By Muhiyy ad-Din Ibn 'Arabi

Above all, what you need is high morals, good character, proper behavior; you must identify your bad features and rid yourself of them. Your relationship to whomever you come into contact with must be based on the best of conduct - but what this means may vary with conditions and circumstances.

Whoever neglects a single item of good behavior is considered to have bad character. Men are created different from each other. Their levels are different. Good behavior and character are also in different levels. Behavior is not a form. It is not to act in the same way on every occasion towards everyone. You have to consider each case, each person, in accordance with the circumstance and. the need of the person. A good rule to remember is that if a thing is done to bring salvation, truth, comfort, and peace to others, to oneself, and to as many people as possible, protecting them, eliminating pain and hardship, it is good behavior - on condition that it is not done for personal benefit, but for Allah's sake. Is not man the servant of Allah? Are not his life and his deeds dependent on divine predestination? He is in a frame whose limits he, cannot leave. His will, his freedom of choice, his destiny written on his forehead, are in the hand of the All-Powerful upon whom all acts, all moves depend.

Proper behavior is the means by which an intention becomes a good deed. Therefore it is the greatest capital in the hand of the seeker. The proof is the word of the one who was brought with the most beautiful character, the last prophet, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who said, "I have been sent to perfect good behavior."

Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:

And the recompense of evil is punishment like it, but whoever forgives and amends, his reward is with Allah.... (Shura, 40)

The religious law says that you may choose to demand your right or you may choose to leave it. Choose to leave that which is due to you and forgive, instead of punishing, so that you will be counted among the compassionate, the peaceful, the righteous, whose rewards are promised by Allah.

It is also within good behavior to be angry and to seek to punish when this is justified by the religious code. Anger and its manifestation are one of the great sins if aroused by wrongs done to you personally. But it is permissible and right and a part of correct behavior and good character to become " "Use of something done against Allah and His divine precepts, to manifest it, and to fight for Allah's sake. It is best to separate yourself from people who do not believe in what you believe, who do not do what you do, and who are against your faith. Yet at the same time you should not think badly of them or condemn them for what they are. Your intention in ignoring them should be that you prefer the company of believers. Spend your time in remembering, glorifying, and worshipping Allah instead of being with them. Treat well those who are dependent upon you: the people who work for you, your children, your wives and husbands, your mothers, sisters, and friends, the animals in your care, the plants in your garden. Allah has given them into your hands to test you. You are in His care. Treat the ones in your care as you want the One in whose care you are to treat you. The Messenger of Allah says, "All of creation are Allah's dependents." He has left a few of His dependents, such as your family, in you hands. That is why His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) says that the one who is best loved by Him is the one who is best towards his dependents. Show love, compassion, delicacy, generosity, and protection towards those who depend on you - and in fact, to everyone. If you wish His compassion and protection, remember that you yourself depend on the One, the lord and owner of all and everything.

Teach Allah's words in His divine book and the good behavior of Islam to your children. Secure for them conditions in which they can exercise what you have taught them. Do this without expecting any return from them. From the very beginning, teach them to bear difficulty, to have patience, to think. Do not place in their hearts the love of the world. Teach them to dislike the things of this world that will render them proud - luxuries, beautiful clothes, delicacies, excess of ambition - because all these, if obtained, will be subtracted from the good due them in the hereafter. Let them not get accustomed to good things; break their habits. Beware that this, which may seem austere, should not bring forth in you the ugly character of miserliness towards your children. Do it in respect and attachment to your religion.

Do not seek to be close to the heedless, to the ones who are slaves to the desires of their flesh. They take hearts away from the light of truth and throw them into the dark hole of heedlessness, as they did with their own hearts. If you are placed with them in the same time and space, then face them and advise them. If they turn their backs on you, it is because they do not know their fronts from their backs. Do not stab them in the back. Be the same way to them whether they turn their faces to you or their backs. Then they may like and respect you and perchance they may be attached to you and follow you.

Do not be satisfied with your spiritual state; advance. Advance ceaselessly, without interruption. With firm intention pray to Allah, the Ultimate Truth, to bring you from the state in which you are to a state beyond it. In every state, in every move, while doing a thing or while being inactive, be sincere and truthful. Be with the Ultimate Truth. Do not ever forget Him. Feel His presence always.

Part 5