The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said, describing the believer, “He is subtle in his movements, sweet to look at… He seeks out the loftiest of matters, and has the most outstanding moral ethics… He is not prejudiced against he whom he does not like, nor biased in favor of one he loves… He is hardly a burden, and instead is very helpful… He perfects his actions as if he is being watched, lowers his gaze, is liberal in his giving, and never turns away a beggar… He considers his words carefully and guards his tongue… He neither accepts falsehood from a friend, nor rejects truth from an enemy… He only learns in order that he might know, and he only knows in order that he may act… When he travels with worldly people, he is the smartest of them, and when he travels with the people of the Hereafter, he is the most pious from among them.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
Imam Ali (peace be upon him) further describes, “The believer is such that his joy is evident on his face whereas his sorrow is in his heart. His breast is at its widest [i.e. biggest heart] but his ego is at his lowest. He despises high ranks and shuns reputation. His grief is long-lasting and his ambition is lofty. His silence is much and his time occupied. He is grateful, extremely patient, and immersed in deep thought. He is prudent with his needs. He is good-natured and mild-tempered. His soul is firmer than steel whilst his ego remains lower than a slave.” (Ibid.)
Sent down upon us by the Almighty as the epitome of moral excellence, our Infallible Guides (peace be upon them) have blessed us with countless pearls of wisdom with regard to the signs of a true believer. Having clearly illustrated the loftiness of the moral virtues and behavioral merits a believer possesses, let us take a moment in solitude to reflect upon some of these, whilst striving to inculcate the noble yet cardinal qualities into ourselves with sincerity.
At the heart of the Holy Prophet’s mission was to maintain, perfect and nourish good moral virtues; he has said, “I recommend to you the importance of good moral conduct because I have been appointed by God Almighty to accomplish this very aim.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
Being one of his greatest prophetic objectives, we must especially be mindful of our character when we find ourselves in positions of disagreement, as it is in these situations that Shaytan is so effortlessly successful in deflating the believer’s moral behavior. It takes one slip of the tongue to pass off as being offensive, and less than that to be dominated by the urge to degrade our fellow believers who we feel are wrong in their opinions, beliefs and conduct. When such sentiments prevail, let us remember the words of our Prophet: “The peak of good reason after religious devotion is treating people with love” (Ibid). If faced with a somewhat difficult individual, let us remember our Prophet’s advice to “perform acts of courtesy to those who are worthy of them as well as those who are not worthy of them, and even if they have no effect on those who do deserve them, you are at least worthy of performing them.” (Uyun Akhbar al-Rida)
Imam Ali has further said, “For your brother, offer your blood and your wealth; for your enemy your justice and fairness, and for people in general your joy and your good favor.” (Bihar al-Anwar) Indeed, in the path of the Ahlul Bayt there is no room for insolence – to friends and enemies alike.
Feelings of satisfaction and content are generally coupled with Allah’s blessings and bounties in times of happiness and fortune, yet the sign of the believer is to be content and at peace with however much or little the Lord has allotted for herself/himself. Rather than distressing over that which he seeks yet cannot attain, the believer will understand that Allah is the best of planners and thus – regardless of circumstances – there is complete wisdom behind what He has willed.
When Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) was asked how a believer knows that he is indeed a believer, the Imam replied: “Through submission to Allah and satisfaction with whatever source of happiness or unhappiness comes his way.” (Ibid.)
The Holy Prophet once asked a group of his companions, “Who are you?” They said, “We are believers.” He then asked, “What is the sign of your faith?” They replied, “We remain patient in trial and are thankful in times of happiness and ease, and we are content at Divine decisions.” Upon hearing this, the Prophet replied, “These are truly the faithful.” (Islamic Morals)
Is the condition of our heart strong enough to face the troubles that come our way, such that it is strengthened by them or at the least remains unconditionally unaffected?
Imam Sadiq said, “Verily the believer is stronger than pieces of iron, for when a piece of iron enters the fire it changes, whereas the believer, were he to be killed and resurrected and then killed again, his heart would never change.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
Do we shy away from displaying our faith to the world and feel weakened and threatened by external scrutiny, or do we stand firm in obeying Allah’s commands regardless of how big a stone is thrown at us?
Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said, “The believer is harder than a mountain, for the mountain is dispensable, whereas nothing can be taken away from a believer’s religion.” (Al-Kafi) He also said, describing the attributes of Shias, “They are like strong fortresses; their chests are trustworthy; they are men of prudence and self-control; they are not extravagant; they are neither oppressors nor pretentious; they are devoted worshippers in night and brave like lions during the day.” (Mishkat al-Anwar)
Imam Baqir said, “The Lord Almighty has kept locks for evil and wickedness, and the key to those locks is wine because intoxicants drive away intelligence.” He then added, “Lying is worse than wine.” (Al-Kafi) That is certainly something to think hard about – lying is worse than wine! Yet how easily inclined we are to projecting, implying and breathing falsehood daily. Entire lives have been (and continue to be) consumed and disintegrated by incessant engagement in lies. Can such individuals claim to be believers? The Prophet said, “The believer can be predisposed to any trait, but he cannot be predisposed to lying or treachery.” (Tuhaf al-Uqul)
Forgiveness and Forbearance
The height of the virtue of forgiveness was found in all of our divinely appointed Guides. As unmovable mountains of forbearance, they would not only pardon the enemy, but treat them with such kindness and compassion to the extent of winning them over. As Imam Ali has said, “Obligate yourself to adopt affection, and make yourself tolerate the hindrances of people.” (Ibid.)
For those of us who may find it difficult to overlook the faults of others and treat them with respect and consideration, let us take heed of the Holy Prophet’s tradition in which he tells us, “One of the signs of a believer is that he does not naturally nurse any grudge based on carnal sentiments, against anybody.” He also said, “If a believer happens to commit a fault, the aggrieved believer does not feel antipathy towards him for more than three days.”
Further, he advised “If you are faced with anger, avert it through pardon, for verily a caller will call out on the Day of Resurrection: ‘Whoever has a claim for a reward from Allah should stand up!’, and none will stand except the pardoners. Have you not heard the verse of Allah, the most High, ‘So whoever pardons and makes peace, his reward lies with Allah’?!” (A’lam al-Din)
The Holy Prophet said, “Allah has made generosity the greatest moral virtue.” (Kanz al-‘Ummal)
Imam Sadiq said, “Generosity is one of the noble traits possessed by the prophets. It is the pillar of belief, such that only a true believer will be generous, as well as one who possesses great certainty and high aspiration, for generosity is a gleam from the light of certainty, and the one who knows what he wants finds it easy to give away.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
He has further said, “The best ones from among you are those who are liberal and the worst ones from among you are the miserly” (Ibid, p. 350), and that “A generous youth burdened by sins is more beloved to Allah than a worshipping but miserly old man.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
The Best of Believers
Imam Ali said, “The best of believers in terms of faith is he whose giving and withholding, and whose displeasure and pleasure are solely for the sake of Allah.” (Ghurar al-Hikam)
He also said, “Our Shi’a are those who possess a deep understanding of Allah; they act according to the orders of Allah; they possess excellences; they speak only the truth; their food is limited to gaining strength; their dress is simple; their behavior is humble; you think that they have lost their senses, but it is not like that… Instead, the greatness of their Lord has made them oblivious, and His power has overwhelmed their hearts and taken over their intellects. So when they strongly wish of Him, they promptly strive to do pure actions before God, the most High; they are not happy with few good actions, and they never take their abundant good actions to be sufficient.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
The Holy Prophet said, “There are ten signs of a righteous person: he loves for the sake of Allah, hates for the sake of Allah, befriends for the sake of Allah, abandons for the sake of Allah. He becomes angry for the sake of Allah, becomes pleased for the sake of Allah, works for the sake of Allah, beseeches Allah, submits to Allah – fearing Him, awed [by others], pure, sincere, bashful, and watchful – and acts kindly for the sake of Allah.” (Ibid.)