I was asked about the oft-quoted statement, ‘Acquire the character traits of God’ which is very frequently quoted as a hadith of God’s Messenger (pbuh), especially in Sufi works. The hadith masters are all in agreement that this is not a hadith and cannot be found in the hadith literature, nor traced to any source. It is most likely the statement of an early mystic or pious man, and later was mistakingly attributed to God’s Messenger (pbuh). However, the meaning of this statement is conveyed in many other authentic hadiths and Quran’ic verses. I hope to make a list here of some of the more authentic ones that I come across, and to update it if I come across more.
‘God is gentle and loves gentleness in everything. He rewards gentle acts more than anythting else.’ (Hadith: Bukhari and Muslim)
إنَّ الله رفيق يحب الرفق في الأمر كله
إن الله رفيق يحب الرفق ويعطى على الرفق ما لا يعطي على العنف وما لا يعطي على ما سواه
‘God is beautiful and loves beauty.’ (Hadith: Muslim)
إن الله جميل يحب الجمال
One of God’s names in the Qur’an is ‘al-Mu’min‘ (Q. 59:23). One of the meanings of this Name is: the one who grants safety, security, protection. God gave this name ‘al-mu’min’ to those who believe in Him. Although the primary meaning here is ‘he who believes,’ the name is still linked to the meaning of God’s Name. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘The mu’min (believer) is the one with whom people feel safe and secure (aminahu l-nas) with regard to their lives and property.’ (Hadith: Nasa’i, Tirmidhi).
المُؤمِنُ مَن أمِنَه الناسُ على أمْوالِهِم وأنْفُسِهم (في رواية: ودمائهم)
A believer who worships God with excellence and beauty is called a ‘muhsin,’ a title mentioned several times in the Qur’an and hadith. Similarly, this is a trait attributed to God in the hadith literature and which Muslims are encouraged to emulate. For example: ‘God is muhsin (does things with goodness/kindness) so do ihsaan yourselves.; (Hadith: Ibn Adi) ‘God is muhsin and loves those who are muhsin.’ (Hadith: Tabarani)
إن الله عز وجل محسن فأحسنوا ، فإذا قتل أحدكم ، فليحسن مقتوله ، وإذا ذبح ، فليحد شفرته ، وليرح ذبيحته
خرجه ابن عدي من حديث سمرة عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
إذا حكمتم فاعدلوا ، وإذا قلتم فأحسنوا ، فإن الله محسن يحب المحسنين
خرجه الطبراني من حديث أنس
‘God is modest and concealing and loves modesty and concealment.’ (Hadith: Nasa’i, Abu Dawud)
إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ حَيِيٌّ سَتِيرٌ يُحِبُّ الْحَيَاءَ وَالسِّتْرَ فَإِذَا اغْتَسَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ فَلْيَسْتَتِرْ
‘God is a generous giver and loves generous giving. He loves lofty character traits and dislikes base ones.’ (Hadith: Bayhaqi, Abu Nu’aym)
إِنَّ اللهَ عز وجل جَوَادٌ يُحِبُّ الجُودَ، وَيُحِبُّ مَعَالِيَ الأَخْلاَقِ، وَيُبْغِضُ سَفْسَافَهَا
God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘God is forgiving and loves forgiveness: ‘Let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? Allah is Forgiving and Merciful (Q. 24:29)‘ (Hadith: Ahmad).
All of the above are examples of God’s Messenger (pbuh) mentionting God’s character traits and encouraging Muslims to adopt those traits to acquire God’s love.
There are also countless hadiths encouraging people to behave with goodness to others, promising them that God will act toward them the same way. E.g.:
‘Those who show mercy to others (al-rahimun) will be shown mercy by the Most-Merciful (al-Rahman).’ (Hadith: Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)
‘He who covers a Muslim’s fault in this world, God will cover his fault in the Hereafter.’ (Hadith: Muslim)