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Akhlaq, Islamic Behavior, Good Conduct, Morality, Good Manners, Islamic Etiquette

Akhlaq, Islamic BehaviorAkhlaq is an Arabic term referring to the practice of virtue, morality and good manners in Islamic Theology and Philosophy (Falsafah). It is most commonly translated in English as; islamic behavior, disposition, good conduct, nature, temper, ethics, morals or character (of a person).

Akhlaq is the plural for the word Khulq which means disposition. "Disposition" is that faculty (Malakah) of the soul (Nafs) which is the source of all those activities that man performs spontaneously without thinking about them. Malakah is a property of the soul which comes into existence through exercise and repetitive practice and is not easily destroyed.

A particular disposition (Malakah) may appear in human beings because of one of the following reasons:

  1. Natural and physical make up (Fitrah): It is observed that some people are patient while others are touchy and nervous. Some are easily disturbed and saddened while others show greater resistance and resilience.
  2. Habit (Ada): It is formed because of continual repetition of certain acts and leads to the emergence of a certain disposition.
  3. Practice and conscious effort: Which if continued long enough will eventually lead to the formation of a disposition.

Even though the physical make-up of an individual produces certain dispositions in him, it is by no means true that man has no choice in the matter and is absolutely compelled to abide by the dictates of his physical make-up. On the contrary, since man has the power to choose, he can overcome the dictates of his physical nature through practice and effort, and can acquire the disposition of his choice.

Of course, it should be admitted that those dispositions which are caused by the mental faculties such as intelligence, memory, mental agility and the like, are not alterable. All other dispositions, however, may be changed according to man's will. Man can control his lust, anger and other emotions and desires, and channel them to edify himself and propel himself along the path of perfection and wisdom.

When we speak of man's capacity to bring about changes in his dispositions, we do not mean that man should destroy his instincts of reproduction or self-preservation. Man could not exist without these instincts. What we mean is that one should avoid going to either extremes in regard to them, and maintain a condition of balance and moderation so that they may perform their functions properly. Just as the seed of a date grows into a fruitful tree through proper care, or a wild horse is trained to serve his master, so also can man attain perfection and wisdom through self-discipline and intelligent perseverance.

Human perfection has many levels. The greater the amount of self-discipline and effort on the part of the individual, the higher the level of perfection that he would attain. In other words, he stands between two extreme points, the lowest of which is below the level of beasts and the highest of which surpasses even the high station of angels. The human movement between these two extremes is discussed by ilm al-Akhlaq (Science of Ethics). It is the goal of ethics to raise and guide man from the lowest animal state to that exalted position superior to that of the angels.

In a hadith from Imam Ali (as) is related as saying, Allah (SWT) created Angels with intellect but without anger or desire. And created animals with anger and desire but without intellect. And created man with intellect (reason), anger and desire. If man's reason over powers his anger and desires, he rises to the status of that higher than angels. But if his anger and desires overpower his intellect and reason he becomes lower in status than that of an animal.

The importance of ethics is thus revealed. And it is because of the reasons mentioned above that ethics is considered to be the most exalted and valuable of sciences; Moreover, we know that man is the noblest of creatures, the ultimate purpose of whose existence is to attain perfection; therefore, it follows that ethics is the noblest of all sciences.

Do you know, what is religion? Let's find out from Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw)!

Akhlaq (Good Conduct, Morality)Once a man came to Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) and said: O messenger of Allah, what is religion?

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied: Akhlaq (Good Conduct, Morality).

Then he came to his front and asked: O Messenger of Allah, what is religion?

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied: Akhlaq (Good Conduct, Morality).

Then he came to his left side and asked: what is religion?

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied: Akhlaq (Good Conduct, Morality).

Then he came to his back side and asked the same question: what is religion?

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied: Akhlaq (Good Conduct, Morality).

Then Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said looking at him: Not to be angry is Akhlaq (Good Conduct, Morality).

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) was asked: What is misfortune?

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied: Bad Conduct.

Hence, religion Islam according to our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is nothing but Akhlaq (Good Manners, Morals). And Akhlaq (Good Manners, Morals) is based on the cleanliness of both our inner self (Nafs, Soul) and our outer self (Physical, Body).

It is of great importance to be mindful that Akhlaq (Good Manners, Morals) forms an important component of our religion Islam and our Imaan (faith).

Allah (SWT) speaks about the importance of good conduct, ethics, morals or character in the Noble Qur'an. Allah (SWT) orders and reminds us continuously throughout the Noble Qur'an to develop good character and treat people well, where HE (SWT) says:

1. And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best. (17:53)

2. Worship Allah, and do not associate partners with him. And be good to your parents, and the relatives, and to the orphans, and to the poor people, and the neighbor that is close to you and the neighbor that is not close to you, and your companion on the journey. (4:36)

Many Ahadith can be quoted concerning good conduct, ethics, morals or character. The following are some of what Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) Ahadith on Good Conduct1. I have been sent is to perfect good manners (Morality, Islamic Behavior).

2. The dearest of you to me is he who is the best of you in Akhlaq.

3. The most complete of believers in Imaan (faith) are those who are best in character.

4. The most (important) things that cause people to reach Heaven are divine piety and a good temper.

5. There is not anything that will be placed on the scale weightier than good Akhlaq, and, certainly, the one who has good Akhlaq reaches by it the rank of one who continuously observes Saum (Fasts) and performs abundant (Nafl) Salah.

