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Ethics & Values New Muslims

What Is Unique about Islamic Ethics?

 

balance in life

Individuals who are honest, sincere, and from whom nothing but good can be expected, have always formed the basis of any healthy human society.

A moral sense is inborn in man and, through the ages, it has served as the common man’s standard of moral behaviour, approving certain qualities and condemning others. While this instinctive faculty may vary from person to person, human conscience has consistently declared certain moral qualities to be good and others to be bad.

Justice, courage and truthfulness have always found praise, and history does not record any period worth the name in which falsehood, injustice, dishonesty and breach of trust have been praised; sympathy, compassion, loyalty and generosity have always been valued, while selfishness, cruelty, meanness and bigotry have never been approved of by society; men have always appreciated perseverance, determination and courage, but never impatience, fickleness, cowardice and stupidity.

Universal Code

Dignity, restraint, politeness and friendliness have throughout the ages been counted virtues, whereas snobbery and rudeness have always been looked down upon. People with a sense of responsibility and devotion to duty have always won the highest regard, those who are incompetent, lazy and lacking in a sense of duty have never been looked upon with approval.

Similarly, in assessing the standards of good and bad in the collective behaviour of society as a whole, only those societies have been considered worthy of honor which have possessed the virtues of organization, discipline, mutual affection and compassion and which have established a social order based on justice, freedom and equality. Disorganization, indiscipline, anarchy, disunity, injustice and social privilege, on the other hand, have always been considered manifestations of decay and disintegration in a society.

Robbery, murder, larceny, adultery and corruption have always been condemned. Slander and blackmail have never been considered healthy social activities, while service and care of the aged, helping one’s relatives, regard for neighbours, loyalty to friends, aiding the weak, the destitute and the orphans, and nursing the sick are qualities which have been highly valued since the dawn of civilization.

Individuals who are honest, sincere and dependable, whose deeds match their words, who are content with their own rightful possessions, who are prompt in the discharge of their obligations to others, who live in peace and let others live in peace, and from whom nothing but good can be expected, have always formed the basis of any healthy human society.

These examples show that human moral standards are universal and have been well-known to mankind throughout the ages. Good and evil are not myths, but realities well understood by all. A sense of good and evil is inherent in the very nature of man.

Hence in the terminology of the Qur’an good is called ma`ruf (a well-known thing) and evil munkar (an unknown thing); that is to say, good is known to be desirable and evil is known not to commend itself in any way, as the Qur’an says:

God has revealed to human nature the consciousness and cognition of good and evil. (Ash-Shams 91:8)

Why Differences?

The question that now arises is: if what constitutes good and evil is so clear and universally agreed, why do varying patterns of moral behaviour exist in the world? Why are there so many conflicting moral philosophies? Why do certain moral standards contradict each other?

What lies at the root of their differences? What is the unique position of Islam in the context of other ethical systems? On what grounds can we claim that Islam has a perfect moral systems? And what exactly is the distinctive contribution of Islam in the realm of ethics?

Although these are important questions and must be squarely faced, justice cannot be done to them in the brief span of this talk. So I shall restrict myself to a summary of some of the points crucial to any critical examination of contemporary ethical systems and conflicting patterns of moral behaviour:

1- Through their failure to prescribe specific limits and roles for the various moral virtues and values, present-day moral structures cannot provide a balanced and coherent plan of social conduct.

2-The real cause of the differences in the moral systems seems to lie in their offering different standards for judging what constitutes good and bad actions and in their laying down different ways to distinguish good from evil.

Differences also exist in respect of the sanction behind the moral law and in regard to the motives which impel a person to follow it.

3- On deeper reflection we find that the grounds for these differences emerge from different peoples’ conflicting views and concepts of the universe, the place of man in it, and of man’s purpose on earth.

The various systems of ethics, philosophy and religion are in fact a record of the vast divergence of views on such vital questions as: Is there a God of the universe and, if there is, is He the only one or are there many Gods?

What are the Divine attributes? What is the nature of the relationship between God and human beings? Has He made any arrangements for guiding humanity through the vicissitudes of life or not? Is man answerable to Him or not?

And if so, in what spheres of his life? Is there an ultimate aim of man’s creation which he should keep in view throughout his life? Answers to these questions will determine the way of life, the ethical philosophy and the pattern of moral behaviour of the individual and society.

It is difficult for me, in this brief talk, to take stock of the various ethical systems in the world and indicate what solutions each one of them has proposed to these questions and what has been the impact of these answers on the moral evolution of the society believing in these concepts. Here I have to confine myself to the Islamic concept only.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “The Islamic Way of Life”.

 

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Categories
Ethics & Values New Muslims

The Moral System of Islam: Motives and Practices

The Moral System of Islam: Motives & Incentives

sunset-nature

The love and fear of God become the real motives which impel man to obey the moral law without external pressures.

The fact that a man voluntarily and willingly accepts God as his Creator and obedience to God as the aim of his life and strives to seek His pleasure in his every action provides sufficient incentive to obey the commandments which he believes to be from God.

Belief that whoever obeys the divine commands is sure to be rewarded in the Hereafter, whatever difficulties he may have to face in his life on earth, is another strong incentive for leading a virtuous life.

And the belief that breaking the commandments of God will mean eternal punishment is an effective deterrent against violation of the moral law, however tempted a man may be by the superficial attractiveness of a certain course of action.

If this hope and fear are firmly ingrained in one’s heart, they will inspire virtuous deeds even on occasions when the immediate consequences may appear to be very damaging, and they will keep one away from evil when it looks extremely attractive and profitable.

