Al-Nawwas bin Saman reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “Righteousness is good character, and sin is what wavers in your heart and which you do not want people to know about.” (Muslim)

Wabisah bin Mabad reported: “I came to the Messenger of Allah (sa) and he asked: ‘Have you come to ask about righteousness?’ ‘Yes,’ I answered. He said: ‘Consult your heart. Righteousness is something about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and sin is what creates restlessness in the soul and moves to and fro in the breast, even though people give you their opinion (in your favour) and continue to do so.’ (Ahmad and Ad-Darimi)

According to An-Nawawi, these two Ahadeeth state the meaning of righteousness and sinfulness.

 Righteousness is in good character

Ibn Rajab states that the term ‘Birr’ mentioned in this Hadeeth is actually used in two senses:

(a) Treating others in a good manner,
(b) All acts of good deeds and worshipping Allah (swt).

Based on this, the first statement in the first Hadeeth can be interpreted to mean that the most essential aspect of righteousness is good character. When you have faith, you will not react according to how people are; you will react according to your faith in Allah (swt), and you will do good. We don’t know which good deed will take us to Paradise. It may be a smile for someone who is sad. You need Husn Al-Khuluq (good character) in two situations:

Scholars say Husn Al-Khuluq consists of four things:

  1. Nada (dew drop): You need to produce dew drops – pearls of moisture – that are beneficial to the people around you.
  2. Avoid harming others and letting others harm you: Don’t harm people with your tongue by laying blame, backbiting, and complaining. Stop all harm, whether in thoughts, by tongue, or by hand. Don’t be a means to make someone miserable. You need to spread good.
  3. Sabr (patience): Don’t complain about people or your situation in life. Don’t be angry or try to take revenge.
  4. Smile: When you make someone smile, there is so much reward, as opposed to making people cry. Smile when at home. Smiling is contagious. When you are sad, smile.

Aishah (rtaf) narrates that Rasullullah (sa) said: “The most perfect believer in faith is the one who has the best manners and is the kindest to his family. (Tirmidhi) What’s the point of praying and fasting, and then being mean to people, and making them angry, miserable, and sad?

Which heart can you consult?

To know the Birr (goodness), consult your heart. If you don’t feel restless and you feel tranquil, you have a good heart. When a heart is good, you can see the beauty and the clarity. Which heart can you put in this position? Only a pure and clean heart which a person takes care of!

Compare this with drinking water. If you are healthy, water tastes great; however, when you are sick, water is distasteful. When the heart is sick and you tell it about good deeds, it will be bitter and will rebel by trying to keep good deeds away. A sick heart cannot be consulted as good appears bad to it and vice versa.

Note this is not about Halal or Haram which is generally clear. It is about things which are not clear such as different opinions in Fiqh.

For your heart to be your consultant

  • You need a pure heart
  • You need to be truthful to yourself

Two signs when something that is not clear is sinful

  • You feel as if there is something heavy in your heart
  • You hate that someone will see you do it

This is how you can detect a sin which is not clear. For example, you won’t eat something because you don’t feel it is right. Sometimes you do things, and afterwards you feel ashamed. Ask yourself: Do you hate someone to see you in a certain situation or state? This is when your heart is telling you that you must not act.

“There are some people who want to influence others in order to affect their Akhlaq and ideology. They use cognitive psychology and other branches of knowledge where they can manipulate the mind and heart. This is a great challenge to the Muslims since this may lead us to question our beliefs and moral values. Our strategy to face such challenges is to activate and upgrade our internal system. Then Muslims can live their lives in tranquility and without confusion.” (An-Nawawi)

May Allah (swt) make us of those who have good, pure hearts. Ameen.

Adapted for hiba by Tasneem Vali.