Building the Character of a Muslim with the Light of Surah Hujurat

Allah says in the Quran “Do not claim yourselves to be pure [Quran 53:32] – a practicing Muslim should never feel arrogant while looking at fellow Muslims committing sins and in contrast.

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Allah says in the Quran “Do not claim yourselves to be pure [Quran 53:32] – a practicing Muslim should never feel arrogant while looking at fellow Muslims committing sins and in contrast.

Being a person of good character is inseparable from being a good Muslim. Our beloved Prophet () said: “I have only been sent to perfect good characteristics” [Narrated by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (273)]. The Nobel Quran in several places mentioned the characteristics of a true believer, starting from being thankful to Allah, being patient in times of difficulties, being charitable and kind to people, and so on and so forth. Surah Hujurat in particular deals with some attributes which should be embodied into the soul of a believer and should be manifested through his conduct and exposure to his family, friends, colleagues, and society at large.  

The first two verses say “O you who believe, do not proceed ahead of Allah and his Messenger and fear Allah. Surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. O you who believe, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and be not loud when speaking to him, as you are loud when speaking to one another, lest your good deeds should become void while you are not aware.” 

There is no scope to think that as our beloved Prophet () is no more present in our midst, these verses have become obsolete and are no more applicable in our lives today. In contrast, these verses and other verses of this Surah are as much as applicable as they were during the time of the Prophet(). During Prophet’s () time, those verses directly referred to peoples’ codes of conduct in front of him or with him and today these verses apply to our behavior and codes of conduct while dealing with the Message that he preached i.e. Quran and authentic Sunnah. 

In the first verse, Allah warned the believers not to speak or render their opinions in the presence of the Prophet () until they have been asked. What we learn from this verse is that people should not act hastily in expressing their views when someone more knowledgeable and honourable is present amidst them. It is wise, courteous, and shows that a believer is very concerned about the fact that whatever he does he never wants to displease Allah.

Similarly, in today’s world, a true believer will never express his own view in respect of any matter of this religion before knowing the rulings from the Quran and authentic Sunnah. Therefore, when we encounter any issue (whether religious or not), we must not render any sort of opinion hastily before knowing the true position from reliable sources.

The second verse says that no one should raise their voice against the Prophet (). It means that in the matter of religion a Muslim should not disobey what the Prophet () ordains. There is no scope to make any sort of argument or alteration to the commandments of the Prophet (). Today our Prophet () is not present in person but the Quran and his authentic Sunnah are there in our midst and we cannot raise any questions regarding any Islamic rulings derived from the above sources.

We should strive to be obedient to the Quran and authentic Sunnah in the way the Companions were obedient to the words of the Prophet (). We must bear in mind that if we give priority to our own whims and desires above the sharia law, then all the deeds we do with the view that they will please Almighty will in fact become void.

The next verse says “Surely those we lower their voices before Allah’s Messenger are ones whose hearts Allah has tested for piety; for them there is forgiveness, and a great reward”.The term ‘lower their voices’ indicates obeying the commands of the Prophet () without any hesitation or questioning and Allah assures that those peoples’ heart has been tested for piety. This verse is so amazing which really encourages the believers till today to remain submissive towards the Islamic rulings because a submissive soul is a place where piety resides and there are endless rewards for one who is truly pious. 

Verses four and five of this chapter say “As for those who call you from behind the houses, most of them have no sense. Had they remained patient until you came out to them, it would have been much better for them….” It refers to those Beduin people who while visiting the Prophet () used to shout from outside his house instead of waiting for him to come out. Therefore, Allah revealed these verses which outlined the manners as to how the believers should approach the Prophet().

From these verses, we can deduce the principle that Islam mandates that a believer should approach other people with due respect and honour. In our day to day life, we encounter our parents, spouse, siblings, children, teachers, scholars, colleagues and so many different people and whenever we do so, we need to keep in mind that we should address everyone with due respect. 

The next verse says that “O you who believe, if a sinful person brings a report, verify its correctness, lest you should harm a people out of ignorance and then become remorseful on what you did”. From this verse, we need to understand the danger posed by misinformation and taking action hastily based on such information. The lesson we learn from this verse is that whenever we receive important news relating to a vital matter, we should not accept it immediately but should first examine the source of it.

