There is often a misconception and conflation between the notion of ‘working on oneself’ and activism which seeks to revive the Ummah in terms of its social and political dimensions. Whilst both are important and vital elements of our Islamic duty – for some, the former replaces the latter. However, both have their rightful place and require their due attention. In this article, we seek to address the importance of developing the Islamic personality as one predicated on the right thought and behaviour in harmony with Islamic precepts. This article has been sourced from the introduction of the highly motivating book The Essential Elements of the Islamic Disposition.
Some of the essential elements of the Islamic personality of the Da’ee who seeks to work to establish Islam in its entirety is that his/her tongue is moist with the remembrance of Allah, his/her heart is filled with fear of Allah and limbs hasten towards good deeds. That s/he recites the Qur’an, acts upon it, loves Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, loves for Allah’s sake and hates for Allah’s sake, hopes for the mercy of Allah and fears His punishment; s/he is patient, expecting reward in the Hereafter, sincere and reliant upon Allah. That s/he is firm on the truth, is soft, gentle and compassionate towards the believers but firm and strong against the disbelievers, fearing none for Allah’s sake. S/he possesses good character, is sweet in speech but strong in proof, enjoins the good and forbids the evil, lives and works in this life but eyes always look towards the Jannah, whose width is that of the heavens and the earth prepared for the believers.
The personality (shakhsiyyah) of every human being is composed of the mentality (‘aqliyyah) and disposition (nafsiyyah). The mentality (‘aqliyyah) is the tool used for understanding things; it is the mode for passing judgement on reality according to a specific standard which man believes in and trusts. If one’s understanding of things in terms of passing judgement upon them is based on the ‘Islamic ‘Aqeedah, then they have, at a general level, an Islamic mentality.
The behavioural disposition (nafsiyyah) is the way of satisfying one’s instincts and needs and behaving and interacting with one’s surrounding world generally. At a high level, when the satisfaction is based on the Islamic ‘Aqeedah then the person can be said to have an Islamic disposition.
It is not enough that only one’s mentality be Islamic at an abstract level; rather, it must translate to practical action and action in line with what this ‘Aqidah implies. Knowledge of things at an abstract level too is not sufficient, as the person must also have an Islamic disposition where they satisfy their needs through a lens grounded in the credal precepts of Islam. Thus the person should incline to pray, fast, urify themself and perform Hajj, engage in the Halal and avoid the Haram.
Sucha person endeavours to be, as Allah wants him to be, drawing closer to Him (swt) through the obligations He has imposed and is eager to do the Nawaafil (supererogatory acts of devotion) so as to draw even closer to Him (swt). Such a person adopts true and sincere stances towards events, where they enjoin the good and forbid the evil, loving for Allah’s sake and hating for Allah’s sake and dealing with people with a good and upright character.
Similarly, it is not enough just to have an Islamic disposition, without having as well an Islamic mentality. Worshipping Allah in ignorance can cause people to deviate from the straight path. So one might fast on a day in which it is prohibited to fast, pray when it is Makrooh, etc, falsely believing this to be a function of their Islamic disposition. He might say ‘Laa Hawla Walaa Quwwata illa billah’ when he sees someone committing a Munkar instead of accounting them and forbidding them from engaging in such an action. Such a person might deal with usury but then give it in charity claiming they is drawing close to Allah while being swamped in sins. In other words, they may be doing a bad action while thinking they are doing something good. So they would act in a way contrary to the way Allah and His Messenger ﷺ ordered.
The personality will not be complete unless the mentality is Islamic; so the person in question will have knowledge of the rules that are binding upon them and will aim to increase their knowledge of the shariah disciplines as much as possible. At the same time, they should have an Islamic behavioural disposition where they adheres to the rules of the deen and not just knows them. They must apply these rules in all issues whether it is in respect to their Creator, themselves or others, and in the manner in which Allah loves and approves.
It is when this fusion occurs and steps are made towards its achievement (notwithstanding mistakes, gaps in conduct, and sins, which are natural) that one is able to direct their mentality and disposition according to Islam; it is when this becomes an active aspiration that one can say he they are developing towards an Islamic personality that drives them towards goodness, fearing none but Allah.
However, this does not mean that there will not be any lapses. Such lapses will not affect the personality as long as they are the exception and not the norm. This is because man is not an angel; he makes mistakes, seeks forgiveness, repents and he also does what is correct and praises Allah for His Grace, Mercy and Guidance.
The more a Muslim increases in their Islamic culture to develop their mentality, and the more they increase the performance of the recommended actions to strengthen their disposition, the more they will proceed towards the sublime ascent.
Not only will they become firm on this ascent but they will continue to be elevated higher and higher. This is when the person directs their life in the proper manner and attains the Akhirah by striving for it as a believer. Such a believer will be allied to the Mihraab (recess indicating the direction for salah) of the mosque whilst at the same time being present in Jihad, characterised by the best of attributes, being a servant of Allah the Almighty, the Creator and Originator.
For the Da’wah carriers, it is important to note the reality they find themselves in. They are surrounded by the clashing waves of the enemies of Allah, systems founded at their core upon kufr and societies that contain no shortage of temptation. If they are not attempting to be with Allah by day and by night, how then can they drive their way in the different walks of life? How can they reach their desired aim? How can they elevate higher and higher? Thus this becomes from among the necessities: that is, the constant striving to purify oneself of shortcomings and the attempt to reform oneself in the way directed by Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.
Finally, the Da’wah carrier should reflect on the following Hadith Qudsi, which will light up his or her path so that they achieve their objectives and quicken their steps:
“O son of Adam! You will not obtain that which I have save by performing the duties I ordained upon you. My servant will continue to draw closer to me though the nawaafil (supererogatory acts of worship) until I love him. I will then be the heart with which he thinks, the tongue with which he speaks, the sight by which he sees. So, when he calls me I will answer him, when he asks me for something I shall give it to him, and when he asks for my help I shall help him and the most beloved of my servant’s worship is the sincere advice (naseeha).” (Reported by at-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer)
This hadith clarifies the path to the victory of Allah, His support and help by drawing close to Him and seeking His Help. He is the All-Strong and All-Powerful; whosoever He helps will never be humiliated and whosoever He humiliates will never be helped. He is close to His servants when his servant calls out to Him, He responds to him when he obeys Him; He is the Irresistible, above His slaves, the Most Kind and All-Acquainted with all things.
So rush, brothers and sisters, to the Good Pleasure of Allah, to His forgiveness, Paradise, victory and success in both of the abodes:
‘And for this let all those strive who are among those who strive!’ [TMQ Al-Mutaffifeen:26]