A very important element for our ummah’s rise is morals and good manners. Let us face it; we have a problem today when it comes to manners. Some new converts to Islam say, “Al-hamdulillah (all praises be to Allah), I became a Muslim before visiting any Muslim country.” What they mean is that our behaviors could be very discouraging and repelling. It’s a painful sentence but it reflects the reality of many Muslims. Any civilization requires three essential factors to rise and maintain its status: the material factor, the spiritual factor, and the moral factor. The Islamic civilization was the only one to balance all three factors together and that’s why it prevailed for over one thousand and three hundred years.
The Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawky once said, “Morals keep a nation alive. And so if their morals go, they go.”
Do you know that is how Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) summarized his message? He said, “Verily, I have been sent to perfect noble character.” The goals of his prophethood were to perfect good manners and give us an example of perfect human behavior. This hadith itself shows how excellent his noble character was. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) didn’t say that he was sent to “establish” noble character, but instead he said to “perfect”. It means that he is acknowledging the goodness already in people founded by previous prophets and righteous people and that he sees his role as just adding necessary final touches to make it perfect. This is how the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) summarized his message. This is how important morals are in our life.
Some people would say, “But I expected that the goal of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood was for mankind to know about Allah.” Certainly, but how do we know about Allah (SWT)? We do so by learning about His Names and Attributes. For example, from amongst His 99 Names are Al-Haleem (The Forbearing), As-Saboor (The Most Patient), Al-Kareem (The Generous), Al-Wadood (The Loving), Ar-Ra’oof (The Compassionate) and many others. But what does this have to do with our morals? We are required as Allah’s servants to try our best to imitate Allah’s Names and Attributes, while always bearing in mind that nothing is like Him and that He is far, far above and greater than all of His creations. We have to try our best to be generous, patient and loving, while always being aware that we are Allah’s servants and nothing is comparable to Him.
Another person may say, “But I thought that the goal of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood was to teach us how to worship Allah.” Of course, but the goal behind each and every type of worship we perform is perfecting our character. Take for example the five pillars of Islam. After bearing witness that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad (SAWS) is His Messenger (the shahada), comes establishing prayers, paying zakat, fasting Ramadan, and performing Hajj. Allah says about Prayers, “And establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds” (TMQ, 29:45). The Messenger of Allah said, “He who his prayer (salat) doesn’t prevent him from shameful and unjust deeds did not pray.” Allah says in a Hadith Qudsy, “I only accept prayers from he who has mercy upon the poor, the wayfarer, the widow and the injured.” If your prayers didn’t install in you these qualities and feelings, then you really didn’t pray, you were just moving up and down, but you didn’t benefit from the prayers.
The same thing applies to zakat. Allah says, “Of their goods, take alms, that so you might purify and sanctify them” (TMQ, 9:103). Purification here means to rid the believers from their ill behaviors and manners, in other words, to perfect their characters. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said, “Smiling in the face of your brother is a sadaqa (a charitable deed), and your enjoining of good and forbidding of evil is a sadaqa, and guiding a person that is not familiar with the area is a sadaqa, and seeing for a person that can’t see, is a sadaqa.” As if the goal behind giving a sadaqa is improving your character! The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “The best type of sadaqa, is a man feeding his wife in her mouth!” Treating your wife with love and care is a sadaqa. He also said, “And pouring water from your bucket to your brother’s is a sadaqa.“ Giving your brother water is a sadaqa, and all these things help us improve our character.
The same concept applies to fasting. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “Fasting is not only to restrain from food and drink, fasting is to refrain from obscene (acts). If someone verbally abuses you or acts ignorantly towards you, say (to them) ‘I am fasting; I am fasting.’” As if the day you fast is the day you train yourself to improve your manners, a day that helps you perfect your character.
Another example is Hajj. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj.” (TMQ, 2:197). It is as if Hajj is an intensive training period for you to improve your manners and character. Ten days of good manners. If someone steps on your foot in the crowd or bumps you over, you remind yourself instantly that you are in the Hajj and your manners must be at their highest and you remember the hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) says, “Whosoever performed Hajj only for Allah, did not become intimate with women and did not commit any disobedience, he will return home pure (of sins) as he was on the day he was born.”
