Sufi Wisdom


“Consider the soul and the order and proportion given to it,
and its enlightenment as to that which is wrong and right:
truly, the one who purifies it shall reach a happy state
and the one who corrupts it shall truly be lost.” (Quran 91:7-10)

The word ‘character’ originally meant a sign, a brand, of a stamp. ‘A person of that stamp’ means a man or woman of this or that particular character. Imam al-Ghazali said, “A trait of character . . . is a firmly established condition of the soul, from which actions proceed easily, without any need of thinking or forethought.”

To say that someone ‘has character’ means that he or she has taken some real steps towards becoming a true human being. We talk about building human character, as if character is something we can develop over time. But we need to develop it on the basis of who we really are; as God made us. God ‘stamped’ us with our true character before we were born; our quest is to develop what God has stamped us with.

Just as ‘envelop’ means to wrap something, ‘develop’ means to unwrap something. Character development, then, is the process of unpacking what God has provided us, for our journey through this world and into the next.

In Arabic, the word for character, with the connotation of good character, is ‘khuluq’, which is related to the word, ‘khaliq’, creation.