Ethics and Morality in Islam Part I
(Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, delivered this Friday speech on February 27, 1987)
One of the most important aspects of a Muslim's life is for him to have a high standard of morals. Since the beginning of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was mainly concerned with teaching and disciplining Muslims to have the best manners and the best personal characteristics. His personal life and behavior were reflective of his teachings, which were reveled to him by Allah (S.W.T.). In the Noble Qur'an , in surat Al-Qalam, Allah (S.W.T.) describes prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) saying: what can be translated as, “And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character.” (Verse 4)
The prophet's (S.A.W.) high standard of manners made him a model for all Muslims to follow. The prophet (S.A.W.) used to emphasize how important good manners are for Muslims. For example, Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet mentioned the following:
- “The best of you is the best among you in conduct.”
In another authentic narration, the prophet (S.A.W.) mentioned that:
- “The heaviest thing to be placed in the balance of a believing slave on the Day of Judgment will be good behavior. And Allah hates the one who uses bad language.”
Someone once asked the prophet (S.A.W.) what deed would lead a man to paradise, and he answered:
- “Taqwa of Allah (piety) and good conduct.”
In other hadiths t he prophet (S.A.W.) made distinctions among Muslims based on their behaviors; the prophet (S.A.W.) said:
- “The most perfect man in his faith, among the believers, is the one whose behavior is the most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.”
He even clarified that people will be on different levels in Paradise based on their good manners saying:
- “The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who is the best in conduct…”
Now we shall talk about ethics in Islam, and how it is different from other ethical systems today.
Unlike other systems, the ethical system in Islam derives from a divine source. This divine source is the revelation from Allah (S.W.T). Therefore, this system cannot be changed, or manipulated to fit our desires. It applies no matter what the time or place. This system has not been changed for thousands of years, it cannot be changed today, and it will never change until the Day of Judgment. No one, no matter who, has the authority to change or alter this system, even if the whole world wants to change it. What was considered good morals in the past will remain as good moral throughout time. What was considered, as bad moral in the past will remain as bad morals forever, even if society accepts it as a norm. The system of ethics is not affected by cultural norms, because Allah (S.W.T) is the One who determined what is acceptable and not acceptable.
The Noble Qur'an is very detailed and clearly mentions the significance of good manners, just like it mentions the importance of belief, the importance of worship, and all our daily affairs.
The Noble Qur'an mentions several good acts of morality repeatedly, for example:
- Dealing with your parents in the best manner
- Being nice to your relatives and neighbors
- Taking care of orphans and the poor
- Telling the truth and being honest
- Being sincere in all of your intentions
- Fulfilling your promises
- Treating all people fairly
The Noble Quran goes as far as to teach us the way that we should walk. Allah (S.W.T.) says, in surat Luqman, what can be translated as, “And, be moderate in your walking.” (Verse 19), and in surat Al-Furqan, Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “ And the servants of the most Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in modesty.” (Verse 63), and also, i n surat Al-Isra', Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “And walk not on earth with conceit and arrogance. Verily, you can neither slit nor penetrate the earth, nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.” (Verse 37)
The Noble Qur'an even tells us the proper etiquette of visiting one another . Allah (S.W.T.) says, in surat An-Noor, What can be translated as, “O you who believe! Enter not house other than your own, until you have asked permission and greeted those in them that is better for you, in order that you may remember. And if you find no one therein, still, enter nor until permission has been given. And if you are asked to go back, go back, for it is purer for you, and Allah is All-knower of what you do. There is no sin for that you enter (without taking permission) houses uninhabited (when) you have any interest in them. And Allah has knowledge of what you reveal and you conceal.” (Verse 27 to 29)
The Noble Qur'an also teaches us the way we should behave in a gathering, Allah (S.W.T.) says, in surat Al-Mujadilah, what can be translated as, “O you who believe! When you are told to make room in assemblies do so, Allah will provide enough room for you.” (Verse 11)
If we were to actually practice the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) we would find that there are many lessons to learn when eating and drinking, dressing and sleeping, traveling and greeting, taking permission, even sneezing, yawning and even more.
And unlike other ethical systems, Islam's moral system is a very detailed and complete package. Islam addresses every aspect of human life, no matter how minor. It is a complete package—it does not lack anything that needs to be completed nor does it have any defects that need to be amended.
Islam guides our morals that deal with the individual, the community, and Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It also guides us on how to deal with rulers and how to honor and respect scholars; Islam even directs us on how to act during times of peace and war.
It even guides us on the treatment of animals. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said:
- “Fear Allah when you treat the animals, take care of them, keep them in good health no matter whether you ride on them or are raising them for their meat.”
- In another hadith, the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: “…when you slaughter an animal, make your slaughter in the best manner. Let one of you sharpen his knife and give ease to the animal (in order to reduce the pain).”
- The companions once asked the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) “Do we earn reward if we treat animals in good manner? He answered: “Yes; surely, you earn rewards whenever you treat any living being in a good manner.”
No other ethical system can match up with Islam's ethical system. Only Allah (S.W.T.) Al-Hakeem, with His great wisdom, could have made such a system that teaches humans how to deal with every aspect of their lives. This is because Islam is not a man made system; it is the deen of Allah, He (S.W.T.) made it complete and integrated. Only Allah (S.W.T.) Al-A'leem with His great knowledge that is infinite. No man has, can or will ever come up with a system that is so perfect. If you want a successful and happy life, then just apply Islam to it, and you will have wonderful results.