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Islamic Personality

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    Posted: 09 March 2005 at 1:14pm
Topic: Islamic Personality (1 of 1), Read 32 times
Conf: Issues: The Islamic Personality
Date: Monday, March 03, 2003 09:57 AM

Building an Islamic personality comprised of its two elements, thinking and behavior, is essential for any Muslim, and more so if we are to carry the Da’wah and revive the Ummah. In this article, we will examine what it means to forming and maintaining an Islamic personality.

First and foremost, it is vital that we understand the nature of human beings.

Human beings are created with three basic instincts:

1. The instinct of worship
2. The instinct of kind
3. The instinct of survival

These instincts have many outward manifestations called drives. The instinct of worship manifests itself in the human's drive to worship something, whether it be the Creator, glorify idols or false deities, or creation itself. The instinct of preserving the human race appears in the sexual inclination and parenting. The survival instinct is realized in ownership, selfishness/selflessness, the desire to dominate, fear, and curiosity, etc.

Biological Needs
Human beings have biological needs:

1. Hunger and thirst
2. Defecation/urination
3. Sleeping/rest

Instincts and biological needs create vital energy that must be dissipated through the satisfaction of these instincts and needs. These needs are satisfied by the behavior or actions of a person. This fulfillment can be carried out in either the wrong or right manner. The criteria for whether the action to fulfill the need or instinct is wrong or right is established by Allah (swt).

As mentioned earlier, Man’s personality is made up of a mentality (way of thinking) and behavior (actions). In order to build a viable personality, the mentality and behavior should be complementary and consistent. In other words, they both must be extracted from the same source. As a result, things will be thought of and acted upon based on a common reference that will serve as the basis for fulfilling one's instincts and biological needs.

In order to form a stable personality, the mentality and behavior must be built on a comprehensive ideology that is sound and correct, the mind must be convinced of its soundness, and it must also satisfy human instincts. This personality will have a greater ability to influence its surroundings, be more productive in the society, and will not degenerate.

The Islamic ‘Aqeedah is the only creed that is based on the intellect, satisfies the human instincts and biological needs, and provides tranquillity. The effects of basing the mentality and behavior on the Islamic ‘Aqeedah is clearly evident in every aspect of life. Some of these aspects are related to the mentality and others are related to behavior.

‘Aqeedah as a basis for the Muslim mentality
To establish the mentality upon the Islamic ‘Aqeedah means to understand the role of the mind and its limitations and the clear demarcation which separates the mind from revelation (Wahi). In addition, it means one must evaluate every idea from the point of view of the Islamic ‘Aqeedah prior to accepting or rejecting it.

It is easy to understand as to how the ‘Aqeedah is the basis for one's actions or behavior, but it is difficult to comprehend the meaning of making the ‘Aqeedah the basis for the mentality (way of thinking). It should not be forgotten that Islam guides one’s thinking and behavior and defines the role of the mind. For example, the mind is not allowed to visualize or personify the Ghayb (Unseen, or what is beyond our senses) or to legislate. Rather, the mind has the role of interpreting and understanding the revealed texts (Qur’an and Sunnah) through a well defined methodology.

Consequently, Prophet Muhammad (saaw) clarified the matters of law that dealt with the people’s actions. However, he (saaw) also directed their thinking and clarified the limitations of their thinking. This is seen in the incident when the sun was eclipsed on the same day that the Prophet's (saaw) son died. When people suggested that the sun eclipsed due to the death of his son, the Prophet (saaw) told them that the eclipse is a sign from Allah (swt), and it does not occur for anyone’s death. Therefore, there is no relationship between the two events. Another example is when the Prophet (saaw) cleared the misunderstanding of a group of his companions, who kept clung to their pre-Islamic belief that a star provided the rain. He told them to say that the Lord of the stars provided the rain.

Even the expressions of the Muslims were the subject of revelations, where Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

"O You who believe! Say not (to the Prophet) Ra'ina, but say, 'Unthurna"

Islam also freed our thinking from the limitations of nationalism, of subservience to others, and of self-benefit. Instead, Islam gave mankind the freedom and fulfillment that comes with servitude to Allah (swt). Clearly, Islam came to guide not only our behavior but our thinking as well. Consequently, there is a great need to view the Islamic ‘Aqeedah as the source of all concepts in order to build the Islamic personality. After such a mentality is established, it becomes easy to develop it and to maintain it by learning and studying more about Islam.

When the Prophet (saaw) taught Abu Bakr (ra) he shaped his thinking based on the ‘Aqeedah. Thus, when the Quraysh talked to Abu Bakr about Isra’, he answered “I believe in things much more than this, I believe in the Wahi which comes to him in a time much shorter than you mention it took to travel from Makkah to Jerusalem.” This tells us how Abu Bakr thought and how he connected the ‘Aqeedah to his thought process.

Also, in the Battle of Badr, when the Prophet (saaw) chose a location, one of the Sahabah (ra) did not agree on this location. However, before expressing his opinion, he asked the Prophet (saaw) whether that decision was a revelation from Allah (swt) or a technical issue. This indicates that the Sahabi thinking was based on the ‘Aqeedah. The Sahabi would not have objected to the decision had it been a revelation.
If a Muslim is convinced that Allah (swt) is the Sovereign and believes in Muhammad (saaw) as the last and final Messenger, then his mentality should be based on this and nothing else.

