15 Nov Building Good Character.Part1
The topic of this book, “adab in practice,” is part of the larger concept of akhlaq, that is, morality. In fact, from one perspective, adab in practice is fundamentally practical morality and ethics. Therefore, the essence of these concepts will be explained first, beginning with a short introduction to akhlaq, and only after this will adab in practice be returned to.
Akhlaq, the plural of khuluq in Arabic, means the character and temperament of a person.
The temperament of a person brings either good or harmful things. In the broadest aspect morality means that there is a moral character, that is, morality becomes deeply ingrained in the soul and as a consequence right actions and behavior come naturally and easily from within; then, the person with such a character no longer has to struggle intellectually to know what ethical choices to make.
Human characteristics can generally be divided into those that society approves of and those that we disapprove of. Decency, humility, and kindness are traits that are seen in a positive light, while arrogance, deceit, and miserliness are generally perceived as negative human characteristics. To recognize these characteristics and their attendant traits is to understand what is meant here by the phrase “moral character.” Nawwas ibn Saman once asked the Prophet how to recognize the difference between goodness and sin. The Prophet answered,
“Goodness is good moral character. Sin is anything that pricks one’s conscience, and which one does not want others to know about.”
Another narration from Jabir reports that the Messenger said,
“The most beloved to me among you and the ones who will be closest to me on the Day of Judgment are the best in moral character. And they who are most loathsome to me and will be farthest from me on the Day of Judgment are those who gossip, those with unbridled tongues, and those who condescend.”
When they asked him, “O Messenger of God! Who are those who condescend?” he replied, “They are those who are arrogant.”
Ethics, which is the study or science of morals, can be divided into the theoretical and the practical. While theoretical morality is concerned with those concepts that constitute the principles and rules of morality, practical morality is concerned with the duties that constitute the basis of a moral life. As reported by the Prophet,
“God looks not at your outward appearances, nor at your wealth or belongings. God looks only at your hearts and your deeds.”
For this reason, here we will be mainly concerned with the practical side of morality, and as mentioned above, the pur- pose of this book is to explore adab in practice. At this point, with a view to clarifying the meaning of human responsibility, let us take a closer look at the concept of duty, which is pivotal to developing a good character with adab.