Have you seen how prayers, fasting, zakat, and Hajj all are supposed to result in an improvement in our manners and character, and that’s why Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily, I have been sent to perfect noble character.”
The main purpose of Allah’s messages throughout history is instilling morals and good manners in mankind. That’s why Allah (SWT) said to Prophet Musa (AS), “Go to Pharaoh for he has indeed transgressed all bounds, and say to him, ‘Have you a desire to purify yourself? and that I guide you to your Lord, so you may fear Him?'” (TMQ, 79:17). As if purifying him from inside and helping him know his Lord are two sides of the same coin.
Another example is when Ja’far Ibn-Abu-Taleb was standing in front of the an-Najashy (Negus), King of Abyssinia explaining to him what Islam was. An-Najashy asked, “What is this religion wherein you have become separate from your people, though you have not entered my religion nor that of any other of the folk that surround us?” Ja’far replied, “O King, we were people steeped in ignorance, worshiping idols, eating unsanctified carrion, committing abominations, and the strong would devour the weak. Thus we were, until Allah sent us a Messenger from out of our midst, one whose lineage we knew, and his veracity and his worthiness of trust and his integrity. He called us unto God, that we should testify to His Oneness and worship Him and renounce what we and our fathers had worshiped in the way of stones and idols; and he commanded us to speak truly, to fulfill our promises, to respect the ties of kinship and the rights of our neighbors, and to refrain from crimes and from bloodshed. “
The first thing that Ja’far did was that he described the state of immorality they were in before Islam. The second thing was that he introduced the Messenger of Allah as a person with a noble character, and then he told an-Najashy all the things that Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) taught them, and they all were things that encouraged morals and good manners. Ja’far didn’t even mention the forms of worship or rituals in Islam, all he focused on was morals and believing in Allah alone.
What’s the take home message from all this? Brothers and sisters, unfortunately we have separated between worship and good manners. There are examples of Muslims that practice all the rituals on time and memorize Qur’an, but have bad manners. Another example is the one of a sister that insists on wearing the hijab, but at the same time has very bad manners. On the other hand, there is the opposite extreme of a non-practicing Muslim that has a very noble character. Both examples are rejected and both examples give a false impression of Islam. We need to balance between both of these aspects; practicing Islam in the form of rituals and acquiring knowledge and also in the form of good manners.
Let us talk more about the strong link between faith (iman) and morals (akhlaq). The Messenger of Allah said, “By Allah, he has no faith! By Allah, he has no faith! By Allah, he has no faith!” The Companions asked, “Who O Messenger of Allah?” To which he replied, “Whose neighbor is not safe from his trouble.” How is your relationship with your neighbors? Do you turn the music on so loud that they are annoyed? Do you barbeque in the evening and make their mouth water yet never offer them some? Do you harm them with your garbage? Take care! The Messenger of Allah said, “By Allah, he has no faith!” Treat your neighbor with good manners so that your faith may be complete. See the correlation between faith and good manners? The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was told of a woman who prays and fasts but harms her neighbors. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “She is in the Hell Fire.” On the other hand, when the Prophet (SAWS) was told of another woman who only prays the obligatory prayers and fasts in Ramadan but doesn’t harm her neighbors, he said, “She is in Paradise.” Can you imagine how serious it is?
Prophet Muhammd said, “Modesty and faith (iman) are paired together. If one of them is removed, the other is removed as well.” If you don’t have modesty then you don’t have proper iman. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “He who has no integrity and honesty, has no iman and who can’t keep his word, has no deen.” See how they are tightly linked? The Messenger (SAWS) said, “Faith has more than seventy branches. The supreme branch is the statement that, ‘There is no god except Allah,’ and the lowest branch is the removal of obstacles from the path. And modesty is a branch of faith.” So if you are driving on a highway and see a torn tire in the middle of the road and you pull over and remove it, that’s a sign that you have faith. Not only that, but modesty itself is a branch of faith. The Prophet (SAWS) once asked his Companions, “Do you know who is broke?” To which they replied, “Whoever has no money.” But the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) corrected them saying, “A broke person is he who comes on the Day of Judgment with prayers, fasting and zakat, but had swore at this person, and unjustly took the money of that person, and so this one takes from his good deeds, and that one takes from his good deeds. And when his good deeds are finished, the bad deeds will be taken from those whom he had harmed and dumped onto him and he was then dumped into the Hell Fire!” From over 14 centuries ago, the Messenger of Allah warned us of the unbalanced, mutated example of a Muslim.
