Guest post by Tamim Popalzai
Part 1 can be accessed here.
Part II – Conscience & Compassion
Start: Video #2 – 7:31
What is our character? They say that our character is the set of words, actions, and habits that we display. That is why they say, watch your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, watch your words, your words become your actions, watch your actions, your actions become your habits, watch your habits, your habits formulate your character, and your character becomes your destiny.
And that is why from the very beginning, the Prophet (saws) would teach amongst all these lines, watch your thoughts. Now somebody might say, what do you mean watch your thoughts? I cannot control my thoughts. And we say, yes you are right, we do not control the thoughts that come into our mind, but we control the thoughts that we dwell in, this is important. So be careful about which thoughts you dwell in most.
What are the essential components of having a good character? There are six essential components as we are developing our character.
And by the way, remember this, having a good character is not a goal; having a good character is a process.
Start Video #3:
What is the difference? Anytime we mix our goals with our means, we become stagnant, that is a recipe for disaster. When we mix and confuse our goals with our means, that is a recipe for disaster. For example, building a mosque, is that a goal or a means? It’s a mean. So what happens is that we think our goal is to build a masjid and then what? Nothing, we already achieved our goal. So you become very stagnant. Is giving zakat a goal or a mean? It’s a mean in order to eliminate property. Fasting in ramadhan (in and of itself), is it a goal or a mean? It’s a mean so that you become a better person. Performing salah, it is a goal or a mean? It is a mean so that you become a more purified individual. Is going to hajj a goal or a mean, some people say I am saving money because I am going to hajj, why are you saving money, they say because my goal is to go to hajj. Hajj is not a goal, rather hajj should be a means. Some people go to hajj and they come back and you ask them how was hajj and they tell you hajj was beautiful, so many people, and it was crowded, and I saw people from all walks of life, I saw the blacks, I saw the whites, I saw the browns, and I saw the yellows…they come back from hajj and they are still racist. They’ve been to hajj, they saw the blacks, they saw the whites, and they come back and they are still racist. What good was the hajj for you? What good was it? They go hajj and they come back and you ask them, so what was the most difficult part of hajj, they tell you, man, going between Safa and Marwa was very difficult. They go to hajj and they come back and they are still a chauvinist. The most difficult part in hajj and you are imitating a women, you are commemorating what Hajar (as) did. You go and you come back and you’re a chauvinist and you’re still a racist an you say Hajj was great and that is not acceptable.
And part of it is because we have confused our means and our goals. When you set anything as a means, it becomes a process such as having a good character. It is a process and because it is a process you can never say I have good character. What it is, is that there is always room for improvement. You can always become a better person; it takes dedication to the process so that you are constantly working on your character.
So what are the essential components of having a good character? Six essential components and they all start with the letter C and the reason why we do it is because it is easier to memorize this way. So the six essential qualities all start with the letter C.
The first one is Conscience, or dhameer, as we would say in Arabic. What is conscience? Conscience is the inner moral compass that Allah subhaanahu wa ta`ala has given us, a moral compass inside by which we are able to feel the right from the wrong, by which we (sometimes) are able to tell the right from the wrong. And sometimes we speak about people and say, “have they no conscience?” How can they do this, don’t they have a heart, does their soul not speak to them? What happened to that conscience?
The Prophet (saw) gives the most beautiful examples to this. In the hadeeth, Wasiba ibn Ma`bad (ra), one time in the evening, he is thinking to himself and he said, tomorrow morning, after fajr, I’m going to the Prophet (saws) and I am going to ask, “Prophet of Allah, what is sin and what is righteousness (al birr and al ithm). He said the next morning I went to the masjid, he said when I got to the masjid, I was late, and the masjid was packed and I could not reach the Prophet (saws), he said, I saw him and he saw me and he smiled (saws). He said so I started pushing people to the side to walk towards the Prophet (saws) and people were pulling me down saying, “Wasiba, you came in late, you cannot go to the front, and I said, no, I want to talk to Mohammad (saws). He said when the Prophet (saws) began to smile, that encouraged me to go even more, so I was pushing people to the right and to the left. He said, and I went there, and I sat next to the Prophet of Allah (saws), he said I was so close when sitting next to him that my knees were touching his knees and my hands were placed on his thighs (saws). And then the Prophet (saws) said to me, O Wasiba, if you want, I can answer your question before you ask it and if you want, I can wait for you to ask your question and then I can answer it. Wasiba said, no Prophet of Allah, I want you to answer my question before I ask it. The Prophet (saws) said, Wasiba, you are here to inquire from me, what is righteousness and what is sin. And Wasiba said, I was amazed, I said, O Prophet of Allah, this is exactly why I came here for, then the Prophet (saws) said, “Al birru husnul khulooq, (he (saws) said righteousness is about having good character).