In today’s world, glaring examples of such a scenario are the fabricated reports/news which go viral on social media or deviated Islamic rulings which can appear from google search. Therefore, a believer must take precautions and verify such information before taking action based upon them. 

Verse nine of this chapter says “If two groups of the believers fight each other, seek reconciliation between them. And if one of them commits aggression against the other, fight the one that commits aggression until it comes back to Allah’s command. So if it comes back, seek reconciliation between them with fairness, and maintain justice. Surely Allah loves who maintains justice”. From this verse, we understand that a true believer cannot sit idle and watch if two Muslims fight in front of him.

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others” [Sahih Al Bukhari 2444]. There are instances when fights take place between family members, friends, and colleagues, and as a believer, it is our duty to try to reconciliate between fellow Muslims. If after reconciliation one person commits further aggression, then we must stand against such aggression. Furthermore, if we need to adjudicate any dispute between the two groups then we must ensure justice. 

Verse 11 and 12 explicitly mention some bad manners that believers should loathe and try their best to avoid. For example, mocking and taunting others, insulting and calling others by offensive nicknames, making negative assumptions about others, spying into other people’s affairs, and backbiting are explicitly mentioned as the evils which are all grave sins in themselves and they also corrupt the society.

A person with any such habits can destroy peace and harmony in the family as well as in society. Separate articles can be written on each of these bad habits individually. However, I just like to mention a few related Ahadith of our Prophet (ﷺ) which are truly inspirational.

Firstly, our Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Part of the perfection of a person’s Islam is his leaving that which is of no concern to him” [a Hasan Hadith recorded in Tirmidi]. Therefore, a true believer must not waste their valuable time in gossiping, backbiting, or taunting each other and always strive in order to keep themselves free from such fruitless and sinful acts. A Muslim should not insult another person and interfere with the privacy of others.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe” [Sunan an-Nasai 4995]. Whenever we feel tempted to commit such sinful acts we must remember the Hadith our Prophet (ﷺ) in which he said: Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter” [Sahih Muslim 2699] and refrain ourselves from all such evil deeds.

Verse 13 says “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted”. The first principle we should derive from this verse is that as a Muslim, one should never hesitate to socially connect with other people irrespective of their nationalities or ethnicities. At the same time, we must remember that there is no scope to take pride in one’s nationality, ethnicity, colour, or social background.

Any sort of pride is destructive and our Prophet warned us by saying that “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise” [Muslim 91]. Therefore, a believer’s heart must always remain content with the truth that these so-called worldly classifications have no value in the sight of Allah and only the people who fear Allah and remain polite and humble will be successful in the hereafter.

In verse 15 it has been stated that “The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of Allah. It is those who are the truthful”. From this verse, we can derive the insight that a believer should look at Islamic creed, ways of life, and all its rulings as divine and obey them without having a second thought about their correctness. Two other virtues are mentioned in the verse, which is spending money and striving in the ways of Allah.

There are a number of Quranic verses in which Allah has mentioned these virtues as integral parts of having faith. For example, in Chapter 107 of the Quran, Allah describes the people who do not encourage the feeding of poor people as deniers of the day of judgment. Allah also said in the Quran “Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” [Quran 2:261-262].

Our prophet (ﷺ) in a Hadith Qudsi said: “Allah said, Spend, O son of Adam, and I will spend on you” [Bukhari 5073]. Apart from doing charitable works, a believer should persistently strive to develop himself to become a good Muslim, to acquire Islamic knowledge, and sacrifice his worldly possessions for the pleasure of Allah. 

As a concluding remark, verse 17 is incredibly inspirational: “Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful”. Such an eloquent and powerful statement from the King of all kings. A Muslim should always thank the Almighty for guidance and his ability to do good deeds. A Muslim should not take pride in his piety.

Allah says in the Quran “Do not claim yourselves to be pure [Quran 53:32]. A practicing Muslim should never feel arrogant while looking at fellow Muslims committing sins and in contrast, he should thank Almighty for guidance and participate in the field of Dawah for the betterment of other Muslims and humanity at large. 

In the light of these Quranic verses and Ahadith, we can learn about some very essential building blocks of the characteristics of a true believer. May Allah grant us the ability to become persons of outstanding character. I would like to conclude this with an amazing saying of our Prophet (ﷺ) in which he says “Verily, the most complete of believers in faith are those with the best character and who are most kind to families” [Sunan At-Tirmidi 2612].