Personality Development in Islam
Islam focuses on the continuous development of the individual. In fact, and not without reason, the Prophet is reported to have once said: ‘He whose two days are equal, is a loser.’
Personality is defined as the enduring personal characteristics of individuals. Personality development refers to the creation of a personality-focus with the intention of forming a particular impression on others. This is the sum total of choices, behavioural traits and decisions that a person makes in life.
Personality development is also explained as the development of the organized pattern of behaviors and attitudes that makes a person distinctive. Personality development occurs by the ongoing interaction of temperament, character and environment.
Today, the modern corporate world has completely changed the meaning of the word ‘Personality Development.’ When it talks about personality development, it refers to the way we dress, the way we speak, the way we carry ourselves, and the way we present ourselves.
The modern concept of personality development focuses on the external outlook. But when Islam speaks about personality development, it mainly focuses on developing the personality of the individual from within and making him a better person, from the point of view of his character. Islam is a complete system that impacts all areas of a person’s life. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an:
“Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, (making) a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded” (Quran 14:24-25).
This is a verse which speaks about Personality Development of the individual in detail.
The first aspect mentioned in the verse is about the roots of a tree. The meaning of the roots of a tree refers to the Eeman of the individual. If the roots are firmly fixed in the earth, the tree becomes stronger and longer and if the roots are not firmly fixed it can fall any time. Thus, an individual can only develop when he has strong belief in every aspect of Islam.
The second aspect mentioned in the verse is about the branches of a tree. The branches refer to continuous development of the individual’s personality. Thus, an individual should continuously strive for his knowledge, social, moral and talent development.
The third aspect mentioned in the verse is fruits. Fruits refer to the return what an individual can give to the society. Thus, the personality of an individual can only be effective and fruitful when he contributes to the society using his skill and talent.
Prophet Muhammad (saws) once said, “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” (Daraqutni, Hasan)
In order for the tree to grow, there is contribution from the entire universe, like the sun light, wind, water, sand etc. Similarly, when a person plans to develop his own self, then Allah (swt) make the necessary arrangement for the individual to grow and develop.
Salah is a tool which helps an individual to develop his spiritual personality. Praying five times a day, makes a person God conscious. Hajj is a tool which helps an individual to develop his social personality. When an individual performs Hajj, he learns and witnesses equality and universal brotherhood, which helps him for the rest of his life.
Reading the Qur’an is an act which helps to develop his intellectual personality. Reading Qur’an regularly, helps a person to gain more knowledge and helps him understand the purpose of life. Reading and understanding the life of Prophet Muhammad (saws) helps a person to develop his moral personality. When a person reads the life of Prophet Muhammad (saws), he also strives to imitate and behave in the same manner.
Islam focuses on the continuous development of the individual. In fact, Prophet Mohammed (saws) is reported to have once said: “He whose two days are equal, is a loser.” (Daiylami)
This hadith clearly specifies that the individual has to focus on continuous improvement. If he does not do something different or does not learn something new the next day, he is termed to be a loser.
Believers are always in a race towards Paradise. They always try to have their today better than their yesterday. They want to keep on increasing their piety and good deeds. They try to devote more time, energy, and resources with each passing day to winning Allah’s pleasure.
Always wanting their inner self to be on a constant course of improvement, they do not want to ever repeat their mistakes. Indeed, they learn from their experiences, and try to purify their hearts and their intentions to make them better all the time. Thus, a Muslim’s two days are not equal.
A Muslim’s competition is with himself, because he knows that as he get better, he wins more of Allah’s pleasure and, thus, higher and better places in Paradise. It is immaterial how good one is, when compared to others. However, when a believer sees another trying harder than oneself for Allah’s pleasure, it motivates him, too, to do the same.
The Companions of Prophet Muhammad (saws) competed with each other, but not for the things of this world. When the individual continuously strives for all this, he tends to develop his personality from within. If each day we make only one tiny improvement; tell one less lie, do one additional act of charity, learn a hadith, just think how much you will improve over time.
To develop the personality from within, the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (saws) emphasizes people to be truly righteous, to have good intentions, to be truthful, to keep up the promise, to develop tolerance, to be polite, to be kind, to be thankful, to be steadfast, to be honest, to be cooperative, etc.
Developing all these qualities will make a person best in character. On the other hand, the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (saws) instructs people not to indulge in backbiting, not to lie, not to be suspicious, not to be jealous, not to get angry, not to be proud, not to abuse people, not to be a hypocrite, not to taunt, not to mock, not to discriminate, not to indulge in any kind of fraud or cheating.
It is not without reason, therefore, that Prophet Muhammad (saws) is reported to have once said: “The best of people are those with the most excellent character.” (Tabarani)
One main task which was performed by Prophet Muhammad (saws) was to develop the personalities of the individuals by moving them from darkness to light. Prophet Muhammad (saws) transformed the personalities of his Companions from within, which ultimately prepared them to sacrifice their pleasure, comfort, money and life for Islam.
In another verse, Allah (swt) related development of one’s personality to success and failure. He (swt) tells us in the Qur’an: “He is, indeed, successful who purifies it. And he is, indeed, a failure who corrupts it.” (91: 9-10)
The verse explains personality development through purification of one’s soul. The inspiration for recognizing good and evil has been mentioned which also explains the meaning of personality development that is to purify the self from wickedness and to nourish it with the fear of Allah (swt) and righteousness.
In other words, true personality development is to nurse – or train – the self in such a way that goodness and righteousness are encouraged and achieve prominence. The real progress of the self and the nourishment of the soul lie in developing this quality.
This reality can be understood by an example: a plant can grow only when it gets a congenial environment and it is properly watered. Otherwise a powerful breeze would be sufficient to uproot it.
The individual should, first of all, purify himself from disbelief and transgression and should accept the divine guidance and become an obedient slave of Allah (swt). The path of obedience is the path of the Shariah, by following which man can become righteous and virtuous.
The best and the most effective recipe presented by the Qur’an for one’s personality development is Allah’s exalted and perfect Shariah. By directing man to the right method of personality development, the Qur’an has kept man away from all those unnatural and awkward methods and ways which the followers of many other ideologies have invented with the objective of personality development.
The Qur’an wants man to concentrate on this reality so that he may shape his life accordingly and when he may return from this testing ground of the world, the goal of his success may be before his eyes. Thus, this verse also gives importance to the development of personality from within.
Islam provided a well-rounded approach for personality development. A man should be able to earn a living, have pure belief, correct worship, able to control his desires, be careful about his time, organized his affairs and beneficial to those around him.
In order to achieve all this, a person should be physically, spiritually and intellectually strong. Thus, Islam gives importance for a person to develop his personality in all these three dimensions.
As Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “And verily, you (O Muhammed) are on an exalted standard of character.” (68:4). Indeed, Ayesha (ra) described Prophet Muhammad (saws) thus: “His character was the Qur’an.”
The Qur’an and the life of Prophet Muhammad (saws) give us certain guidelines on the “do”s and “don’t”s for an individual to build a strong personality. They are the best source of guidance for a person to develop his or her character and overall personality.
Of course, no workshop can create the impact which the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (saws) can create. Good manners and character lead to prosperity, while bad ones lead to misery.