Good Character Traits Described in the Qur'an
In the Qur'an, Allah gives a detailed account of the behavior, superior morality, and state of mind unique to believers. The fear of Allah that believers harbor in their hearts, their unchallengeable faith and unflagging pursuit of Allah's good pleasure, the trust they place in Allah, as well as their commitment, zeal, reliability, and many similar superior qualities, are provided by the Qur'an. Moreover, in His Book Allah praises such moral qualities as justice, compassion, modesty, temperance, perseverance, submission to Him, and avoidance of worthless talk.
Along with giving a detailed account of the model believer, the Qur'an dwells upon the lives of past believers and tells us how they prayed, behaved, talked among themselves and with others, and reacted to events. Through these examples, Allah draws our attention to those manners and conduct that please Him.
Considered from the standpoint of a society far removed from the Qur'an's definition of morality (a society of ignorance), socially acceptable behavior may vary according to time, conditions, cultures, events, and people. However, the character of those who adhere to the Qur'an's commands remain the same regardless of changing conditions, time, or location. A person of faith always complies with the Qur'an's commands and admonitions, and thereby displays moral excellence.
In this section, we will provide examples of behavior that Allah considers praiseworthy. However, rather than analyzing all of the character traits of believers that are discussed extensively in the Qur'an, we will draw attention to the subtleties of moral excellence and the divine purposes hidden in these subtleties.
The Concept of Cleanliness
Allah tells believers to clean themselves, for such a condition suits their spiritual state and nature. Cleanliness, considered a form of worship by believers, is therefore a source of great relief and pleasure to them. In many verses, Allah draws attention to believers' spiritual and physical purity. Our Prophet (saas) also stressed the importance of being clean: "Cleanliness is half of faith" Muslim. Below are some of the details related to being clean:
The Qur'anic understanding of cleanliness differs considerably from how it is understood in the society of ignorance. According to the Qur'an, being clean is a state experienced in one's soul. Such a cleanliness means that one has been entirely purified of his or her society's moral values, form of reasoning, and lifestyle that are in conflict with the Qur'an. In this way, the Qur'an provides spiritual relief to the believers.
This first step of being clean manifests itself in the mind's clarity. No doubt, this is a very important quality. The spiritual purity people experience in their souls manifests itself in all aspects of life, and thus makes such people's moral excellence obvious to everyone.
Spiritually pure people distance their minds from all forms of evil. They never experience malice, jealousy, cruelty, and selfishness, all of which are evil feelings adopted and displayed by those who are far from the Qur'an's concept of morality. Believers possess noble spirits, because they yearn for moral excellence. This is why, apart from their physical appearance, believers also pay attention to the purity of their souls, by deflecting from it all of the evil coming from ignorance, and encourage others to do likewise.
In this world, believers seek to establish an environment similar to that of Paradise. They seek to experience in this world anything that Allah promises to grant them in Paradise. As we understand from the Qur'an, physical cleanliness is one of the qualities possessed by the people of Paradise. The verse, "youths like hidden pearls" Surat at-Tur: 24 is self-explanatory. In addition to this, Allah informs us in many verses that in Paradise there will be "spouses of perfect purity" Surat al-Baqara: 25
Another verse in which Allah draws attention to physical cleanliness is the one that refers to Prophet Yahya (as), "We gave him ... purity from Us" Surah Maryam: 13.
The Qur'an also refers to the importance of clean clothes, as in:
Purify your clothes. Shun all filth. Surat al-Muddaththir: 4-5
Furthermore, physical cleanliness is important because it shows one's respect for other people. Indeed, respecting other people requires taking care of one's physical appearance. Believers do not only abstain from filth, but also display subtleties that emphasize their profound respect for others. One way to show this respect is to wear clean clothes. Allah commands us in the Qur'an, as follows:
Children of Adam! Wear fine clothing in every mosque... Surat al-A'raf: 31
Thus, in this issue and others, being physically clean and well groomed and, in this sense, seeking for the best, are qualities that please Allah. Such qualities are unimportant to the people of ignorance. Also, our Prophet (saas) expressed Allah's approval of such qualities in the following hadith:
Someone asked: "How about a person who likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?" Allah's Messenger replied: "All of Allah's Affairs are Beautiful, and He likes beauty." Muslim
We should be aware of the following point: People generally tend to be at their best when meeting or trying to impress people they consider important. However, due to the Qur'an's morality, believers find such careful grooming essential because it fully accords with their desire to please Allah.