How are we doing when it comes to morals and good manners? Sister, you have taken a great step forward and wore the hijab, but how are your manners? Please don’t give a bad example of a Muslim.
A Muslim is like a tree. The tree is watered and nourished by worshiping Allah and obeying Him, and the resulting fruits are good manners. Islam spread in Asia mainly because of the good manners of the merchants that were traveling there. People were amazed by their manners and when they found out that it’s because of Islam, they embraced Islam. Do you think that our manners today will attract non-Muslims to Islam? Be honest! Imagine if Muslims today once again had amazing manners, imagine how the West would react. They would no longer be able to propagate misconceptions about Islam because non-Muslims will be seeing true good examples of Muslims everyday. Each one of us must be a walking media station that advertises for Islam by improving his or her manners. Your good actions and behavior could have a greater effect than hours of talking about Islam.
In the Qur’an, when Allah described his servants, does He only describe them as people who only perform rituals, but also those with good character? In the following verses you will see that Allah mentions a characteristic related to rituals followed by one related to morals.
“The believers must (eventually) win through, Those who humble themselves in their prayers [ritual]; Who avoid vain talk [morals]; Who are active in deeds of charity [ritual];” (TMQ, 23:1-5).
In another example Allah says what can be translated as, “And the servants of (Allah the) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!” [morals]; Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing [ritual]; Those who say, “Our Lord! Avert from us the Wrath of Hell, for its Wrath is indeed an affliction grievous, “Evil indeed is it as an abode, and as a place to rest in” [ritual]; Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes) [morals]; Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god [ritual], nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication [morals]; – and any that does this (not only) meets punishment. (But) the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy, Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, And whoever repents and does good has truly turned to Allah with an (acceptable) conversion; Those who witness no falsehood, and, if they pass by futility, they pass by it with honorable [morals]; Those who, when they are admonished with the Signs of their Lord, droop not down at them as if they were deaf or blind; And those who pray, “Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” [ritual]; Those are the ones who will be rewarded with the highest place in heaven, because of their patient constancy: therein shall they be met with salutations and peace” (TMQ, 25:63-75).
Listen to this, its very powerful. The Messenger of Allah said,
“There is nothing in the Balance heavier than the good morals. Indeed the person of good morals will reach by them the rank of the person of fasts and prayers. “
“The most perfect believer in faith is the one who is best in moral character. The best of you are those who are the best to their spouses in manners. ”
“The closest one of you to me on the Day of Judgment is the one with the best manners. “
Do you want to be the Prophet’s neighbor in Paradise? Improve your character and manners and it will happen! Do you want your good deeds to be very, very heavy in the Balance on the Day of Judgment? Improve your character and manners. Do you want to perfect your faith? Improve your character and manners.
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “The most thing that let us people into Paradise is good manners.” It’s such an important aspect of Islam; morals and good manners are things that we cannot live without as Muslims. Our beloved Prophet (SAWS) said, “Indeed the believer by his good morals reaches the ranks of those who spend the whole night in prayer and whole day in fasting.”
Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn how to improve our manners, let us try to perfect our characters. We need this as an ummah, our ummah needs us to improve our manners if we really want to rise up once again. There is hope my dear brothers and sisters. We were just talking about the importance of giving sincere advice. Let us give each other sincere advice to improve our manners. Let us explain to our brothers and sisters the importance of good manners in Islam. Don’t be passive, do something for Islam, do something for your ummah. Be an admirable example of a Muslim.