What do I look like?

One of the most important lessons I have learnt is that my akhlaq is the “container” which I use to share my faith with other people. So even if my faith is pure from shirk or riya or munafiqat… I also need to make sure that the container in which I am going to carry it to others is also clean and beautiful… And if it is contaminated with arrogance, or anger, or impatience, or bukhl, or shuh, or any other bad characteristic then I have to scrub it with taubah and islah…

The ayat which has really penetrated my heart in a most profound way is from Surah Fatir:

Wa maa yastawil bahraan haza ‘azbun furatun saa’ighun sharabuhu wa haza milhun ‘ujajun; wa min kullin ta’kuluna lahman tariyyan wa tastakhrijuna hilyatan talbasunaha…

 12. And the two seas are not alike. This, fresh, sweet, good to drink, and this (other) bitter, salty. And from each you eat fresh meat, and extract the ornament that you wear.

This ayah taught me two lessons. Initially I learnt just one and that is to accept that certain people will be bitter and unpleasant most of the time so I have to adjust my expectations accordingly. It’s like being in a car if I am already prepared for a possible jerk then I will hold on to the dashboard and prevent my head to snap forward… prevention is better than cure!

But then I thought that this is just one aspect of this ayah, in which I should think positively about others and identify their limitations. But on a deeper level, it also made me think about my own behaviour… am I always sweet and pleasant?

This led me to follow myself like a detective!! And the evidence I collected from my speech and behaviour made me realize that even though I am always trying to take the best care of those around me but my expressions are not always “sweet and pleasant” and this is something which I had never really thought about myself… I used to wonder why people sometimes reacted so negatively to my most sincere efforts… now I know why! I was looking at my heart but they were looking at my expressions…

I thought maybe the people who appear bitter to me also have a sweet heart but they may be suffering from some other pain and their frowning is due to that pain… like you cannot smile if you have migraine!

But if I want to be a worker of Allah, carrying the message of peace to others, then I cannot afford to be sour or bitter. If there is some pain inside me I must take some medicine and keep smiling inspite of it…J

So now my favourite dua is

“wahdini li ahsanil akhlaqi la yahdi li ahsaniha illa anta

wasrif anni sayyiaha la yasrif anni sayyiaha illa anta”

(ya Allah) guide me to the best character

No one can guide me to the best character except you

And take away the bad manners from me

No one can take away these bad manners from me except you