morals spoil man's record as vinegar spoils honey.
Identification of a hypocrite
When wickedness is nourished in the self, and the loss caused by it has become manifest and the danger has increased, then that man has come out of his religion like a nude who has come out of his garments. At that time his claim of righteousness or faith would be false.
What will be the value of religiousness without good morality? How is it possible that a man should belong to Allah and at the same he should be a victim of corruption?
This relationship between faith and morality is clearly shown in the hadith of the holy Prophet: "The man who has these three habits is a hypocrite even if he observes fast, offers prayers, performs umra (pilgrimage), and calls himself a Muslim: when he talks he speaks untruth, when he makes a promise he does not keep it, and when he is given something in trust, he commits dishonesty." -( Muslim ).
In another tradition, he has said: "There are three signs of a hypocrite: when he talks he speaks untruth, when he makes a pro mise he does not keep it, and when he makes a contract he deceives, although he may be offering prayers, observing fast and calling himself a Muslim."
He has also said: "There are four habits, in whosoever they are found, he will be a complete hypocrite. If any one of these habits is found in a man, he will have one habit of disruption till he gives it up, when something is given to him in trust he commits dishonesty, when he talks he tells lies, when he makes a contract he deceives, and when he quarrels he starts abusing. -( Bukhari ).