Four Pillars To Noble Character
(by ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah)
“It is not imagined that one can have noble character except if it is founded upon four pillars:
1) Sabr (Patience).
2) ‘Iffah (Chastity).
3) Shujaa’ah (Courage).
4) Adl (Justice).
1) Patience inspires him to be tolerant, control his anger, endure the harms that he receives from others, to be forbearing and deliberate in his decisions. It motivates him to be gentle and not to be rash or hasty.
2) Chastity inspires him to avoid every imprudent characteristic, whether in statement or action, and encourages him to have a sense of modesty and integrity which is the epitome of all good. It prevents him from fornication, stinginess, lying, backbiting and spreading tales to cause separation and discord between the people.
3) Courage inspires him to have a sense of self esteem, to emphasize high and noble manners and to make it apart of his natural disposition. It also encourages him to exert himself and to be generous, which is in essence, true courage and it leads to strong will and self determination. It encourages him to distance himself from his ardent lowly desires, to control his anger, and to be forbearing because by such, he can control his temper, take it by the reins and curb his violent and destructive behavior just as the Messenger (SAW) said: “The Strong is not the one who can wrestle his opponent to the ground but rather the strong is the one who can control himself when he gets angry.” This is true genuine courage and it is the sole trait that the slave utilizes to conquer his opponent.
4) Justice encourages him to be impartial in his behavior with people and to be moderate between the two extremes of negligence and extremism. It motivates him to be generous and kind which is the middle course between absolute degradation and arrogance, and to make this apart of his disposition and makeup. It encourages him to be courageous which is the middle course between cowardice and imprudence, and to be forbearing which is the middle course between extreme unnecessary anger and ignominy.”
These four virtuous characteristics are the axis and provenance of all noble manners and the foundation of all repugnant and ignominious characteristics are built upon four pillars:
1) Jahl (Ignorance).
2 Dhulm (Oppression).
3) Shahwah (following ones lowly desires).
4) Ghadab (Anger).
1) Ignorance, allows him to view good in the form of evil and evil in the form of good, and to consider that which is complete to be incomplete and that which is incomplete to be complete.
2) Oppression, causes him to put things in places which are not appropriate for them, so he gets angry when its time to be happy and he is happy when its time to be angry. He is ignorant and hasty when its time to be deliberate and deliberate when its time to be hasty, he is stingy when it is time to be generous and generous when its time to be stingy. He is weak when it is time to be courageous and assume responsibility, and he assumes responsibility when it is time to take a step back (and let someone else undertake the initiative). He is gentle and lenient when it is time to be harsh and firm and he is harsh and firm when it is time to be lenient. He is humble when it is time to be superior and arrogant when it is time to be humble.
3) Following (his) lowly desires encourages him to be diligent in obtaining that which the soul ardently desires, to be stingy and greedy. It encourages him to adorn himself with all types of despicable and imprudent characteristics.
4) Anger, incites him to be arrogant, jealous, envious, to hold enmity of others and to be imprudent and shameless.
The foundation of these four repugnant and blameworthy characteristics are two pillars:
1) Extreme Self ignominy.
2) Extreme Self Pride.
Insha’Allah may we use these pillars as guides to improve our characters. Aameen.