In life, we grow comfortable with ourselves and feel satisfied by our present character. This is not the kind of satisfaction that is enjoyed when we perform a good deed sincerely for Allah’s Pleasure or when we see the effects of our hard work; rather, it is the excessive satisfaction that is experienced when we delude ourselves into thinking that our personalities are no longer in need of improvement. No one is perfect (and we won’t ever be) but we can improve ourselves by following the best example of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). Allah says in Surah Al-Qalam:
“And indeed, you are of a great moral character.” (68:4)
How many of us can say that we are completely pleased with our character? Good actions may bring us happiness, but at the same time, sins leave us frustrated and disappointed in ourselves. Being confident in one’s identity and personality is one thing, but letting it develop into self- ostentation and boasting is arrogance. Humbling ourselves and maintaining a balance, is thus essential for the believer. The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“Whoever is pleased with his good deeds, and saddened by his evil deeds, is indeed a Mu’min [believer].” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi in his al-Jami).
It is when one forgets to maintain this fine line of balance that the false satisfaction creeps in, making a person completely lose touch with their humble side. They forget that their praiseworthy qualities, intellectual abilities, and abundant possessions are nothing but blessings from Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Praise from people, exaggerated self-judgments, and false notions of one’s superiority all give way for hypocrisy in the heart and ostentation, leading to eventual doom. As with the majority of internal problems, vanity and mistaken character assumptions can be fixed. All it takes is a little time and effort to unearth our negativities and look for ways to diminish them.
Every once in a while, it is essential for everyone to sit down and think: “What is my character like? Is Allah pleased with how I am? To what extent is my character parallel to that of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him)? Am I fulfilling everyone’s rights equally or am I giving preference to those whom I wish while neglecting others? Deep down inside, ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly. Would you be able to face Allah exactly as you are now? This is where evaluation comes in.
1. Honest Self-Evaluation
Honest self-evaluation is the first key step in this fixing process. If a mental classification of your positive and negative qualities is not enough, then make a list of them. Doing so will bring forward your sincerity in doing good works and the realization of Allah’s favors that were neglected. For all the qualities that you discover within yourself, be sure to thank Allah for them and ask for more.
If you find that your general attitude and service towards outsiders is better than towards your family, then this could be an issue of sincerity. To prevent this, be sure to fulfill all your duties at home to your parents and other family members before you decide to dedicate yourself to a new project or volunteer activity.
The next step after realization and evaluation is…ACTION. When you want something, you have to work for it. Before beginning, however, you need to make du’a, because without Allah’s help, man really cannot achieve anything. So make du’a and ask Allah to make you the person YOU want to be (hopefully something good) and the person HE wants you to be, because Allah is the best of Judges and He knows us better than ourselves. After asking for help from Allah, ask your family and close friends to help you out. Ask them about your most irritating or unconstructive quality and look for solutions to fix them one by one. For example, let’s say you ask your teacher or your mom and they say that you need to be more responsible. Find out what is making them say that and do everything you can to improve it. Or let’s say your dad says that he really appreciates it when you help him with the yard work; you would want to expand on that quality and find more ways to effectively utilize yourself in other tasks.
After eliminating the bad qualities and improving the ones worth keeping, the next step is to find out how you can incorporate the qualities of success into yourself. When going through this process myself, I thought, “What makes a successful person?,” and I know that there are various things which define a successful individual, but the first thing that popped into my mind were the first few verses of Surah Al-Mu’minun (Ayah 1-9):
“Certainly will the believers have succeeded:
They who are during their prayer humbly submissive
And they who turn away from ill speech
And they who are observant of Zakah
And they who guard their private parts
And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive
And they who carefully maintain their prayers”
I was tremendously overjoyed at the prospect of discovering such a clear and explicit guideline in the Qur’an regarding a believer’s character and success. It reminded me of what Sheikh Sphendim Nedzaku had said in the introduction of a Tafseer Juz’ Amma class. He was comparing the Qur’an to Ragu® Pasta Sauce saying that everything’s in there. Family life—it’s in there. Financial solutions—it’s in there. The key to success—it’s in there. After all, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) is the best of Guides and the best of Helpers.
3. Keeping It Up
The third step is to keep in mind that humans are not perfect. Despite what (and how) you are at the moment and what you want to be, there will always be a time when you will feel that you are losing the battle against yourself and have returned to page one. The real challenge is to keep striving for the sake of Allah. We want to develop the best character that closely resembles that of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). No one can achieve his perfect status of exalted character but that does not justify anyone’s excuse to discontinue trying. In Surah Al-Ankabut, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) says:
“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.” (29:69)
Remember, nothing is impossible when you have Allah on your side. Constant du’as, efforts, and struggles in perfecting yourself sincerely for His sake is what will get you to success in this world and the next. May Allah (glorified and exalted be He) help us, guide us, and keep us on the Straight Path and May He forgive us all and grant us Jannatul-Firdaus. Ameen.