Good conduct is the characteristic of the best of the Messengers and is the best action of the righteous. It is – no doubt – half of religion, the fruit of the efforts of the pious and the practice of the devoted worshipper. Bad characters are lethal poison and lead to shameful consequences.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I have only been sent to perfect good characters.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (273) and classed as Saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (45(
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was asked about that which will mostly admit people to Paradise. He said: “Fear of Allaah and a good character.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2004); he said it is Saheeh ghareeb. It was classed as Saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi
Hence Islam paid a great deal of attention to laying down guidelines for treating diseases of the heart (i.e. spiritual diseases) and ways of acquiring good morality, which is regarded as one of the most important duties, because no heart will be free of sicknesses. If the heart is neglected, sicknesses will accumulate. No soul is free of inclinations which, if they are given free rein, will lead to doom in this world and in the Hereafter.
This kind of medicine requires profound knowledge of reasons and causes, then it needs hard work to remedy it and set things right, in order to reach a successful outcome. Allah says:
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا
“Indeed he succeeds who purifies his own self” [al-Shams 91:9]
Attitude reflects how a person thinks and the way he is inside. Just as, in general, a person’s outward form cannot be beautiful if only the eyes are beautiful and not the nose, mouth and cheek, and everything must be beautiful in order for the entire outward form to be beautiful, so too there are four requirements of inward beauty which must all be met in order for one’s attitude to be good or beautiful. If all four requirements are met and balanced then a good attitude is acquired, these characteristics are: strong knowledge, control of anger, control of desire, and a proper balance between these three aspects.
The one who acquires and balances these characteristics is a man of good character in general, and from it stems all good qualities.
This balance may be achieved in two ways:
By the blessing of Allah, as part of one's inherent nature.
By acquiring these characteristics through effort and training, i.e., pushing oneself to do the actions dictated by the desired characteristic.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Knowledge is acquired by seeking it, and patience is acquiring by striving to be patient. The one who strives to attain good will be given it, and the one who strives to protect himself from evil will be protected. Narrated by al-Khateeb and others from the hadeeth of Abud-Darda’; classed as Hasan by al-Albaani.
If a person wants to attain the characteristic of humility, when he is inclined to arrogance, the way he does it is by persisting in doing the actions of the humble for a long time, striving and pushing himself until that becomes one of his characteristics, and it becomes second nature to him and easy for him.
All praiseworthy characteristics that are prescribed in Islam may be acquired in this way. Religious characteristics will never become entrenched in the soul unless the soul gets accustomed to doing all good habits, unless it gives up all bad habits, and persists in doing good deeds like one who loves good deeds and enjoys doing them, and hates bad deeds and is pained by them.
The likeness of the soul and the way to treat it to rid it of bad characteristics and make it attain good morality is that of the body, when treating it to rid it of disease and bring it good health.
Just as the body is not created perfect in the first place, rather it is made perfect by rearing and food, similarly the soul is also created imperfect but with the potential to become perfect, and it can only be perfected by means of education, discipline and nourishment with knowledge. Allah has summed up all of that in His Holy Book, when He said :
وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ * فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ
“But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts * Verily, Paradise will be his abode” Q 79:40-41.