This clearly indicates that Islam possesses a distinctive criterion of good and evil, its own source of moral laws, and its own sanctions and motivating force; through them it shapes the generally recognized more virtues in all spheres of life into a balanced and comprehensive scheme and ensures that they are followed.

It can therefore be justifiably claimed that Islam possesses a perfect moral system of its own. This system has many distinguishing features and I will refer to three of the most significant ones which, in my opinion, form its special contribution to ethics.

Distinctive Features

1- By setting divine pleasure as the objective of man’s life, Islam has set the highest possible standard of morality, providing boundless possibilities for the moral evolution of humanity.

By making divine revelation the primary source of knowledge, it gives permanence and stability to moral standards, while at the same time allowing scope for reasonable flexibility and adjustment, though not for perversions or moral laxity. The love and fear of God become the real motives, which impel man to obey the moral law without external pressures.

And through belief in God and the Day of Judgment, we are motivated to behave morally with earnestness and sincerity.

2- The Islamic moral order does not, through a mistaken love of originally and innovation, seek to lay down any new moral standards; nor does it seek to minimize the importance of the well-known moral standards, or give exaggerated importance to some and neglect others without cause.

Rather, it takes all the recognized morals and assigns a suitable role to each within the total scheme of life. It widens the scope of their application to cover every aspect of man’s private and social life – his domestic associations, his civic conduct, and his activities in the political, economic, legal and educational fields.

It covers his life at home and in society, literally from the cradle to the grave. No sphere of life is exempt from the universal and comprehensive application of the moral principles of Islam. These ensure that the affairs of life, instead of being dominated by selfish desires and petty interest, are regulated by the dictates of morality.

3- The Islamic moral order guarantees for man a system of life which is free from all evil. It calls on the people not only to practise virtue, but also to eradicate vice. Those who respond to this call are gathered together into an Ummah (a community) and given the name ‘Muslims’.

The main purpose underlying the formation of this community is that it should make an organized effort to establish and enforce goodness and suppress and eradicate evil. It would be a day of mourning for this community and a bad day for the entire world if its efforts were at any time directed towards establishing evil and suppressing good.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s The Islamic Way of Life. 

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Categories
Ethics & Values New Muslims

Islam and Celebrating April’s Fool

Islam and celebrating April fool's day 1

You ask him why he lied. He says to you: ‘It’s April Fool’s Day’.

Your best friend comes up to you and tells you news that makes you jump for joy. No sooner have you expressed your happiness than he quickly tells you it is untrue. You stare at him blankly and ask him why he lied. He says to you: ‘It’s April Fool’s Day’.

Does Islam sanction such behavior? Can it regard such behavior as a harmless custom? Can we concoct lies containing happy or sad news, as long as we quickly inform the other person that it is a lie or cry out ‘April Fools!’?

To start with, we must know that a lie is defined as giving information about something, where that information is at variance with the truth. A lie is forbidden in Islam.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Be truthful, for indeed truth guides us to righteousness, and righteousness leads us to Paradise. A man remains honest and steadfast in ascertaining the truth until he is recorded with Allah as a truthful person. A lie guides us to wickedness, and wickedness leads us to Hell. A man keeps lying and seeking out lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Safwan ibn Salim relates the following:

We asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Can a believer be a coward?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Yes.”

We asked: “Can he be stingy?”

He said: “Yes.”

We then asked: “Can he be a liar?”

The Prophet said: “No.”

Lying is one of the traits of a hypocrite. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The signs of the hypocrite are three: If he speaks, he lies. If he makes a promise, he breaks it. And if he is given a trust, he betrays it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam gives a severe warning against lying. The Prophet said to his Companions:

“Tonight, I was visited by two. They bid me forth, saying: ‘Go’.

I went with them until we came upon a man lying on his back. Someone else was standing over him, wielding an iron hook. He came to one side of his face, and pulled his lower lip to the back of his neck. Then he pulled his nose and then his eyes to the back of his head. Then he went over to the other side of the man’s face and did the same. Then the man’s features returned to their original place and the same thing happened again.

A Muslim should be ever vigilant to safeguard his tongue from lies and warn others against lying.

A Muslim should be ever vigilant to safeguard his tongue from lies and warn others against lying.

It was then said: “This was a man who would come out of his home and utter a lie that could fill the world to the horizons.” (Al-Bukhari)

It is even sinful to tell a lie to a child. `Abdullah ibn `Amir recounted the following from his childhood:

My mother called for me one day when the Prophet peace be upon him) was sitting in our house. She said: “Come here and I’ll give you something.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) then asked her: “What is it that you wish to give him?”

She said: “A date.”

He said: “If you had not intended to give him something, a lie would have been recorded against you.” (Abu Dawud)

The sinfulness of lying includes lies told jokingly. The Prophet said: “I will guarantee a house in the center of Paradise for one who abandons the telling of lies, even in jest.” (Abu Dawud with an authentic chain of transmission)

There are only a few exceptions to the general prohibition against lying. One is the lie that is uttered to bring peace between two people. Another is the lie used as a stratagem in war. The third is the white lie spoken by a husband to his wife or by a wife to her husband. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

April Fool’s Day is truly a foolish and banal custom followed in some societies on the arrival of April First. The custom calls upon people to concoct a special lie for the occasion. Some people try to see how far their lie can spread.

We should not have any doubt that this custom of concocting lies on April Fool’s Day is contrary to Islamic manners. Indeed, it is contrary to Islamic Law. Whoever concocts a lie falls into sin for doing so.

A Muslim should be ever vigilant to safeguard his tongue from lies and warn others against lying.

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Source: Islamtoday.net

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