Who is the best of us? To answer that, Abdullah ibn Amr reported, that the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), said, “The best of you are those with the best character” (Sahih Bukhari 3366; Muttafaqun Alayhi). In another narration, Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said, “Verily, the believers with the most complete faith are those with the most excellent character and who are most kind to their family” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2612; Sahih). Such is the importance of upright character, that the Prophet of Allah s.a.w. himself said, “Verily, I have only been sent to perfect righteous character” (Musnad Aḥmad 8729; Sahih). From these ahaadith we can understand why Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “The religion itself is entirely good character, so whoever surpasses you in character has surpassed you in religion” (Madārij al-Sālikīn 2/294).
So what is exemplary character, the character of our Messenger s.a.w.? Sa’d ibn Hisham reported: Ammar said, “O mother of the believers, tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah, s.a.w.” Aisha said, “Have you not read the Quran? Verily, the character of the Messenger of Allah was the Quran” (Sunan Abu Dawud 1342; Sahih according to Al-Albani). Ibn Kathir explains that the Prophet emulated the Quran in its commands, its prohibitions and it became his nature. Whatever the Quran commanded he did, and whatever it prohibited he abstained from. Through the teachings of the Quran, Allah ingrained in the Prophet s.a.w. great character, such as modesty, generosity, courage, forgiveness and forbearance (Tafsīr ibn Kathīr 68:4).
The pious predecessors have further elaborated good character as follows: Hasan Al-Basri was asked about good character and he said, “It is generosity, charitable giving, and loving kindness towards people” (al-Muwashā 1/28). Ibn Al-Mubaarak too was asked about good manners in which he replied, “It is to have a cheerful face, perform good actions, and refrain from harming others” (Ta’theem Qadr As-Salaah by Ibn Nasr). And it was Muhammad ibn Ali Al-Baqir who said, “Whoever has qualities of character and kindness has been given all that is good and comforting. His situation will be pleasant in his life and in his Hereafter. And whoever is deprived of qualities of kindness and character, then it will be a means of every evil and adversity for him, except for those who are protected by Allah Almighty” (Ḥilyat al-Awliyā 3/186).
Indeed, a heart that is open and humble readily accepts the truth. A heart’s determination allows constancy and persistence in performing good deeds. A heart that possesses patience and gratitude gives rise to a tongue that utters praise and thanks for Allah in all situations. And when sincerity and the consciousness of Allah are embedded in the heart, the body will worship its Lord inwardly and outwardly. Through character, one attains the pleasure of Allah. For Allah loves those who are good (Quran 2:195). Allah loves those who turn back to Him in humility, those who repent and purify themselves (Quran 2:222). Allah loves those who are conscious of Him (Quran 3:76). Allah loves those who are patient (Quran 3:146). Allah loves those who put their trust in Him and rely on Him (Quran 3:159). Allah loves those who are just (Quran 60:8). And Allah loves and forgives those who follow His Messenger Muhammad s.a.w. (3:31).