Believers are worthy of Paradise and, in this world too, they engage in a constant effort to keep their bodies and surroundings clean so that they may attain the purity and beauty of Paradise in this world.
Keeping One's Environment Clean
Muslims are meticulous when it comes to keeping their immediate surroundings clean. One example of this is given in the Surat al-Hajj, in which Allah commands the Prophet Ibrahim (as) to keep the Ka'abah clean for believers who worship in its vicinity:
And We located the position of the House for Ibrahim: "Do not associate anything with Me, and purify My House for those who circle it and for those who stand and bow and prostrate." Surat al-Hajj: 26
As the verse also maintains, such environmental cleanliness is maintained primarily for other believers who will perform their acts of worship to earn Allah's good pleasure. Thus, all believers who follow in Ibrahim (as)'s footsteps should keep their dwellings clean and tidy, for doing so gladdens a believer's heart.
The Qur'anic concept of cleanliness differs markedly from the one held by the societies of ignorance. Allah commands believers to be "clean and purified," in both the physical and the spiritual sense. In other words, this is not cleanliness in the classical sense; rather, it is an elaborate effort.
The Qur'an's depictions of life in Paradise are also instructive in this sense. Paradise's environment is purified of all forms of the dirt that we see around us. It is a blissful and perfectly clean place where each detail exists in perfect harmony with every other detail. In light of these illustrations, believers seek to keep their surroundings clean and turn them into places that remind them of Paradise. This endeavor is solely a manifestation of their aspiration for Paradise.
Eating Clean Food
Consuming clean food is a Divine command that is inherent in all believers:
Eat of the good things that We have provided for you... Surat al-Baqara: 57
Mankind! Eat of what is good and lawful on earth. Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan, (for) he truly is an outright enemy to you. Surat al-Baqara: 168
In addition, Allah relates the account of the People of the Cave to point out that believers tend toward clean food. As we read:
... They said: "Your Lord knows best how long you have been here. Send one of your number into the city with this silver that you have, so that he can see which food is purest and bring you some of it to eat..." Surat al-Kahf: 19
We will dwell on this topic in another chapter under the title "Beneficial Foods Mentioned in the Qur'an."
Exercising, Bathing, and Drinking Water
Another behavior mentioned in the Qur'an is conveyed in the verses related to the revelation received by the Prophet Ayyub (as):
Remember Our servant Ayyub when he called on his Lord: "Satan has afflicted me with exhaustion and suffering." (So he was told:) "Stamp your foot! Here is a cool bath and water to drink." Surah Sâd: 41-42
In response to his distress and suffering, Allah advised the Prophet Ayyub (as) to "stamp his foot." This advice may well be considered a sign concerning the benefits of physical activity and exercise.
Exercise, especially exercising such long muscles as those found in the leg muscles (e.g., isometric movements), improves the blood flow and thereby increases the amount of oxygen reaching the cells. Eliminating toxic materials from the body removes exhaustion, provides a feeling of relief and refreshment,1 and enables the body to enhance its resistance to microbes. Regular exercise also helps to keep the arteries clean and wide, both of which prevent clotting in the veins and thereby lowers the risk of coronary artery disease.2 Regular exercise also lowers the risk of diabetes by maintaining the blood sugar at a certain level and increasing the amount of "good" cholesterol in the liver.3
Besides, stamping one's bare foot on the ground is a very effective way to discharge the static electricity that has accumulated in the body, for it grounds the body.
In addition, as the above verse states, bathing is known to be the most effective method of discharging the body's static electricity. It also alleviates tension and distress, and provides physical cleanness. Therefore, it is an effective treatment for stress and many physical and psychological disorders.
The verse also draws our attention to the innumerable benefits of drinking water. Almost every bodily function is monitored and pegged to the efficient flow of water through our system. The functions of many bodily organs (i.e., the brain, sweat glands, stomach, intestines, kidneys, and skin) rely heavily upon an ample water supply. Making sure that the body has enough water not only makes it function more efficiently, but might even help one avoid many health problems. An increased level of water consumption has been shown to help relieve migraine headaches, high blood cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis pain, allergies, and high blood pressure. In addition to these benefits, it removes fatigue and sleepiness, since regular water intake helps discharge toxic materials from the body.
