We all seem to have an image. An image of what a God fearing and religious person looks like. That image may be shaped based on our experience with those whom we consider to be “religious” and at other times based on what we imagine a pious person to be, based upon our reading from a particular book, novel or after having watched a video.
The fact of the matter is that despite of what we imagine and consider to be a God fearing person, there are, there will be and always have been some really outstanding and amazing God conscious people in almost every nook and corner of our planet. But, the most pious people on the planet do not go around boasting of how good they are, nor do they look down arrogantly upon others. It is their sincerity of work, humbleness in their achievements, and trust in God which really makes them superior to those who claim to be sincere, humble, and trust worthy yet act otherwise. It is however, strange that on a more general opinion, people assume that the more pious a person becomes the less cheerful he is and the more arrogant he appears to be. One should realize that a truly pious muslim is the one who is more caring for his/her parents, takes good care of his/her neighbor, kind in treating the ones younger than him/her and respectful towards his/her elders. If this was not the kind of pious person you had in mind then you should know, that the person you have had a bad experience with and whom you thought was religious was in fact not a God conscious person, atleast not yet!
As an inspiration for all muslims out there and even all non-muslims let us learn from the impeccable characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was once recorded to have said: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” [Recorded in the Book Saheeh Bukhari] Similarly, on another occasion the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “He is not one of us who does not show tenderness to the young and who does not show respect to the elder.” [Recorded in the book Tirmidhi]
Allah says in the Qur’an: “”O people, surely we have created you from a male and female, and made you tribes and families that you might know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you with Allah is he who is best in conduct.” [Qur’an, 49:13]
And there are many more that prove the same point. Hence, a significant amount of Islamic literature deals with improving one’s character and dealings with not just other human beings but also with animals. The Prophet (Peace be upon him), told his companions of a woman who would be sent to Hell for having locked up a cat; not feeding it, nor even releasing it, so that it could feed itself. [Narrated by Abdullah bin ‘Umar (R.A.), Recorded in Saheeh Bukhari] Therefore, improving one’s good manners and characters is a possible sign of him trying to be more pious. However, Islam is not just about good manners. It’s about perfecting one’s prayer, removing any possible chance of showing off, standing up and speaking out against injustice, giving money to the needy and the under-privileged, in short, being closer to the creator of the universe, and doing all that one can to maintain and improve upon that closeness.
However, one important point of consideration is to make one’s intentions pure. One should not study so that other humans can praise him for his vastness in knowledge, not to give in charity so that others can praise him for his generosity and not to fight against injustice so that others can call him brave. As a matter of fact, such people shall be in loss on the Day of Judgment due to their misappropriate intentions. One should only do good deeds so that the Creator of the universe will reward him for that. This is precisely what it means to be good. To do good sincerely and with full devotion keeping in mind that the creator of the universe is well aware of his intentions and hence should be sincere and diligent in doing good deeds is indeed a success in itself. This is exactly why; the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were world renowned for their incredible character and amazing patience. They did not do good deeds so that other human beings could praise them, but, because they wanted to thank God in any way they could. They did not do good deeds so that people would reward them medals or prizes but because they wanted to be rewarded by God in this life and the life hereafter.
It was due to this blend of sincerity combined with devotion, patience, and authentic knowledge of the commands of the prophet (peace be upon him) and of God, which made muslims unparallel and outstanding. And, unless and until we adopt this amazing yet simple recipe for success in this life and the hereafter, we would still remain lost in the same mess where we find ourselves today.