On Good Character – Sayyid Naquib al-Attas (Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam)

Posted on November 7, 2010 by

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On Good Character

By Sayyid Naquib al-Attas

“Virtue (fadilah) may be classified under a general heading of excellence of mind or discernment and good character. Character is a stable state of the soul. If this state causes actions commended by the intellect and by religion it is called good character. Good character may be achieved by learning and habituation, and in some cases it may come by nature as a divine gift. Character may change from bad to good, and conversely from good to bad.

The goal of good character is happiness, both in this world and in the hereafter. In order to produce virtue and good character teh animal soul and its bodily faculties must be subordinated to the practical faculty of the rational soul, which directs individual action after deliberation in accord with what agrees with the theoretical faculty.

In order to achieve good character the intellect must be trained in deliberate thinking and reflection. Only when this has been accomplished can it realize wisdom. The faculty of desire, when trained, will realize temperance, and that of anger courage. When desire and anger are subordinated to intellect justice is realized; and the mean (al-wasat) is then to be achieved by these two bodily faculties after they have been trained and disciplined by the practical faculty of the rational soul leading to the attainment of good character.”

(p 93 of “Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam” by Sayyid Naquib al-Attas

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