Start Video #4
And then he said, “Wal ithmu”, (as for as sin), ma haka fee sadrika wa khasheeta ay- ya-tali`a alayi Nas” he said, sin is that which pricks into your heart and you do not want it to be exposed to people. The beauty of this statement is that sin is that which pricks in your heart. It does not feel good, you can feel it, you can sense it. And sometimes when we listen to this voice, that moral compass in our head, then we are on good direction. But sometimes, we have that inner voice calling upon us, this is wrong, you should not be doing this and we ignore it. Next time it will call upon us, but we lose hearing of it, so it comes to the point that we become desynthesized. We do not listen to the calls of the inner voice that is in us. And that is why the Prophet (saws) in one hadeeth is describing the idea of siratul mustaqeem (the straight path) he said as you are taking your journey in life into this straight path, he said there will be people calling you from the sides and they are wanting to take you out of this straight path, he said ignore them, he said on the way, there will be a caller that tells you to remain on this path and then the Prophet (saws) comments on this and says, this is guidance or admonisher from Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala that he places in the heart of every believer. And the Prophet (saws) would sometimes address this idea. For example he would say, “laysa minna man baatta shab`anan wa jarrahu ja`ee`uu wa huwa ya`laam..(he said, he is not from us he who sleeps with a fully belly and his neighbor sleeps with an empty belly and he knows about it and he doesn’t do anything about it.) Have you no consceince, you go to bed with a full belly, you know your neighbor is going to bed with an empty belly with his children and there is something you can do about it, and you don’t do anything about it, have you no conscience? Is your conscience dead? So the Prophet (saws) would say you are not even one of us, you cannot really claim to be of the community of the believers, not acceptable.
So the first C is the C of Conscience. You must listen to your conscience.
One time, this man works as an accountant in his company and as an accountant you have access to the finances of the company and sometimes if you play a little bit with the numbers, you may end up getting something and you can end up doing something to yourself. So this accountant was once approached by a man and he explained a process to him by which the accountant will make money but technically he will not be at fault. So he said, I will think about it, he went home and he is thinking technically I am not wrong, but I am feeling this way about it. And then his mother came and he said mother, I would like to consult you about this thing and he explained the process to her, he said mom, I do this and I do that and by the end I will make the money, and technically I am not at fault. The mother said, son, I really did not understand much of what you said, with all these numbers and all these complicated terms, she said, I just don’t understand. But I will be very troubled on the day when my son tries to go to sleep but he is unable to go to sleep because something is bothering his conscience.
The point is be your own policeman, many times we can be technically right but ethically wrong, we can be technically right but it does not look good. So the Prophet (saws) said, you define sin from now on. If you have a living conscience, you are good enough to define what sin is. Because sin from now on is that which pricks into your heart and you do not want it exposed to people. Usually we try to hide things that we are ashamed of, so the Prophet (saws) said, the minute you feel this way that you have something pricking in your heart and you are ashamed of having it exposed, he said pay attention, what you are doing is not right. That is the first C. That is conscience.