6. Verily, a servant can gain the rank of him who both fasts during the day and keeps vigil at night, keeping up prayers, through his good disposition.

7. Fear Allah (SWT) wherever you are, follow up an evil deed with a good deed, and meet with the people, interact with the people, with good Akhlaq.

8. Imam Ali (as) said to his son, Imam Hassan (as): O' my son! No wealth is more valuable than intelligence and no poverty is similar to ignorance; no terror is worse than arrogance, and no life is more pleasant than being good tempered.

9. Imam Ali (as) says, Good behavior lies in three traits: Avoiding unlawful things, acquiring the lawful ones, and being fair to one's family members.

10. Imam Hassan (as) says: The most preferable adornment is graceful manners.

11. Imam Hassan (as) says: Verily, the best of bests is a good temper.

12. Imam Ali ibn Husayn (as) said: Fair speech increases wealth, stretches sustenance, postpones death, creates love among family members, and causes the person to enter Heaven.

13. Imam Sadiq (as) said: There are three things that each of which is brought by a person to Allah (SWT), Allah (SWT) will necessitate Heaven for the one: donation in poverty, a good temper with all people, and justice to one's self.

Why should we have Akhlaq (Good Moral Conduct)?

In Islam there is a lot of emphasis placed on Akhlaq (Good Moral Conduct). Why is this so? Why should we behave well and respect others? What is the reason?

This can be explained as, when Allah (SWT) created the human being, He (SWT) created it in two parts. One part was like an empty car shell, used to hold something, this is known as outer self (Physical, Body). The other part was like the engine, this is known as inner self (Nafs, Soul).

Our body is such that it needs looking after; we have to feed it and keep it warm, otherwise we will become ill and suffer. Similarly, our soul, known as Nafs, also needs looking after; otherwise it will also become ill. The way to look after this soul is to listen, to think, to respect, to help. When we help someone, we feel happy, but it is not the physical body that feels happy instead it is our Nafs. Hence Akhlaq in Islam is food for the soul, and if we feed it regularly, it will remain happy and healthy.

Akhlaq (Good Moral Conduct)This brings another question. Other religions also preach respect, so why don't we follow them?

All the religions, which were sent down by Allah (SWT), were brought with their own codes of conduct. Each religion expanded and added until with the advent of Islam when all the rules had been perfected. Man in one way or another has altered the other religions, and only Islam remains as pure as the night it was revealed. This means that by following the Akhlaq in Islam we are feeding our Nafs with the best food.

There is also a saying in English, that the eyes are the windows to the soul. That means that whatever we look at, directly affects our Nafs. If we look at things, which are forbidden (Haraam), we are lowering the standard of our Nafs, while if we refrain from looking at Haraam; we are strengthening the Imaan (faith) of our Nafs.

The problem with the world today is that the physical body is being looked after very well, but the soul is being totally neglected. This causes the disease of the soul, which people do not realize. Such diseases cause intensive and long-term damage. A good Akhlaq can change the mentality of even a bad person. It is indeed a silent but effective preaching.

The greatest doctors of Nafs, who have given us rules and examples to follow, are the Fourteen Ma'sumeen [Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Ahlul Bayt (as)].

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) according to Noble Qur'an has superior standard of character. Allah (SWT) confirms in Noble Qur'an the Akhlaq of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) "And most certainly you are on sublime morality (exalted standard of character)". (68:4)

Allah (SWT) had sent our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) as a mercy to mankind to bring mankind from the darkness into the light. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) was sent to help us complete the goodness of our character by teaching us and leading by example. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "I have been sent to complete the goodness of your character" - Tazkiyah al-Nafs (purification of the soul).

Sadly we often hear Muslims saying that, "We Muslims have the worst character."

With the beautiful example of our dear Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) in front of us, we should be showing and teaching people what good character is.

If we live and act with good character we will benefit in numerous ways and our lives will also serve to be an invitation to the deen (religion) of Islam.

So, let us make a promise to ourselves that we never let our Akhlaq (Islamic Behavior) fall. Let us love the young and respect the old and if we have any insincerity or bad feeling in our hearts then let us ask Allah (SWT) for forgiveness.

May Allah (SWT) make it possible for us to practice upon the beautiful teachings in the Noble Qur'an the perfect example of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw). Ameen

Islamic Etiquette: The Soul (Nafs) and its Powers

Islamic EtiquetteThe soul (nafs) is that heavenly essence which employs the body and uses its various organs to attain its goals and purposes. The soul has also other names as spirit (Ruh), intelligence (Aql) and heart (Qalb) although these terms have other usages as well.

The most important faculties of the soul are:

  1. The power of intelligence (al-Quwwah al-Aqliyyah) - Angelic.
  2. The power of anger (al-Quwwah al-Ghadabiyyah) - Ferocious.
  3. The power of desire (al-Quwwah al-Shahwiyyah) - Animalistic.
  4. The power of imagination (al-Quwwah al-Wahmiyyah) - Demoniac.

The function and value of every one of these powers or forces of the soul is commonly well understood. If man did not have the power of reason, it would have been impossible for him to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, true and false. If he did not possess the faculty of anger, he could not defend himself against attack and aggression. If the force of sexual attraction and desire did not exist in man, the continued existence of the human species would be endangered. And finally, if man lacked the power of imagination, he could not visualise universals or particulars, and he would be unable to make any inferences based on them.

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Islamic Moral Stories is designed by Akramulla Syed Last Updated: Friday, June 17, 2011