The Prophet guided his Ummah (nation) to everything that is good and warned them against everything that is evil. Bad morals are among the things which the Prophet warned us against. They are detestable and indicate an unrighteous demeanor that usually arises from the unsoundness of the heart.
Pillars of Bad Morals
Bad manners are established and constructed upon four pillars: ignorance, injustice, desires and anger.
Ignorance makes a person see beauty in an ugly image and ugliness in a beautiful image, and sees a perfect thing as deficient and a deficient thing as perfect.
Injustice motivates one to put things in an inappropriate place, and, therefore, he gets angry when he should be pleased and satisfied when he should be angry. He also becomes rash when he should be deliberate; stingy when he should be charitable; and generous when he should be miserly. He retreats when he should be courageous, and advances when he should retreat.
He becomes lenient when he should be tough and severe when he should be lenient; humble when he should be proud, and arrogant when he should be humble.
Desires urge a person to be miserly, stingy, unchaste, greedy, gluttonous, and lowly… to the end of all evil attributes.
Anger drives one to be ostentatious, spiteful, envious, aggressive and foolish.
Any two of these evil morals form other bad morals. The fundamental causes behind these four bad morals are two: excessive weakness and excessive power.
Excessive weakness leads to humiliation, miserliness, meanness, ignobility, baseness, stinginess and fanaticism on trivialities.
Excessive power leads to injustice, anger, stiffness, foulness and indiscretion.
When two bad morals mingle, many more evil morals ensue. The human soul may be weak and strong at the same time, and the person, hence, becomes the haughtiest when he is powerful and the most humiliated when he is subdued. He is aggressive and tyrannical, but, when subdued, he may become weaker than a woman. He is gutless in the face of the powerful, and audacious towards the weak.
Consequently, bad morals generate more bad morals, and good morals generate more good morals.
Could Good Morals Turn into Bad Ones?
Bearing in mind that bad morals could turn into good ones by following the Sharee‘ah and training the self upon good manners; we now wish to ask whether it is possible that good morals turn into bad ones?
To answer this question, we will mention a digest of what Al-Maawardi said. He mentioned that good morals and leniency may turn into rough demeanors and obscenity due to accidental causes that render gentleness into harshness, leniency into roughness and cheerfulness into scowling. Here are some causes for this.
1- One's position of presidency or administration may alter his morals and incite him to keep away from his old friends. This usually comes from ignobility.
2- Removal from office, which may develop bad morals and hopelessness owing to extreme sorrow or lack of patience.
3- Wealth: when a person feels that he is rich, his morals may change and he may become haughty.
4- Becoming poor may change one's morals, either because he fears being described as needy or because he feels sorrow over lost richness.
5- Concerns can also distract one's mind and cause anxieties; consequently, one could no longer endure them. It is said that concerns are like poison and sadness is like a disease concealed in the heart of the depressed.
6- Diseases also change one’s character just as they affect his body, so neither do morals become moderated, nor can a person bear such diseases.
7- Aging, as it affects the organs and also affects man's morals. Just as it weakens the body beyond tolerating physical weight, old age also weakens the soul beyond bearing what it used to bear of opposing desires, anger and the like.
These were seven causes that may result in bad manners.
Also, hatred is a particular cause of a specific bad manner. A person avoids the one whom he hates and would treat him in a particularly bad way. If the bad manner is caused by something, it ends only when its cause comes to an end.
Scholars and the Righteous Predecessors Warn Against Bad Morals
Al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyaadh said, “Do not socialize with a person who has bad morals, for he calls to nothing except evil.”
He also said, “Accompanying a good-mannered man with no religious practice is better for me than accompanying a worshipper who is bad-mannered.”
Al-Hasan said, “The ill-mannered person is a self-tormentor.”
Yahya ibn Mu‘aath said, “Being bad mannered is an evil deed with which a lot of good deeds would [nevertheless] not be beneficial. Having good manners is a good deed with which a lot of evil deeds would not be harmful.”
Imam Al-Ghazaali said, “Bad morals are deadly poisons, massive destruction, disgraceful ignominy, flagrant vices and wicked attributes that keep one away from Allah, the Almighty. Bad manners cause one to sink into the company of the devils and lead to the kindled fire of Allah which leaps up over the hearts.”
He also said, “Wicked morals are the diseases of hearts and illnesses of the inner-selves; they would make man miss the everlasting life.”
He also added,
A Muslim ought to socialize with others. However, he should warn himself of and keep away from any bad manner existing among them. A believer is the mirror of his fellow believer and he sees his own defects through the defects of others. He also recognizes that dispositions are close to one another in following desires. If a peer has a certain attribute, his counterparts inevitably have the origin of this attribute, something greater, or at least something of it. So a person should examine and purify himself from any moral defect. This would indeed be an excellent means of self-discipline.
He also said, “Good manners represent faith and bad manners represent hypocrisy.”
Ramifications of Bad Manners
Ill-mannered persons are spoken of badly and they are detested in the sight of Allah and in the sight of His Prophet . Also, all the people, irrespective of their attitudes, dislike them.
It was narrated on the authority of Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullaah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet said: “And the most detested to me and farthest from me in the Hereafter will be those of the worst manners.” [Ahmad, Al-Albaani - Hasan]
The ill-mannered person is the one whom people dispraise a lot and which he himself hears. It was narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbaas, may Allah be pleased with them, that the Prophet said: “The people of Paradise are those whom Allah, The Almighty, fills their ears with people's praise while they hear it, and the people of Hell are those whom Allah, The Almighty, fills their ears with people's dispraise while they hear it.” [Ibn Maajah, Al-Albaani - Saheeh]
Ill-mannered people cause troubles, grief, distress and poverty to themselves as well as causing suffering to others.
Abu Haazim Salamah ibn Dinaar said, “Wretchedness due to ill manners afflicts the ill-mannered person himself the most, then his wife, and then his children. When he enters his house while his children are happy, they would rush away out of fear at the sound of his voice. His riding animal would even swerve from his way because of the stones that he hurls at it. His dog would bounce against the wall upon seeing him and even his cat would escape from him.”
Dear Muslim, monitor yourself and let no bad manner penetrate your heart. Treat yourself from the very outset, and the matter will be easy; when the disease deepens, it may lead one to destruction. May Allah, The Almighty, help us all to avoid bad manners.