Acquiring good manners
There is no doubt that good manners can be acquired and learnt; however, some of them are instinctive. Instinctive manners are those that Allah The Almighty created a person with, as a part of their inborn character. An example for this is what the Prophet, , said to his Companion, may Allah be pleased with him: "You have two characteristics which Allah likes: tolerance and deliberation." The Companion, may Allah be pleased with him, asked, "Have I acquired them or did Allah create (them) in my nature?’ He, , replied: "No, Allah has created (them) in your nature." The Companion, may Allah be pleased with him then said, "Praise be to Allah who has created in my nature two characteristics which Allah and His Messenger like." [Abu Daawood]
However, the Prophet, , also used to ask Allah The Almighty to help him acquire good manners, as he, , said in his supplication at the start of a prayer (after Takbeer): "O Allah, guide me to the best of characters for none can guide to it other than You, and deliver me from the worst of characters for none can deliver me from it other than You." [Muslim]
Among the factors that help one acquire good manners are sincere determination and a gradual approach towards changing one's manners, as they will only change slowly, but surely. This is because it is impossible to directly replace bad behavior with good behavior. Some people think that they can easily acquire good manners, in spite of the fact that they will never be able to improve their conduct without striving for righteousness and calling their soul to account. Moreover, everyone needs those around them to direct them to good and show them their faults. How can one detect one's faults if they are not surrounded by those who tell them that they need to rectify their behavior?
In addition to the aforementioned factors, one should also aspire to every superior quality and direct his determination towards it, since Allah The Almighty loves high moral standards and hates low ones. Replacing bad characteristics with other good ones is an important factor in attaining a lofty moral character. This will happen when one adheres to the straight path of Allah The Almighty, by virtue of which miserliness will turn into generosity, cuckoldry will turn into protective zeal, arrogance will turn into humility, and impudence will turn into bashfulness. This is clearly observed with those whom Allah The Almighty has guided to His way, as guidance is one of the main factors that affects change in manners.
Another factor in acquiring good manners is reading the biographies of the Prophets, may Allah exalt their mention, and the righteous scholars who are the best models for good manners. For instance, Ath-Thahabi said about Al-Imaam Abu Is-haaq Ash-Sheeraazi
Ash-Shaykh, Al-Imaam, the model and the diligent, Shaykh Al-Islam Abu Is-haaq Ash-sheeraazi, As-Sam'aani said about him, ‘He is the Imaam of Ash-Shafi'i school (one of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence), the teacher of An-Nithaamiyah, and the Shaykh of his era. The pleasures of the world (Ad-Dunya) submissively came to him but he rejected them, and confined himself to the most basic possible means of living. He was ascetic, pious, humble, witty, generous, open-handed, bright-faced, cheerful, and well-spoken. All these good characteristics granted him the love of people and the enthusiasm of the knowledge seekers for him. And here is an example of what happened with him and one of the seekers of knowledge:
Al-Mawsil's preacher said on behalf of his father, "In the year 449 AH, I left Al-Mawsil, departing to Abu Is-haaq. When I went to him, he welcomed me and said, "Where do you come from?"
"Al-Mawsil," I replied. Then he said, "So, we are from the same city."
"Sir, you are from Fayroozabad and I am from Al-Mawsil, then how do we come from the same city?" I wondered. After that, he replied, "Did the Ark of Nooh (Noah), may Allah exalt his mention, bring us together?" I saw from his good characteristics what made me love his company. So, I accompanied him until his death."
Thus, the company of righteous people makes everyone imitate their morals. Additionally, reading the verses, Hadeeths (Prophetic narrations), and books that either awaken the desire for cultivating good morals (by mentioning reward), or that warn against bad manners (by mentioning the punishment of Allah The Almighty) all are of great importance for acquiring good manners. As the Prophet, , said: "Whoever restrains his anger when he has the ability to carry it out, Allah The Almighty will make his heart full of satisfaction on the Day of Judgment.”
However, there is no doubt that one’s upbringing plays a major role in forming one's moral constitution and it is also a crucial factor in one's readiness to be redirected towards good manners.