Statements such as:

“Muhammad (saaw) is our beloved Prophet but he did not possess the knowledge of space travel and the information superhighway.”

“No limited text can accommodate all the activity of entire humanity. The Qur’an was revealed 14 centuries ago and after the revelation, many social and historical changes have occurred. The whole world moved into several stages in its history, depending on agricultural or natural economy, industrial cycles, and physical and technical revolution.”

“Muhammad (saaw) is my spiritual leader.”

These, and similar statements do not reflect Islamic thinking. The knowledge of Allah (swt) has no limits. If we believe in this, then we should believe that Allah (swt) CAN’T be compared to any lawmaker and His legislation CAN accommodate the entire activities of humanity. His Messenger (saaw) receives the revelation from Him, which cannot be limited. Since, the Prophet (saaw) brought Islam to us as a ‘Complete Way of Life’, then his leadership is not limited to the spiritual aspect.

‘Aqeedah (creed) as a basis for the behavior
To make the Islamic ‘Aqeedah as the basis of one’s behavior means to fulfill one's instincts and biological needs according to the laws based on the Islamic ‘Aqeedah. Islam fulfills all the instincts and needs in an organized and coherent manner without suppression or laxity. For example, it does not prevent the human being from fearing. Rather, it directs him/her to fear that which should be feared.

"Do you fear them? Nay, it is Allah whom you should more justly fear" (At Taubah: 13)

Also, satisfying the religious instinct with all of its manifestations has to be based on the rules that are related to prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, zakat and the other things which strengthen the relationship between us and the Creator. This is the positive way of fulfilling the religious instinct. The negative aspect, on the other hand, is to worship or submit to any other deity besides Allah (swt), the Creator. The Islamic rules came to clarify both the positive and negative aspects.

The instinct of preserving the human race is fulfilled via sexual relations between a man and woman within the framework that Islam prescribes; being kind to the next of kin; and by treating the parents in a good manner. This is the positive aspect of such fulfillment. It is also fulfilled by abstaining from fornication and adultery, and by avoiding the unlawful mixing between the two sexes.

Similarly, fulfilling the survival instinct is fulfilled via exercising the means of ownership. Positive fulfillment of the survival instinct is through obedience to Allah (swt) and negative fulfillment is to disobey what Allah (swt) ordered. We can also respond by fearing only Allah (swt) and not fearing others that we are not allowed to fear.

The survival instinct has other aspects that need to be fulfilled according to the rules of Islam. This is because by its legislation, Islam directs the human being to fulfill his or her instincts and specifies the manner in which this should be done. Islam deals with this in two ways. First of all, it directs the human beings to satisfy their instincts in the correct manner, and secondly, it eliminates any selfish tendencies. This is not done by suppressing certain instincts, but rather by directing individuals towards the lawful means of fulfillment. For example, Islam treats selfishness by encouraging to sacrifice for others. Both, selfishness and sacrifices stem from the survival instinct. By overcoming selfishness with sacrifice, the survival instinct is still satisfied and the harmful effects of selfishness are eliminated. This also applies to the tendency to dominate. This is a drive stemming from the survival instinct. Islam does not suppress this drive. Rather, it directs it away from personal domination to the domination of the ideology.

Thus, an intellectually enlightened person works for the ideology to dominate. He/she continually struggles for its domination, whereas the intellectually unenlightened person wants to dominate others on a personal scale.

As a person becomes more involved and convinced with the Islamic ‘Aqeedah, and as one’s intellectual level increases and becomes more devoted and sincere to the Islamic cause, selfish and personal tendencies will be mitigated until s/he reaches a state of pure sincerity. At that point, the inclination for self-domination subsides and one does not associate any personal aspects with the ‘Aqeedah. Such that "Allah (swt) and His Prophet (saaw) become the most beloved to him" and as the hadeeth says, "so that Allah and his Prophet will be beloved by him more than his wealth, children, himself, and all people." At that point, such a person will not feel angry for oneself, will not look at the people condescendingly and will behave as a servant for the Ummah.

If this is expected from the Muslims, then the person who carries the Islamic Da’wah would be expected to do much more. This is why in one battle, ‘Ali (ra) was about to kill one of the disbelievers but stopped when the man spit on ‘Ali's (ra) face. The man was surprised at such behavior because he expected his action to accelerate the killing. Imam ‘Ali (ra) then told him that he initially wanted to kill him because he was an enemy of Allah (swt), but when the man spit on him, Imam ‘Ali (ra) feared that he was killing him for personal revenge and thus did not kill him.

Such examples illustrate how the ‘Islamic Aqeedah guides the behavioral aspect of the personality. The behavioral component is however more difficult to develop and maintain than the mental component. While developing and maintaining the thinking requires that the person knows more about Islam, developing and maintaining the behavioral aspect of the personality requires a continuous process of getting closer and closer to Allah (swt) through the ‘ibadat (worship) and other actions (such as Nawafil, fasting, praying, and reciting Qur’an) that enhances our relationship with Allah (swt), as well as the continuous examination of one's desires and inclinations in order to make sure that they are subservient to the rules of Islam. In other words, one must be conscious of Allah (swt) when performing actions.