Complying with all of these recommendations, which are of vital importance for our physical and mental health, surely will deliver the best results.
Arrogant people think that arrogant manners earn other people's appreciation, and so resort to exaggerated manners of walking, speaking, and looking. The signs of such arrogance are especially evident in their manner of walking.
The verses related to the Prophet Luqman (as)'s advice to his son convey the reprehensible nature of swaggering:
Do not avert your face from people out of haughtiness, and do not strut about arrogantly on the earth. Allah does not love anyone who is vain or boastful. Surah Luqman: 18
In another verse, believers are advised to avoid walking in a pompous manner:
Do not strut arrogantly about the earth. You will certainly never split the earth apart, nor will you ever rival the mountains in height. Surat al-Isra': 37
With these verses, Allah informs us that He does not like those who are arrogant and reminds us to shun such behavior. We must keep in mind that Satan's arrogance, which was manifested by his claim of superiority to all other beings Allah created, caused him to be banished from Allah's sight. Believers who are aware of these evil qualities are unlikely to display any of them.
No one likes to be around arrogant people, for who can enjoy themselves around such people? Most people realize that a person who swaggers and claims to be superior is, in reality, just an ordinary person who has various imperfections and weaknesses. Consequently arrogant people, though suffering from pangs of being superior, can never attain the goal of enjoying prestige among the people and often are held in contempt.
The Qur'an also draws our attention to the fact that believers must adopt a manner of walking that is not ostentatious or exaggerated, as in: "Be moderate in your tread..." Surah Luqman: 19. In compliance with Allah's command, a modest person walks in a moderate manner and thus earns esteem in the sight of Allah and other believers.
The Tone of Voice
The tone of one's voice is an essential part of a reliable and positive disposition, for how it is used reflects the person's values. Even a pleasant voice may become irritating if the way in which one talks is inappropriate. Allah advises His followers through the words of Prophet Luqman (as):
... lower your voice. The most hateful voice is the donkey's bray. Surah Luqman: 19
As the verse maintains, one who talks in a loud voice or drowns out others does not create a favorable impression on other people. Besides, in most cases this becomes just as unbearable as listening to a donkey's braying.
In other words, the way people talk is important. One with bad manners may sound repulsive, although the tone of his or her voice, under normal circumstances, may sound nice to the ear. The reverse is also true, for a person with an unpleasant sounding voice may cause it to sound better by adopting the values praised in the Qur'an. A nice voice, on the other hand, may well be perceived as offensive and intolerable if the person is arrogant and irascible. Since such a person tends to complain and dispute, his or her voice reflects this negative disposition.
As well as the voice, those people with moral excellence always have a noble, polite, humble, peaceable, and constructive disposition. Owing to their positive outlook on life, they are lively, vigorous, vivacious, and cheerful. This perfect disposition, which ensues from living by the morals explained in the Qur'an, manifests itself in one's voice.
The Qur'an informs us that believers are extremely kind people. However, the Qur'anic concept of kindness is quite different from the one found in society in general. People inherit their sense of courtesy from their families or imbibe that of the surrounding society. Yet this understanding changes from one strata to another. The type of kindness based upon Qur'anic values, however, is over and above any of these understandings, for it does not change according to circumstances or people. Those who adopt the moral excellence described in the Qur'an see every human being as Allah's servants and thus treats them with great kindness, although their conduct may not be perfect. Such people shun tactless and unmannered behavior, secure in the knowledge that being kind earns Allah's Love, which is also stated in a prophetic hadith: "Allah is kind and loves kindness in all matters" Al–Bukhari and Muslim.