The second component of having a good character is Compassion. Our ability to feel for others, our ability to feel with others, our ability to feel for the pain of those who are around us. And subhanAllah, sometimes you look into the world and you say that these people have no conscience and we say these people have no Rahma (compassion) in their hearts, how can they allow things like this to go on. And many times by the way, the problems we see in the world, the poverty that is going on in the world, the starvation that happens in the world, it is not because of lack of resources. There is so much resources in the world. Throughout history of mankind, no time was food production ever as much as we have it nowadays. It is not that earth cannot cater to our need but the earth cannot cater to our greed. There is a lot of resources, but there is not enough compassion. Let me give you an example. The three richest people in the world have more money than the 48 poorest countries in the world (combined). What happened to the rahma, what happened to the compassion, where has it gone? And that is why the Prophet (saws) would speak about the idea of rahma. As a believer, you must be a rahma for those around you. In fact the Prophet (saws) would say, ar-raahimuna yarhamahumur Rahmaan yaumul qiyyama…(those who are compassionate in this world, Allah will be compassionate towards them in the hereafter.
Don’t we all the time say, Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem, (In the name of Allah, the Most compassionate, the Most Merciful) So what good is it to know that Allah is compassionate but we ourselves at a human level do not become an embodiment of that compassion.
And that is why we see in the hadeeth and in the life of the Prophet (saws), he was the most compassionate. But see brothers and sisters, it is easy to be compassionate to those who deserve it. It is easy to have your heart moved by somebody who is sick, by somebody who is poor, by somebody who is in need, its easy to have your heart moved by this. And remember, being kind to those who are kind to you does not make you kind and being good to those who are good to you does not make you good either. Real compassion is when it is least expected.
One example. Ibn Umar (ra) goes to the market after the death of the Prophet (saws) and as he is in the market, he chooses the things he wanted to buy some vegetables, some fruits, and he puts it in his bag and he puts his hands in his pocket and he is about to take the money out to give it to the guy and it turns out that somebody has stolen the money of ibn Umar (ra). So he looked to the guy selling the vegetables and said I’m sorry my money has been stolen. So the man calls upon the people in the market, “ya ahlas-sooq, (o people of the market), inna ibn Umara qad sooriq (he said ibn Umar has been robbed), fad-du` ala saariqihi. (So call upon Allah to destroy the person who took ibn Umar’s money). So everyone raises his hand and makes a du`aa, O Allah curse the person who took ibn Umar’s wealth, etc. And then Ibn Umar raises his hands and what does he say and everyone is listening, what is Ibn Umar going to pray for. So he raises his hands and says, “Allahuma in kana muhtajan fabaraklahu feema akhatht, (Oh Allah, if the person took it and he was in need, then bless this money for him). Allahuma wa in kanaa saariqan, fajallaha akhira dhunibeehi..(Oh Allah, if he is a true thief, then make this one the last of his sins).
Start Video #5 – 2:09
Real compassion is when you show to those who do not necessarily deserve it. That is compassion.
And in a hadeeth, the Prophet (saws). Here are the people of Mecca after the conquest of Mecca and these are the people that tortured, persecuted, and boycotted the Prophet (saws) and his companions. Everyone is present in front of him and he says, What do you think I should do with you people of Mecca? You know fully well and you know very well what it is that you have done to me and my companions and the people of Mecca make a plea. “Akhun kareem, wa ibn akhun kareem, (Indeed a noble man, the son of a noble man). So the Prophet (saws) says, “eethabu fantumul talaaqaa” Go, you are all free to go. Why is this, because the Prophet (saws) was indeed a compassionate man.
And having a good character it also means that you are able to feel for others and you are able to feel with others. Two stories. One, when the prophet’s (saws) son died, the Prophet (saws) was crying and then one man came to him and saw tears coming down the cheeks of the Prophet (saws) and said, “ma hatha ya Rasooliah (saws)”? What is this (tears) O Prophet of Allah? The Prophet (saws) said it is the mercy that Allah places in the hearts of the believers. The man was surprised, why is Muhammad (saws) crying? The Prophet (saws) says how can you be surprised, this is the rahma that Allah places in the heart of the believers, do not be surprised about it.
One time, the Prophet (saw) was kissing and playing with Hassan and Husain (raa) and this man was sitting next to him and said what are you doing (O prophet), he said I have 10 children, I have not kissed a single one of them. The Prophet (saws) said, “wa ma af`alu lak in kanat qad nuziatu rahmatu min qalbik” (what can I do for you if mercy has been snatched away from your heart). So there is so much need for compassion in our world today. And Muslims ought to take the lead into this because our Messenger (saws) was Muhammad (saws).
To be continued on Part III.