It is dangerous for us to assume that some individuals have such strong instincts that it would be difficult to control them through the Islamic ‘Aqeedah. This assumption is false because if the human being is convinced beyond any doubt of the existence of Allah (swt) and His oneness, and s/he realizes that the relationship between oneself and the Creator includes His legislation as well as His creation, s/he will act based on his/her conviction.

"Verily, His are the Creation and the Command" (Al-Ara'f-54)

When a person believes in the Islamic ‘Aqeedah based on his inner emotions and mind together, i.e., the intellectual realization of Allah's (swt) existence is combined with the human instincts of recognizing one’s own limitations need for the Creator, the meaning of abiding by the Islamic commands is realized. The highest values in life, the Day of Judgment, accountability to Allah (swt), the Jannah...

"...whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and the earth" (Imran-133),
or in the Jahannum, which is nothing but the...

..."Blazing fire plucking out (his being) to the skull" (Al-Ma'arij-15,16)
need to be realized.

When a Muslim realizes all of this, it will become easier to abide by the commands of Allah (swt) even in the absence of an Islamic environment. Therefore, the Islamic ‘Aqeedah and the rules and regulations derived from it are enough to establish the behavior regardless of the strength of the human's instincts and their manifestations. It should suffice for each one of us to regard the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (saaw) to Mu’adh Ibn Jabal, "...the people are thrown in the hellfire on their faces (or he said on their noses) except as a result of what they said." Indeed, the Islamic ‘Aqeedah and the legislation stemming from it control the behavior and advances the human, not to mention the Muslim that carries the Da’wah, to a higher standard, one that surpasses even the angels.

In spite of all this, personal failure or ideological death can come suddenly. It is for this reason that a continuous reinforcement of the previously mentioned aspects of the personality is needed at all times. Here we quote the supplication of Prophet Muhammad (saaw) when he (saaw) said: "Oh Allah, don't leave me to myself for a moment," and, " I commanded you before not to visit the graveyard. Do visit it because it reminds people of the Hereafter." Also, the supplication of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab (ra): " Oh Allah, give me the opportunity to mention you under all circumstances, and to remember death all the time."

What should be realized is that failure or death can come slowly or quickly. In all circumstances, the continual observation of these meanings should help, by the will of Allah (swt), to prevent the failures. It is true that laxity in the behavior of human beings may occur, but if it is dealt with promptly, the person returns to possessing an Islamic personality. In the case where a problem goes untreated and is neglected or the person starts justifying things for himself, even on a matter like the inclination to dominate or say an offensive word, the problem becomes greater and could lead to other unwanted results. This calls to mind the saying of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab (ra): "Hold yourselves accountable before you will be held accountable."

Therefore, the Islamic creed establishes a specific way of thinking. It specifies an objective for one's life, places the human at a higher plane of existence, and directs the human being to fulfill all of this in an organized and controlled manner. It is crucial to note that all of this emanates from the ‘Aqeedah, the rules stemming from it, what is built upon it from ideas, and the realization of all of this and the insistence on abiding by it. The result will be a better Islamic personality and the creation of the Nahda (revival) in the society at large.

Hence, building the Islamic personality among the people who carry the Da’wah is the first step in advancing the society, and the march towards establishing the Khilafah. Thereafter, interacting with the Ummah, conveying the ideology, calling for its implementation, and concentrating on the Islamic ideas that shape the thinking of the Muslims should be the objective and cornerstone of this work.

To address the subject of the mind and its role, when discussing the Islamic divine rules with the people, is more important than discussing a particular issue and its rule. This is due to the fact that people must realize the role of the mind and its limitations, and that both the good and bad are determined by Allah (swt) and not by our mind. After that, talking about a particular rule becomes a matter of teaching that rule. However, if a person keeps thinking that the mind has an absolute role, then the fundamental problem will remain within the person, and in society, even if s/he agrees with Islam on a particular command.

The fundamental problem will remain because understanding the role of the mind is a key to building the Islamic personality and changing the society, while knowing a particular rule is needed during the Da’wah work and is to be learned and abided by. In other words, we need to realize how we can reconstruct the thinking of the Ummah and how we can rebuild the Islamic personality. Since this is a very important issue in carrying the Da’wah, we should approach the Da’wah with full knowledge and execute actions with the utmost awareness.

Our role, as Muslims, is far beyond discussions and arguments. It is the heavy task of rebuilding and reformulating the manner in which the Ummah thinks. This requires, among other things, an awareness of where and how to start, and it requires that we be patient and persistent. Above all this, we need to rely on Allah (swt) in the right way, and to seek help from Him (swt) alone. This is because the task of rebuilding and reformulating the thinking of the Ummah is a very difficult and fragile endeavor.

The Messenger Muhammad(SAW) said: "Allah showed me the whole Earth, the East and the West, my Ummah will be in charge of all He showed me." [Ahmad] 


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