Allah, the Almighty, said:

{And indeed, you are of a great moral character.} [al-Qalam 68:4]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ"

Character is the true nature to which the pretentious one relapses. The theorists of this knowledge have agreed that taṣawwuf is all about moral character. All of it revolves around one axis: extending kindness and refraining from harm. This may be attained by three qualities: knowledge, benevolence, and patience. 322
It is of three levels:

الْخُلُقُ مَا يَرْجِعُ إِلَيْهِ الْمُتَكَلِّفُ مِنْ نَعْتِهِ. وَاجْتَمَعَتْ كَلِمَةُ النَّاطِقِينَ فِي هَذَا الْعِلْمِ أَنَّ التَّصَوُّفَ هُوَ الْخُلُقُ، وَجَمِيعُ الْكَلَامِ فِيهِ يَدُورُ عَلَى قُطْبٍ وَاحِدٍ، وَهُوَ بَذْلُ الْمَعْرُوفِ وَكَفُّ الْأَذَى. وَإِنَّمَا يُدْرَكُ إِمْكَانُ ذَلِكَ فِي ثَلَاثَةِ أَشْيَاءَ: فِي الْعِلْمِ وَالْجُودِ وَالصَّبْرِ.
وَهُوَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ.

The first level is to know the place of the creations and that they are tied to their destinies, confined within their given capacities, and bound by [His] decree.323 You will gain from this recognition three things:

  1. the creations, even the dogs, feeling safe from you324

  2. the creations’ love of you

  3. the creations’ salvation through you325

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَى أَنْ تَعْرِفَ مَقَامَ الْخَلْقِ وَأَنَّهُمْ بِأَقْدَارِهِمْ مَرْبُوطُونَ، وَفِي طَاقَتِهِمْ مَحْبُوسُونَ وَعَلَى الْحُكْمِ مَوْقُوفُونَ، فَتَسْتَفِيدَ بِهَذِهِ الْمَعْرِفَةِ ثَلَاثَةَ أَشْيَاءَ:

  1. أَمْنَ الْخَلْقِ مِنْكَ، حَتَّى الْكَلَبِ

  2. وَمَحَبَّةُ الْخَلْقِ إِيَّاكَ

  3. وَنَجَاةُ الْخَلْقِ بِكَ

The second level is perfecting your manners with the True One, and it is accomplished by knowing that:

  1. everything from you mandates your apology326

  2. everything from the True One mandates your gratefulness

  3. there is no salvation for you except through fulfilling [His covenant]

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُ تَحْسِينُ خُلُقِكَ مَعَ الْحَقِّ، وَتَحْسِينُهُ مِنْكَ أَنْ تَعْلَمَ:

  1. أَنَّ كُلَّ مَا يَأْتِي مِنْكَ يُوجِبُ عُذْرًا

  2. وَأَنَّ كُلَّ مَا يَأْتِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ يُوجِبُ شُكْرًا

  3. وَأَنْ لَا تَرَى لَهُ مِنَ الْوَفَاءِ بُدًّا

The third level is:

  1. refining one’s character through purification327

  2. rising above the dispersion of refining the character328

  3. refining the character by transcending (leaving behind) one’s character329

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُ:

  1. التَّخَلُّقُ بِتَصْفِيَةِ الْخُلُقِ

  2. ثُمَّ الصُّعُودُ عَنْ تَفْرِقَةِ التَّخَلُّقِ

  3. ثُمَّ التَّخَلُّقُ بِمُجَاوَزَةِ الْأَخْلَاقِ

322 Knowledge guides you to what is right, just, and good. Benevolence makes you kind to all creations and generous. Patience helps you tolerate people’s harm and forgive them.
323 Thus, you will not be harsh in judging them and you will find excuses for them. This does not mean the acceptance or normalization of sin, but showing mercy to the sinner.
324 Because they know you don’t ever intend to harm them and that you are forgiving and benevolent.
325 Because when they love you, they will be more accepting of your preaching and guidance.
326 Even your good deeds mandate an apology, because they are not good enough to be presented to Him. The Prophet ﷺ used to make istighfâr immediately after the prayers.
327 Perfecting each character by eliminating all impurities, most importantly the impurities of intention.
328 Because focusing on the refinement of the character may distract you from focusing on the Divine (exalted is He). Sometimes it is better to rechannel a certain character to be subservient to the Divine will. ‘Umar rechanneled his roughness to serve the cause of God. Additionally, a journeyer may possibly waste valuable time killing all the snakes and scorpions in his way, which may delay him or interrupt his journey. The ultimate goal is to do His work, serve His cause, and please Him.
329 This is again, according to the sheikh (may Allah be pleased with him), the ultimate station, which is being unconscious of the self and conscious only of the True One, Allah.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj