Morality in Islam
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Morals are the standards set by society for an ethical human behavior. It can also be called the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Morality is the adherence to the moral values present in the society, especially the following of good moral conduct. Islam is a comprehensive way of life, and morality is one of the cornerstones Islam. Morality is one of the fundamental sources of a nation’s strength, just as immorality is one of the main causes of a nation’s decline. Islam has established some universal fundamental rights for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed in all circumstances. To uphold these rights, Islam has provided not only legal safeguards, but also a very effective moral system. Thus, whatever leads to the welfare of the individual or the society and does not oppose any maxims of the religion is morally good in Islam, and whatever is harmful is morally bad. Given its importance in a healthy society, Islam supports morality and matters that lead to it, and stands in the way of corruption and matters that lead to it. The guiding principle for the behavior of a Muslim is “Virtuous Deeds”. This term covers all deeds, not only acts of worship.
The Guardian and Judge of all deeds is God Himself. Morals in the general society might have evolved considerably over the centuries but their main purpose remains the same; i.e. to practice good behavior and abstain from ill doings and injustice. The pursuit of justice, tolerance and fairness has been appreciated and upheld by man for centuries, and detest for evil doings and cruelty has been ever present. Morality has a very important role in the religion of Islam and in the life of a Muslim. Islam tells us that the conscience of a person has it in him to do good deeds and refrain from evil. The Holy Quran calls good, maruf-a well known things and evil, munkar-an unknown thing. It means that it is desirable to do good deeds and undesirable to indulge in evil practices. The Quran says: “By the Soul! And the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right- truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it.” (91:7-10) The moral values in Islam deal with the relationship of a man with his God, man with his fellow beings and the man’s relationship with his soul. The moral codes given to Muslims to follow are Divine guidance from Allah himself.
These codes and values stand the test of time and are universal in their nature. One can realize how much importance and is given to morals in Islam. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said that the good manners and morals were the real test of a man’s excellence. He (pbuh) said: “The best of you are those who have the most excellent morals.” The moral values of Islam are instrumental towards creating a healthy and a sustainable society. The moral values in Islam emphasize on piety, patience, forgiveness, justice, kindness brotherhood, equality, truthfulness, lawful earning and acquisition of knowledge. The Holy Quran signifying the value of justice says; “…for Allah loves those who are fair and just.” (49:9) The morals in Islam also incorporate the conduct of an individual towards his parents, spouse, relatives and neighbors. Islam instructs the follower to give his fellow beings their due rights and complete his obligations towards them. The guidance for human beings to live their life in Islam comes through Divine commands.
The promise of paradise, and the warning from the inexplicably hot fire of the hell, motivates the believer to follow the right path. The Divine guidance sets the standard for the most excellent possible moral behavior. Importance of morality in Islam is beautifully captured in the saying of the Holy Prophet (pbuh): “The thing which will make the majority of the people enter Paradise is fear of Allah and good manners.” he most fundamental characteristics of a Muslim are piety and humility. A Muslim must be humble with God and with other people: “And turn not your face away from people (with pride), nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, God likes not each arrogant boaster. And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the ass.” (Quran 31:18-19) Muslims must be in controls of their passions and desires.
A Muslim should not be vain or attached to the ephemeral pleasures of this world. While most people allow the material world to fill their hearts, Muslims should keep God in their hearts and the material world in their hand. Instead of being attached to the car and the job and the diploma and the bank account, all these things become tools to make us better people. “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, but only he (will prosper) that brings to God a sound heart.” (Quran: 26:88-89) Principles of Morality in Islam
God sums up righteousness in verse 177 of Surat Al Baqarah: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness (the quality of ) the one who believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; who spends of his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, to the needy, to the wayfarer, to those who ask and for the freeing of slaves; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives Zakah (Alms); and those who fulfill their covenants which they made; and who are patient and perseverant in poverty and ailment and throughout all periods of fighting. Such are the people of truth, the pious.” This verse teaches us that righteousness and piety is based before all else on a true and sincere faith. The key to virtue and good conduct is a strong relation with God, who sees all, at all times and everywhere. He knows the secrets of the hearts and the intentions behind all actions.
Therefore, a Muslim must be moral in all circumstances; God is aware of each one when no one else is. If we deceive everyone, we cannot deceive Him. We can flee from anyone, but not from Him. The love and continuous awareness of God and the Day of Judgment enables man to be moral in conduct and sincere in intentions, with devotion and dedication: “Indeed, the most honorable among you in the sight of God is the most pious.” (Quran 49:13) Then come deeds of charity to others, especially giving things we love. This, like acts of worship, prayers and Zakah (mandatory alms), is an integral part of worship. A righteous person must be reliable and trustworthy. Finally, their faith must be firm and should not wane when faced with adversity. Morality must be strong to vanquish corruption: “And God loves those who are firm and steadfast.”