As the following verse indicates, Allah encourages people to be good and kind to others:
Remember when We made a covenant with the tribe of Israel: "Worship none but Allah, and be good to your parents, relatives, orphans, and the very poor. Speak good words to people. Establish prayer and pay alms." But then you turned away – except a few of you – you turned aside. Surat al-Baqara: 83
The Qur'an demands absolute kindness. In other words, believers cannot swerve from good conduct even if their surrounding conditions seem demanding and inconvenient. Physical weakness, exhaustion, or difficulties never prevent them from being kind. Meanwhile, whether they are well-off or poor, or enjoy a prestigious position or are being held as captives, believers treat everyone kindly, for they are aware that our Prophet (saas) stressed the need for every believer to do so in the following prophetic hadith: "Whenever kindness is added to something, it adorns it; whenever it is withdrawn from something, it leaves it defective." Muslim This noble morality is recommended in the following verse:
... be good to your parents, relatives, orphans, and the very poor. Speak good words to people... Surat al-Baqara: 83
Believers also must be very careful how they treat their parents. In the Qur'an, Allah commands kindness toward them:
Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him, and that you should show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say "Ugh!" to them out of irritation and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them with gentleness and generosity. Surat al-Isra'': 23
An example given in Surah Yusuf stresses the importance respecting one's parents. The Prophet Yusuf (as) was separated from his family for a long time because his brothers threw him into a well. After a while, he was found by merchants who took him to Egypt and sold him into slavery. Then, due to false accusations, he spent many years in prison, only to be released and, by Allah's help, placed in authority over Egypt's national treasury. Yet after all of this, he brought his family to Egypt and greeted them as follows:
Then when they entered into Yusuf's presence, he drew his parents close to him and said: "Enter Egypt safe and sound, if Allah wills." He raised his parents up onto the throne... Surah Yusuf: 99-100
Thus we see that the Prophet Yusuf (as), despite his eminent status, behaved in an exceptionally modest manner toward his parents. Raising them up on his throne marked his respect and love for them, and also showed his good morals.
For believers who follow the Qur'an's morality, respecting one's guest is a way to observe one of Allah's commands as well as an opportunity to display high morality. Therefore, believers welcome their guests cordially.
In societies of ignorance, people generally consider a guest as a burden, both in the material and spiritual sense, for they cannot see such events as opportunities to earn Allah's good pleasure and display moral excellence. Rather, they regard treating their guest cordially as a social obligation. Only their expectation of an ensuing benefit makes them eager to show hospitality.
The Qur'an especially draws attention to the moral excellence shown to guests. Before all else, believers offer respect, love, peace, and cordiality to each guest. A welcome merely based on catering, without showing any love, respect, and peace, would not be pleasing. In the verse given below, Allah states that He favors spiritual beauty over anything else:
When you are greeted with a greeting, return the greeting or improve upon it. Allah takes account of everything. Surat an-Nisa': 86
As seen, the Qur'anic morality encourages believers to compete with one another in doing good. Even such a common act as greeting a guest is an example of this attitude.
The Qur'an also urges us to make the guest feel comfortable by identifying all of his or her possible needs so that they can be met before the guest mentions them. The way in which the Prophet Ibrahim (as) treated his guests is a good example of this and displays an important feature of hospitality:
Has the story reached you of the honored guests of Ibrahim? Behold, they entered his presence and said: "Peace!" He said: "Peace!" (and thought: "These seem) unusual people." Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a fattened calf, and placed it before them. He said: "Will you not eat?" Surat adh-Dhariyat: 24-27
One important point in these verses attracts our attention: It is better to offer a guest something before he or she has the chance to ask for it. This is because a courteous guest will hesitate to mention any need. Out of his or her thoughtfulness, such a guest would even try to prevent the host from offering anything. Asked whether he or she needs anything, such a guest would probably say "no" and thank the host for offering it. For this reason, the Qur'anic morality entails thinking about the guest's possible needs in advance.
Another favorable conduct indicated here is offering something without delay. Before all, such conduct reveals the host's pleasure at making the guest comfortable. As the verse mentions, offering something "quickly" (without delay) reveals the host's eagerness and modesty to serve his guest.
Another good behavior implied by these verses quoted is that although the Prophet Ibrahim (as) had never met his guests before, he tried to serve them in the best possible manner and thus quickly brought a "fattened calf," a type of meat known to be the most delicious, healthy, and nutritious. Thus we can deduce that while catering to a guest, one should do his or her best to prepare and then offer high-quality, fresh, and delicious food.
Apart from this, Allah also draws attention to meat as a favorable offering that can be served to guests.