In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.
Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course “The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained” provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves with when seeking the attainment of taqwa. This article will be an introduction to good character and the blameworthy traits of the heart.
Good Character and the Blameworthy Traits of the Heart
When learning about the importance of having good character, we’re often provided with a list of virtuous actions that we can do to attain it. However, the technical definition and root causes of good character often go amiss.
Good character arises when the self is in a state of wellness such that it inclines easily towards the most praiseworthy of actions. The character has two components; relating to
- how you are with Allah and
- how you are with people.
Good character with Allah is to be fully open and accepting concerning His commands and prohibitions. Having a good character in this context means that one doesn’t find their obligations burdensome and heavy to fulfill. Instead, it comes with ease and gratification—for they know it allows them to fulfill their existential purpose in this world.
One is considered to have good character with people when they are easygoing and undemanding about their rights going unfulfilled. This can be in regards to any form of injustice one might experience at the hands of others. Yet, despite being wrongfully treated, they completely fulfill the rights of others.
In summary, it is facing what others do to you with virtuousness and conducting your actions to please Allah. And the best of characters is that of our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).
A good litmus test of the state of your heart is to ask yourself how you feel towards the commands of Allah. Do you rush to fulfill your obligations? Are you avid to do extra good? Do you try to leave even the permitted things for the sake of Allah? The heart is the seat of good character, so peer into it and seek to discern your attitudes and feelings towards Allah Most High with honesty.
In order to correctly identify good characteristics, we must analyze the blameworthy traits of the heart. This is because things are made known by their opposites. This article series will explore the many blameworthy character traits individually and mention their harms, causes, treatment, and virtuous opposites. We’ll elucidate the pitfalls of human nature that we must avoid and the beautiful virtues that we must adorn ourselves with.
Blameworthy Traits of Character: Being Non-belief in Allah Most High and His Signs
Imam Birgivi mentions 60 blameworthy traits of character, the first—and worst—being non-belief in Allah Most High and His signs. This trait requires deep consideration because it is contrary to the very purpose of our existence. Everything virtuous shields us against disbelief. And all good qualities of character arise from and are cultivated by its opposite: faith in Allah Most High.
Non-belief is the most ruinous of destructive vices. So much so that many of the Prophetic supplications revolve around the protection and preservation of faith.
- The supplications for sleeping;
- The morning supplications;
- Ayat al-Kursi;
- Ending of Sura al-Baqara [Quran, 2:286];
- Sura al-Ikhlas [Quran, 112];
- Sura al-Falaq [Quran, 113];
- Sura al-Nas [Quran, 114].
Many of us learn these supplications and verses but are entirely heedless of their meanings when reciting them. The transformative impacts of these words arise when recited with a consciousness of their meanings. They are a bridge to presence with Allah. So instead of reciting for the sake of reciting, seek Him with sincerity and consciousness.
Heart: Container of Faith
Remember that your heart is a container for faith. And all your virtue is built upon faith. And your moral compass is set straight through faith. So embrace it and fill your heart with it. Affirm and confirm that all that has come from Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is true and from Allah Most High. Faith protects against non-belief.
And Allah is the Best of Guides.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani
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The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.