Patience is often hardest and most beautiful when it’s against one’s own desires or anger: “And march forth toward forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the pious. Those who spend (in the way of God) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon people; verily, God loves the doers of the good deeds.” (Quran 3:133) These three acts are among the hardest things for most people, but they are also the key to forgiveness and to paradise. Are they not the best, those who are able to exercise charity when they are in need themselves, control when they are angry and forgiveness when they are wronged? This is the standard by which actions are judged as good or bad. By making pleasing God the objective of every Muslim, Islam has set the highest possible standard of morality. Morality in Islam addresses every aspect of a Muslim’s life, from greetings to international relations. It is universal in its scope and in its applicability. Morality reigns in selfish desires, vanity and bad habits. Muslims must not only be virtuous, but they must also enjoin virtue. They must not only refrain from evil and vice, but they must also forbid them.
In other words, they must not only be morally healthy, but they must also contribute to the moral health of society as a whole. “You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in God; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; of them (some) are believers and most of them are transgressors.” (Quran: 3:110) The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, summarized the conduct of a Muslim when he said:“My Sustainer has given me nine commands: to remain conscious of God, whether in private or in public; to speak justly, whether angry or pleased; to show moderation both when poor and when rich, to reunite friendship with those who have broken off with me; to give to him who refuses me; that my silence should be occupied with thought; that my looking should be an admonition; and that I should command what is right.” The love and continuous awareness of God and the Day of Judgment enables man to be moral in conduct and sincere in intentions, with devotion and dedication.
The Glorious Qur’an also says:Say: the things that my Lord hath indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds, whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason; assigning of partners to Allah, for which He hath given no authority; and saying things about Allah of which ye have no knowledge. [Al-Qur’an 7:33]It is interesting that the Qur’an refers to “sins and trespasses against truth or reason”. It is an indication of God’s blessing to every human being, of an innate moral sense. Such a moral sense, when uncorrupted by family or society, is what leads people to commendable acts of virtue. Islam aims to enhance and amplify the moral sense in every human being and adorn the individual’s character with the noblest of virtues.The Islamic moral principles therefore, appeal naturally to the human intellect, while elevating the pursuit of morality to the level of worship. This is because Islam holds every action that is done with the goal of attaining of God’s pleasure to be worship.
Morality and the individual
The guiding principle for the behavior of a Muslim is what the Qur’an refers to as Al `Amal Assalih or virtuous deeds. This term covers all deeds, not just the outward acts of worship. Some of the most primary character traits expected of a Muslim are piety, humility and a profound sense of accountability to God. A Muslim is expected to be humble before God and with other people. Islam also enjoins upon every Muslim to exercise control of their passions and desires. Islam warns against vanity and excessive attachment to the ephemeral pleasures of this world. While it is easy to allow the material world to fill our hearts, Islam calls upon human beings to keep God in their hearts and to use the material world in moderation and in accordance with God’s guidance. The Glorious Qur’an says: “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, but only he (will prosper) that brings to Allah a sound heart” [Al-Quran: 26:88-89] Charity is one of the most commendable acts in Islam. In fact, Zakah, the annual charity that is obligatory on every Muslim who has accrued wealth above a certain level, is one of the pillars of Islam. Gratitude in prosperity, patience in adversity, and the courage to uphold the truth, even when inconvenient to oneself, are just some of the qualities that every Muslim is encouraged to cultivate.
Morality and Society
For an individual as well as a society, morality is one of the fundamental sources of strength, just as immorality is one of the main causes of decline. While respecting the rights of the individual within a broad Islamic framework, Islam is also concerned with the moral health of the society. Thus, everything that leads to the welfare of the individual and the society is morally good in Islam, and whatever is harmful is morally bad. Given its importance to a healthy and just society, Islam supports morality and matters that lead to the enhancement of morality, and stands in the way of corruption and matters that lead to the spreading of corruption. The injunctions and prohibitions in Islam are to be seen in this light
Morality in Islam addresses every aspect of a Muslim’s life, from greetings to international relations. It is universal in its scope and in its applicability. A Muslim is expected to not only be virtuous, but to also enjoin virtue. He/She must not only refrain from evil and vice, but must also actively engage in asking people to eschew them. In other words, they must not only be morally healthy, but must also contribute to the moral health of society as a whole. The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) summarized the conduct of a Muslim when he said: “My Sustainer has given me nine commands: to remain conscious of God, whether in private or in public; to speak justly, whether angry or pleased; to show moderation both when poor and when rich, to reunite friendship with those who have broken off with me; to give to him who refuses me; that my silence should be occupied with thought; that my looking should be an admonition; and that I should command what is right.”