By Dr Syed Bashir Ahmad
ISLAM in its essence is a moralistic message, with all depth and comprehensiveness of the subject. This is not merely, because Islam vigorously motivates for moral excellence and strongly cautions against depravity, demands highest level of compliance in this regard, and associates utmost degrees of retribution — in reward and penalty — both in this world and in the life hereafter.
This is also not just because Islam intensively cares about morals to the extent that when the Quran commended the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), the most eloquent expression to affirm his paramount status was: “And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character.” (Al-Quran: Al-Qalam: 4) Even the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), summarises with succinct eloquence the purpose behind his message: “I was sent to perfect the nobility of character.”
Morality is not a characteristic of Islam merely for this or that reason. Besides these reasons, it is because of the fact that morality circulates like blood in whole of the Islamic system and in Islamic teachings. It even flows in its beliefs, in acts of worship and in dealings, and goes into polity, economics and even into principles of peace and war.
Islamic beliefs and the morals: Islamic beliefs are founded upon monotheism, the antonym of which is polytheism. From here, we discover that Islam ascribes a moral manifestation to monotheism and considers it a matter of justice, which is a moral virtue. On the other hand, it treats polytheism as a matter of injustice, which symbolises moral depravity: “… False worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing” (Al-Quran: Luqman: 13) The Quran rather regards disbelief, with all its types as being injustice. Allah, the Exalted, says: … Those who reject Faith they are the wrong-doers. ( Al-Quran: Al-Baqarah: 254)
When Islamic faith becomes consummate and bears fruits, it assumes the form of moral virtues, which have been mentioned at length in the Quranic verses and in the prophetic tradition, for example: “The believers must (eventually) win through,- Those who humble themselves in their prayers; Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds of charity; Who abstain from sex, Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, — for (in their case) they are free from blame, But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors; — Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants. And who (strictly) guard their prayers; — These will be the heirs, Who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever) (Al-Quran: Al-Mu’minun: 1- 10)
“For, Believers are those who, when God is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord; Who establish regular prayers and spend (freely) out of the gifts We have given them for sustenance: Such in truth are the believers: they have grades of dignity with their Lord, and forgiveness, and generous sustenance”. (Al-Quran: Al-Anfal: 2-4)
“Only those are Believers who have believed in God and His Apostle, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the Cause of God: Such are the sincere ones”. (Al-Quran: Al-Hujurat: 15) “And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!”; Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing; Those who say, “Our Lord! avert from us the Wrath of Hell, for its Wrath is indeed an affliction grievous, — “Evil indeed is it as an abode, and as a place to rest in”; Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes); Those who invoke not, with God, any other god, nor slay such life as God has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; — and any that does this (not only) meets punishment”. (Al-Quran: Al-Furqan: 63 — 68)
Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) too link moral virtues with the faith and regard them as its exigencies and fruits. For example: “He who believes in Allah and in the day of judgement, should brace the bond of kinship; He who believes in Allah and in the day of judgement, should refrain from hurting his neighbour; He who believes in Allah and in the day of judgement, should either utter good or keep quiet”.
“Faith has more than seventy branches, and the highest amongst these is declaration of faith — that “there is no god but Allah” — and the lowest amongst these is elimination of harm from the pathway. Prudent shame (too) is a branch of the faith.” “While committing fornication, the fornicator ceases to be faithful; while committing theft, the thief ceases to be faithful; while drinking intoxicant, a drinker ceases to be faithful.” To be continued ...