The Prophet’s moral teachings show that Islam had come to illuminate the lives of the people with the light of virtue and good manners, to create in them brightness of character, and to fill their laps with the pearls of good conduct. It made the stages that came in the process of achieving this great objective as an important part of the prophethood.
Similarly it declared all attempts to create disruption in these stages as an expulsion from the religion and equivalent to throwing away the yoke of faith from one’s neck.
The position of morality is not like that of the means of pleasures and luxuries, from which indifference may be possible. But morality is the name of the principles of life which the religion must adopt and must care for the respect of its standard-bearers.
Islam has enumerated all these virtues and principles and has encouraged its followers to make them parts of their lives, one after another.
If we collect all the sayings of the holy Prophet about the importance of good moral character, then a voluminous book will be prepared, about which many of the great reformers will be ignorant.
The Prophet’s Moral Teachings
To enumerate these virtues we quote some examples of how strongly and emphatically Islam has called upon the people to adopt good moral character.
Usamah ibn Sharik says:
“We were sitting in the presence of the Messenger of Allah so quietly as if birds were perched on our heads. Nobody had the courage to open his mouth. In the meanwhile some people came and asked: “Amongst the slaves of God who is the dearest to Him.” The Prophet replied: “One who has the best moral character.” (lbn Habban)
Another tradition has it:
“They asked what is the best thing given to man ?” He replied: “Best moral character.” (At-Tirmidhi)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked: “Which Muslim has the perfect faith ?” He answered: “He who has the best moral character.” (At-Tabarani)
`Abdullah ibn `Ammar has reported:
“I have heard the Prophet as saying: ‘Should I not tell you who amongst you is the most likeable person to me and who will be the nearest to me on the Day of the Judgment l’ He repeated this question twice or thrice. The people requested him to tell them about such a person. He said ‘He who amongst you has the best moral character.’” (Ahmad)
In another hadith, he has said:
“On the Day of Judgment there will be nothing weightier in the balance of a momin than the goodness of character. Allah dislikes an obscene and a rude talker and the bearer of a good moral character reaches to the level of the observer of the prayer and fasting, on account of his character.” (Ahmad)
There would be nothing surprising if such teachings were to come from a philosopher who was busy in his campaign of moral-reform. But the great surprise is that these teachings come from a man who strived for establishing a great new faith, when all other religions turn their attention first only towards the performance of worship and such other religious rites.
Between Belief and Morality
The last Prophet gave a call for the performance of various forms of worship and for the establishment of such a government that was involved in a long-drawn war with its large number of enemies.
In spite of the expansion of his religion and the immense increase in the various tasks of his followers, the Prophet informs them of the fact that on the Day of the Judgment there will be nothing weightier in their balance than their good moral character, then definitely this reality is not hidden from him that in Islam the value of morality is very high.
The fact is that if religion is the name of good conduct between man and man, then on the other hand in its spiritual sense it is also the name of the best relationship between man and his God, and in both these aspects there is the same reality.
There are many religions which give this glad tiding that you may embrace any belief, your sins will be washed away and offering fixed prayers of any religion will cancel your mistakes.
But Islam does not believe in this. According to it, these benefits will be available only when the axis and centre of belief is a conscious step towards virtue and payment of the compulsory dues, and when the proposed worship can become the real source of washing away the sins and generating the real perfection. In other words evil can be removed by those virtues which man makes his own and by which he is able to reach high and lofty standards.
Goodness of Character
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has very forcefully emphasized these valuable principles so that the Ummah may understand it very clearly that the value of morality may not go down in its eyes and the importance of mere forms and shapes may not increase.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) has reported:
“Allah’s Messenger has said: ‘A slave achieves, by means of the goodness of his character, great position and high honour in the Hereafter, though he may be weak in matters of worship; but on account of his wickedness of character he is thrown in the lowest recesses of the Hell.” (At-Tabarani)
`A’ishah narrates: “I have heard the Prophet as saying: ‘mu’min (believer), by goodness of his character, achieves the high position of the one who observes fast and offers prayers.” (Abu Dawud)
Ibn `Umar is reported to have narrated: “I have heard the Prophet as saying :
“A Muslim who observes moderation in matter of worship, on account of the goodness of his character and decency achieves the position of that man who observes fast and recites Allah’s verses during prayers in the night.” (Ahmad)
Abu Hurairah has quoted the Prophet as saying: “A mu’min‘s (believer) nobility is his religiousness, his tolerance is his intelligence, and his lineage is his goodness of character.” (Al-Hakim)
Abu Dharr has narrated: “Successful is the man who had purified his heart for faith, kept his heart on the right lines, his tongue was truthful, his self was content, and his nature was on the right path.” (Ibn Hibban)
The article is excerpted from the book “Muslim Character” , an American-English translation of Muhammad Al-Ghazali’s Khuluq Al-Muslim published by Islam Presentation Committee (IPC), Kuwait.