For a long time, it was believed that personalities cannot change, especially after a certain age. There is certainly an element of truth in this. In early Islam, we see that even though the lives of the first generation changed completely after the concept of relying only on Allah (God) became grafted into their being, their essential characteristics stayed the same, which they used to bring about good after their transformation. Although a lot of youth converted early on, perhaps the first convert was an old man, Waraqa Ibn Naufal, the Christian uncle of the Prophet’s (SWAS) wife who was a scholar.
In fact, the transformations that took place in the personalities of the Companions (RA) of the Prophet (SWAS), have no precedence in history, for perhaps there can be since that time. That transformation of a whole generation was a turning point for human civilization (without any exaggeration). So what was so special about that period that transformed whole societies into the best version of themselves? What made them passionate about personal reform, that they became ready to work on themselves with full dedication, no matter what the consequences?
The simple answer to these questions is the effect of the statement which they pronounced to enter Islam, i.e. the kalimah, that they will not worship anything/anyone except Allah (God) and take Muhammad (SWAS) as their role model. The key to personality transformation is not to rely on people. Yes, we respect people, and actively listen to everyone, but we rely on only Allah (God) to choose what we implement in our lives or not. When a person becomes completely dependent on Allah (God) and independent of people, they will do everything to change their flaws, since their final status in this world is irrelevant to them anymore. Of course, those around them seldom tell them that. Rather, many may offer help in areas, even when the person might manage perfectly fine.
So one of the key characteristics of transforming personality is learning to be assertive about what we want based on the program of development we set for ourselves and when we communicate with others we can set boundaries in terms of what they do and they are bound to respect them. Even if the most knowledgeable person in the world advises us, we need to listen very carefully and think about it well, but ultimately, we decide what is right for our personal development after taking divine counsel. After Allah (God), we know ourselves and our situation the best, and though people do give good advice and we should pick up our faults from them but we should realize that everyone but Allah has their self-interest at the back of their mind.
So deeply knowing and relating to the names and attributes of Allah (God), makes us reliant on Him completely, rather than being impressed by a lesser version of those attributes in Allah’s creation. Only when we are able to do this can we learn to fly with our personal development. Without this, one “advisor” might advise us something and another might advise us the opposite, so without having Allah (God) as a bedrock to rely on and the touchstone to decide on, we can never develop. We should never let anyone “control” us as they might judge us based on what we wrote 10 years ago.
Although there are more than 100 names and attributes of Allah (God) mentioned in the Quran, some of which the scholars disagree about, we need to think deeply about how they relate to our situation and try to internalize them, so that our dependence on Allah (God) becomes complete in each of the aspects of His Being. When we let many people interfere in our privacy and we become stressed out because we chose to give people our peace of mind, we should realize that Allah (God) is AsSalaam (the Source of Peace). We should not try to seek peace with people instead no matter what they seem to promise us. When we start expecting things from people instead of Al Kareem (the Most Generous), then we risk not being enriched by Him. When we start obeying people blindly instead of Al Malik, then they end up controlling us. When we rely on people to raise our faith that Al Mu’min (the Protector of Faith), then we risk losing it altogether. When we expect praise and honor from our parents and society instead of Al Mu’izz (the Giver of Honor), then we are disgraced…
In the privacy of one’s home, sometimes we want to revise something in depth that is taught in grade 3. Perhaps, in our moment of weakness, we need to. I think we should be able to do that, without global repercussions by those diagnosing us based on the information they project from 10+ years ago.
It is not difficult to relate to all the names and attributes, especially if someone is undergoing transformation. All that is needed is to spend some time to see which of these we need most in terms of priority to brush up on. If we leave our reform in the hands of others, we can never develop. Yes, we learn much from our teachers, spouses, courses, etc. but unless we proactively set boundaries and control our personal development, we will only slide.
When our relationship with Allah (God) is strong, we are not dependent on his creation, so the best way to develop is not to depend on anybody. If we depend on people they would make us what they want us to be, not what we want to be.
RESPECTING HEALTHY BOUNDARY
I would like to use this opportunity to assert to everyone who is encroaching on my privacy, to stop doing so, as this is not an ethical boundary for interacting with anyone. Although I appreciate feedback and implement much, there is a possibility that my neutral action/inaction might be judged negatively just because people who chose to observe me illegally in my residence can never understand the full context, just like Khidr and Musa’s (Moses) (AS) story in Surah Al Kahf of the Quran. If we care too much about people’s perceptions of us, we cannot achieve anything as they diminish our strengths and exaggerate our weaknesses. It has a negative effect on my actions in terms of sincerity and I am not able to do what I want to.
So do remove the spyware from all my devices.
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