AS long as we are alive in this physical world, our mind is like an open road for all kind of thought traffic. Thoughts usually pass through the mind but some are strong enough to make a person act upon them. They become actions and if the same action is repeated over time, they turn into habits and finally become part of one’s character.
Thus, thoughts are key to the whole process of character-building. They are at the bottom of all progress and retrogression, all success or failure, all good and bad happenings and all that is desirable or undesirable. It is a simple psychological law that any type of thought, if entertained for a sufficient length of time, will finally burst forth into action. Many heinous crimes such as murder, theft, robbery, terrorist acts etc are at times committed in this way. Therefore, in the realm of the mind, every individual must learn how to manage his or her thoughts.
Every act of life is preceded and given birth to by a thought. The act repeated forms habits, and habits determine character.
Every individual must learn how to manage his or her thoughts.
If a wrong action is committed, our character will move in the wrong direction whereas a righteous action will make us righteous. Therefore, each one of us needs to be watchful, mindful, conscious and, above all, courageous enough to nip nefarious thoughts in the bud.
Though it is difficult to free the mind from the incessant flux of unwanted thoughts, the Holy Quran suggests to believers: “And if an evil whisper comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge with Allah. Verily, He is All Hearer, All Knower” (7:200).
The spark of a matchstick can be extinguished by a little effort, instead of allowing a flame to leap high and turn into a raging fire.
Similarly, nipping negative thoughts at the first instance would be easy rather than dealing with the eventual consequences. It is further clarified by an example: in a local bank, a cashier handles cash in the millions. He reads about a man who suddenly became rich through speculation on the stock market. A thought surfaces in his mind to invest the funds he has charge of. The very moment the thought of using funds belonging to others enters his mind he instantly nips the thought in the bud, otherwise it would grow into such proportions that it would become more and more difficult to control.
Likewise a young person is out with some of his companions for a pleasant evening. A suggestion is made by one of his friends to dine and wine together in a nearby restaurant. The young person does not realise the fact that the greatest strength and nobility of character always lies in taking a firm stand and doing the right thing. He goes along with his other companions. The act is repeated a number of times and ultimately causes him to become addicted to drinking.
Humans, by nature, are weak and usually remain in a fix. The Holy Quran enjoins man to seek the right path at every moment of his life. This enhances his true worth by improving his thoughts and subsequently his character.
In his famous saying, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) says that the best of you in Islam are those who are most excellent in character. If a person bears good moral character, he is dear in his society, likewise dear in the eyes of Allah. This is opposed to one who is undesirable for society, and likewise undesirable in Allah’s eyes.
Character is an inbuilt property that defines the apparent individual nature. It is not physically overt to everyone but builds within through right guidance, education and environment. It is manifested in an individual’s dealings while interacting with society.
We all are part of society and therefore, society has every right to form an opinion about our conduct. Seventh-century Makkan society, in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born and grew up, was a pagan society. But that society formed an opinion about the Holy Prophet’s character.
He was above board in every respect; therefore, society called him As Sadiq (true) and Al Amin (trustworthy).
There are many contributing elements which help form the individual’s character but by far the most important underlying element is the force of thoughts. Every conscious human act is preceded by a thought. The dominating thoughts determine dominating action.
The acts repeated crystallise into habit. The aggregate of our habits is one’s character.
A desire for noble character is the essence, indeed the sum and substance of all religious teachings. This depends on managing thoughts at the core.
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017