Assalaam O Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh! The hadeeth of Nawaas ibn Sam'aan al-Anasaaree (رضي الله عنه) whereby he asked the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) what is righteousness and what is sin? Thus he replied, "Righteousness is good character and sin is that which makes one uneasy within himself and he dislikes that people become aware of it." (Saheeh: hadeeth number 295)
The shaykh (al-'Uwayshah) then stated in his explanation of the hadeeeth that his statement, "Righteousness is good character..." is like the hadeeth that states, "Hajj is 'Arafah." Or "The deen is naseehah." Meaning a very significant aspect of hajj is 'Arafah, a very important aspect of the deen is naseehah, likewise one of the most important aspect of righteousness is that one possesses good character.
As for the second part of the hadeeth, "And sin is that which makes one uneasy within himself and he dislikes that people become aware of it." Meaning that you do not feel at ease when doing that particular act. Thus the hadeeth illustrates that there are two signs that an act is a sin:
The fact that within your conscience you are uneasy, for Allaah placed in our innate nature a sense of right and wrong, hence you do not feel completely comfortable doing that particular act, and it is only because we let our desires overpower us that we go ahead and do these sins regardless.
The fact that you hate that people should know of it, for it is human nature to like others to be aware of our good deeds, hence the opposite is true which is indicative that this deed is a sin.
Then I continued where we left off by discussing the last of the ten signs of good character, which was giving gifts and being generous, and that the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said,"Give gifts to each other and you will love each other." Narrated by Al-Bukhaaree. As for being generous, one of the best examples for us is the hadeeth of Anas ibn Maalik (رضي الله عنه) who said, "The Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was never asked for anything because of Islaam except that he gave it. Indeed he gave a man so much sheep that they could have filled the space between two mountains. So he went back to his people saying, 'O my people accept Islaam because Muhammad gives like a man who does not fear poverty.' Even though this man would accept Islaam only for worldly reasons, except that it would not be before long that Islaam become more beloved to him than this world and everything that is in it." Narrated by Muslim.
Shaykh ibn al-Uthaymeen said, "Look at the overwhelming effect the generosity of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) had on this man to the point he himself became a caller to Islaam, thus he said: O my people accept Islaam. Notice he did not say; accept Islaam and you will enter into Jannah or be saved from the Fire. Rather he said: accept Islaam because Muhammad gives like a man who does not fear poverty. That is he will give you a lot.
So we learn from this hadeeth that we should not distance ourselves from the kuffaar and the sinful Muslims whereby the shaytaan would play with them. Rather we should soften their hearts (towards Islaam) and bring them closer to us by having good character, treating them kindly, and being generous towards them."
Good character can be either an innate quality or an acquired habit
I then tied everything together by by mentioning three ways that one can obtain good character. They being:
Realizing the fact that for some people it is just the way Allaah created them. That is, some people even before accepting Islaam, they were always kind, friendly, generous, modest, obedient to their to parents, never drank, smoke, fornicate etc. Whereas for other it is just something they have to make really strong, sincere effort to change their bad habits and characteristics. And the proof of this is the hadeeth of al-Ashaj 'Abdal-Qays whereby the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) told him,"Indeed you possess two characteristics that Allaah and His Messenger loves, al-hilm and al-anah." Then he asked, "Is this something that acquired as I grew older or is it something that Allaah innately created me with?" He said, "It something that Allaah innately created you with" So he said, "Alhamdulillaah who natured me with two characteristics that Allaah and His Messenger loves." Narrated by Muslim.
Shaykh ibn al-Uthaymeen defined al-Hilm as being forbearing whenever someone says or does something to you that gets you highly irritated. Whereas al-anah is to be deliberate about ones affairs and not to act in haste, for indeed most people bring about their own perdition because of their impulsive actions.
Hence when Abu Bakr was asked how come he never drank alcohol during the times of jahiliyyah he said, "I used to safeguard my honor and dignity because the one who drinks alcohol destroys his mind and his dignity."
Likewise when the revelation first came to the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and he went to his wife Khadeejah (رضي الله عنها) saying, "Cover me, cover me." She told him, "Allaah would never let you down because you maintain your family ties, you feed the poor, and you help the weak." Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.
Even the mushrik women during the times of jahiliyyah had good character in spite of their shirk and kufr, as in the case of Hind (رضي الله عنها) who she and her husband Abu Sufiyaan (رضي الله عنه) were known as fierce enemies of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) before they became Muslim. Thus when she and the other women were about to gave the pledge of allegiance to the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم), amongst the conditions of which were; that they do not commit shirk, that they will not steal, that they will not commit zina, that they will not kill their children, and that they will slander. She said surprisingly,"Does a free woman (i.e. who is not a slave) commit zina? We used to be ashamed to do such and act during the times of jahiliyyah, so much less in Islaam." See Ibn Katheer tafseer of surah al-Mumtahinah. Ibn Hajar said there is some weakness in this isnaad.
However this is not the case for most of us as we have to work very hard on ourselves to obtain these good characteristics. Hence the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said,"Hilm is gained by forcing oneself to be forbearing, knowledge is gained by studying. Whoever seeks good would obtain it and whoever tries his best to avoid evil will avoid it." Shaykh al-Albaanee declared the hadeeth saheeh (Saheeh al-Jaami': 2328)
Likewise when the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) came to the Ansaar and they asked him for some wealth, so he said, "If I have any wealth I would not withhold it from you, and whoever seeks to be dignified (i.e. by not begging others) Allaah will make him dignified, whoever seek to be patient Allaah will make him patient, and whoever seeks not having to depend on others, Allaah will suffice his needs." Narrated by Muslim
Making du'aa for good character
The second point was making du'aa to Allaah to bless us with good character as Ai'shah(رضي الله عنها) narrated that the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to say, "O Allaah beautify my character as You have beautified my body." Narrated by Ibn Hibbaan and Ibn Hajar said it is saheeh in Buloogh. Likewise one of the opening du'aas the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to say before he began reciting al-Faatihah was, "Guide me to the best of characters, to which no- one can guide except You, and save me from the worst of characters, from which no-one can save except You." Narrated by Muslim. See the Prophet's prayer by al-Albaanee for the full du'aa.
Choosing friends with good character
"The believer who recites the Qur'aan is like a citrus fruit - its fragrance is pleasing and its taste is sweet. The believer who does not recite the Qur'aan is like a dry date - it has no fragrance but its taste is sweet. The hypocrite who recites the Qur'aan is like a basil - its fragrance is sweet, but its taste is bitter. The hypocrite who does not recite the Qur'aan is like a colocynth - it has no smell, and its taste is bitter. And the parable of a righteous companion is like the one who sells oils and perfumes; if you do not but something from him, you would at least leave smelling good. And the parable of a sinful companion is like the one who is a blacksmith, if he does not blacken your clothes, you would at least leave smelling full of smoke." Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim. Regarding the example of the believer who recites the Qur'aan, the scholars have said the reason why a citrus was used is because if its many uses such as a drink (lemonade, orange juice), as an air freshener, as a cleansing agent (cuts grease), as a remedy for colds, upset stomach, indigestion, etc. However, the point of reference is this regard is the part that describes the one who accompanies the blacksmith and the one who accompanies the person who sells oils and perfume.
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